Meet the Percapitas! and why we’re facing extinction

This is a five year old article that addresses the crux of our problem in facing human extinction. It’s brilliantly executed by one Tim Murray, and brought to my attention by Gail Zawacki, who blogs away under the title At Wits End in New Jersey. This is how the piece starts:


Hi there! We’re the Percapitas.

We’ve cut per capita consumption and our per capita waste. We compost, we conserve, we re-use and we recycle. And we’re going to teach our three carbon footprints—-Mark, David and Robert—to do the same.

Yes, we know that each of us will require more than 38,000 pounds of mined resources each and every year to maintain our cosmetically green American lifestyle, or 2.96 million pounds in our average lifetime of 77.9 years…

You can find the full article here

I’d recommend you check out the rest of the blog–some interesting opinions served up.

But back to the above. Nobody wants to talk about population overshoot as a principal cause of our current crisis. But in a century’s time, we added almost six billion humans to the planet, or (to put it another way) we added six billion humans to a planet that hadn’t seen more than a billion humans at one time for the 200,000 years there have been humans. Even if we were all living in mud huts and eating vegan (instead of consuming animal protein, which is a food sink for human agriculture), we’d be in some trouble right now. And we’re doing far worse than that lifestyle. The planet can’t support more than a billion people wanting to live like ‘Muricans, which is where every clever ape wants to be. 

But people who understand population control as a critical piece of saving the planet are throwing in the towel. Even the Chinese have done away with their draconian one-child policy. Most industrialized nations are in population decline, but what happens on the rest of the planet more than makes up for it. And nobody’s figured out what to do when nations that opt out of population growth have a population that’s past working age. Japan has faced this problem for decades–one in five Japanese are ‘retirement’ aged. What happens with a whole planet in that demographic trap?

One of the issues I deal with in my new play Planet Hospice is the issue of overpopulation. For 200,000 years, humans that have reproduced have thrived. We’re the result of people who reproduced, and we’ve hard-wired procreation into our DNA. We like making miniature copies of ourselves, and the idea that humanity’s best chance at survival is making more of us is part of our genes. But go look at The Percapitas and figure out a way to reconcile our desire to keep our DNA in the game and the fact that there’s too much human DNA walking around already. Putting the Percapitas in mud huts and taking away their cars won’t fix population overshoot.

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