When I was in 5th grade, a friend called me out on my littering as we walked through the field from her house to mine. She taught me that litter was my responsibility. Especially my litter. My trash scattered on the landscape detracted from its beauty — for me and everyone else looking at it.
Through the decades, I’ve come to see myself as a guest on Earth. As a good guest, I strive to not do damage or be wasteful. That’s the attitude everyone needs to adopt if we are going to have enough resources to support our ever-growing population.
How do we reconcile the science and technology that are striving to improve the quality of our lives, effort that is extending our life spans with the already-stressed natural resources? We reconcile it by combining our science, technology, and individual efforts. I believe living a life well lived includes caring not just for yourself but also for others and the environment.
The world is already overpopulated, according to some people and news sources. Air and water pollution. Inadequate food supplies. Droughts and fires. Hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods. Melting ice caps and rising oceans. Animals are going extinct. Wars and diseases ravage parts of the world. The world seems to be in a terrible plight. And population is increasing. Surely things will get worse.
But, do they have to?
Humans rally when things get bad. We find solutions to our problems. The thing is, we seem to wait until we are at the brink before taking action. That seems crazy to me. Why do humans struggle with seeing the impending disasters they are running pell-mell into? I guess we are waiting until we get to the precipice before taking action. We evidently like or need the pressure. It’s time to rally.
One concern for, or argument against, increasing longevity is that the world’s resources are already stressed. More people will be more stressed. I totally agree — if we don’t make changes.
The Earth has finite resources, so why not use them more carefully whether we’re living longer or not? Reducing demand on them is the first and most important step to take. That means buying fewer things, reusing what we buy, and recycling what we aren’t using any longer. And it means turning to scientists to figure out a way to protect our finite resources.
It’s amusing to me to hear myself say that. As a freshman in college, I was sure that technology was going to be the world’s downfall. Freshmen in college know everything, you know.
I argued with a freshman engineering student about how to save the environment with me taking the stance that only human care would make the difference and him taking the stance that technology was the answer. I love the memory of my romantic notion of trusting humans to do the right thing — all the time.
And today, I say that we were both right.
The plague and cholera wiped out huge populations of people before science and technology figured out the problem and humans started doing their part of putting an end to their massive death tolls. There are two examples to illustrate how the problem we face today— and will continue to face — will be solved.
Science and technology are going to find answers to some of our issues. As science and technology can’t help humans live healthier lives without humans helping and doing their part, science and technology can’t solve all of the environmental and resource issues without humans helping and doing their part.
Just as it’s important for you to take care of yourself, it’s also important for you to take care of your part of the Earth. What’s good for you is good for the Earth, and vice versa. Take care of yourself and enjoy the extra years you are going to have as you enjoy the wonders of the earth, and leave the place clean for your children and grandchildren.
Will living longer lives push earth’s resources to the limit? I don’t believe so — if we find ways to reduce our demand on them. That’s a problem we can solve together.
When there are problems, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping,” said Fred “Mr.” Rogers. The complex environmental and longevity questions have their helpers. What will be around the corner to make this better? I can’t wait to see. It’ll be right out of science fiction.