Queen's University

Resource use is threatening our civilization: Biology professor

 
2013-02-19

Our civilization is almost certainly headed towards a crash unless we stop overindulging in non-renewable resources and suppress our natural instincts to reproduce, according to Queen’s University professor Paul Grogan.

In a recent article, Dr. Grogan (Biology) says the key to a more sustainable world is putting the brakes on resource consumption and having fewer babies. Over the 20th century, global population grew by four times but the economy grew by 40 times. The best way to start addressing this problem is to educate both our children and ourselves about how to change our behaviour, particularly through reducing our resource-intense lifestyles.

“We generally bury our heads in the sand in terms of facing up to the problem,” says Dr. Grogan. “In fact, our biology drives us toward progress and distractions from such harsh realities. For example, we act and vote as if economic growth can go on forever, which is simply ridiculous. Yes recycling helps but just a little and it’s only addressing the tip of the iceberg. The earth has limited amounts of clean fresh water, fossil fuel and fertile soil, and our increasingly intense use of these and many other resources is rapidly depleting them and producing wastes such as carbon dioxide that is warming our climate.

While there were one billion people on the planet in 1800, by October 2011 that number had jumped to seven billion people.

“The human population has now grown beyond the planet’s carrying capacity. In other words, all of us together are using more resources than our planet can provide, while producing more waste than it can cope with,” says Dr. Grogan. “We need to slow down and step off this current track of individualism and self-absorption. Many people will think that my perspective is unnecessarily gloomy, but to ignore it, as we are currently doing, is in fact a lot gloomier.”

Dr. Grogan’s paper entitled What can biology tell us about our future? appeared in Free Inquiry, a journal published by the Council for Secular Humanism.

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