Global (S)warming? - Are We in Harm's Way...
Is it just me? It's my fault that the Earth is warming up? Shame on me for buying that '81 Z28 way back when! Of course, the problem couldn't stem from the fact that there's just too many people on the face of the earth could it? 8 billion and counting... How did we ever get ourselves into this mess?
The book Sapiens by Yuval Harari tells us that the Genus "homo" evolved around 250 million years ago into the central African regions of the Earth. They stayed there until about 70000 years mostly because of small numbers, several Ice ages and a relative lack of desire for any significant exploration. "Homo sapiens" (the really vicious version) made its first appearance roughly 200.000 years ago, still in Africa, and then proceeded to establish its dominance over all other species of creatures through its skills of tool making, language and ability to organize large groups / tribes into common purpose societies. Homo sapiens expanded the species beyond the African base beginning around 70000 years ago, but it didn't really begin to reach other continents such as North America until 15000 years ago when the Quaternary period northern ice sheets retreated and the routes to other new lands were exposed through land bridges. Serious colonization of the Americas has only taken place within the past few hundred years whereas the "originating core" throughout Europa to Asia was alive with activity as colonization and conquering armies constantly changed the profiles of the various empires.
Since then our numbers have grown from just a few to about 8 billion. It's important to know that however that all of our "large population" history has been and presently still is in a world that has not yet passed through any ice age. We've grown our world dominance only during the most recent warm period, the Anthropocene. We have yet to face the switch back to a world dominated by ice.
Our growth during this warm period is exponential and is mind boggling! In as little as the year 1600 we were only 500,000 strong globally. By 1900 we were only 2 billion. By 1950 we were 3 billion. By 2000 we were 6 billion. Today we are 8 billion and by 2050 we could be as much as 10 billion! At present, most of our numbers are in Europa, Africa, Asia, and India / (approx. 7 billion) whereas North and South America contain "only" around 1 billion people.
But look at the numbers from 1950 on (a span within our lifetimes). In a few decades we have literally covered the Earth with a human carpet with huge demands for resources and space and an enormous appetite to keep expanding its numbers at an ever increasing rate. 3 billion increasing to 8 billion in what - 70 years? And we're blaming a carbon molecule for all our present day grief with our environment? Really?
SO, DID WE WARM OR SWARM? - we didn't control our population growth at any time during our history (except through wars) and we're still not doing a very good job of cutting our numbers now. We are greedy and wasteful of our resources, using them to improve our so called quality of life by demanding huge amounts of energy to maintain it (over 100,000 kcal / day versus 2000 for our African hunter gatherer ancestor).
We deposit ourselves literally everywhere - on mountains, volcanos, meadows, flood plains, sand spits, river beds, ice fields, grasslands, deep forests, islands, tornado alleys, wetlands, drylands, everglades and on and on. Anywhere there is space, so are we. We get to see the effect of our weather patterns all around the world because we are always present to actually experience it and we share this experience (particularly the bad ones) because we can communicate instantly to all our brothers and sisters through electronic social media systems.
The result is chaos, expressed as constant hand wringing about how our weather / climate is changing and how it will negatively effect us! Our response - not to build up the dykes in preparation for higher waters but rather to try to reverse the course by going backwards by burning less as we pretend we can get back to yesterday's Utopia. Naive. Our politicians seem to be focused only on eliminating the use of hydrocarbons as an energy source supporting our society's needs.
There is a massive debate going on about whether global warming (or climate change as it is now called) is even a valid concept. People are split into "believers" and "deniers" and the debate rages on between them. I feel "deniers" are losing this battle, not necessarily because they are wrong but simply because the weight of social media pressure the "believers" are able to bring simply overwhelms any attempt "deniers" make to question the concept.
But think about it. Would we care if Kilauea blew up if we didn't have houses on the lava fields (I've seen them). Forests used to burn until they were put themselves out. It was a cleansing cycle. Now we extinquish them because any fire threatens habitation of some kind - a cabin, a house, a town. Are more fires starting due to a drying earth? People started 900 forest fires in BC last year. Did this happen 200 years ago? Skyscrapers built on sandspits literally inches above ocean levels. Wood frame houses in prairies known for seasons of wind at tornado strengths. Ocean hurricanes sweeping through lowland areas poorly protected by inadequate dykes. Forests cleared of trees resulting in loss of water retention and increased runoff to lowlands below. Lately, we've realized rivers have flood plains, something we ignored as we were laying out our subdivisions with houses that never once considered the thought that the water could return one day.
So, what to blame? Was everything O.K. until that pesky climate decided to change on us and upset our expectations of a normal untroubled life? Or was it always there, blowing and scorching and soaking the land without anyone seeing or worrying about it? Perhaps climate change is indeed happening but the real problem is the arrogance of a human race that demands to be satisfied in pretty much everything it desires without the least thought that there might be consequences to its actions. We're coming up against those consequences now as we run out of space to expand and the damage caused by "normal" weather variations impact our unprotected colonies. Time to get real people, because we're still building and expanding our domains at an unprecedented pace! It can only get worse.
Please note: these images and the discussions surrounding them are easily found on Google. I'm not even going to attempt to make a bibliography because this isn't a scientific paper, it's an opinion piece. If you doubt me go search them out. The exercise is quite revealing.