March 2013
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The numbers crunch

By Galen Larson

Water, water, everywhere, but there is not as much as one would think – particularly in consideration of our ever-burgeoning population.

When it comes to arable soil, there is a finite limit as well, but with modern methods and (ugh) chemicals, we can produce on food on fewer acres. But as of yet we have found no way to make fresh water in quantities large enough to provide potable water for the masses or for agriculture.

The standard formula of three tells us water is one of the most critical elements to survival. Three minutes without air, three days without water, 30 days without food.

There are many parts of the Bible I question, as those who know me are aware. But the most problematic is this: Be fruitful and multiply. We have been killing one another for millennia, decimating our past populations, yet we have continued to multiply at a rate that could threaten the survival of our descendants if they do not maintain a proper balance with nature and its life-giving support.

Our planet is currently at 7 1/2 billion and by 2050 is expected to be around 12 billion.

I have asked people on many levels, what do they think is the greatest threat to the planet? All state the same thing: overpopulation.

And yet, as Mark Twain stated about the weather, everyone talks about it but nobody does anything about it.

All other problems will be moot if overpopulation is not sensibly discussed. How are we to rein in this growth? If we care only about the now, that is a selfish attitude.

We have a group in Washington feathering their nest, accepting no blame for the present problems fostered on the existing population. Now, stop and think what is to happen when the population spins out of control. Chaos will be the result. There will be food shortages, sure, but more likely are shortages of clean drinking water in the poorest regions of the earth.

When I was a youngster in sixth grade I remember my teacher stating that as population grows uncontrollably we may in time have to garner our food from the seas. Little did she know that in my short lifetime we would have polluted and over-fished the seas to the point where we can no longer depend on them for healthful food. Out of sight, out of mind. The ocean is now in places vomiting up the garbage we flushed into it.

To illustrate let’s turn to a catastrophe that just happened to 4,000 joyous vacationers on a small “island” stranded just a few short miles in the Gulf of Mexico. When the engines of their cruise ship were destroyed by fire, things deteriorated rapidly, and the worst problem of all was lack of water. Within less than a week they were overrun by sewage and desperate for water to drink.

This turned out to be a small inconvenience for the lucky passengers, because there were soon on terra firma and no one was seriously harmed. But the episode showed that, while such small inconveniences don’t happen often, to those in the midst of the disaster, the result is uncomfortable living conditions at the least, health problems or death at the worst.

Now picture the same situation happening on a global scale. There isn’t enough clean water to slake the thirst of the masses and their livestock, provide for cleaning, irrigate crops, and flush away sewage. The world, after all, is like that cruise ship, only bigger. We’re surrounded by oceans that we cannot desalinate effectively enough to keep up with the demand for fresh water. And there is no place else we can go.

If the population continues to grow unchecked, this is what could happen.

Humans are supposedly the only animals that can think ahead. But the one thing that can conquer us without a shot gets barely a whimper of discussion, when there should be a shot heard around the world.

Next month, I will discuss more of the same – but I won’t be so tame.

Galen Larson is a retired oilfield worker who lives in Montezuma County, Colo.


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