Al Gore's sweeping new vision, concisely titled The Future, does not suggest that we can solve our species-wide crisis by eating tofu or driving electric cars.
John Gray at The Guardian chronicles this new work:
Applying a formidable mix of history, science and common experience, Gore has produced a luminously intelligent analysis that is packed with arresting ideas and facts. The peaking of global conventional oil production that occurred some 30 or more years ago, the risks to fresh water supplies posed by fracking, the rapid ongoing evolution of cyber-warfare, the dangers and potential benefits of biotechnology and the possibility of genetic engineering of human brains are only a few of the facts, likely developments and possibilities that the former American vice-president explores. Summarising this rich and ambitious book in any detail is impossible. You simply have no alternative to reading it.The book's range of themes and its assertions are frankly stunning, from the political to the environmental. But there is one theme that is scientifically valid, urgent, inseparable from climate change, and swept under the rug completely:
Unlike those – pious bien-pensants as much as religious bigots – who fume and splutter whenever the subject of population is mentioned, Gore recognises the increase of human numbers as one of the world's largest challenges. "During the last century alone, we quadrupled the human population. By way of perspective, it took 200,000 years for our species to reach the one billion mark, yet we have added that many people in just the first thirteen years of this century." With unchecked population growth and worldwide industrialisation, humankind has embarked on "an unplanned experiment with the planet".
Chris Hedges wrote comprehensively on overpopulation back in 2009:
We are experiencing an accelerated obliteration of the planet's life-forms-an estimated 8,760 species die off per year-because, simply put, there are too many people... Humanity, [E.O.] Wilson says, is leaving the Cenozoic, the age of mammals, and entering the Eremozoic-the era of solitude. As long as the Earth is viewed as the personal property of the human race, a belief embraced by everyone from born-again Christians to Marxists to free-market economists, we are destined to soon inhabit a biological wasteland.Al Gore is politically optimistic about our ecological crisis. He and I both have the same prescription: that the United States needs to acquire and allocate political capital on a grand scale to affect change as a continuous process. Typically, even the best progressive legislation had to be later amended due to blatant and sometimes fatal if uncorrected flaws. For a new paradigm on climate to occur, the rise of China and India cannot impede the United States in its parting, grand hegemonic act of paternalism. I don't share Gore's optimism, but nor am I convinced of our doom.
The populations in industrialized nations... view their stable or even zero growth birthrates as sufficient. It has been left to developing countries to cope with the emergent population crisis. India, Egypt, South Africa, Iran, Indonesia, Cuba and China, whose one-child policy has prevented the addition of 400 million people, have all tried to institute population control measures. But on most of the planet, population growth is exploding. The U.N. estimates that 200 million women worldwide do not have access to contraception. The population of the Persian Gulf states, along with the Israeli-occupied territories, will double in two decades, a rise that will ominously coincide with precipitous peak oil declines.
I may be reaching but my belief is that Obama urgently believes this all is more or less the predicament we find for ourselves, and that is the only way to explain his obsession with getting foreign STEM professionals through our immigration system. America is either in or close to decline, and the problems with our education system have caused a science skills gap at least a generation wide, that only immigration would fix in the interim. America has been politically knee-capped on the world stage by the disastrous Bush Administration. Restoring diplomacy is part of undoing the damage, but only part. Gore warns that China may have more instability on its hands than it would appear: there's plenty of evidence for that theory.
We're in times of tumult.