Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Humans: Eaters of Worlds

In the Marvel Comics universe, the Fantastic Four battle a gigantic being know as Galactus. He is a being that revives his life-force by eating planets. More than once, Galactus has set his eyes on Earth only to be stopped each time by the heroes of Marvel. But it is not Galactus that threatens our world outside the pages of comic books. It is something much more controllable. Our biggest enemy is our own consumption. As a species, humans are on pace to rid the world of its resources in less that 50 years.
One way to measure the amount of resources available is to measure the amount of biodiversity on the planet. This deals with the number of species that exists and where they live. According to the WWF (World Wildlife Fund), "Populations of many species, from fish to mammals, had fallen by about a third from 1970 to 2003 largely because of human threats such as pollution, clearing of forests and overfishing." In short, we are eating the planet out of house and home.
The growing human population is the biggest threat. More people means more resources are needed. And there is simply not enough to go around, according to scientists. "For more than 20 years we have exceeded the earth's ability to support a consumptive lifestyle that is unsustainable and we cannot afford to continue down this path," said the WWF report. If we measure resources in terms of planets the size of Earth, the human population "will need two planets' worth of natural resources every year by 2050 ." Two planets worth!!! In case some haven't noticed, we only have one planet. And there are no others for us to use. This is a grim outlook for the human species.
Not surprising is the fact that the United States is the second biggest problem in terms of consumption of world resources. Only the United Arab Emirates are using more resources per capita that the US. Following the US are Finland and Canada. To give you some idea of just how bad it is, if the entire world consumed as much as Americans do, by 2050, "we would need five planets to support us."
Of course the solution to all of this is very simple. "Everyone would have to change lifestyles -- cutting use of fossil fuels and improving management of everything from farming to fisheries." And it is as simple as that. We HAVE to do these things. We don't have a choice. We cannot continue to believe that the planet is going to have an infinite supply of resources for everyone's consumption. It simply isn't true. And we are not sure when we will actually run out. The major problem, according to the report, is "people are turning resources into waste faster than nature can turn waste back into resources."
As a species we must unite on this effort. We need to MAKE our governments create and enforce VERY strict standards on the consumption of resources. This isn't a joke. The world's population is increasing at an alarming rate. At present, it is at 6.5 billion. But by 2050 it will have rocketed to 9 billion. If we don't find a solution now, it will be too late by then. In 2050, I'll be 75 years old. I want to think that humans will still exists instead of eating ourselves into extinction.

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