Friday, September 07, 2012

Living in a world of resource constraints

I am starting to blog again after a very long hiatus. Many a times I have picked up my pen to share something but for some unknown strange feeling I would leave the task incomplete. It was never the lack of material - on the contrary it was always excess material which would force me to go into an introspection of what to share and what not to share, with the obvious result of nothing getting shared.

It's interesting how the world is shaping up these days. Over a lunch conversation my friend and I were talking about how in the years to come we are going to be a very intolerant society mainly because of lack of resources. When I got back to desk, I did some math. As people live longer, the resource constraint is going to be even more acute because as we grow older we consume more resources. Yes an old man might eat less, but in terms of resources, he compensates it by the need of healthcare  devices, pharmaceuticals, drugs and other necessary infrastructure that is needed to support him. In fact, as long as you are less than 10 years old, your resource consumption is fairly arithmetic progression. As you enter the teenage years, it becomes a steep geometric progression. And if you live beyond the regional life expectancy, you consume twice as much resources for 1/4th the productivity.

India's life expectancy in 1950's was about 42 years. Today, this figure has shot up to 67 years. Still a very poor number compared to the western world but a shocking figure if you look at it in a different angle. What it means is that an average Indian's life expectancy is going up by 12 hours per day, everyday! At a daily 'net birth' rate (birth - death), of 15 /1000 or about 15 million in a country of 1 bn+, and each one of them living 12 hours longer than the person born one day before them. To house and cater to additional 15m, we need to build one Mumbai every day - houses, schools, hospitals everything you can think of.

That's one angle. Another angle, is compare ourselves to other mammals. By far humans live longer than most mammals. And with advancement of technology where one can actually reconstruct even the most complex organs, re-do the skin, restore full eyesight etc,  we can only be sure that we are heading towards immortality. At least the TIME magazine believes that humans will become immortal by 2045. Which means we can very well expect other animals to walk the path of extinction as we devour the remaining resources. 

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