Because we can

Listen to this article

The other day, I picked up my Time Magazine to see a cover with a photo of a baby on it and a headline that indicated the child could live to be 142 years old, thanks to breakthroughs in longevity research. My response was, “Why?” Why are we even trying to push the life span of humans to nearly double of what it is today and who really thinks this is a good idea?

Time Magazine
Time Magazine

The current population of our planet is more than seven billion. It is presently two to three times greater than what experts say is sustainable. Furthermore, we continue to ignore the messages mother nature sends us in the forms of massive droughts, super storms, rising oceans, and a lack of drinkable water while we continue to increase our population.

Americans consume roughly half of the resources the Earth produces. If all the nations of the world consumed resources at the rate we do, we would need more than five Earths to sustain our current population. Again, why would we want to double man’s life expectancy?

In 1960, humans consumed about 50 percent of our planet’s natural resource capacity per year, a figure that represented a sustainable level. By the mid 1980s, that figure was up to 100 percent capacity. Today, we consume 150 percent, which explains why there is such a great push to find other planets to live on. Humans, Americans especially, seem hellbent on using up this planet’s resources and then discarding it like an empty can of soda rather than trying to save it. Why double our life expectancy?

Between 1970 and 2010, while the population of the planet outgrew itself, we lost more than half of its wildlife population. All the Ted Nugents of the world could not possibly kill and grill that many animals, but uncontrolled human growth has. To return our planet to a sustainable level of living, we either need to decrease the amount we consume by 50 percent or lower our population by three or four billion people. Why then are we trying to double our life expectancy?

I keep asking this question and all I can come up with is “because we can.” This seems to be an answer, or better yet, an excuse for much of human behavior and it is rarely a good one.

“Because we can” is why we find bags of trash on the upper slopes of Mount Everest. It’s why we see artificial islands with massive resorts built off the coast of Dubai. It’s why we see rain forests destroyed so new cities can be built.

Logic tells us we would be wise to solve our planet’s fresh water crisis before doubling our life expectancy. We might also want to improve the quality of life for the billions of people living in horrific poverty. We might even want to eradicate some of the diseases that threaten huge populations before trying to double our life expectancy.

Lake Mead and Colorado Water levels are at catastrophically historic lows in the West, which has been in a drought for nearly a decade. (NOAA)
Lake Mead and Colorado Water levels are at catastrophically historic lows in the West, which has been in a drought for nearly a decade.

But then humans are not always logical. Why do teenage boys light their own farts? Because they can. Why do girls steal their best friend’s boyfriend? Because they can. And why do adults run up so much debt? Because they can.

“Because we can” is more a sign of stupidity than intelligence. It tells us we have grown bored with our lives and are looking for something to do without fully thinking of the consequences. It’s what makes a computer geek hack into a military defense system or drives people into seeing who can consume the most alcohol in one evening. Just because we can do these things does not always mean we should.

Just because scientific breakthroughs may allow us to double our life expectancy, should we? Does anyone really want to begin a career at the age of 25 or 30 and work until they are 100 just so they can enjoy a 30 or 40 year retirement? Have we forgotten we cannot sustain social security as it is because we are already out living it? Will doubling our life span make growing old any better or just longer? What about our prisons? They’re already over crowded. Do we want to double the life expectancy of someone doing life in prison? And then there are our politicians. More than 90 percent get reelected and yet we think they do a horrible job. Who really wants to see John McCain or Nancy Pelosi stick around in power for another half century?

Before we double our life expectancy, let’s double our supply of drinking water, wild life, trees, and clean air. Let’s do the unthinkable and double the life expectancy of our planet. Why? Not because we can, but because we should.