Climate change could end civilization by 2050. The news is all over the internet. According to Stanford biologist Paul Ehrlich, the collapse of the Earth as we know it today is a “near certainty” within decades.
So, 2050 is 31 years from now. If I’m still alive then — which is equal parts unlikely and unthinkable — I’ll be almost 100 years old.
Since I’m not impressed with 66, I plan on being dead by 2050. A lot of us will be. You shouldn’t worry too much if you’re one of them, though. There are worse things than death.
According to reports, those still alive after 2050 will be wishing they weren’t. The Earth will be a volatile orb where survivors grimly trudge about in chemical sewage and plastic trash hoping to find something to eat.
Ehrlich published “The Population Bomb” in 1968, a book in which he predicted hundreds of millions of people starving to death by the 1970s. It didn’t happen, of course. What we got instead was Ronald McDonald and an epidemic of obesity.
This doesn’t mean he was totally wrong. Ehrlich acknowledges the timing was off, but the end of civilization is still coming because the key people are still causing it.
He means you and me. Not only are there too many of us, but we consume and reproduce too much. It’s setting up the world for yet another mass extinction.
I don’t know what we can do to stop it aside from ceasing to have unprotected sex, consuming like there’s no tomorrow, and letting the rich get richer at the planet’s expense.
My wife and I had three children, who in turn produced five kids combined. I’ve stopped using plastic straws and scrapped my carbon-emitting truck. We recycle, use public transportation, and eat just enough meat to not qualify as vegetarians.
This isn’t enough. More of us need to stop reproducing, traveling, overeating, cutting down rainforests, and killing off the biodiversity. In short, the Earth needs to lose weight.
At its healthiest, the Earth should weigh no more than 2 billion people. Right now, it weighs roughly 7.5 billion people. Simply having fewer children isn’t going to get us down to the desired weight. The world needs to go on a serious people diet.
If we’re going to lose weight, whom should we get rid of first? I can think of at least a dozen categories of unnecessary people, over half of whom I’m a member. The categories include:
• Politicians — whose constant infighting and sucking up to corporate interests helped get us to the point of environmental disaster.
• Religionists — nearly all of whom believe the world is supposed to end badly anyway, so why not send them on their way a bit early?
• Media types — who consistently tell us how horrible the world is, thereby driving us to seek comfort in drugs, sex and resource squandering.
• Rich people — who reportedly have more than they need and don’t like sharing. Relative to much of the rest of the world, this category includes me and nearly everyone I know.
• Social media cranks — Anyone whose life centers mainly on gossiping, outrage and insult.
None of these groups will leave quietly, of course. We may have to get tough to whip the world back into shape, but we can do it.
The last time the world weighed just 2 billion people was in 1928, or nine decades ago. Things were perfect back then, right? We were so healthy that there was no chance of any great depressions, major diseases, world wars, communism, dictators, etc.
How did we get so out of shape so fast? My guess is because we’re human.
Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.