Divided mentalites are destroying Earth
Great empires like Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, the Mayans, the Romans and the Ottomans eventually fell after feeling the limits of growth and indulgence available to man. After each one fell, another one quickly grew from the ashes of the last and transitions were mostly regional. The problem today is that human growth encompasses the entire globe, not just a region or continent, and we are all simultaneously making the same mistake.
We are divided. We make decisions and cast judgments all based on what side of the divide we attribute ourselves to. Politicians regularly make decisions, because of party rationale rather than facts or common sense. Bipartisanship is a luxury, rather than commonplace. We aspire for unity only when we’re motivated by our side of the divide, rather than love for each other and the world. The only value that essentially every human on Earth unifies in sharing is the aspiration for growth. Our focus on growth along with our division will bring us a struggle similar to those experienced by previous generations.
The sun has always been the main provider of energy for life on Earth. It produces the energy that grows the crops we eat and the wood with which we’ve developed much of our society. It creates the wind and ocean currents that produce vast amounts of services and energy worldwide. The sun is responsible for the cycles of our natural resources like water, carbon, sulfur, nitrogen and more. Life has always depended on the sun, a dependable source of energy.
We then discovered a resource that held so much concentrated energy that it allowed us to grow much faster than the sun previously limited. Fossil fuels, in the form of oil, natural gas and coal, have for 200 years unchained humans from these limits of growth. Before the discovery of this form of energy, the world population remained below 1 billion people. The world’s population first hit 1 billion people in 1804. It then doubled 100 years later, doubled again just 32 years later and has continued doubling every 10-15 years. Our love of indulgence has led us to become a world of growth. Success is now defined not by interpersonal or intrapersonal growth, but physical growth — people want bigger cars, bigger homes, bigger buildings, bigger meals, bigger land, etc. As we’ve developed, more people have been able to access “success.” The problem is that, aside from fossil fuels not being eternal and dependable like the sun, this indulgence that is destroying our planet and dividing us in competition is not even making us happier.
Ironically, there is no evidence that humans are somehow happier today than they were years ago. We’ve become smarter and more advanced, but ironically still haven’t managed to eradicate poverty or war. We still fight each other as much as we always have. We’re still vehemently divided by race, gender, religion and socioeconomic status. Climate change and irresponsible population growth may worsen that. Population density has made disease much more easier to spread. It has made it far more difficult to grow fresh and healthy food for everyone. Potential waste disposal sites are running out. The planet is becoming warmer and as a result, more extreme weather is occurring more frequently. Fresh water is becoming less available. Humans are being exposed to new chemicals that their ancestors never had in their bodies, causing new diseases and disabilities to develop.
Our generation is making the same mistakes that previous generations have made, even though it is uncontested that we’ve become smarter. We are so divided by borders, loyalties, etc. that we cannot work together and simultaneously live with the Earth rather than from it. We share a value for our planet, but are focused on instant gratification of our individual desires, regardless of how much that jeopardizes the needs of others or future generations. The limits of human growth will surface not in a couple hundred years when oil runs out, but when warmer climate begins rising sea levels and drowning heavily populated cities. These limits will surface when natural disasters hit more violently and frequently. They will surface when droughts become more frequent across the world and scarcity of water becomes the new cause for conflict. The effects of climate change and population density are not constrained or divided by political borders like we seem to be.
Will these problems come and further divide us, or will we come together as humans to prevent them before they do so?
Jeremy Atie is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore double majoring in political science and Middle Eastern studies.