A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand


Abraham
Lincoln’s famous proclamation is as true of our global human presence as it is
of houses. In his case he meant the evils of slavery and the bitter and tragic
American Civil War kept the ‘house’ standing, even though its ‘divisions’ remain
apparent.
Enough about that. It’s merely background for the subject at
hand, which is the impending disappearance of yet another species. What makes
the subject relevant is that the species headed for extinction is humanity itself.
Those who are presently alive on this planet, such as you and I, who will
witness the early stages of our undoing, along with those who come after us.
What gives it further relevancy is the elephant in the room. We worry (and do nothing) about climate change,
fret (and do nothing) about the dangers of unfettered capitalism, highlight the
horrors (and do nothing) of floating islands of plastic the size of the state
of Texas in our oceans and debate (while doing nothing) our concerns for social
justice and wage-equity in the newspapers and on social media.
The elephant
in the room is population and it
comes as no surprise that we will do nothing about that either.

In the year that I was born, the human population of the
world was 1.6 billion. Growing up, there were woods nearby, farms just outside
the city and we walked or bicycled to school with our neighborhood chums. 
When I turned twenty and had some sense of the circumstances
surrounding me in Chicago, it had reached 2.8 billion but it was still what I
would now term a very visually attractive, safe and friendly surrounding. Doors
were largely left unlocked, families had dinner together and we knew our
neighbors. To be rich was to be worth a million dollars and those fortunate
enough to attain such wealth lived in the nicer homes among the middle class.
The billionaire had not yet been invented and the gated-community was still
unknown.
Now, some
six decades later, all that has been swept away.
It took all of human history (30 thousand years, depending upon who’s counting) until 1820 for the
planet to reach its first billion inhabitants. A hundred ten years later we had doubled that number to two billion.
Forty-five years later we had doubled it again to four billion. Forty-five years on we have doubled it
yet again to nearly eight. Unrestrained growth is the defining character of the cancer cell. Yet you have to search, and
search hard, to find any plausible
conversation or debate
on what such unrestrained growth means for the
survival of the human species.
What has never been dis-proven is that what is unsustainable cannot be sustained.
By definition it is a fact. So it’s not much of a stretch to realize that any species doubling and redoubling
itself in so short a period is in trouble.
Added to all those earlier mentioned social and ecological disasters we do
nothing about, concentrate your mind upon this as just one more
Population growth is the
elephant in the room
, the driving force behind all the others. Largely because of our devotion to political
correctness, it has become impossible to point a finger at ourselves for breeding like rabbits. The largest growth is in the
poorest areas and it is now racist
for the better off to blame their poorer brothers. That is an obviously
eloquent and correct observation, but it
doesn’t solve the problem
.
So what will solve the problem? Well folks,
tighten your seat-belts, because it’s going to be a bumpy landing. The great
likelihood is that it will not be the
human species. Sorry ‘bout that, but with all our intellectual capacity and
problem-solving talents, we humans are short-term
thinkers
in a long-term game. This,
above all else, has moved us considerably beyond our sell-by date as a species. 
The most likely
outcome is that the planet itself will solve the problem and humanity will go
down as yet just another of its failed experiments. Blame it on Darwin. It may
have taken 30,000 years for the human train to build a head of steam, but we’re
rocketing now and there are no more rails available to sustain the trip.
The seas will rise.
The agricultural basis of human life will
fail us due to changing weather patterns. Eighty million Bangladeshis will flee or drown in place, along with
billions of others in coastal or riverside cities. Deadly viruses with no known
antibiotics will escape hospitals or
occur in nature, bringing plagues such as the world has never seen.
And that’s just the scenario on our way to extinction.
That’s coming in the near-term, quite
probably within the next century. In the longer term, as man-made systems
continue to collapse, we don’t really know when the last human standing will
fall. But cheer up, plastic will
remain as our marker for having been here.
As for the
planet, it will shake off its brief and failed experiment with humanity and
continue to thrive. It will make what is a planetary short-term recovery from
all traces of mankind (except for plastic). A thousand (or a million) years, is
merely an eye-wink in planetary time. Just because Darwin was human doesn’t mean Darwinism will not
continue after we have gone.
Certain present-time species will continue to exist and
thrive without all that messy and negative human intervention. Bees, crows,
sharks and crocodiles will probably make it, along with cockroaches, as they
all predated humans. Possibly even some form of chimpanzee or great ape, which
would give humanity another more honorable chance at the game. 
But left to its own devices nature is an intrepid opportunist
and this lovely blue dot we leave behind will become only more incredibly blue
and evermore lovely. 
That’s what
I never truly understood about those who would scheme and dream about beginning
life on Mars (hello, Egon Musk, good to see you), or some other unfriendly and
desolate rock of a planet. 
Why, when it
was within our intellectual and technical power to foresee and ameliorate,
have
we so willingly (or ignorantly) abandoned such a paradise?

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