We the ‘problem’
700 crore and counting, can humanity survive?
DATELINE SRINAGAR BY ARJIMAND HUSSAIN TALIB
Any time around this Sunday, earth’s population is said to reach 7 billion, or 700 crore. By 2050, human population is estimated to reach 900 crore. Humanity, it seems, clearly faces a defining moment.
Three different opinions try to make sense of what this means for human survival. Firstly, there are the people who believe that humanity’s chances of long-time survival are bleak. Their underlying argument is that the earth’s resources are finite, so will be unable to sustain human population beyond a certain point.
This argument is supported by those who believe in the Malthusian prediction. Environmentalists put their weight behind this thought too, citing the irreparable and speedy loss of hundreds of thousands of species every year, critical for sustaining human life. This opinion, however, doesn’t quite recognise the Invisible Hand.
Another thought is that of the deniers or Utopians. Their belief is that the earth is large and bountiful enough to take care of whatever the human population. They believe that human mind will always create solutions and alternatives for problems that come with increased population. This group includes capitalists, atheists and many others. They also hardly recognise the Invisible Hand.
But there are some profound questions that are left unanswered by both these opinions. Is everything that happens on this planet and beyond – for example in the Sun – in human hands? Greenhouse effect and global warming are earthly phenomena but what about the changes that happen in the core of the sun? A small change in the sun’s temperature and all climate theories are worth trash.
The end of this world is inevitable to all those who believe in the revealed books of God. Out of these books Quran seems more explicit and clear. Apart from the inevitability of this world’s end, it talks of something that is at the heart of this planet’s survival – a delicate balance between all the living and non living elements that lie in this world.
So what is going to happen if that delicate balance is lost?
In the course of my travels through diverse lands in different continents, my belief has been reinforced by the fact that everything is minutely balanced and intended by the Invisible Hand – the God. Human hands have done everything possible to disturb nature’s balance, but what will prevail ultimately?
This world is today badly overcrowded at places, but still there is ample room all around. My personal experiences teach me that most of today’s problems like hunger, malnutrition, famines, water scarcities etc. are not problems of nature, they are human creations. The reason there is deficiency of a commodity in one region and abundance in the other is that humans have divided this earth into countries and political entities where humans’ access to resources is limited by manmade boundaries.
Over the years, I have seen famine-declared lands of sub-Saharan Africa sitting on bountiful fertile lands with abundant water found 5 feet below the ‘drought’ lands. The reason people don’t have enough food there is that countries control political economies. And that people there don’t do agriculture simply because they are basically pastoralists.
Natural resources, key to sustaining the global production, are surely depleting. But when we look at the spread of human density we realize this world still has a lot of space to accommodate and sustain several other billions of people. There are of course challenges too, which are serious.
The fact is that it is not about resources alone, it is also about the human fiddling with nature – urbanization of wetlands, deforestation, contamination of rivers and other water sources and so on that will create more challenges to humans in the coming days.
But what all modern theories don’t seem to explain is the possibility of the Invisible Hand acting one day to restore all the balance if He so decides. And who knows what shape that act will take - may be wars, disasters, or any other unimaginable act.
And what we also don’t seem to recognise is that if the inevitability of the end of this world is near, human population increase may just be the beginning of that end.
We never know.
Clarification: In the previous column the mention of General Sales Tax (GST) was in reference to J&K’s GST Act, 1962 and not in reference to Goods and Services Tax, as is understood in rest of India.
The columnist is presently a technical advisor in international development, and based overseas
Lastupdate on : Sat, 29 Oct 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 29 Oct 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 30 Oct 2011 00:00:00 IST
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