The intrinsic human nature to embrace Armageddon at every and any given turn is as unlikely to dissipate and will likely hang around and haunt us as do the remnants of Amoco Cadiz, Exxon Valdez and BP's latest attempt at reducing biodiversity in the Gulf of Mexico. Apocalypse. We love it. We dream of it and yet it never seems to happen.
The ability of our minds to comprehend futures, societies and existences beyond that which we already know is at best limited. We all have versions but articulating a complete picture and comprehending it is another thing entirely. A little knowledge is indeed dangerous and with regard to predicting future trends among a complex web of interactions, is a mere folly, but we endeavour to do so whether in the face of futility or otherwise. There are many who have enlightened our imaginations with tales of greatness followed by disintegration - H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, Olaf Stapledon, Arthur C. Clarke, Rob Grant and Doug Naylor and many more have written the doom-laden futures of humanity that we repeatedly seek.
One thing that unifies them all is the acceptance that the increased demand of explosive societal needs or homogenisation are the downfall of Humankind. Reverend Thomas Robert Malthaus (1766 – 1834) predicted the demise of the human race due to an exponential demand for food and water that the agricultural practices of the day could not sustain. Not to worry, some time passes and there are technological solutions, societal changes and this of course affects the bottom line of altering supply and demand in a way that maintains our existence. Phew. I’m not dead after all.
So by that logic we are all ok as long as technology can fix it and society can adapt. Brilliant. This indeed backs up the argument supplied by David Nowell in Vol 26, No. 1 of Geoscientist
. Aside from a quick dip into elevated temperatures possibly being bad, it is assumed that the whole world is being paranoid and the only reason we don’t want to drill in the arctic is because we’re a bit guilty of driving cars around and flying planes rather needlessly – to which I totally agree, we are addicted to oil and perversely defending it by capitalist measures. Can’t we leave some things alone?
What was clear from little Tommy Malthaus prediction was that something had to change or indeed we would be faced with significant famines and yet, things have and, disproportionately, we still are.
From the substantial desertification of Sub-Saharan Africa (and the modern day analogue with 30s dustbowl America that were once luscious plains), Latin America and Mongolia/China to global and regional overpopulation, bee and insect depletion, rising sea levels, overconsumption, fresh water resource depletion, invasive species, virus transportation due to globalisation, etc. it could be assumed we are living in perilous times. The anti-argument may be that we are always living in perilous times. Would that last statement be a bit remiss and blasé? (Maybe I am dead).
Of course it would. To merely state that the more environmentally aware scientists are blinkered and that humanity should have a good look at itself in the microverse is utter insanity. Fiddle away, Nero. Sanity would suggest the overloading of a system is not a good thing. Note the end Permian and end Cretaceous et al. There is so much to examine closely in society at the decision making levels. That does not render the journalist wrong, and to state it is “divisive” is grossly unfair and wrong. Aside from the fact that polemic is used to bring attentions to poorly reported matters, the reality is that we are addicted to oil and it will kill us by direct and indirect measures should we persist (what say you Rev. Tom?) along the same lines of irresponsible use. Perhaps we need to prove Malthaus wrong again, maybe that societal change and technological revolution at the higher levels is needed once more. Putting the blinkers on and blaming an SUV driving mum with a rather well fed child watching Red Dwarf (again) on DVD is probably not.
Russell Corbyn CEnv MRSC FGS MIEnvSc – Site Investigation, Soil and Rock Analysis, Concrete & Cementitious Materials Petrology and Petrogaphy, Waste Materials & Re-Use Assessment. Kiwa CMT Testing.