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Summary

A second widely-held misperception involves the seeming immensity of earth's atnmosphere, oceans, and seas. 


Because three-quarters of the earth's surface is
covered with lakes, rivers, oceans, seas, and ice,
it is both easy - and descriptive - to picture our
home as "a water planet" that could easily be
known as "Planet Ocean."

                               (IOF, 1978; Anson, 1991, 1996, 2007)

 

On the other hand, if we consider earth's oceans
and atmosphere as strictly surface features of our
planet, an entirely different perspective emerges.

For example, 99.94% of our planet "consists of its
crust, mantle, and molten interior," and the thin layer

 

"...of water that we refer to as an ocean exists only as an
inexpressibly thin and precarious surface film
that is only  
6/100
ths of  1%  as thick as the earth itself." 

 

     Courtesy, What Every Citizen Should Know About Our Planet (Anson, 2007)

 

To proportionally illustrate this depth to scale on a
classroom globe, we would need a thin film of water

                 just twelve one-thousandths of an inch deep
              to accurately convey the depth of the earth's oceans.


In a similar way, earth's seemingly-enormous
atmosphere also qualifies as a
nother thin and
precarious surface film which astronauts and
cosmonauts have likened to "a single layer of
skin on an onion."
   (ibid)

 

 

 

 

 

 PART TWO:

No other animals do this

...and no other animals have ever done this...


Earlier we have noted that the pollution released by
today's population explosion of an increasingly
industrialized humanity is, in some ways, reminiscent
of population explosions of red-tide dinoflagellates
in a marine environment

with the exception that, unlike dinoflagellate cells,
our own pollution consists of far more than
our biological and cellular wastes




For example, envision an individual animal of any
species other than our own.  In virtually all of these
cases, the organism's daily pollution of its environment
is limited to its daily production of its bodily wastes. 

Next, however, envision an ordinary human being
living in an industrialized country.  One's daily body
wastes are again a factor, of course, but humanity's
collective biological wastes are natural products that
have little impact on global systems.

        From What Every Citizen Should Know About Our Planet
                                                        
Used with permission.

 

Now, however, envision
this same human being in
an automobile, backed up
in crowded traffic on a
busy eight-lane highway. 


All around in every direction
are hundreds of other cars
and trucks and buses,
each spewing exhaust from
an internal combustion
engine.  


         This already demonstrates ways that each of us are individually 
       contributing much more than our body wastes to our surroundings 

 

 

Notice also that these additional wastes do not constitute an
unusual or once-in-a-lifetime contribution by each of us. 

 

Instead we repeat
these assaults again
and again and again,

day after day,
throughout
our lives. 


Every day, from all of 
those tailpipes on each
and every bumper-to-
bumper interstate,
boulevard,
and highway,


            we spew molecules of carbon dioxide
                       and other noxious fumes. 

 

 

We are the only animals on earth that do this

 

 

and we do so during each and every
rush hour, on every grocery-run, on
every holiday trip to visit family, and
during every postal delivery. 


And we repeat this behavior every day -
again and again and again - in Beijing,
Los Angeles, Mumbai, Tokyo, Cairo,
Karachi, Jakarta, Peoria, New York
City, Moscow, and Rio de Janiero -

 

releasing more multiple billions of tons
of waste, without fail, relentlessly into 

        the onion-skin-thin layer of air
                                          that makes up earth's atmosphere

 

 

 

We are the only animals on earth that do this -

                          and we are not even at home or work yet.  (ibid)

 

 

Now we switch on our heating and air-
conditioning units, run a dishwasher and
clothes dryer, run our lawnmowers and
weed-trimmers,

 

our refrigerators and freezers, our
street lights, fluorescent lights, toaster-
ovens, microwaves, hair-dryers,
steel-mills, shopping malls, motor
boats, television studios, and hot-
water heaters. 

 

 

     And then we repeat these same activities 
                                        
every day, again and again and again,

so that our power plants,
on our behalf, release
still more tons of wastes
and fumes,

 

 

without fail,  relentlessly
and endlessly, into the
onion-skin-thin 
                   
                        layer of air that constitutes earth's atmosphere

 

 

 

 

We are the only
animals that do this

                                      or that have EVER done this

 

and we still have not
yet added the wastes
generated by unwanted
catalogue mailings,

 

throw-away containers
and items shipped
halfway around the world. 

 

 

 

No other animals
  on earth do this -

 

     how can we imagine that endless billions of us can endlessly 
         behave in this way without calamitous repercussions?

 

If we intend to enjoy such extravagance,
our populations must be smaller.

 

 

 

If world population
did not grow at all,
all of these impacts
would likely double

as the world's poorest
nations industrialize
and seek to emulate
our own standard of living. 

 

Knowing that earth's
atmosphere is not
responding to our
assaults very well  
right now,


we are nevertheless on-track to add 

                at least a 7th, 8th, and 9th billion to our numbers

                                                   between now and mid-century" (ibid)

 

     What Every Citizen Should Know About Our Planet (Anson, 2007)

 

 

 

 PART THREE

 

Finally, another perspective has recently
appeared in Thomas Friedman's new book
Hot, Flat, and Crowded (2008). 

 

Pulitzer Prize winner Friedman cites
    California Institute of Technology 
       chemist Nate Lewis as follows:

 

"Imagine you are driving your car and every mile you
drive
you throw a pound of trash out your window.

 

And everyone else on
the freeway in their cars
and trucks are doing
the exact same thing,

 

and people driving
Hummers are throwing
two bags out at a time –
one out the driver-side
window and one out
the passenger-side
window.....    

 

Well, that is exactly
what we are doing;
you just can’t see it.

 

Only what we are throwing out is a pound of CO2 – that’s what
      goes into the atmosphere, on average, every mile we drive.”      

 

 

 

 

 

 

       

PART FOUR

 

 

In summary, there are three
      main points to be made:

 

 

 

(1

 

The widely-held misperception that the
presence of "vast amounts of open space"
somehow exempts us from population
calamity is

                   deeply, seriously, and dangerously erroneous

 

 

  

(2

 

In addition, it is worth noting that although
population explosions of dinoflagellate cells

such as Karenia brevis can release deadly

levels of brevetoxins into their surroundings,

 

today our own species does not confine

itself to release of our cellular and biological

wastes into our environment, but supplements

these bodily wastes with biologically-

unprecedented levels of industrial and

societal wastes.

 

 

 

 

 

(3)

 

No other animals supplement

              their biological wastes in this way

 

No other animals have EVER

        supplemented their wastes in this way

 

                                and

 

      even red-tide dinoflagellates never generate

   the levels of non-biological/non-cellular wastes

        that our own species is generating today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“A continuation of today’s demographic tidal wave may constitute

the greatest single risk that our species has ever undertaken.”

 

What Every Citizen Should Know About Our Planet

 

 

 

 

 

 GPSO 2010

The comments, illustrations, mathematics, and data presented on this site

are offered as a contribution to the Global Population Speak Out dialogue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright 2010, Randolph Femmer.

All rights reserved.