FIGU Special Bulletin 46

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August 2002

Tackling Global Problems at their Common Roots by Felix Voirol

What are the most tenacious taboos still left in civilised society today? – To talk about sex in public? – Long gone! – Openly discussing certain human diseases? – Not any more! – Criticising authority at the top? – Not considered subversive outside of a few dictatorships!

Unfortunately, the most enduring and stubborn taboos are those involving the main culprits of major world crises, namely Taboo Nr. 1: The Population Explosion Dare to mention the fact that world population has gone beyond reasonable limits, and you risk being branded as a racist undermining the third world's progress. Taboo Nr. 2: Misguided Religion Venture to point out that many religions are more effective in perpetuating misery and ethnic conflicts than in providing comfort for “life” after death. Openly criticise their obstructing any efforts to relieve the population pressure, and you make yourself an outcast of society. Present crises are part of a hierarchic structure within which they can be seen as secondary or tertiary consequences to the global primary, which is

Overpopulation –> – The problem of hunger – Poverty in "developing countries" – The crime rate – Child abuse – Destruction of biodiversity – Depletion and pollution of drinking water – Urbanisation and land sprawl – Deforestation to make place for arable land – Desertification of formerly arable land – Depletion of unrenewable resources – Global warming of the atmosphere – Increase of weather disasters – Destruction of the protective ozone layer – The pollution of the air we breathe – Overfishing and pollution of the oceans – The problem of human migration – War between people who believe in different, but always human-like creators of the universe

The one common denominator is the relentless population growth, protected by a taboo.

Example One: Overpopulation => Hunger Millions of children in poor countries will die of hunger in the next few years. If there are more children than can be adequately fed, cared for and educated, the balance will be forced into slavery, prostitution, crime and the war machinery.

Religions have continuously missed their chance to improve the fate of children.

Some say there is enough food available and that it is only a question of distribution. This view is another example of approaching the problem by its secondary. It will work only until all available land resources – including all rain forests – are gone. By then the population will have grown to proportions that cause worldwide catastrophic hunger. It will then be too late, even for an all-out population reduction.

ONLY STRICT AND WORLDWIDE POPULATION CONTROL CAN SOLVE THIS PROBLEM IN THE LONG RUN. THE RATIO OF BIRTHS TO DEATHS MUST BE REDUCED TO BELOW 1 UNTIL A SUSTAINABLE NUMBER OF PEOPLE IS ATTAINED (Estimated by some researchers as about 2.5 billion for the world).

Example Two: Overpopulation => Destruction of Biotopes => Interference with Biodiversity An ever-increasing number of species is being eradicated off the face of the earth. The alarming rate at which we diminish the richness of life in rain forests and coral reefs has two long-term consequences on our own well-being. Firstly, we remove an enormous amount of valuable plant DNA, a potential that future generations may use for medicinal or nutritional purposes.

Secondly, we forestall nature's efforts to evolve new organisms among her many experiments under way in the rich pool of animal diversity. This action should be recognised as a true sin in the face of the creator by the church. It does not, however, speak up in favour of creation. Perhaps one of these organisms could have become a suitable replacement for man. A replacement compatible with nature and capable of coexistence with the rest of creation.

INTERFERENCE WITH THE PROCESS OF CREATION BY HUMAN OVERPOPULATION MUST BE STOPPED.

Example Three: Population Pressure => Territorial Dispute => Armed Conflict European governments, having finally recognised that their countries are overpopulated, now face a flood of migrants seeking asylum as “political refugees”. People fleeing the effects of overpopulation in their region by the hundreds of thousands annually, are causing loss of labour and social problems to their host countries. Conflicts between ethnic groups are on the rise. The time bomb is a-ticking! Why do we allow a taboo to keep us from seeing the primary cause of the problem: World Overpopulation?

Again, the problem is magnified by the simultaneous influence from two sides: First the effects of our long-term local birth surplus, second the massive contribution by external migration. Its synergism takes problem-solving beyond our governments' capabilities.

The threat of global war still hangs over all of our planet's life. Besides religious conflicts, acquisition of territory or the fear of territorial/economic loss are the bases for wars. However, both economic growth and territorial gain have their natural limits.

SHOULD WE RATHER LIMIT OUR MASSES STRIVING FOR TERRITORY OR SHOULD THE PROLIFERATION OF WAR TAKE CARE OF OUR MASSES?

Example Four: Overpopulation => Global Warming => Weather Disasters Floods and droughts have been a normal occurrence throughout the history of the human race. Heavy rainfall causes rivers to rise temporarily above their long-time stable level and changes their course. Volcanic eruptions cause periodic geological and biological changes. The destruction of vegetation is followed by renewed growth as ash rain fertilises the soil. Both animals and plants ultimately benefit from these periodic re-arrangements. The re-shaping of landscape is a natural process.

Enter man into the equation. His irresponsible growth forces him to colonise the last habitable niches on earth, wisely considered uninhabitable by his forefathers. Human habitations are now even spreading up the slopes of active volcanoes. So eruptions forcibly must destroy human housings that replaced the natural vegetation surrounding the summit.

Rivers can no longer rise periodically without taking with them some of the extensive human settlements, built too close to their banks.

Yet the media always blame the loss of lives caused by these disasters on “unusual weather” or “volcanic activity”, never on overpopulation! The taboo-protected real cause behind it is replaced with quips like “Act of God”.

Growing numbers of humans have caused the level of carbon dioxide to rise by 30% since the industrial revolution; the highest level since 160000 years. Carbon dioxide is the end product of oxidation (burning, digestion) of organic matter. The natural process countering the rise of carbon dioxide is photosynthesis, in which green plants use CO2 and water to produce the oxigen we breathe as well as simple sugars, the basis of our food.

It is indeed grotesque that the species considering itself the only intelligent inhabitant of the planet, manages to eject enormous quantities of hothouse gas into the atmosphere and, at the same time deplete the organisms that remove it.

Melting of the polar ice caps will cause coastal and low-lying land to be flooded. Global warming may also cause untold damage when it modifies the ocean currents or even result in a breakdown of the delicate and complex weather systems. In the course of only 150 years the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by humans has exceeded the amount of carbon dioxide stored in the entire biomass and all the oceans of the world. THE SUDDEN RISE OF ATMOSPHERIC CO2 LEVELS COINCIDES WITH THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION AND THE POPULATION INCREASE.

Example Five: Overpopulation => Overfishing and Pollution of the Oceans Take the problems we are causing to the oceans, our ancient cradle. We deplete the marine life we need to feed the growing millions as well as its nutrients, among them the phytoplankton that produces much of the oxigen we breathe.

We have known the circuit, called the food chain, for many years. Yet we interfere with it by taking fish out of the oceans faster than they can reproduce. At the same time we poison their source of food.

As always, the stereotypical reaction of man is an attempt to “repair” the damaged circuit by topical measures such as limiting the “harvest” or by slightly decreasing affluent pollution here and there.

NEVER IS THE POBLEM ADDRESSED BY MEASURES AIMED AT ITS ROOTS: THE CONTSTANT RISE OF HUMAN POPULATION! LESS HUMANS MEANS MORE FISH AND MORE OXIGEN-PRODUCING MICROORGANISMS.

Addressing the Nucleus of current World Crises. Most of the crises we learn about every day in the media can be eliminated by applying the lever at the bottom, at their common source. Unfortunately the only single action that could really solve the sum of our problems will be enormously difficult to implement, because – its results will not be felt for generations, – it will have to overcome unheard-of obstructions from all kinds of interest groups, – it will be very “unpopular”, as it involves what we choose to call “the most beautiful thing in life” – copulation, – it touches society's most obstinate taboo: To admit that we are far too many.

The Politics of Population Management No politician, no industrialist is farsighted enough to risk breaking this holy cow of a taboo. If results cannot be expected while he/she is still in office, no bureaucrat is wise enough to even expose it. Certainly not while our democratic systems require them to do what voters/shareholders want. All their strategic thinking is short-term. As long as the holy grail of human endeavour remains growth at any cost, they will continue to accelerate the decline of our environment. Ironically, jobs in ecologically destructive professions are more important than what happens to the planet in a few decades. Not since a crisis like the second world war and the emergence of a personality like Winston Churchill stating “I have nothing to offer you, but blood, sweat and tears”, has any leader had the guts to ask his people for a major sacrifice. Can you imagine a president of the most energy-waisting country in the world, the United States, asking his voters for even as little as “Please shut down your car's engine and your computer's monitor when you don't use them”. No way, even though it would save their economy billions of dollars each year. We are up against another great taboo: The American Way of Life! Acting now would be the most economical way to solve our problems, even though many of us may not live to see the final outcome.

An International Court for Crimes against Ecology? As only short-termed human welfare seems to be relevant in our societies, perhaps causing ecological disasters should be labelled as crimes against humanity. Which is what most of them amount to in the long run. Thousands of new laws have been established in hope to gain control over single secondary ecological problems. These measures are topological and add only to a detailed patchwork that will never stop the mega-crisis looming ahead. They are all devised to make politicians look good while protecting certain interest groups. Only one global law can be expected to show sustainable results in the future:

GLOBAL POPULATION REDUCTION BY ENFORCING AN AVERAGE OF LESS THAN ONE CHILD PER COUPLE UNTIL A SUPPORTABLE NUMBER HAS BEEN ATTAINED.

This will be the most difficult task ever undertaken by mankind. We owe this difficulty to our mindless reproduction and to the circumstance that we have hidden our conscience for too long behind a monstrous taboo.

A Silver Lining on the Horizon? It is up to us, the people of Earth, to turn around our way of short-term superficial thinking into one of priorities. As, apparently, we have not done so in the past, it seems that the knife must penetrate our throat before we are willing to accept that we have no other choice at all.

So, since the Marquise de Pompadour's address to King Louis XV, it is “après nous le déluge” (The deluge will follow us). In other words: “Business as usual” or “Damn the torpedos, full speed ahead”. Our politicians and industrial leaders leave the promise of a horror planet to our heirs. The longer we wait until implementing the most important law applicable to all of mankind: to stop our brainless multiplication, the more difficult and the more expensive it will become.

The crux is that our economic leaders choose to identify a secondary circumstance as the cause of third world problems rather than the primary. E.g. “If only we succeed to increase the wealth of developing countries, everything will fall into place”.

But if the third world one day needs as much resources as we do, while continuing at the present rate of population growth, its fate will not improve. Not unless by “increasing wealth” we mean providing aid in the form of family planning, education and reforestation.

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