Interaction with members of an alien race could cause us to view human civilization from a different perspective. That could, in turn, cause us to question some of the underpinnings of our human society. Expansion is one of those underpinnings. We have been expanding in population and geography for thousands of years. Expansion isn’t just one aspect of who we are. I would argue that it is one of the defining aspects of human civilization.
It’s more than just population expansion that is built into our collective psyche. The human infrastructure has grown to the point where it can be seen from space. In mainstream human society economic growth isn’t considered just a positive thing, it is considered absolutely necessary for economic health. Zero growth is viewed as a dangerous situation. The push for continuous economic growth is not always sustainable. In past recessions the U.S. Government has urged consumers to spend money. The fact that many Americans were in intractable debt wasn’t considered.
You can go further: Businesses are told they must grow or risk decline and death. Humans often base their personal well-being on how much food and material goods they have. That means an expansion in personal consumption. Consider the worry in Italy as the birth rate has plunged. It’s leading to an economic imbalance – not enough young people to pay the taxes necessary to take care of a larger elderly population. No one is saying that there may need to be changes in the ways pensions are funded. Instead, the focus is on encouraging Italians to have more babies and encouraging immigration.
There are some in human society who question the expansion based civilization. They arguethat such expansion is tough to support at current population levels. The increase in the human population on Earth requires more resources to be used and that will eventually lead to the depletion of non-renewable resources. It’s also causing major issues for the environment. The dangerous increase in greenhouse gases is one example. Another is the fact that human expansion is killing off species at a rate not seen since the last great extinction. Meat consumption is rising world-wide. Developing nations are demanding meat as a bigger part of the diet of citizens. But meat production requires massive amounts of water and space. Humans may soon find themselves unable to afford the true cost of meat.
Every nation wants to get bigger, stronger and richer. Developing nations want the same quality of life for their citizens as those in developed nations. That inevitably leads to the consumption of more resources.
Technology can help us obviate some of the need for resources. We can make more efficient cars, appliances and heating and cooling systems. The U.S. oil industry is a textbook example of technology getting more and more out of limited resources. They are squeezing every last drop of oil out of the ground. But the growth in population and demand means that these technological developments may not be able to keep up for long.
Something will have to change. The big question is when. Do we wait until there is a crisis? That seems to be the current human plan. Or do we make proactive changes based on projections for population growth and consumer demand?