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Overpopulation, Climate Change, and Unintended Pregnancies with Dr. Mel (Mary Ellen) Harte – Episode 4

  • June 13, 2018

The Recap

Dr. Mel, more formally known as Mary Ellen Harte, is a biologist who is known for her writings on climate change and population issues. In 2008, she co-authored the free downloadable book, Cool the Earth, Save the Economy. She produced the weekly “Climate Change This Week” blog which addresses the constant effect of climate change on humanity on HuffPost from 2012-2017

In this episode, we tackle the issue of climate change from the aspect of population and what impact is has on society and potential impact on the future. Dr. Mel speaks about humanity overpassing the sustainable level of human existence on Earth and its detrimental impacts, as well as addressing the need for affordable contraceptives for impoverished women in order to curb overpopulation

Episode Highlights

[02:52] – Clam named after Dr. Mel

[04:17] – Dr. Mel’s transition of focus on marine biology to climate change to overpopulation

[05:38] – What Dr. Mel has to say to sceptics who don’t believe climate change is man-caused

[07:06] – Why climate change is not just a cycle of warming and cooling periods

[08:25] – How Dr. Mel became focused on population as a primary cause of climate change

[10:47] – What exactly “sustainable levels” are

[12:23] – Will technological advances avert these crises in time

[13:34] – Moving to Mars isn’t a viable solution to the climate change crisis

[14:27] – Why although population growth slowing down, overpopulation is still a problem

[15:04] – Dr. Mel’s proposed solution to alleviate overpopulation

[15:57] – Unintended pregnancies vs. unplanned pregnancies

[18:02] – Birth rates in relation to poverty

[18:42] – LARC, a new generation of contraceptives

[22:45] – Demographic data shows 20-40 year old women are most vulnerable to unintended pregnancies in the U.S.

[24:57] – Dropping fertility rates is irrelevant to unintended pregnancies

[26:56] – Three things people can to to help curb the unintended pregnancy issue

[30:45] – The crashing of marine ecosystems due to overpopulation

[35:30] – Everyone has a part in fixing their ecosystems

[36:55] – Dr. Mel on the future of humanity

Tweetable Quotes

Links Mentioned

Information about LARCs

Worldometers World Population Counter

Cool the Earth Website

Future of Humanity Community

Subscribe to Future of Humanity


Read Full Transcript

Carl Taylor: Welcome back. I am your host Carl Taylor, and in today's episode, we have a fascinating conversation. We're joined by Mel, known more formally as Mary Ellen Harte. She's a biologist who writes on climate change and population issues. In 2008, she co-authored the free downloadable book Cool The Earth, Save The Economy, which you can find at www.cooltheearth.us, and she also produced the weekly The Climate Change This Week blog, which detailed the constant effect of climate change on humanity, at The Huffington Post from 2012 to 2017.
Carl Taylor: In this episode, we tackle some pretty big issues and some very emotional and touchy subjects I think for many people probably to hear. If you have kids or you're thinking about having kids, or even really you're just a human on this planet concerned about climate change and population, this is going to be an episode that you don't want to miss. We cover climate change from the aspect of population, and what impact that's having. And we talk about what, if we don't get control of this, what is a potential future we're going to see. To be honest, she painted a pretty bleak picture of what could come to pass, so let's not delay anymore. Let's get straight into this amazing episode.
Carl Taylor: All right. I'm super excited for today's episode. We are joined by Mel Harte. Mel, I heard on the grapevine that there is a clam named after you. Is that true?
Mel Harte: Yes, and it's happily living off the coast of New Caledonia. It's named Lioconcha melharteae.
Carl Taylor: That's a mouthful. I'm glad that you can remember it. How did that come about? That sounds fascinating.
Mel Harte: In an earlier part of my life, I was marine biologist and I was studying the evolution of Venus clams. And there was a pretty famous guy among the Marine Biologist, [Kevlan Prael 00:03:15], who had the largest collection of bivalves. And so, he was constantly going ahead and talking to me about the unknowns that he had in his collection, and I pointed out some new unknown ones in his collection, when I visited him. And at one point, he was showing me two very similar ones, saying, "Are they different." And I said, "Yeah. This one is such and such. That one is such and such." Very minor differences but they were standard, and he said, "Oh, okay." And then the next thing I know, and he says, "I'm naming one of them after you."
Carl Taylor: That's fantastic. Fantastic. Now, I'm sure there's not too many people in the world who can probably go around saying, oh, I've got a clam named after me, so that's fantastic. What's really interesting is you're a biologist who specifically was focusing a lot on climate change, and then now you're focused on population as a particular area. And so, I'm fascinated. How do you go from a marine biologist to climate change to population? What's this journey that you've been on?
Mel Harte: The arch of it is that my husband was the first person to start a field experiment on global warming in the world, and it started in 1990. It's been going continuously since then. And they've been able to show the effects of global warming on some alpine seals. I understood that global warming was a real thing. It bothered me that a lot of media though didn't understand that it was a 24/7, 365 days a year, a constant event. The water was constantly getting warmer. And so, that's one of the things that lead me to start doing a series at the Huffington Post, as a climate blogger, basically saying climate change this week, as if to say, here check out everything that's going around the world, in terms of solutions, in terms of the delving problem, in terms of all sorts of interesting facts connected with climate change, and everything in between, the politics, the whole ball of wax. The fact that it's there all the time. It's not just when a big storm starts, oh, that's climate change. No, no, it's there constantly.
Carl Taylor: I'm curious, for those that maybe listening, who maybe they'll go, "Yeah, the climate is getting warmer." But they might be saying, "But I don't believe it's man-caused." What would you say to those people?
Mel Harte: There is a real interesting story there. There was a chemist. I mean, it's this simple. There was a chemist back in the 1890s; Arrhenious was his name. And he took a look at all the emissions coming out of the industrial revolution at that time. The factories in England and so forth. And he did a back of the envelope calculation, saying, "Okay, hang on. They're putting all of this carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and I understand what carbon dioxide does." He just made calculations, and he said, "At this rate, if they keep on doing this, and it increases," and so forth and so on, he said, "The earth is going to go ahead and warm up by this amount and by this time." And he got it, right on the nail. And so in the 1890s, he had basically told you accurately what was going to happen to the planet, with the emissions from all these factories.
Carl Taylor: Right. The thing I can imagine though, and I don't have many in my circle of influence, but I know that there's people out there that when they hear that and go, "Yeah, but the world is being cooled and warmed numerous times throughout history. Why is this any different, who's to say this is just not a normal cycle?" What's the argument to those people 'cause I personally don't know what to say. I mean, for me, my argument is always like, "Well, whether you're right or I'm right, if you're right and there's no problem, it's pretty not that big of a deal.
Mel Harte: No. Well, let's look at the history. Okay?
Carl Taylor: Yeah.
Mel Harte: And if you look at history and how fast the planet warms and how fast it cools down, you realize that what's going on right now is if you view the geological record, it's a virtual explosion, because this isn't happening over a thousand years, how fast the planet's warming. It's happening literally over many decades. Suddenly, we're talking about a hundred, hundreds of times faster. And the thing about that too is that the evolution of life, the actual mechanism of evolution on life, is really adapted to much slower changes. So, this change is happening much faster than most life on earth is capable of really adapting to.
Carl Taylor: And that's the road, right? It's the speed.
Mel Harte: It's a very fast thing that's happening, much faster than it has ever happened historically. Yeah.
Carl Taylor: Gotcha. Okay, we can agree that the planet is warming. And if there is still a skeptic out there, as to whether it's man-made or not, hopefully they can at least agree that there is climate change happening. What are some of the factors? I mean, you're now moved to population as being ... as a big part of what you believe is the cause, but take me through the journey of how did you end up deciding that focusing on population can help.
Mel Harte: Well, after about five years of doing this on the Huffington Post, Trump got elected. And I realized just a few months after, he was actually acting formally a president, that there was so much focus on the man that people weren't really cluing into what I had to say about climate change anymore. By that time anyway, I had started becoming really, really concerned about the fact that a lot of people are connected to technical or focused on technical solutions: switching to clean energy, and energy efficiency and so forth. And yet, you found people still stumbling over themselves or simply not mentioning the population problem, because they were afraid of insulting or offending other cultures or other countries. When anyone started talking about population, all they could think of is are you trying to tell me how to go ahead and manage our population, and the smacks of control and all sorts of horrible things, forced sterility and stuff like that.
Mel Harte: It had politicized even before people were talking about it. And yet, if you think about it, what's happening in the planet, here, is we are seeing some of these pressures of population, and it's resulting in a lot of inhumanity, a lot of inhumane killings, wars and so forth. I wanted to approach it from the most politically accessible perspective, which is how can we go ahead and bring our populations to sustainable levels and do it humanely, not through the crashes when you don't have enough resources or it's too polluted, you can't stay here anymore, so you're forced to move somewhere else. And now, you're bumping into another country, where their population is already stretching resources, and they don't want you. You can see that certainly in the sort of thing that's happening with Syrian refugees, heading up into Europe and straining government resources of the various countries there. That's why I said, "Okay, so what is most accessible way of approaching the population in a humane way, in terms of trying to just get to sustainable levels, and-
Carl Taylor: And you mentioned sustainable levels. I mean, what exactly are sustainable levels?
Mel Harte: Well, ecologists guessed that around the 1950s or so, we probably hit our maximum sustainable level of humanity, and it was about somewhere between 1 and 2 billion people. They were willing to say, "Well, maybe 2 billion people." Right now, we're headed towards ... Oh, what is it? Seven, are we at seven?
Carl Taylor: 7.6, according to my research.
Mel Harte: 7.6, yeah. And they keep on talking. This is another thing that bothers me. These media people of channel media will say, whenever they're talking about population growth will say, yes, and when we hit 11 billion in 2050, I think to myself, "They're not even saying if." And yet, we were headed ... We might be destroying so much of the planet and it's capability of sustaining us, that by 2050, we might be in a crash. A major crash, and it might be from any number of factors combined that's causing this crash. No one should assume that, saying, "We're going to automatically hit 11 billion, 15 billion or whatever." We are probably going to crash as surely as bacteria populations crash in Petri dishes, and for basically the same reason. You create so much pollution, you toxify your environment, which is happening all the time, or you run out of resources.
Carl Taylor: You don't believe that as a society and all the technology that's being constantly created, that we won't come and find magical ways from technology, that will avert some of these crises in time?
Mel Harte: Well, let's talk about a recent example. Back in the 1960, 70ish, they had what they call the Green Revolution to boost food production around the world. Now, the architect of the Green Revolution said, "Guys, all I'm doing here is buying us some time, because what we're doing to the soils to go ahead and create this Green Revolution is basically sucking a lot of nutrients out of them, that we aren't replacing." True enough, a lot of soils around the earth, especially in India and other places in Asia, are now starting to go bottoms up, because we've sucked all the nutrients out of them with all these artificial fertilizers and everything else.
Mel Harte: And so, these tech fixes that we have are not longterm fixes. They can go ahead and boost things for a while but unsustainably, and at some point you got to reckon with just the ceilings in terms of resources and regenerative resources on this planet.
Carl Taylor: I hope that Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk get us as an interplanetary species before then.
Mel Harte: Yep. That's another big thing. If you think it's difficult to live here on earth, think about how difficult it is to live on Mars. And not only that, how much resources it'll mean to go ahead and just ship a few people to Mars? And you know that this not a real solution in any sense of the word.
Carl Taylor: Yeah. Not for the entire humanity at least. Maybe, for a select few.
Mel Harte: Try a dozen.
Carl Taylor: Yeah. It's really interesting. You said 1 to 2 billion and we're currently at 7.6 billion. And as you said, by 2050, they're talking about hitting 11 billion. Based on my research, and I don't know if you read Bill and Melinda Gates' 2018 letter. They talked a bit about population. And it does show, the data does seem to show that population growth is slowing down. Why is this still an issue for us to think about population growth, if we are starting to slow down already?
Mel Harte: Because it's not slowing down fast enough, because we're going to shoot up to levels that will crash before we ever get to the point where we stop growing.
Carl Taylor: Got it.
Mel Harte: We will stop growing with a crash. We will not stop growing because we're slowly approaching an asymptotic peak or anything like that. The general inertia of just growth without thinking consciously about what we're doing is too slow. It's not a fast enough solution, basically.
Carl Taylor: Got it. That's a perfect segue to, well, what is your proposed solution? What do you think that we can do about it? What's the area you've been focusing on?
Mel Harte: Okay. Well, one in two pregnancies worldwide are unintended. Let that sink in for a bit, okay? One in two, so 50% of all the pregnancies in the world every year are unintended. Some of them result in abortions, some of them result in miscarriage and so forth, but a large number of them result in births. Think if we could just go ahead and provide a way for women not to have unintended pregnancies, that is give women and their partners exactly what they want, which is control over when they have children, when they feel they want them and can support them.
Carl Taylor: When you say unintended pregnancies, what exactly ... How would you define unintended pregnancies versus unplanned?
Mel Harte: There are plenty of people who go ahead and plan for pregnancies, okay, they're going to say ... In fact, my husband and I really planned very carefully for the one child I had. There are plenty of people who are in that sort of gray zone of um, well, I'll just see how things go. And a lot of those people don't think about the financial ramifications of something like that.
Mel Harte: In the US, a lot of middle-class families, that is families with kids, delve into or drop into poverty, and often it's connected to fact that they've got kids and they're so close to just making it financially with their children, that if anything happens to the family, the father, mother, any of the kids get seriously sick and suddenly their health costs become a liability, they're thrown into poverty.
Mel Harte: There's that part that is a real danger that people don't recognize in the US, as well as just the poor people, who simply ... They don't have financial or easy access. If you're a poor person, think about this, you're spending every day of your life trying to figure out how you and your family are going to survive, takes up every minute. It means you don't have a whole lot of choices. You grab for a job. The job might involve a lot of time in things connected to it, commuting, whatever. That means suddenly you don't have much time for anything else, except getting a job, making enough money, and then trying to see that your kids are taken care of.
Mel Harte: Where does visiting a family planning facility, and then getting contraceptives that you have to then buy, maybe, or you have to keep on renewing on any sort of period or anything like that, a time period. All of these things suddenly become something that, gee, it falls off the radar and suddenly you have another kid on the way, and you didn't mean to do that, but it happened.
Carl Taylor: Is there data to show ... And I think I read somewhere that there is, but is there data to show that kind of higher birth rates are linked to poverty, globally, not just in the US?
Mel Harte: You can go ahead and look at the demographic data and again a lot of middle-class families, depending upon the number of children they have, are much more likely to drop into poverty because of the ensuing problems that can happen with any one person, so often involving health care issues.
Carl Taylor: Well, and as you say often, well, pretty much all contraceptives require continual consumption and buying, and so if you're already poor, you're tied on your money, that might be one thing you choose to skip on.
Mel Harte: Except, and this is why ... This is what I'm trying to go ahead and urge everyone. There are a whole new generation of contraceptives called LARCs, longterm active reversible contraceptives. These things work for about three or more years without any maintenance. Someone puts an insert in arm or a new generation of ultra-safe IUD, and it stays there for three or four years until you have to get it changed and switched out for another one. Now, imagine if you're a poor person, and you've been given that opportunity, honey put this thing inside you. And you don't have to worry about any kids for the next three years. Suddenly, the mother thinks, "Oh, my gosh, I can go ahead and concentrate on the rest of my family and build up some funding and so forth, in case we want kids later and do it then." But very few poor people have access to these, and so why not, because it's in the interest of a country.
Mel Harte: In the United States, you spend $1 on family planning, contraceptives and things like that, you get a payback. Data shows this, you get a payback of over $7 in savings. And that has to do with not just healthcare issues connected to having kids or not having kids, but the whole ball of wax, that fact that you have fewer people in poverty. In fact, I'm not even sure if it even takes into account these extra things, which is you have fewer people going into poverty. Demographic data just shows that if a woman is in poverty, and she has one unintended pregnancy, she's anchored to poverty for the rest of her life. And demographic data also shows that she is likely to live anywhere from one up to 20 years, or a shorter lifespan, than people who are not in poverty.
Carl Taylor: Wow, that's interesting.
Mel Harte: It really is a humanitarian issue. You're actually denying people life, because they've been hooked into poverty and they didn't mean to be, but that's what happened. And so, this is a perfect thing for a government to think of, my gosh, we could save a lot on our budgets if we went ahead and gave them free access to LARCs. I'm saying LARCs especially is because for poor people, it's probably the best match to their lifestyle, at this point.
Carl Taylor: Yeah, do it once, not have to think about it for a couple years.
Mel Harte: For years, exactly. You give them a breather space to go ahead and then go back to it again.
Carl Taylor: And so, are LARCs expensive? Is it really a finance issue? Is it accessibility or is it an education issue?
Mel Harte: Both, but it depends. In the United States, if you really are poor, you can get a LARC from anywhere from for free to maybe $150, even though a LARC might cost someone who can pay up to $1,500. It's a sliding scale. Usually, a woman pays several hundred dollars, but like I said, if you're poor and you go to what we call Title X clinics that have financing from the government for family planning, they'll give you contraceptives for free.
Carl Taylor: Okay, so then that sounds like it's really an education issue then of making sure enough people are aware that this is even an option, that they can this.
Mel Harte: Very much. In California, the last time we had stats on this, we were seeing that a very low percentage of poor people were choosing LARCs, and I think part of it was we don't have the outreach to really explain what they are. And there's also outreach comes in all sorts of flavors. You can get people who think you're reaching out to them, but if you're reaching out to say, like a different culture, in California, a large portion of our poor population are Hispanics, migrant workers and so forth. They have their own cultural values to deal with, and so you have to approach them through their own cultural channels. If you don't, you're not likely to get across them as you want to them.
Carl Taylor: I'm conscious that we're talking a lot about poor people here in this context, but is this truly just isolated to the lower economic-
Mel Harte: The demographic data that we have on this, and this is another thing. We could use a lot more demographic data, but the demographic data we have on this shows that the group of women most vulnerable to unintended pregnancies that account to over 50% of pregnancies, by teenagers by the way. It's the 20 to 40-year-old-child-bearing women who are poor and relatively uneducated. They account for over 50% of unintended pregnancies in the US. Now, country to country this is gonna differ, but I'm especially focusing on the US. This is the thing that concerns me, and specifically in California. But the US because we're the highest consumers in the world, so every time we give birth to a child, we're really making a big carbon footprint.
Carl Taylor: Yeah. Every time I go to the US, I'm always impressed at how much better you are as buyers and consumers of products compared to at least us in Australia. And I've looked at that going well from a business point of view, that's amazing. But from a population and environmental point of view, I hadn't really connected the dots to go, well, hold on, that means that the US probably creates a bigger dent per population.
Mel Harte: And the US also is, I think, has some of the best marketers in the world for just encouraging that consumption. You just see it all the time. It's so easy, I think, for a lot of people to get sucked in. I came from a family, a large family actually, and we weren't very ... I guess we were a lower, middle-class, although I never felt that way about it. And so, we were always thinking in terms of conserving, and not buying more than you needed. Really, I look around, I start feeling like a stranger and saying, "These Americans with me all day, at the slightest drop of a hat, they're going and spending their money."
Carl Taylor: Yeah, definitely. One question I have though is if we're saying that there's this unintended pregnancy issue and 50% you said of pregnancies are often unintended. What about the fact that many would say fertility rates are dropping? I mean, if you're a conspiracy theorist listening, you might even say that the government is putting things in our water and doing these things to actually purposely poison us, so that our fertility rates drop and they can control population.
Mel Harte: First of all, yes. It's interesting how often I will talk to even very educated people of the liberal persuasion, who are very progressive on these ideas. And yet, they'll say to me things like, "Well, what about this rising infertility?" And that's actually irrelevant to what I'm suggesting, because I'm talking specifically about giving them and their partners what they want, which is control over their fertility. Now, there's a whole another segment of people who want to be able to conceive. And yes, they should be allowed to go ahead and pursue that as best they can, but what I'm trying to do here in no way impacts those people. I'm simply trying to say let's just go ahead and help the women who don't want to get pregnant right now.
Mel Harte: The other thing too is I like to say to people, if you think infertility is somehow impacting population growth, go to ... I think it's worldometers.com, or org.
Carl Taylor: It's worldometers.info/world-population. We'll have a link in the show notes, but yeah I looked at this for my research.
Mel Harte: You can be mesmerized by watching those numbers, just increasing before your eyes rather than-
Carl Taylor: Well, today alone, 138,000 births today alone.
Mel Harte: There we go, and counting.
Carl Taylor: Yeah, and counting. It's already going up hundreds of ... already, so yeah.
Mel Harte: Right.
Carl Taylor: It's amazing. We identify that we need to reduce the unintended pregnancies. If we project into the future, if we do nothing and it stays the current levels of 50% being unintended, or we actually do something about it. What are our potential futures, because I mean if we're talking about projecting out to 11 billion people, what impact can we truly make if we manage to curb this unintended pregnancy issue?
Mel Harte: Well, look, there are three important things I like to tell people that they can do. One of them is vote for leaders who understand the problem and are willing to work at a federal level to address the problem, so that's very important, get out and vote. Another one is to get involved in organizations that understand the problem too and are trying to work towards effecting change for human solutions to the problem of unsustainable growth, just like I'm saying here. There are organizations that are trying to go ahead and do something about preventing unintended pregnancies. It can be simple as lobbying for family planning clinic in your community, or if there is one, volunteering, helping them out. They're always in need of more help. You can do something like that. Finally and seriously, people should consider about having one or no children. It's been shown by far, if you really want to do something about the carbon footprint on this planet, for so many other problems as well, the best thing you can do, far and away, is to have one or no children.
Mel Harte: It's not something that I entered into lightly. I thought about it. God forbid, if my daughter dies tomorrow, I have no children. But there are also benefits here. One is I was able to go ahead and concentrate resources on my daughter and give her the best opportunities possible, in terms of education, seeing the world. She saw all twelve continents before she was twelve years old. Can you imagine what a twelve ... Sorry. All the continents of the planet before she was twelve years. That really has made an impression on her. She has a very global view of this planet that she lives on.
Mel Harte: And then finally, it also gave me the space, the mental space that I needed to understand that children do not define us. They require, yes, our love and our bonds of love, but it's the same bonds of love that we should be developing for all of us on this planet. If you want to find fulfillment in your life, look for it, not through how many children you have or what your child isn't doing in her life, but how you can go ahead and make a dent on this planet and help care for everyone on it, because we are in the end, a very tribal species. We get together in big groups. We depend upon big groups, even those hermits way up there, wherever, unless they are absolutely getting every bit of food from just hunting or gathering wild plants. I think there are precious few. You're dependent on the rest of humanity. And so, you have to think in terms of how can I go ahead and improve the rest of humanity?
Carl Taylor: Yeah. I can imagine it's a very emotional topic for many people to think about having no children, or just one. And I'm sure it must be difficult if you're one part of a relationship that's wanting more, and the other one is wanting less, it would make a very difficult conversation to have.
Mel Harte: Well, it is. You really have to think about it, but then that's also part of establishing a longterm relationship. Hopefully, you're establishing a relationship with someone who sort of understands these things too and recognizes them for being kind of important. If we don't do this ... Look, if we don't do this, we really are headed for very inhumane end. We will be as it is right now, one of the things that concerns me for instance, having been a marine biologist, is the crashing of marine ecosystems. I'm certain over in Australia, you're getting to see that, with the coral reef. The devastation of the coral reef. Literally, I put my head down on the table and started crying, when I started hearing about the devastation over there, because I have seen your reefs. I've seen reefs all over the world. I understand what these beautiful undersea cathedrals are, that are millions of years in the making, and the fact that we are just through our own thoughtlessness destroying them.
Carl Taylor: Absolutely. When you say a devastating crash? What are we talking here? Starvation, the planet exploding? What are we talking about?
Mel Harte: Well, we'll be talking about things like creating a ... basically, having an environment that's uninhabitable and nowhere to go. Think about all those migrants that are crossing the Mediterranean from Africa over to Europe, and they're going because they have no other option, because droughts have gone ahead and destroyed their way of life. And there's no place else that they can move to, thank you, because the rest of the space is already been inhabited. And finally, they're being pushed across the Mediterranean and often dying in doing so. Just think of that on a much more massive scale, and you'll start seeing that happening. And the causes too, when you say it can be droughts, it can be toxification, where your village has become so poisoned. Flint, Michigan in the United States, where the water is so poisonous, children have now contracted basically toxic levels of lead, which of course affects the mental development over there. And these are a lot of poor people who have no place else to go, and are sitting there. And this is not a very humane situation.
Mel Harte: Yes. Starvation, drought, just the destruction of your own environment, epidemics. You'll get pandemics as more and more people are getting less and less nutrients, because you can still grow plants, but if you grow plants for example under climate change, there showing now that you can actually end up with plants that are not very nutritious, they're literally not taking up the nutrients that they need, when they're growing in stressed conditions under climate change. You end up with people who are more susceptible to disease, you end up with people who then don't necessarily have access to all the antibiotics that we need, or maybe because this is another problem. Antibiotics are now becoming compromised because of their use around the world. You might not have antibiotics for the next epidemic. There was a recent film within the past five to seven years that really went into it very realistically. It was a blockbuster, over here in the United States. I can't remember the name of it right now.
Carl Taylor: And it was more about the ... Like a supervirus and we didn't have antibiotics to protect us?
Mel Harte: Yes, it was about a new virus that had developed. We didn't have the antibiotics and it just spread really fast and knocked out ... And you don't need much actually, you only have to knock out about 20% of the population and suddenly the structure of civilization starts crashing down around you, because you need so many people to maintain the structure. Think about it! Think about how many countries inhabit your house, in terms of the things that you have bought through those countries' labor and producing them. Suddenly, it hits you. Oh, yeah.
Carl Taylor: Someone could say that if we moved to a robotic civilization before that then would losing the people create that impact, but one of the things that-
Mel Harte: There we go. Trying to scale up something like that requires an immense amount of resources, and when you have most of the people, or a significant proportion of the people in the world below poverty levels, suddenly you recognize how insane an idea that is as a solution.
Carl Taylor: Yeah. I mean, one of the things that I think could be going through people's heads right now is they hear this, and they go, "Okay, the idea of I could obviously promote the idea to others in my circle about the longterm contraceptives." It's also that they could take that opportunity themselves, they could also choose to only have one child or having no children. What if they're sitting there going, "Well, you know what? My country is very low on the population levels of the whole world." We've got China and India, being four times the population levels of even the US. Let alone me in Australia, we're like number 55, population levels. I can imagine someone thinking like, "Oh, well, do I really need to play my part? What impact does my one child make?" What would you say to someone like that?
Mel Harte: I guess I'd ask them, one, are any of their ecosystems being impacted by the fact that we're creating climate change through over-consumption. Two, I'd ask them what is the average consumer level in their country. A lot of these developed countries have very high consumerism levels, consumption levels, and so that's contributing. And that's why I say that every nation needs to bring their populations to sustainable levels, because it's not just a question of how many people, how densely populated you are. That's certainly a factor, but how much consumption are those people causing? And then in the United States, you have relatively ... It's not as dense as China or India, but thank you, it's very, very consumptive, and that's why we are ... We have the largest carbon footprint in the world, in terms of the pollution and everything else that goes along with consumerism, destruction of natural resource to go ahead and make all this stuff.
Carl Taylor: Yeah. No. Good answer. I suppose to finish this up. A question that I feel like I might already know the answer to this, but I'm curious. When you think to the future, are you optimistic that we'll be able to solve this problem or all the problems facing us? Or are you more on the pessimistic side?
Mel Harte: The logic in my head, I think it's from the German side of my family. I'm half Greek-American and half German-American, and I think the German side of my head, the logic side, which just says, oh, man, there are so many factors running against us right now that I don't logically see us not going into some sort of inhumane crash. But what can I do to go ahead and soften that as much as possible? And at the same time, what could I do to sort of save the rest of the world from us? And that's not a totally altruistic thing, because the more send other species into extinction, the more we are wiping out other opportunities for life and for our survival on this planet. There's a lot of work to be done for anyone who really wants to go ahead and say, "I'm going to do something that I don't care how big the problem is." And that's where the optimism comes from.
Mel Harte: My brother at one point said to me, when I was saying, "Oh, man, we're really in some trouble here," and he said, "Mel," and I don't know if you know Wagner who created the Ring Cycle. And then it's about mythological gods, okay. In the final act of the Ring, the gods go into battle, knowing they're going to be destroyed, but it doesn't stop them. And that's, for me, an uplifting thing to cling to. The thing that defines me that says this is where my meaning as a human being comes into play. Am I going to let anything stop me from doing what's right for all of us on this planet?
Carl Taylor: That's a beautiful way to finish up. If people want to connect with you, reach out to you, or to follow what you're doing, what's the best way for them to kind of get in contact or find you?
Mel Harte: I guess they can you know, my email. We're pretty much Luddites, we don't text. I don't have an iPhone, but I certainly check my email, melharte, M-E-L-H-A-R-T-E, @yahoo.com. I've also got ... I don't often put things online, but I do still have, I think, a WordPress. Anyway-
Carl Taylor: It was great to talk, and we'll make sure those links are in the show notes. Thank you so much, Mel, for your time. It's fascinating conversation. We'll talk again soon.
Mel Harte: Thanks. Take care.
Carl Taylor: Thanks for listening to the Future of Humanity Podcast. To download the latest episode and find the transcript and various resources mentioned in today's episode, visit our website at F-O-H, dot show. That's F-O-H as in Future of Humanity and show as in S-H-O-W. You can also via our website contact me with any feedback or suggestions for future episodes, so please do reach out. Now, if you haven't already subscribed, you can find the links to subscribe on all your favorite platforms at F-O-H, dot show, slash subscribe. That's F-O-H, dot show, slash subscribe. And more importantly, if you'd like to continue the conversation from today's episode and connect with other listeners, then you can join our free community at F-O-H, dot show, slash community. F-O-H, dot show, slash community. I look forward to seeing you there.

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