Practical Measures

(Versión en castellano)

Given the present circumstances (COVID-19) I feel it's the perfect time to say what otherwise would be ignored.

Almost all modern world problems have its roots in a few fundamental big ones: overpopulation and contamination.  The second is in part a consequence of the first; if we were just a million around the globe perhaps we could preserve some of our habits.  But we were already four million in 10,000 BC and currently we are 7.8 billion.  The problem that exponential population growth means has been amplified by the exponential technological development; only one individual has more destructive power today than a whole army centuries ago, even if we were only a million, without a conscious, responsible use of technology we wouldn't make a difference.  Technological change boosts the more destructive aspect of overpopulation, that is globalization.

Irresponsible Use of Technology

You'll see hundred of documentary films talking about conspiracy theories and all kind of imaginings.  I'll take examples of what I've had in front of my nose.  I've seen with my own eyes how much food is thrown out in Barcelona city only, I've seen entire families eating what stores and supermarkets dump, and I can't imagine how many vegetables are thrown away just to get that uniform size and plastic look without a single blow or imperfection we see in tomatoes and carrots in supermarkets.  As it happens, my (Spaniard) wife rejects a banana or bell pepper with any little black spot in their skin.  Here in Spain, rabbit head and entrails are not even smelled, from such a big animal a cow is they only eat loin.  I'm not exaggerating when I say that with the food they dump only here in Barcelona you can feed half Africa.

Right next to my home I have a good example of splurge and gratuitous contamination.  My neighbor uses to the last centimeter from his 1200 square meters (~1435 square yards) land as vegetable garden, he uses tons of manure (Fig. 1) and spends hours driving his two-wheel tractor on it (Fig. 2.)  As you guess, diesel oil combustion residues go with his tomatoes.  His goal?  To compete with his brother-in-law, who lives two blocks far, in some kind of Throw Away Potatoes Championship contest.  We're not talking about some house isolated in the countryside but one in middle of a residential area in the mountains; just a few meters separate my chalet from his, the pictures below are taken from my window so, yes, I enjoy the odor of his manure and the smoke and noise of his tractor from a front-row seat!  I know by experience that he can perfectly continue with his hobby and avoid all that “extreme sport” practices, my land is even larger than his, but I destine to vegetable garden only ten square meters, it takes me only twenty minutes in a year of shovel and rake to remove it and just our home organic residues to fertilize it, even giving to family and friends and making lots of jars of marmalade I have to throw away a quarter of what I produce, figure up how much he has to throw away using more that ten times the land!

Abuse of manure in vegetable gardenFig. 1 - Manolo dumps tons of manure in his home made vegetable garden.

Ridiculous use of machinery in vegetable
gardernFig. 2 - Manolo driving his two-wheel tractor.  Big time!

If my dear neighbor does all of that just for fun imagine what producers do.  The point of this whole example is the following important conclusion: do you think agricultural and stock aggressive production practices obey to population food needs?  Wake up!  The reason stock is crowded in feedlots, what means millions of acres of corn and soy monoculture around the world (with deforestation and plagues as some of the consequences,) is no more than competitive pricing.

Technological Development and Globalization

As I said, overpopulation goes hand in hand with another determining factor, globalization, which isn't a recent problem either, it started with the discovery of America.  The effects of globalization increased as our resources and technology developed, especially transport and communications.  Following my same everyday-life-example approach I could point how the monk parakeet, native to South America, has become a plague in Barcelona city last years; moving species from here to there is one the most obvious ways to generate a plague as well as the one I mentioned earlier, monoculture; an epidemic is nothing but a plague at microbial level, does someone need a degree in science to get the idea?  Technological development is something positive in itself, but in a world where money is the only goal in mind it just comes to increase human capacity for destruction; whatever helps to increment the already existent big gap between human ability to modify the environment and the ability of nature to restore the balance will make the problem worse.

What we should do

The “end of the world” won't come so easily.  To those who expected nature would get rid of us I'm sorry to make them notice it's being late already.  It won't arrive some mature extraterrestrial culture to educate us, menacing with extermination if we don't behave.  What will actually happen is what has been happening so far without most people assuming it, specially in the late centuries, that our environment will continue gradually degrading to a less healthy version.  So, what do you do or suggest to do about it?

To reduce global population you:

And to reduce contamination you propose:

Do you feel that I'm treating you like an idiot with my questionnaire?  Don't killing the messenger; going through life like an idiot has always been the choice of the masses.  The point of my sarcasm is that there is an underlying ethical problem to address before the two practical ones, the tendency to avoid responsibility.  Some problems don't just go away by themselves, especially if we're feeding them each and every day, so giving them some time is not enough.  Anyone knows but denies that the only possible action against overpopulation is to stop having children (discarding those that imply killing people, of course) and against contamination is to moderate our producing and consuming habits, what includes a controlled, responsible use of technology.  Birth control is also a matter of moderation (and first of responsibility since, to be honest, most children come into this world by accident.)

Based on all said we conclude that the only effective action regarding the current state of our world is to moderate our habits.

But, I can't even quit smoking!

A good start is to confront your own truth; ask yourself if through laziness, cowardice, lack of initiative, lack of personality or a combination of these factors you've let the media fool you about what quality of life or well-being is.  Which leads the present analysis to reveal the first cause: the ethical problem has, in turn, an underlying psychological one, if you understood that the proposed change is about discipline or abstinence (like in the fad diets example) I'm sorry to say that you're just persisting in avoiding responsibilities.  The necessary change is to stop following the cattle and dare to think and choose for yourself; I guarantee you this will not only help you moderate your consume habits, it'll improve your quality of life at all levels.

©2020 - Walter Alejandro Iglesias

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