Ten thousand years ago, when human cultures first began to farm the fertile land between the rivers of Mesopotamia, young hearts were enthralled with the vision of a new age. Urban living arrangements entailed an intimacy which, in the union of males and females, beckoned the hope that this agricultural potency could thrive among the envious schemes of destiny. But even then the old sceptics of the day could foresee that, sooner or later, it would all come to a bad end. We could make a better life for ourselves, but even this had some inscrutably ominous consequences. When the Old Testament book of Daniel was written some seven and a half thousand years later, it would seem that such sentiments had grown only stronger because this book deals with the coming apocalypse in some detail. Indeed, the very premise for the Christian New Testament is that a Saviour will intervene on behalf of the faithful at the End of Days, and that those who share the sacraments should bide their time until his coming. Today, young hearts are again filled with the vision of a new age. A lot has happened since those early days, but the signs of the times are only more ominous.
In the half million years since humans devised weapons for the sake of armed conflict with each other, the ability of rivals to dominate the landscape grew in proportion to the technological sophistication of weapons. Indeed, the arms race is not a phenomenon you can realistically limit to the first half of the twentieth century, which is when the phrase was coined. It is, in fact, a phenomenon which dates back to the earliest development of armed conflict. But this factor in itself could have been quite innocent were it not for the sheer multiplication of competitors. After all, conflict is not a recent development on Planet Earth; it has probably been a feature of ecological systems from the very beginning. It is only in the context of the phenomenal numbers observed in human groups today that this sort of escalation could be a problem. In spite of serious social and ecological consequences, both the pressure to conform within the group, and the vanishing minority of those proposing an alternative to group behaviour, ensure that reproduction remains the dominant culture.
As each of us knows from his, or her, own experience of family life, reproductive conservatism is so resistant to either criticism or reform that the population crisis, and the ecological consequence of this, is now the single factor limiting the survival of humankind. With the existence and causes of global warming now a matter of substantial agreement early in the twenty-first century, there can be no doubt that the multiplication of human numbers is responsible. I don't know how you can extricate the family from implication in this matter. I've tried to hold my own parents responsible for the problem, but parents are virtually immune within the family setting, and children, having comparatively few rights protected by law, are emotionally ill-equipped to successfully contradict parental authority.
I'm not aware of a discussion of the subject in the historical literature, but it wouldn't surprise me to learn that thousands of years ago people could foresee that human numbers would eventually become a problem. But while heroic critics of the past, such as Daniel or Jesus, may have had their criticism of reproduction constrained by the rhetoric of their day, today, with the invention of weapons of mass destruction, and for perhaps the first time in human history, it is possible for a social critic to be openly hostile towards the family. Now, don't get me wrong, I feel strongly about my affection for members of my family, but there's no way I'm going to have children on this planet. Of course, you probably think I'm crazy, or maybe you think I'm gay, but I think the reasons for adopting this view are obvious. Since military targets tend not to assemble in large circular formations twenty or thirty kilometres across, nuclear weapons are thus designed expressly for the elimination of civilian populations. It would seem that military planners have long recognized the problem of excessive human numbers. So before you make matters worse perhaps you should confront this view, and consider the consequences of perpetuating what is for the most part a habit which you reinforce without much thinking.
And in case you'd like to blame our environmental problems on the development of industrial technology, let me point out how the discovery of the host model is going to complicate this issue. For example, more than simply observing our development over the course of the last several million years I believe that the planetary host has been actively involved in our cultivation as a species. In this case the planet may be implicated in the selective breeding of future generations, but more importantly in the development of the social and intellectual skills required by a group whose intention has evidently been to dominate the entire planet.
An interesting inference of this is the feeling we may get that we have been set up, so to speak. We have been 'framed' in the crime of our ecological delinquency by the planetary host herself, and our frustration with the dilemma of our environmental responsibility is understandable. I can't believe we are wasting our time on this Earth in the pursuit of a self serving technological mastery. I believe that our development of technology brings the entire solar system closer to an acquisition of the knowledge we obtain, and I believe this to be the ultimate purpose for which we have been genetically groomed over the course of so many years. In spite of the implication of industrial development in our ecological quandary, I believe that reforming our reproductive behaviour would be easier to achieve than casting doubt on the wisdom of our technological advances and returning to a simpler technological society. I believe we have been cultivated by the planet so that we may acquire cosmically significant information on its behalf, and the ecological cost of technology has been the sad but unavoidable corollary.
In spite of whether or not you agree with this view I'm sure it will be clear to you that in a finite world there's got to be an upper limit to the numbers which this planet can sustain. I have mentioned the possibility of some kind of military action as a consequence of excessive growth, but there is an ecological dimension to consider as well. The world population passed the six billion mark during the last decade of the twentieth century. At that time the average annual growth rate was 1.25 percent which equates to a population doubling time of about 55 years. Since then the rate has been falling off slowly and, to tell you the truth, it has actually been improving since the early 1960s. The rate peaked in 1963 with an annual increase of about 2.2 percent, which meant that human numbers were expected to double in the very slim interval of just 32 years. Had this rate remained constant into the future humans would number in excess of fifty billion by the end of the twenty-first century, and a staggering third of a trillion within two hundred years from now.
A number of this magnitude represents a fairly groundless assumption, however, because the global ecology simply could not afford to support so many humans. An ecological cataclysm would have occurred long before this eventuality which would decimate human numbers, and the first signs of impending doom are already evident in the drama of climate change and global warming. There would probably be human survivors of an event such as this, but their numbers would be fairly small. Fortunately the rate is now in decline, but even so the US Census Bureau predicts that a population of nine and a quarter billion humans will occupy Planet Earth by the middle of the twenty-first century. At this time they expect our numbers to continue to rise, doubling in as little as 150 years, so two questions occur to me since at this rate our numbers will inevitably exceed the planet's ability to accommodate us. The questions are firstly, just how long have we got before the cataclysm arrives, and secondly, what sort of measures can be taken in the mean time to avert disaster?
Now, the answer to the first question is, of course, very speculative. There are numerous factors to account for, and I can't claim to have a definitive knowledge of how they will affect the time frame. Nevertheless, I believe that the environmental indicators are quite legible, and that our difficulties are a matter of common knowledge. While some may have a vested interest in denying that there is a problem, there is a growing consensus among members of the community that the environmental situation is getting very serious.
According to one time US Vice President and Nobel laureate Al Gore, we have until about 2015 to dramatically alter our ecological behaviour before we pass the point of no return with regard to climate change, and relinquish any hope of living in a world which resembles the one in which we enjoy living today. Today we enjoy fairly mild temperature extremes, but if we continue to pump carbon into the atmosphere at the rate at which we are doing today, then in as little as 50 years from now ice could vanish from the face of the Earth, and temperatures would rise to levels which we would find unbearable. Not only would temperatures rise, but the melting of the polar ice caps would cause sea levels to rise by more than 20 feet, so that many tens of millions of humans would be displaced from low lying coastal areas, vastly complicating the problems we are likely to encounter from just dealing with the change in the weather. If the permafrost located on the Asian and North American continents were to melt then billions of tons of methane gas would be released into the atmosphere which would make the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions that much more difficult for us to achieve. Higher global temperatures would result in a higher incidence of bush fires which would also add to global carbon emissions, drought would become more prolonged and widespread, and stormy weather would be very much more severe. It is therefore with some urgency that we deal with the causes of global warming and the most fundamental of these is our evident inability to control our prodigious numbers.
I therefore suggest on the basis of the damage already done by industrial development that the global ecology will be unable to support the sort of human numbers expected to occupy this planet within the next one hundred years or so. Within this time frame we may number no more than 10 billion, but even such modest numbers may prove to be decisive. If the ecological fundamentals are showing signs of deterioration today with just 6.5 billion humans behaving badly, then the situation is only going to get progressively worse as the population approaches one and a half times this number. The number by itself is not the critical factor, but rather it is the number in the context of the time frame that threatens to become an obstacle. Over the course of the next one hundred years the damage humans will do to the environment is going to compound, so that each successive ecological disaster will have more and more serious consequences. In fact, I'm inclined to suggest that a hundred years represents a fairly conservative estimate of the time involved. Half this interval could well be closer to the mark.
As for the question of what can be done to remedy this problem I know that a lot of you would like to believe that cleaner fuels, and the recycling of rubbish will be enough to meet this pressing need, but I think we both know that this is not the case. If nuclear fuels are being proposed among the cleaner alternatives to the fossil fuels which have been polluting the atmosphere, then I think it is clear that we have not learned anything from our recent troubles. Prior experience has shown that it is a matter of prudence to expect the worst when it comes to the production and use of certain materials. In the case of nuclear material this will involve a life threatening contamination which will remain active in the environment for thousands of years to come. It is thus a tribute to the desperation of the energy crisis that this fuel is being touted as a viable alternative to coal in the production of the electricity which is now an essential feature of our lives. There have already been several incidents involving nuclear materials, so it is with reluctance that governments resort to the use of this fuel. If there were any cleaner alternatives available then you may be sure that they would already be in use.
The production of electricity on a scale required to maintain the standard of living we have become accustomed to could lend itself to cleaner technologies such as the much anticipated Carbon Capturing Sequestration, and progress is also being made in terms of the more efficient use of non-renewable resources. The invention of the automobile revolutionised transportation, but the volume of exhaust resulting from the mass production of these vehicles added substantially to the greenhouse gasses responsible for global warming. It was thus with some urgency that electric cars were developed late in the twentieth century. The first of these lacked the range of conventional vehicles, and took so long to recharge that they failed to win much support in the automobile market. But with the development of lithium batteries, electric cars could go as fast as conventional vehicles, had a range of several hundred kilometres, and recharged in a fraction of the time it had taken earlier models. These vehicles drew power from the electricity grid when they recharged so were not entirely free from implication in the pollution of the atmosphere, but they were a lot less polluting than vehicles which relied on the ignition of fossil fuels such as petroleum. While petrol and diesel cars have always had a reputation for being atmospheric polluters some manufactures have been able to improve the efficiency of these cars in recent years.
The development of electric vehicles and improvements in the efficiency of petrol cars are a vital step in the right direction, and are but one example of a range of adaptive measures designed to limit the impact of human behaviour on the environment. Among other measures are the recycling of packaging and water, the use of safer pesticides and fertilisers, and the development of a better understanding of land management, all of which address critical environmental problems. But, while measures such as these represent a vital adaptation to what is undoubtedly a critical turning point in the history of mankind, they are nevertheless fairly cosmetic. The sort of thinking involved in the development of such policies assiduously avoids confronting the real reason for our problem, which is of course, our apparent inability to limit the multiplication of our numbers. Presumably this is because reproduction represents the holiest of holies among human communities, the one universal value which unites all of mankind, and which everyone on Planet Earth can agree to adopting equally. Either this, or policy makers just can't imagine what might be a compelling alternative to the reproductive behaviour of so many.
To be fair it's not the place of policy makers to come up with whacky ideas such as those I am presenting to you here. The responsibility for this sort of discussion lies squarely with cantankerous individuals such as myself. I therefore suggest as a matter of civic duty that an alternative does exist which depends to a large extent on assuming a dramatically different view of biological function, and which I will introduce in the following chapters. Let me warn you now that I intend to discuss the relationship between sex and death, which will probably be a sensitive subject for many readers, but I believe that it is warranted under the circumstances.
But, if you happen to be among those who believe that I'm airing the views of a crackpot, that I am needlessly alarming readers because there is not a problem with human numbers, then I ask you to explain the declining growth rates. A principle of population ecology which observation has proven to be reliable is that a species' numbers will tend to grow until affected by external factors such as disease, predation, or competition by ecological rivals. In the case of human numbers estimates over the course of time tend to bear this out with steady increments being reported until sudden losses occurred such as during the Bubonic Plague which ravaged much of Europe during the 14th century. With the declining rates observed today not resulting from an increase in the death rate it would seem that if I am a crackpot then I am not alone because the birth rate is in decline. Couples are evidently choosing to have smaller families.
The question is, of course, whether couples are responding to their perception of the environmental crisis spontaneously, or whether they are being surreptitiously manipulated by governments with grave environmental concerns. When the United Nations met to discuss the relationship between growing human numbers and the environment in 1994 the Program of Action they adopted emphasised the need for the empowerment of women, and the universal acceptance of equality between the sexes. Presumably their intention was to provide women with a role other than the rearing of children, and if you asked women in western society why the birth rate was so low then most of them would tell you that it was because women now had jobs and a career. Clearly, recasting the role of women in society is an effective solution to the problem of excessive human numbers, and offers the hope that something similar may be adapted to developing nations where the problem is still very serious.
While recasting the role of women has barely even started in many parts of the world, it has been a distinguishing feature of western society since the reinvigoration of the feminist movement in the early 1960s. I doubt that women were responding to environmental concerns when they fought for equal rights however, or that by encouraging this endeavour the government was fulfilling an environmental agenda. The women's movement began around the middle of the 19th century, long before our relationship with the environment was seen to be a problem, which is lucky considering the significance of women's issues in the context of reducing human numbers. It is, however, worth noting that Thomas Malthus briefly discussed the problem of feeding the growing multitude in the late 18th century, but his anticipated famine failed to eventuate, and his prophetic vision soon became an urban legend. It is only recently that governments have fully grasped the problem with human numbers; evidently the last thing people want to accept is the implication that their reproductive behaviour has adversely affected the environment.
This is not to say that people haven't thought about it. The overcrowding in our cities is ominous to say the least, so there's been some deliberate clouding of the issue as people attempt to hide their precious feelings behind a thick industrial smokescreen. Perhaps the most palpable example of how people resort to some appallingly foggy thinking in order to avoid confronting this issue concerns the development of the space program. Now, I know some of you will want to argue that space exploration enriches our lives with a profound knowledge of the universe, and all sorts of other benefits such as telecommunications, and the development of cutting edge technology. I'm not saying I have a problem with this because I'm as much a beneficiary as the next person, and I wish the guys at NASA, or whoever else might be involved, the best of luck in all of their endeavours.
But I believe it is dangerous when mums and dads at home start thinking that it is okay to populate this planet to the point of extinction, because the guys at NASA are making it possible to go out into space, and colonise every corner of the galaxy. Let me be the first to acknowledge that there is a little exaggeration woven into this suggestion, colonising the galaxy is not likely to happen in the foreseeable future, but don't try to tell me that, for a lot of you, this is not your intention. After all, I hear you argue, what else can we do with the power of technology, how else can we quench our insatiable thirst for knowledge? Surely the understanding we obtain brings the universe closer to an objective which is ultimately identical.
It is all very well to make plans which ensure the survival of your children, but do you have to vandalise the planet in order to satisfy your reproductive urges? Is this the love of parents for their children, or is it really evil? These are questions which should give you pause, but I believe that these are the least of them. You should be asking yourself more serious questions such as do you think this planet is going to let you get away with it? Or, do you really want to go out into the unknown with a reputation for being so destructive? And, do you think that the planetary beings you intend to encounter out there are going to make you welcome? I don't think so. Yet our amusement with movies such as 'Star Wars' suggests that we believe conquering space to be not unlike mastering the sort of conflict we have here on Earth. While space opera is all very entertaining it depends on a fairly misleading view of the universe, because the truth is that the sort of beings who exist out there are likely to be much more powerful than we have previously given them credit for. Stars and planets may seem lethargic from our point of view, but this doesn't mean they're unable to defend themselves from us. They're very old, and very big, and if our immune system gives us any indication of the sort of defences they may have, then they will likely make short work of the impudent intruders we evidently intend to become.
While such a titanic confrontation as this depends on our being able to actually get across the emptiness of space, I doubt that people begin to grasp the distances which this voyage could involve. Our spatial sense may be limited by our rather two dimensional existence, but there is a way of illustrating the scale of the problem, so let me tease you with an amusing comparison. Let's assume for the sake of argument that humans, along with most of the mammalian species, perish in the not too distant future, but that the environment is not so severely damaged that it can no longer support a modest system of ecological dependency. Let's also assume that the ecological remnant suits the insect survivors rather nicely, and that in some sixty or seventy million years from now the ants find themselves at the top of the food chain, and in a position to dominate the entire planet. You've probably already figured out where I'm going with this, so let me just say that even if ants were able to develop a technological society capable of space travel, the problem of crossing the emptiness of space would be the same for them as it is for us. Or perhaps, to make my point clear to you, I should put it the other way round. The problem of getting across the distances involved in space travel is no different for us as humans, than it would be for a colony of ants equipped with ships the size of shoe boxes. Compared to the distances between even neighbouring stars ants and humans are identical in scale, just as they are compared to the dimensions of subatomic particles. Good luck to all who sail on the Starship Anterprise.
To be fair, prior to publication of the discussion contained in this document, it has not been possible for people to think of stars and planets as powerful beings capable of defending themselves. But this is no excuse for the foggy thinking which I believe many people put themselves in a position to depend on. It seems to me that some people are determined to deceive themselves with the view that the multiplication of human numbers does not adversely affect the environment, so that they may continue to believe in the righteousness of having children. Yet, at the same time it is evidently their intention to develop technologies which will make it possible to evacuate the planet when the damage is so great that it can no longer support them. Surely a child is able to recognise the contradiction involved in this thinking, yet virtually every adult who is familiar with space opera inevitably concludes that evacuation is the ultimate goal of space exploration. In fact, I'm inclined to suggest that those who promote the development of the space program see the population crisis as exactly the sort of motivation governments need in order to give their project a sufficient budgetary priority.
Contrary to the premise for such forward thinking, let me say, however, that the question of evacuation is moot in any case because space travel is unlikely to be sufficiently advanced within the critical time frame of the next one hundred years or so. And, even less likely is the hope of being able to pack several billion bodies into whatever rattling machines we may cobble together in order to begin our galactic exodus. Even if we were able to survive for several thousand more years, and succeed in our galactic endeavours, then it is likely that only a handful of emigrants will ever venture into the unknown compared to the masses left behind here on Earth. I doubt you will need much foresight to realise that, whichever way you look at it, sooner or later we are going to have to get control of our numbers, because for the vast majority of humans here on Earth escape to another world is simply not an option.
Without wishing to brutalise what is undoubtedly a delicate human suggestion, I believe that our arrival at this conclusion leaves us with only two alternatives. Either we lower the birth rate by whatever means our ingenuity is able to come up with, or we raise the death rate, which is of course unthinkable. It is unthinkable for me, at least, and for most of humanity most likely, but not for every one of us. I like to think of myself as a man of peace, and so I dedicate these pages, and indeed my very life, to reducing human numbers by means of the first option. But it would be naive to expect that everyone will want to share this view. Sadly, there can be no doubt that when it comes to the crunch, when the choice is between preserving the health of the environment and the culling of surplus numbers, inevitably some will take it upon themselves to protect the ecological basis of our existence. They will likely undertake this action with unfaltering confidence because it is so easy to rationalise its justification. Since any one of us will prefer the survival of as many as possible in the face of complete destruction, the environmental fundamentals must be preserved at all costs, even if this means that some must sacrifice their lives so that others may endure. With any luck those war makers who intend to reduce our numbers in this way will resort to biological weapons in order to achieve their goal, which will have a minimal impact on the environment. Surely they will agree that the contamination which results from the use of nuclear weapons will be of lasting benefit to no-one.
I realise that I am assuming a fairly sombre view of the likely course of human history, and I sympathise with those of you who are filled with apprehension. But I don't know how you can go through life without confronting this prospect, it seems so obvious to me. And I don't know how you can bring children into the world when having children is so obviously the problem. But what really staggers my comprehension is how people can enter into an elaborate discussion about ecology and ecological factors affecting the environment, without asking questions about population. Surely population is the most fundamental ecological factor!
I have already told you I don't have any children, and so I don't know as much as most of you about what it's like to bring one into the world. But, I do know from my natural sympathy for children that there comes a time in their childhood, just before they reach adolescence, when they turn to you as parents with the question "I've seen how quickly the world can change, is everything going to be all right?" Now, this question may never be vocalised, it may be no more than a look of apprehension, and it may be more common in girls than it is in boys. But if you can't confidently answer in the affirmative then I think the child's adolescence is going to be fraught with complication. In fact, I'm inclined to believe that parents are having so much trouble with their adolescent children today simply because children doubt the truth of their parent's answer to this question. It doesn't take much insight to realise that this planet is in very real danger, and that things are only going to get worse before the reason for our problems can be met with an effective solution. If you happen to be a parent with children approaching this age then you might consider answering this question honestly.
You may be pleased to hear that I have only one more story to tell before I draw this chapter to a close. It concerns the ecological behaviour of a few of the other creatures with whom we share this world. While it may be a somewhat bitter reflection of our own behaviour on this planet, I particularly wanted to compare our attitude to creatures who present themselves to us in relatively small numbers, with those who populate the world in numbers which a comparatively large.
Firstly, let me say that the swarming of various creatures in large numbers is neither new nor unnatural. Bees and wasps swarm fairly frequently as a natural part of colonial life, and they do so without offending our sensibilities. Swarming is in fact so innocent that the human body may be thought of as a swarm of sorts, and in view of the regression of abstractions it is amusing to think of the Sun as a swarming colony of individual atomic particles. The mass of the Sun in kilograms is about twice 10 raised to the 30th power which means that the Sun contains about 10 raised to the 57th power in terms of its atomic population, which is quite a large number. Such numbers suggest that the Sun coordinates a monumentally frenzied activity compared to the relatively minor frenzy going on within animal bodies here on Earth. While the Sun and Solar System may be a hive of celestial activity Earthly creatures such as locusts, cockroaches and mice pale in significance by comparison. But when these creatures swarm we feel threatened by an ugliness which compels us to undertake action which is so hostile that it is executed with all the brutality of extreme prejudice. So the question remains as to why the swarming of some creatures is so offensive when other examples of this behaviour are so appealing.
It couldn't be because these creatures are inherently repulsive. On the contrary mice are lovable furry creatures which have broadened the biological perceptions of the countless children who have been lucky enough to adopt them as pets. In this context they are so familiar to us that they feature in popular entertainments such as Tom and Jerry, Mighty Mouse, Stuart Little and as that inimical cartoon character Itchy in The Simpsons. Not only do mice feature in such entertainments, but there are more than a few cartoons in which cockroaches play an important role. They usually play disreputable characters in such cartoons, but even in real life these creatures could be living a noble existence worthy of our respect if only we were able to meet them as individuals. I happen to feel, for example, a very deep respect for spiders because I have come to realise during my investigation of the host model that spiders represent the presence of the Galaxy here on Earth. I find it awesome to correspond with a creature who is so majestic, and who is so distantly related, and I'm sure that with some effort I could develop an understanding of the role which cockroaches play in the cosmos.
It is with some affection that I remember how crickets occupied my attention as a child. I remember looking into their eyes and thinking that such creatures were individuals who possessed the sort of social attributes which any one of us has as a member of society. And who can forget the role which the beloved Grasshopper plays in our modern interpretation of Buddhist mythology. Yet in spite of the potential for developing a relationship based on understanding and affection, in large numbers all these creatures are the deadly enemies of humankind.
They are our enemies because they trespass in our lives; they enter our homes uninvited, ravage our foodstuffs and soil our precious belongings with no consideration for our feelings. It is an expression of their disrespect for us that we return to them in kind, and so we prosecute them with as much sympathy as we feel for criminals. Had they remained outside the perimeter of our lives we would probably have little care about their existence in the world, and so it is their ignorance of our boundaries that is the basis of our hostility towards them. But there is another factor which I think is worth considering. Had these creatures trespassed in much smaller numbers we may well have made an effort to ignore them. Certainly other creatures such as spiders share our personal space without offending us, and this is simply because there tends to be so few of them. Indeed the most distinguishing feature of a plague of locusts, or mice or cockroaches is their astonishing multitude. And as a consequence we develop an attitude towards such creatures where the value placed on their individual lives is inversely proportional to their numbers; the more of them there are the cheaper is their existence to us, and the less compunction we feel about destroying them.
There will be no prize for guessing why I have told you about these creatures. We intrude so gravely on the lives of so many of the creatures whose environment we share, but I believe it is the careless disregard for our numbers that is most offensive to them. While it may be somewhat brutal to translate such sentiments into ones which the planetary host may feel, but to make my point perfectly clear to you, I suggest that if you want to behave like a plague on this planet then expect to be treated like vermin.
I'm sure you will want to argue, on the basis of the shape of Italy, that we have a very special relationship with the planetary host who has long foreseen our illustrious rise to global domination. But, by the same token, the shape of Italy warns us of the peril which this relationship entails. Of all the countless sins we are guilty of committing during our ascent against the integrity of this planet I believe that our disregard of the ecological context in which we reproduce is most serious. For all the pride which you may have in our remarkable achievements you would be foolish not to realise that we are no different from the countless other species who have struggled with exactly this problem. And you certainly can't deny the fate which usually befalls them. In the case of the cockroaches, and the mice, and the locusts, their numbers may increase at a phenomenal rate, but they just as surely disappear for years until the environment is again ready to receive them. We would do well to heed their warning, and contain our numbers. And don't tell me about your plan to escape to another planet, because I'll bet those locusts mobilise their hunger with this thought, mile after mile, as they devastate our farmland with their numbers.
I think I've dwelt enough on this misery. Let me tell you about a possible solution, one of many no doubt. But it is one which may not have occurred to you because it requires an explanation of the mystery of telepathy, a phenomenon which is so disturbing to most people that they are determined to associate it with the symptoms of mental illness. People pray to the object of their spiritual consolation, of course, but for the most part they don't expect their prayers to be either heard or answered. But with the identification of Planet Earth as a being who intends to share exactly this relationship with us, it would seem that we could communicate with the planetary host, and share with this being a knowledge which transcends our scale of existence, if only we had a way of understanding how. On the basis of some experience in this regard I believe that mental illness could provide us with an answer to this question. We could empathise with the planet and all of the creatures whose lives we so carelessly disturb. But more than this we could conceive of such a phenomenal scale of time that our reproductive motives would be without foundation. We could open our minds to such possibilities if only we felt confident about departing from our adherence to some conventional group norms.