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I could have 6 billion facebook friends

September 20, 2012


The industrial revolution began around 200 years ago.  One of the results was greater prosperity for many nations, particularly in the west (Europe and the U.S.). 


Greater prosperity led to faster population growth.  The industrial revolution, of course, also led to more people working in industry, rather than on farms.  Many of the laborers in these industries were paid very, very poorly, worked insanely long hours, and lived a life of great poverty.  A few people – seldom, if ever, the laborers – became very wealthy.  Prior to this, the only paths to wealth may have been inheritance, crime, and the military, although for the last two of these, like in the industries to come, only a few grew rich.  And, of course, few people have ever inherited wealth.  Few, that is, as a percentage.

And as the industrialized nations grew wealthier, so too did industry spread to more countries, who also grew wealthier, and that wealth, again, attained to a few.  But, I suppose, there was some trickle down effect.  People ate better, lived longer.  More children survived.  Populations grew.  And the well-being, such as it was, of these larger populations grew more dependent on industry.

And now the world has, what, 7 billion people, with an expectation of a population of 9 billion in the not too far future.  To feed, clothe and shelter these billions requires the global economy built up around industry.  It is, I think, far too late to turn back.  To turn back to a more agrarian society.  To do without vast amounts of energy, created by the burning of fossil or nuclear fuels, which in turn create vast amounts of pollution and/or highly dangerous remains.  Unless we come up with something new.  Or something new that we already are working on, such as geothermal or solar.  Nuclear, to me at least, seems entirely unpalatable.  Talk about leaving problems for future generations!

So I think we’ve progressed to a point where we have seriously altered the ecosystem, and are on a path to alter it considerably more, with no idea what that will do to human life on earth, or, indeed, to life on earth in toto.  And we may be entering crunch time.  I think I’ll be gone before things get terrible – if that’s what things are going to do, but it wouldn’t surprise me if my friends’ children, or at any rate my friends’ grandchildren are around for some serious and dramatic and unappealing changes.  And perhaps after cataclysmic changes have occurred, there will be something, for those who are left, that isn’t so bad.  Although I think it could easily be like the world in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.  Ugh.  I’m so out of here.


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