We Earth-dwellers are developing a growing fascination with climate change as the paramount issue affecting our species’ future. This awareness began around the release of the film An Inconvenient Truth. Many of us have recognized the extreme importance of stopping and reversing uncontrolled climate change, and rightly so. Those who deny the truth of climate change to serve their petty greed have become the greatest fools in all of history and everyone knows that. Their only argument is denial of facts that are clear, obvious, well-known and generally accepted. Climate change denial is the current folly that’s equivalent to flat-earth theory.
Climate change itself is not as primal as we may assume, despite all of the media attention it receives, because it's not actually the root cause of our worst issue. Contrary to that breakout climate film’s title, it’s subject matter is ironically, too convenient and a clearly obvious secondary issue. Environmental degradation is a consequence of a deeper root cause. Something else more primal, immediate, and threatening matters far more than our degrading climate.
It's past time for us to think again and refocus on the root cause of climate change: Planet Earth's accelerating human overpopulation. We can’t fix climate change in isolation because overpopulation keeps on driving it. We ask how we could ever reverse our rush into oblivion. That’s actually quite obvious but unfortunately, it’s also quite a threatening issue to even admit, much less to tackle for resolution. It seems impossible to correct but the stakes are clear:
Wake up or go extinct.
It has been proposed that the Earth's maximum carrying capacity for human life limits-out somewhere around one billion people, worldwide. Right now, in January of 2019, world population is estimated above seven billion resource consumers. If the Earth's accelerating degradation is to be stopped, we have to focus on reversing the wasteful resource consumption that human overpopulation causes. We must not only reverse over-consumption but also re-balance distribution of resources (meaning wealth) more fairly at a level that gives real, practical meaning to the concept of "sustainable."
Then future generations will have a fighting chance to achieve survival and lasting prosperity for everyone. The rugged individual that built America is not the right hero type for our reality survival show. The type of characters we need to champion a sustainable future are socially aware, self-limiting, responsible, informed, empathetic and altruistic.
Too many of us simply don't care what happens to our life's former setting after we die. We leave this earth like actors leaving the stage after a final performance but all the effects of how we lived continue. Our justification is, "if I won't suffer consequences, why should I care?" This is the ultimate tragedy of our creeping, materialistic, mass narcissism. To survive as a species we must evolve further. We have to transcend narrow self-fascination in favor of a common purpose to achieve long-term safety and wellbeing for our descendants.
We have a responsibility to others who follow us even if we’ll never procreate children. It's something like leaving a picnic area cleaner and more natural than you find it but on a far more telling plane of meaning. It's simply the decent thing to do. Knowing yourself as a caring and aware person, at least part of the time, brings a special, rich satisfaction to your self-image regardless of what others think. But usually, decency and sensitivity are noticed and respected, even admired. These traits spread virtue and invite a response-in-kind which tends to encourage emotions and behaviors that support our mass survival. These are good practices and we can strive to live by them despite any personal imperfections.
Achieving a functional balance between planetary birth rate and global death rate must become the most important concern and goal of all time. Failing in that, we will continue mass over-consumption that keeps accelerating planetary destruction until our present spaceship, the Earth, becomes a burned-out shell and at best, the human race regresses to a stone age life-quality. Worst case, we will go the way of the dinosaurs. This weighs on our minds unconsciously. It’s why our media are colored by darkness and pessimism. We’re trying unconsciously to work through our fear of what’s coming. Just tally up the dystopian novels and movies that are circulating these days. How many bright, positive visions of mankind’s future can you find?
Some say it's quite possibly already too late for us to wake up, to smell the smog and see the oceans rising and the seas awash with spilled crude oil with much of the human race suffering; too late to do all of the right things at every level of human organization, on a planetary scale. Truly responsible world leaders would take up this cause and help shepherd us to achieve the only goal that really matters in this day and age: zero population growth followed by population decline to a sustainable level.
We can reverse the problems that overpopulation causes by backing out of it opposite the way we got into it. Let’s consider spending that five trillion dollars on solving overpopulation instead of a bizarrely ridiculous wall at the US southern border that we don’t need, shouldn’t want, and that will not achieve the stated purpose. The border-wall proposal is emotionally driven, unwise and a desperate stab at fixing a symptom rather than a cause and doing that in the wrong way. It’s not really about general wellbeing. It’s an attempted distraction from what it’s really about — making a tiny, rich minority even richer. Being super-wealthy has never made anyone truly happy but it has made many who thought it might bring happiness, quite miserable.
The answer is clearly not to keep doing the same old thing by finding some new planet to colonize and rape like space conquistadors. Forget Mars. Forget space travel except for the journey through space that we are already taking as Earth passengers.
The real need is right here, right now, and could not be more imperative to recognize and to resolve. Planetary homeostasis is the grand challenge of the ages and the most urgent imperative that the human race has ever faced. World wars, major conquests, moon launches, plagues, self-driving cars — other human involvements are insignificant by comparison. Some sort of balance will reset life no matter what we do with policy but the key to human long-term prosperity is to do what it takes to sustain our kind, still thriving on the face of the Earth. Or the new homeostasis could well happen without humans around.
How will we ever manage to throttle human reproduction enough that we'll survive accelerating overpopulation and achieve a satisfying and sustainable quality of life for everyone? By providing everyone with both the means and the motives.
We are called upon to stop ourselves from destroying our environment and consequently our lives by achieving a net balance between what we take from the earth and what we give back, and all without damaging the environment. This will require greater awareness and self-restraint, deeper understanding, and a general re-thinking of our life-purposes during this century. Is life really just about ruthless money-grubbing, owning stuff, and social competition? Or is life’s meaning about something higher, gentler, grander, perhaps more noble? We could achieve peace based on sufficiency for everyone, genuine equality, social justice, and harmony between peoples and nations.
We are compelled to make the longer term more important than the short term; to redefine what makes us happy; even to realize, for the first time, on a mass scale, what a healthy happiness comprises and how it’s practiced. When we get clear on how to feel deeply fulfilled and also be safe at the same time and for the long haul, we'll become able to avoid the demise we're inevitably facing as a species. In other words, we must stop thinking and acting like immature, failed attempts at becoming empathetic, self-managing adults. Without right values, we humans simply become a plague upon the Earth.
Our first step is to finish growing up, emotionally. Then we need to think with that emotional maturity, guided by humanistic values that support mass sustainability and place its value above all of the passing, and ultimately trivial amusements that distract us. Then build the balanced lives that we can achieve for ourselves and for generations to come.
Here are some sobering, data-driven insights to inform thinking about overpopulation and its consequences. Check out Consider the Population Issue, a FlipBoard compilation by Joseph Riden.