Fossil-fuelled population excesses

COLUMN

I was born in 1932 when Earth’s human population was 2 billion, and have lived through a population explosion of staggering proportions that has catapulted our number to 7.7 billion.

Sad to say, I foresee a complete reversal of that trend occurring shortly.

Methinks today’s toddler who reaches my age will see a 22nd century with less than the 2 billion human inhabitants of my babyhood; most other species’ numbers will have declined as well.

Until the mid 1700s, the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, Earth’s human population was about 700 million people.

Our harnessing of the fossil-fuel energy of coal, oil and gas began and by 1800 we had reached our first billion. Simply put, most of us only exist because of fossil fuel.

Take me as an example. Our English dad jumped ship early last century. Back in Liverpool our mum was pregnant.

Granddad wanted the best for mum. He arranged a passage for Emily aboard a New Zealand-bound steamship, with cash enough to reach dad and marry him.

Within two decades there were seven extra Kiwi youngsters to boost the world’s population. Thanks to fossil fuel.

Despite dire warnings, our addiction to cheap fossil-fuel energy has resulted in a frenzy of overuse — where now all of nature, even the existence of our species, is under threat.

I have to say, we’ve left the switch to renewables of wind and solar power, and electric cars, trucks and aircraft, too late. Even their use exploits nature.

From a speech by US congressman George Perkins Marsh in 1847: “Man cannot at his pleasure command the rain and the sunshine, the wind and frost and snow, yet it is certain that climate itself has in many instances been gradually changed and ameliorated or deteriorated by human action. The draining of swamps and the clearing of forests perceptibly effect the evaporation from the earth . . .”

He was on to it way back then.

What a contrast to the United States now. President Donald Trump and his team and followers’ ignorance of nature defies belief. Their fellow citizens are none too smart either; a nationwide poll in November found that only 29 percent of them agreed climate change was due mainly to human activity.

Thankfully New Zealanders are smarter. But brave enough to face the obvious? I’m not so sure.

The 2018 Earth Day Report itemised species decline since 1970:

• Animals in the wild, 40 percent decline in

numbers

• Marine animal populations fallen by 40

percent overall

• Bird species, 40 percent (11,000 species) in

decline

• Freshwater ecosystems have plummeted by

75 percent

• Insect populations declined by 60-75 percent

• A quarter of the world’s coral reefs already

damaged beyond repair, worse is expected

• Humanity has modified an addtional 50

percent of Earth’s land area ecosystems,

affecting a wider range of species.

In last Thursday’s edition (Lack of action is insane), Martin Hanson reminded us we have been warned we may be in the early stages of a rerun of the mass extinction of 252 million years ago. The Earth Day list backs up his concerns.

We and our domesticated species are part of that web of life which has already been roughly halved during the past 50 years.

Our wanton exploitation of habitats and shared ecosystems is why so many of us exist anyway. It is obvious we must join the species decline also.

Always remember, mainstream scientists minimise their messages at every turn. Here I too may have understated our dilemma.

Extinction beckons for us and the other species mentioned, unless humanity faces up in time.

I was born in 1932 when Earth’s human population was 2 billion, and have lived through a population explosion of staggering proportions that has catapulted our number to 7.7 billion.

Sad to say, I foresee a complete reversal of that trend occurring shortly.

Methinks today’s toddler who reaches my age will see a 22nd century with less than the 2 billion human inhabitants of my babyhood; most other species’ numbers will have declined as well.

Until the mid 1700s, the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, Earth’s human population was about 700 million people.

Our harnessing of the fossil-fuel energy of coal, oil and gas began and by 1800 we had reached our first billion. Simply put, most of us only exist because of fossil fuel.

Take me as an example. Our English dad jumped ship early last century. Back in Liverpool our mum was pregnant.

Granddad wanted the best for mum. He arranged a passage for Emily aboard a New Zealand-bound steamship, with cash enough to reach dad and marry him.

Within two decades there were seven extra Kiwi youngsters to boost the world’s population. Thanks to fossil fuel.

Despite dire warnings, our addiction to cheap fossil-fuel energy has resulted in a frenzy of overuse — where now all of nature, even the existence of our species, is under threat.

I have to say, we’ve left the switch to renewables of wind and solar power, and electric cars, trucks and aircraft, too late. Even their use exploits nature.

From a speech by US congressman George Perkins Marsh in 1847: “Man cannot at his pleasure command the rain and the sunshine, the wind and frost and snow, yet it is certain that climate itself has in many instances been gradually changed and ameliorated or deteriorated by human action. The draining of swamps and the clearing of forests perceptibly effect the evaporation from the earth . . .”

He was on to it way back then.

What a contrast to the United States now. President Donald Trump and his team and followers’ ignorance of nature defies belief. Their fellow citizens are none too smart either; a nationwide poll in November found that only 29 percent of them agreed climate change was due mainly to human activity.

Thankfully New Zealanders are smarter. But brave enough to face the obvious? I’m not so sure.

The 2018 Earth Day Report itemised species decline since 1970:

• Animals in the wild, 40 percent decline in

numbers

• Marine animal populations fallen by 40

percent overall

• Bird species, 40 percent (11,000 species) in

decline

• Freshwater ecosystems have plummeted by

75 percent

• Insect populations declined by 60-75 percent

• A quarter of the world’s coral reefs already

damaged beyond repair, worse is expected

• Humanity has modified an addtional 50

percent of Earth’s land area ecosystems,

affecting a wider range of species.

In last Thursday’s edition (Lack of action is insane), Martin Hanson reminded us we have been warned we may be in the early stages of a rerun of the mass extinction of 252 million years ago. The Earth Day list backs up his concerns.

We and our domesticated species are part of that web of life which has already been roughly halved during the past 50 years.

Our wanton exploitation of habitats and shared ecosystems is why so many of us exist anyway. It is obvious we must join the species decline also.

Always remember, mainstream scientists minimise their messages at every turn. Here I too may have understated our dilemma.

Extinction beckons for us and the other species mentioned, unless humanity faces up in time.

Your email address will not be published. Comments will display after being approved by a staff member. Comments may be edited for clarity.

Martin Hanson - 5 months ago
The energy in 1 barrel of oil is equivalent to 12 years of one person's labour, assuming an 8 hour day and 5 day week. And yet 1 barrel of oil costs (at the moment) less that $50, enough to pay someone to do a few hours work at minimum wage.
A few hours compared with 12 years! And yet we have been conditioned to think this is normal!
No wonder our leaders don't want to take the painful action that alone can save our grandchildren.
Global warming will, unless we drastically change course, reduce the human population to a fraction of its present level.
Yet despite this reality, our leaders continue to lead us to disaster.

Poll

  • Voting please wait...
    Your vote has been cast. Reloading page...
    Do you want the rail line to Gisborne reinstated now?