“Homo Sapiens” means smart human, right? Most would say, “Yes.” Look at all we have figured out and accomplished on this earth. It’s incredible. Big Bang Theory (on TV) puts it all into 20 seconds. But an alternative metric for our species is offered here for your consideration.
Question: Are we a cancer or a parasite on this earth? Neither cancers nor parasites are viewed as especially intelligent, but human behavior and activity, in the aggregate, might be viewed from 40,000 feet in this same light. A cancer will spread until it uses up all its food source resulting in a massive die-off of the cancer and host. A parasite also feeds off its host but usually stops short of killing the host (and itself).
How do humans fare in this comparison? There is no answer yet, as we haven’t reached the feeding and exploitation limits of our host. But, consider our societal psychology. In this newly coined “Anthropocene” epoch, we are using 1.7 times the earth’s sustainable resources each year, we have driven CO₂ to a 3 million year high, and we are causing the sixth mass biological extinction event in the billions of years history of our planet, all without commensurate stabilizing reaction or regulation.
A lot of this resource use and extinction process is due to our compounded population growth. No end is in sight to that problem. China and India each tried various measures and were vilified by the world and their own populations for their “inhumanity.” How would you react if you were told you had to, or were made to, curtail your reproduction for the common good? Are we as a species so programmed to reproduce that we would do so until we collapse into resource wars? Remember, disasters often hit the less fortunate first and hardest.
Look at wars as another case in point. Wars are started as responses to existential threats. We feel absolutely entitled to do whatever is needed to survive (beat the enemy). What populations or battlegrounds have emerged better than they started? And wars won’t help the efficient use of resources. I am guessing the Pentagon agrees, unless our existence is threatened.
Look at the energy and transportation sectors. We as a species seem to feel fully entitled to whatever level of energy use we can afford. Yes, we have made our energy appliances more efficient (energy and pollution, including vehicles) over time, but energy consumption has grown faster than efficiency improvements. Our air now contains so much CO2 (>400ppm) from our energy generation, that it is now the highest in three million years when the earth was a very different place from what it is now (poles and coastal plains as shallow tropic swamps, water 20-70 ft higher than now). Using transportation in this country as a case in point, we seem to prefer, and feel entitled to, SUVs and pickup trucks for personal use, if we can afford them. What vehicles do you use? Why? How would you react to being restricted to buy smaller sedans, station wagons or walk, bike, or scooter for the common good? How would our general populace react? Now consider China, India and all of Asia as another case. As their economies grow (and they have) and personal wealth increases, they too feel entitled to whatever energy-using appliances they can afford. Can we invent our way out of disaster or will our improvements come slower than unregulated demand growth?
Enough said. The initial question is intended as rhetorical, my comments as food for thought. As we head into the holidays, please think on it, for our progeny’s sake.
And recovering from that dour note, I hope you have a very Happy Thanksgiving and merriest of holidays (again, for our progeny’s sake)!
Randy Bryan is one of the co-founders of Drive Electric NH. Bryan has been an advocate for electric cars for eight-plus years. His company, ConVerdant Vehicles, has converted vehicles to plug-in hybrids, including his own Prius in 2008, and developed and sold inverters that turn a Prius into an emergency generator.