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Unformatted text preview: 1 The Greatest Problem Facing Mankind Exponential growth, approaching infinity in a finite world. Overshoot CRASH! If you were asked what the greatest problem facing mankind is, what would you answer? Terrorism? War? The economy? Corruption? These are the topics on the lips of our politicians. But I would contend that our most vital concern is for the environment that nurtures us. In fact, we should probably celebrate Earth Day every day, thinking globally as one people on one Earth in one biosphere with one future. Were all in this together! Crucial environmental issues concern ozone depletion, global warming, species extinction, marine habitat destruction and deforestation to name just a few. Overwhelming scientific evidence points to human activities as the primary cause of all of these problems. They imperil our very existence. At the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, just 200 years ago, our population went into rapid exponential growth. Now at 6.3 billion, we are experiencing a global increase of 250,000 more people (births over deaths) every day! Its the equivalent of adding a San Diego to the world population in less than a week, all of Mexico in a year, and the entire North American population every three years. As our numbers increase, the numbers of many other species decline. Our population now exceeds that of any other primate species by over 10,000 fold; we are causing their extinction, literally by crowding them off the surface of the Earth. All living organisms, from simple bacteria to complex animals, are subject to the laws of Nature. Populations experience exponential growth when resources are plentiful but crash when a single essential resource disappears. Before a population crashes, there is usually an overshoot; the greater the overshoot the greater the crash, and the greater the crash the greater the suffering. Because the human population is not living sustainably, most experts agree that we are currently in the overshoot phase. The question is not whether disaster will hit but when . Throughout history, civilizations have risen to prominence and then declined into obscurity. The Egyptians who built the great pyramids, the Greeks who became our early philosophers, scientists and poets, and the Romans who dominated over 50% of the human population for several centuries, all fell into obscurity after overexploiting their environments. While the history books suggest that wars and conflict were largely responsible for societal collapse, numerous anthropological studies point to environmental destruction as the primary cause. Peace usually reigns as long as there is plenty, but conflicts arise when there isnt. Thus, war is a consequence of need; it contributes to the demise of civilizations, but only secondarily....
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- Spring '07
- World population, San Diego