You cannot have infinite growth on a finite planet.
This blog essay is the first in a six part series that is based on the premise that:
- A crisis within the human population could destroy our race by the year 2050.
- We humans are engaging in a behavior of infinite growth on a planet with limited resources.
- Our children and their children have the power to save the human race from destruction.
The six blog essays are:
- The Fantasy Of Infinite Growth On A Finite Planet
- Our Earth Is A Living System
- Energy Is The Force That Drives Nature
- Environmental Ethics – Guiding A Reluctant Humanity
- Effective Conservation Practices
- A Legacy Worldview – Teach The Children
The overview of author Kerryn Higgs’ book titled Collision Course : Endless Growth on a Finite Planet (MIT Press) summarizes the problem:
“The notion of ever-expanding economic growth has been promoted so relentlessly that “growth” is now entrenched as the natural objective of collective human effort. The public has been convinced that growth is the natural solution to virtually all social problems—poverty, debt, unemployment, and even the environmental degradation caused by the determined pursuit of growth. Meanwhile, warnings by scientists that we live on a finite planet that cannot sustain infinite economic expansion are ignored or even scorned. The idea that growth is essential continues to hold sway, despite the mounting evidence of its costs—climate destabilization, pollution, intensification of gross global inequalities, and depletion of the resources on which the modern economic edifice depends.”
“By 2050, the human population will have grown from the present 6 billion people to 9 or 10 billion people. To feed 9 billion people, every acre of agricultural land in the world will be used to produce food. Wars will break out over the control of land. The structure of human societies will need to be altered. Survival strategies will replace the ethics of a civilized society.“
“It is not the greed of multinational corporations with their vicious bulldozers, chain saws, and oil rigs that consume resources, but rather individuals like you and me creating these insatiable demands. The real problem is our many nonnegotiable needs for fuel, transportation, our modest twelve-hundred-square-foot houses, and worse, the incessant demand for industrially grown food that requires the proliferation of strip mines, chemical companies, and the mind boggling complexity of the energy and transportation networks. Each of us standing on the brink of our own individual crisis fuels these insatiable demands“
“It may be that we live in an age of hyper-connectivity and “big data,” but I contend that the fundamental reason why we’ve managed to construct the most highly unsustainable culture the Earth has ever seen is precisely because we have not been taught to see the connections“.
Nothing In Nature Exists In Isolation !!!
- Current conservation practices are based upon outdated scientific information.
- There is a failure to view Nature as a living system and an energy engine.
- Conservation workers cannot predict or control Nature even though they think that they can.
- There are many disagreements within the conservation community. There is no single consensus.
- In the last 100 years, the human population has increased from 1 billion people to 7 billion people. We are now the most numerous mammal species on Earth. As the population grows, we are taking more and more land to live and using more of the world’s natural resources. Many human activities also produce pollution, which is damaging the Earth’s environment.
- Human cleverness and inventiveness have modified almost every part of our planet. Our cleverness, our inventiveness and our activities are now the drivers of every global problem we face. And every one of these problems is accelerating as we continue to grow towards a global population of 10 billion.
- We currently have no known means of being able to feed a 10 billion human population at our current rate of consumption and with our current agricultural system. Simply to feed ourselves in the next 40 years, we will need to produce more food than the entire agricultural output of the past 10,000 years combined. Yet food productivity is set to decline, possibly very sharply, over the coming decades due to climate change, soil degradation, and desertification – all of which are increasing rapidly in many parts of the world. By the end of this century, large parts of the planet will not have any usable water.
- Demand for land for food is going to double by 2050, and triple by the end of this century. This means that pressure to clear many of the world’s remaining tropical rainforests for human use is going to intensify every decade, because this is predominantly the only available land that is left for expanding agriculture at scale. But, trees are necessary for our survival. Through photosynthesis trees produce the gas that we cannot live without: oxygen. As we breathe in, our bodies take in oxygen and when we breathe out, we release carbon dioxide. Trees do the opposite. They take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen. This cleans the air by removing harmful carbon dioxide so that people and animals can breathe.
- 29% of our Earth is land mass. Of that 29%, humans physically occupy less than 1% of that area in mostly cities and towns. Of the remaining 28% about 40% is pure wilderness. 14% is true desert and 15% has desert like characteristics. 9% is Antarctica. Most of the remaining 22% are agricultural areas used by mankind and are subject to environmental degradation noted in the next item.
- Raising animals for human consumption accounts for approximately 40% of the total amount of agricultural output in industrialized countries. Grazing occupies 26% of the earth’s ice-free terrestrial surface, and feed crop production uses about one third of all arable land. Free-range animal production requires land for grazing. Deforestation, caused by ranching, is one of the main reason for the loss of some unique plant and animal species in the Earth’s forests as well as carbon release into the atmosphere. Land quality decline, including desertification, is caused by overgrazing. It is now known that farm animals are a major source of both land and air pollution.
- In the 1700s, the dawn of the industrial age revolutionized methods of manufacturing and made them more efficient. Since then, factories have been built all over the world. Factories consume huge amounts of natural resources and energy, and many give off chemical waste, which creates problems such as air and water pollution, and global warming.
- We are going to have to triple energy production by the end of this century to meet expected energy needs of humanity. To meet that demand, we will need to build 1,800 of the world’s largest dams, or 23,000 nuclear power stations, 14 million wind turbines, 36 billion solar panels, or just keep going with predominantly oil, coal and gas and build 36,000 new power stations.
- Global warming will melt some of the polar ice caps, bringing greater risk of floods to low-lying and coastal regions worldwide. Heat waves, droughts, hurricanes, and torrential rain will become more common.
- Nature as a living system.
- The vital role of Nature’s energy flow in Her ecosystems.
- Environmental ethics that are used as a guide to survival and are are based on good science .
- Conservation practices that employ current scientific knowledge.
- Embedding a strong and active consciousness for Nature within our legacy through the teaching of our children.
Why Do I Write These Essays?
Please Comment and Subscribe
My name is Bill Graham. As a Marine Biologist who has worked in the US and Mexico for 30 years, I am a student of Nature, a teacher, a researcher, and a nature photographer. Through my work, I have acquired an ever growing passion for how everything in Nature is connected. Today, I travel extensively contemplating about, writing about, and photographing Nature’s connections. I also work with conservation projects in the USA and Mexico and mentor talented youth.