“Fishes live in the sea, as men do a-land; the great ones eat up the little ones.” – William Shakespeare

pregnant-worldOh boy, are we in for it. We’re in trouble now! We’ve opened up the black box of inception and now we can’t put the genie back. Now we can freeze embryos and implant them and grow babies like plants. Women can store their embryos and have a reserve of children that are as yet unborn. It’s not unlike a file backup system. If one of your children for one reason or another doesn’t fulfill some family myth, and there are plenty of family myths to be fulfilled, (just think about your own upbringing and the myths fostered upon your life,) you can download another contender to the throne.

I can see the scenario now, little Billy is playing in the sand box out back when his mother brings him a soft drink and tells him that he ‘s about to have a little brother. Billy gags on the soft drink and exclaims, “Why? Haven’t I been holding up my end of the deal around here? I bust my ass getting good grades, doing my homework and cleaning up my room. I even eat your horrendous cooking, and those vegetables! Aren’t you pleased with my work?” “Billy,” Mom consoles, “it’s not that you aren’t holding up your end of the deal, it’s just that I have some needs that you can’t meet. So, I’ve decided to thaw out your little brother and bring him to term. You’ll be replaced in the family pecking order and relieved of any expectations of greatness. But the good thing is, you get to be the big brother with all the privileges that such status brings!” “Great!” Billy expels sarcastically, “Do we know who the father is of this one or should I pack a suitcase for the Maury Show?”

This is only the beginning of the nightmare of science and biology mingling to form the modern Frankenstein society. We are headed for a caste system that will make the one portrayed in the science fiction drama Gattaca seem like a mild indictment. The implications of modern science and the dangers of wielding such a sharp instrument as IVF (in vitro fertilization) as casually as a butcher knife foretell of grave days to come. It is like running across a frozen lake, imbedded with land mines, holding said butcher knife while wearing clown shoes. This is certainly a recipe for disaster, just add a deluded fool and stand back.

I don’t mean to come off like a Luddite. I use and appreciate technology and its advances as much if not more than anybody. I happen to realize that any sufficiently developed technology is almost indistinguishable from magic. Who doesn’t like a little magic? That’s what makes technology so cool.

A polar opposite to religion, science is always changing its shape and questioning itself and relying on proven truths culled from the scientific method. We have come to believe in science and scientists in today’s secular society as the keepers of the truth. There are plenty of flaws in the philosophy of science that are lately coming to light with the discoveries of quantum physics and other puzzling phenomena. But we believe that technology is the way we humans can live happier lives. Technology gives us modern drugs, and devices and all manner of comforts. So far it doesn’t do much for our spiritual health or our mental health. So when these two unaddressed problems of the human existence cause trouble for us, we divert ourselves with technology. There’s nothing like a Playstation or an Xbox to take the edge off the day.

If we are supposed to be the superior beings of earth, why do we need technology to survive here? Technology is our guarantee. We’ll perish without it; the animals and the elements would wipe our superior butts out. So if it is true that technology is necessary for survival or insurance against the harsh cruel, indifference of nature, then how did the lowly cockroach come through the cataclysm that claimed the dinosaurs without a scratch? Did the cockroach have technology? Maybe they had little tiny interstellar roach coaches that they all piled into to escape the earth’s impending doom, returning when the coast was clear. Nah.

This is not Gregor Samsa in spite of what you've heard.

This is not Gregor Samsa in spite of what you’ve heard.

Roaches don’t have technology. I’ve seen them crawl out of a lot of it though. I’ve seen a huge cockroach strolling into a fine Italian restaurant in downtown San Jose, California. I watched two healthy sized roaches navigate the busy sidewalk during lunch hour in Pittsburgh. I thought they were doomed to the random footfalls of the pedestrian traffic, but everyone stepped around them. They got respect. This was a testament to their survival skills.

Roaches certainly don’t mind technology, as any New York City apartment dweller can attest. The cockroach ain’t got no shame. He’ll crawl through your salad at the trendiest restaurant. He’ll ride home with you on public transportation and stroll across your living room floor to see what’s on television. They take cab rides; go shopping at grocery stores. Everywhere you go they can follow. I’ve heard that they can withstand a turn in a microwave and come out refreshed. I guess it’s like a roach sauna to them. Radiation doesn’t bother them so when the fire next time comes, as we immolate ourselves with the technology of nuclear weapons, the cockroach will survey the earth’s stage and yell, “Next?”
And Mother Nature will comply. The next “superior” species will discover our folly in the ruble we leave behind. They will put our ancient relics in their museums and their citizens will study our ipods, and widescreen televisions and DVD’s and cell phones and automobiles etc. All the garbage we collected from the big box stores lying on a radioactive heap in mute testimony of a lost civilization.

Our egos are so huge that we believe our act is here for an extended run. We believe in our technology and our mastery of all we survey. We have the opposable thumb, tools, and the big brain. With the stuff we use, how can we lose?

As a species we are in direct competition with insects for the resources of the planet. Unlike the insects who seem to belong here, we seem more like a foreign invader. Insects only look the part.

One of the first things you learn in a college botany course is that no organism can survive in its own waste. This is why bacterial infections die out. So many bacteria have multiplied that there is nowhere for the waste to go and they choke themselves to death in their own filth. They may have long since killed their host, but the party ends when the resources run out.

The lower animals don’t produce anything at odds with the ecology of mother earth. Bees produce honey but they’ve never produced a plastic bag or anything that might choke a fish. Ants move tons of earth but they don’t need heavy equipment to do it and they don’t pollute the atmosphere with diesel fumes.

We pollute our air, create toxic landfills and pollute oceans with, life-threatening ooze. We poison the place we live as a side effect of our technology. We make stuff. The pollution from manufacturing one video cassette is enormous! Our computer and battery waste is choking us to death. Forget global warming, we’ve got bigger trouble. We have the stuff we have, thanks to the stuff we use. It’s all good. Or like Martha Stewart would say, technology is a “good thing”. This is what we believe but it has yet to be proven.

We’ve made ourselves comfy in this cruel and harsh environment. We’ve managed to thrive without the natural defenses afforded the other species we share the planet with. We are our only predator. Nothing can stop us from proliferating.

Everyone seems to want a child, a little bit of DNA to hang around after we’re gone. If we are to stay in competition with the lower animals then we must reproduce to do so. If technology can help us out with that then more power to the clinic!

Here’s the rub. The resources that we have are finite. There is only so much space, and resources to sustain life. Remember the bacteria party I mentioned above? And who are humans most like in the pantheon of life on earth? I’m not going to say we’re a bunch of cooties but we have a thing or two in common. Rampant population growth in a limited space leads to entropy.

Let’s take a hard look at the minimum system requirements for human existence. Let’s look at the hardware profile of earth. Hang on it’s going to get a little technical, after all we’re talking about technology and some math is involved. Ready?

We know that the surface of a sphere is represented by the formula: 4•?•r2, which in plain English is four times the number “pie” times the radius squared. See that wasn’t so bad, you can bet that Mr. Cockroach doesn’t know that. This formula is important to us humans because we live on a sphere or at least one quarter of it. The fish have the rest. Makes you start to wonder about who is smartest doesn’t it? Those slippery, scaly bastards took the most territory, and they don’t even have technology! It’s okay though; we’re poisoning them with mercury and plastic debris. That’ll teach them!

How many people can the earth support? Let’s see we’ve established that we live on a sphere and only a quarter of that is land. Now we have to factor in the fertile land, because the barren stuff isn’t of much use to us. We can conclude that one plot of fertile land can support one human. How big is that plot? We’re talking 100 square feet. Everything that sustains the life of an individual no matter whom he or she thinks they are, boils down to that 100 square feet. Humbling isn’t it?

I don’t care how many ipods, Playstaions, widescreen televisions or spinning hubcaps you own, without those 100 square feet of fertile terra firma, you’re fucked. Game over dude!

But technology can save the day! It hasn’t given us gills yet so that we can make war on the fish and raid their neighborhood and take all their shit and claim the ocean floor as ours. But it could come to that. We’re working on it! We have technology! That gene splicing is getting pretty well advanced.

We are even now developing floating domiciles that can extend our surface area to the watery domain. Until we work the bugs out of floating neighborhoods, like where to walk the dog or what type of plumbing is needed, we know that through technology 70% of land can become fertile.

After we nail the fertile earth problem we have to consider the water problem. Once you start to screw with the water you have to consider that only 1% of the stuff is drinkable, that factors out to only 0.7425% of all the earth’s water. Those fish took everything. I say we skip the floating city and get some gills and go and get those bastards. We’ll have to take on the sinister shark squadrons and the jellyfish junta, but we will prevail. We have spear guns and they don’t.

This tiny 1% of water is all there is for all of humanity. This is the same water we piss in, take a bath in, take a shit in, water the grass with, mix up Kool-Aid in make coffee and tea with. We puke in it, flush condoms in it, filter it and put it into fancy plastic bottles and sell it to morons who are willing to pay a couple of bucks for it. Everyone’s heard the joke about how the brand of bottled water called Evian spells “Naïve”backwards. I guess some exercise; health buff was drinking a bottle while admiring their physique in a mirror at the gym and noticed the gaffe.

Our water must be recycled. Astronauts have to recycle their own urine to keep a water supply. Well the earth is like our space ship and we have to recycle our water too. A guy I know related a story to me about the first week he worked at a water filtration plant. He was peering down into one of the huge vats that are used to strain all the crud we put into our 1% of water to make it drinkable again. The water has to pass through a chemical bath and a succession of smaller screens to get the crud out. At this initial filtering he noticed a million tiny rings left behind like spaghettios. Curious, he asked the veteran next to him what those rings had to do with the filtration process, The veteran replied “What, you don’t know what those are? They’re condoms!”

condom flushNow, the spaghettio-mountain is not entirely a bad thing, as the condoms are birth control and therefore are helping to conserve our limited resources by cutting down on population growth. It’s just ironic that this measure ends up as pollution of the very resource that they help to conserve.

So let’s comb the sobering data to see what information comes out that we can point at and make some sense of. The number of people the earth can support. Here comes some math again so hold on to those calculators.

The number of people the earth can support is N = (the surface of the earth in square miles) times the (number of square feet in a square mile) times (1/4 which is land) times the (70% fertile land after technological breakthroughs make it available) divided by (10,000 Square Feet per person) can be expressed as N = 9•1x10E10 = 90 billion people in 5 centuries time. So in the year 2400 or 2500 A.D.…we’re fucked.

Long before we get there, we’ll have famine and war and pestilence. There’s only so much of the good life to go around. The cootie party will draw to an ugly close, while the cockroach sits by preening his little antennae wondering what the next act will be. Our companion the cockroach is earth’s witness to the stage and Mother Nature is the playwright.

You remember Macbeth’s famous soliloquy: “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more.” My Shakespeare is rusty so don’t worry if I didn’t get that line just right. The point is; we are the strutting fools.

Ira Harmon