Featured image of post Are we witnessing a behavioural sink?
Featured image of post Are we witnessing a behavioural sink?

Are we witnessing a behavioural sink?

One too many

We are 7,794,798,739 people on this planet and a few more astronauts out there. A significant portion of the population already lives in poverty, and the rest is going that way. We have a pandemic that we are struggling to control, and new generations seem to have little hope about their future. We can say that we have reached a point where decisions have to be taken. At least, we, humans, have the ability to assess, discuss and act upon survival situations. We have done it many times, so, why not once more?

In the 60s, John Calhoun experimented with mice to study the effects of population density on behaviour. The experiment was called the Mouse Utopia because he placed the rodents in what it seemed perfect conditions. They would have a limitless source of food and reduced infectious diseases. The mice population increased rapidly to the point where they started fighting for the territory. Then, new generations appeared that were not interested in social contact, and they would spend their time eating, grooming and sleeping. You can see an excellent explanation of the experiment in the following video.

This research is not easily extrapolated to human behaviour, but it gives us a hint about some of our current problems as species. We don’t even have a limitless amount of food, and we definitely have a huge housing problem. On top of that, we have forgotten to take care of some threatening diseases, even though that scientist had warned us for years. And now that we have to stay at home more time than often, we start to notice the effects.

Until March 2020, we lived constantly running around without thinking for a moment where we were going to. I am talking about our future as humans. We have clearly reached what Calhoun named overcrowding. Look at cities like Madrid or Hong Kong. Thirty floors tall buildings are the norm and the incredible crowed underground is the paradise to Covid-19. If you want to follow the proper social distancing measures, you are reduced to a few square meters flat that costs almost your whole salary. Yes, we already fight over territories. We also have gone to the next step. We already have a generation that doesn’t care much about socialising, at least not in the old common way. The generation known as Gen Z is born in a world were future doesn’t look nice. They are often called soft and needy because they publicly show their emotions, and they live attached to a smartphone what translates to different kinds of socialising.

I am not going to lecture anybody about how they should live their lives. I am quite sure I don’t know yet how to manage my own. But I would like to leave my thoughts about this matter here.

As I said, we have an overpopulated world and a long list of problems to solve. Funny enough, most of them are caused by this overpopulation, or at least, they could be solved if the number of mouths to feed decreases (in particular those challenges to public health and food distribution).

Don’t worry. I am not going to suggest that we should leave people to die. That would be unfair, and actually, it is already happening anyway (Siria, Libya, Nicaragua). But, what about reducing the natality? We know there are enough children globally, so it doesn’t make sense to keep making new ones. Why should we think that our genes are better than others? Why would you want to duplicate that unnecessary strange nose? Why spend thousands of dollars to create the perfect child if there are endless orphanages in many poorer countries?

I understand that some people want to have a copy of themselves to look at it and say: Hey, you are just like your father when he was only a child. But girls! Let’s be honest; pregnancy is not good for our bodies, and it definitely has an unpleasant ending. Wouldn’t it be nice to avoid all that pain? I am not saying that we shouldn’t be mothers and fathers; I am talking about something else. I am talking about making adoption a more common practice. I know it is a complicated process. And of course, you have to fulfil some requirements. Still, when you have your own child, you also have to wait nine months, and you should also meet some basic requirements: like having primary education and really wanting your child instead of having it just because it is what everybody is doing. I know, right now that kind of world where you quickly adopt a child is almost utopian. Still, I think it would be great if governments work together to create such a system where no child has to live in an institution, and at the same time, we get to reduce the world population to manageable levels.

The ethologist John B. Calhoun described behavioural sink as the collapse in behaviour which can result from overcrowding. We are now very close to that point. We only have to look at the political picture of the great world powers. Will we be able to avoid the behavioural sink, or are we going to jump to it?

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