8/24/10

Great Wall of Assholes

The Chinese traffic jam is hilarious. Just look at these sorry fuckers.
Now that's what I call a truckers' bath. Photo: AP
Stretching for 60 miles over an eleven day period (so far), thousands of trucks and cars are stuck inching along the Beijing-Tibet highway. Call me a bastard, but I'm happy to see cracks starting to spread along the face of the industrial age. War, pollution, economic disaster, and famine weren't enough to force widespread recognition of the coming energy/population crisis. Maybe two week long traffic jams are inconvenient enough to do the trick. 
Since a very similar jam happened in 2004,  the problem has only gotten worse. Without intercession, I can easily imagine scenarios where the Chinese and Indians start dying in record numbers and begin annexing their neighbors by acts of war once their countries simply can't support any more people. Population grows, resources deplete, social tensions rise, and the capacity for human death and destruction increases exponentially. It's basically what happens to deer. Yes, deer. Let's look at a graph:

Here we see the assumed population of the St. Matthew Island reindeer herd from 1944 to 1966. It doesn't really matter where St. Matthew Island is or even that this is a herd of reindeer or even where I got this graph. What matters is that this population graph can be applied to virtually any living thing on earth.

It's called a J-Curve, or an exponential curve, and it's what you get when a species reproduces with no environmentally limiting factor. In this case I'm guessing that due to over-hunting of wolves, or something like that, these reindeer had no natural predator. So they fucked until the food ran out, at which point the population crashes to near extinction. In 1966 the number of individuals is estimated to be 42, just 13 more animals than were alive 22 years ago. It's staggering really, but makes perfect sense from a food source supply and demand standpoint.

The healthier population curve is called "logistic" and looks more like an S. Here's a comparison:


So imagine that in graph (a) no wolves lived on St. Matthew's Island. Now imagine in graph (b) there was a proportionately healthy population of wolves coexisting with the reindeer and naturally checking the deer population growth through hunting. The wolves function as an environmental limiter, along with any number of other variables in a given ecosystem.

Now, apply these same ideas to humans and the problem is clear: we have no natural predator. Since the Industrial Revolution, we've used technology to circumvent all environmental limitations to population size. When resources begin to run out, we import them or invent them. With industry and a carefully balanced economy, modern civilizations grow unfettered by the lack of food, potable water, and shelter that stymied our ancestors and kept populations in check. Just look at the mess we're in:

RUN! J-CURVE!
Scary right? And not just because it's red. Here's a blowup of the really interesting elbow of this graph:

Gotta love the bubonic plague. Sorry, Mother Nature, at least you tried. Notice we recover fairly quickly from the plague, stabilize, and then boom some asshole invents piston and cylinder engines. Our population skyrockets immediately. 

In a very real way, the historic population limiter of humans has been the ultimate limitations of our bodies and the amount of work we can do without machines. When the steam engine broke that constraint, well, all Hell broke loose. 

And it was magnificent. Don't get me wrong, I'm no Luddite. I adore technology and the achievements of mankind during the modern age are completely praiseworthy. Men and women in space. Massive electrical networks. Miniaturization of electronics. Medicine. The Internet! Cirque du Soleil!!!

We deserve to be proud of our achievements, but the time for resting on laurels is long gone. The scientific challenges at the millennium's doorstep are exponentially greater than any we've encountered before. Having truly globalized in terms of industry, communication, and population, we now face planet sized problems. While we've been at the Circus, China and India have begun to boil over.


The Earth will not hold an unlimited amount of human beings. We must either self-impose population limits or colonize other planets. 

Despite the clarity and almost elementary nature of this fact, bullshit-liars, supreme-leaders, war-mongers, and profiteers refuse to acknowledge the gravity of the situation. They can't be bothered with anything but filling their pockets and pursuing whatever's good for them in the extreme near-term. Shame on you, you bastard shadowy faceless elites.

But shame on the middle class too. We'd rather live in a booth at fucking Chili's with a ranch dressing IV than stop to consider for just a moment that our entire cocked-up species might be facing extinction. Wake up America, Europe, China, Russia, Brazil, Japan, etc. Raise your faces from the awesome blossoms, vodka, and hentai long enough to imagine a world where nobody gives a shit about oil because we're all starving to death.

The middle classes aren't completely powerless. We've got spending power. Vote with your dollars and start actually holding our leaders (political/social/economic) accountable for their words, their promises, and their actions. Once we have their attention we can initiate massive funding of alternative energy research and before you know it, I'll be a 200 year old consciousness living in an android on my way to Tau-Ceti inside a space-ship made out of nanotech-super-material.

Remember when we used to dream big, middle class? Ranch dressing is not the zenith of human ingenuity. Neither is Futbol. And, I love it, but neither is fuckin' Cirque du Soleil. So yes, shame on me and you: the self-obsessed, pleasure seeking middle class.

What is worth waiting in this line for two weeks?
Finally, what I've been dying to say this entire rant: shame on the lower class. You disappointed me guys. I underestimated your capacity for suffering. You'd rather be dirty, hungry, and miserable in an endless Chinese traffic jam than to throw your bodies on the gears and say, "Enough." Isn't there a single courageous uncorrupted leader among you to organize the end of all this? Did you expect your fat friends in America to do it for you? Why would we? We're too comfortable, generations away from the kind of suffering you've begun to accept as routine. To the poor of India and China, you're on the thinnest peaks of the J-Curve and it might be too late to pull up on the stick. Ironically, I see your latest giant traffic jam as a glimmer of hope.

If biology couldn't stop the endless march of babies and automobiles, maybe physics has a shot. When there simply isn't enough room left in the god-damn Eastern hemisphere to parallel park a Vespa, maybe the world will get serious about over-population and all the problems that follow.

Get on a logistic population curve or colonize space. Those are your choices humans. Personally, I'm hoping for the space option.

Sincerely,

EG

3 comments:

  1. Space sounds good. A logistic population curve could suck. Personally, I mean.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Space? give me a break. We're a disaster ON earth.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Space sounds good.

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