(This letter was published in the Chapel Hill News, 10 January 2007.)
Time magazine’s Person of the Year is YOU. That’s right. You and me and every other person on the planet have been chosen as “person of the year” in 2006. We are becoming aware of people power, we are told.
This could mean that almost 6.6 billion human beings have been picked because all of us comprise an extraordinary force of nature within the world in which we live. The magazine article reports a de-emphasis of the “great man theory” of history in favor of a recognition that a large mammal species with so many members and so much influence is worthy of high status.
This favorable notice is long overdue. However, such belated awareness of the powerful global presence of 6-plus billion humans is not a fact about which we can simply take pride. The unbridled growth of certain distinctly human activities of Homo sapiens overspreading the Earth looms ominously before humankind on the far horizon and could soon pose profound challenges for humanity.
The unregulated growth of absolute global human population numbers could literally overwhelm the limited resources and ecosystem services the Earth provides to humankind for its benefit. Because we have adequate knowledge that the planetary home God has blessed us to inhabit is finite.
The current scale and rate of growth of per-human consumption in the United States alone has passed beyond “conspicuous consumption” and now approaches the obscene. If the undeveloped countries of the world were to follow the U.S. example of increasing and unrestrained per capita consumption of natural resources, scientific data indicate that before the close of the first half of the 21st century the human population worldwide can be expected to dissipate those resources to the point when our species will be literally “eating itself out of house and home.”
Steven Earl Salmony