Somewhere around the late 1960s I started to develop my thinking about the impact of humanity on the planet. Over the 50+ years since then my thinking has evolved.
I have no special education in ecology. Even so, I have developed my own ideas about our planet and the impact mankind has had on it. In recent years my thinking on this subject has gotten quite far from the mainstream. I don’t often share my ideas on this topic for a couple of reasons. First, I see my thinking as so unusual that I fear most people will quickly dismiss my ideas as preposterous. Secondly, even if I could somehow inspire lots of agreement with my ideas, I don’t see any solution that has any chance to avoid the very painful and tragic future laying before us.
In recent times I’ve seen several articles suggesting we have only 10 years or so to change course in order to avert disaster. You may say, “See… You aren’t the only one with these ideas.” Well, even if that idea is accurate, we are very far from consensus on this topic, and I see absolutely no hope that we will find enough agreement on this topic to avert disaster. Furthermore, my thinking diverges significantly from the notion that if we act quickly, we can avoid the worst outcome. My ideas are so far out of the mainstream that, upon hearing my ideas, most people will dismiss me as an ill-informed kook.
My early conclusion was that human actions are damaging the planetary ecosystem, reducing the life sustaining capacity of the planet, and especially damaging to non-human life. Even so, early on I didn’t see us as being on an irreversible path to disaster. My ideas on this topic have changed in recent years. Not only do I see a painful and tragic future ahead, I believe we have already past the point of no return. In fact, I believe the human species passed the opportunity to avoid disaster long before I was born.
Not long ago I tried to guess what sort of human population and human activity the planetary ecosystem could sustain. I guessed that we crossed the sustainability Rubicon around 1800 AD… When the world human population was about one billion (about 12% of what it is today), and before the industrial revolution really got going. While I think that was a reasonable guess, I forgot to factor in human ambition. After further reflection on this topic, I realized that even…