Brown: We humans seem to be designed to fail. What’s the problem? (column)
January 3, 2018
We humans seem to be designed to fail. Why? Is it because that in spite of our intelligence and inventiveness we lack common sense? Are we blindly pursuing a course of self-destruction? Yes, I'm afraid so. Let me explain.
Like all living creatures, nature has given us a built-in desire to reproduce. This has been to assure that our species survives in the struggle for space and resources.
Most species cherish and love their offspring. Protection of the young seems to be one of our strongest instincts. In reviewing my own life, I know it has been that way for me. My happiest times have been with my young children. But how far does this love extend beyond the immediate family, to friends and nation and to all life?
In the beginning, we humanoids struggled with predatory carnivores, inadequate food supplies, diseases, etc. But these did not overwhelm us; we figured out ways to survive. Over time, we formed tribes that began to prosper in many of the less hostile world environments. As some of us became more powerful, we realized that we needed more land, and so we started wars to take lands away from less powerful groups. But there was still plenty of room to grow. The defeated people simply moved and adapted to new surroundings elsewhere. The Inuit in the Arctic are just one example.
Instead of defeating other tribes in warfare, some of our leaders saw an advantage in absorbing these people into their own tribes. This is when religions came into existence. The defeated people had the option to join the dominating tribes or possibly face being pushed out or even destroyed. Many joined.
The Christian religion appealed to many people, and it grew and prospered as a result. Christ, the savior, promised salvation from evil, but another basic premise of the religion was "to go forth and multiply and subdue the Earth." This aggressive approach worked as long as there was enough land and food to support the ever-increasing populations. Over thousands of years, new religions and variations of earlier religions developed and fought wars, this time over their beliefs, but also over the better land that was becoming more and more necessary to support its growing populations.
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Today, it's clear we have reached the point where we've outgrown the planet's ability to produce enough resources to support us. And the land is almost all occupied. That's the basic problem: an infinitely growing population on a planet with finite resources. The result is "less for more." War and famine have become the norm in many places on the planet.
We have built a rich and prosperous civilization here in America based on democracy and capitalism. Democracy has given all people an equal voice in the governing process, but capitalism has not. Capitalism, by definition, rewards its proponents with money and power. This money and power has gravitated to a few, while many others have been left out.
Many of those people with wealth, or an overwhelming desire for it, have found a champion in President Donald Trump, who also thinks primarily in terms of money and power.
The capitalists have found a way to manipulate democracy by literally buying off those who might otherwise defend it. This has America, and the rest of the world (because, until now, America has been the world leader), in a serious quandary. Selfish interests have uprooted the basic premise of democracy, a government for and by all its citizens, not just a privileged few.
The results are already disastrous. One can see the degradation everywhere. Protections for the less fortunate are being stripped away, as are environmental regulations. Millions of people, not just in the Third World but here in America, are living in poverty, and it's only going to get worse.
It is painfully obvious that industrial pollution is causing global warming and that this, in turn, is causing rising sea levels, erratic weather patterns and a loss of critical crops that people depend upon. The result is the collapse of the earth's ecosystems and still more destruction and death.
Underlying this situation is still the basic problem. The planet is using up most of its resources while at the same time trying to support a population that is increasing exponentially. It cannot be sustained.
This collapse brings out the worst in human nature. People view the world as a hopeless struggle for survival, of a "me or you" instead of a "me and you" philosophy. Even some religious groups have given up the goal of "compassion and kindness" for power and control. Hate seems to be the dominating emotion as a result.
Common sense demands that we change our course before it's too late. The question is, do enough of have the will to address "The Problem" or not. Time is running out.
Post scripts: Our desire for immortality is often implemented foolishly. I find it ironic that some people put everything on the line to accumulate wealth while knowing that we all have finite lifetimes. How many trophy homes dot our landscapes here in the Aspen/Vail area that were built by 60- or 70-year-old men who have died within a few years of completing these ego monuments? And who else wants someone's inefficient, glitzy, personalized monster?
Meanwhile, pristine wilderness has been lost, not only to the general public, but to life sustaining ecosystems, as well. Here in the Rocky Mountains, we have some of the most beautiful landscapes of Earth, but they are fast disappearing.
Planned Parenthood: I believe this is ultimately an environmental organization. They may not directly address the overpopulation issue, but they recognize the problem of unwanted pregnancies, and they give potential mothers a chance to weigh the implications of a child in their lives before it's inevitable, and they make contraception available, which is a far easier solution than abortion. It's common sense.
Roger Brown is an Emmy Award-winning filmmaker who moved to Vail in 1961. His films comprise Vail's history and were made into a movie for Vail's 50th anniversary.
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