Monday, August 06, 2012
What'll it be? "Man the Lifeboats!" or The Briny Deep?
“Mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly”—Woody Allen.
What’s it going to be, eh?
It’s obvious that the combined impact of increasing human consumption of (ineptly named) natural resources, multiplied by increasing human population growth results in unacceptable losses in critical natural habitat, biodiversity, living topsoil, quantity and quality of potable water, and increases in species extinction. Ecosystems wounded by human development and destruction are more susceptible to climate variation, putting more stress on species shifting with habitats.
The human reaction is to ask, loudly, while wringing our hands: “What can we do to stop this? What is the solution to overpopulation, resource depletion and (*GASP*) Global Warming?
The answer is: there is no solution.
There is no solution to natural processes. Natural processes are not a problem that can be solved. There is no solution to a species whose population has overshot its resource base. There is no solution to global climate variation. There is only accommodation to the reality of life on this planet.
If humans were a rational species, we might decide it is in our own best interest, and just by the way, in the interest of all other species, to control our population growth and reduce consumption, stop gobbling up all the non-vertical land in sight, stop polluting the air, land and water, and stop sucking all the nutrients from the living topsoil and flushing it into the ocean. We might decide to live like a good neighbor to the community of life that makes it possible for us to live on this poor abused and battered planet.
But, alas, we’re not a rational species.
We’ve cut ourselves off from contact with the non-human world and put it in a zoo so we can continue our profligate ways, and still come and visit the cute little plants and animals now and then, for our amusement… and not have to think about them overly much when we’re busy… consuming.
We’ve developed a dominant culture based on consumption to excess, to make even more profits for already rich people, and we sit up nights and complain about it. We’ve developed religions that forbid us from controlling our population to levels sustainable (the real sustainable) within existing, highly variable resource availability. We’ve developed a system of food production dependent on stable and unchanging weather patterns. And, worst of all, we’ve developed political systems controlled by those who profit from all the above.
Rather than taking seriously the prospect of a sinking ship with too few lifeboats to save all the passengers, we continue to politely listen to the orchestra sawing away at a funeral dirge on the poop deck, as we munch on canapés and sip a fine vintage champagne.
It’s too late to build more lifeboats. It’s too late to restrict the passenger list. It’s too late to stock up on caviar and champagne. The ship has already hit the ice and the forward compartments are rapidly filling with icy water.
Gravity and hydrodynamics are taking over the cruise and the ship of human civilization is on its way to its ultimate briny grave.
Don’t be alarmed. It’s only a temporary detour. There are, after all, some lifeboats, and some will survive. There are still crackers and cheese and an inferior domestic wine waiting beyond yon horizon. Certainly enough for the few who have had the forethought to don warm clothing and life vests before coming on deck.
The ship will go down, as it must, as ordained by the sacred laws of Nature. And, Life Will Go On after the Grand Adjustment, as it has for hundreds of millions of years.
There’s still time to tighten our life vests, pass out the survival rations, swing out the davits and climb aboard the rafts. It just might be an adventure, a lesson in species survival to newcomers on the evolutionary scene. Who knows, we might learn something valuable that will last us for a millennium or two.
Mother Nature is hard and she’s fair.