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Too Many People, or Too Much Greed?

General Ideas

During the dark early morning hours of a September 27 a few years after the Second World War, a passenger ship cruising calm South Atlantic waters struck a drifting forgotten mine, was violently breached, and quickly sank before any distress signal could be broadcast. Daylight found 26 survivors massed in, or floating in the sea around, a small lifeboat built for 12. This is the opening scenario to the 1957 British film Abandon Ship! (also called Seven Waves Away, or Seven Days From Now); and is succinctly presented in this brief clip.

The weight of those on board along with the weight of the survivors in the water clinging to the sides lowered the boat in the water and put it in grave danger of swamping and capsizing with any wave action, and certainly in the event of a storm. There were only small stores of food and fresh water in the boat, scant medical supplies, no communications gear, no sailing tackle, and only oars. Many of the survivors were injured, weak, frail and old. What were they to do?

They could sit tight and drift to conserve their strength and minimize food consumption, and hope for a chance meeting with a rescue ship before succumbing to their wounds and infections, exposure, thirst and starvation. However, with the first increase of wind and wave action, and any turn in the weather, they would surely all be dumped into the sea and soon drowned.

They could try rowing to the nearest shore, Africa 1,500 miles away, but the bodily energy reserves of the hardy people who would have to provide the propulsion by rowing would be drained away long before reaching land, because of the drag of the total weight of humanity massed about the boat. Also, the boat would still be at risk of swamping should the weather turn for the worse.

The only remaining alternative was to abandon those people least able to contribute to propulsion, so a smaller number of the fittest people would have the water and food stores to themselves, and amount to a lower weight to be transported with a boat that was higher in the water and much more stably seaworthy. But, how many and who would be cast adrift, and who would make those choices?

The officer in charge, Alec Holmes, reluctantly comes to accept the logic of the third alternative. He ensures that he and the seamen under his command are in possession of the sole firearm on board, and sequentially set the weakest among them adrift as their voyage proceeds, as the sick and injured worsen, and as their supplies dwindle. One woman reflects on the cruelty of the powerful in their sacrificing of the weak by saying: “Why are the wicked always so strong?,” and that “an atomic scientist, a brilliant playwright, and a famous former opera singer have been sacrificed to save two ‘apemen’, a racketeer, and a devout coward.”

We could think of this lifeboat as a microcosm of our Planet Earth, and its overcrowding with desperate survivors as representative of a world population explosion facing the combined biological and geophysical catastrophe of collapsing habitability brought on by the global warming climate emergency, and a rapidly shriveling biodiversity.

It took over 200,000 years of human history for the world’s population to reach 1 billion, and only 200 years more to reach 7 billion; world population was estimated to be at 7.7 billion by April 2019.

800px-World_population_v3.svg.png

[ Figure: World population estimates from 1800 to 2100, based on “high”, “medium” and “low” United Nations projections in 2015 and UN historical estimates for pre-1950 data.]

World population is estimated to have reached one billion for the first time in 1804. It was another 123 years before it reached two billion in 1927, but it took only 33 years to reach three billion in 1960. The global population reached four billion in 1974 (14 years later), five billion in 1987 (13 years later), six billion in 1999 (12 years later), and seven billion in October 2011 (12 years later), according to the United Nations, or in March 2012 (13 years later), according to the United States Census Bureau.I have heard from several of my critics that Earth “needs to” be quickly depopulated down to, say, its 1974 population size of 4 billion, in order to preserve its “carrying capacity” by leaving half of Earth’s area “wild” to both solve our global warming and biodiversity depletion problems, and thus maintain our prosperous nations’ current styles of inequitable capitalist societies within the larger context of a continuing human civilization. Just how this depopulation is to be carried out, and by who, is not mentioned by these critics, hence this essay.

Many factors affect population growth and the magnitude of the Earth’s carrying capacity over time, among them is a positive feedback loop between demographic growth and technological development. Human knowledge (e.g., science) and technological development (e.g., machines, drugs) improve over time and boost human survival, which helps accelerate population growth. Talented individuals, who can devise intellectual and technological improvements, are statistically more likely to arise from and survive to maturity in larger populations living at more advanced levels of development. The intellectual and technological innovations of inventive individuals make it possible to amplify the Earth’s carrying capacity as the population grows, for example by tamping down the incidence and virulence of diseases, and by increasing agricultural yields. However, there is no guarantee that such a positive feedback can cycle forever, and current trends would seem to indicate that this feedback loop is losing its momentum.

What are humanity’s options for forestalling its own extinction at least into the next century? Given human nature, and our many many tribal rivalries, ideologies, fears, superstitions, bigotries, and diversities of moral courage and of moral weakness, what are likely to be the dominant choices for collective actions for societal survival?

We homo sapiens could as a species choose to cooperate globally to simultaneously raise the living standards of the most impoverished — and majority — of Earth’s people, and reformulate our civilization’s manner of energy generation and economic operation, from its highly inequitable feudal capitalism to a highly equalized world eco-socialism: to halt the poisoning of our global environment with waste heat and carbon dioxide from combustion; waste methane from industrialized meat consumption and a melting degradation of the biosphere; and waste chemicals and plastics from industrialized farming and the detritus of industrialized consumerism. In other words, we could unite to share out the Earth equitably while also maximizing the efficiency of the global use of natural resources by quickly reforming our civilization — our methods of finding, extracting and using energy, and the forms and purposes of our economics — so as to be in sustainable balance with natural processes and cycles, all for the purpose of allowing Lifeboat Earth to row or drift for as long as possible with a minimal sacrifice of human decency and human life.

Such a course would obviously include fully subsidized healthcare for everybody, with every form of contraception including abortion on demand, and with all forms of maternity care; also subsidized and universal quality education from preschool through trade schools and university, guaranteed minimum livable income, and fully subsidized elder care and for end-of-life choices. It would be a crime to be a billionaire in such a society, and the capitalism of today — the factional and privatized exploitation of the public — would be extinct since the essence of this society would be the overlapping of relationships of mutual help and consideration on many scales. Capitalism is the ideology of parasites. The people of such an idealized world eco-socialist society would be morally committed individuals who would take it as a given that if human extinction were imminent and unavoidable, they would all share the same fate in solidarity: honor till the end, whenever that would be whether sooner or later.

Human history up to the present suggests that this “all in till the end” type of world socialism is a very unlikely future for us globally, though small isolated pockets of it might develop within the much larger drama of human civilization. While there is always a real chance that a ship at sea would happen upon a lifeboat and rescue its shipwrecked survivors, there is no chance for a rescue of humanity drifting toward extinction aboard Lifeboat Earth, through a massive intervention by fantastically powerful Space Aliens. Our salvation like our damnation is up to us and only us.

So, we can reasonably suppose that the management of Lifeboat Earth will proceed as the wickedness of the powerful in sacrificing the weak to lonesome and fatal abandonment so that the capitalistically fittest can maximize their span of prosperous and even luxuriant survival. Such management of Lifeboat Earth would be (and is) very fractious because greed as a fundamental motivation intrinsically creates dissension, disunity and conflict. Many scales of exclusion would be evident: the impoverishment of a national public and its exclusion from political decision-making by a wealthy and narrowing oligarchy; the oppression by a dominant racial or ethnic population of the weaker ethnic populations and minority-type people it has dominion over; and the exploitation of weaker countries and less-developed economies by strong, advanced and domineering nations. We need only mention the white supremacy domestic policy, and militaristic economic and foreign policy of the United States, the Han supremacy policy being applied by the ruling Chinese on the Uyghurs and in Tibet, the pitiless grinding down of the Palestinians by Zionist Israel, and the migrant streams erupting out of Central America and Africa to escape from starvation and death squads, to stimulate the recollection of numerous other examples of the wickedness of the strong in the management of other regional compartments of Lifeboat Earth. We might even live to see American and European navies shelling refugee ships at sea, and troops of their militarized police summarily executing undocumented aliens breaching their borders, to thwart the arrival of waves of destitute and desperate migrants. Such atrocities would be manifestations of extreme “them or us” end-times panic by the power-clinging wicked.

What can the concerned, morally oriented, largely disorganized and politically marginalized citizens of the world do to help Lifeboat Earth complete its journey — however long or short that may be — in a more human manner than is occurring today, and certainly than might be its most horrible dénouement? My best and least presumptuous answer is: care enough about the situation to become aware of it, and then do whatever you are willing to do, and have the opportunity to do, to inject greater degrees of awareness, decency and compassion into the small cells of world society that sense your presence. The details of this — whether political, economic, social, intellectual, action-oriented or artistic — depend on the individual, it’s not for me to prescribe.

It is entirely possible that the all-inclusive utopian world of eco-socialist solidarity would have a shorter lifespan than a wicked world for just a few wealthy minorities who pitilessly exclude large segments of humanity, which they disfavor with racial, ethnic and materialistic (anti-poverty) bigotries. If the geophysical gear-train of climate alteration has now been irrevocably set to destroy habitability for humans (and who really knows?), then the eco-socialist world will ultimately fail despite its best efforts. But, it would have been the most enlightened and honorable of possible human civilizations during its lifetime. The wicked world of exclusionary wealthy minorities could extend its lifetime under the same geophysical conditions by culling the human population through combinations of cruel neglect and malicious assault — with no human solidarity and no honor. The partisans for the wicked world of exclusionary wealth justify themselves by claiming “there are too many people,” while the partisans for eco-socialist world solidarity justify themselves by declaring “there is too much greed.” I recognize that the population explosion is a fundamental driver of our combined climate, biodiversity and carrying capacity emergency, and I also agree with the eco-socialists: Earth has too many greedy people.

Today, our Lifeboat Earth is drifting toward becoming a more wicked world of exclusionary survival for exclusionary wealth, but this drift is being resisted by many forms of spirited, morally-based and eco-socially oriented activism. That activism is where the soul and the honor of humanity are to be found.

COUNTERPUNCH



12 Comments on "Too Many People, or Too Much Greed?"

  1. Shortend on Wed, 15th May 2019 7:57 am 

    Davy says not too many goats or sheep!
    They are going to save his sorry ass from the collapse. His kudzu crop he’s farming in his garden is growing just great.
    Got to go, tee time is in a few minutes!

  2. eugene on Wed, 15th May 2019 8:03 am 

    We are already sacrificing the weakest. Or, in reality, those we just don’t want or like right here in the “wonder” called America. Course we have our “reasons”. Have a heart attack, stroke, break a leg, born poor, a husband that splits from you and couple of kids, US destroyed your government and the list goes on. The daily rant against these kind of people. I know, we are the greatest, the kindest, the most humanitarian and all the rest of the crap we tell ourselves. And I haven’t seen activism win much of anything in my lifetime (77).

  3. Davy on Wed, 15th May 2019 8:23 am 

    “Davy says not too many goats or sheep!
    They are going to save his sorry ass from the collapse.”

    Geese short-on-manhood, I have a few goats and even less cattle why make such a scene with your hurt pride?

    As far as collapse, goats are about as good as it gets for food prep. They are easy to work, easy to hide, and eat a diverse forage spectrum. They are easy to kill and clean. One goat will feed 4-6 for a few weeks once prepared and stored. Cattle are way too much to deal with in a crisis situation. Meat is the ultimate prep food from the point of view of what your body needs to survive. Goats will buy me some time but I know they won’t save me.

    Short on manhood has nothing but the gates on his gated community and lots of alcohol. Most south Florida old people from out of state are drunks. Who cares really short is short on days left anyhow collapse or not since he is pushing 80.

    You must be worried short since you still check into this doomer site. I think you are stuck, scared and resentful.

  4. onlooker on Wed, 15th May 2019 8:58 am 

    Both

  5. Lord Hugh on Wed, 15th May 2019 8:59 am 

    Doom doom doom,
    let go back to my gloom,
    where we can ponder all night,
    and you can make me feel fright.

  6. Davy on Wed, 15th May 2019 9:22 am 

    Greed and lies but also delusions and apathy are some basic descriptions. Too much consumption by too many people. Too many people even with people that don’t consume too much. Too many lies out of the fake green extremist left who want their cake and eat it. They are science deniers in regards to the fantasy solutions and shed fake alligator tears for social causes of course as long as it is not in their back yard. Conservatives are science deniers if they are educated because science is optional. There is always their sky daddy if science does not work out. The uneducated deplorable of both sides are just uneducated and all this is more than they can understand. The kids of today are absorbed in the digital virtual reality age and care a little but they are believing the something-for-nothing socialist left that all will be worked out once the rich are robbed of their ill gotten money never mind the economy we can print money for that. Then there is the psychopathic leaders of business and government that are just in this for their own asses. Did I leave anyone out? I am going local and individual with a big effort at Real Green. I am still dirty and disgusting like the rest of us but wish I could be Real Green.

  7. FuelShortageComing on Wed, 15th May 2019 9:28 am 

    Too much loser man in Western Whites nations. Western Whites nation are matriarchy. Women hold all the power in Western nation through simps and beta cuck man in position of power.

    Very few Whites masculine man are left in Whites Western nations. I was talking to my neighbor about rebuilding his outside deck. Me I was concerned about reusing as much as possible of the old wood and make the deck strong sturdy and long lasting.

    My neighbor was more concerned about colors matching and pleasing his wife. He did not mind throwing away old good wood just to make his deck look nice and color match.

    Western nation are finished and most whites man are just feminine useless trash. You cannot build a future with such low White man quality.

    We really need a collapse and a new ice age to remove the human trash.

  8. FuelShortageComing on Wed, 15th May 2019 10:17 am 

    This came up on my YouTube suggestion list. This is the kind of people that need to die. There are too many of them. The death of people you see in the video will only make the world a better place.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ovAru8WOg3g

  9. CelebrityMeatGrinder on Wed, 15th May 2019 2:54 pm 

    > The death of people you see in the
    > video will only make the world a
    > better place.

    Yes, and they should be made into fertilizer so as to help birth to that better world.

  10. pointer on Wed, 15th May 2019 7:28 pm 

    It’ll be interesting when TSHTF.

    BTW, the entire movie is here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HxVxN_29f0g

  11. makati1 on Wed, 15th May 2019 7:43 pm 

    Well, take the West down to Filipino consumption level and there would be enough for all of us. The West consists of about one billion greedy consumers, wasting over 1/2 of the earth’s resources. The Great Leveling is happening. All you have to do is read current events around the world to see it in action. Be patient.

  12. print baby print on Thu, 16th May 2019 8:42 am 

    Fuel you sound barbaric , but I must admit there is a true in your words

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