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Climate change looks set to be a knockout blow for humanity on planet earth. After reading this blog you will agree that modern human’s (Homo sapiens) are sprinting towards their demise on planet earth led by short-termism. This blog is one of the most enlightening blogs about modern Humans covering 200,000 years of our history in a few pages. We end the blog with how we Homo sapiens can save ourselves.
To understand what is most likely to happen to the human race on planet Earth, we will need to go back to where it all started. The blog has five key sections:
Section 1: History of humans from origins to the start of the industrial revolution (Origins -1760)
Section 2: Industrial revolution to the end of the Second World War (1761-1944)
Section 3: Emergence of post-war consumerism, & ultra-capitalism. (1945-now)
Section 4: Climate change; the knockout blow for Homo sapiens.
Section 5: How can we Homo sapiens still survive on planet Earth?
Section 1: History of humans from origins to the start of the industrial revolution (Origins -1760)
Early humans started as just another species on planet earth about 2.8 million years ago. For about 2 million years, humans lived as hunter-gatherers. While they had basic tools, human life standard was not different from animals today, example pack of wolves. There were multiple species of humans on the planet.
About 800,000 years ago, humans invented to control fire. The fire led to better nutrition though cooked proteins, it scared off predators, made cold weather less gruesome, reduced diseases as cooking killed of bacteria in raw meat. This led to the human brain becoming more multipurpose over the next 750,000 years. Human life in these 750,000 years was a bit better than animals as relative physical weakness and senses were more than offset by tools & the ability to control fire.
In about 50,000 BC, there was learning explosion tools became more sophisticated, languages evolved and we were able to communicate effectively down to the last detail. This led to the human ability to co-operate flexibly in large groups outthinking any other species on earth. Humans demonstrated abilities never seen in any other species in the history of the planet. They were able to gain knowledge quickly, pass the knowledge through generations with every generation improving on knowledge gained from the previous one. For about the next 40,000 years humans lived as superior animal species.
At the end of these 40,000 years, one particular species of humans survived and that species is we the modern human (Homo sapiens). Sapiens is Latin for wise and homo is Latin for humans, making us the wise man. Human species like Homo erectus (upright human); Neanderthals that had inhabited the planet for over 2 million years became extinct. It is debatable if Homo sapiens had a hand in their extinction or it was climate change, but our survival was down to an ability to ‘collaborate’ and ‘innovate’ to make our lives better. Other species of humans lacked that critical thinking and until date, none of the animal species has ever invented a single tool.
About 12,000 years ago, we invented agriculture in multiple locations. Everything began to change very quickly as unlike meat, grains could be hoarded offering reliable and predictable food source. One group of humans could now depend on other humans for their survival. The other group could specialize in their area of expertise example building better tools, crop research. Prior to agricultural age, as hunter-gatherers, all humans spent most of their time for their own survival like most animals today. This meant there was no time for significant innovation. Humans began to harness the power of ‘specialization’. Food grains storage needed security so humans started living as communities and defense, housing, healthcare, and civilizations started to emerge. The new dawn had arrived and humans were set to rule the 4.5 Billion years old planet earth. While the dinosaur age was based on sheer physical power, the cornerstone of Homo sapiens age was the ability to collaborate and innovate.
From agricultural invention 12,000 years ago to the beginning of the industrial revolution humans continued to innovate, communities became villages; villages became towns and towns cities. Weapons became sophisticated with the invention of gunpowder in the 13th century in China. Weapons played a major role in determining the power balance of power in the world.
We operated in the hierarchal model and did not believe in equality. Race, sex, class, and religion divided the humans amongst themselves resulting in evils like slavery, oppression, wars, and empires. Monarchies coupled with feudalism was modus operandi of the world.
While many empires came and went, the British Empire was the most recent one covering 24% of planet earth’s land where 412 million humans (23% of the world population) inhabited. This leads us to our next section, the beginning of the industrial revolution, which began in Britain in 1760.
Recommended Videos for section 1:
History before history: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dGiQaabX3_o
Modern humans’ vs Homo erectus: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ioxyArg6E_U
Neanderthals in Europe: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Tbg4ec_ZGU
Section 2: Industrial revolution to the end of the Second World War (1761-1944)
The industrial revolution was the most significant change in the life of modern humans after the invention of agricultural almost 13,000 years ago. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, manufacturing was done in people’s homes, using hand tools or basic machines. The average life expectancy of humans remained around 35 years; education was a privilege, not a right. Child mortality was around 43% compared to 4% today with less than 1% in rich countries. Most of what we ate, wore and used in our daily life’s came from the local community. Most humans lived close to their source of food, which was usually their farm.
Industrialization marked a shift to powered, special-purpose machinery, factories and mass production. Advances were made at every level including medicine and military equipment. The industrial revolution improved the quality of life of humans significantly with humans living life their ancestors could have only dreamt of. Energy (predominantly coal followed by oil) was a key driver of the industrial revolution as it powered steam engines, which was at the heart of the industrial revolution.
More than 80% of the population in the western world worked in agriculture prior to the industrial revolution. The industrial revolution also brought around the agricultural revolution making it a lot more productive to produce and economical to import produce from poorer countries. Now around 2% of the population in the western world works in agriculture.
The evil trade of slavery was abolished with US abolishing slavery in 1865 (Mauritania became the last country in the world to abolish slavery in 1981). Some believe the abolition of slavery was not only a moral decision but also an economic one. The industrial revolution meant that organized wage labor working on the assembly line was a lot more productive than transporting, supervising, providing lodging and boarding to slaves.
While the industrial revolution improved the life of humans, humans were still a divided bunch at many different levels and very much in the race of military superiority and world domination. This led to two brutal world wars, which killed over 80 million people.
At the end of the Second World War, the human race was at crossroads with opportunities and risks being at a much larger scale. Prior to the industrial revolution, humans milked the earth of it resources and their life had little impact on the environment. By the end of world war, humans were blowing the top of mountains for coal, burning coal for energy and releasing billions of tons of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere without understanding its consequences, oil looked set to take an industrial revolution to the next stage releasing even more carbon dioxide. Humans had the potential to affect the environment in a way no other species and our ancestors had in 4.5 Billion years life of our planet.
The next 100 years would be critical on so many fronts and pretty much determine the direction of travel for the survival of humans on the planet earth. The next section will talk about how humans have fared since WW II to now (2019).
Industrial revolution: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zhL5DCizj5c
Emergence of Oil: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xMQUGSrnbP8
Section 3: Emergence of post-war consumerism & ultra-capitalism. (1945-now)
The new world order was established after the war, atomic weapons acted as a strong deterrent for future wars. Capitalism drove a huge economic boom and consumerism rose to new levels; the cost of production reduced significantly and the middle class started growing. Emerging middle classes, credit cards, low-interest rates acted as fuel to fire driving up consumerism.
Average humans had always owned basics and a little bit more, but with consumerism, we started making sub-optimal purchases, which would have been considered ‘vanity’ by our ancestors. Economists realized that while most of the purchases we made were not necessary the labor involved in producing those goods & services boosted economies. Inspired by the wealth of western economies, capitalism driven consumerism became the choice of most countries in the world.
With no more wars at a scale of world wars and the advancement of medicines, population and consumerism both started to grow at an unprecedented rate. The population of the world increased to 7.7 Billion today vs 2.3 Billion at the end of WW II. This growth is higher than ever seen in the history of the planet. Not only is the population growing, but we are also consuming about 100 times more per capita than our ancestors. The average human now has a carbon footprint of 4,900 kilograms per year (the US has high as 16,000 kilograms per capita).
Capitalism in the first fifty years after World War II looked like the way to go. While it brought inequality, inequality to an extent was necessary to incentivize innovation. Capitalist came out as big winners of this era as wealth led to more wealth, success will lead to even more success. Capitalists were quick to take control of media, which meant they controlled the flow of information to the people, and indirectly of politicians in democracies. The political class became dependent on capitalist for funding election campaigns and media coverage, which meant politicians, did not enforce laws to enable the distribution of wealth. Politicians not thinking beyond 4-5 years (election cycles) and hopelessly dependent on capitalist for funding added more fuel to burning inequality.
More wealth and political influence led to automation investments, free trade and globalization, which led to a reduction of stable permanent and secure labor jobs in the western world. Jobs became either low pay unskilled/semiskilled or high paying/technical. Most low paying production and services jobs moved to poorer countries taking out millions of people out of poverty. While millions in the poorest countries were taken out of abject poverty, the biggest winners of globalization were the capitalist as their wealth and profits soared at the back of low-cost production.
The world today produces $78.28 trillion (GWP, Gross world product) which equates $17,300 per living human per annum after neutralizing for Purchasing power parity i.e. scaling the entire world to US economy for simplicity. If this wealth was distributed equally (perfect socialism), a household of four will earn $69,200 per year. Even if the top 20% took away 60% of income, the remaining 80% will still earn around $30,000 per year. This income supports capitalism (top 20% take 60%) but still leaves enough for the bottom 80% to live a good life.
However, extreme capitalism supported by politicians meant this income was distributed extremely unequally. Such is the scale of inequality that every 10 second there is a child dying of hunger in the world. Around the world, 821 million people do not have enough of the food they need to live an active, healthy life. One in every nine people goes to bed hungry each night. There is enough food for everyone, but not everyone has enough food. In wealthier countries, housing crises are worsening by the year. In the UK, one in every 201 people is homeless at a time when golf courses used primarily by rich for leisure arguably occupy more land than housing.
This inequality is not limited to poor countries. Below facts about the USA, the world’s richest country and pioneer of modern capitalism will blow your mind away:
- The top 0.1% of households now hold about the same amount of wealth as the bottom 90%.
- Top 25 hedge fund managers make more money than the combined salaries of every kinder garden teacher (about 140,000 of them).
- Top 1% take home 24% of US GDP now vs 9% in 1978.
- 45 million (1 in 7) Americans forego medication due to cost. This may include children.
- 80 percent of the population live paycheck to paycheck. Falling sick for a month or two will push the household into homelessness.
The greed of self-indulgent bankers leading to the 2008 financial crises is well documented. The crises was not a surprise to many economists given the private and public debt driven the western economy, which has continued unabated even after the crises.
Very large multinational corporations pay almost no taxes through sheer political influence. They get years of tax breaks and rebates for setting up operations as states and regions compete to host these companies in their local area. Not only do these companies not pay taxes they invest heavily in automation taking down many local businesses and feeling of community. The community businesses while less innovative and automated employed lot more people locally and paid taxes, as they could not afford the army of accountants, lawyers, and lobbyists involved in bending the laws in their favor. Lower taxes means less money for public health, schools, and basic amenities.
Lack of good stable jobs and squeezed resources led to nationalist movements emerging in the west in the shape of Brexit and Trump as the local population became disenchanted with the status quo.
Nationalist movements convinced the voters that immigrants were to blame for their misery, not the capitalist or politicians who did not do anything to drive wealth distribution. Nationalist convinced the local population that causes for their misery were people below them (immigrants) dragging them down not people above them (capitalist and politicians) pushing them down. Immigrant workers were not responsible for things not working out for indigenous people; they worked their hearts out for the capitalist in return low wages and long hours, to have a better life for their family.
Capitalist aim to continue the pace of automation with artificial intelligence set to take away millions of jobs from poorest of people, and politicians agonizingly and possibly wilfully ill-prepared to deal with this challenge.
The average human rightly feels that the world belongs to the group of capitalist and they have little power or say in it; While consumerism increases the wealth, the land mass of the planet is still the same leading to exponential increases in house prices. Housing has become to most pressing challenge and most young people unable to buy a house in major cities of the world. Homelessness and inadequate housing are on the rise.
Consumerism and unfettered capitalism are having a profound on public health. One in three in America will have diabetes by 2050; obesity is rising around the world with 30% of the world population obese or overweight. They face the slow death of fast food, processed meats containing carcinogens is increasing the risk cancer and heart diseases, air quality dropping with a day of breathing in some cities of the world is like smoking 10 cigarettes. This means huge investments in health care at a time where government income tax receipts are dropping as capitalist hoover the money from the economy through automation and low taxes. Artificial intelligence will add fuel to this fire of capitalism.
Here is how helplessness and short-termism are blinding various sections of the population:
- The bottom 80% of the population in terms of earning are living from pay check to pay check do not feel obliged to fight for challenges like climate change. They feel its job of the rich and government. They are ripe to be persuaded by anyone who promises to make their lives better.
- The top 3%, the capitalist elite are blinded by their wealth thinking more about the companies they run, less about the planet and future. Many of them have found exotic hobbies of finding other planets, which lack the atmosphere, and colonizing them, what they should be focussing on is making this one work. They are best placed to make this planet work due to the power of capital and indirect control of power.
- Remaining 17% either look down at the bottom 80% and try to avoid falling into that group or focus on getting into the top 3%.
- Politicians and government are blinded by winning elections not thinking beyond an election cycle. They are deeply intertwined and almost comingled with the top 3 percent.
Homo sapiens, the wise man has completely lost focus to deal with challenges of the future; Climate change, Energy crises, Artificial intelligence, Water shortages, Growing Population crises.
The next section will focus on the enormous challenge of climate change, which modern humans face. Climate change can very well be the knockout punch for Home sapiens.
Inequality in America: https://youtu.be/QPKKQnijnsM
Tax breaks (over 18’s): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8bl19RoR7lc
Section 4: Climate change the knockout blow for modern humans.
Leaving what consumerism is doing to our health & society aside the biggest challenge we the good old Homo sapiens are facing is what it is doing to the health of the climate for humans.
First, let us take the myth out that CO2 emissions do not create global warming. CO2, which is emitted by burning coal and oil, is a greenhouse gas. Just like a glass ‘greenhouse’ which provides warmth to plants by trapping heat from the sun, gasses like CO2 increase temperatures by trapping infrared radiation from the sun.
65%-80% of CO2 dissolves in the ocean in 20-200 years and rest stays in the atmosphere for hundreds of years. So anyone with half a brain will tell you that if the pace of CO2 we release is more than what is dissolved in the ocean, the world temperature will rise as excess CO2 traps sun’s infrared light. Its basic law of physics and chemistry, the very laws, which make planes, fly. Power plants and transport are not the only culprits, but meat consumption too.
Humans are consuming 65 Billion land animals per annum compared to 8 Billion in 1961. Each human is consuming about nine animals a year on average assuming everyone on the planet is eating meat. Leaving the moral argument of eating these animals aside, they adversely affect climate change too. 1.5 Billion cows on this planet alone produce more greenhouses gases (methane is emitted by cow burp/fart) than all greenhouse gases produced by the entire transportation sector (total of all cars, planes, and other modes of transport put together). Animals produced for meat have a carbon footprint of their own; combined carbon footprint of animals eating vegetation and human eating animals is many times more than humans eating vegetation directly.
The CO2 already released by humans and extrapolating what is to be released will mean the temperature of the earth will increase by 4 degrees by 2100. While this seems small to the average person, it can be catastrophic and as our ecosystem will fall apart. Six degrees warming is a doomsday scenario for humans on planet earth. We highly recommend watching this video before reading further https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hfBMUd-Es0M. It explains how each degree of warming affects humans. Earth’s temperature was around 4-7 degrees cooler on an average in the ice age, so 4 degrees swing in other direction is likely to have the opposite impact of an ice age.
We are already in deep trouble as we face increased frequency of storm surges, arctic ice melting, droughts in many parts of the southern hemisphere & permafrost melting. Scientists in Germany found that insects are rapidly disappearing around the world, leaving them horrified. A study last year showed a 76 percent decrease in flying insects in the past few decades in German nature preserves. Insects are a critical part of the ecosystem as they make the plants grow through cross-pollination.
Most scientists (except the weird ones) are in consensus that we have only 12 years to avoid the point of no return on climate change. We need to ensure Zero net carbon emission per capita by 2050 to keep the temperature rise to around 2 degrees by 2100. This means a massive change in our lifestyle; from what eat, travel, holiday, and produce electricity and a lot more.
Most governments agree with the impact of climate change and are taking some action, however, no one is taking acting fast enough. When it comes to climate change winning slowly is losing.
Climate change is a manmade problem and if United can be solved by man. Homo sapiens the wise man could have solved it, but section 3 shows the wise man of the past is now plagued with short-termism, greed, inequality, & poverty. Homo sapiens are today no longer the wise man of the past who cannot collaborate and innovate as their ancestors did. They are addicted to their phones buying things they do not need with money they do not have, busy sharing pictures of their food, in race with one another to get best schools for their children, for a bigger car, for a better phone, for a bigger house as world is falling apart for their children and grandchildren.
CO2 and climate change: https://youtu.be/H4YSwajvFAY
Cows and climate change: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ut3URdEzlKQ
The planet is not going anywhere; we are going (over 18): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BB0aFPXr4n4
Section 5: How can we Homo sapiens still survive on planet Earth?
Yes, we can still save ourselves. Our immediate attention should be towards two major issues; our broken and unequal society and our climate. Here is how we can deal with them.
- Inequality: Socialism and Capitalism need to find a middle ground. Capitalism has been magical for humans but it has become chronic. There should be a big reward for capitalists taking a risk and creating jobs but not at the cost of others pushed into poverty, homelessness, zero hours contracts and hopelessness. We need to move away from this “winner takes it all” system, which is weakening us to the core as a society. Scandinavian countries are a good example of the middle ground. Wealth distribution through high taxation has created a responsive, happy society in Nordics and it has no surprised they are leading the battle against climate change. The region has the highest happiness index in the world despite a harsh climate.
Nordic happiness: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sEKQYYhp3eE&t=130s
Sweden turning waste into gold: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=14r7f9khK70
There are several ways to redistribute wealth like increasing revenue-based tax for large multinational organizations, wealth tax; property tax, minimum wage increases, employee ownership, renationalizing key industries are some of the ideas.
Many socialist political parties are supporting policies that would require businesses to transfer a percentage of their shares annually to a fund controlled by employees. The fund would then pay a regular dividend to workers while giving them a powerful voting bloc in corporate governance. Growing over time, the funds would be a new way of socializing the economy from the inside out. The greatest benefit, though, is not greater income, but more collective power and slice in future success.
Few of us, whether in the US, the UK or elsewhere, own shares directly. While household savers might be indirect shareholders, voting rights are controlled on their behalf by large financial institutions who often fail to act in the interests of the saver – and extract vast rewards for themselves in the process. In other words, most of us lack meaningful control over where we work, and existing structures of ownership fail to deliver it.
Major multinational corporations make a profit on a world-wide basis, but do not pay enough taxes as profits on income statements can be managed and moved to tax havens. This has stripped society of billions of dollars, money that could have been used for hospital beds, school places, roads, cancer treatment, and save lives. A global corporation that turning over $1Billion a year, operating in a country over 10 years but still not showing profit locally despite making a profit at the global level, is most likely managing profits. A small tax on revenue may be a good idea in this situation, as you cannot hide revenue.
These are just a few of the ideas and there are many more. What we need is political leadership at a global level to shut down tax havens, stop handing out tax breaks to the super rich, backbone to increase or in some countries like India implement the minimum wage. The thought that capitalists will themselves drive the change is wishful thinking, as capitalist by nature accumulates wealth and will not give a penny away unless it is necessary. It is the job of the government to impose the measures.
Most politicians know the problem but have not grown the backbone to implement changes fearing their capitalistic masters. The unequal society we see today can never fight challenges like climate change.
- Climate change: Winning slowly on climate change is losing. Paris climate change agreement we believe is winning slowly at best and good intentions at worse. The best solution to climate change in our opinion is Carbon pricing. The concept is simple, every business depending on their operations & size will get carbon cap and if they exceed it, they need to buy credits. Businesses who do emit CO2 above the cap will have to pay up.
This will drive innovation, as companies will try to reduce emissions, the company that innovates and reduces carbon emissions will become more profitable leading to other companies catching up. If humans can create billions of tons for CO2 for money in no time for profits, the same profits will drive them to reduce the CO2 quickly.
Similarly, meats like beef and processed meat with high carbon footprint will pay for carbon credits making them expensive. These meats are anyway adversely affecting health and if they become a bit more expensive and people eat less, it is great for their health. All the money collected should be used up in renewables, subsidizing fruits and vegetables, improving public transport, free school buses, promoting healthy eating, helping those affected by carbon pricing through rebates. The system is fair and the only way to deal with this issue fast. The capitalist will find a way to accelerate CO2 mitigation plans, as it will otherwise hurt their profits and revenue, the only thing they love and care about.
Carbon Pricing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WWM9gIVvm78
Canada introducing carbon pricing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZKOWJbwMFI&t=416s
Conclusion: We conclude that the blog that we Homo sapiens are sprinting towards our own destruction blinded by short-termism. Unless we change the course we will be extinct in not so distant future like 100-150 species going extinct every day. The planet will be here billions of years but we will be gone.