Part 40: Paradigm shift for survival in 21st century
“I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for man if he spent less time proving that he can outwit Nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority.” Elwyn Brooks White
In one of the most compelling books of the last 30 years, Overshoot by Dr. William Catton, we discover that humanity exceeds the carrying capacity of its planet at its peril.
Catton describes in scrupulous detail humanity’s accelerating overshoot of resources on this finite planet. As he works his scientific genius into the outcome of our overshoot—Americans of every walk of life—go about their daily business without a clue as to what’s coming. Furthermore the media and leaders suppress any mention of human overpopulation; it remains the final taboo!
“To answer that need, the six parts of this book are intended as integrated contributions to an overdue paradigm shift,” said Catton. “Homo sapiens have painted themselves into a corner. Our previous conventional, industrial, pre-ecological paradigm has prevented us from seeing what we are doing. Chapter 10 describes and explains the fateful course upon which we embarked when we claimed independence from nature.”
About 150 years ago, humans, via the Industrial Age, stepped out of the “Circle of Life.” We stepped away from our animal heritage of hunter/gatherers. We leaped into a new paradigm of mass production, steel, chemicals and inventions. We hit upon electricity 100 years ago. We abandoned the horse to adopt the mega-polluting and resource devouring automobile. That’s when we accelerated our unfortunate reality today, i.e., climate change, species extinction, polluted air, polluted water, created 80,000 chemicals and plastic. Since that time, we wrecked oceans, lakes, rivers and land with our trash and poisons.
“The alternative to chaos is to abandon the illusion that all things are possible,” said Catton. “Mankind has learned to manipulate many of nature’s forces, but neither as individuals nor as organized societies can human beings attain outright omnipotence. Many of us remain beneficiaries of the once myth of limitlessness.”
Catton slaps readers in the face with this core principle: Human society is inextricably part of a global biotic community, and in that community human dominance has had and is having self-destructive consequences.
“We need to see that grasping it will actually help us to adjust sanely to an unwelcome but inescapable future,” said Catton. “We, the human species, are inexorably tightening the two jaws of a vice around our fragile civilization. There are already more human beings alive than the world’s renewable resources can perpetually support. We have built complex societies that therefore depend on rapid use of exhaustible resources. The other jaw is the accumulation of harmful substances that are unavoidably created by our life processes. There are so many of us, using so much technology, that these substances accumulate too fast for the global ecosystems to reprocess them.”
Examples explode across the planet in 10,000 square mile “dead zones” like at the mouth of the Mississippi River to 20,000 to 27,000 square mile “dead zones” at the mouths of the Ganges, Yangtze, and other rivers pouring into the North Sea out of Europe. The three million tons of floating plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch illustrates humanity’s disregard for the natural world. It causes untold millions of deaths for marine life.
While humans war and squabble, they fail to address their common fate. This week, North Korea dropped a bunch of bombs on South Korea. You sit in your chair, after watch the carnage on TV and wonder, “Why?” What possessed them? North Korea builds bombs, but can’t feed its own people.
Rather than squabbling about boundaries, humanity must address its collective survival as we near the end of the “Age of Oil”. Because once it’s gone, nothing can replace ‘that’ kind of energy density. Once that occurs, how will we feed our enormously overpopulated 6.8 billion humans? How will we water them? How will we maintain civilization?
“As we reap the whirlwind of troubles necessitated by excessive success, thinking ecologically of our global predicament may reduce the temptation to hate those who seem to be trespassing against us,” said Catton.
“Any area of land will support in perpetuity only a limited number of people. An absolute limit is imposed by soil and climatic factors in so far as these are beyond human control, and a practical limit is set by the way in which the land is used. If this practical limit of population is exceeded, without compensating change in the system of land usage, then a cycle of degenerative changes is set into motion which must result in deterioration or destruction of the land and ultimately in hunger and reduction of the population.” William Allen, “Studies in African Land Usage.”
In a five minute astoundingly simple yet brilliant video, “Immigration, Poverty, and Gum Balls”, Roy Beck, director of www.numbersusa.ORG, graphically illustrates the impact of overpopulation. Take five minutes to see for yourself:
“Immigration by the numbers—off the chart” by Roy Beck
This 10 minute demonstration shows Americans the results of unending mass immigration on the quality of life and sustainability for future generations: in a word “Mind boggling!” www.NumbersUSA.org