Carrying Capacity

I spent this past weekend in Ft. Benning, Georgia visiting my fiance and meeting some of his new Army buddies.  While down in good ol’ Georgia, we were graciously invited to a military-style barbecue for Columbus Day.  It was a beautiful day, and a great way to spend it was with these great people.  So while there, the favorite subject for us recently-engaged types was, “When are you going to have kids?”

Now, Seamus and I have thought long and hard on this one.  We are both from huge Irish families, and he grew up wanting to have a big family, too.  I on the other hand, cannot possibly justifying adding to the I=PAT equation, especially with so many deserving kids looking for adoption.  So we decided long ago that if we were to have a big family, the only possible way would be through adoption, probably siblings, and probably older kids.

Back to the barbecue.  While I am standing there with my Styrofoam plate in hand, with slow-cooked ribs and individually wrapped potato chips, I was asked how many kids I wanted to have someday.  And these military couples are great people.  They serve our country for us with often no thanks, they make huge sacrifices for you and I, and these particular couples had served up one heck of a barbecue.   I really wanted to be honest with them, and build some sort of true relationship.  They were so nice!  I couldn’t pass off the question, or lie and say “bring on the babies.”

Instead, I tried to explain carrying capacity to them.  Stupid. stupid. stupid.  After my dumb stuttering for 10 minutes about the planet’s maximum threshold, and the human influence on climate, my fiance finally steered me away and safe to the shrimp stand.  I don’ think that I changed any minds.  One woman even told me to scratch all that, being pregnant is the best way to kill time while your husband is deployed.

On the way home I moaned about whether these people didn’t understand a basic common sense term like “carrying capacity” because we were in the South, or maybe because they are so involved in the military, or something entirely different.  And then Seamus told me something horrifying; he had never heard the term either.

I am hereby making it my mission to blog about carrying capacity today so that everyone who reads this is informed.

CARRYING CAPACITY = The carrying capacity of a biological species in an environment is the population size of the species that the environment can sustain indefinitely, given the food, habitat, water and other necessities available in the environment. For the human population, more complex variables such as sanitation and medical care are sometimes considered as part of the necessary infrastructure. (wikipedia)

Scientific discussion as early as the 60’s have discussed the carrying capacity of the earth reaching its limits.  With extreme population growth, as well an human environmental impact rising per capita, it is only a matter of time before resources run out.  Some already are, think oil, plant and animal extinctions, water shortages, etc.

I need to write a whole separate entry to explain IPAT, but trust me, that one is coming.

As important as carrying capacity though, I learned to not assume so much.  These were kind and intelligent people, they had just never heard of a certain term.  It put me in check of my own privilege.  I attended a great school to study climate change exclusively for years.  I have experience that other people don’t, just as they have experience that I don’t.  This whole barbecue showed me first hand how diverse groups are able to learn from each other, but it takes great communication skills and honest conversations.  It gave me a goal of thicker skin and better listening.

Thanks, Georgia!

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One thought on “Carrying Capacity

  1. I think this brings up a super interesting point about how much thefocus on sustainable living (and anything else I suppose) and practices varies SO much depending on your geographical location. Even within the same country, ideas vary so much! Crazy talk!

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