WILTSE: In case the world ends next month

Nov 29, 2012


According to the ancient Mayan calendar, the end of the world is coming Dec. 21. If that is the case, this should be my last article and I wish to say goodbye.

Television has been preparing for it by airing such things as programs about dooms-day preppers and life after humans. The attitude has been one of lamentation or how disastrous it is that human beings should disappear.

Well, I don’t think it’s so bad. If we should all die, life will surely survive and we will evolve back again in a few million years. People seem to think that is a long, long time — but it isn’t if you are dead. For if that is the case, there is little difference between next week and the next billion years.

To me, it seems presumptuous to think we are the finest beings ever created — or, if you please, that God ever created.

We have reproduced ourselves into a real mess. The permanent famine has already reached India. The Middle East has worked itself up into a permanent war.

Global warming is becoming alarming. The reason for it is not only fossil-fuel emissions, there are just too many of us. We have reached the 6 billion mark, soon to make it 7 billion. We are adding 80 million-plus per year. That is a country the size of Germany every year and the rate of growth is growing. That growth rate cannot be sustained.

I read recently that we are growing dumber, not smarter. Each of us is so specialized that we become so concentrated on our little piece of expertise that we are incapable of learning it all. If we were turned loose on a desert island, we would be incapable of producing our own tools, our own building materials, defending ourselves, cooking our own food, etc. We would starve to death, or die of exposure, or become victims of wild animals. Practically none of us is capable of becoming a Robinson Crusoe.

Our children are very clever with understanding technology and doing miraculous things with their iPads, but do they have a better understanding of Shakespeare or Aristotle? Are they any better at writing a sentence that is written in a traditional language and not coded? Can you parse an English sentence? Do you believe that such things are necessary?

All in all, I am not particularly impressed with the progress that we humans have made. Impressive as atomic bombs, computers and microwaves are, we could be much more. We could be less sloppy, too.

Have you entered a large parking lot such as The Lakes Mall on an early morning lately? It's so full of garbage that the seagulls don’t have to hang around the dumpsters looking for easy pickings anymore. They just hang out in the middle of parking lots looking for popcorn, candy bars and bits of hamburgers, for they are strewn around all over the place.

Grocery carts abound in the parking lots; sometimes within feet of the cart corrals, obstructing those who wish to park. I frequently take the carts in. No one has ever asked me why I do it. But in case someone should, I would answer, “Because no one else does.”

People can be such slobs.

The urbanization of China is causing problems. Some places have been continuously cultivated for 5,000 years or more. Now they must mass-produce pigs, western style, raising thousands of pigs in one place. The raising of grains to feed the pigs has lowered the level of the water table so much that wells have to be drilled hundreds of meters deeper.

Moreover, the disposal of the manure has produced problems to fishermen who have been fishing the rivers for thousands of years. So much for modern technology.

If we should be wiped out as a race, I don’t think it is so tragic. Hopefully, we will evolve into something better. It should take only another million or two years.

But just in case the sun does rise as usual on Dec. 22, I will return to write another article for the Tribune on Dec. 27. Merry Christmas.

— By Ralph Wiltse, Tribune community columnist




Nice commentary, Ralph. Many, many plants and animals have become extinct and I find it interesting that humans don't think that they could be next on the list. Our numbers have far exceeded the carrying capacity of the planet and I understand that many of the now third world countries are going through their own industrial revolution, which will likely negate the possibility of longterm survival since they are building a new coal fired power plant every day in China and India. It is all about chemistry and once we start to mess with it, it will react. More CO2 in the atmosphere verses underground will change our atmosphere and we will likely become fossils. We all seem to know this but it is like a smoker who knows that it will kill them if they continue to smoke but keep doing it anyway. We have to change the system to survive and the only way to do that is to call for a massive world wide movement. Maybe we could start by making the car illegal and ration electricity. If you use it all up, then you have to make it yourself. Not sure if it is possible. It seems likes everything I touch has a carbon footprint and I try hard to conserve. I also find that the things I grew up enjoying all have large carbon footprints and letting them go is tough. The last couple hundred years have been rough on the planet. I believe we have started the process of ending the 10,000 year span we've had a stable climate and change will happen slowly (or quickly in earth years). If I didn't have children I am not sure I would care about this, but I do and I am saddened by the fact that their future world could be hostile.


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