Many of us have heard of a tapeworm: a parasite that sets root in a host’s intestines and feeds on the host’s partially digested food to leech nutrients for itself. A very interesting tactic that the tapeworm has however, is that it keeps its host alive for a very long time. While some infections or parasites kill their host, a tapeworm needs its host’s digestive environment functioning in order to make its home. Only when tapeworms breed out of control and the sheer mass of them causes blockage, impaired host functioning, or settlement of cysts in places other than the intestines is there a huge problem. Otherwise, a worm can live in a host without them ever even being aware of the threat.
Sounds gross, I know. Nevertheless, it is an apt analogy to the kind of threat and damage humans pose to the planet we reside on. We feed off of the planet’s resources and maneuver around the parts of the environment which we can reasonably gain access too. A distinct difference however is, we have now become aware that we are a detriment to our planet.
But think about it this way, if a tapeworm population became aware that their existence inside the host was causing their host to weaken and perish, what could the population reasonably do to limit their detrimental impact on the host already? The host is obviously already struggling: resources are dwindling but the parasitic population requires a consistent supply to keep them alive. What could be done?
Easy answer would be to get rid of whatever is causing the host to die. The parasite is the cause of the host’s misery; therefore, it must go, or else the host will go with them.
When considering a tapeworm, the concept of “limiting” the population wouldn’t even be discussed. The main reason being that if the population got out of control once, it would only be a matter of time before that happened again. The concept of degrowth seems to be the same for me. Humans, try as they might, are fighting a losing battle, we try to rework our resource consumption and find ways that we can hurt our surroundings a little less, but at the end of the day, our own existence and sheer mass of a population is hurting the place we call home.
Regardless, we can’t just kill off an entire population of humans. In the end, all we can do is treat the symptoms. Whatever medicine we prescribe for ourselves is simply treating the nuisances brought on by a chronic condition. The environment has sustained us for a long time now, all that’s left to see is how long can it go on for.