JANEK MÄGGI: WHAT NEED CHILDREN? (PLASTIC ONES EXCEPTED)
, Eesti Päevaleht
Those who were alive in the world in the 1960s were of the opinion that love should be free. This was a new idea at the time. While 2.5 billion people called our planet home in the 1950s, 6 billion were doing so by 1999. In the aftermath of the war, love worked wonders. Including with the economy.
Changes in the way people were living their lives shook the world. Shared, collective existence was unseated by individualism. Life was no longer about simply surviving and bequeathing to future generations: life was for living. Or rather consuming. And then consuming some more. And more. And more. And the pleasure-seekers kept pouring in.
People need revolutions, indulge them even, but aren’t enamoured of the consequences. Even after the Singing Revolution, Estonia’s birth rate plummeted. The ‘Fill the Land with Children!’ campaign may have been a success, but the exaltation that came with it soon gave way to the wearing reality of everyday existence. Fertility generates a need (and presupposes an ability) to consume. Children were going unborn as if because of money. People needed money, and this was a good thing. And yet the repercussions of the consumption that coming into money produces have led us to a situation where we’re going on strike on behalf of the climate. The solution, also being espoused in Estonia – fewer people and less consumption – hasn’t convinced the entire continent. Yet.
Unnatural population growth
But there’s nothing natural about the explosion in population numbers our planet has experienced. 70,000 years BC the Earth was home to just 15,000 people. That’s less than the population of Viljandi today (17,407). And that was all the continents put together. The natural number of homo sapiens around the globe – if we hadn’t turned our minds to taming backwaters like Estonia, where the wolves and bears would otherwise have eaten us or we would have all died of cold and starvation in the winter anyway – is a mere 50,000. Or it would be if we lived as ecologically as elephants, or polar bears.
Reproducing in artificial conditions, however, has moulded man into a terrifying beast. We have become the predator: the most dangerous predator you’ll ever find on Earth. More than that, man today is cunning. He kills large, powerful animals, stripping them of their skin to protect himself from the cold and cutting the meat from their bones to keep himself fed, and yet in the wild he would be crushed by them in an instant. He would be the one sizzling in the pan. Human stew.
Man inserts himself into places in which he has no place. You don’t find kangaroos in the Antarctic. You don’t find polar bears on the Ivory Coast or in Nigeria. There are no crocodiles or lions in the bogs and forests of Estonia. But there are people, everywhere. We can measure the Earth in square feet because every inch of it is covered in our footprints. Our smell drives not only animals away, but also insects. And other people. An unnatural environment calls for the use of violence against it.
Man is a cannibal. Wolves don’t kill their own without reason. But man kills his fellow humans, deprives them of their homes and land, virtue and honour, and considers things his own which are not his. He eats others, at least with his words. He’s always hungry. Hungry for money, especially. Hungry to consume.
Man poisons and destroys things, like mice and rats. Then he’s harrowed by shame for all that he’s done. He adopts laws on just how deadly rat poison can be and has reached a point in a European hell tormented by its sins where he labels the most innocent of pet care products rat poison.
Shame clouds his eyes – that most disingenuous part of the human body – and leaves them blind. Not those fighting for changes in the way we live our lives, but those who use the fighters for their own ends. These users howl in a lupine chorus that the global temperature has risen by one degree and that everyone else is responsible. This howling has become the anthem of empty meetings at which men and women in crumpled, sweat-stained suits adopt declarations for the drafting of which the last of the ancient trees were felled and an enormous quantity of oil was sucked from the bowels of the Earth.
A plastic clock, not a biological one
In order to enjoy a completely unbridled sex life, man has thought up all sorts of means to do so without consequence. To fire blanks, as it were. And yet he then decries the fact that all the chemicals he’s chosen to consume means he’s firing blanks when he’d much rather be hitting the target with live ammo. Man no longer has a biological clock, but a plastic one. And it doesn’t show how long hope lives: it shows when it died.
Since time immemorial the Earth has been home to 108 billion people, of which as many as 6% who have ever lived are living on the planet today. We move to cities to congregate and convulsively consume: more than our neighbours; more than our friends; more than our brothers. Whereas just 3% of the 978 million people alive in 1800 lived in cities, today more than half of the 7.7 billion people on the planet do so.
We want the latest of everything, we want the prettiest of everything, we want more of everything and we want it all now. If your T-shirt is showing signs of wear and tear, you’re a poser with a freecycling fetish, not a laid-back African who lives in a country where the temperature is always somewhere between 24 and 37 degrees and who needs nothing more in life than food on his plate.
How the West was undone
The West is doomed because it believes in eternal life on Earth. It lives artificially; it reproduces artificially; it will die artificially. There’s nothing natural in the values it displays. Everything’s made of plastic.
The world won’t end. If we stood all 7.7 billion people shoulder to shoulder they’d fit on Hiiumaa (with a little help from Muhu), or Los Angeles. Land makes up just 29% of our planet’s surface: the rest is water. Fish have far more hope of eternal life than man does. Greenland sharks, which can live to be 390, only reach sexual maturity at the age of 150.
The climate strike is like the sexual revolution, denuding bodies whose shape and form aren’t always beautiful. It reveals how fat and flabby we’ve become, intellectually. In the natural order of things, nobody wants us. The problem is an old one, but its public disrobing is new.
And yet we continue to tell ourselves that we’re in just as good shape (for example when sorting our rubbish) as top models, even though they’re little more than bedaubed graves. Sadly, man has fallen and is incapable of crawling back to the Garden of Eden under his own steam. He needs Jesus. Or Greta. She’s pointing out where we’re all going wrong so loudly that even the dead are pricking up their ears.
Foam is foam is foam
And in all likelihood we’ll realise in 30 years’ time that all the words coming out of our mouths today about climate issues were just foam: blown onto the beach by the sea but without ever bringing the sea closer to the shore. Because there’s no curbing the hunger to consume, and feeding the consumption-hungry is a profitable business.
By 2050 the population of the Earth is predicted to hit 9.725 billion and to remain that high for the ensuing hundred years. Europe will die off, losing three Germanies’ worth of people, but growth in bare-naked consumption will be brought to heel. Then the only people left to horsewhip will be those Westerners who’ve fattened themselves to within an inch of their lives: old, sick and oh so sweaty. Because even by that point, magic pills that cure overconsumption still won’t have been developed.