Survival of the Richest
In the era of mass consumption and waste, it is no surprise that humans would theoretically need 1.5 worlds to provide for what we use and dispose of. It is no secret that we are unsustainably eating away our resources and disposing of them in a way that precipitates the dissolving of our planet’s natural stock.
Since the 1970s there has been progress in researching and raising awareness about the environment. The International Panel on Climate Change frequently releases reports on climate change and the modern Green Movement is backed up by large and influential organisations such as Greenpeace and the WWF.
Nonetheless, there is still a gross lack of concern for the future of our planet and, subsequently, our own future.
Charles Darwin created the Theory of Evolution, which states that organisms mutated and over time evolved through the process of natural selection. Also called “survival of the fittest”, the theory has been relevant to us until now. However, this can no longer be the case.
In the face of scarce resources and significant overpopulation, what will determine who gets what?
What determines power? Money.
Until now, the problem has been one of misallocation of resources. Pragmatically speaking, we do have enough resources globally to ensure that human beings shouldn’t be starving. In the upcoming decades, however, there will not even be enough resources to allocate properly.
Consequently, Darwin’s theory of evolution will no longer be “survival of the fittest”, but “survival of the richest”.
The top 1 per cent, or the richest per cent of the world’s population, owns half of the wealth of the entire world. In other words, the top 1 per cent is as rich as the remaining 99 per cent of the world.
Evidently, the individuals and countries able to survive global downturn when our resources have almost entirely disappeared will be those able to afford them.
What will happen then? One can only speculate. The global population count has strayed too far from the sustainable equilibrium and, despite the technocentrics who argue that our use of knowledge and technology will overcome the heavy strain we put on our resources, nature will have the final word.
To help put things into perspective, take a look at Conservation International‘s 2014 campaign:
We can no longer afford to deforest the equivalent to 36 football fields every minute (1 per cent of the Amazon’s trees stores 50 per cent of our carbon), nor can we continue to extract tens of thousands of barrels of oil from the ground every day.
We can no longer afford to ignore 15-meter wide plastic islands within the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
Yet, the tragedy of the commons gives one little hope that we will change until we have to start paying for our actions – paying from our own pocket. We will keep cutting down trees, pumping oil and minerals from the ground, driving our cars, taking long showers, leaving lights on, making our resources scarcer and rarer. But eventually, we will have to pay. The price of energy, oil, land, water, will all rise until the only people able to afford them will be the richest.
One can only suggest compromise. A slow shift from wasteful consumption to sensible moderation is the best we can hope for. Here are a few suggestions on how to generate change:
- Everybody becoming a weekday vegetarian, reducing global meat consumption by 5/7
- Creating conservation areas that are left completely untouched, as has been done in Amapa, Brazil
- Creating a non-negotiable limit on the water consumption of each household
- Halving the allowed quantity of tradeable permits
- Forcing countries whose carbon footprint is larger than 1 to spend a minimum percentage of GDP on waste clean-up and subsidization of renewable energy sources
If we fail to incorporate such compromises, we will be forced to leave our future up to a simple supply and demand model. Supply will keep falling; prices will keep rising. In the end, the only people who will get access to resources as essential as food and water will be those that can afford it.
Let’s hope that they’re willing to share. If not, evolution will take a terrible turn to survival of the richest.
In top photo: Spinning coin- Credit to Eleleleven