HORNER’S CORNER: Following the fruit fly example

Are we not smart enough to change course when we see there's a cliff ahead?

My job sometimes takes me to the beach in Parksville or Qualicum Beach but after reading Dan Brown’s new novel, Inferno, the experience has taken on somewhat of a new meaning for me.

Not to give too much away, the book deals with the issue of human population growth and the bleak future that awaits us if we don’t do something about it.

It’s a grim read, but a page-turner, just like his other works, such as The Da Vinci Code.

The choices he lays out are stark. If we continue on as we are, there’s not much hope for humanity.

I was thinking about his message when I went to the beach the other day. Like any other sunny summer’s day, there were all sorts of young people running around — tanned, fit, showing off as much skin as they dared. They swam, they flirted, they played volleyball, skimboarded and romanced, every hormone in their bodies screaming, Breed!

And they will breed, in their time, just like we did and our parents before us, and theirs too, back to the very dawn of history.

But I would argue that it’s different for these kids and it will be even more so for theirs.

That’s because there are more than seven billion of us on the planet now, thanks to uncontrolled breeding and that number is expected to rise to 10 billion by 2050. That’s not so long from now if you think about it.

Those kids at the beach will probably see it and their children definitely will. What kind of a world will that be do you think?

As it stands with the population we have now, the planet’s systems appear to be breaking down. You see it everywhere. True, there have been floods before as well as tornadoes and droughts and other disasters, but we are starting to see them with increasing frequency.

Coupled with that, our social structures appear to be facing similar disintegration. Those social structures make up our ability for humanity to work together for the common betterment of all — precisely what is needed to deal with this change.

You can talk about and fight against destruction of the forests, degradation of farmland, pollution of lakes and rivers all you want, the crises those kids are going to face stem from one basic problem. There are just too many of us.

I read a bumper sticker once that read: “Six billion miracles is enough.” Well, we’re far past that now, with not even a hint of this trend reversing, stopping or even slowing.

If you look at a population graph of the human species it looks like a hockey stick. It’s pretty flat for a long time and slowly begins to rise. Then all of a sudden it takes off like a rocket.

I’m pretty sure I’ve seen that graph before, but it wasn’t about people. It was about fruit flies in a bottle. A little sugar and water and a few flies were put in a bottle and then it was sealed up.

The flies thrived at first and had a population graph that looked pretty much identical to ours, though on a much shorter time frame. The thing is, right after their population spiked the flies died out — all of them. They had used up the available resources and polluted their environment with waste products to the point where they simply could not survive.

True, the earth isn’t a bottle, but it’s still a finite system and logic dictates that you can’t have infinite growth within a finite system. It doesn’t work.

Unfortunately, I really don’t think there’s anything we can do about it.

Those kids at the beach have just as much right to breed as we and our grandparents did. Reproduction is a biological imperative, actively promoted by nearly every facet of society. You can’t stop it.

But it will be the end of us.

I guess the only comfort I can take is that I won’t be around to see 2050.



Neil Horner is a the assistant editor of The NEWS

and a regular columnist.