Climate

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3892 WORDS


Climate

Change

Over the past years most individuals have become acutely aware that the
intensity of human and economic development enjoyed over the 20th century cannot
be sustained. Material consumption and ever increasing populations are already
stressing the earth’s ecosystems. How much more the earth can take remains a
very heated issue. Here a look at the facts sheds some very dark light. In 1950,
there were 2.5 billion people, while today there are 5.8 billion. There may well
be 10 billion people on earth before the middle of the next century. Even more
significant, on an ecological level, is the rise in per capita energy and
material consumption which, in the last 40 years, has soared faster than the
human population. "An irresistible economy seems to be on a collision course
with an immovable ecosphere." Based on these facts alone, there is grave
reason for concern. Taken further, it is even more frightening to note that,
while man has affected the environment throughout his stay on earth, the impact
has been most intense in the relatively short industrial era. Since the
industrial revolution, and over the past century in particular, man’s
ecological footprint on the earth has quickly grown from that of a child to one
of a giant. True, this period is heralded as an economic success story, which it
certainly has been. However, many argue that it seems increasingly likely that
the path to man’s success will soon slope downward to his demise. The climate
is changing, and so must we. This paper will look at the coin of climate change,
where on the one side the human impact on the earth will be shown, and on the
other, the impact of earth on man. Such a study is inevitably somewhat
polemical, as it is still open to debate what the precise effects of man have
and will be on climate change, and also what climate change will mean to man. It
will also be quite general in analysis, as a paper of this scope can allow no
more. What will be made clear, nevertheless, is that the relationship between
man and earth is clearly changing. More specifically, man is outgrowing the
earth. If the relationship is to continue—indeed prosper—then a new balance
needs to be found. The issue of climate change holds one important key to this
balance. Man and the Environment Thomas Malthus is well remembered for his
position as a doomsayer. When looking at the rates of population growth in

Victorian England, he saw unchecked growth as leading to a rapid decline in the
living standards of man. He blamed this decline on three main factors: the
overproduction of offspring; the inability of natural resources to sustain
rising human population; and the irresponsibility of the lower classes to
prevent their overpopulation. Very generally, Malthus suggested that this trend
could be controlled only if the family size of the lower classes was regulated
so that poor families would not produce more children than they could support.

He predicted that the demand for food would inevitably become far greater than
the available supply of it. This prediction was rooted in the thought that
population, when unchecked, increased geometrically; i.e., 2,4,8,16,32... while
food products, or as he called it ‘subsistence’, only grew at an arithmetic
rate; i.e, 1,2,3,4,5,...... He provided only a basic economic reason for this
however, and generally attributed famine, poverty and other catastrophic
occurrences to divine intervention (he was a very religious man, a clergyman, in
fact). He believed that such natural outcomes were essentially God’s way of
preventing man from being lazy. The point here is not to provide an evaluation
of Malthus, and one might well argue that he was wrong in many of his
predictions; but rather to highlight the posit that man has long been living
beyond his means. Sooner or later, this will have its consequences. As a
species, our success has certainly been impressive, but it has come by turning a
blind-eye to our surroundings. "A prime reason for our success is our
flexibility as a switcher predator and scavenger. We are consummately adaptable,
able to switch form one resource base—grasslands, forests or estuaries—to
another, as each is exploited to its maximum tolerance or use up. Like other
successful species we have learned to adapt ourselves to new environments. But,
unlike other animals, we made a jump from being successful to being a runaway
success. We have made this jump because of our ability to adapt environments for
our own uses in ways that no other animal can match."

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