Once in a while, I’ll read an article that makes me take stock (again) and realise how absolutely insane our* civilization (species) is. Today, it’s this article from The Economist, If everyone were vegan, only a quarter of current farmland would be needed (paywalled but you can see the chart below, and it’s nothing new data wise). Now, granted, chances are that we’ll never have a 100% vegan global population but it gives a good idea of the scale.

Below I’m not going to expand on all the issues, just a quick list off the top of my head, and a couple of posts I’ve written elsewhere. Imagine you’re coming from another planet, you look at what ‘we’re’ doing, compare that to what this planet can sustain, and tell me we don’t look completely barking mad.

  • We’re still divided in hundreds of countries with immensely unequal living conditions and access to food, shelter, etc. Even within countries, huge inequalities remain between people, often along gender and racial lines.
  • Our cities are built around cars that spew out a gas causing health problems and causing the planet to warm beyond the best (only) living conditions the species has ever thrived under.
  • The vast majority of the materials we use to build roads and shelters also produce the same gas, pollute in myriad other ways, and we’ve created so much that it has now exceeded the weight of all global living biomass.
  • Plastic is produced, and disposed off, at a rate choking our rivers and oceans. Micro-plastics are now in our bodies from birth, because they are so prevalent around everything we accumulate around us.
  • As mentioned at the start, three quarters of the land we use for agriculture is spent on raising animals in factories and kill to eat (minus the part we torture for the mothers’ milk). In the process we decimate ecosystems, pollute rivers, and destroy arable land.
  • Not only that, but we then go on and waste a full third of the food we produce (40% in the US).
  • Most societies on the planet are addicted to consumerism, buying and replacing ‘stuff’ at historically unprecedented rates, destroying and polluting evermore ecosystems.
  • Planet-wide, we have been struggling with a virus that we might be able to stop but some individuals keep thinking only of themselves and, more importantly, we are letting companies make billions of dollars in profit instead of spreading the vaccines far and wide around the globe.
  • ‘We’ are addicted to ‘productivity,’ convenience, too often blind to what’s going on, barely lifting a finger, by and large making little effort to change things. Those who have the privilege of voting often don’t, too many of those who do choose a short-term feeling of security over long-term viability and equality.

The list could go on, and yes, I could also come up with a list of positives, Future Crunch share a lot of good news, it’s there. But that doesn’t make any of the above less true. We might get out of the current predicament, we can do better, we are doing better in some cases and places, but really, can you honestly tell me that looking at us right now as a species, we don’t look absolutely insane?

* Obviously, ‘our’ and ‘we’ are not great here, considering inequalities at various levels, but let’s use them to mean the human race, in general.