The COVID-19 virus has taken over our planet and our lives. What will happen after it finally disappears? (And when will that happen?)
Those of us who live in the modern world have become used to constant travel, at least prior to the virus. Since the virus, we have learned that we can use virtual travel, which is a good thing. After all, why should 100 people travel halfway across the country for a conference, when the entire matter can be done virtually, at an incredible reduction in carbon emissions? “One stark indicator of the pandemic’s far-reaching impact is its effect on fossil fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions. If preliminary data from some of the world’s biggest economies is any indicator, emissions are in for a sharp, if temporary, decline.”
In other words, the virus causes a sharp drop in economic and transportation activity, and that’s a good thing. The question is, what can we do to mimic this drop after the virus.
I can think of two things: (1) try to find a way to reduce population by reducing the birthrate and (2) put a damper on transportation and other economic activity which causes carbon emissions.
The transportation companies won’t like it, but we should put a heavy tax on transportation which can be supplanted by virtual travel. There is no reason why college professors need to travel hundreds of miles to give classes that can be done virtually. The same is true for salesmen’s visits. We’ve become used to Netflix and Amazon. Why do people still go out to the theater to a movie that can be shown as effectively over the internet?
Why do we need a constant increase in population? No, we cannot try to drop population the way the Chinese unsuccessfully tried to do with the “one child” rule. That rule disfavored the birth of female children and created a sharp decline in the younger population versus the older population. But having 4 children for every 6 adults and making sure that the overall population of males and females were stable could result in about a one-third drop in population over 60 years. After all, there would be nothing wrong with having a world population of 1.5 billion rather than 8 billion. Our planet can care for 1.5 billion effectively.
Prof. Paul Ehrlich’s 1968 “The Population Bomb” was right. “Most of the predictions [in Population Bomb] have proved correct. At that time I wrote about climate change. We did not know then if it was warming or cooling. We thought it was going to be a problem for the end of this century. Now we know it’s warming and a problem for the beginning of the century; we didn’t know about the loss of biodiversity. Things have been coming up worse than was predicted. We have the threats now of vast epidemics”.
In my view, humanity needs to ignore economic and population growth and focus on the activity which will make human life pleasurable. Let’s face it, we have put a lot of effort into increasing knowledge about human longevity. But that effort has increased the population. We have failed to ask what impact increased longevity will have on the ability of the planet to sustain itself and us.
We have also put a lot of effort into the growth of wealth. But we have paid little attention into the question of how that wealth should be shared. The capitalists argue that if wealth is shared, then a large part of the population will become lazy and not work. But we know from our experience with the American population that creating wealth does not keep people from trying to create more wealth. Furthermore, the type of wealth that is created increases the population. It also increases machinery that causes global warming.
We need to rethink what we are doing. We should not have a system that requires people to travel many miles each day to work. Rather, we should create workplaces that are environmentally good so that people want to live close to work. And we need to stop this separation of the rich from the poor, and one race from another, because that is what encourages the wasteful traveling to work.
Let us imagine that the human race will never leave the Planet Earth. I know that we think otherwise, but there is no guarantee that we will ever leave it in large numbers, even to Mars. If so, what is the purpose of our existence? I can think of only one, and that is to make the lives of people on Earth as fulfilling as possible and for as long as possible. But that requires our finding ways of living in peace with one another and finding joy and happiness in living together. It does not require fame, glory, wealth or war.
Instead of celebrating movie stars, why don’t we see about finding ways to make every person pleasing in looks? Instead of celebrating sports stars, which don’t we find ways so that every person is healthy and can climb a mountain? Which, after all, will create greater happiness?