Halloween was freakin’ scary this year!
First, Melissa and I dressed like a middle aged, middle america, mid century (1950′s) couple–call us “the Middles”–and went to a show at the Hi-Dive in Denver. And while she was quite nicely costumed–complete with rainbow curlers and apron, red lipstick and red high heels–I was rather subtle. With my cardigan and navel-high slacks, “scientist” glasses and parted hair pressed to my head, I needed her as an accessory in order to look like I was in costume. So when we got to the packed bar and found ourselves THE ONLY ONES IN COSTUME, I was embarrassed to be alone. Because when I was, I simply looked like a dork (or at best, like a retro hipster stylin’… dork).
When I told my friend Rachel about this predicament she put it all in perspective with these five simple reassuring words: “you are a dork, Bill.” (Phew. Thanks, Rach.)
But that was Sunday. The really scary shit happened on Halloween day when it was reported that we’d likely hit a global population of seven billion.
Whoa. That’s worth repeating: seven (7) BILLION. You know how many zeros that is? I don’t either, but I think it’s something like: 7,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000
Wasn’t it just a few years ago that we hit six billion? And half a century earlier we were at only half of that? Will it stop?
Apparently it will. Experts seem to believe that growth will taper off and stop at nine billion… and then reverse–even without a catastrophic event. In a recent interview in The Sun magazine, Stewart Brand said, “I believe we will see a peak population of between 8 and 9 billion. Then it will go down.” (Phew, again. Thanks, Stew.) And he paraphrases E.O. Wilson, refering to “…a ‘bottleneck’ that we’ll be passing through in the next few decades as the last of the population growth plays out.”
What about the likelihood of a catastrophic event, though? I wondered.
“Everything depends on the rate at which climate change lowers the planet’s human carrying capacity,” he replied. “If it lowers capacity to less than eight or nine billion, then we are looking at serious resource wars and loss of life.”
The disconcerting part to me is that a lot of that taper effect is contingent on increased wealth, education and opportunity in the most rapidly reproducing parts of the globe. Is that happening enough, and fast enough? I think a diagnosis is in order: catastrophia catatonisis. And I’ll be the first to be diagnosed. Catastrophe looms, weather patterns become erratic, fresh water supplies dwindle… and the response is deer-in-the-headlights catatonia. “What ever will we do?” the patient asks, and then posts on his blog when he could be marching with the 1% of the 99% who are out there in the erratic cold. Or at the very least he could schedule vasectomies for his teenage sons.
Here is where one might expect the blogpost to turn inspirational. Where the freshly diagnosed blogger will lead by example. Yeah, maybe… Mostly I just wanted to say catastrophia catatonisis, cuz I thought that sounded pretty smart.
And I wanted to show off our costumes.
Oh, yeah. And, um, to announce that this is the beginning of a movement. Yeah… that’s what I’m doing, I’m starting a movement! We’re the three-billion-population-ers, the snapshot in time when we, the Middles, were part of a we, the planetary population at three billion. And while I was off inventing bombs, she was at home prepared to bake us out of any crisis. “But we’re going to do it differently this time!” says this movement. “We’re going to make better decisions!” So, ok, it’s a movement based on a fantasy that we could relive the last 60 years and do it better. We won’t exploit third world countries, we won’t get lost in conspicuous consumption, we won’t ignore inconvenient truths. We’ll simply expand our little white picket fences to include a much much larger family, one that will taper at a few billion and all take care of the yard a little better.
That’s pretty dorky, isn’t it?