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a month ago

Towards the precipice

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In our younger years there was a television serial titled Logan's Run. Logan was a fugitive in tomorrow's world as he had turned 27. He was now expected to make room for the young, as the planet was over-populated. But Logan was not ready to go. So, he was on the run.

Defying the premonitions of those years, we now live long. A hundred-year-old person does not raise eyebrows. The process of biological decay has been tamed, though not eliminated. The retirement age of a person is longer. This is more from economic necessity than concern for the person. As a person works, he contributes to the national wealth and the burden of being supported by the society is lessened. But how long is long enough? Einstein refused medical intervention to prolong his life when he was in mid-seventies. This age is now considered by many as an appropriate time when one may be helped to ease out. Beyond that age life can be a drag, even if one is financially solvent and mentally agile. This is a time when loneliness creeps in as the children have moved away to their own places. Being frail in health, a natural consequence of aging, the societal engagement is minimal. More so, when the spouse is not there.

The world today is fairly crowded. The poor planet is not able to feed the lives within. There is shortage of basic necessities beginning with drinking water. As more resources are pulled out of the ground there is repercussion. A catastrophic hole has been created in the sky through which external harmful emissions reach the planet. The planet is getting hot. The polar ice melts and raises the sea level that in turn encroaches the land area where people live. As the available land area shrinks, the crisis deepens.

One proposed solution has been to reduce the number of people through exercising restraint. Various means to control the number have been used with mixed results. The population size of many countries, in particular the affluent world, has shrunk to alarming lows. More people die than being born. This is mainly a consequence of lifestyle as many are two-income families. For them, catering to the needs of a newborn is difficult, if not impossible. Here, most such families have only one child while the replenishment rate is more than one. Consequently, the number of young people, who are the reason for prosperity of a nation, dwindles as the number of old people increases. The scenario is different in the less affluent world. Most people are oblivious of the risk of population size. Happily, they go on adding numbers. The net result is a size that keeps growing.

Frustrated by the overall situation many sages have suggested migration to the outer world as a possible solution. That is not easy considering the vast distances and our ability to travel. It is a shame that there is so much space available in the outer space and yet we struggle on this planet for dearth of space. The only hope is a breakthrough in our effort to migrate or ability to balance the population better. Another option could be better utilization of internal resources. Consider the seas that occupy three-fourths of area of the planet. Will it be possible to live along with the fishes? Apart from many inconveniences, ability to withstand the water pressure will be a problem. We have seen what could happen as people went down to see the debris of Titanic. This is in sharp contrast to weightlessness in the outer sky.

Wishes and wishes! How about finding a doorway to an extra dimension that scientists believe exist on this planet. We are familiar with the time dimension through courtesy of fictions and movies. Should we find an opening to another such dimension, much of the worries would ease. In that dimension some distant planets could be our close neighbours as the moon now.

Meanwhile as I jostle in the queue to buy food in the supermarket my granddaughter is impatient to peel her candy wrapper. Life is beautiful in spite of all the concerns about the future of this planet. Looking back at human history on the planet it is amazing how it has filled up with people, mostly in the last two centuries. This is paradoxically a consequence of our ability to create better conditions for life. We are secure in our homes, grow more food, travel fast and easy, and have enough leisure to engage in life creation. The planet is richer in spite of the having so many people on board and it merrily dances around the sun. At this point of time, all we can wish is one of these possibilities to open up. 'May the force be with us.'

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