A little while ago David Suzuki made a speech at Sydney Opera House whereby he discussed the idea that planet Earth is at a crisis point which he calls the ’59th minute’. He used the analogy of a beaker full of food, and after releasing one cell of bacteria into the test tube, then measuring how long the food will last to supply the multiplying bacteria cells before it’s all gone.
Mr Suzuki says the Earth’s supplies of water, food and air are fixed, finite and that you cannot add anymore to it. This is like the beaker. It’s a finite supply for the bacteria. As the bacteria multiplies like humans, its slowly consumes more and more of the supply. Interestingly enough, even at the 59th minute the beaker is still only half full of bacteria and yet at the 60th minute the entire supply of food for the bacteria is consumed.
“At time zero you have one cell; one minute you have two; two minutes you have four; three minutes you have eight; four minutes you have 16. That is exponential growth and at 60 minutes the test tube is completely full of bacteria and there is no food left, a sixty minute cycle. When is the test tube only half full? Well the answer of course is at 59 minutes; but a minute later it is filled. So at 58 minutes it is 25% full; 57 minutes 12½ % full.
At 55 minutes of the 60 minute cycle it is only 3% full. So, if at 55 minutes one of the bacteria said to its companions that they had a population problem, the other bacteria would be incredulous because 97% of the test tube would be empty and they had been around for 55 minutes. Yet they would have only 5 minutes left. How do we add even a fraction of 1% more of air, water, soil or biodiversity? We cannot. The biosphere is fixed and finite and every biologist I have talked to agrees with me, we are past the 59th minute.”
We may see the supplies are plentiful right now. We may have 15 rows of food stocked high in our air conditioned supermarkets, streaming tap water in our kitchens, and fresh oxygen from our trees in the air, but is it worth wondering are we in the 57th, 58th or even……the 59th minute?