The elephant in the room

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FOR today, I’m going to yield the floor to my father, Lou Kritz, whose recent emigration to Costa Rica (where he and my mother recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary) has apparently stirred his creative juices.

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We’ve all heard the story of the thing that nobody talks about, the Elephant in the Room. Imagine a gathering of politicians, or businessmen, or university scholars debating some important concept. As they all espouse whatever theory is popular at the moment, they all ignore that huge animal that is sitting very quietly over in the dark corner. While they all know that, at some point, the animal is going to get up, shake off its lethargy and run rampant, destroying the meeting. Rather than deciding what to do about it, either before it awakens, or after it does begin smashing their confines, they choose to ignore it. The hope is that it won’t wake up, or the rampage will come only after they’ve gone and are out of its way.

Today’s elephant is, sadly – us! More specifically, it is our world population, marching inexorably towards tragedy. Nobody wants to talk about, or even recognize the fact that we may have reached and passed the carrying capacity of our planet. Estimates of the total population number that the world can support and sustain, or the carrying capacity, range from 4 to 10 billion. There are so many variables that produce these numbers. The high end generally is possible only if the entire population of the earth is willing and able to become vegetarian, thus eliminating the highly inefficient practice of feeding grains to animals to produce meat. As comedienne Judy Tenuda is wont to say, “Yeah, it could happen!”

Earth population as of the end of August 2015 is believed to be about 7.3 billion. If we aren’t at the breaking point now, and many believe we are, we’ll be there very soon. Ernesto Pernia, the former lead economist for the Asia Development Bank, has stated that the Philippines has already passed its carrying capacity. Today’s population of slightly more than 100 million citizens represents about a quadrupling since 1960, and that is even expected to double to 200 million by the end of this century. The Philippines is the world’s largest importer of rice now. Does anyone in the government seriously discuss programs to deal with that elephant?

The United States fares no better. With a carrying capacity of an estimated 200 million people, we are today at 321 million and counting. On top of that, the US is a country of gluttons. The two-car family is no longer an accepted figure. Houses today are built with a minimum of three garage doors. It’s common to own, in America, an RV camper or touring vehicle, a boat, trailer, and an all-terrain sport vehicle. A quarter-pound hamburger is considered passé. The standard is now a half-pounder, with added bacon and double cheese.

So, rather than face up to these uncomfortable situations, our politicians, economists and oligarchs choose to ignore it all. In would be laughable to observe the utter stupidity of our supposed leaders were the consequences not so dire. They don’t even seem to know what they’re ignoring.

If you look past the evening news aspect of any of our world or national problems you can begin to see the oversight. For example, there is a great illegal immigrant problem in many parts of the world. The US is having to deal with aliens from the south, Central and South America. Europe is struggling to deal with Middle East and African immigrants. African countries are also awash in people crossing their borders. While politicians rail at those who come to freeload on our wonderful system, the truth is that there are too many people in their home country for everyone to have a job and adequate food. A mother doesn’t worry about being legal or illegal when her child is dying of starvation.

In the US we are watching our infrastructure deteriorate faster than the Congress can reduce the budget for repairs and upgrades. The Interstate Highway system, begun in the early 1950s under Eisenhower, started as a little-used artery system that made long distance travel enjoyable. Today, it is jammed full 24 hours per day. The population in 1955 was 166 million. Today it’s 321 million, and growing. Usage has more than doubled as the rail system has been allowed to deteriorate, thus greatly increasing heavy truck commerce. Feeble attempts to bring the system back up to original standards fall short even if they succeed in reaching that antiquated limit. The elephant is starting to stir awake.

California and the American Southwest appear to be in the throes of an unsolvable drought situation. While it is true that there has been a dearth of good rainfall years, the problem didn’t start with that fact. That area of the country has just been using way too much water. Study the history of the Colorado River to see how an overpopulated area can destroy a water resource. The river used to flow into Mexico into a lush delta, then to the Pacific Ocean. In the 1922 Colorado River Compact, seven western states divided up the rivers flow among themselves, allotting just 10 percent to Mexico. The delta is now a desert. The river stopped flowing to its end around the century-turn of 2000.

Environmentalists and politicians love to carry on ridiculous dialogues about who is to blame for this tragedy. The culprits range from fishermen in Oregon, to lettuce growers in California, to tourists in Las Vegas who want to see huge water fountain displays. In reality, it’s just too darned many people living in and using the area.

Worldwide, our seas are being depleted. Everybody blames somebody else for overfishing the salmon, cod, whales, oysters, and on and on. The fishermen do it because there is a market for their catch. And who makes up the market? It’s the millions of people the world over who need the nutrition that seafood provides. Simply, there are more people on the planet than the oceans can support.

The list of situations that are caused by overpopulation is almost endless, and almost universally hidden. For example, Publix Supermarkets in Florida recently ran a special on ham in their deli “On Sale!” For $9.95 per pound! (For Filipino shoppers, that would be about P1,023 per kilo) How could they get away with that? It’s simply because there is a limited supply of pork and a huge population who wants it, and sadly is willing to pay exorbitant prices to get it. Nobody, however, wants to admit that the wealthy part of the species is causing hunger among those less fortunate.

One questions why this is allowed to continue being undiscussed in our public forums. We see strife all around that can be related to the difficulties of providing for the expanding species. But today’s politicians, policy makers, intellectuals, and business leaders have chosen to ignore the elephant. No one wants to recommend birth control or limiting family size. They might alienate the religions that espouse rabbit-like reproduction, thus reducing their voting bloc constituents.

Why not require each human to limit meat consumption to three ounces per day, thus allowing more grain to be distributed to the undernourished masses? Today’s politicians would rather table that discussion so they can continue debate on how the state of Ohio was insulted by the renaming of Mount McKinley to Denali, it’s original and rightful name.

The conclusion that I am sadly drawing is that there will be no discussion, and thus, no solution. We have witnessed the disappearance of the true intellectuals in leadership positions. The reliance on selfless wisdom for solution of life’s biggest issues is considered a character flaw, and not worth even considering. I hear the elephant stirring, shaking his head, and shuffling his feet. When will he rise up and charge out of the room in a rage?”

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Dad’s blog, where he shares his insights on being a freshly minted alien in Central America, can be found at http://bumsincostarica.com/.

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