My Billionth Birthday, Overpopulation and Dinosaurs..

We humans have a disturbing tendancy to think of ourselves as more important than anything else, the paragon of creation. Taking longterm survival as a measure of success as a life form, we are by no means successful.

Even the ill fated Dinosaur will likely (long term) to have fared better than us lot.

If you’re really keen to know, Arthropods are in fact the most successful type of living life form (on Earth anyhow), many species in this group (for example spiders and crabs) have been around a lot longer than us primates and yet have remained almost unchanged by evolution, unlike us of course who have evolved considerably over the millenia (with the exception of the current US president and Scouting For Girls fans).

Bizarre fact about arthropods: their heads and bodies can (for a time) function quite independently. In fact, in the case of the infamous preying mantis, the female often decapitates the male before sex, which apparently (with the brain safely separated from it) the body is left free of sexual inhibitions and therefore insuring she gets a ‘right good seeing to’. She of course then eats whats left of the male afterwards. Romance isn’t dead after all.

It may simply be limits set by having predators, disease, or starvation, but somehow wild animal populations manage to remain under control. It’s as if a natural form of family planning has evolved as an evolutionary strategy for the greater good. Animal birth rates typically remain stable, and don’t escalate in the way the human population is growing exponentially.

The current population escalation is scary to say the least:

In 1800 the human population on Earth was 1 billion. It is currently 6 billion. In 2040 (at the current rate of expansion) it will be 12 billion, by 2080; 24 billion!, 2120; 48 billion!, and so on..

The land (let alone the resources we have) cannot (and will not of course) support this amount of people. Drastic, and likely horrific things will happen, if we don’t control it somehow.

A brilliant example of this exponential growth given in Richard Dawkins famous book ‘The Selfish Gene’ –

“Taking South America as an example, current (1975) population of 300 million, many malnourished, individuals. In less than 500 years the population there alone will reach a point where people in standing position would form a solid human carpet across the entire continent.. in 1000 years they will be standing on each others shoulders a million deep, and in 2000 years the mountain of people travelling outwards at the speed of light would reach the edge of the known universe. “

It’s all about perspective. My last birthday was my Billionth. I had reached the grand old age of 1,000,000,000 (seconds). Thats a lot of candles, or shots of tequila.. (i’m not sure if some sort of crisis is in order, but gifts gladly accepted)

Point is, Mother Earth got a lot more crowded in that one year since i last blew out my candles – an increase (ie the surplus after equalising births and deaths) of 70 million people. Another 70, 000, 000 mouths to feed – for perspective, the same amount as the entire current population of the UK. What is the solution?

It is well documented that one cause of high birth rates is poverty. The developing countries are reaching an evermore crucial state. Alongside abject poverty, starvation and the horrors that we in the West have almost become immune to hearing/caring about, there are major issues with education and birth control. The grim alternatives (war, famine, disease..) are cropping up more and more frequently in the place of us sorting out the world’s poverty problem (and therefore it’s population/resources problem).

It’s not of course that simple, but it is a major part of the problem/solution. As the exponential growth curve is generational, one very simple way we can slow it down is this: to try and have children later in life (for example at age 30 rather than 18), again going back to the poverty thing, we see this trend happening more often in economically comfortable environments, so this perhaps happens naturally when the circumstances are good.

Now I’m not being misanthropic here, I just think we humans need to learn a bit of humility (!). Overpopulation could literally dry out the earth’s resources in a matter of years. We’re already seeing this happen with the current grain-food-oil flow problems. We won’t necessarily ‘be alright’.. no one is going to ‘fix it for us’ (as citizens/consumers all of us it is so easy to become sedantry about these things). We’re arrogant enough naturally (as a species) about our divine place in the universe, and the way things could go, we won’t last that much longer. The arrogant always, always fall with a mighty bang.

I’ll sign off on a slightly lighter note.. Mr Bill Hicks explains The Dinosaur to creationists :

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Author: KK

Life, the universe and everything with music composer Kevin Kerrigan (aka KK) KK's diverse music includes work with Bjork, Brian Eno, Hollywood films and more.. www.21stcenturygenius.com

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