Small Is Beautiful

is that absolutely necessary?

is that absolutely necessary?

 

Are there too many people in the world today? Some politicians, academics, writers, commentators, anthropologists, teachers, doctors, economists, professors, ecologists, policemen, social workers, judges, etc., say so. They reckon there are too many of us competing for the world’s food, water, oil, fresh air, wood, etc.

 

Very few measures have been taken to reduce this human overload, which may be taken as a sign that the authorities either don’t really think there are too many people or they just don’t want to stop people having more babies. Except in China, but let’s not go there, or people will start sending me even more hate mail since I mentioned the possibility of boycotting the Peking Olympics…

 

I don’t know if the population is growing too much. I know it’s growing a lot, but how much is too much? How many more people can the earth accommodate? Who could even begin to calculate that?

 

If the authorities don’t want to take draconian measures like stopping us having babies, what other measures could they take? They could fix a maximum age for us to live to, for instance. I’d say 70; the retirement age could be lowered to about 55 and we’d have 15 years to spend our savings, and the State would save a lot on health care for the aged while creating a lot of jobs for younger people.

 

But to carry this out, they’d have to dispose of a lot of people who are actually living a fairly productive or, at least, active life. It wouldn’t be nice to have some local government official come round to your house on your 70th birthday and say, “Good morning, sir, our records say

 

you’re 70 so we’re going to kill you to make room on the planet for some more new people.” It sounds like something from Star Trek. And then there’d be the problem of actually putting an end to these old folk’s lives. The most elegant option would be for these people to take a voluntary overdose of sleeping pills or something (which could be State-subsidised), but it seems like an unlikely scenario.

 

No, I can’t see how we can reduce the world’s population that way.

 

Maybe one day in the future we can send whole swathes of the world’s people to another planet. Now that would be handy, but it’d have to be a really nice planet, because this would have to be a voluntary thing; we can’t just ship people off to Jupiter or somewhere without asking their opinion. And anyway, there’s no sign of any suitable planet at the moment, is there, so that’s that idea taken care of, at least for the next few hundred years.

 

So what else is there to do (if we’re convinced there are too many people on earth)?

 

Well, Heen and I have been thinking seriously about this, and we’ve come up with an original solution, by looking at the question from a typically ZaragozaTwins angle.

 

We have decided that there aren’t too many people, it’s that people are too big. We take up too much room on the planet not because there are too many of us but because each of us takes up too much space and uses up too many resources.

 

If each person weighed half their present body weight, the global saving in food and water would rise exponentially. If people were less tall than they are right now, they’d need to spend less on clothes, too.

 

If we were, say, just one metre tall, we could build smaller cars that used less fuel and caused less pollution. Our houses would be smaller, so we’d use fewer building materials and could fit more families in the same building space. The present roads and motorways would be less congested. We’d all have more space, more food, more resources.

 

Would it be too much to ask scientists to look into the viability of making the next generation a bit shorter? I mean, with all this research into stem cells and God knows what, devising people with shorter limbs and a more reduced torso shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

 

I’m not saying, “Cut everybody’s legs off”, I’m just saying, “Make sure that the next generation is smaller than us”. Beds would be shorter, thus saving mattress-making materials; swimming pools would also be shorter (and shallower), so you would save water there, too; pencils would be shorter, so you wouldn’t need so much graphite.

 

In fact, when you come to think of it, there are really no advantages of people being tall. OK, so basketball wouldn’t be so spectacular, but I think we could sacrifice the NBA for the sake of world prosperity, surely? I’m sure the American entertainment industry could invent some sport to replace it…

 

It’s easy to knock ideas like this. I anticipate millions of tallish people scoffing at the idea of their sons and daughters being shrunk to hobbit size, and I am the first to admit the changeover would be complicated, not to say traumatic, as society came to grips with this awkward transition, but time is of the essence, ladies and gentlemen. The sooner we start lowering the height limit, the sooner we will solve our problems. For too long we’ve looked the other way, insisting that “growth is good” but, whether it’s the economy or our physique, in actual fact, we should be thinking “small is beautiful”.

 

Replies are invited to this essay, but keep them short. 

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