Sunday, January 12, 2014

It's Even Worse Than It Appears, But It's All Right

Alan Weisman:

The notion of husbanding the human race as though we were game or livestock horrifies on multiple levels — moral, religious, and philosophical, not to mention legal. To suggest applying principles of wildlife management to our own species conjures abominations such as humans being culled like deer. Although we famously aren't good at remembering history, attempts at thinning our ranks — otherwise known as genocide — are among our most indelible historical memories.

Yet although we strive for the heavens, as Pascal noted, we are still mammals who, like all other earthly creatures, require food and water — resources that we are now outstripping. Our seafood is down to dregs scraped from the ocean floor; our soils on chemical life support; our rivers fouled and drained. We squeeze and shatter rocks, mine frigid seas, and split atoms in risky places because easily harvested fuels are nearly gone. Like Kaibab deer, every species in the history of biology that outgrows its resource base suffers a population crash — a crash sometimes fatal to the entire species. In a world now stretched to the brink, today we all live in a parkland, not a boundless wilderness. To survive and continue the legacy of our species, we must adjust accordingly.

Inevitably — and, we must hope, humanely and nonviolently — that means gradually bringing our numbers down. The alternative is letting nature — the new nature we've inadvertently created in our own image — do that for us.

It's a fascinating and frightening book; thank goodness the only kids I've ever wanted to have are the canine kind. Still, after reading this, I think I'll go get a second vasectomy just to be safe. Yeah, go ahead, doc, tie everything off even tighter, please.

The only criticism I have is that he doesn't call for a reconsideration of the ethics of cannibalism, but I bet we'll get there sometime this century.