Consider the following facts, and ask yourself: What do they collectively mean?
- Light pollution has grown so great that some people in the world can see fewer than 200 of the possible 1,900 visible stars.
- Nature provides free products and services that are likely worth at least as much as the entire world economy.
- The world uses at least 25% more natural resources than the planet can replace, and this fraction continues to increase (as does per capita consumption).
- People’s satisfaction with life does not necessarily correlate with economic success and ecological impact.
- About 6% of all the people who have ever lived are alive today.
- The world death rate has dropped by 7% since 2000, while the world birth rate has dropped by 9% over the same period.
- If everyone suddenly disappeared, the rest of Nature would totally reclaim our planet in less than 100,000 years.
I see these facts as dots on a picture of human history. When the dots are connected, they highlight a critical point in humanity’s ongoing effort to fill the Universe with people and artifacts.
What resources remain on this planet are now measurable in terms that individuals can grasp, economic and visual; yet inexplicably individuals continue to consume more resources each year, despite its questionable improvement of their lives. One response may be the decrease in birth rate: If there are fewer resources, then fewer people can have access to them (it should be noted that the more convention explanation for the reduced birth rate is more economically empowered women having children later in life, which does not appear to be tied to resources at all).
We are at a point where we must either start replacing with human effort and artifacts the products and services that Nature has been providing us, or we must reduce our impact on the planet, letting other species partially reclaim what we have taken. We must either allow some of what we use to be “free,” or we must start paying dearly for it.