We now have a new planet to add to the growing list of Earth-like planets that are being discovered by astronomers. Let's call it Planet D in honor of Michelle Duggar, the reality TV star who has 19 children.
On Planet D there's no such thing as overpopulation. The world has infinite space and, more importantly, infinite resources. News of the planet's existence only came to public attention when Michelle Duggar did a web interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network this week. In the interview she disclosed that the world she's living on does not suffer from overpopulation. She further indicated that on Planet D having more children always equals "more joy." Although she did not elaborate, hunger and extreme poverty apparently do not exist on Planet D. Nor do such things as climate change and water scarcity.
Meanwhile back on Planet Earth, nearly 3000 scientists earlier this week gathered in London for a "Planet under Pressure" conference aimed at finding solutions to vexing global problems, including climate change and the challenge of feeding another 2.3 billion people by 2050. Oddly, the conference devoted little or no discussion to the discovery of Planet D. Nor was Michelle Duggar invited to address the conference.
Like the now-debunked news that neutrinos exceeded the speed of light, you would think that the reported discovery of a world with infinite resources would have forced the scientists at the "Planet under Pressure' conference to revisit their calculations and assumptions. If Planet D knows no material bounds, maybe our own planet has infinite resources, a boundless capacity for absorbing carbon emissions, and no practical limits to food production. Maybe all the concerns about one billion people living in extreme poverty are overstated. For that matter, maybe the rapid extinction of plants and animals that scientists are calling the "Sixth Mass Extinction," is just a statistical fluke, an aberration on the road to a world in which creatures great and small will live in ever expanding numbers, abundance and harmony.
Michelle Duggar, of course, is not the only Earthling living on Planet D. Judging by the relative lack of press attention devoted to this week's "Planet under Pressure" conferene and the high ratings received by 19 Kids and Counting, it seems likely that there are many among us who are living on Planet D and largely oblivious to the challenges facing Planet Earth. People would much rather watch the exploits of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar and their 19 children, than the human travails of large families trying to stay alive in drought-stricken Somalia.
Indeed, all of us probably spend more time on Planet D than we care to admit. Few of us have the time, energy, or interest to do anything about the world's problems. But public indifference notwithstanding, the scientists at this week's London conference issued a declaration that contained the following warning:
Research now demonstrates that the continued functioning of the Earth system as it has supported the well-being of human civilization in recent centuries is at risk. Without urgent action, we could face threats to water, food, biodiversity and other critical resources: these threats risk intensifying economic, ecological and social crises, creating the potential for a humanitarian emergency on a global scale.
Let's hope that Michelle Duggar knows vastly more about population and resources than all those scientists.