Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Earth DAY

April 22 is the day we celebrate Earth Day. The first celebration of this event was in 1970 and we have been trying to convince the earth’s inhabitants of the precarious state of the planet for the past forty years. Global human populations have almost doubled in the forty years from 3.6 billion to 6.8 billion. Livestock populations are more than twice what they were in 1970. For the first time in human history the collective mass of livestock exceeds the collective mass of humans.

Now the zinger; private vehicles owned by the humans on earth have tripled to a level of over 900 million in these forty years. Even in the Ignited States we have increased the number of registered vehicles from 107 million to 245 million in the past forty years. I guess the humans on earth paid lip service to earth day and spent the other 364 days of the year recreating in their vehicles. What a mess we are in!

On earth day I have to admit that like the astronauts in Apollo 13 “Houston we have a problem”. Their mission was launched on April 11, 1970 and had to abort and return on April 17, 1970. Their mission was termed a “successful failure”. The three heroes returned to earth to celebrate the first earth day five days later. We should admit right here and now our mission on earth has been a “successful failure”. Never before have so many enjoyed private vehicles, meat, Starbucks Coffee, a longer life span, and general wealth. But and it’s a big BUT we are successfully failing to deal with dwindling natural resources.

I work with extremely intelligent and very well educated people, yet many of them naively believe we will have electric cars that solve the oil problem, we will have bio-engineered diesel fuel to replace fossil fuel, we will have technical solutions to all of the problems we will face because we are smart. Right now we do not need “technical solutions” we need adaptive human behavior. We need less from the earth and more from ourselves. We need to look in the mirror and admit our mission is an Apollo 13 mission. We will not get to walk on the moon but we can use our smarts to get back to planet earth.

We can admit to our collective failure and reset the course. The human population does not need to double again, the livestock population does not need to double, and certainly the number of vehicles does not need to triple. The question is whether the modern lifestyle is a “successful failure” or a “failed success”. Irrespective of the way we term our past history we must change course.

8 comments:

  1. I think this--that we need to adapt our behavior rather than engineer stuff--should be a continued focus of the blog. It is a key point.

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  2. yeah I received several emails from folks on this. Maybe global warming will unfreeze long established attitudes?

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  3. The problem has been captured perfectly GM. We will one day be known as the civilisation that was extremely successful at failing in the one area where failure was not an option - survival.

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  4. Sam you wonderful mathematician. Brilliantly stated. I did a double take on GM thinking of the auto company instead of Green Machine.

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