Is been largely unsaid in the news, but the sight of 50,000 protesters scrambling through the heat and dust of Tahrir Square in Cairo sums up that ill countrys problems in a nutshell:
Hot, flat and crowded, to paraphrase the bestselling book by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. Thats Egypts real problem -- not just the oppressive government of Hosni Mubarak, which is a symptom of a place that has a population which is far beyond reason.
Thats the Middle Easts problem in general in the strip of 13 desert countries ranging from Morocco in the west to Iran in the east. Many of these countries have virtually no resources. But people? Theyve got loads of angry, restless, frustrated people held down by their medieval religion and despotic leaders.
Consider that virtually all of Egypt occupies a strip of green only a few miles wide along 600 miles of the Nile -- no different than during the kingdoms of the Pharaohs dating back 4,000 years. A few steps beyond this thin ribbon of green lies a desert as bleak and lifeless as Death Valley.
There were less than 3 million people in all of Egypt in 1798 when Napoleon invaded the country. Yet today, this narrow strip along the Nile is the home of a mind-boggling 81.5 million people. The population of metro Cairo is more than 17 million, with half of its residents under the age of 19.
The result is not enough jobs to go around. Menial, triple-handled work at slave pay is the order of the day in Egypt. In Cairo, picking through hundreds of tons of trash in a fly-tormented neighborhood called Garbage City is considered a fairly decent job.
Imagine if we were to put more than 81 million people into an area the size of Nevada and Utah, with the same hot, harsh environment, and pump up the population of Las Vegas to 17 million. Would we have problems too? Would we have food riots, endless unemployment, and an oppressive government trying to keep the lid on by any means necessary? Probably.
The end result of too many people and not enough resources makes the point of Jared Diamonds book, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. The book offers insights into how the Mayans, Pueblo Indians, and the Vikings of Greenland gobbled up their environment until their civilizations could no longer sustain themselves.
Looking ahead, a revolution led by the Muslim Brotherhood will create far more problems for the suffering Egyptians than it solves. Tourism will evaporate overnight (one can only imagine the thousands of travel reservations being cancelled even now), as would the billions in aid Egypt receives from the U.S. each year. These two crutches, along with the $4.5 billion in revenues Egypt receives from ships passing through the Suez Canal, are about all thats keeping this country on its feet.
What Egypt and the Middle East needs at least as much as a democracy movement is a radical commitment to birth control and driving its population down.
Population control is a remedy for much of what ails the earth: global warming, peak oil, dwindling water resources and rising unemployment. Yet population control seems to be the beast that even environmentalists dare not name because its such a touchy subject. And so we get frivolous prescriptions such as switching to energy efficient lightbulbs and unplugging phone chargers as panaceas for whats really putting the earth in peril: too many people with not enough resources.
We just passed the mark of 7 billion people on earth this year... give us another generation or two at this rate and the entire world will be one big Egypt: hot, flat, crowded, and without hope.
Should a billionaire be able to buy the American presidency by creating a bogus political party and then pouring millions into TV commercials to sway a public thats tired of the RepubliCrats?
Sounds like the makings of political thriller (or a light comedy starring Bill Pullman), but thats the suspicion behind the new No Labels and Americans Elect parties that have been seeking to get on the ballots of states across the country, including Michigan.
Only 32,261 signatures would have to be submitted by July, 2012 to place the party on the ballots in Michigan, writes David Weigel in slate.com. He adds that the Americans Elect Party boils down to not much more than a content-free website on the Internet.
But these two political parties are paying petitioners to collect signatures to get them on the ballots across the nation.
These bogus parties are allegedly backed by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who happens to be a billionaire with an eye for the presidency in 2012. Hes denied an interest in running for the presidency, but published reports claim that members of his staff are behind the petition drive.
Bloomberg has played both sides of the political fence as both a Democrat and Republican, but neither party is ideal for his ambitions. For one, hes a pro-choice, gay-rights, East Coast moderate; not exactly ideal fodder for the Republican Party to cozy up to, even though they have zilch in their presidential bullpen. For another, theres this other guy in the Dems who has a lock on that partys nomination for 2012. Sooo...
So think twice before you sign a petition that would allow a billionaire to buy the White House with a political party that doesnt even exist.