By Becca Bayham
Does the world seem a little angsty-er to you? It should, it’s got way more adolescents.
“There were only a billion people [on Earth] in 1800; now we have a billion teenagers,” said Andrew Revkin, a prize-winning journalist and New York Times blogger, during a lecture on Jan. 18.
“Is this a sign of overpopulation?” someone in the audience joked, referring to the jam-packed classroom.
Likely not, but, as Revkin discussed, resource limits and an explosive human population growth may eventually cause population or economic declines.
“We don’t seem to have distinguished ourselves from bacteria on a plate of agar yet,” Revkin said. “Science is saying hey, hey, there’s an edge to the dish! But we’re still in go-go-go mode.”
The fact that we will reach the edge of the dish is undeniable — and it won’t be pretty. To illustrate, Revkin showed a picture of Black Friday shoppers fighting over a sale item.
“Can you imagine everyone doing this?” he said.
Unfortunately, we humans are historically bad at confronting problems that don’t affect us here-and-now. If in doubt, see our lackluster response to the national debt. Or global climate change, for that matter (a topic Revkin often blogs about).
“There’s a big chunk of everyone who just doesn’t want to deal with global warming, to tell you the truth… it’s hard, it’s complex, it’s laden with layers of complicit uncertainty. What is it and what do you do about it?”
Revkin believes that global connectedness, powered by the internet, offers a solution to the many problems humanity will face in coming years.
Communication between people — sharing information and exchanging ideas — has long fueled our economy and fostered human progress. According to Revkin, a network of collaborating schools, libraries, businesses and other institutions (a “knowsphere”) could help combat problems ranging from natural disaster preparedness to the treatment of diseases.
“Much of human progress can be charted in relation to our linkages with others,” he said.
In the 1920s, philosophers Vladimir Vernadsky and Teilhard de Chardin conceptualized the idea of a “noosphere” (from the Greek “nous”, mind and sphaira, “sphere”), a philosophical sphere of intelligence around the Earth that humans could draw from — a planet of the mind. Back then, it was just an idea.
“But now, it’s happening,” Revkin said.