My latest estimates show that humanity is less than two years from being forced to reduce our population's ecological footprint, and the only control we might have is in how it happens. Our options are very limited: we can reduce the total ecological impact of what all of us use, reduce our population size, or both. We may be forced to continue this reduction as natural consequences of our pollution, especially atmospheric greenhouse gases, include taking away more of our remaining resources.
I would argue, based on my values, that the only morally acceptable choice is to cooperate in reducing what we use until we either can't or (ideally) don't have to, and making that reduction with the least amount of pain possible. The alternatives all include people dying, likely on a large scale, with the worst cases including extinction of our species within a decade.
I'm sure this is all very familiar to readers of my blogs, as it is just the most recent of several passes I've taken at this extremely important subject, and is further confirmation of the conclusions I've been trying to find a convincing argument against. Even the timing is similar; I've just got a better handle on the trajectory that's gotten us here, and a more compelling explanation for the relationship I discovered between happiness and ecological footprint (as we begin to consume the resources needed by the natural providers of our own most basic biological needs, we reduce their ability to support us and thus endanger ourselves).
So, what can we do over the next two years to implement the "morally acceptable choice"?
Here in the United States, we're facing a presidential election before the two years is over. Election season, which has already begun, is an excellent time to address the issues government can – and can't – have the greatest influence over. The current field of candidates includes only two people who recognize the seriousness of climate change, which is clearly a critical requirement for anyone who holds significant political power, so something we here can do is to support one of these candidates. Another requirement is a firm commitment to reducing pain among the larger population, which is more aligned with the views of a core populist than someone in alignment with the sociopathic leanings of large corporations and their leaders who value focused power over distributed power. One obvious risk of favoring populists, though, is the potential amplification of consumption as more people gain power, so such candidates will need to be open to focusing on efficiency and other offsets, such as caps on overall consumption that are applied to everyone.
In our own lives, we can work to reduce our own ecological footprints, including actions we take at work. We can also avoid having more than two children to keep from further amplifying the global footprint. Applying social and economic pressure on others, accompanied by reasoned dialog and education, is something else we can do about the problem, and is particularly important since there is almost overwhelming pressure already to have at least as much as the people we identify with (or would like to).
If, as currently seems likely, we get through these last years of voluntary action without change in attitudes and actions that sufficiently promotes the moral choice, the world will – to say the least – become even more bizarre to those of us who remember what even a marginally healthy Earth was like (I was a preteen in the 1960s). I will personally feel very lucky to live to retirement age, if such a term even makes sense, and the feeling I have now that we are about to witness the equivalent of a massive asteroid impact will have translated into a full-sensory experience of that disaster.