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September 28, 2014

Following is a copy of a letter I wrote today to an old friend and retired archivist of a presidential library.

September 28, 2014

Dear _______:

It’s hard to believe that the thermometer may reach 80 today, as it did yesterday, and it’s just as hard to believe that I will be leaving these parts for Florida circa the middle of next week. I am already notifying magazine, credit unions and credit card companies of my change of address (eschewing notice to creditors, of course, who can earn their own bread). With Phoenix awash again today and 80s here again in Michigan in late September, it is also hard not to believe that these symptoms of global warming (though weather and not global warming per se but rather as bizarre weather patterns predicted by climatologists to increase in depth and occurrence) will not persuade even Rush and Sarah (with their combined ecological IQs of -10) that something real is afoot. Parenthetically, I note that their rejection of science is selective. I would give odds that they are amenable to antibiotic injections when suffering infection and employ a healthy respect for Newton’s law of gravity when carrying blacksmiths’ anvils.

I am a bit focused on science and environment this morning as a result of reading more of Isaacson’s Einstein and Diamond’s book (Collapse) as bedside entertainment, hence the foregoing diatribe. With Malthus back in play due in part to the spread of antibiotics and other such lifesavers to Africa, Diamond notes that the old social view (see Rwanda) that one must have many children due to child mortality is a thing of the past and must be abandoned lest humans overrun the land and the predictions of Malthus come true. We in this country ought to abandon some of our outmoded views as well (see every foreign aid bill with its rider forbidding birth control devices or medicines), a great aid to the return of Malthusianism. Indeed what we regard as primitive people in Africa know of the existence of these contraceptives, and inundated by children who aren’t dying, are begging us to send such contraceptives to them, according to NGO aid workers, UN emissaries, missionaries et al.

It appears that we are more tone deaf to reality than the so-called primitives due to some of our own primitive and out of date views (ostensibly from Scriptures, which describe a very different era). There are precious few manuals available these days for chariot repair, and we have chosen not to enforce the Old Testament’s mandate to kill women who wear men’s clothing, speaking of selective choice. (We don’t even kill women for wearing nothing these days, which tells me more about onlookers than the pre-apple Eve, who had but one onlooker and a presumably disinterested serpent, itself naked.)

We are already in trouble world-wide with increasing population and dwindling resources. We know that people who are corralled in small spaces become snarky and prone to violence. We also know that thickly populated venues are more prone to epidemics due to such numerous Typhoid Mary carriers. Additionally, as presciently noted by Diamond, we know that overpopulated venues are more subject to political and economic upheaval (see Rwanda). Diamond adds that such overpopulated venues provide huge numbers of political and economic and racial and religious refugees who will in one way or another flee (in our case) to the West for relief – and residence.

Are we ready in any sense of the word to accept and welcome hundreds of millions of Africans and Indians and Chinese and others into our country (not to mention the continuing intake from Central America)? With robots predicted to do most of the work needed to be done in the future, how many new non-robot humans can we accommodate? Can we even accommodate ourselves? Will the planet explode as demand for food swamps supply, even with robot-attended underground agriculture? Will humanity necessarily become vegetarian for lack of space to raise animals (since we can’t eat robots)? Will an overcrowded world and its human culture implode in a brawling mess as someone finally pulls the atomic plug out of any hope for a future for such an elbow-to-elbow population where social cohesion is just a memory? In short, will the dour predictions of Malthus become reality? Is this the way it ends, due largely to superstition and ignorance in using yesterday’s answers to today’s problems?

You and I will not see this outcome, if it is our society’s collective fate, but we may have progeny who will, given the accelerated drain on resources brought about by huge increases in global population with their increased demand on decreasing resources, global warming’s calamities and global political instability, the latter in large part attributable to superstition, ignorance and resultant overcrowding.

I don’t have solutions to offer for these problems. I am not educated nor experienced in coming up with new ideas and initiatives that can either solve these problems or slow their effects, but there must be some smart people in think tanks, government and academia who could come up with new ideas to solve not only these problems but also with plans leading to policies on how to handle future problems of overpopulation, global warming and other such catastrophes-in-waiting, including potential disasters we have not yet identified or perhaps secondary to such known disasters we already know about. If such a task force of brilliant minds were formed and tasked with solutions to such problems, I suppose (by current standards) the next problem would be in having a Congress mired in political superstition (aka selfishness and fixation on reelection) provide resources for such an effort. If so, I would think that at least some commentators of that day in the future would write something on the order of: “Thanks for the Malthus, Congress, just what we needed, and don’t forget to renew the ban on contraceptives on all our foreign aid bills. The twenty billion people in Africa and India are depending on you.”

The foregoing is an over-simplification, of course, but is offered in cynical fashion in the hope that even such craven politicos as there described will at last get the point and start using today’s weapons to solve today’s problems, and even provide political support and resources to plan responses to tomorrow’s problems. This is my fervent hope, even though I will not be here to see it and the resources I refer to may be under complete corporate control by then unless we regulate corporate conduct during the interim, among many other “ifs” in seeking solution or even equilibrium in prolonging the human adventure on Planet Earth.

Such choices that await us! Oh well, perhaps ideas and prejudices about race, color and class will finally evaporate when survival itself is up for grabs. It won’t help to be a Gates or a Trump or a Limbaugh in a Malthusian world, where bank accounts and stock portfolios are immaterial. It’s too bad that we have to play the ultimate survival card in order to get these tycoons and ignoramuses to see the errors of their ways today (like campaign contributions to those who refuse to give foreign aid unless conditioned on no contraceptives). “Thanks, Congress people; glad to see you’re living up to your moral standards with yesterday’s fixes of today’s problems, and thanks for having a billion refugees knocking on our doors. . “

That’s it for my Sunday musings. Florida beckons – time to quit stalling and get things ready. Later, ________         GERALD  E


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