According to a new report from WHO, in the next decade a billion people will die from smoking-related illnesses, world-wide. A billion! That's tragic, in terms of individual suffering and of survivors' grieving. Howeve, looking past the individual, the statistic raises troubling questions about global population.
Would we be better off with or without those extra billion? If they didn't die, could the Earth support them? Is smoking some bizarre manifestation of Gaia-theory population control on a grand scale, balancing out all the lives saved by modern medicine? Lemmings self-destruct when they become too many; maybe humans smoke.
I wrote a story about draconian population-control methods, "The Kindness of Strangers," which will come out sometime in 2008 (I think) in ECLIPSE 2. The story might be mildly controversial (or not -- I'm no good judge of these things). But the WHO report gave me pause. Some of my best friends are smokers. I want them to live long and prosper.
Does -- if those scientists like James Lovelock, who espouse the theory, are right -- Gaia want the same thing?