The Long, Slow Burn Apocalypse

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There are two apocalypse scenarios that never seem to get on any lists, yet they are more likely than any of the top contenders. More likely than planetary collisions, nuclear holocaust, or sudden large scale calamity. I write about one of the two probabilities in my Monster of the Apocalypse trilogy. If we survive another twenty of thirty years, that scenario will become increasingly more probable, but the other apocalypse is happening right now… right now… right… NOW.
 
Oh, you haven’t noticed?
 
Yes, the most likely apocalyptic scenario is happening right in front of our eyes, as I am writing, and as you are reading this article. What is it? I call it the Long, Slow Burn. An interminable, insatiable, insidious decline in civilization that leads to eventual collapse.
 
It is happening now.
 
What is driving this decline, and what are the signs? The answer to the cause of the decline is obvious, but many people are inclined to deny it. Population. There are too many people on the planet. Period. Exclamation point!
 
Look, I know those of you who read this are most likely to have a roof over your head and food in your refrigerator. You work, you pay your bills, and you are perhaps paying for your kids to go to college so they can compete in the future world. That makes you feel secure. You may have some righteous (and some not so much) confidence in your government providing safety in the business you are working for and that provides you a paycheck, in the world being a stable place to raise your children.
 
But death and taxes are not the only sure things in life. Change is the third leg of that extremely stable stool, and change is happening ever more quickly.
 
With overpopulation identified as the driver for all detrimental, civilization-ending changes happening in the world, we can trace back those effects and place the blame clearly on our own proclivity to procreate.
 
I know, I know… there are those of you who believe God will provide. There are those of you who expect science to be a magic bullet. Oddly, many of you who use these two denial-of-reality strategies are on opposite sides of the political spectrum. That fact, being religiously and politically opposed to agreeing on solutions, is one of the changes most likely to bring about apocalypse.
 
So that is one of the more important points I will make in this article. There are people, you included very likely, who are currently engaged in bringing about Armageddon. As said, there are two sides to this. One includes those who believe scientific advances will keep up with population needs. The others are those who believe prayer will be answered.
 
Let’s talk about the supporters of science, first.
 
Three dollars and eighty-nine cents a pound for a common vegetable. Over fifteen dollars for four pounds, a single head of cauliflower. During the high gas prices of the recent past, veggies were cheaper. Do you know what makes prices rise on food? More than anything else, it is supply and demand. Why has cauliflower jumped from ninety-nine cents a pound (on sale) to damn close to four times that amount? Supply has been diminished, and demand has remained constant. What has affected the supply so that there is less cauliflower? A lack of water to irrigate fields. Is it that the fields have no rain? Sure, but even more importantly, the underground aquifers have been drained until the fields have sunk six feet in some places, and the water has not been replaced. The water IS GONE. The sinking fields have collapsed any voids that once held water. This is a permanent condition. We haven’t the technology to re-inflate the water bearing sub-soils.
 
The list of science-related disasters is growing faster than the population. A couple of centuries ago, you might have had the number of high priority science-related solutions to famine being counted on one hand. Those solutions were mainly concerned with getting more produce from the same amount of tillable acreage. Fertilizers and pest control were the main technology that fed the world, and there was far less malnutrition. Now the scale and complexity of staying ahead of famine have increased exponentially.
 
But while science may not be capable of keeping up, some religious people, taking matters into their own hands, are standing in the way of solutions to global warming in an effort to bring about their own interpretation of religious prophecy.
     
I could write a list of permanent damages to the earth that are man-made, a list that could fill many pages, and that is just off the top of my head. The warming oceans providing the imminent collapse of the krill population tops the list. Krill are the single largest source of protein on the planet, and if they go, the fish they feed will no longer be feeding human beings. You say you don’t eat fish? How do you feel about competing with people suddenly deprived of the fish they normally eat? Do you think they will not be buying foods that you have been getting cheap, because they once had fish to eat? Supply and demand, baby…
 
A few of the other slow burn issues that are growing as we continue on our path of destruction include:
 
Do you know how governments pay for war debt? Inflation! Do you realize how much debt war-engaged governments have?
 
Do you think the government is really interested in taking care of the public? National disaster relief is a joke. I can tell you from personal experience that the offer of disaster relief makes the news, but the reality of what actually gets done rarely does. The government’s strategy is to offer promises, change the rules, offer more promises, change the rules, offer fewer promises, change the rules, offer less, change the rules, make excuses, change the rules, begin to blame the victims of tragedy, change the rules, and… oh, and did I mention, CHANGE the RULES? The government wants you to dig yourself out of the hole. They just don’t want to advertise that fact.
 
Antibiotics were a blessing when they were first discovered as a mold growing on damp saddles. The population has exploded because of our survival rates. But resistant strains are becoming problematic. Did you know that the human use of antibiotics for disease control are NOT what is driving the largest concern in resistance? The main driver of resistance is the use of antibiotics in livestock feed. Did you know that the main reason antibiotics are used is NOT to control disease in that livestock? Antibiotics are used mainly to thin the gut and promote fast growth with less feed. Profit… by using less feed… results in your future having a growing threat of antibiotics being worthless in controlling disease.
 
Monopoly is a growing phenomenon. Have you noticed that the car dealers in your area are often owned by the same people, regardless of the brand name on the vehicles? The larger the company, the more likely it is to be engaged in monopoly. Big companies buy out smaller companies to stifle competition. This used to be illegal. In my opinion, it still is but is presently unenforced. Monopoly is always a strategy to control prices. Usually, it starts as a way to control expenses, but it always ends up with control of supply to drive profits up.
 
Mechanization is leading inexorably to the loss of human beings as a valuable source of labor. You think it’s happening fast? Wait ten years. I have often wondered if the huge increases in regulation, both private and in business, is a strategy to keep people occupied pushing paper (note… NOT employed… occupied).
 
As long as we are going there, we should mention the economic realities of wealth being concentrated in a very small portion of a population. I have nothing against this, in fact, I would encourage people to be industrious competitors to become wealthy. But there is a hidden danger here. Our society has become lopsided, and the result is that the people in power are those with the thick wallets. This has been the same forever, but the amount of power and privilege is increasing. I mentioned mechanization, and who do you suppose will own any robots that eventually replace the rest of us as laborers? When that happens, what do you think the rest of us will be good for? I go into this in depth in my Monster of the Apocalypse trilogy. I’ll give you a clue. The monster is not the robots.
 
Power most often has its abode in thick wallets, but power can also be a growth industry. By that, I mean that institutions and organizations see growth as analogous to wealth and sometimes even more important. If you can’t convince people to change their minds and come over to your point of view, then breeding more membership is a perfectly valid strategy for many societies and organizations. We have seen this exampled in the Middle East as the Palestinians have averaged five children per family while the Israelis have averaged two. The same goes for racial, religious, and other power structures.
 
In writing this I would be remiss if I didn’t provide some encouragement and a solution if I could. Every single one of the problems I have presented, and there are many that I haven’t presented, are dependent on you and on other human beings in a world of diminishing resources. But the earth is a self-sustaining system. The planet will provide everything you need, will repair any damage you can do, and will do it continuously as long as there is reasonable care. We human beings are not very good at being reasonable. We always want more. And therein lays the crux of the matter.
 
Surprisingly, the solution is extremely simple. This slow burn apocalypse could be entirely averted with a very simple act that any and all of us can do. Control our numbers. If everyone would stick to replacing themselves, one time and not more, then science might have some breathing space to catch up. We might stand a chance to give our progeny a better, safer, more-likely-to-succeed-in-the-long-run world.
 
I can tell you right now that we are not likely to succeed. We always want more.
 

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4 thoughts on “The Long, Slow Burn Apocalypse

  1. According to a new University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) study, more and more Americans are foregoing driver's licenses in favor of…well, not having one.
    Now, using the Federal Highway Administration's data from 2014, the study shows that every demographic is losing interest.
    That is to say, there was no attempt to figure out why this is happening. There exist a number of potential factors — a renewed push for improved public transportation, increased concentration in urban areas — but how they connect to actual licensing rates remains a mystery.

    No mystery that driving has become boring and expensive. The laws make taking risks a matter of getting arrested and the cars are designed to track your movements. No chance of getting lost or breaking down with no solution at hand.

    Driving was exciting and freedom. Kids walked to school and driving was a big step up to new places. Busing already exposes children to other places and poor experiences with other cultures. Commuting is now a chore rather than fun. Traffic has made driving stressful, roads have lost their challenge.

    A progressive government that wants to save lives has destroyed the incentive to enjoy life.

    Lisa

  2. I found your article well written, well thought out, and well reasoned, but the conclusion could use a little finesse. I believe that the current growth rate of the global population (which has slowed down already if anything) is not the main concern. We as a species need to be more aware of the impact each action we take has on the environment, and care about it, and know how to reduce the negative impact we have. Currently, there is a large scale education programme underway to inform the public about the environmental impact they are having on the planet, great start. People are already starting to care about it, for the sake of their progeny, as you put it, they are committed to changing the way they live. The stumbling block is now the choice to do better, which is still rather limited. Some people are reducing the energy they use, some are reducing the amount of plastic they use, and some eat less meat, all in the hope that these small actions can help. Of course each action helps, but there are not enough significant alternative choices to their current lifestyle to make a massive impact and save the world. There is no silver bullet, not one single thing that can save us, we are told we must change everything, give up all luxuries, give up all consumables, stop using plastic, stop using chemicals, stop driving, stop using antibiotics, and just stop enjoying life at the expense of the Earth. We could all revert back to 18th century living standards, but our food consumption alone would deplete the drinkable water supply in decades. Our water consumption would lead to a famine otherwise, so we choose to have drinkable water, or arable land to grow crops to feed ourselves, we may even have to become nomadic hunter gatherers again. My solution is to spread across the solar system, ok so that is many people's solution, but my idea is to start now, commit whatever resources are needed, and to do it in airships. Self contained airships the size of small cities. We also need to build a robotic workforce and do away with the monetary system altogether, at least in the short term. Sounds simplistic, but it would actually take a lot of work to get off the ground (pun), and obviously need a lot of international agreement between nation states (which again need to be abolished).

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