From the homefront - We call this "Brie TV." Since our dog falls in love with them every year and can't stop looking at them, Murph built a box for the chicks with a plexiglass wall so Brie can look at them easily.
New chicks staying warm. This year we added 5 Dominiques, an Arracouna, and another Bard Rock. Brie, of course, considers them hers.
First European mesclun mix greens from the greenhouse for a Waldorf salad. Added apples, raisins, and walnuts.
Chicken vegetable soup.... what's better for flu season?
Gotta have some bread to go with the soup. This is a whole wheat Challah loaf.
And now, a post from ras... thanks, ras!!
Welcome to the Bottleneck
Bottleneck: the narrowest portion of a bottle, through which only a small portion of the contents can pass at a time. Or, an evolutionary event(s) in which the population of a species is significantly reduced. This Wikipedia page contains an excellent description of this latter definition of ‘bottleneck’: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Population_bottleneck
So, why am I going to discuss bottlenecks? (The latter kind, of course.) Can you possibly imagine a more depressing topic? (Well, yes, but let’s not go there right now.) I decided on this topic because it is very important right now, as we have entered the human bottleneck. No more is it looming on the horizon, much less so distant it is our grandchildren’s problem. No, the bottleneck is here. Now. Today. We have entered the bottleneck. It will take several generations for us to work through it, but here we are.
We can not say we were not warned. Since the 1970s –well before I was born, by the way, and I am old enough now to have children in kindergarten –we have been warned by increasingly strident scientists and others with their heads out of the sand that we could not go on wantonly consuming resources and reproducing like rabbits. Eventually, we were warned, our resources would start to deplete and we would run out or hit a wall. Everything from paper to petroleum would be in increasingly short supply. The increasing world population would only exacerbate the problem.
Numerous people have warned about the population problem, or bomb, as the Ehrlichs put it. All of them have been ridiculed. No matter how many people we have, the argument goes, it won’t be a problem. We can put them somewhere and more people means more innovation, more creativity, etc. These arguments are patent nonsense of course, but the people who made them have succeeded in marginalizing anyone who speaks openly about the dangers of population growth. Not only that, but mention overpopulation and many people will immediately scream that you are a racist, or a sexist, or eugenicist, or all of the above.
The reality is that we live on a finite planet with limited resources that are all ready under strain. The best estimates of the long-term carrying capacity of the planet range from 1-3 billion people. How many people are currently in the world? Um, 7.5 billion. This means that, under the most optimistic scenario, we currently have MORE THAN TWO AND A HALF TIMES as many people as the world can sustainably support. To make matters worse, the overconsumption of natural resources is steadily degrading the long-term carrying capacity of the planet.
Insert the ‘oh shit’ moment here. Quite clearly, we are in trouble. The world’s population is going to have to go down by at least half. Probably more. We will almost certainly undershoot the carrying capacity –that is how these things tend to work. It’s like an oscillating spring. Up, then down, then up and down again before stabilization is reached. There is no longer any question that this will happen. We have overshot our carrying capacity to the point were a correction is inevitable. The only question now is how it will happen. There are several different ways. The first, and the one I’m certain everyone would prefer, is a gradual, humane way. This path involves a gradual stabilization of the human population over several generations, followed by an equally gradual reduction. It’s the best possible way, and the one the UN is targeting. It also has less than a snowball’s chance in hell of working. Why? Remember that we are all ready well into resource depletion. We do not have the resources to support the current population for the rest of their lives much less several generations.
What about the other methods? All of them are much less nice, and they all involve the familiar four horsemen of the apocalypse: Famine, Plague, Pestilence, and War. We can throw in the collapse of a civilization or two, as resource depletion will certainly take down many modern ways of life. I am not talking about a sudden die-off of humanity. Well, it will be sudden in nature’s terms, but not in human terms. We humans have a hard time thinking on Mother Nature’s timescales. This transition will take at least three generations –call it a century. There will not be one event –one massive, killer plague that sweeps the globe and takes out half the world’s population in one fell swoop. (I, for one, would argue that would probably be a much more humane way for it to happen.) Instead, what we will see will be a gradual but steady reduction as famines, disease and plague, climate change, and several wars all take their toll.
Why am I certain we have all ready hit the bottleneck? Peak Oil is behind us; that was the driver of growth for all these years. With no forthcoming growth in oil production, there can be no more economic growth. We are also at or nearly at the peak of several other necessary resources –water, phosphorous, seafood, topsoil, etc. There will be a lag time of several years as depletion arcs work there way through human systems, but soon it will be all downhill in terms of population. At least for a long while. I do not expect the extinction of the human race –we are far too tenacious and far too adaptable.
In the end this will be a good thing. Oh, not for the people whose lives are cut short. But we are not the only species on this planet and a reduction in our numbers will be good for all the others and the planet herself. I also think it will be good for the human race as a whole. With less of us around, each of us who are left will matter more. Imagine a time when every person is special again instead of just one more face.
This isn’t a post about how we personally can survive the bottleneck. Because this transition will take about a century, no one who is alive now, save perhaps a babe in arms, will see the other side. Our job is to survive as long as we can as well as we can and to do our best to make certain our descendants and those we care about live as well. Even those of us who have no children have young people we care and worry about. What can we do to help ensure this?
· Become as self-sufficient as possible. Know how to take care of yourself and live as disconnected from the system as possible. These systems will all start to break down as things get worse.
· Teach young people the skills they need to take care of themselves. Get them unplugged from the IPOD and the internet for a while. Make sure they know how to garden and can and hunt.
· Don’t live in heavily overpopulated areas. This includes much of the world –and especially the southwestern U.S. Try not to live in any area that is drought prone. Wars are going to be fought over water in the coming years. You don’t want to be someplace where your life will (literally) depend on the outcome.
· Get out of major metropolitan areas. I’m not saying move to the sticks, but get out of
· Get in shape and get out of debt. ‘Nough said.
There are many other things I could add, but I think that’s enough. Everyone who reads this is going to know how much trouble we are in right now, and the basic things we can do for ourselves.
I would like to close this short essay with a description of the world as it will be far after the fall of Western civilization. I do not share the despair of many in the environmental movement. Yes, we have done great, serious, and irreparable harm. Harm that we should (rightly) spend the next several generations setting to rights. But we have come nowhere near destroying the earth, as many people believe. We do not, lacking a nuclear war or a superbug that wipes out all plant live, have that kind of power. This kind of notion once again arises from those who are confusing human time with nature’s time. Do not think in years or decades. Think in centuries and millennia.
A hundred years from now, what will the world look like if civilization collapses soon? Well, most of our buildings will be gone. We are not the Romans, who built for the long haul. Most subdivisions will have reverted to nature, and 90% of the houses will have fallen down or nearly so. Most skyscrapers will have collapsed. Concrete roads will have cracked and many overpasses will have come down. The forest will have returned with a vengeance across broad swaths of the world. Climate change will still be ongoing. There will still be a lot of pollution. The ocean will be nowhere near clean yet, though it will be much cleaner with the cessation of toxic waste and plastic dumping. Nuclear waste and invasive species will still be a problem. Most of our dams will still be standing.
Fast forward to a 1,000 years from now. Nascent successor civilizations will have formed. The effects of climate change will be slowly leveling off. Invasive species will have come to new balances with the local ecology. The Roman and other ruins will still be around, albeit in slightly worse shape than today. Almost all traces of our buildings will be gone. The remains of tract houses and interstates will be buried beneath a new forest floor. Many of the world’s largest cities will be underwater. Most dams will have significant cracks or have breached entirely. The oceans will have started their recovery. New species will have started to evolve or will expand their areas into niches vacated by those we’ve driven to extinction. Mother Nature’s own cleaning systems will have started to deal with the chemical pollution and other waste we’ve left behind. No one really knows how fast evolution can happen, but there are good signs that it can happen extremely fast and thus there might all ready be new microbes that eat plastic or toxic waste. Nuclear waste will still be a problem. The best preserved relics will be in deserts.
10,000 years from now. Humanity will probably sill be around. The effects of climate change will be mostly over. The world will almost certainly be in an ice age or have gone through one by this point. Large glaciers will descend from the poles and scrub the earth down to the rocks. Whatever is left of Western civilization will mostly disappear beneath them. The Statue of Liberty, one of the few things that will last a long time as it is made of bronze, will end up at the bottom of
100,000 years from now. It is more than conceivable that homo sapiens will still be around. We’ve been around in our current form for more than that, and the average run for a species is longer than this. What will their societies look like? I have no idea, and would not presume to say. But they will live in a much cleaner world. The oceans should have completed their recovery. New species will have certainly developed by this point to take over vacant niches. Even Hoover Dam and Three Gorges Dam will be nothing but concrete fragments. There will still be some chemical and heavy metals pollutions, but even that will have been diluted by the passage of time. Even nuclear waste will have lost some of its potency. Will our descendants still tell stories of times we flew in the air and walked on the moon?
1 million years from now. Humans will almost certainly either be extinct or have evolved into something far different than our current incarnation. By this point the last traces of our civilizations –nuclear waste –will no longer be around, or at least not enough of it to be hazardous. There will still be bronze tools and statutes. It will be a different world, yes, but a living world nonetheless –and one the passage of time has scrubbed clean of our folly. In the end the things we have built that will endure the longest are not on this planet at all. Millions of years from now, there will still be a few sets of footprints and a lonely flag on the moon. When the sun goes nova and wipes even that out, far from our solar system Voyager will still be journeying, heading towards a far distant star