National Cognitive Dissonance Week

by / A Preface to Lunch (1) in Opinions /

In honor of this being National Cognitive Dissonance week, I happily bring you a flurry of poorly researched information about topics you don’t want to think about. You can thank me later.

If you’re like me, you have a tough time wrapping your head around the questions of sustainability and overpopulation for three reasons:

1. Over 36 million people die of starvation each year

2. The Earth is still rapidly approaching overpopulation.

3. You’re not doing enough/anything about it.

Even to my untrained eye, all of these things seem bad, and approaching one of these problems immediately calls for addressing the others, at least as a matter of ideology. The cognitive dissonance here occurs in many forms, but the most important simultaneously contradictory beliefs to focus on are:

1. We would like to save people’s lives

2. The amount of lives being lived is currently approaching unsustainability (Note: Word tells me that unsustainability is not an actual word, but you know what I mean.)

“If we don’t halt population growth with justice and compassion, it will be done for us by nature, brutally and without pity — and will leave a ravaged world” said Dr. Henry W. Kendall, whose accolades include winning a Nobel prize in physics and being the most quoted guy on all of, which is of course where I started my research on this subject.

Okay, so we’ve got to stop sexing each other. Sexing in China seems especially problematic. But what about hungry people? Did you know that every 3.6 seconds someone dies of hunger?

Did you also know that, in a related story, KFC just came out with a new sandwich that uses pieces of fried chicken as a bun?

Okay, so now that I’ve brightened your day, let’s think about a solution to world hunger in the amount of time it takes to hum that deliberative tune they use during Final Jeopardy! Please hum the song to yourself if you know it.

Time’s up. My answer: What is “Let’s just lobby the government to pay out like $20 billion dollars and we can save everyone, no?”

Unfortunately, this is where the overpopulation problem comes in. I’ll explain it in the sort of way that I like to think about all complex problems, which is using the If You Give a Mouse a Cookie level of discourse. IYGMC logic would say we can save hungry and thirsty people, but when these formerly hungry and thirsty people inevitably procreate, the Earth is going to be pissed and lash out at our stupid human asses for making so many of ourselves. In order to avoid this and still feed all of the hungry people, we would have to enact all kinds of unpalatable and as-of-right-now-unimaginable government programs, like the “Feed (and Spay and Neuter) the Hungry” program.

So are we screwed? Well, the alarm has been sounded before, and we still haven’t seen the fire. British scholar Thomas Malthus infamously predicted in the early 19th century that overpopulation would cause our civilizations to return to a subsistence level of existence by the mid-19th century.

Obviously, he was a bit off, and, more egregiously, he broke the cardinal rule of prediction, which is that you should only make specific predictions about stuff that will happen way, way in the future. Still, Malthus is a fun historical personage if you have time to look him up. Ebeneezer Scrooge is allegedly modeled after him, since he rained —no, poured — on the Enlightenment Parade of Pansies (e.g. Godwin, Condorcet, Rousseau) who insisted that, if you just looked real closely, anyone could plainly see that society was improving just a little bit each day, to the point where it would one day reach perfection, and if maybe you just smiled and planted one flower each and every day … etc. The Parade of Pansies sucked, but they were right in one regard: we’re not dead yet.

In a bizarre moment of hope most likely caused by my IYGMC-related memories, I’m predicting — you heard it here first! — that if we’re able to successfully defeat the Mayans in 2012, it’s nothin’ but smooth sailin’ to immortality from there! Now, of course, John Beddington, the UK’s chief government scientist, disagrees with me — possibly because he’s a fun ruiner who ruins fun — but also because he’s supported by egghead math type stuff. Beddington insists that at the current rate of population growth and energy consumption, low energy resources and food shortages will lead to the Earth getting mad and maybe even to a famine of Malthusian proportions.

(Note: Malthusian is an actual word) Beddington has predicted, or at least endorses, the predictions of the interns he makes do all his work — that the world will require 50 percent more energy, 50 percent more food, and 30 percent more fresh water by 2050.

He added that the world will have to produce 70 percent more food by 2050 to feed a projected extra 2.3 billion people. He also reportedly added that he will do nothing to help. He is quoted as saying, “Good luck suckers. I’m off to the Moon!”

I don’t know how to reconcile all of this. The more I think about, the more I believe even declarative sentences are questions. As I’m writing, I’ve received an e-mail that the OxFam Hunger Banquet is Friday. Chances are I will not be there — though, maybe. I’ll be more likely to be catching up on homework or allowing Lil’ Jon’s blissful ignorance to lead me into a drunken stupor.

I leave you with the actual advertisement for the “Double Down Sandwich” from KFC’s website. Happy Cognitive Dissonance Week!

“The new KFC Double Down sandwich is real! This one-of-a-kind sandwich features two thick and juicy boneless white meat chicken filets (Original Recipe® or Grilled), two pieces of bacon, two melted slices of Monterey Jack and pepper jack cheese and Colonel’s Sauce. This product is so meaty, there’s no room for a bun!”