On Monday, 31 October 2011, I suggest we consider having a foodless dinner party. Foodless? Why?
Because it is on this day that the UN will 'celebrate' the birth of the 7 billionth living person on Earth. 7 billion is a lot of people on this crowded planet and rather than celebrating, we should probably mourn and prepare for a future with less.
7 billion people who hope to have a life that depends on resources (a synonym for 'development' or 'an advanced lifestyle') will further deplete our natural resources, increase the amount of toxic wastes, greenhouse gases, and ultimately, many of these people will suffer. Of course, as Charlie and I (and many others) have written, a person isn't a person isn't a person. It's their ecological footprint that matters. A single person in a developed country has a much greater ecological and carbon footprint than someone living in a very poor country. Thus, the intention (dare I say 'right') to develop is a double-edged sword; particularly when you have 7 billion people whose lives you're hoping to improve.
And, while in many places energy is much more efficiently created and used, and while there is a bright future for those who can figure out how to develop more sustainable sources of energy, 7 billion creates a huge barrier to equitable sharing of those energy resources and 7 billion creates a lot of waste and stresses on natural ecosystems.
A few years ago the UN predicted that the population would level off in the next few decades. But now, some current predictions toy with the idea that the world will soon have 10 billion people. Pause and imagine this for a moment. 10 billion mouths to feed. 10 billion people to warm and cool and clothe and support. That's even more pollution, greenhouse gas production, and, ultimately, suffering.
So, this weekend over dinner, talk about a world with 7 billion. And then think about what a world with 10 billion would look like. Is it a world that you would want to live in? Is that amount of global suffering acceptable to you? What can you do to help prevent that? What can we all do to better help share the resources with others? Should we really skip a meal on Monday?