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Where to go with nowhere left

dear dystopia

Do you ever question why so many people surround you at all times? The last time you were at Disneyland were you annoyed when so many people nudged you as they try to walk by you? Or seemingly graze every other person because there is just no where else to go? You question the sheer amount of people that surround you at that given moment? Baffle at the numbers that can fit within the amusement park?

You may feel this way because our world is growing exponentially every minute. It took our population 100,000 years to reach one billion people. It then only took us 100 more to reach 2 billion. After that, a sheer 50 years passed before we doubled and hit 4 billion in 1970. Fifty years later, our world population is almost at 8 billion. We are growing rapidly, expanding into every open space we find. We, as a population, are increasing by 100,000 people per hour. Will we ever stop?

Dan Brown’s “Inferno” addresses the issue of overpopulation through over-dramatic plagues and races throughout Europe. A crazy scientist’s solution to limit the damaging effects of over-population was to let out a deadly plague, leaving behind only the strongest. Will our society come have to these measure? However, in the midst of all the commotion and drama, Brown provides an important analogy:

You have a beaker with a single bacterium in it. One that divides and doubles every minute. If you place the first bacterium into the beaker at 11 p.m. and it’s completely full at 12 p.m., at what time is the beaker halfway full? 11:59 p.m. That’s what time it is for us. In 40 years, 32 billion people will fight to survive.

This may seem like an overdramatic analogy but we are at a boiling point; in the next cycle of reproduction, we will quadruple our population and take the earth into an unbearable state. We will have officially hit overpopulation.

This is all due to an ever-evolving world. Innovative medical advancements, fertility treatment, immigration and continuous expansion have created a world that is overrun, over-worked and depleted.

The idea of a finite planet is an interesting concept. It’s hard to conjure up an image of a place where we can’t all survive. I even sometimes think it’s all a hoax. My home, Los Angeles, is full of food, sunshine, infrastructure and space. It’s almost impossible to see the reality of our planet. Again, our university doesn’t allow us to really see the terrors of an over-crowded, famine ridden world. It provides us with green grasses, beautiful buildings to live in, endless resources and the abundant food-well that we call West Union.

But our world is finite. It does have an end and we are chugging along right towards it.

The 1960s—the baby boom—brought about major fear of world destruction. The rising population was affecting the world drastically. We were afraid of being choked by pollution, famine, traffic, sickness and claustrophobia. Scientists told the world that without urgent and immediate action, the world would destroy itself thanks to the rapidly expanding human population. Steps were taken to control reproduction. People stopped trying to have kids, stopped giving birth.

That’s when the green revolution started, bailing out the idea of famine and poverty. New technologies allowed produce to be pumped out at extraordinary rates. Food reached all edges of the globe. A new hope replaced fear. third world countries were no longer feeling the strains of depletion and instead were cultivating like they had never before. It gave the world a safety belt, a way to feed the planet as the population continued to rise.

Except the green revolution has now altered its own course. The exact technologies that have been keeping our population so large have paved the way for many environmental issues that could, in the near future, deplete our world entirely. These environmental issues are mirroring the concerns from the 1960s: potential famine, lack of space, poverty.

Now, not only is the population spreading and expanding physically, but in order to sustain us, our food is doing the same. We are now consuming more resources than we have ever before, producing on land that was used for its natural oxygen.

We take away land in every way possible, mostly from low-income, impoverished places because no one has the resources to fight it. We take it and build factories and farms in the places of communities and homes. We relocate them so companies can produce enough for the world. But do the communities that were uprooted received the products produced in their old home? No. It is sent straight away to metropolitan cities, fast food chains and universities like ours.

So, this is a good thing right? We are thriving. We are using third-world countries and low-income communities as means to become rich, healthy and nutrition-filled.

The people going to Duke, living in New York City or Hong Kong or Dubai, don’t feel the burden that these communities in most other parts of the world do. We don’t understand the hardships that were endured so we could eat our beets, squash and kale throughout the entire year. If we, the luckier percentage of the population, cannot see the repercussions of our habits and “givens” and we only see the success in our abundant supply, we will continue our nose dive into over-consumption, depletion and crowding.

Our planet has become the Tragedy of the Commons. We take and take because the world is seen as a shared resource, open for all. We take without looking towards our harsh realities of the future nor do we look at the closer realities of the poor and discriminated. Our world is falling apart and we cannot see it—or rather refuse to see it.

It may seem apocalyptic, but this is our dystopian reality in which we are choosing to keep ourselves if we do not change.

Lizi Byrnes-Mandelbaum is a Trinity sophomore. Her column, “dear dystopia” runs on alternate Mondays.


Lizi Byrnes-Mandelbaum

Lizi Byrnes-Mandelbaum is a Trinity junior. Her column runs on alternate Tuesdays.

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