Catton Essay

Submitted By marquez3581
Words: 2640
Pages: 11

Theft from the future sounds like a corny plot straight out of a d-list science fiction movie, but it is something we are all guilty of, weather we want to admit it or not. Most of us would probably never admit it because we don’t even realize that we are accomplices. Since the Industrial Revolution, mankind, especially Americans, have been stealing precious resources from future generations. Mainly the fossil fuels we have become so addicted to using. Once the Industrial Revolution got underway, each succeeding generation has had a somewhat better quality of life due to advances in technology, but that is beginning to look less and less likely for the future. With very few people realizing it, our lavish lifestyles and many conveniences that are provided by that technology are putting future generations at risk of not only poorer quality of life, but even at risk for extinction. Richard A. Slaughter (2010:5) sums it up well here; “Yet standing behind current concerns that fill the headlines daily (economic woes, political dilemmas, armed conflicts, and the struggle to seriously address global warming) there's another deeper, larger, and more systemic danger that we overlook at our peril. It has to do with the way that humanity's collective impacts have already exceeded global limits in some key areas and look set to exceed others later in this century. The puzzling thing is, however, that this is not news. The dangers of the growth trajectory have been understood and spelled out with increasing clarity and rigor for several decades. Unfortunately these signals of change have been widely ignored in favor of business-as-usual and the continued pursuit of growth at any cost.”
When most people think of carrying capacity, they probably think about the maximum load a trailer could support or how much junk they could fit into a backpack or purse without ever considering that Earth, or any other planet for that matter, also has a carrying capacity. If you were to overload a trailer, it may not function properly or even just flat out break. Well, the same holds true for the Earth. If we overfill it with too many humans, it’s delicately constructed ecosystem won’t function properly. For the past four hundred years or so, mankind has continually made vast amounts of progress. So much that people tend to take it for granted and just expect it to continue perpetually, but dependence on finite resources makes that impossible. The progress over those four centuries was driven by two major feats that cannot be repeated. First, the discovery of the other half of the planet which basically doubled the carrying capacity of the, then known, planet. And second were the advances made in efforts to exploit the Earth’s natural resources, specifically fossil fuels. Each of those achievements are representative of two of the ways mankind has temporarily increased Earth’s carrying capacity. The discovery of the western hemisphere illustrates the takeover method which increases opportunity for one species while reducing it for others. Europeans came to the Americas and saw endless opportunity and potential for growth at the expense of all the native inhabitants, both human and not. They also had a miscalculated theory of limitless resources which caused them to employ the drawdown method and develop new technologies to extract the fossil fuels at an ever increasing rate.
By the use of fire and the innovation of tools between 2 million B.C. and about 35,000 B.C., human population increased to approximately 3 million and gradually continued until the Earth had about 8 million humans by 8,000 B.C. With the cultivation of plants turning the hunter gatherers into farmers, world population had a 975% increase to 86 million. With more advanced tools and the use of animals to help farm coupled with the invention of firearms, population increased to 336 million. The advanced weaponry in the European arsenal allowed them to conquer new lands fairly easily and