©2017 C. Henry Martens
The first glimmers of this idea started rolling around in my head as a high school student, several years… decades… ago. The idea that the human race is destined to become extinct. I have finally arrived at a place where I think I can put down the relevant points after years of speculative thought.
What prompts this article, the culmination of this idea of Inevitable Extinction regarding the species Homo Sapiens, is a small side note published in the latest National Geographic magazine, the special issue of January 2017, titled “Gender Revolution.” The tiny note to the side of the page states that male and female children get different nutritional benefit from their mother’s breast milk… based on how financially stable the family is.
Why would that apply to humankind being poised on the knife’s edge of extinction?
Well, let’s start at the beginning.
First off, it is necessary to understand that humans are dangerous, and they make mistakes as a group that they would not make as individuals. One of the mistakes bred into us is a societal, tribal, species related instinct to survive. The idea that the more of our particular *brand* there are, the better off those of our brand are going to be.
Have you ever noticed the intensity of any group in soliciting an “other” over to the *side* of the group? The effort made to absorb the unlike individual into the cohesiveness of the tribe? It doesn’t matter if it is religion or a football team, any set of individuals that lose their independence, even two that come to believe they have a best way, will try to convince any others that they should join.
So human beings have a reason to gather together in numbers.
Now this affinity for being alike, in groups, may have evolved from a necessity to survive the savanna of long ago Africa, us against the savage world… but nevertheless, it is still with us today. A carry-over from our need to cooperate to feed and protect ourselves, and our success as a species.
This urge to survive as a group, a species, is integral to the idea of inevitable extinction.
The second leg of the theory is gender dominance. I’m not speaking of one gender dominating another by abuse of one kind or another, but the fact that one gender can be more numerous than the other.
Did you know that it is possible to influence gender in your offspring? Not only is it possible, but it occurs naturally in populations. The result is a natural form of birth control, and beneficial to the population under most circumstances.
The influence that skews gender birth rates one way or the other is most often food. Really? Well… yes. Food is essential to life, and what you eat sets up the chemistry of your body. Depending on what kinds of nutrients you ingest, your diet affects everything from the content of your gut biome to how acidic or basic the rest of your body is. That, the acidity of your body, affects the likelihood of which gender of sperm fertilizes the ovum. It shouldn’t surprise many people that the male sperm is more vigorous and faster than the female sperm, and the female sperm is longer lasting. In a more acid environment one gender of sperm has an advantage, in a base environment, the other does.
But what has this got to do with extinction? Well, what gender survives to reproduce has a great degree of impact on the future population. More females, more children… fewer females, fewer children. Before the rise of medical intervention, this was critical, and our only evolutionary birth control.
Population impacts future food supply. Have you ever heard anyone say, “The best predictor of future performance is past performance”? Well, it is true, not only in the stock market but also in natural environment food supply. The earth has natural cycles. We evolved to take advantage of the times of plenty, as well as the lean times.
In a natural environment with no medical intervention, more female children as a percentage are born in times of plenty. It follows that in lean times more male children are born. But gender percentages are skewed by nutrition in other ways. In a hunter-gatherer society that is dependent on protein as the major source of sustenance, male numbers are higher, and in societies depending on plants, carbohydrates, and sugars, females are more likely.
This is how we evolved.
Hunting societies need hunters. In the far north where the main source of nutrition is stored fat and frozen or dried fish, more male children were born. Warmer climes and agriculture skew the numbers the other way. In times of plenty, with lots of food to eat, we are evolved to have more female children. It is a natural cycle.
So, again, how does this relate to extinction?
Have you ever heard of overgrazing?
But before I get to that, let’s visit that National Geographic blurb one more time. They said that male and female children get different nutrients from breast milk, depending on how financially secure the woman is that is feeding them. In wealthy families, the boys get richer milk, and in poorer families, the females receive the richer milk. Do you see the correlation? This all goes back to hunter-gatherer evolution. Wealthier people have more, and richer, protein sources, and male children are encouraged to survive and thrive. Poor people eat a lot of carbs, and female children are the result.
Now I could get into the way our social structures have evolved as a result of these natural phenomena, but sociology is another subject. But there is certainly one result that is pertinent.
As our form of capitalism churns out ever more wealthy people at the top of the economic ladder, there are an ever increasing number, an exponential number, of people at the bottom of the economy. The percentage of female births have been unnaturally high considering the general financial condition of the lowest economic tier. What is considered substandard nutrition, a diet based on inexpensive foods like rice, pasta, and grains, is a bonanza of nutrition according to our evolutionary necessities… and the poor are not only gaining weight, but are also producing more female children. Which feeds the cycle.
Couple the larger percentage of women with medical advances keeping children alive through their childbearing years, and we have a situation where the population has grown well past a natural number of human beings on the planet.
Overgrazing. Think it can’t happen? There are nations in the world that are dependent on aid to feed their citizenry. And these are the good years. Between good climate and technologically advanced agricultural practices, the food supply is unnaturally abundant. As the soils are overworked and the aquifers drained, there will come a reckoning. The cycle of abundance will eventually decline into a cycle of shortages.
I have to wonder if nature set this all up as a way to weed out the animals that are inclined to overbreed and overgraze.
One point needs to be made. Women have all of the power in what eventually must transpire. Men can not be depended on to limit population numbers. First, males of the species are far too arrogant. They see big numbers as a survival strategy. More people like me… mean I am more likely to win. And men are unlikely to release that thinking easily. Short term thinkers, men.
Some recent numbers suggest the population is declining in industrialized nations. Governments are filling the gaps with immigrants, people who are much more likely to live in poverty and still produce large families. The cycle continues.
So these are the thoughts running through my head. I would like to think there is a solution, but babies are so cute, aren’t they?
If you follow the logic to its inevitable conclusion, you may see that we are getting ever closer to a tipping point. Overabundance, poverty, biological predisposition to high percentages of female births leading to more female births, diminishing resources like good soil and easily acquired water… and the very human proclivity to put off what can be avoided until there is a crisis. Imagine the entire world as one big Easter Island…
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