Eric R. Pianka
As an ecologist and a student of life on planet Earth, Pianka has always been very concerned about human overpopulation. The first edition of his now classic textbook ended with a chapter on Man and Environment. In his later years, Pianka became increasingly outspoken and proactive, lecturing often on "The Vanishing Book of Life", the now infamous speech he has given many times. He has analyzed the many flaws in human nature from the perspective of natural selection and human instincts (On Human Nature) and has prepared a rather draconian list of some of many changes needed if humans are to survive our own excesses (Solutions).
Pianka teaches a seminar class on The Human Overpopulation Crisis. He prepared a website for this course with an extensive downloadable collection of essays and readings. Students write term papers on various aspects of overpopulation and prepared a class video, posted here.
Pianka created a trilogy exploiting the metaphor of Spaceship Earth, Can Humans Share Spaceship Earth?, and Why Can't We Humans Share Spaceship Earth? along with a companion essay "Can human instincts be controlled?" He identified runaway greed, selfish corporations, ineffective government, and our our insane economic system as major impediments to improving the human condition.
Noting that humans are in denial about overpopulation, the ultimate driver of all our many problems, Pianka created Domino Effects in an attempt to draw attention to the interconnections among challenges we face. Symptoms of overpopulation include
pollution, energy shortages, peak oil, climate change,
global warming, rising sea levels, loss of biodiversity,
starvation, disease, economic recession, and war. Providing
symptomatic relief without confronting overpopulation itself is tantamount to putting band-aids on a dying patient.
Burning fossil fuels of any sort, and using energy in any way (even via nuclear reactors) only adds insult to injury because such activities produce waste heat that cannot be dissipated. Hence we are actually speeding up the rate of global warming by all our efforts to find and use more energy. Our steadfast refusal to live by the rules of thermodynamics is rapidly shortening the time left for all life on planet Earth, our one and only Spaceship.
Return to Pianka lab page
Last updated 25 March 2013 by Eric R. Pianka