We can NOT keep living the way we're living right now. It just doesn't work. It's not a good idea. It won't last for much longer. It's going to change, whether we want it to or not. Everything about it is wrong and backwards from how it should be.
What is "it"?
It is the way we interact with our environment. And the way we have our economy set up. And the way we view the world.
Right now, almost everyone who pays attention to current events is worried about the economy. Everyone wants it to get better. Everyone wants it to grow. Even me.
The reason is pretty simple. We won't have jobs if it doesn't grow. Without a job, you don't have money. And without money, you can't buy important things like food and housing.
The economy always needs to get bigger. It always needs to be making more and more stuff. It always needs to grow. Like a big cancer on the earth. It just keeps growing, devouring more and more and more.
That is not going to work over the long term.
By long term, I don't mean billions, or even thousands of years. I mean, we'll be lucky if weren't not extinct within 300 years.
Our economy is based on taking parts of the earth and turning them into garbage. That is what "growth" is. Probably 95% of everything we make will be trash within 100 years.
We are wasting the wealth of the planet by doing that. We are ruining the only place where we're able to survive.
You can't have constant growth in a world which is limited. You can't constantly have more and more people, who are more and more wealthy, using more and more resources, when there are a limited amount of resources in the first place. It's not possible.
It is a really dumb way to run things. We can't keep doing it. We can't act like the earth is an unlimited source of wealth. We can't keep treating it like a giant dumpster. We won't have an endless free ride. There are serious consequences attached to this. We depend on the environment for everything. And we are destroying it.
That is the basic point I'm trying to make. The big picture. A constant growth economy is not compatible with earth.
I'm going to post a bunch of pictures now, to fill in some details, and give some evidence for what I'm saying. It's easier to make the point with the help of graphs and things... don't have to type everything.
Anyways, our population has grown from roughly 500 million at the beginning of the industrial revolution, to about 7 billion now.
Population is stabilizing in wealthy countries. Growing in less wealthy countries. Population growth is linked very closely to wealth, womens rights, and education. Richer people, living in Western countries, have fewer children. Poor people in the third world, have many children. The reasons are complicated, but basically, more children equals increased economic security.
People like to say that world population will stabilize by the middle of the century,as those countries develop. I think that's very optimistic, and very unlikely.
The reason is simple.. most of those countries aren't going to develop. They can't. The world does not have the resources needed for 10 billion people to live like Americans or Europeans do right now. The world isn't big enough for 7 billion to live like that. Let alone 10 or 12 billion. I really doubt that that's possible.
Population isn't the only issue here though...
Since the industrial revolution, people have gotten much more wealthy. Before that happened, almost everyone lived in poverty.
GDP per capita (and overall) has increased massively. But it's mostly the wealthy people and countries who have benefited from this. Most of the world still lives like they always did. In poverty.
The West consumes a disproportionate amount of the worlds resources. The average American consumes (and pollutes) about 40 times as much as the average Indian does. It's not just population which is stressing the earth. It's also consumption.
For example, Americans are 5% of the world population, but we consume about 25% of the worlds oil.
This oil is slowly running out. We are finding fewer and fewer oil fields, but we are still using more and more of it:
This is a problem. Have you noticed how gas prices are increasing lately, since the economy is recovering? Remember when they want up past $4 a gallon? That is only going to get worse.
But, this is much more than an inconvenience at the gas station. Our whole economy is built around cheap oil. We drive everywhere. We use semi trucks to transport everything. We use tractors and other fossil fuel powered machinery to make our food. We wrap everything in plastic. All this, and a lot more, is based on oil. It's a really useful substance. Maybe we should stop wasting so much of it?
On to the next problem...
We are cutting down all the trees.
Trees are very important. They convert carbon dioxide to oxygen. They keep areas from turning into deserts. They protect against extreme weather and temperature extremes. They're very useful. Not a good idea to cut them all down.
Next problem... desertification. A lot of areas are at risk of turning into deserts.
Deserts are inhospitable to humans, agriculture, have little water, are hot and miserable. We really don't want to be turning good land into desert.
Next... overfishing. We are taking too many fish from the environment. Eating them so fast that they don't have time to recover. And getting diminishing returns because of it.
If we keep doing this, more and more kinds of fish will disappear from the ocean, and we won't be able to eat them anymore. This is a big problem. One billion people depend on fish to get their protein.
Speaking of fish.. they aren't just disappearing because of fishing. We have also created huge dead zones in the oceans where they can't live.
This is caused by fertilizer runoff from farming. Farmers fertilize their fields, it gets into the water, flows downstream to a body of water, causes a huge growth in algae, and the algae eat most of the oxygen in the water. That makes it very difficult for sea creatures to survive.
Next problem.. phosphorus. One of the most important fertilizers. We're using way too much of it, and like oil, it's going to begin running out shortly.
Unfortunately, there is no replacement for it. With oil, we could replace it. Phosphorus is not so easy to replace. We need to use less of it, rethink our whole agriculture system, or suffer the consequences.
Another important thing that is in short supply.. water.
In the future, fresh water is going to much more difficult to get. The demand will be higher than the supply in many places. So, it will be rationed, a lot of (poor) people will go without, and we'll have to be much less wasteful about using it.
Next problem.. loss of biodiversity.
Our way of life isn't just dangerous to us. It's also killing off a huge amount of other species. We have actually caused a mass extinction. Human civilization is the most devastating thing to hit the earth since the comet that killed off the dinosaurs. It's actually worse than that, if I recall correctly... it's not a good sign. Which of these plants and animals are going to be the canary in the coal mine for us? Are we ever going to wake up and realize what we're doing?
We really need to... nature provides tons of free things to us. We couldn't survive without it:
We're ruining that. We're wasting the wealth of the entire world, living like this. Squandering our future for cheap gasoline and TVs. Turning the world into a lifeless, toxic garbage dump.
We really need to change our ways. We can't keep this growth based economy. We can't keep thinking that the world is infinite, and here for us to ruin. We can't do it... it's going to come back to haunt us.