Just watched the movie ‘What happened to Monday (2017)’ on Netflix. It had some very interesting themes especially focusing on the crisis of human overpopulation and the moral issues this raises. These themes are of course by no means new.
Warning: The following contains spoilers.
The movie is based on a dystopian future in the year 2073. Climate change leads to a depletion of food and other natural resources. Overpopulation causes further stress on the resources leading to a dramatic global crisis and famine. This is then combated by using science and in turn a greater reliance on scientists to provide solutions. Biologists manage to modify plants to become more resistant to the harsh climate (GMOs). Food supplies are replenished but eating the modified food leads to an increase in multiple births, which starts to put further stress on the limited resources. Eventually, a renowned biologist lobbies and successfully convinces the government to pass an act which makes it illegal to have more than 1 child per family. This is enforced brutally so that any second siblings are taken away and apparently put in a state of suspended animation, awaiting better times when they can be brought back to life.
Overall this movie has multiple themes but the one which gnaws at you the most is overpopulation and the moral implication of its control. In fact, even in a recent article in NewScientist, there is talk about the notion of imposing population control as a way forward:
“Future generations risk inheriting an overcrowded, suffocating planet. Taking action may mean what was taboo is now common sense”
Given the resources on earth are finite we can safely say that we cannot go on increasing in numbers forever. The maximum limit to which we can sustain is debatable and depends on how efficiently we can live on the resources. Poorer societies have higher population growth rates but richer ones are more inefficient in resource utilization.
So whats the solution?
In the movie, they take dramatic measures. For them, population control is seen as the definitive solution. Furthermore, they go about this in a very brutal and deceiving way. The story fabricated on the media is that siblings are being put into a cryo-sleep state whilst in reality, we find out that in fact, they were being tranquilized and then burned to ashes. All this was done for the ‘higher’ purpose and obviously, the stupid public wouldn’t understand this so it had to be done secretly. In the conclusion of the movie, although this treachery is exposed and stopped the movie ends without having provided a solution to the overpopulation crisis. And the last words of the antagonist are that stopping her measures was a huge mistake.
This movie also hints at (like some others) the underlying distrust and disconnect between the ‘public’ and ‘scientists’. The people see these scientists as being fundamentalists and elitists, who think they know concrete problems and their concrete answers (and it is only they who know because of their intellectual superiority). The scientist, in general, sees the public as being too stupid to look at the broader picture and to understand the intricate details and complexities.
Having said that, for this post, I’m limiting my interest only to the overpopulation problem and its moral issues. Here’s how I see it:
Without directly going to population control measures, we should first look at living more efficiently. What should be ‘imposed’ is an efficient utilization of resources. Hence, as consuming meat is much more wasteful and environmentally damaging, reducing and eventually stopping this should be a bigger priority.
It should also be made illegal for food to be stored in warehouses or dumped into the sea (as food corporations do) to ramp up the price and maximise profits. Any excess production of food should be given to poor and starving countries for free. The economy should become more resource focused. Sustainable energy and agricultural practices should be employed. All the above should be imposed before we can look at imposing population control measures. Once we reach our maximum level of scientifically possible efficiency and if still, the earth seems to be unsustainable we may move onto population control measures.
Though, I think with proper resource efficiency the maximum sustainable number of people would be much higher than is anticipated today. Most of our estimates today get too tied in with the geopolitical and economic situation. Some scientists make a practical estimate of the maximum limit being 10 billion people but this is usually tied in with the practicalities. I think they should also look at the potentials unhindered by the economics.
If we eventually do have to think about population control, can we impose it?
This raises moral problems. Killing children certainly doesn’t seem to be in anyway justified. Furthermore, who gets to decide whether this should be imposed? We certainly can’t take majority opinion as the way forward because humans aren’t homogenous, we have all levels of group affiliations and predispositions.
Imposition seems too difficult to be justified. The best way it seems is to stick with ‘suggestion’. Perhaps there could be some minor benefits attached to having a smaller family which would further encourage birth control. However, even these benefits should be weighed against the resource efficiency of that family.
If we were to become very concrete and autistic about it (as society, in general, does seem to be becoming) then logically there is a simple straight forward equation:
Number of children = N/Resource Utilization Index
Where N would be a calculated constant. The higher the resources a family is expected to use the lower the number of children they can have. This would automatically mean more birth control for richer Western countries especially the United States. Even more so for the wealthiest families, who may not get to have any children at all.
Such a concrete system might actually lead to reduced strain on the planet and a more homogenous distribution of power and resources. But would such a system be fair? It would certainly impede personal freedom. But is that really avoidable in any other scenarios? I’m not so sure.
Let’s say we do impose some kind of a population control system and make it law. What happens when someone disobeys it? Do we punish them just for having children!?
Lastly, looking at the difficulties this issue raises, I think it might be one of the few legitimate reasons for us to explore the possibilities of inhabiting other planets. In doing so we may be able to avoid such a dystopian future. All this is assuming we continue to remain and become more and more civilized as a species. Of course looking at history we can’t be so sure.
So what do you think?
That movie sounds pretty bleak.
It could be said that there is only one major problem in the world: overpopulation. Most of the other problems (global warming, poverty, globalization, etc) are details of that one problem. No one knows what the actual carrying capacity of Earth is, whether we’ve passed it, or if there’s still room to grow. Technology has blurred the line. Farming today is far more efficient than it was 200 years ago (short circuiting Malthus’ predictions), and farming 100 years from now is likely to be more efficient yet.
Unfortunately, we can’t solve this problem by moving to other worlds. The cost for someone to live on Mars would be astronomical (no pun intended) and they’d always be dependent on a lifeline from Earth’s biosphere. It’d be far cheaper to first colonize Antarctica, the ocean floors, or to go underground.
The good news is that there’s one thing we can do to slow and eventually reverse population growth. It’s a pattern happening naturally in the developed world but could be spread far wider. Equal rights and education for women as pervasively as possible throughout the world. Historically, educated women with options have far fewer children than poor women whose only available roles in life are wife, mother, and housekeeper.
This is far easier than draconian controls. That’s not to say it would be easy by any measure. But it actually only involves speeding up a process that’s already underway.
I don’t think I can agree that global warming and poverty are details of overpopulation. Most of the contribution towards global warming comes from low in number but high consumption population groups (e.g. the US). For example consuming meat is a major cause of global warming and also of resource destruction (deforestation etc.). Poverty has many causes including unfair economic systems, corruption, lack of natural resources in an area, over usage/destruction of available resources by more the affluent people and the geopolitical situation e.g. diverting wealth towards military build-up etc.
I agree with you that overpopulation is part a symptom of a lack of education and a lack of women’s rights. But that’s probably not the full story either, the confounder is wealth and prosperity. For example in Pakistan (where I come from) I know personally that the reason many poor families (and even some lower middle ones) have lots of children is threefold; first and foremost is because they think having more children means more earning hands for the family (child labor). Secondly, they want more boys (mostly middle class) due to a multitude of reasons (personal security, carrying the family name, societal pressures etc.). Having said that the poorest families may want more girls (as they can easily work as house maids). Thirdly due to religious reasons (relatively minor) as family planning may be seen as sinful.
As far as going to other planets yes I think we should colonize Antarctica, underground and the oceans first. And we should go as far as scientifically possible and as far as our resources on earth allow. I do however want to make a distinction that by ‘cheaper’ I mean less resource intensive and not cheap in terms of money needed (in today’s world these aren’t equivalent). So in a resource based economy, we would only be looking at the total amount of raw metals, gases and other compounds needed to create a spaceship. In that terms, I think there may be room to explore other planets especially if we max out all other options on earth. Of course, we would need better and more efficient technology, this research would definitely get a huge boost if it weren’t constrained by money (as it is today) and if more minds were invested in it. We would also have to look at ways to grow and sustain by utilizing the planets own resources. For example, we may send a high-level AI first which starts to mine the natural raw materials and uses them to create structures which in turn further help this process, leading to slow but then exponential growth. It may then branch out into life-sustaining structures, once reasonably large-scale structures have been developed humans could move in.
On poverty and global warming, I think the thing to remember is that there are only so many natural resources in the world, which have to be divided among the existing population. The higher the population, the greater the prevalence of poverty and conflict. Technology is helping use resources more efficiently, but progress only moves so fast and is unpredictable.
Jared Diamond in his book ‘Collapse’, shows that many societies with a large number of ills, such as Rwanda or Haiti, are carrying populations that their agricultural base can’t sustain, which increases the amount of instability, poverty, and conflict in those societies. (He points out that even developed nations, such as Australia, may eventually face similar issues if they’re not careful.)
None of that excuses the unfairness, corruption or other societal ills, but it does shrink the overall pie, and probably contributes to more of a dog eat dog environment.
On women’s rights, I don’t dispute anything you said. But consider what happens to the dynamic if women are equal and have other opportunities. The reasoning you laid out assumes that the women will go along. No doubt if they had options, many still would. But many others would opt to do other things. At least, that’s been the pattern in every other society where women have gained an equal footing. Fewer women choose to have children at all, and those that do tend to have fewer of them. It’s why population in many western countries is actually in decline.
On other planets, when I said “cost” above, I actually was referring to resources, although financial costs would be high as well. Yes, financial costs don’t always track resource usage, but they correlate more than they diverge. Colonies would be expensive both in terms of finances and resources.
The problem is that we don’t know how to build a self sufficient standalone biosphere, which we’d have to do on Mars or any other world. Until we do, any colonies would actually be a drain on Earth’s resources rather than a relief. And even if we did figure out how to do it, the carrying capacity of Mars or other locations is never likely to be large enough to significantly relieve population pressures.
Fortunately, economies are developing, which is increasing opportunities throughout the world, which tends to naturally increase opportunities for women. The danger is that it may not happen fast enough on its own.
I don’t know Mike I think you are being too pessimistic and considering things as separate from each other whereas I see them being interconnected. Societis like Rwanda and Haiti are also likely low on resource destruction and inefficient resource utilization. If they are like Pakistan then the reasons for their higher growth rate might be justified given their circumstances. The problem as I see it is the unequal distribution of resources and the unfair use of affluence and power by people and countries in power (like the US) to take a humongous slice of the pie. Even though societies like Haiti and Rwanda produce more numbers the impact they have on reducing the slice of pie is minimal compared to a few rich people. What we need first is equal distribution and only then can we look at the impact of the growing population. Because if a few greedy and powerful people are going to consume/destroy resources for their own benefits on a planetary scale then the impacts of even another billion poor people doesn’t make much of a difference in comparison.
With regards to women’s rights taking western examples probably doesn’t do justice because of the many confounders. In Pakistani society, the poor working women actually have relatively more independence (financial and personal) to make decisions because they are often running the household finances. This is in contrast to women in the middle class and richer families. Yet poorer women still have more children than richer ones, the reason isn’t only lower education but the ground needs. More children does actually mean more workers (and chances of survival) in poorer families.
The issue is also again the availability of other opportunities (and resources) which even if more women were educated and had equal rights wouldn’t exist like they don’t for the men. If somehow the whole country was to miraculously become fully educated (and of equal rights) then they would likely acquire more resources but this will be from someone else’s plate (as the plate is finite). If it’s from richer countries plate then it creates the ‘immigrants taking away opportunities’ problem for them, they can then put in measures to reduce this opportunity and reduce its impact on them. If it’s from already poor countries than the resources gained would be very limited and would harm the poor country significantly, obviously, this country wouldn’t be able to do anything about it because they are powerless. This is why even many highly educated and trained men in Pakistan (and other similar countries) can’t find a reasonable job anywhere (home or abroad).
I agree that currently, we don’t know how to build a self-sufficient biosphere on another planet but perhaps this is because of the lack of brainpower and resources being spent on this. In a resource-based economy with an equal distribution of the resources and less resources wasted on useless activities like financial trading and wars, we may have more resources available and also more smart people from all over the world who could contribute to the research.
With growing economies there isn’t usually a trickle-down effect, usually the people on the top gain most of the resources, if these were infinite then yes even a small proportion of trickle down would mean eventually substantial resources for people on the bottom but because these resources are finite, much of the resources don’t (and won’t) go to the bottom people.
The concept of government controlling population growth doesn’t actually scare me. That’s exactly the sort of thing that I consider it to need to do, or what taxes are for — to develop a system from which to decide and implement matters of social welfare. I believe that this sort of thing will happen long before we have a world government that’s faced with too many people on Earth. A given country today could decide (and even democratically I think) that it would be better for it in general to not have so many births, and so do something like levy extra taxes for having more children. Furthermore it might get anti politically correct enough to decide that certain children (such as from the rich) are better for it than other children, and so structure things this way. It’s certainly possible. Actually in America this already happens regarding immigration (which is kind of the same thing as births, population wise). My wife was permitted in from England given that her corporate employer sponsored her. But of course you can’t have a good dystopian movie without the dystopia!
Once we have something more like a world government, as well as consensus that we need to slow or reduce human population in general (rather than just for a given area, which I suspect will always be the greater concern), I just don’t think this will be too big a shock. But then what happens when people have kids that aren’t supposed to? Horrible stuff? Well I imagine that by then there will be systems set up to ensure that people aren’t even able to get pregnant without government approval. And if someone still manages to break the law here, the child would be considered a victim to be compensated by society for its failure to stop this crime, or anything but a criminal. These children would be well compensated!
I realize that there’s plenty about this scenario that would make a lot of people today angry. What about liberty? What about “My body is my property, not the government’s!”? Well sure, but difficult circumstances can require difficult responses. I actually suspect that living in such a society would be better in general than living today. I suspect that all sorts of horrible things happen today, though we’re still to ignorant to understand what’s good and what’s bad.
Eric, I can’t agree with you on this one. I think (as I said to Mike) there is a lot of other things that need to be done before we can justifiably think about population control as a draconian measure. Of course, this can happen, it would be immoral and unfair, but the world isn’t fair so yes it can and is may be happening.
The difficult problem right now is resource overuse by a small number of people and the difficult thing to do is to stop this from happening. Social welfare should ensure that everyone gets equal resources and that resources aren’t wasted. In doing this we should actually be able to reduce the amount of resource consumed rather than increase it.
When we can implement this difficult decision and increase utilisation efficiency to the maximum there could be a justified exploration of more stringent population control measures. But when this time comes there may still be some ethical problems but these would be minor in comparison the ethical problems in doing this today (which are great). When we live in a more homogenous society it is perhaps easier to justify having an equal number of children because then everyone is equally affected. But currently, we don’t live in such a society so doing this would create great ethical problems and in turn, social discord leading to more resource wastage and the cycle continues.
So I think our priority should be to equalise society first (by that I mean the whole world and not just in a few countries). By doing so we would open up opportunities which would allow us to have more children in the short-term and in the long-term ethically justify any strict population control measures (which may even not be needed if we could manage to move to other planets).
Well maybe you disagree, but let’s get particular about that. I presented a scenario by which I don’t believe population control has to be draconian or distopic. Do you disagree?
Given my perspective on this you seem to have gotten into equity, and specifically that you think humanity’s problems in general are caused by the rich consuming the resources that would be better utilized by humanity in general. Well I agree (and even halfway into a very enjoyable ten day luxury vacation on the island of Maui with my family). Clearly people on the higher side of things foster tremendous waste, and ridiculously so at the top. I think we agree that if we’re talking about the greatest number, then the greatest happiness is what’s best for it. The rich aren’t remotely happy enough to warrant anything like what they consume.
The bitch of it however is that the human seems to ultimately work for the happiness of itself, not for the happiness of others. America did not develop its wealth by forcing its citizens to give away the product of their labors. Many conveniently decide that it stole what it has from victims across of the world, though a better view should be that it built its wealth by providing its people with hope from which to work towards happiness. Much of the world doesn’t have such hope, and I’d say that this is largely due to bad governing.
I do have a strange twist for you and your readers to consider however. I believe that I know the beginning to this story, or that happiness is all that matters to anything. From this beginning I also believe that I know the end. Today scientists are able to wire up mice for tests in which they receive tremendous happiness by working a lever. So good does this feel to them that they’ll continue without hydration, sleep, or anything else, until they physically cannot continue any longer.
Thus at some point we should expect scientists to be able to wire up humans to feel amazing pleasure without doing anything at all, and so achieve far more happiness than any person of the past ever has. Thus my prediction is that much of humanity will end up wired to pleasure machines, and so consume far fewer resources per capita than it does today.
With regards to your scenario if you say that the rich should be taxed for having ‘more’ children then it may not be as draconian and I agree it does seem in the spirit of reducing their slice of pie. But it’s likely not going to work at all because as long as they even have 1 child, they avoid the extra taxes and the resources still remain within that family. If we use a formula like the one I suggested: Number of children = N/Resource Utilization Index, then it may be that the richest can have zero children. This, on the other hand, can work, but this is definitely draconian. You also say there may be a time when it would be impossible to get pregnant without government approval, that’s also draconian.
As I see it the problem isn’t with having children and the population. Be it of the rich or the poor, having children is part of being human and enjoying a human life. The problem is the hoarding of resources and waste of resources. Imposing draconian population control measures is very unethical as you are taking away by force someone’s basic humanity (be it of the rich or poor). On the other hand imposing draconian resource control measures isn’t as unethical and could even be considered ethical because the ones you take away from are going to be few in number and even still they would have enough to live a happy life, the ones you give to would be much greater in number and would have enough to live a happy life for the first time. It would also decrease societal tensions and crime.
So as I see it the problem isn’t overpopulation at least for the time being and even if it was it would be unethical and foolish to impose control without having addressed the bigger problem (resource inequality) first.
With regards to American wealth, I would say it’s illusory for most of the people. Yes at one point after winning the second world war, the people were wealthy and the system was enabling them to grow. Even this can’t be separated from the realities of what happened to the rest of the world, which was basically devastated leaving less of a competition for America. At that point, America (meaning it’s people included) owned nearly half of the world’s wealth. However, if you look at the wealth distribution now, American people, in general, are not that well off and in fact, the government owes trillions to the federal bank which is a private institution. This means American people are in debt to these private banks. On top of that most of the new graduates are in huge amounts of student debt. The list is endless but another example is that even in America 1 in 30 children will be homeless each year etc. The wealth and resources aren’t with the American people anymore, now around 50% of the world’s wealth is with American based global corporations. These corporations are not limited to America instead are all over the world. The real wealth is thus with the people who run these corporations and their offices around the world. The other thing to look at is that America has been at war all around the world sometimes up to with 50 countries at a time for almost the full duration of its existence. It builds resources by sometimes acquiring them by direct force like Iraqi oil, or threatening to leave ‘ally’ countries stranded e.g. Arabian oil. Or by the sale of weapons to both sides of warring countries. It’s grown into a global police force as it has around 1000 military bases outside its borders. It uses this to enforce its own agenda (which is mostly not the same as the American people’s agenda) and it allows a safe haven for American based businesses to flourish. The word American business is also misleading because there’s nothing American about them, it’s basically a collection of rich people/families from around the world who run them. Not to mention the prison industrial complex, which is another way for private prisons businesses to earn from the people’s taxes and to also provide cheap human labor in form of prisoners. Well, a lot of the labor is based in poor third world countries (or is now automated) anyway so that the money stays mostly at the top of the chain. In concrete terms, if you look at the national debt then on average, each person in the US owes 62,000 dollars compare that to Pakistan where each person owes on average only 330 dollars.
With regards to the mice experiment you mentioned, I would take it with a grain of salt. If the mice press the lever until they die of starvation or dehydration then in my opinion that can’t be that happy an experience (of course I would have to be a mice to know). Surely dehydration, starvation, and exhaustion would have their own impact on the experience of the mice. I would rather see this as a mental disorder where the mice can’t seem to stop a destructive behavior because it is addictive much like how drug use is. Furthermore, mice happiness and human happiness are surely different because of the complexities we have, as I previously said we don’t seem as much at the mercy of our biological tendencies as are other animals. Our current scenario I think reflects on this as well, an excess of something doesn’t usually lead to happiness. As Mike mentioned in his previous post as well, it seems emotions like happiness are never the same in 2 instances as far as brain biology goes. We enjoy things in their richness and we enjoy varying flavors to it. In the current discussion of overpopulation and resources, I think a deeper and sustaining happiness would be attained by a fairer and equal society rather than by controlling the numbers. I doubt we would ever be plugged into pleasure machines unless that machine is living a real human life in a fair world.
Well it sounds like we agree about the end point anyway Fizan — if were talking about the greatest number, then the greatest happiness is what’s best for it. The question is which policies get us the closest? This will certainly depend upon our nature itself. I’m sure that we’ll be having plenty of future discussions about whether your more socialistic approach, or my more capitalistic approach, happens to be most effective. Cheers!
One of the challenges I see, Fizan, (and I’m not saying you’re advocating the draconian approach just yet) is that central planning of things intended to raise the standard of living for everyone can often do as much harm as good. It’s a little like disturbing a natural system, isn’t it? Central planning can hardly control the consequences. I’m inclined to advocate for a holistic approach, rather than a head-on one of direct population control. In fact I think a more egalitarian world is necessary for a great many reasons, with population control being pretty far down the list. I think if we had such a world, many if not most of these problems would take care of themselves.
I think ultimately the world is a product of our perceptions, or psychologies, or whatever you want to call it. It’s nearly impossible to convince people to change by hitting them with the idea that what they are doing is bad, especially when most of them are just trying to earn a living in the particular societal contexts in which they find themselves.
To me, and I’m just winging this really, the initial approach might be to somehow assign a value to the goods and services provided by the environment, and to tax in some way those manmade products whose consumption is clearly a detriment to the environment. Or another way might be to set land aside in some sort of World Preserve, and to suggest this land is necessary to produce the oxygen and clean air and other resources all humans need. Then land costs would accrue naturally and proportionately wouldn’t they? But this is very tough isn’t it? That said, it could be utilized to create a softer path towards resource efficiency as most people will not buy what they cannot afford. One real difficulty I see is addressing the concerns many will have, without even knowing if it is true or not–(I’m not sure I do)–that we cannot have a stable economy without “growth.” Any tax will be seen as a drag on everyone’s prosperity. And so we get to brass tacks again. We get down to our beliefs and inclinations. We get down to our highly valued self-interest, and whether or not we could ever move in slightly different ways.
If we perceived ourselves differently, Fizan, and value things a little differently, I think we would create a different world. How to do that is of course a tremendous challenge! But I think in the end any sort of top down or draconian approach will fail, or at minimum will have dire side effects.
Michael, I agree with you mostly. Draconian measures are likely to fail, however, I suggest if they are needed as ‘a difficult decision’ then we need to get our priorities straight. The best step towards an equal society, if we were to use draconian measures, would be to impose control over the monopolies of rich and powerful people. This is difficult because of the illusion of power difference, however ultimate power is with the people. If we were to equalise all resources it would mean the top 1% of us would lose resources whilst most of the rest of us would see minimal changes and perhaps up to 50% of us would see a huge transformation in their lives. No one would be starving or shelterless and still we would have a surplus of resources remaining.
If we aren’t going to use draconian measures then we need still take this route but in a more subtle way. Ultimately we can’t have an egalitarian society with massive resource inequality. This means someone has to give up the big slice they keep to themselves (and don’t share). Increasing taxes (like on meat) could be a way forward but that has to take into consideration the current level of resources a person has. If the tax is equal then again only the relatively poorer would not be able to afford such things (creating a perception of more inequality). This is how it works these days or even it’s opposite where the richer might actually get tax breaks. A good system has to be geared to take away surplus resources from the hoarders and make it easy for the less well off people to get those resources instead.
You are right that to have any such change we first need to be able to have an inner transformation, which may not be possible (at least in the short term) because such traits may have been hardwired into us over the evolution process. I take that with the caveat that humans, unlike other animals, are perhaps not that much at the mercy of their biological tendencies.
Population control would definitely be very low on my priority list as well. Because we can’t justify such measures yet on the basis of limited resources. However, in an equal society (utopian) we might be able to.
In case you haven’t seen it, Nautilus has an article up about the question of the carrying capacity of the Earth. Pretty interesting.
Thanks, for sharing that article Mike. Just finished reading it, very interesting and seems to touch on some of the themes we have been discussing. The bottom line seems to be that it’s very difficult (almost impossible) to estimate the maximum carrying capacity of earth and most predictions so far have failed miserably. It also shows how sometimes pessimistic predictions are used to fear monger and other times justify capitalistic or survivalist policies. However I think we do have to agree the resources and hence maximum sustainable population on earth has to eventually be finite.
Only a smiling visitant here to share the love (:
, btw great pattern.
Taking resolving measures cannot work if there is a constant mass of force opposing things every step of the way.
Earth, I believe, just like the human body is capable of healing herself. Usually, the problem arises with the presence of things that are alien to her system. The Antigens.
For some reason, there is a block in the administration of the Antibody. Maybe the virus blocks the receptors and hides recognition?
For example, in the present issue: Over Population and depletion of Earth Resources.
This is an external symptom.
What is actually going on??
Perhaps a collaboration of everything viewed holistically would give a better picture of whatever it is that you wish to concentrate on. For instance:
The use of Plastic. I find that a related symptom.
So what could possibly have effected Earth to make her go haywire with Plastic and People?
Here is a Hypothesis: Something from Outer Space, bearing no Life whatsoever, but capable of inducing some kind of powerful reaction is acting like a virus affecting the Planet.
Why is the Planet’s natural immunity not working then? It is working! By reacting and getting diseased.
So, one approach following the imaginary bread-crumb trail of this hypothesis would be to use the issues to dig in rather than getting rid of it. If it is allowed free expression, sans control with awareness into the situation; the problem could be impromptu solved.
Of course, with this lies the risk of doing it that way.