We Are to the 59th Minute, So What?
Among the many messages AIA Convention attendees got Thursday morning, May 3, in San Antonio was an illustration from biologist David Suzuki, host of Canada’s longstanding CBC program the Nature of Things, on how exponential growth works in the consumption of resources.
You start with a vial of nutrient and one microbe, Suzuki said. In his model, the microbe and its progeny will divide once every second. Exponentially, that is a doubling of the population per second: after two seconds, there are four microbes, in three seconds you have eight microbes, and so on. At 60 seconds, in Suzuki's example, all the food will be gone and the vile will be filled with microbes. Working backward, that means that at 59 seconds, the vile was half full of microbes and half full of food, which doesn’t sound too dire. And at 57 seconds, with only a few seconds left till the end, the vile is only 1/8 full of microbes, with what might seem like (at least to the microbes) a plentiful 7/8 of a vile of food.
Human consumption of Earth’s resources is not moving at that speed in real time, of course, but it is moving exponentially, which, Suzuki exclaimed, is ultimately a suicidal pace. And, given homo sapiens’ ability to consume resources so voraciously, especially over the last century (Earth’s population has tripled even since 1936, from 2 billion people to 6 billion), we must take control of our wasteful habits now.
To use his microbial analogy, Suzuki says, the human race is at the 59th minute. The mission of his foundation has a positive message, though: Sustainability Within a Generation. And he explains on his Web site what that means. Take a few minutes to look through it and tell us:
What do you think?