Heal Our Planet Earth
HOPE
Letters

The 3 Critical Days of Earth

21 April 2007

To Heal Our Planet Earth (HOPE - www.HOPE-CARE.org), every day is Earth Day. But today is special, because it is also everyone’s Earth Day.

In the 2006 Animal Rights Conference in Washington DC (see www.ARConference.org), I was given to lead the rap session titled “Is Human Population Our Issue? (should we be involved in campaigns to control human population growth?).” This is a subject that not all activists want to openly tackle, for fear of being branded a “racist”, because most if not all of the overpopulation occurs in Third World countries (although most of the over-consumption occurs in the Developed Nations). As for me, I’ve already been so branded (in the context of the Anti-Makah-Whaling campaign in 1999, along with the other anti-whaling activists - still on the internet), so what did I have to lose? 70 people showed up, which was not bad. The session concluded on the following parable:

Suppose there is a pond, which contains a population of fish. Suppose there is a species of floating red algae (that doubles itself once a day) which could choke the lake of oxygen and kill off all the fish. Suppose a cell of the red alga was accidentally dropped into the pond. And suppose that it took the red algae three years to cover one-eighth of the pond. How much longer will the fish have before being choked to death?

I timed it. It took the hushed audience six seconds to say, “Three days.”

Case in point, the biosphere of the planet Earth is this pond, the species Homo sapiens is this algae, planted into the biosphere by evolution a quarter of a million years ago. How long in the Gregorian Calendar these “three days” will last remains to be seen. But we are in there somewhere, maybe near high noon of the second day, or maybe already in the twilight of the third and the last.

Over the last decade of working for the tigers and bears and seals and whales and dolphins and seals and deer (see www.HOPE-CARE.org), I have seen something in common among them - us. The diverse problems they face - deforestation, pollution, overgrazing, overhunting, overfishing, ozone depletion, global warming… - have a dual common cause - human overpopulation and per capita consumption of Earth’s limited resources, including its capacity to absorb or absolve human abuse.

By the same pond analogy, though the fish would be wiped out, the red algae would survive in an otherwise lifeless pond. Given the considerable human ingenuity in technological matters and the myopic yet boundless human self-interest of the human species, I am willing to concede that the human species might survive, but at what cost? Would the Bengal tiger survive, which the Bali tiger, the Javan tiger and the Caspian tiger (yes, in the Middle East) did not? Would the heavily over-fished Atlantic cod survive? I sincerely hope so. “Anything is possible.” and “Hope springs eternal”.

On a rather desperately optimistic note, I can say that I think at least the deer will survive, because the trophy hunters are deliberately cultivating deer overpopulation across the land to the point of environmental damage so that they will have enough deer to hunt, but this is another story.

But it begs one last question: How much is too much, how little is not enough? Have we created too much of a problem? Do we have enough time?

Anthony Marr

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