“And the Enemy is…Me”

James - Salt Lake City, Utah
Entered on April 19, 2008
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: environment

I believe I cause most of the world’s problems. Well…not all by myself, but I and about four billion other people do. Let me explain.

I showed up in 1950 when the planet’s human population was 2.6 billion. In my 58 years, it’s become 6.6 billion. Now we’re looking at peaking oil, diminishing fresh water, depleting topsoil, rising temperatures and oceans, and increasing demand by developing countries for disappearing resources. But it took me almost half a century to get my mind around the idea that I create those crises by my very existence. Credible science says that world population is about 4 billion higher than is permanently sustainable even with projected new technology.

The most drastic attempt at a solution would be suicide as some kind of altruistic, self-sacrificial act, but I’m way too selfish for that…besides, I’m working on a plan. As an American, I help consume 25% of the world’s resources while being only 5% of its population, so I cause at least 5 times my fair share of the problem. In fact, my environmental footprint’s about 20 times that of the average African villager. So how about if I just kill off some of the extra “me-s?”

I’ve started walking and biking just about everywhere and run at least three errands whenever I turn the car key. The winter thermostat’s on 62 and off at night (very doable with sweaters and blankets) and on 80 in the summer (hey, what’s wrong with wearing a bathing suit around the house?). I’ve rediscovered the year-round clothesline (hint: clothes freeze then dry). I enjoy recreation close to home and check out documentaries to explore the far-off world.

I’ve done the little stuff like light bulbs and a low-flush toilet and am working on the bigger things like an electric car. Just by being content to live in 500 square feet of space, I figure I’m stomping a smaller footprint than the average European and that I’ve killed off at least two of the former “me-s” by now. Imagine when I start running the electric meter backwards with a wind turbine or solar panels!

I’ve joined the Hunger Project…one of many charitable programs to teach the developing world that we don’t have to breed like lemmings to be economically, socially, emotionally and spiritually fulfilled. I want to encourage China to keep it’s one-child policy and join an “Eight Is Enough” effort to halt peak population at 8 billion rather than nearly 10 billion that the current trends would produce by mid-century.

I believe we can even invent a new kind of no-growth capitalism and retool society before we go the way of past cultures that literally expanded themselves into oblivion. Yes, humanity might repeat history and let war, famine, and disease trim us back, but I believe we can still soft-land this thing if enough of us take a good hard look at our lifestyles and find ways to eliminate some of our “extra selves.”