Global citizens are well on their way to a significantly degraded planet, with one measure of our footprint weighing in at one and one half planets. How could that even be possible? Simply put, we debt finance with carbon pollution—well over half of that footprint measure. At the same time, our technological development constantly smashes historical barriers to our high flying technical abilities. Moore’s Law has correctly predicted the exponential increase in computing capacity, availing the world of ever expanding digital processing clout. Quantum computers flutter on the near future horizon. Nanotechnology, robotics, telecommunications and space exploration lead an extensive list of developing human technologies. While the people of African villages carry cell phones in and out of reed huts, North Americans anticipate intelligent eyewear. An online search supplies all knowledge, answers any question posed, and constantly advertises the good life images. A GPS guides us to any picture perfect location on our planet. Yet behind the scenes, the more climate degraded portions on that planet squash in the marginalized global billion plus who continue living with not one electric bulb.
People have a proven track record of pushing past the limits of their available resource base. Jared Diamond in Collapse highlights more than one historical instance. Our so far degraded planet is now experiencing a mostly ignored changing climate as human politics focus on a technology based economic growth model. And, as the footprint measure highlights, an economy based on carbon emissions that continue to degrade our planet. Closely following climate change, a rapid loss of species or biodiversity symbolizes the havoc we now juggle in an increasingly unbalanced ecosystem. Urban dwellers have become so disconnected from nature that city children more and more believe food comes from factories.
Religious teachings that may have fit well for adherents hundreds of years or even a century ago teach the conquest of God-given nature to be the way. One typical aspect of our instinctual or culturally driven nature is our attitude towards procreation. With few religious or cultural restrictions that make much sustainability sense, our population growth goes unhindered no matter how wise restriction might be in easing demand on our planet. Birth remains traditionally celebrated, longevity cheered with health care plans, end of life shunned at all cost. North Americans visit the homes of the aging selectively for family, and then often only if necessary. Go forth and multiply. Celebrate a long and prosperous life.
The cowboys of southern Alberta view posters of powerful conquering trucks, and the rough and tumble nature of the pioneers who came to settle the land. An adventurous tradition you can taste in the lifestyle of a city like Calgary. The footprint measure shows the lifestyle of that city to by far exceed the carbon emissions rate of most other planetary consumers. Yet this lifestyle is celebrated as an aspiration for all people. The first world lifestyle of consumption, or could it be overconsumption, that participants refuse to surrender. The thought holds solid ground, then, that an attitude such as this prevailing on a worn thin biosphere will bring about a further degraded near future planet. People have yet to give up on any of their growth dynamic, no matter how informed they are on planetary limits. With an extra half planet consumed now, and an accelerating human growth model, a further degrade planet is quite likely.
We will send people to Mars, however, because we can, because we are pioneers, because we have billions of free carbon dump based dollars to invest in this venture. Speculative fiction makes predictions, accurate at times. Strength of military technology and a focus supporting resource extraction for profit shows in the Avatar future. Parallel ventures in the current world invest in mineral exploration for the riches of the asteroid belt. A distinct class struggle remains among the citizens of the Hunger Games. The cultural setting of Elysium portrays drastic class divisions where the wealthy decide on the health of the planet from afar. Elysium pans images of a completely trashed planet, and texts in the reasons those able had fled to their orbiting space station. The wealthy have interest in the sustainability of their own refuges, their self welfare, much more so than that of global welfare and the wellbeing of any others.
As on the plains of Africa, the successful hunter ate the more choice cuts. The more competent gatherer brought home the better fruit, nut and seed supply. This was further emphasized among those urbanized and civilized. Class structure became strongly embedded between gatherer now Queen and hunter now King and the others down the order of socio-economic class, the less, and lesser fortunate. The hi-tech privileged consume disproportionate planetary resources as the super wealthy are amused by the thrills of space tourism. Concurrently, the marginalized children go to bed hungrier as their degraded land based food sources shrivel.
One quite likely near future outcome based on stagnant cultural-economic progress and current technological trends will be a further degraded planet, yet with a select segment of global society avidly participating in advanced technology. The privileged, those with access to traditional wealth and those fitting well with newly developing technical resources, will carry a version of human class division forward. Any global citizen will at one moment follow space flight to Mars and in the next image view the extreme weather events on home planet. The technologically privileged will benefit in a self perceived, self preserving manner while the majority will experience an increasing struggle on a further degraded planetary life support system.