Monday, March 5, 2012

We’re Doomed, But Not by the Asteroid

NASA announced last week that they’ve found a good-sized asteroid on a trajectory that could impact earth in 2040, but by then it may not matter. Our planet is running out of everything but human beings. Fresh water, edible fish, petroleum, and land suitable for agriculture— these are only four items on a seemingly endless list of resources that are essential and finite, but rapidly diminishing. And make no mistake about it, competition for these scarcities has absolutely become a zero-sum game played out between the nations and cultures around the globe. For maybe the last century or two, this has always been the case (to a lesser degree), but until recently the winners in this game could keep their good fortune off the radar as their own dirty little secret— somewhat hidden and unknown to those who were losing out. But those days are gone. Now, with ubiquitous social media and telecommunication, everybody knows what everybody else has got.

For 30 years or more, Americans have been spoon fed on the mythological crapola that much of the world hates us because of our freedom. The real truth is that much of the world hates us because we have the disproportionate lion’s share of access to fresh water, petroleum, and good fertile cropland. Individual freedom in America isn’t a threat to anyone, but the prospect of losing out to a more powerful player in a zero-sum game is very much a threat.

This competition to see who gets the right to deplete the planet’s scarce resources is being played out against the backdrop of an even bigger problem— exponential population growth. In my lifetime (the last 70 years) the global population has more than tripled, going from 2 billion to 7 billion. Current educated estimates put the population at 9 billion within 15 to 20 years, and probably at 10 billion by 2040 when the asteroid may or may not stop the growth permanently. For those who are mathematically ignorant and who don’t understand exponential growth, here’s a little fact. There are more people alive today than the number of people who have died since the dawn of the human race 100,000 years ago. To put it another way, more than half of all the humans who have ever walked the earth are alive and walking the earth today.

Faced with the biggest problem to confront mankind in all of history, the last 10 days in America witnessed something truly remarkable. Two influential institutions came together. The political ideology that gave us Newt Gingrich, George W. Bush, and Rush Limbaugh teamed-up with the Italian religion that gave us 1000 years of unchecked child sex abuse, and together they came out against what they consider to be the scourge of modern mankind. They pooled their mutual influence and collective animosity to oppose— drum roll, please— CONTRACEPTION!!!

It just makes you weep with frustration and disappointment. We’re doomed, and not because of the asteroid..

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