Gruesome Prospect

In an extremely interesting, if at times gruesome, article in the New York Times, we read about cannibalism in various animal species — including among human animals. Apparently it is not that uncommon, even though in humans recently  it has become less common since our “civilized” tendencies would rule it out as unthinkable. Still, we have read about crises and so-called “life-boat” situations in which humans have drawn straws to see who shall be sacrificed to save the rest. Our skin crawls at the very thought. None the less, as the article concludes,

As scientists have come to understand, factors like overpopulation and a lack of alternative forms of nutrition lead to cannibalism among animals, and it is clear that even modern humans have been driven to the behavior on many occasions. What, then, of the future?

Populations are growing. Resources are dwindling. Deserts are spreading. And the societal rules that bind us together are proving more fragile than we ever imagined they could be. Maybe it is wise to remember that human cannibalism, so unthinkable now, was not uncommon not so long ago

In a word, as humans continue to populate the earth and food becomes increasingly scarce — especially with global warming making food production more and more difficult and major storms destroying food supplies– this unthinkable possibility looms large.

I recall reading many years ago a novel by the prolific British novelist Anthony Burgess entitled The Wanting Seed. It is a dystopia, as those novels are called, about a possible future in which there are far too many people and food is scarce. This is fiction, of course, and we all know it is at best an “alternative fact.” In the real world this could not possibly happen. Right.

In any event, in Burgess’ novel, the powers that be conjured up a bogus war in which thousands of young lives are taken; the dead are then chopped up and placed into cans to feed the remainder of the population — which knows not wherefrom the food they eat has come. Now, again, this is fiction (gruesome fiction at that), but it is not beyond the realm of possibility given the state of things as they appear on the horizon. Needless to say if the powers that be resemble in any way, shape, or form the powers that are at present sitting in Washington this possibility seems even less remote. Those folks seem to lack any moral sensibility and are willing to do whatever might advance their own particular agendas. And, clearly, survival would be among those agendas.

The point of this strange post is that we really need to recognize the elephant in the room in the form of a human population that increases daily — a problem which may well be at the root of all the other problems we face at this time. We also need to stop and think about what we are doing to the planet — and also think the unthinkable. What if food production falls off precipitously and there simply isn’t enough to go around? Who makes the decisions about which mouths to feed and who should go hungry? And is it totally beyond imagining that humans might indeed start to eat one another — as they did in 1846 at the Donner Pass when desperate times demanded desperate measures? If we continue to ignore the so-called “population explosion” and continue to turn a blind eye to the fate of the planet earth on which we all depend we may face desperate measures before we know it.

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11 thoughts on “Gruesome Prospect

  1. I am sometimes greatly affected via the ‘earthy’ presentations of just-killed animals along the street market areas. My sometimes too-creative mine ponders the ‘what if’ and what if the balance that we know was tipped to include human flesh for sale. What if a species from another planet thought that human flesh was the best option in the universe? It sometimes makes me want to be total vegetarian – just the thought of what it would be like to see that, and also “what if” animals have deeper consciousness than we realize..

    I do not share these thoughts with friends down here – it’s not something most talk about — but since you opened that subject – !

    Some of that sensitivity can probably be linked to the book ‘Sparrow’ by Mary Doria Russell… The story toggles back and forth between earth and Alpha Centauri … It’s been a while since I read that story, so maybe it’s time to read it again…

  2. Dear Hugh,

    Believe it or not, the US military has attempted to do studies along this line, under the theory that climate change could be a catalyst for many of the above described events as well as your proposition about population explosion. But the military has been blocked from pursuing this line of thinking by Congress.

    Recently DT did an executive order banning the US from participating in the distribution of contraceptive medications to poor countries where those in the trenches are attempting to educate poor peoples about the concept of family planning.

    Ciao, Gronda

    • Family planning was going well in Third World Countries until Reagan’s election. It was stopped then, as were all steps toward birth control on the grounds that it involved abortions — which, of course, it did not. So it goes.

  3. My father-in-law who was a missionary in the Congo, and some doctors I knew in Zambia described cannibalism in villages throughout that area. That was less than a century ago, we are talking about the 1920 – 1940s. (Read about it in Nswana – the heir, by Monica Fisher)

  4. Hugh .. Hugh … Hugh … I thought you were going to write about CHEERIER topics!!! More light-hearted topics! But that said … I just had to tease you a bit … yes, this is a topic worth considering … overpopulation and damaging the earth such that we cannot grow adequate food are serious issues. However, I don’t care how hungry I get … I will NOT eat my fellow humans!

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