Nowadays, the idea of a ticking time bomb that can bring our society to an end can be approached from various angles, as there are countless factors which disturb our natural environment. In hindsight, most of the elements that can drastically hinder our modern-day world are intertwined and related to main agents like water consumption, population growth, disease, and hunger – issues that have been discussed for years.
Since the mid-20th century, problems that burst during the 1980s and 1990s had been anticipated. According to many scientists at the time, things like the greenhouse effect, HIV/AIDS, food shortages, ozone depletion, reduction of biological diversity and tropical forests were part of a great disturbance of nature on a worldwide scale. And even when now current issues and disasters were just something from science fiction movies, communities of researchers and experts already predicted an upcoming instability on our planet.
One factor that influenced this imbalance was the rapid demographic growth that was already taking place before the turn of the century. It took humankind tens of thousands of years to gain its first billion inhabitants – a fact that occurred around 1800. Then, it took only 130 more years to double that number and in 1930, 2 billion of people inhabited our planet. However, the most intense phase of our demographic growth happened in the 90s when, within a decade, we “produced” 1 billion people. If continuing this way, this explosive pace is expected to continue until the middle of the next century.
When considering the overall context, the argument of scientists has always been simple: if population growth is not contained or managed, nature itself will restrain it due to the difficulty of producing food for everyone – which will consequently raise the mortality rate. Also related to demographics, another element that has added to the ticking time bomb of our society is the case of epidemics: the excess of people leads to the proliferation of microorganisms and hampers services of prevention and treatment of diseases.
One of the many pieces of evidence was the outbreak of HIV/AIDS and other epidemics whose consequences went far beyond what experts had imagined. As the main focus of attention, researchers mention the so-called “immune environment” – everything that can create greater or lesser ease to hatch and transmission of diseases. As a striking example, particularly in the case of Third World countries, is the increasing number of people living in cities. This accumulation of individuals, together with delicate or deplorable sanitary conditions, makes people the ideal target for old and new epidemics. The AIDS virus is just one of many lethal microorganisms that have surprised the experts in recent years. Yet, it works as an example because it may already have triggered a mechanism by which nature itself raises the mortality rate and counterbalances population growth.
Another alarming issue our society faces is that of environmental degradation and unsustainable means of food production – both of which are directly related to population growth. One example is the effect of climate on crops, which are primarily hampered by an acute lack of water on the planet. The lower availability of water, in turn, can lead to a smaller amount of crops and from that, an array of negative effects can emerge. Despite already visible consequences, the demand for water still grows rapidly. This is partially due to constant social changes especially in urban centers as well as the way in which some countries maintain unsustainable habits regarding water consumption.
The topic of water is, perhaps, the best example of this ticking time bomb that hunts our society. Yet, it also reveals a possible solution through greater solidarity among countries: for some to have a better life through technological advancement, others have to forego surplus and often exaggerated resources. After all, this may very well be the root of the problem: if we can agree on the best way to distribute the world’s natural resources, humanity can take a great step towards a (longer) future worth living.