Green has become trendy. Advertisements are flogging "green" vacuum cleaners. Trendy restaurants have patches of grass on the tables instead of flowers. There are green cars, groceries, dating sites, clothing, pets, buildings ... the list goes on and on. Everywhere you look, well-meaning individuals talk about saving the planet.
But it occurs to me that saving the planet isn't really what they're talking about. What they're talking about is saving the planet for us.
The Earth has survived plenty, including catastrophic meteorite impacts, plagues and geological upheavals. Battered and slightly bruised, it will survive us, too.
Clearly, what the greenies and most rational people are worried about is the Earth's capacity to sustain human populations. We're currently going through natural resources like locusts through a wheat field, and we know it can't continue forever.
But for all the talk of green this and green that, it wasn't until recently that I heard anybody talk about the real problem—or, as one caller on Diane Rehm's National Public Radio show called it, "the elephant in the room." The real problem isn't that we use too many plastic bags; it's that there are too many of us using plastic bags and everything else.
According to NOVA online (www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova), 2,000 years ago, there were approximately 300 million people in the world. There was a small downward spike during the Black Death in Europe, but it was barely enough to write home about. Two world wars produced "only small perturbations to the upward curve." Granted, the rate has decreased slightly from a high of 2.1 percent between 1965 and 1970 to the current rate of 1.3 percent, but with that 1.3 percent acting on a larger number of people, the absolute number of people produced will continue to accelerate. There are currently 6.8 billion people in the world. With three people entering every second, the human population of planet Earth by the end of this century is projected to be 12 billion.
The death rate has been dropping continuously since the start of the Industrial Revolution, mostly due to soap, sanitation and antibiotics.
Between 1950 and 1990, the population of the Earth doubled, and each doubling has taken about half as long as the previous. We can never become green enough to combat this. There is much debate about the carrying capacity of the Earth, but one thing is certain: It does have one.
This means lots of things, but one particularly: Democracy, as we know it, cannot continue.
Democracy is based on the idea of inalienable human rights, among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. For most people, having as many babies as they want comes under the heading of "human happiness"; this isn't even up for debate, and woe to the government that says otherwise. (Whether said babies can be raised, housed and educated to become contributing members to society is already a dubious question, but doesn't enter into this nondebate.) Reproduction is a biological function and often a religious imperative that requires little thought and is, in fact, resistant to it. Abortion has been demonized, and in much of the world, birth control is, if not outright denied, hard to access.
I hate to rush the punch line, but due to space considerations, I will anyway: If people don't curtail their breeding, we are either doomed, or we are going to have it curtailed for us. A government of the people, by the people and for the people is a creature which by its very nature lacks the balls to do this.
Nothing I'm saying here is draconian, though it will strike many readers as such. The logic behind it is exactly the same as a zookeeper forced to put lions on birth-control pills—which they do all the time, by the way, because as cool as lions are, the zoo space allotted to them can't support any more lions.
Don't get me wrong; I'm down with the greenies and will do everything they tell me to. But thanks to The Diane Rehm Show for pointing out the elephant in the room. It's a goddamn big one.