While driving your car, what if you noticed the oil light flashing? Within seconds, what if your temperature gauge glowed bright red? Moments later, what if the wipers failed to operate in a sudden downfall?
What would you do? Quick answer: stop the car!
If you didn’t, you would blow the engine. You might suffer a severe accident by not being able to see out the windshield. You would investigate what caused the warning lights to blink. You might add oil or more antifreeze or repair the wipers before proceeding. If that didn’t work, you would call a tow truck.
In his brilliant as well as compelling book, “Wecskaop: What Every Citizen Should Know About Our Planet”, author August Anson features ninety-nine key understandings for the half-century that lies ahead. This book proves a ‘must read’ for every presidential candidate, governor, U.S. Senator and college professor as well as a prerequisite for graduation from high school and college.
Anson provides sobering metaphors about what most can’t see, but what continues accelerating as humanity adds one billion people every 12 to 15 years.
“Imagine an aircraft carrier traveling at full speed,” Anson said. “Because of its enormous momentum, such a massive vehicle travels ever onward for mile after mile—even if it attempts to stop with all engines full astern. This leaves the populations of nations like China and India still careening upward as their absolute numbers continue to climb. Even if China’s numbers stabilized or declined, the environmental impacts of its massive population seem poised to worsen as its economic engines and consumption produce more green-house gases, wastes and require increasing quantities of raw materials.”
Planet-wide, more than half the world keeps its fertility “pedal to the metal.”
Anson said, “If this is Friday, by next Monday the planet becomes home to 600,000 extra people added. (For a first hand look: www.populationmedia.org.)
Imagine a tidal wave washing over and flattening coastal villages like the Indian tsunami two years ago. At this moment, we ourselves are a tidal wave of humanity of unprecedented proportions, washing suddenly, rapidly and furiously over the face of the earth.
“First we must feed earth’s existing 6.6 billion and then, we expect ourselves somehow to feed 600,000 added every three days endlessly into the future,” Anson said. “If today is Monday, by Friday, we add another 800,000. If we expect to educate them, we must build 32,000 new classrooms every four days at a rate of 25 students per class. Are we prepared to fund, build, finish, supply and staff these school rooms every four days, year after year, decade after decade?”
What if those countries can’t build classrooms? As Harvard University President Derek Bock said, “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”
In the March 14, 2005 issue of Time Magazine, we discovered that eight million adults die annually. In excess of 20,000 children die of starvation or related diseases 24/7. That’s happening as you read this column.
To bring this into horrifying perspective, Bangladesh, a country with less landmass than the size of Iowa, houses an incredible 145 million people. Imagine half of all the people living in the United States shoved into Iowa. Take away all their wealth and ‘things’ while you add water-borne diseases, ground water contamination, starvation, floods and monsoons. Not a pretty picture? Hang on because Bangladesh expects to double its population to nearly 300 million in three decades. “In effect, the bus we call Bangladesh is headed off a demographic cliff at 40 miles per hour,” Anson said.
What is the difference between a million people and a billion?
If your teacher decided to give you a million homework questions before you graduated, how long would it take you to complete them? Let’s say you decided to complete your assignment by completing 100 questions per night, five nights a week and 52 weeks a year to finish answering them. How long would it take?
Answer: 38.5 years.
What if your teacher asked you to complete one billion homework questions? How long would it take at the same 100 questions per night, five days a week and 52 weeks a year? Answer: 38,461 years.
We’re adding one billion people to the planet every 12 to 15 years! Anson illustrates in his book the gargantuan aspects of this “Human Katrina.” He shows by scientific facts that eco-systems can only take so much consumption and waste. He sites Professor Myers: “Ecosystems can absorb a certain amount of stress without noticeable effect, but once a critical level is reached the disruption may be cataclysmic.”
“To picture the impacts of our present human avalanche,” Anson said, “we might imagine a boxing match in Madison Square Garden. In one corner stands the heavyweight boxing champion of the world. In the other corner stands a fragile old lady, “mother nature.” Each fist of the champion is fitted with a boxing glove labeled “one billion additional people.”
“With the bell, round one begins—it lasts for twelve years. A huge right fist smashes her with a crushing blow. Down she goes, bruised, bloodied and dazed. She staggers to her feet as the first round ends.
Mind you, at round two, the human race with two billion people invented the internal combustion engine, trains, cars, natural gas usage, 72,000 chemicals and plastic.
“Round two sees another fist of an added one billion hit her with a round house smash to her face…the champ taunts her to get up…round three, the champion shows no signs of mercy, no signs of tiring, and no signs of weakening…the world’s leaders show no inclination to stop the assault when the profits are so enormous…it’s obvious to everyone watching that the repeated blows—a staggering one billion followed by another and another are too much for the old lady…today’s young people are living at a time when humanity crushes earth’s natural systems with the impacts of one billion additional people every dozen years…the possibility exists that one of those fists full of a billion people will be the final blow.”
In part two of this three part series, we’ll examine waste systems and limits to production. Be cautioned that although you may think the United States sits smugly in the bleachers exempt from those ‘fists full of a billion added people’, that would prove the same fatal mistake as Captain Edward J. Smith of the Titanic.