As I drove toward Jasper town in Jasper National Park yesterday morning, my heart sank. About 20-25% of the trees visible from the road are brown / copper in color, and they are dead or dying. It was not like this at all on that road when Kathy and I visited Jasper NP in 2014. Banff and Kananaskis are mostly unaffected....right now. And this is going to get worse, I think. Much worse. As Jasper National Park goes, so goes mankind? Unfortunately, probably "yes", unless we act quickly, and it might already be too late.
The culprit is the the mountain pine beetle, which, due to warmer temperatures (global warming, it seems, caused by mankind), is running rampant in the Rocky Mountains in the USA and in Canada. It only took a year or two for the pine beetles to kill off 20-25% of the trees in Jasper. What suppresses the pine beetle is extended winter temperatures of -40 F. That is no longer occurring in the Rocky Mountains, and the ugly results have been tree browning, die-off, wildfires, and deforestation. The pine beetle is estimated to have already killed 50% of lodgepole pines in the province of British Columbia. No one has yet been able to effectively control the pine beetle, despite some claims to the contrary. Those dead trees are infernos waiting to happen, and those dead trees no longer scrub the air of the immense amount of CO2 that humans are pumping into the air. Those dead trees are contributing to a record wildfire season in British Columbia, which has resulted in smoke in Banff and Jasper at a high level for an extended period. That the dead trees and the wildfire smoke are impacting, and now, probably will somewhat ruin, my landscape photography expedition is just a small "inconvenience" in the greater scheme of things. Those trees, and that awe-inspiring beauty, will not recover within my lifetime. The bigger issue, however, is what this means for mankind. This is, in my lay opinion (albeit a Ph.D in Chemical Engineering), an ecological disaster.
As I type this blog post from Jasper town, I can barely see a ridge line about a mile away due to the smoke, and the sky has an eerie red hue mid-day.
The sad reality, and I've believed this for some time, is that the Earth cannot support, sustainably over millenia (thousands of years), the current world population of 7.5 billion people at anything close to the current standard of living. Due to CO2 warming, some areas of the Earth are hitting daytime high temperatures of 134 F. That number is going to move higher. Plants cannot live sustainably in such an environment, and we need plants for humans to be able to live. Yes, some might call me a Malthusian, but I will be proven right. Only morons and fools take the other side of this argument. We've been "lucky" as a species so far. My guess, at maximum, is that the Earth can support about 500 Million (M) to maybe 1 billion (B) people, at the current standard of living (some poor, some rich), over many millenia, and only if we are smart about it. What does this mean for the future? It is not bright.
* With 100 M people in the world, people could be free. With 500 M, 1 B, or 7.5 B people, people can no longer be free....not if we want to persist as a species. With this many people on the planet, people cannot be free to have all the children that they want. They cannot be free to drive gasoline-powered cars when and where they wish. They cannot be free to fly to work and to places like Jasper National Park whenever they wish
* The deforestation and warming will eventually (soon?) cause the world's crops to crash. People will starve, and nations will likely go to war to attempt (in vain) to feed their people, and so further harming, or even destroying, what is left of the environment
* To get control of population growth and out-of-control resource consumption, there may be an attempt to form one world government. It's probably the only way to get our current (politically warring) nations to cooperate on survival of the species. Depopulation, population control, and rationing, and perhaps other, more radical actions, will ensue.
Why has it gotten to the point where we now need to save the planet and humanity? What is it about us as a species that led to this? Are we truly any different from a virus or a pine beetle that reproduces until it consumes its food supply (the Earth's environment, in mankind's case)? So far, the record says "no". Will enough people agree to change soon enough? History suggests "no".. I look askance on our Congress, and our political parties, and left-wing political agendas poorly disguised as news (e.g. CNN, Washington Post, Politico,....all of them trash), and Earth's nations, warring (politically) with each other over power and resources. I look askance on the Chinese and the Russians and their plans for world domination and for war. Meanwhile, the world slowly cooks. Perhaps mankind, in aggregate, is not deserving.
Saving the planet and mankind is going to mean very tough choices for everyone.
Food for thought for me. Food for thought for you. What will you do? Will you change? Fast enough?