Thursday, December 5, 2013

People Divorced from Nature

My contemporaries and I are living in one of the most astonishing periods of human history. When I, a school child living on a farm in the American mid-west, first learned the world had at that time three cities with more than a million people (New York, London, Mexico City), I was so staggered by the information I suddenly recognized the inadequacy of my imagination.  Just to count out loud to a million would take a long time.

I have just read a bit about a book called The World in 2050 by Laurence C. Smith with this mind-blowing information: "The world is now more urban than rural, and the century of the megacity has begun. In 1950, there were two cities with a population of more than ten million. By 1975, there were three. As of 2007, there were nineteen, and by 2025, the United Nations estimates that there will be twenty-seven. There are ninety cities in China alone that have a population of greater than one million."

The picture above is Tokyo, the world's largest megacity -- as of this writing. These vast cities will continue to grow. Nearly all of them are in the northern hemisphere. The people who were born in these cities -- and will be born into them in the future, cannot produce their own food or water or clothe themselves without involvement with the world of technology and manufacturing. They will be affected by natural phenomena: heat, cold, storms  (which are already killing more and more hundreds when they hit). These new generations have more in common with worker ants than they do with farmers like my father and mother who grew a large percentage of their food, who had artesian wells and cisterns for water, who sheltered in a house constructed by my father and his cousins.

As a reader of novels and poetry I think how meaningless will be "I wandered lonely as a cloud," or "I will arise now and go to the Isle of Inisfree," or the road in the woods that diverged and I chose the lesser used one.  Psychologically, referentially, people will be divorced from nature.  The political implications are enormous, in fact, staggering.  And the economics of feeding all these people ... Oh, my ... and I thought my imagination was inadequate 60 years ago!



June -- Your blog points out the dilemma that our world is experiencing. Unfortunately our population increase is already bringing negative results to the standard of living in many countries. Does the book have any suggestions about how to turn things around? I have always believed that increasing populations would bring ultimate disaster as the earth can only provide so much to keep everyone alive. This is a dilemma containing many side effects that is heading straight toward human populations. Excellent review -- thanks for the "heads up" on what sounds like a critically important book to read -- barbara

June Calender said...

Thanks for your note, Barbara. I read only an excerpt which dealt with the statistics. I don't know if it offers any ideas about a solution. It seems to me that often people know they can do nothing toward a solution so they do not even read articles about the extent of the problem. I think the head in the sand reaction is part of the problem.