One of the most dramatic changes in more recent years is the booming growth of the human population. According to real time world statistics website, WorldoMeter, “A tremendous change occurred with the industrial revolution: whereas it had taken all of human history until around 1800 for world population to reach one billion, the second billion was achieved in only 130 years (1930), the third billion in less than 30 years (1959), the fourth billion in 15 years (1974), and the fifth billion in only 13 years (1987).” It surpassed 7 billion by 2011 and today we add about 227,000 more people to the planet everyday. Think of it as adding a New York City every 37 days.
Now that we understand the rate of population growth let’s take a look at how we are managing ourselves as a population through the use of our “systems”. What behavior do those systems create?
The current economic system we choose to live by encourages increased production and consumption of resources year over year. Success is measured by calculating the sum total of market value of final goods and services produced in a country in a year. This is known as Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
For example, China continues to build 10-20 cities per year which are known as “ghost cities” or “dead cities”. They have over 64 million vacant homes and the largest mall in the world which has been empty for over 8 years. Why do they continue to build all those cities and malls year after year wasting a tremendous amount of resources? It helps boost their GDP. You can read about this in our recent article entitled, “Empty Homes For Nobody”
The second part of this is our commodity based money system, also known as the monetary system. The monetary system encourages organizations to maximize profits at any cost and “sell more stuff” as frequently as possible, otherwise they are out of business.
If an organization’s primary goal is to make profit to survive, they might just do anything to increase that bottom line. It’s a product of the game we have created.
For example, items may be made with “cheap materials” to lower the purchase price but increase frequency of purchase. We have all heard people say, “they don’t make them like they used to.” Items are designed to breakdown right after that warranty expires so consumers are pressured to purchase again, also known as planned obsolescence. We develop disposables from materials that are not biodegradable and designed to go back into nature.Big energy companies might pursue toxic chemical dumping. Waste management costs money! Just this year, Sierra Club and Earthjustice filed a lawsuit against Louisville Gas & Electric (LG&E) after they found out via Google Satellite imagery that for more than 20 years they have been discharging coal ash toxins into the Ohio River. “Coal ash is the toxic byproduct left over when coal is burned to generate electricity. It contains dangerous chemicals including mercury, arsenic (a known carcinogen), lead, selenium, cadmium and many other harmful metals and pollutants. These toxic metals build up in ecosystems and most are dangerous even in very small amounts.”, says EcoWatch.
According to a new report entitled, “Wasting Our Waterways“, by Environment America, it was found that from the Chesapeake Bay to the Great Lakes to the Puget Sound, more than 206 million pounds of toxic chemicals were dumped into America’s waterways in 2012.
In addition, Fracking for natural gas has taken a spotlight today as a new way for getting energy; however we don’t all agree its the best way. We recommend you read about fracking in our article, “What is Fracking and How Does it Impact us?”. Just recently this year, Benedict Lupo, the owner of a Youngstown oil- and gas-drilling company pleaded guilty to ordering an employee to dump tens of thousands of gallons of fracking waste into a tributary of the Mahoning River. As far as energy goes, dams are another popular item today but not without some challenges. You can read about the horrors of the Belo-Monte dam in our article, “Locals Get Their Shovels and Continue to Protest the Belo Monte Dam.” The introductory paragraph states, “The Belo Monte Dam is currently the largest dam project being considered anywhere on the planet. It aims to be the third largest hydroelectric dam in generating capacity and would be on one of the Amazon’s major rivers known as the Xingu River which is a lifeline for all life around it. Aside from wildlife it is home to more than 25,000 indigenous people from various ethnic groups. It is designed to divert more than 80% of the rivers water flow which would in return devastate an area more than 1,500 square kilometeres of the Brazilian rainforest. This would force displacement of 20,000-40,000 people.”
One last example. The link between livestock expansion and deforestation is not because the land that underlies tropical forests makes better pastures or produces higher crop yields. In fact, case studies show just the opposite is true. The soils of newly cleared tropical forest land are generally of poor quality, leading to low crop yields and sustaining few animals per hectare. However, rainforest lands are inexpensive or even free for the taking, usually increasing considerably in value once they are cleared. Deforestation is an extreme problem, you can read more about int the article, “Since 2000 an Area of Forest Equal to 50 Football Fields Has Been Destroyed Every Minute”
We live on a small island in the cosmos and resources are finite, not infinite. Coupled with our overwhelming rate of growth we seem to have an illogical and unsustainable formula. Our growing population comes with greater demands for clean water, land, fuel, food, trees and other resources. The Green Revolution is a human response to the adverse affects we are seeing today but are we shoveling sand against the tide until the model adapts to our present day circumstance?
To be fair, we are not here to point fingers and blame companies that bring us energy and goods for saving money. When you think deeply about it, they are just results of the game we created. The social conditions (our systems) put in place are instigating abhorrent behavior. Isn’t that the root cause of our issues that requires attention? If you tell someone not to steal, well, we know that doesn’t work. So, making laws will not solve the problem. No matter how big of a wall you build, people will climb over. However, what if we remove or replace the social conditions that create the abhorrent behavior?
Right now it’s clear that operating under the systems we have chosen, our environment and any global human consideration tends to be secondary if considered at all.
We highly recommend watching this great short film called – The Story of Stuff