There Are Just Too Many People on This Planet
You know what, honestly, when I start writing these things, I never know where they are going to go. I mean, like when I start, I have some vague idea of what I want to say, what I want to make you, the reader, aware of, but I have no idea how to accomplish that. I just sort of start out talking about my idea then I let my “artistic schizophrenia” (as we called it in the late 1960s) take over.
Well, I’m not a journalist for sure. Certainly I’m not a college professor and for sure, I’m not a lawyer. I don’t have the discipline to be any of those, but I do like to think of myself as intellectually adventurous. I like to explore the limits of our knowledge, the expanse of our imaginations. And, in these recent years, isn’t our limits of knowledge just exploding from one realm to into all the others? Hasn’t technology and comprehension just expanded at some ridiculously quick, exponential rate?
Just a few years after I was born (I was born in 1948), the theory of the double helix structure of DNA was proposed. Nowadays, they are mapping the human genome and delving into the most subtle aspects of chromosomal switching. Scientists are talking about quarks, string theory and dark matter, and this is stuff that I’ve become aware of over the last 20 years. Who knows what they are delving into in the current day. My question is, with all this knowledge, with all this technology, how come we humans are still driving the global civilization into an inevitable and obvious path of self destruction.
Since my first few years of an uncompleted college career, I’ve been an ardent observer of over-population of this planet. To be sure, I grew up in a very idyllic, almost dreamy reality; the small, comfortable and well situated garden farms of the Almaden Valley. It is against that reality, as dreamy as it was, that I measure the rest of the world.
While I’m sure that most of my readers have no idea, no real and concrete, experiential idea of the life I’m talking about, I still maintain it as my measure of goodness and well being of a human community. As I was growing up, spread out, as we were, on the small Valley’s landscape, we had no pollution, no sex scandals, no drug busts, almost no broken homes and, as I remember, there was never any mention of substance, elderly, infant or child abuse. While such perversions of the human interactions may have existed back then, they were so infrequent and demonic, that no one ever really spoke of them.
When we woke up, so early in the morning, we would listen to the radio and hear about how the weather might happen , and affect our crops (there weren’t any weather satellites or Doppler radar back then). Also, to get the latest listing on the trader’s bulletins about sow bellies and wheat trading. Then we’d attend to our morning chores; calves to be fed before dawn, straw to be spread to keep the chickens, and their eggs, warm and dry, from the morning chill. Then we could eat our Cheerios or Frosted Flakes. After our breakfast, we’d go out and stand next to a specified phone pole, where the big, lumbering school bus would pick us up to fill out our day at the old school house. Our moms didn’t have to line up in long strands of traffic to get us to and from school.
Surely, this was an agrarian, simplistic, manageable culture. So what’s wrong with that?
In those days, when you watched the evening television channels, you saw reflections of your agrarian life, shows like “Lassie,” “Bonanza,” and Walt Disney’s nature documentaries every Wednesday night. The more abrasive and violent weekly series, like “The Untouchables,” or “Dragnet” were on the tube as well, but they were about the stories far from us, in the cities, bleak, crowded places that were very unfamiliar and foreign to us country bumpkins. Back then, San Jose had no illusions about being a city. It was the hub of a bunch of farming communities and it was satisfied with that identity. However, for the last 40 years, since then, the hub of a bunch of farming communities turned into people breeding farms, or, as I’ve always called them, tract houses, San Jose keeps trying to convince us all that this brooder house of the Santa Clara Valley is really a “city.” We all know that San Jose is not a city, it’s not even a poor version of a city. It is, obviously and simply, the intersection of a bunch of ill conceived housing tract developments fostered under the tutelage of an overly ambitious and self righteous city manager, A.P. “Dutch” Hamann in the 1950s and 60s. Hamann and his wealthy, conniving cohorts, starved out the residential, agricultural land owners with illegal and unfair zoning efforts so they could
proceed to develop their “Silicon Valley” concept based around the Naval Base at Moffett Field. The agricultural Santa Clara Valley (the rural “Valley of the Heart’s Delight”) was now up for sale to all the developers who could build the cheapest and most efficient of the human brooder house tracts.
So, you ask me, what is a “brooder house?” This odd term I keep using.
Well, when I was a kid in the old orchard community where I grew up, there were several “chicken ranchers.” Unlike the orchardists, who’s orchards were spread out over dozens and dozens of acres of hillside land, the chicken ranchers had these long, ultra tight chicken houses that were only about 20 feet wide but usually hundreds of yards long. The tens of thousands of chickens were housed in wire cages, under the corrugated tin roofs of these “chicken houses,” with no walls, heating or ventilation. The bottom of these cages were about four feet off the ground so that the chick poop and piss would fall to the ground below. However, none of the chicken farmers put much effort into maintaining the good health of the chickens, they were just worried about getting all the eggs they could, and the associated profit. For the most part, the manure piles under the chicken cages just got way too high, way too close to the innumerable chickens living just inches from their feces, chickens who were never to see the sky, never to breath fresh air or to roam free. All they had to do is but to bear an egg everyday, then die. What sort of life is that?
Off to the side of the chicken houses, the long, narrow, walless chicken cages were the brooder houses. These were about the same width as the big chicken houses but they were never nearly more than about twenty yards long. They had no cages, like in the chicken houses, and they did have walls of corrugated metal. The floors of the brooder house was covered with sawdust, many inches deep, and at about every 30 feet, there would be a large, circular structure made out of galvanized sheet steel, in the shape of an overturned, flattened funnel. The bottom edge of the funnel was hung about as high as a man’s waist and at the center of the eight foot wide, upturned funnel, was a simple, old oil heating stove. The purpose of the big, upside-down funnel was to spread the oil heater’s warmth throughout the brooder house.
You see, when the chicken farmer had to replace the dead and dying chickens in his long and inhumane chicken houses, he would periodically place an order with a chicken breeder. Once the order was placed and confirmed, the chicken farmer would go and drive into San Jose and pick up several dozen cardboard racks of chicks. Each of these cardboard racks, maybe six inches thick, contained about two dozen baby chicks. The chicken farmer would carry several dozen of these cardboard racks back to his farm. Then, they would empty the racks into the brooder houses, on the soft, sawdust floors with the well placed oil heaters, and their broad, galvanized hoods, to keep the chicks warm until they matured and were able to lay an egg a day, as the chicken farmer required.
Once the chicks were able to accomplish this rancher’s “eggs per chicken per day” requirement, the mature chicks would be relocated into the long, narrow chicken house, probably to replaced, herself, in a year or two. Ha, and dig it, never to see the sky, never to see the stars, but to suffer the cold wind, and the constant stink of her own shit (You see, since male chickens, roosters, didn’t lay eggs, they weren’t
desirable so they were usually done away with.). All this to turn a meager profit for the chicken rancher. I don’t remember anyone getting rich selling eggs. Actually, the fate of the chickens themselves was of absolutely no consequence to the chicken farmer. Once they quit laying eggs, the chickens were just
trash, much like the pile of chicken shit they existed so close over for the entire length of their lives.
Hmmm, consider such a life . . .
Well, anyway, now you have an idea of what a brooder house is: a place to efficiently raise and prep mindless workers for a pretty sad and sober life, egg layers, in this case. We who were raised on the open farm land experienced working at a variety of labors, constantly involved with other breeds and species of living things, plant and animal, and having pretty intimate knowledge of the lay of the land, both in the Valley and on the hills. The mere thought of living out our lives in a dull factory or a dreary office was something we found to be inconceivable.
However, when they turned over all the farm land, to put in sewers, sidewalks, asphalt streets and the zillions of the ticky-tacky houses that folk singer Malvina Reynolds called “the little boxes (click to hear Malvina’s song)” what were we left to do? Most of us headed for the hills.
While the hillsides and the mountains didn’t have the rich earth that was found on the valleys floors, at least on the slopes, the developer’s wicked tract building machine didn’t so easily convert the land into tract houses and cheap, unattractive strip centers. And finally, they came up with something sort of like a chicken house, the shopping malls, where no one can see the sun or the stars or breath fresh air. I’ll only take the analogy that far.
So, what is the point of all this negativity? Well, to a simple minded farm boy like me, spending all of your time and good intentions to solve this problem with our modern culture, and that other problem with our modern culture, and so many others more, in some useless and insignificant way, is, simply, a lost cause. I have to ask, what is the real problem? What is the basic problem? What is the problem at the base of all the other problems? To me, the answer is simple. There are too many people. And as time continues, the number of people is just going to get bigger and bigger until what happens? Frankly, I don’t want to know and I’m glad I wont be around to see the resolution to this, single, essential problem. What ever it is, it isn’t going to be pretty, I’m pretty certain of that.
I see none of the world population projections show
any slow down in population growth. Indeed, most of them
show an exponential growth within the next several generations.
As far as I can see, so long as the driving entities of this culture, this culture of the masses, insists on expanding the human population by building more and more “brooder houses” of massive tracts of living quarters for a totally consumptive and misguided society, the future looks very bleak. Of course, it’s not just the living quarters but the associated tracks of industry and all of the supportive infrastructure that comes with it, like roads and airports, seaports and sports arenas, huge power towers and strip mines, canals and sewage plants.
I’ve heard some people talk about how technology will eventually cure all these ills. Is that so? How? By building more factories, powered with more hydro-electric dams and nuclear power plants? When we were growing up, watching the farms getting turned over, we were told to calm down, this was all being done in the name of progress. How could it be bad? Well, guess what? Screw progress. As far as I’m concerned the only thing progress has done is ruin the good stuff.
I mean, let’s keep it simple. Do we really need 500 cable TV channels, 95% of which are nothing but garbage. Is that progress? Do you really want me to revel in that sort of progress? Does everyone over the age of seven need a cell phone? Methinks not! I was nearly 50 years old when cell phones still cost over $1000 dollars. At that price, they were simply a rich man’s toy. They were still in their infancy. We did pretty well in the previous twenty thousand years without them. I will admit to their convenience, but their necessity? No way. We got along pretty well when everything still had wires connected.
Obviously, as my current posture is of the “Luddite” persuasion, another extraneous “necessity” of the modern day is Facebook. Who in the hell NEEDS Facebook? Its a cute and quick way to let a part of the world know what’s bugging you at any given moment, but to be some huge and cumbersome New York stock exchange “IPO,” well, sorry, I’m more used to concerning myself with where I’m going to get my meat and potatoes, not my social contacts. In my opinion, Facebook’s credibility and “essentialness” is about as valid as a big, hairy mole
being put on the nose of the Mona Lisa. Its just over valuing a whole bunch of fancy air. The balloon will burst, as so many others will. In the end, what is progress? What is progress and where should it go? Because it’s possible to do something, should we do it?
One of my favorite examples of this overdone concept, are the current fleet of garbage trucks that sometimes wake us up during our early morning sleep. Not that many years ago, the garbage trucks would trundle through the streets and alleys of our cities and towns. The trucks would usually have a driver and one or two guys to dump the residential trash cans into the truck’s rear hopper, to be shoved up and compressed into the big tank sitting on the truck’s frame. Nowadays, there are these robotic arms on the side of the garbage truck that grab the residential trash cans and flip their contents into the truck’s bowels. Now, there is just the driver who controls the whole show with a bunch of levers on his dash board. Two other guys have lost their jobs. Who wins in this scenario?
Similarly, what about people who are phone operators? What’s happened to their jobs? Once again, robotics have replaced how many friendly, helpful voices of real people. How many operators have lost their jobs. Once again, who wins in this scenario? I don’t know anyone who likes to talk to the soulless, ridiculous robot voices that ask you to “say or enter” simple numbers needed to track your phone bill or medical record or sales invoice. Screw the robots, screw this sort of progress. We don’t need it. We need to be more human, more alive, more humanly interactive, more personally productive, not less. The core question here, again, is who wins in these scenarios?
To my simple way of thinking, the only entity who wins the rewards of these overly efficient technologies is the corporation. The laborer is losing his job to this progress, and the consumer is losing his humanity to this progress. All of the watch words of “progress,” such as labor saving, life saving and greater efficiency aim towards one thing, consumption; consume the corporation’s product, whether you really need it or not. Stay alive longer, to consume more, even if you are catatonic. Save on human labor so that the corporation can sell more and more robots, putting more and more people out of work. Where is there a reasonable logic in this? The horrific portrayal of humanity in the Matrix Trilogy comes to mind. Who, in God’s name, would wish such a future on the human race?
On the one hand, the rich people that control the corporations, complain about having to pay taxes to support the unemployed, but on the other hand, they laud their entrepreneurs, and invest big bucks in them, for coming up with creative and complex, new ways to eliminate jobs. Once again, where is the logic in this? Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should do that something.
Certainly, I don’t pretend to have any answers, no concrete solutions for the destiny of our humanity, but I just join in with a bunch other guys who have warned us to steer clear of certain things. As I write this, I’m trying to come up with some general and simple observations that might start taking us into a direction other than self destruction.
The first redirection that hits me is “Big is bad.” Multi-Mega Huge communities are to be avoided. Cities of multi-millions of people should be avoided. Not to say we shouldn’t have cities, but let’s keep them reasonable. I mean, I can’t even imagine what to do with the sewage coming out of someplace like New York, let alone the garbage! Oh boy, the image I have in my head for that one, Whew! A mile high sewer pipe. Sorry, but no way!
Consider the big cities of the Elizabethan era. London produced Shakespeare, Ben Johnson, Isaac Newton, Francis Bacon, so on and so forth and it only had a population of not even 200,000. Why do we need unmanageable cities of ten or a hundred times that size? So we can produce entire sub-populations of drug users and child molesters that can’t be managed? Some one might come back at me with an example of Jack the Ripper, but he was nearly 300 years later, when London’s population was over six million. Considering the similar serial killers in today’s news, it’s amazing that there weren’t several other “Rippers” in London back then (around 1890).
And what comes with “Big is Bad?” . . . Bureaucracies. Boy, how I hate those faceless, self righteous and overly imposing governmental bureaus who see absolutely no need to keep themselves in check for any decent level of efficiency or courtesy. Whoa, the thought of them makes me shudder. Try dealing with the California DMV if you don’t agree with the amount of money they want you to pay for this or that, so often an incorrect amount should you bother to investigate their charges. Big is Bad, small is better.
I could go on and on with this rant (and I will in subsequent postings) but I think the point has been made – there are too many people on the planet trying to share the most desirable and limited living spaces. Lately, we are reading news stories of how there won’t be enough water to sustain all the populations, let alone oil, or even land. The constant question is when will the wars start to claim these most basic and essential resources just to sustain life, not progress?
I always come up with the image of some alien race looking at the earth and seeing an orange, destroying itself with the white and green fungi that suck the juices out of the fruit and leave it as a shriveled and vile little skin of rotten filth. Not a pretty picture.
Big is Bad.
Too Much of Anything ends up being less.
Small is manageable and realistic.
Quality of Life is first, Unbound Consumption is last.
Lets see where this leads us . . .