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Author Topic: Are we reaching Critcal Mass?
TinMan
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As a caveat, I understand that much of what we now get as news is almost overwhelming in the sheer volume, especially compared to previous eras.

But the question I have to ask. Is humanity reaching a critical mass in regards to the size of the (habitable) earth?

It seems like so many of the concerns we have today are huge and globally impacting in ways that previous crises rarely were. The impending WWIII/Crusades II, Global Warming, Population explosions, Aids...

Is it just perception? Or do we as humans have a real concern regarding having reached our limits on this planet?

I feel, that the 6.6 (approx I think) billion and growing population of the planet is getting close to what the planet can sustain with our current technology. 10 billion might very well be a truer max. So population wise, I feel that we are indeed reaching critical mass.

Land wise, we no longer have new frontiers onto which we can sow our new oats. We are stuck with our current situations, rather than being able to move away from them. I have a shorter term solution that would probably allow us to triple our population while still not being any more crowded than we are today, but that still isn't a true long term solution to overpopulation.

These two primary issues seem to be exacerbateing the existing issues of mankind. War, pestilence, crime, etc.

Any thoughts? Alarmist, Realist, somewhere in between?

[ April 28, 2006, 02:07 PM: Message edited by: TinMan ]

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Wayward Son
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I'd put it somewhere in between.

Technology has all ready allowed us to support more people on the available arable land than we ever could before. I don't think we've reached the point where it could not be increase. Similarly, new fresh water sources can be created, from distilling salt water to utilizing artic and antartic ice.

However, any new technological method is bound to be more expensive, which means that overall wealth (defined by available time and resources) will decline as population expands.

Also, the more advanced the technology, the less reliable it tends to be. So tapping these new resources will be tenuous for those who rely on them, which will tend to be the poor (since they make up most of the population, by definition [Smile] ). When they fail, the impact will tend to be pretty bad.

Using more resources will also rob those resources from those currently using them--the plants and animals of our world.

And this does not even take into account any other effects of increased resource usage, such as global warming or pollution. Such trends could rapidly decrease usable resources or rapidly increase the cost of utilizing new ones.

And then there are the normal natural disasters, like tsunamis and droughts.

So although I don't think we've reached critical mass, I think we are at the point where we it will become harder and harder to support larger human populations.

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canadian
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How sweet if we could ensure basic education for all the billions of children growing up. Imagine the percentage of absolute geniuses are just waiting for a bit of water to bloom. Get enough geniuses on this planet and you've found the minds that can solve many of the problems we face.

So maybe we need to breed more?

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Clark
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History is littered with past claims that the world was nearing overpopulation. Dennis Gabor (inventor of halography) made such predictions in the early to mid 1900s (not all that long ago). His words were:

"The joy of having large families is just the one luxury our civilzation cannot afford . . . Barring a succession of bumper harvests or greatly increased foreign food supplies one must expect many millions of Indians and other Asiatics to die of starvation before the end of the century . . . With bad luck the number may be several hundred millions."

Unless I missed something in history class, this didn't happen. Certainly the earth must have some finite limit of people that it can support, but I don't know how to begin to guess what it might be. The earth currently supports more people at a higher standard of living than ever before. Last time I looked, we still pay US farmers NOT to grow food. (And global warming will only help!)

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LetterRip
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Clark,

quote:
Unless I missed something in history class, this didn't happen.
Then apparently you missed something, that is exactly what happened - technology has increased the food production per acre, and allowed food and grains to be distributed to where it is needed.

Ie

quote:
Over the past 30 years, Iowa corn producers have seen a yield gain of 2 bushels per acre per year.
http://www.ipm.iastate.edu/ipm/icm/2006/3-13/hybrids.html

Most nations are draining their aquifiers much faster than they are recharged, which means that to maintain current grain production they will need to likely switch to desalinization plants (as well as the added cost of distribution), in addition to adopting technologies to reduce the quantity of water used per bushel grown. Also modern fertilizers use a lot of oil in their production and modern grain yields depend on ussage of a lot of fertilizer.

LetterRip

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Fel2.0
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Well, there has been Malthusian claims of starvation for centuries, and yet it never seems to quite happen. Funny that.

Also with birthrates in North America, Europe, Japan, China, all at or below replacement levels, I wouldn't worry too much about over population. Even India and Latin America's birth rates have fallen. Parts of the Middle East (parts not controlled by zealots) have even come way down.

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ngthagg
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Critical mass? Yes and no. I think if there is a critcal mass, and we hit it, it will an event of some sort that causes the population to decrease. Whether it be a disease, war, or some sort of natural disaster (which we don't have the resources to save people from) our population will begin to decrease. But whatever that magic number is, it is a long way off. People over in Africa live in much, much worse conditions than we do, and yet population continues to grow there. Indeed it grows faster there than here.

ngthagg

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potemkyn
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If I recall correctly, the most up to date estimates are that Earth could sustain over 100 million on a diet similar to that of Japan or Germany... I can't remember specifics right now. This was based off of maximum production values of cropland worldwide. There were serious problems with the theoretical models including the breakdown of the world into regions.

But demographic studies did a real good job at predicting the population of the world to date. What people in the 1970s (where the majority of the alarmists come from) did not know was that population growth would go from +3% every year to negatives in lots of the world in only 30 years. If the population had grown at a continued 2-3% increase, then critical mass would have been hit sooner for a number of reasons. One, faster population growth means that the limit is reached sooner. And secondly, when the population doubles every 35 years, technology will not and cannot keep pace. It just isn't realistic to expect such a pace to be sustained where population and food production grow at a similar rate. It can happen over a longer period of time, but not as fast as it was happening in the 70s. That's why there was a lot of scary predictions from then. It was scary.

Now, though, the demographic challenges are very different. China and India have almost 100 million missing females. They've got a bunch of young men of marrying age who will not have women to marry. That'll make for fun times there. Not only that, but in sub-Saharan Africa, there are several countries where orphanes make up to 10% of the population of the country. And they have no real state infastructure to deal with the great majority of them. Can you imagine 10% of a country, which is a greater percentage when you consider that only half the population is under 15 (1 in 7 under 15 in Uganda is an orphan), growing up with no sort of family structure? They've literally got nothing. No state, no parents, only some of them have grandparents and they won't last forever in Africa. A whole generation (the working and society driving generation) is dying or dead from AIDS.

There are huge challenges in the third world dmographically, but it isn't of overpopulation.

Potemkyn

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halfhaggis
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quote:
Originally posted by ngthagg:
Whether it be a disease, war, or some sort of natural disaster (which we don't have the resources to save people from) our population will begin to decrease. But whatever that magic number is, it is a long way off. People over in Africa live in much, much worse conditions than we do, and yet population continues to grow there. Indeed it grows faster there than here.

I live 'over in Africa.' Wild beasts roam the streets of Johannesburg and they tend to keep the population under control. Very handy.

Let's try to steer clear of the glib comments. Disease, war and famine are already causing widespread misery on the African continent and African governments often do not have the resources (or just don't care) to save people from them. Population growth may be doing wonderfully, but life expectancy is looking a little shoddy.
Not everyone on earth gets enough to eat everyday -- that seems critical to me.
But that's okay as long as it's not happening in good ol' US of A?
Not really. I don't believe anyone consciously thinks that, but that's the impression I get.

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Gaoics79
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quote:
However, any new technological method is bound to be more expensive, which means that overall wealth (defined by available time and resources) will decline as population expands.
This doesn't sound right to me. New technologies, be they cars, airplanes, genetically modified crops, or whatever, usually start off very expensive when the technology is new, but as the technology matures, it gets cheaper and cheaper to produce, and the benefits just keep increasing. Are we less wealthy because of the development of computers, cars, or planes? Did people who used type writers have more available "time and resources" as a result, versus their counterparts now who can use computers? I don't know much about economics, but even I can see how false your premise is on its face.

quote:
Also, the more advanced the technology, the less reliable it tends to be. So tapping these new resources will be tenuous for those who rely on them, which will tend to be the poor (since they make up most of the population, by definition [Smile] ). When they fail, the impact will tend to be pretty bad.
What exactly are you basing this claim on? I am aware of some *new* technologies being less reliable than their older counterparts (eg: electric cars versus gasoline), and no doubt there are *some* older technoplogies that can be deemed "more reliable" in some limited respects than their modern counterparts, but is more advanced technology less reliable than less advanced technology as a rule? What are you basing this claim on? Did I miss something? Were the trains more likely to be on time back in the 1800's when they were using locomotives?

And what do you mean by "the poor" being the ones to tap "these resources". Are you saying that the poor are the primary users of advanced technology? Huh?

quote:
Using more resources will also rob those resources from those currently using them--the plants and animals of our world.
It depends on the resource you're using. If the resource happens to be something like crude oil, which no plant or animal (to my knowledge) has need for, then you'd be wrong. Similarly, if the reasource happens to be something like sea water (which, for the time being, may as well be infinite) again I fail to see the basis for your claim that we are "robbing" anything from any animal or plant.

[ April 29, 2006, 09:16 AM: Message edited by: jasonr ]

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livermeer kenmaile
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Wealth, or, in plain terms, the necessities of life, is a product energy and matter manipuated by intelligence. (formula courtesy Bucky Fuller)

We have a good estimate of how much mass there is on Earth, and very precise formula for hum much energy that mass contains. What is unknown is how much energy our intelligence can extract from that mass and how efficient that extraction can be.

This data is necessary to estimating maximum sustainable human life on Terra (as well as determining how many homo terrans might immigrate into extraterrestrial lodgings).

[ April 29, 2006, 10:54 AM: Message edited by: livermeer kenmaile ]

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livermeer kenmaile
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"But that's okay as long as it's not happening in good ol' US of A? Not really. I don't believe anyone consciously thinks that, but that's the impression I get."

I do. I think such thoucht often. But what is meant by "OK' s the crucial term in this thought. It's definitely more OK by me that someone other than me and mine are starving or dying of epidimic disease.

"If I recall correctly, the most up to date estimates are that Earth could sustain over 100 million on a diet similar to that of Japan or Germany... I can't remember specifics right now."

Only 100 million? Is that a typo?

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Everard
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Yes, it is. If everyone moved to a primarily vegetable and grain diet, the earth could reasonably support 100 billion people (long before 100 billion people, the people couldn't support the population, though).
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ngthagg
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halfhaggis: My apologies if I sounded callous. I wasn't trying to say that the situation in Africa is acceptable, simply that humanity can continue with much lower standards. We would certainly be miserable, but we would be alive.

Oh, and I live in Canada, not that that really makes a difference. (We use our space and resources much more wastefully than the US. If anything, we are the most wasteful country on the planet.)

ngthagg

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drewmie
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Overpopulation is a claim about economics. It has been the warning of Chicken Little types in America for decades. None of them have had the slightest clue about the most basic principles of economics.

First, our planet can sustain many times our current population under only current technology. The Economist, among other reputable publications, has therefore consistently bashed pseudo-economic overpopulation theories. Yes, many people believe in overpopulation, but economists don't.

Second, technology has not kept up population growth. It has CONSISTENTLY BEAT it for a very long time now. Overpopulation proponents continue to change their theories whenever they are proven flat wrong, attempting to give the "well, if we hadn't lowered our growth" argument. But their theories never take into account that the rate of technological growth far outstrips our needs, and will likely continue to.

Why has technology increased so rapidly in recent centuries? Quite simply, because we finally have the ability to invest in R&D. Centuries ago, all efforts went into staying alive. Little time could be spent on developing more efficient methods. Today, we have more than enough investment to continue our rapid technological climb. In a hundred years, with no decline in population growth rates, we will still have a higher standard of living worldwide.

Naturally, there is the one exception: POLITICS. The needless suffering, starvation, and homelessness seen in Africa is NOT a matter of overpopulation. At a fraction of their population, the same problems would exist. Why? Because tyranny, war, genocide, sectarianism, and apathy are responsible for the problems. It is a political problem, and the only long-term solution must be political.

We can (and should) give as much aid as possible, but it will only help stem the tide of present tragedy unless future conflicts and corruption are not avoided, and unless corrupt tribalism is not fundamentally changed.

There is more than enough space. There is more than enough food. But there will NEVER be enough to go around when people are more concerned with power, mass murder, and blaming the "great Satan" than with shutting up and working for the good of their families, areas, and countries.

How much money is pumped into Palestine each year? How much did we pump into Somalia before power-grabbing became more important than food? Will any amount of money help when it goes into the wrong hands, or when the recipients would rather be poor and blame their enemy? Would any amount of money fix Darfur right now?

Politics is the consistent criteria that shows the true difference between those with more than enough, and those without even the basics. Too many people in our world are more interested in killing their neighbor's children than in feeding their own. That is the sad reality which exists, whether the world has six hundred thousand, six billion, or sixty billion people. But without such self-defeating evil, there is far more than enough to go around at any level.

Screaming "overpopulation" is like complaining that the man slaughtering your family has too many children.

[ April 29, 2006, 04:10 PM: Message edited by: drewmie ]

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livermeer kenmaile
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"If you think homophilia is difficult to comprehend, imagine gay men trying to comprehend the straight fact that straight men only have sex 2.3 times a week"

I've known a few 'Chicken Little' typers and some of them would eat your post above for lunch and ask you what you intended to feed them for dinner.

The difference between economists and ecologists is that economists deal with abstracts and ecologists deal with living macrosystems.

Another difference is that in an economist's 'market correction', currency or stocks lose value and people lose fortunes.

In an ecologist's market correction, creatures starve to death.

"Too many people in our world are more interested in killing their neighbor's children than in feeding their own. That is the sad reality which exists, whether the world has six hundred thousand, six billion, or sixty billion people. But without such self-defeating evil, there is far more than enough to go around at any level."

Ironically, this is what Malthus said too. But he was proven wrong by all that food we grew. In his model, all those lazy non-food-peoducing killers kept population down.

But population kept rising.

It's one thing to say that increasing population doesn't necessarily create an imminent dieoff. But it's anopther thing to view increasing population as a less than daunting problem, especially when POLITICS increase with the size of the polis, and politics, as you mentioned, is a major cause of today's suffering.

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Naldiin
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quote:
Originally posted by Wayward Son:

However, any new technological method is bound to be more expensive, which means that overall wealth (defined by available time and resources) will decline as population expands.

This only works if wealth is considered zero-sum. But wealth is not zero-sum, since wealth is produced when existing materials are combined for form an object with greater utility than the materials that existed before. By all acounts, wealth is increasing at a rate equal to the global GDP minus a global inflation average.

Wealth is actually expanding extreamly rapidly. Look at electronics, for instance. Compare $500 worth of computer in 1985 to 1995 and 2005. As computer prices plumet, if the money supply stays the same than total wealth increases.

One of the key problems today in terms of human understanding is the idea that wealth and knowledge are somehow zero-sum. Something not created, that is hoarded, and lost when shared.

But that is not the case.

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Hannibal
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i wondered when the word palestine whould enter this debate
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potemkyn
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drewmie,

quote:
Overpopulation is a claim about economics. It has been the warning of Chicken Little types in America for decades. None of them have had the slightest clue about the most basic principles of economics.

First, our planet can sustain many times our current population under only current technology. The Economist, among other reputable publications, has therefore consistently bashed pseudo-economic overpopulation theories. Yes, many people believe in overpopulation, but economists don't.

I reject this entire statement. Overpopulation is great deal more complicated than economics and economics as a field of study is grossly incapable of studying it on its own.
Additionally, this treatment of economics as the be all and end all of discussion is also something I find suspect. Consider the following about economics:
http://www.foreignpolicy.com/story/cms.php?story_id=3389

quote:
Second, technology has not kept up population growth. It has CONSISTENTLY BEAT it for a very long time now.
Let's ignore the fact that the most important thing is the technology to increase food supply and not the microchip revolution of recent years. Ignoring this, your statement ignores the very clear and present danger that the world faced during the 1970s. Growth in countries was as high as 3%. The population would double every 15 years. No way is the world capable of sustaining a technological revolution of doubling the capacity of the world to feed itself every 15 years. Not going to happen. Even 2% growth is close to impossible to sustain over an extended period of time. Doubling every 35 years? That requires no political trauma and for every technological discovery to occur and be implemented without delay or error. That's not realistic either.

Europe developed over hundreds of years with population growth under 1%. During the industrial revolution, it barely got over 1% until the 1900s. Change at the rate seen in the 20th century was not only unprecedented, but appeared to be on an upward trend, not going down.

The demographers got it right, but the trick is people listened to them and population growth was reduced. So no doomsday because their warnings were heeded consciously or not.

quote:
Why has technology increased so rapidly in recent centuries? Quite simply, because we finally have the ability to invest in R&D. Centuries ago, all efforts went into staying alive. Little time could be spent on developing more efficient methods. Today, we have more than enough investment to continue our rapid technological climb. In a hundred years, with no decline in population growth rates, we will still have a higher standard of living worldwide.
Technology is critical, but most demographic projections take this into account. And there still are limitiations on the population of the world. Current growth rates are sustainable, and could even grow a bit and still be. But 2% is not sustainable for more than a half-century before things become a serious problem. Consider that in 70 years at 2% growth rate, the US's population would go from 300 million to 1.2 billion. That's less than 4 generations. You really think that's sustainable? That the prosperity and technological pace could sustain that?

quote:
Naturally, there is the one exception: POLITICS. The needless suffering, starvation, and homelessness seen in Africa is NOT a matter of overpopulation. At a fraction of their population, the same problems would exist. Why? Because tyranny, war, genocide, sectarianism, and apathy are responsible for the problems. It is a political problem, and the only long-term solution must be political.

What you say is true today, but had growth rates stayed as they were, it is likely we could blame them on overpopulation.

quote:
How much money is pumped into Palestine each year?
Before the cutback, the US gave less than a billion dollars. Now, it's closer to $175 million in humanitarian aid. That's not very much.

quote:
Will any amount of money help when it goes into the wrong hands, or when the recipients would rather be poor and blame their enemy?
You can't solve a problem with money, but it is still a necessary component to the solution.

quote:
Politics is the consistent criteria that shows the true difference between those with more than enough, and those without even the basics. Too many people in our world are more interested in killing their neighbor's children than in feeding their own. That is the sad reality which exists, whether the world has six hundred thousand, six billion, or sixty billion people. But without such self-defeating evil, there is far more than enough to go around at any level.

This is simply not true. The facts are that wars have decreased and so have violent deaths. There is inequality because people want more than what they need and take it if offered, no matter who else is hurt.

Potemkyn

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livermeer kenmaile
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'"If you think homophilia is difficult to comprehend, imagine gay men trying to comprehend the straight fact that straight men only have sex 2.3 times a week"'

Oops. Me browser pasted the wrong quote. That one should have been:

quote:
Overpopulation is a claim about economics. It has been the warning of Chicken Little types in America for decades. None of them have had the slightest clue about the most basic principles of economics.


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ngthagg
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"Consider that in 70 years at 2% growth rate, the US's population would go from 300 million to 1.2 billion. That's less than 4 generations. You really think that's sustainable? That the prosperity and technological pace could sustain that?"

My answer is yes. If India and China can do it, why not the USA?

ngthagg

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ngthagg
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Oh, I forgot this:

"the very clear and present danger that the world faced during the 1970s"

Were the changes made that significant? Because we are 35 years from that now, and still facing the same "clear and present danger" without it materializing. Was there real danger, that the world as a whole realized and changed, or was it just alarmists?

ngthagg

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potemkyn
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ngthagg,

Check your info. India and China lost millions to hunger and they eat a lot less than Americans do. Plus they were net importers of foodstuffs from the US. If the US were to explode in population, there would be no one to feed the US, China, and India. There would be famine on a large scale.

"Were the changes made that significant? Because we are 35 years from that now, and still facing the same "clear and present danger" without it materializing. Was there real danger, that the world as a whole realized and changed, or was it just alarmists?"

You bet they were that significant. In the 1970s, the world's growth rate was over 2% and some countries were doubling their population every 15 years. Now, the rate of growth for the world is about 1.1-1.2%. China, which used to be growing at over 2%, is now growing at less than .6%. That's why there is no overpopulation. The governments in many countries made slowing down population growth a priority and took measures to reduce it.

Look at the globabl predictions, the demographers got it right. What they didn't forsee was people reducing the number of children they had. They gave a worst case scenario where the government and people didn't take action. If we hadn't, there is a good chance the world would be overpopulated and the standard of living world wide would have collapsed.

The trend in the 1970s was for growth rates to continue to get higher, not lower. Thus, it is not unreasonable to fear that this trend would continue and that the human race would overpopulate the world.

Potemkyn

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FiredrakeRAGE
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potemkyn -

potemkyn said:
quote:

The trend in the 1970s was for growth rates to continue to get higher, not lower. Thus, it is not unreasonable to fear that this trend would continue and that the human race would overpopulate the world.

It is as unreasonable as assuming that oil prices, which have increased significantly over the last two years, will be at $4000/barrel by 2007.

potemkyn said:
quote:

The demographers got it right, but the trick is people listened to them and population growth was reduced. So no doomsday because their warnings were heeded consciously or not.

You cannot simply extrapolate a curve based off of incomplete data, make a doomsday prediction, then shrug it off as a 'mistake'. The population growth went down, and you're claiming that those who were predicting massive famine were right, but averted the crisis. If the population growth had continued to go up, you'd be claiming they were also correct. When exactly can a prediction turn out to be wrong?

--Firedrake

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livermeer kenmaile
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quote:
The trend in the 1970s was for growth rates to continue to get higher, not lower. Thus, it is not unreasonable to fear that this trend would continue and that the human race would overpopulate the world.

It is as unreasonable as assuming that oil prices, which have increased significantly over the last two years, will be at $4000/barrel by 2007.

I adore reductio ad absurdum rebuttals but this one doesn't hold. Comparing brief periods of oil price increases with a marked trend of population growth covering a period of centuries, is itself absurd.
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livermeer kenmaile
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"The population growth went down, and you're claiming that those who were predicting massive famine were right, but averted the crisis. If the population growth had continued to go up, you'd be claiming they were also correct. When exactly can a prediction turn out to be wrong?"

I think we're in a semantic confusion here, misconstruing projection with prediction.

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Fel2.0
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quote:
Check your info. India and China lost millions to hunger and they eat a lot less than Americans do. Plus they were net importers of foodstuffs from the US. If the US were to explode in population, there would be no one to feed the US, China, and India. There would be famine on a large scale.
But the Chinese and Indians aren't starving now, even though their populations are higher then when they did have people starving. The starvations had to do with implemenation of failed central planning and socialist ideology, not there being too many people.

And the population doom sayers from the 1970s were wrong. They took current numbers projected them into the future AND ASSUMED PEOPLE WOULDN'T MAKE ANY CHANGES. That is also why predictions of this type (such as the peak oil people) are always wrong. They assume human beings are static.

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livermeer kenmaile
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"That is also why predictions of this type (such as the peak oil people) are always wrong. They assume human beings are static."

The reason such absolute statements as the above are often wrong is that they assume the conditions on which they are based are static.

But then, again, this is semantic confusion.

What most of the 'doomsayers of the time said was, "If this goes on..."

Note the word 'if'. Those forecasters who insisted humankind wouldn't change in a way that might overpower that 'if' certainly deserve the ridicule they receive. Many didn't.

Anyway, beware the absoolute statement. It places you with the ducks in that barrel that hunters like Cheney so love...

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Wayward Son
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quote:
This doesn't sound right to me. New technologies, be they cars, airplanes, genetically modified crops, or whatever, usually start off very expensive when the technology is new, but as the technology matures, it gets cheaper and cheaper to produce, and the benefits just keep increasing. Are we less wealthy because of the development of computers, cars, or planes? Did people who used type writers have more available "time and resources" as a result, versus their counterparts now who can use computers? I don't know much about economics, but even I can see how false your premise is on its face.
That is because I am not considering luxuries, but necessities. Which is cheaper, to take water from a nearby river or send it via canals over long distances (as Los Angeles does)? Which is cheaper, to get water from a lake or from a desalination plant? Which is cheaper, to grow food in a fertile plain or a desert? Every time you expand, it becomes more expensive per unit to produce something like food and water. Yes, the cost producing cars and genetically modified crops will decrease, but not when compared to natural sources which we currently rely upon. So we will have to spend more for these resources per unit.

And, because these resources are not based on natural processes, they are more easily subject to breakdown, natural disasters and sabotage. It’s a lot easier to stop a desalination plant from providing water for a city than to stop the Mississippi river.

quote:
And what do you mean by "the poor" being the ones to tap "these resources". Are you saying that the poor are the primary users of advanced technology? Huh?
I see the definition of “rich” to be based on the relative amount of wealth they control. Those who are “wealthy” control several times as much wealth as those who are not. For example, in the U.S. today, the top 1 percent of the population has as much wealth as the bottom 50 percent. The top 1 percent are, on average, 90 times as “wealthy” as the bottom 50 percent. But by this definition, there will always be more “poor” than “rich.” Those on the bottom will always spend a much greater percentage of their wealth on basic necessities than the rich, and there will always be more “poor” than “rich.”

So when resources are strained, it will affect the poor more than the rich, because there are more poor and because they have less resources to pay more for necessities.

quote:
It depends on the resource you're using. If the resource happens to be something like crude oil, which no plant or animal (to my knowledge) has need for, then you'd be wrong. Similarly, if the reasource happens to be something like sea water (which, for the time being, may as well be infinite) again I fail to see the basis for your claim that we are "robbing" anything from any animal or plant.
True, practically no animal other than us uses crude oil (except for one bacterial exception [Smile] ). But sea water is not so simple.

Where do you think the majority of sea life resides? Far out in the ocean (let’s say, more than 200 miles from shore) or close to the shore?

Much of sea life depends on the nutrients in the water, nutrients that comes from run-off from the land or upwelling from the deeper parts. This mostly occurs near land (the continental shelves being a good place for steep cliffs to rise up from the deep).

Where would the sea water for desalination plants come from? Far off in the ocean, or near the land? Close, obviously. So we would be competing with sea life for the nutrient-rich water near the land, even though we didn’t care about the nutrients.

Certainly at first, we could situation desalination plants in areas that are not sea-life intensive. But as we build more and more to support larger and larger populations, we will utilize more and more of these resources. Life is simply too ubiquitous on this planet to find many places where resources are not utilized by something. And as humans require more and more, they will necessarily take away more and more from other life. And these resources will be more and more expensive than those we now get virtually for free.

I do not see any way around it.

[ May 01, 2006, 10:59 AM: Message edited by: Wayward Son ]

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livermeer kenmaile
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The idea that it will beomvce cheaper and cheaper to support more and more homo sapiens is not necessarily wrong, but to say the least, the idea is suspect of itself.

As for more and more homo saps creating increasing drain on Terra, this is a given. This given may be enormously offset by exquisitely wrought bioengineering systems (let's call it nano-genegineering even though this is really a tautology), very efficient fusion power, and a willingness on the part og homo saps to concentrate oursaevles into certain areas and leave what's left of the pre-anthropocentric terran biosphere to itself.

There's ALWAYS hope for utopia, yes?

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javelin
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quote:
What most of the 'doomsayers of the time said was, "If this goes on..."
Funny, the way I heard it phrased was "The earth cannot..." I rarely heard "If all things stay the same..." or somesuch.
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TinMan
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Ok, Opinions are split about where I thought they might be.

Let's give an interesting technological leap. Within say 20 years, not only is the fusion plant in France viable, it provides a leap off technology into an actual working version of the Star Trek "replicator", which is a energy-into-matter converter, at least even on the expense-to-return ratio. What happens to the global society? Does overpopulation become a problem then? How do we handle it?

"Turn us all into Methuselah, but where are we gonna park?"

Tinman

[ May 01, 2006, 11:53 AM: Message edited by: TinMan ]

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livermeer kenmaile
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quote:
a) What most of the 'doomsayers of the time said was, "If this goes on..."

b) Funny, the way I heard it phrased was "The earth cannot..." I rarely heard "If all things stay the same..." or somesuch.

Shrewd observation. For another shrewd observation consider the meaning of the word 'sustain', especially the idea of sustenance *over time*.

The earth, as understood at the time (say, the 70s), didn't seem likely to tolerate too many more homo saps. This observation was surely filtered through the then avant garde bias of Earth First-ism ecological consideration. Here is partly why things seemed that way:

Just as the antibiotics that kept people alive longer and lowered the mortality rate were called 'miracle drugs', so was the Green Revolution considered miraculous. Miracles weren't seen as a reliable basis for expansion at the time, especially when other miracles (like atomic power too cheap to meter) weren't manifesting as promised.

Since then we've come to acceptthe onging delivery of miracles via technological developments as being more reliable.

The extremity of the more ardent doomsayers has been matched by the extremity of the more ardent cornucopianists. The doomsayers say that if this goes on collapse will at some point ccur. The cornucopianists say that if this goes on (technological development) expanded prosperity will occur. This dynamic has gone on long enough it's become something of a tradition in our culture.

I tend to focus on the 'if' in both points of view and then look more closely at what is happening in a given if's province.

For example, while agricultural yields still show increase, the lag between our abilty to create magic bullets to kill microbes and insects that eat thse increased yields, shrinks. he bugs are gaining on us.

However, we don't have to grow crops monoculturally. Should we switch to growing multiple crops in the same fields (or hydroponic whatchyamacallits) and rotate mixtures often enough, pestilescence will become a minor problem for the most part.

What effect will switching from high-yeild monoculture to multiculture agriculture have on yield? There's another 'if'.

Underneath all this is the sense of vulnerability we have that our massive globe-girdling culture has yet to establish any means of population regulation that is even remotely governable. It makes us nervous, population being such an essential factor in the prosperity equation. I suspect this century will witness considerable istrengthening of such control via both political and tehcnological means.

I think a critical aspect to remember in all this is that the stakes in this qare famine, and famine is a very disruptive thing.

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livermeer kenmaile
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"Turn us all into Methuselah, but where are we gonna park?"

I keep saying that today's 'right to life' arguments against abortion are laying the groundwork for tomorrow's 'right to life' arguments for the license to make babies.

I think it will be one of the uncanniest flip-flops of legality and social impulse seen in a long long time. From fighting for the right to require all fetuses be delivered into this world to fighting for the right to be *allowed* to deliver a fetus into this world...

Those who would hand the State power over the organs of reproduction might want to consider this. I myself see (what I shall call here) 'population yield eugenics' as an inevitability in the years ahead that is almost certain to occur in this century. How much that issue is addressed through 'free market' liberal democratic methods and how much it is mandated by the State is being affected right now by demands to give the State more power over reproductive organs.

The transformation from 'every sperm is sacred' to 'every sperm is subject to cost/benefit analysis' will be interesting indeed.

[ May 01, 2006, 12:31 PM: Message edited by: livermeer kenmaile ]

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halfhaggis
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Every sperm is subject
To cost/benefit analysis.
And if a sperm runs at a loss,
Investors get quite irate!

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Cytania
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Pope urban in 1095 in a speech dispatching the first crusade - World Population circa 250 million.

"For this land which you now inhabit, shut in on all sides by the sea and the mountain peaks, is too narrow for your large population; it scarcely furnishes food enough for its cultivators. Hence it is that you murder and devour one another, that you wage wars, and that many among you perish in civil strife. Let hatred, therefore, depart from among you; let your quarrels end. Enter upon the road to the Holy Sepulcher; wrest that land from a wicked race, and subject it to yourselves."

Thomas Malthus 1798 - World Population circa 800 million.

"The power of population is so superior to the power of the earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race. The vices of mankind are active and able ministers of depopulation. They are the precursors in the great army of destruction; and often finish the dreadful work themselves. But should they fail in this war of extermination, sickly seasons, epidemics, pestilence, and plague, advance in terrific array, and sweep off their thousands and tens of thousands. Should success be still incomplete, gigantic inevitable famine stalks in the rear, and with one mighty blow levels the population with the food of the world."

We are now at 6 billion and both Urban and Malthus' warnings seem premature. This is not to say that the world does not face considerable challenges. Modern world wars have shown they can quickly eliminate millions of young men and yet their causation is rarely economic or demographic. Certainly Malthusian worry informed leaders choices (Hilter referred to Lebensraum, suggesting germany needed more 'living space') but in retrospect these appear secondary next to such powerful motivators as domination and conquest.

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livermeer kenmaile
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Cytania you provide some excellent perspective, to which I'll add this:

from the Marshall Plan through the Nam War to Iraq today, a major determining factor in executing those wars and whatever peace came or comes afterward, was the preservation of markets by which resources could be exchanged in a manner that continued prosperity.

Economics and demographics are not solely responsible for wars, but they are a very big part of the martial matrix.

Also, a semantic distiction:

"both Urban and Malthus' warnings seem premature"

Warnings are not premature; the more premature a warning, the more prophetic it is [Wink] But fulfillment of prophecy can be overdue.

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Pete at Home
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quote:
"If you think homophilia is difficult to comprehend, imagine gay men trying to comprehend the straight fact that straight men only have sex 2.3 times a week"
Eh? I take it you're averaging the single men with the married men? [Confused]


We have learned to feed ourselves at a higher scale, but there's been a cost. The cruelty in our mean industry is extraordinary. We're pumping all our eating animals filled with antibiotic, and keeping them in close quarters, and this is eventually going to breed anti-biotic-proof plagues.

Halfhaggis -- I think you've grossly misconstrued what ngthagg was saying. n wasn't being glib about African suffering; n was saying that we in Canada, America and Europe can tighten our belt and get by with less.
FYI, reducing our caloric intake will increase US, Canadian and European lifespans.

Despite HIV, the #1 killer of African children remains malaria, which has become largely immune to previous Western cures. That's a tropical illness that's not likely to spread here.

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halfhaggis
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quote:
Originally posted by Pete at Home:

Halfhaggis -- I think you've grossly misconstrued what ngthagg was saying. n wasn't being glib about African suffering; n was saying that we in Canada, America and Europe can tighten our belt and get by with less.

Yes. I know. My apologies.
I think I was in a bad mood that day, and a bit of rant seemed like just the thing to cheer me up.

quote:
Originally posted by Pete at Home:

Despite HIV, the #1 killer of African children remains malaria, which has become largely immune to previous Western cures. That's a tropical illness that's not likely to spread here.

Discount global climate change at your peril. The tropics are moving north! [Razz]
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livermeer kenmaile
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"Despite HIV, the #1 killer of African children remains malaria, which has become largely immune to previous Western cures. That's a tropical illness that's not likely to spread here."

Global warming is affecting that insulation. We may start caring after all.

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