|Summer is coming to the rest of the world.|
For years, I've been feeling dread and doom for humanity. I've often shared with Alex that I feel that the end is coming for the world as we know it. There are too many people and not enough resources. It's a scenario heading for disaster of biblical proportions for the human species. I have read Lovelock and I subscribe to the Gaia Hypothesis that the earth is a single organism in which each species is inextricably linked and controlled to ensure the survival of the whole.
I thought I was the only one with such thoughts. But lately, more and more people have been voicing similar concerns and many of them are people who command respect. One of the most vociferous has been Stephen Hawking. His premise is similar to mine. There are too many people and not enough resources, so the people will have to go. He says it a bit more eloquently - we've learned enough to use up the resources but not enough to find another place to live - in essence. We, Alex and I, as sailors are very attuned to the changes around us. We have to be. Our lives are at stake. And we can feel it coming.
Earth Day passed on April 22 and I was unable to post anything significant at the time. Instead I will take the opportunity to express my doomsday predictions today as follows:
- Pew Foundation estimates there will be more than 9.3 billion people on earth by 2050. That means agriculture will have to produce more food than has been produced in all of human history. More than 20 million are at risk of starvation in Africa today. It will only get worse. More people will be starving for water and food with every passing day, causing mass migrations to accelerate.
- When they migrate, they will go to the cities, where there are jobs and food. More than half of all people live in cities today and the trend for urbanization continues. More than 70% are likely to live in cities by 2050, and 27 megacities of more than 10,000,000 will carry the brunt. Being in proximity of so many people will increase the likelihood of pandemics.
- Our natural resources are dwindling. The Centre for Biological Diversity has pronounced that we are in the sixth wave of extinctions in the past half-billion years, the worst spate of species die-offs since the loss of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. The natural “background” rate of extinction is about one to five species per year. Scientists estimate we are now losing species at up to 10,000 times the background rate. To sustain food production, we will have to resort to ever more increasing use of antibiotics and hormones which will stimulate greater antimicrobial resistance.
- Ocean acidification is not only killing off the corals and fish, it is happening faster than it occurred during the Permian-Triassic mass extinction which killed off 90% of the species. During the "Great Dying" as that event is known, about 2.4 gigatons of carbon were injected into the atmosphere per year. Today, we inject about 10 gigatons per year. Thus, the sixth mass extinction, which is considered to be underway and called the Anthropocene extinction, could be worse than the Great Dying.
- The rise of the superbug that kills quickly and can jump species is likely to happen soon. The pressure for such a variant to emerge is high and the concentration of populations in cities almost ensures significant consequences for human life. The Influenza Pandemic of 1918-1919 killed more people than World War I (WWI), when between 20 and 40 million people died. It has been cited as the most devastating epidemic in recorded world history. As megacities are just a plane ride away from each other, the risk of multiple epidemics or even a pandemic today is high.
- If the bugs don't put the human population growth in check, then Gaia will. Human accelerated climate change will intensify natural disasters, such as flooding of urban centers, super storms, and other epic events. Some of these will introduce opportunity for water-borne disease transmission and spread of vectors such as mosquitoes to broader regions.
- The hottest 17 years on record have occurred since the year 2000. One can perceive the acceleration. The growth of desert regions is trackable, the agriculturally significant regions are shifting, and whoever controls the water, controls the world. The places humans will be able to survive will be reduced to a small percentage of the earth's surface until humans are no longer viable and, therefore, no longer a threat to the earth's resources.
I don't want to sound hopeless, but I do feel a need to sound the alarm. I would be remiss if I did not. If we don't annihilate ourselves by nuclear event, then the earth will, one way or another, take us out of the equation. Whether the final event comes slowly or as a sudden surprise, I have no doubt that it is on its way. It used to be religious belief that conjured up doomsday scenarios. Now it's scientists with strong basis in fact not belief who are sounding the alarms.
Just think how lucky we are to have a sailboat. Whichever side the warning comes from, like Noah, we will hopefully be able to sail away and save a few species when the time comes. When climate stabilizes, species may be able to regenerate and repopulate as they have done before. Whether man will be among them remains to be seen.
Alex, of course, has shared the prophesies of Nostradamus and Nándor Balázs (Einstein's assistant), which jive with the projections of James Lovelock in the Gaia hypothesis: that when the earth goes down, the last place left that may remain hospitable for life on earth is right here in the mountains in the west of Ireland. We'll just have to fend people off when they try to usurp our land and resources. So on a more hopeful note, come see the Wild Atlantic Way now, if only to see it while it's still wild and rural...and teeming with life.