What started us down the path of this discussion was a well done and well meaning story on NPR. Maybe it was a re-run because a quick Web search with DuckDuckGo reveals NPR has covered eating crickets many many times.
The work is somewhat noble even if the topic disgusts many people. We are starting to see more articles about when the world population will pass 9 billion and a global food shortage will occur. There are various people working on “solutions” from various angles. The eating insects crowd just happens to be getting more press these days. It was not that long ago that genetically modified crops were all the press could talk about for both good and bad reasons. There have even been studies showing GMOs did not actually improve yields. Personally, I never thought that was their purpose. I thought the main purpose of them was to sell more RoundUp although that logic has backfired for its manufacturer.
So, as writers reading this it is your duty to contemplate just how it is humans wipe themselves (mostly) out over the next century. If each of you thinks this through and writes a story about it there is a high probability one of you will be right. Hopefully your story will gain an audience in time to stop the problem or at least lesson the impact. Keep in mind the problem will most likely be a Russian Doll. Today’s society is always looking for a one and done solution to everything. Instead of diet and exercise we pop a pill or have surgery. In large part we have become mostly a species of sloths. The Millenials may be somewhat healthier and more active, but they are all going to walk in front of fast moving cars because their head was down tapping away on their identity theft enabling device while streaming music through their ear buds. Looking at it from that perspective Apple may be responsible for a necessary thinning of the global population in coming years. As a writer you have to consider all possibilities even if they offend you.
Humans starving to death in anarchy isn’t a new idea. It has happened time and time again throughout history. The upper 1% of any population area tends to be inhabited by the uncaring. You all remember “Let them eat cake!” which lead to the mass slaughter of the upper 1% during the French Revolution. By the way, if the revolution had failed it would have been recorded in history as some kind of failed coup attempt or other such minority uprising and writers would have been responsible for that. The main difference this time around is that it won’t be a single country or continent. It will happen globally. The upper 1% is, after all, only 1% of the population. When the remaining 99% decide they have nothing to lose history shows us the 1% find themselves horribly outnumbered.
Not all that long ago there was an episode of “2 Broke Girls” with the line “sex is the only fun thing poor people can afford.” There was of course the laugh track and some viewer outrage. Seriously, if you are easily offended why watch a show built around offensive humor? Anyway, that is one of the few episodes I’ve ever seen. It was late and there was nothing on so I watched. Actually I watched because I saw the dark haired girl and realized she was also in the second Thor movie and was a riot. I don’t remember much about that episode, maybe I finally fell asleep or something. I do remember that line though. When all of the social outrage and gutter laughing dies down and one takes the line out of context, it was some striking social commentary, mostly because it is true and according to studies poor countries are having a population explosion.
Back in the 1960s the Zero Population Growth (ZPG) movement urging women to have no more children than “replacement rate.” This basically meant you had to wait for one of your parents or a childless relative to die off. Some took it to mean have only one child. China took it one major step further making one child per family the law and forced sterilizations. This lead to families selectively aborting or giving daughters up to foreign adoption. It also created problems down the road for China.
The ZPG movement claimed success a few years when it was reported we had negative population growth. Such a movement would not have success now given the massive explosion of population in poor countries. Well, theoretically it “could” but it would mean educated people in rich countries would not have any children thus creating major problems down the road for those wealthy countries.
Culturally the shift from large families with lots of brothers and sisters living in the same dwelling caused other shifts as well. People growing up as only child don’t have the social/environmental education of having grown up with members of the opposite sex. This leaves a tendency for them to believe the world should adapt to them because their parents did and so should the rest of the world. It also lead to boys behaving badly much later in life. It also lead to girls expecting boys to behave just like them or just like they wanted them too. Neither had the early childhood experiences of what is and isn’t possible with social behavior modification or how to deal with bad behavior effectively.
From a planetary perspective large families cannot be allowed. Financially there used to be barriers to poor people having large families but various welfare programs around the world mostly removed such barriers. While being well meaning and solving one social economic problem they created another, massively increasing the population at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder.
While many will argue about the “when” of population crossing the food tipping point, there can no longer be an argument of its inevitability. We have all seen the news reports denouncing diets consisting of mostly processed foods and the health related problems such a diet causes, but, at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder, that is what you can afford. This financial reality creates a massive economic burden on health systems around the world with the bulk of long term health conditions being concentrated closer to the bottom of the socio-economic ladder.
True, there are many who say “if you can’t afford health care you don’t get it,” but, as we have learned, that is a bad idea. The “Torchwood: Miracle Day” miniseries explored this problem from the perspective “what if sick people who should have died don’t.” They become the petri dishes incubating ever more horrible and drug resistant diseases. Even without a miracle that stops people from physically dying, sick people tend to fall victim to other diseases which ordinarily would not impact human adults. This gives the disease an environment to grow, become stronger and adapt in. This is what really made the AIDS epidemic so scary. AIDS patients fell victim to a grab bag full of diseases which normally only impacted children or did not impact humans at all. The diseases became stronger and more deadly.
History teaches us this is true. You can go back to the Black Plague or the influenza epidemic of 1918. You can choose to look at more recent news of the Ebola epidemic or stories of antibiotic resistant Super Bugs. If humans don’t control their population _and_ take care of each other the environment will thin us out on its own. A Super Bug will not care about your position on the socio-economic ladder when it comes for you.