Whenever I see a bookcover which displays the author's name in larger print than the book's title, I walk right past it. Not so Padma. She bought me Dan Brown's "Inferno" and, not wanting to let $29.95 go to waste, I began to read it. And what a page-turner and eye-opener it has been!
In it, Dante's Inferno, the Black Death, geometric progression, agathusia, transhumanism, Children of the Corn, Logan's Run, biological warfare, the world's overpopulation, and the Malthusian Theory of Population are all turned into an intellectual cliff-hanger which won't let you stop until you've reached the last page some 600 pages later.
Just consider this: if you picked up a piece of paper and ripped it in half and then placed the two halves on top of each other and then were to repeat the process ... hypothetically speaking, if the original sheet of paper is a mere one-tenth of a millimetre thick, and you were to repeat this process ... say, fifty times ... it would be one-tenth of a millimetre times two to the fiftieth power. It's called geometric progression and the stack of paper, after only fifty doublings would reach almost all the way ... to the sun! --- click here
And thus the book makes its point: that the history of our human population growth is even more dramatic. The earth's population, like the stack of paper, had very meagre beginnings but alarming potential. It took the earth's population thousands of years - from the early dawn of man all the way to the early 1800s - to reach one billion people. Then, astoundingly, it took only about a hundred years to double the population to two billion in the 1920s. After that, it took a mere fifty years for the population to double again to four billion in the 1970s. Every day, rain or shine, we're adding another quarter-million people to planet Earth. Every year, we're adding the equivalent of the entire country of Germany. Genesis 1:28 "Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the earth" has turned from a blessing to a curse.
If you and I live for another nineteen years, we will have witnessed the population triple in our lifetime. The mathematics is as relentless - and as non-negotiable - as the law of gravity. - Animal species are going extinct at a precipitously accelerated rate. The demand for dwindling natural resources is skyrocketing. Clean water is harder and harder to come by. By any biological gauge, our species has exceeded our sustainable numbers. And the gatekeeper of the planet's health, the World Health Organization's feeble response is to dispense free condoms in Africa! They are followed by an army of Catholic missionaries sent out by the Vatican (who better than a bunch of celibate octogenarians to tell the world how to have sex?) that tell Africans if they use condoms, they go straight to hell. Africa's latest environmental problem are landfills overflowing with unused condoms.
Free condoms in Africa! It's like swinging a flyswatter at an incoming asteroid. The time bomb is no longer ticking. It has already gone off, and without drastic measures, exponential mathematics will become our new God ... a very vengeful God who will bring to you Dante's vision of hell right outside on Park Avenue ... huddled masses wallowing in their own excrement.
The world's politicians, power brokers, and environmentalists hold emergency summits, all trying to assess which of these problems are most severe and which they can actually hope to solve. The outcome? Privately, they put their heads in their hands and weep. Publicly, they assure us all that they are working on solutions - what solutions? solar power, recycling, and hybrid cars? - but that these are complex issues.
Complex? Bullshit! Lack of clean water, rising global temperatures, ozone depletion, rapidly dwindling ocean resources, species extinction, CO2 concentration, deforestation, rising global sea levels - it's all caused by one single variable: global population! If you want more clean water per capita, you need fewer people on earth. If you want to decrease vehicle emissions, you need fewer drivers. If you want the oceans to replenish their fish, you need fewer people eating fish!
I'm neither a 'connesewer' of doomsday books nor a Dan Brown aficionado. I tend to agree with a friend of mine who's banished all Dan Brown books to the darkest and coldest and most unlikely-ever-to-see-the-light-of-day-again corner of his library. But forget about literary merit! "Inferno" has hit so many buttons and made me scurry off into so many directions to seek out additional information that I challenge you to read this book. You can always go back to your state of denial and pious hand-wringing later.
P.S. For another interesting perspective on this subject, click here.