Last week I alluded to the problems created by the stagnation of population as if everyone saw the potential as I did and believed in it, as well.
Most of the feedback I’ve had so far indicates that people
1) don’t understand the problems the same way I do,
2) don’t agree with me that they will play out in anything like the manner I assume, or
3) have no idea what I was trying to say at all.
I think I shouldn’t challenge Reagan on the “great communicator” field of play.
My concept of problems with stagnation rely, largely, upon the degree to which my country, as well as all the rest of the world, relies on economic systems that depend on growth. Ours, of course is capitalism, but imagining systems that don’t rely on growth is very hard for me.
It makes me wish I’d paid better attention when class discussion turned to economics.
As I see it, the worst impact of stagnating growth may come from our reliance on having a “healthy economy.”
An “unhealthy economy,” would be called, in more sophisticated terms, “a recession“ or much more likely in this case, I think, “a severe depression.”
An almost total reversal of virtually all current drivers of commercial activity I know of would eventually dissolve into “to the death” struggles between nations. Very likely wars.
There may be numerous other options, and my assessment of the role of growth in other economies may be naive, but that is the way past behavior amongst nations leads me to believe it will go.
You’ll recall that we are talking about a time frame, as predicted by most demographers, of approximately 40 years. Forty years until the world’s population levels out to between about nine and ten billion.
My guess is that population will never stabilize, but will grow until it collapses (okay, I guess it would stabilize then, at a very low number). Whether that will occur at 10 billion, or more, or less, I have no idea. Other than suspicions raised by the fact this seems to be about the most demographers can imagine the population getting to before it won’t go any higher, that is.
What scared me was the realization that stabilizing would have “terraforming-option destruction” almost as powerful as would the “collapse model” I’ve long imagined.
I’ve always assumed the “collapse model” would terminate all efforts to go into space. If both options lead to war, either we then see a population collapse so great that humanity never recovers (in which case we don’t go into space), or at least we erect an effective barrier to stop all attempts at space travel, or both.
The barrier would consist of at least an impenetrable cloud of space junk on the short term, but, more dangerously, a long term pall of any thrust behind space exploration.
But none of these possibilities would mitigate the damage our growth will have alreadydone. The atmosphere will already have been altered to its human-induced maximum, biodiversity sent to its minimum, and the climate driven to extremes beyond any influence we might still have to control it. Nature will have fully taken over by then, and the death of Gaia, or its survival, will be long out of our hands.
Such a scenario would mean we only have an extremely short time to get off this planet. If you’ve followed me closely, you know the terraforming of our current best prospect for that project, Mars, would require a minimum of three hundred years.
But I do have one very large caveat. The three hundred to nine hundred years frequently mentioned in the planetary scientists’ predictions is based on preparing Mars to tolerate unprotected human occupation. The process involves many years of occupation of and proliferation on Mars by non-vertebrate biota with the ability to survive and thrive in the extreme environment that Mars will be before these beings will be able to re-form the planet’s atmosphere to a closer approximation of our own.
And there may be ways to provide protection for early transplants from our species even in the absence of a viable population on the home planet to provide that kind of support over a timeframe longer than a few decades.
In other words, we humans might sill be able to make it, and in the process, would probably start a successful rescue of some of the other life forms that make up Gaia.
But the realization of both the more demanding challenge of our problems and the more certain time frame brought me to a near state of paralysis all of last week. I was a deer in the headlights there for a minute. Sorry.
Let’s stop screwing around and start getting off the track!