The Puzzle of Life 2 : Will the World Outlive Me?

I remember the discussion in Biology class with Mr. Grosland back in 1973 about Paul Ehrlich’s book The Population Bomb. The book was pointing out that the rapidly growing population of human beings on Earth had been increasing exponentially for a long period of time and was creating environmental crises that could eventually cause extinction of life on Earth. In particular, he mentioned how farm-fertilizer runoff and the use of pesticides were contaminating the water table, threatening to kill all the fish in the Mississippi Watershed and eventually destroying life in the Gulf of Mexico. In particular, the fertilizer was overstimulating algae growth, eventually shutting off the oxygenation processes that make water breathable for fish and other water-breathing denizens of the lakes and rivers of the Midwest. Widespread famine, disease, and other devastating conditions were also predicted by that book.

Later, in the 1980’s concern began to grow over the increasing chlorofluorocarbons in the upper atmosphere, due at least in part to the careless release of gasses from air-conditioners in need of recharging and repair. A huge hole began opening up in the ozone layer over the continent of Antarctica. That, of course, meant the sun was free to bombard the South Pole with increasing amounts of ultraviolet radiation. I myself had to be treated for skin cancer in 1983, and that was in Texas where the ozone above us was not yet completely depleted by waste gasses.

From my youth onwards, it seems, humanity has been anticipating ecological disaster for our planet on a massive scale.

The Carbon Dioxide problem actually began in the 1800’s with the advent of the Industrial Revolution.

While it is true that the regulations provided by the EPA have helped a lot since Richard Nixon was bullied into creating it during the Watergate Era, you have to remember that Republicans have been pulling its teeth since the Ronald Reagan Administration.

Many of Paul Ehrlich’s predictions of doom have been prevented or delayed by specific actions taken at the government level, both State and National.

The ozone layer has healed since industrial regulations began reversing the causes of the problem.

But the horrible truth is, we as individuals have no power to change any of these things. Regulations get removed in the name of profits because one billionaire is more powerful than hundreds of millions of concerned voters. The Green New Deal still seems doomed by the will of the Koch Brothers.

The truth is, even though we have the collective will to survive, we have twelve years to overcome forty years of doing the opposite of what we need to do because billionaires love profits more than the continued survival of life on Earth.

The bad news is, there is a lot more bad news in the near future.

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