Bob Stannard: Whales are the new canaries

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"Within the last 10 years, we have recovered 61 whales and dolphins just within the Davao Gulf. Of them, 57 have died due to man — whether they ingested plastic or fishing nets or other waste, or gotten caught in pollution — and four were pregnant." Darrell Blatchley, marine biologist and environmentalist based in the Philippine city of Davao.

As my regular readers know, I just returned from a trip to Burma. I got to do and see things I've only dreamed of, but one thing I noticed that made an impression. Wherever I went, no matter how remote, there were people. It got me wondering if there is any place left on earth where there are no people. There may be, but I'm starting to think that there may not be.

While we're sitting around worrying about climate change, pollution, running out of resources or all of the ills facing the world today there's only one real problem that we have; and that's us. Per Wikipedia: "The world population is projected to reach 8 billion in 2023, 9 billion in 2037, and 10 billion people in the year 2055. It has doubled in 40 years from 1959 (3 billion) to 1999 (6 billion). is currently (2019-2020) growing at a rate of around 1.08 % per year, adding 82 million people per year to the total."

Eighty-two million new people per year. That is like nine, new New York Cities each and every year. Are we really ready for this? Our planet is overheating because of us. Too many humans are what's causing the problems of the world; not the world causing problems for too many humans. Were it not for humans, 61 whales and dolphins would not have washed up on shore with a stomach full of plastic. That happened because of you and me. The world is warming up because there's too much carbon as the result of you and me burning fossil fuels. Resources are running low, because we've reached the point where the world can no longer sustain this many people living the way we live.

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The earth is 4.5 billion years old. Man has inhabited the earth for only 66 million of those years and did so with a relatively light impact. That changed around my grandfather's, or maybe my great-grandfather's lifetime. We've made great strides in allowing us to live longer and more comfortably. On one level that's great. But it appears as though the cost for our advancement may be the destruction of our species. We have to find a way to not only stop population growth, but reverse it. If not, the Earth will do the job for us and that's not likely to a be pretty solution.

All other species have two positions; predator or prey. When there's enough prey there're more predators. When the prey cycle is down there are fewer predators. The life cycle is kept in check. There's one exception, and that's humans. We have no check on us. Sure we have some diseases and people with guns who kill us off, but nothing that will curb the growth of 80 million new people every year.

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Not only are we not addressing the only real problem facing mankind; we're subjected to the beliefs of some who insist that every woman who becomes pregnant must have the child. In addition, many of these people are opposed to any kind of birth control. If their logic prevails, then mankind will put on its running shoes and race right into oblivion. Some religious fanatics have advocated for years that the Rapture is coming (think Y2K). That it's God's will or whatever. Notwithstanding that this position is absolute madness, it's really not our best move.

We need to start today, right now, with a plan to reverse population growth. Start with education. Explain sex and reproduction in every school. Make contraceptive devices readily available to every person of age. Subsidize vasectomies for men and any alternatives available for women. There should be no discussion if a woman needs or wants an abortion. Whatever it takes is what we must do.

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This may seem harsh, but think about it. The antelope population is controlled by a lion hunting down, catching and tearing to shreds a young or weak member of the herd. Watch a video of just how gruesome that process is. Humans should be grateful that we don't have predators that control our herd. Instead, what we do have is the intelligence to control our population. The question is do we have the will to do so or are we going to be influenced by those who believe in religion over science?

If we can't do it ourselves, the earth is going to end up being our one and only predator. Her culling of our herd will be a much more unpleasant fate than that of the weak antelope.

It's time to change the dialog from worrying about saving the earth to worrying about saving you, me, our grandkids and generations for the next million years. We can start by listening to the whales. They're telling us all we need to know.

Bob Stannard writes a regular column for the Banner.


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