KILLING US SOFTLY2.pdf
CAUSES: THE GENESIS OF EVIL
We started to become victims of our own success when science and technology gradually
enabled us to survive the natural scourges that have kept us in check throughout history:
pestilence, war, famine, and death. These four horsemen of the apocalypse have been the natural
enemies of our species. We have been waging war on them since times immemorial and, as we
have largely vanquished them, we found ourselves unchallenged on earth. We have become an
unstoppable force, absorbing earth’s space and productive capacity and displacing all other
species to make room for our ever-growing needs and numbers.
1. Physical Realities: The Cost of Ignorance
We now confront a set of physical realities that are unprecedented: overpopulation, hyperconsumption, and long life spans.
For the first 250 million years of our existence, we have struggled to survive and remained few
in numbers, reaching 500 million by the late Middle Ages. In the succeeding 300 years – from
circa 1500 A.D. to 1800 A.D. – we doubled our numbers thanks to improvements in agriculture,
transportation and distribution. Population pressures during these three centuries were relieved
by emigration to the New World.
The next doubling, from one to two billion, took only one century and occurred with the advent
of the Industrial Revolution when Europe’s population began to grow at an unprecedented pace.
Medical advances allowed most children to survive childhood while better nutrition and
sanitation extended the lifespan. Population pressures during this time were relieved by
European conquest and the exploitation of colonies in Africa and Asia.
As the benefits of science and technology became global, the surge in population became global
too and a billion people were added in only 50 years bringing the total to 3 billion by 1950.
Population pressures in this half century could no longer be absorbed by either migration or the
exploitation of colonies and this led to a bitter struggle for resources during the two world wars;
a struggle that has ravaged entire nations and killed more than 80 million people, more casualties
than all other conflicts in history combined.
Since 1950, we have added a billion new people every 10 to 15 years, bringing the total
population to 4 billion by 1970, to 5 billion by 1987, to 6 billion by 1999, and to 7 billion by