What If?

by Contentious
(Surrey, UK)

By 2200, all of the seven billion people of Earth's people will be dead. You, me and all our children. Of this we can be certain. We all die. Some of us may make it into old age before succumbing; others will not even see their first day of sunlight. Many will perish through childhood diseases, others in accidents and disasters. Who can say when is their due time to die? Is it somehow 'wrong' to die as an infant from Malaria as 3000 do every day, but acceptable to be taken away by cancer at 80, or 60, or 40? One way or another, every one of us will die and by 2200 all of us living today will be dead.

No one knows the future, but we can see some pointers to it. If climate change goes unchecked, we can expect to see a lot of problems developing across the world. Is man responsible for climate change? If we are, can we reverse it? If we can, will we?

What if, for whatever reasons, we do not halt climate change? What if we have virtually unchecked climate change over the next 50 to 200 years? Attempts even at agreement over the causes, let alone possible solutions, have a poor history to date. Would even a global concerted effort with all nations acting together be able to stop the super-tanker of global warming and consequent climate change? And what chance is there of such cooperation?

If the global temperature continues to rise, we cannot predict accurately what the outcome will be, but we can make some guesses; small rises in the temperature of oceans and seas can be expected to cause significant changes in rainfall leading to both floods and droughts. If there is sea-level rise, this will compromise hundreds of millions of people as well as numerous other species.

Famine, disease, displaced masses of people and animals, loss of farmland; many species and habitats may well be lost forever. While significant areas of many countries may be submerged long-term under rising seas and oceans, conversely, the Earth may be subjected to another ice-age which could result in sea levels dropping many metres.

It is probably reasonable to assume that the ability of our planet to support so many of us will be severely reduced.

Will the human race be wiped out? The human species is quite resilient - if it wasn't, we wouldn't be here now. It is quite unlikely that homo sapiens will disappear. But our numbers may be considerably reduced. With the potential loss of arable land through flooding, drought or long-term submersion in seawater, feeding a population rising beyond 7 billion could be impossible. Finding acceptable places to live may also prove difficult.

So, perhaps our numbers will be reduced, but we are unlikely to be eliminated entirely.

Worst case scenario? Elimination of the human race - highly improbable.

Second worst case? Reduction of humans from over 7 billion to perhaps 2 billion. If people suddenly woke up to the realisation that we were heading for a situation in which the Earth will be unable to support so many of us, perhaps we would voluntarily reduce the birthrate to a minimum and so reduce the death rate amongst the young. More likely is that this will not occur. Inevitably then, many lives will be lost to famine and disease before a sustainable population level is reached.

How do we feel about such a decline in our numbers? Was it a worthwhile goal to keep increasing humankind? Was that a worthwhile achievement in itself? Certainly, fanatical Christians seem to think that their bible tells them so, and capitalists are obsessed with growth. A reduced world population, particularly during an ice-age, will have to tolerate a lower standard of living in terms of consumer goods and conveniences.

So, it is 2200, we have all died and our children too. The world population is considerably reduced. Carbon consumption has plummeted. It is even conceivably possible that man has learned a few lessons about growth, excess, greed, selfishness and environmental care. Or maybe not.

But for now, the air is cleaner, man is occupying a more modest space, other species are thriving, we are finding ways to live acceptably using wood and other biomass as our primary fuels. We are leaner and stronger.

In summary : the need is for the human population to drop considerably.
We can opt to do it ourselves through diligent family planning.
Or we can leave it to happen by itself– essentially : a cull.

Do you think there is an argument to be made to allow it to happen or will we make the effort to achieve the goal ourselves?

After all, we can't be sure that we can reverse the climate change process anyway.

We may be facing a dismal period for the next 50 to 200 years, but beyond that, won't it actually be for the better?

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