Are we really overpopulated?

Discussion in 'Science & Society' started by Norsefire, Oct 5, 2008.

  1. Norsefire Salam Shalom Salom Registered Senior Member

    Or is our current resource production just not being used wisely enough?

    I read somewhere that the Earth could indeed sustain a human population of loads (like, tens of billions, if not more), and also do it rather easily, if we managed our land and resource better.

    Are we really overpopulated?
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  3. one_raven God is a Chinese Whisper Valued Senior Member



    Both are correct.
    With the world markets and socio-political situation we currently have combined with our deplorable lack of any real environmental stewardship - the world IS overpopulated.
    If these things were fixed, we would be fine - but they are not fixed, and not likely to BE fixed any time soon.
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  5. CutsieMarie89 Zen Registered Senior Member

    my biology teacher from high school was real big on overpopulation and what not. She even made a pact with the researchers she was working with to not have more than two children. She and her fellow scientists believe Earth's carrying capacity for humans to be about 13 billion or so. So I don't think we're overpopulated just yet, we're half way there. But it is possible that we might reach that carrying capacity in our life time.
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  7. OilIsMastery Banned Banned

    "We now have in our hands—really, in our libraries—the technology to feed, clothe, and supply energy to an ever-growing population for the next seven billion years." -- Julian L. Simon, economist, 1995
  8. orcot Valued Senior Member

    aren't we using like 1,4 times the earth recources, The earth can not keep up anymore.
    I fear that the price of food we surge in the future and that we are likly to endure a pandemy comparable with the plage and that if we didn't get it we would be worse off.
  9. Repo Man Valued Senior Member

    Our species seems to be pushing a very large number of other species over the brink.

    Scientists agree world faces mass extinction

    We are playing Jenga with the Earth's life support system.
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2008
  10. one_raven God is a Chinese Whisper Valued Senior Member

    Superb analogy!
  11. OilIsMastery Banned Banned

    "The assumption of fixed, finite natural resources has caused many to make catastrophic predictions of resource exhaustion. Fortunately, where these prophecies have been sufficiently specific to be testable, the passage of time and events has falsified them." -- Thomas R. DeGregori, economist, 1987
  12. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    It's not even that. It's not the way the resources are used that's the problem. The problem is in the way the products derived from those resources are allocated.

    The Western Hemisphere is relatively underpopulated and has huge swaths of land available for agriculture. Look at California, with its thirty million people: Most of the state is either farmland or forest.

    In addition, the Western Hemisphere's resources have not been exhausted by thousands of years of civilization. Only in Mexico, where the Olmec-Maya-Aztec continuum managed to screw up the ecosystem (and only quite recently compared to Mesopotamia, north Africa and Europe) is there a problem with eroding topsoil and missing nutrients. We still have huge lodes of iron ore and other important minerals. The forests in North America are rebounding, and we're close enough to equilibrium in South America to dream of a reversal and a green Brazil. There's even wild game here!

    The Americas could feed the world ten times over, and fulfill many of its other needs as well. And don't start talking about selfishness, the people of the United States alone are so prosperous and so charitable that we ship tons of free food to the Third World every week. The problem is that once that food gets there, it never makes it into the mouths of the hungry people. Their corrupt, despotic leaders intercept it, sell it on the black market, and use the money to buy champagne, Jaguars, concubines, villas and dachas in Europe... and of course more weapons to keep their people down and make war on the despot in the next country.

    So the problem is not one of resources or production, but one of politics at the other end.

    The Chinese seem on the verge of launching a full-scale colonization of Africa. Much as I weep for the Africans' loss of freedom, my tears are diminished by the realization that they don't have much freedom under the current governments already.

    China turned itself around in two generations. When I was a kid in the 1950s my mother shamed me into eating my vegetables because throwing them away would be an insult to the millions of starving children in China who wished they had vegetables. Today starvation is as rare in China as it is in America, and people have enough disposable income to buy TV sets. Maybe a Chinese colonial government will be able to do the same for the Africans. Goddess knows, it would be very difficult to do any worse by them than the European colonial powers did.

    The situation with our other resources is not identical to food, but it yields to a similar analysis. There's more-or-less enough of everything to go around comfortably in the countries that have more-or-less democratic governments. The impediment to prosperity is despotism, not economics or technology.
    Forty years ago I read an article in Science magazine by physicists who investigated this issue from a cold, scientific perspective. I've posted a synopsis on SciForums a couple of times in the past, along with my apology that I'm still looking for the clipping from the days before scanners and Google.

    Basically, our population could increase to the astounding figure of around ten trillion. We could even let it happen at the rate it was increasing in the 1960s: doubling every thirty years. (Meaning it would reach that figure by Y3K.) The scientists calculated that with existing technology and modest, foreseeable improvements, we could feed and house everybody... if all the world's governments made it their only priority and the entire global GDP was dedicated to the project.

    We bulldoze the earth's surface and build stacked warrens 500 stories deep. The top layer is converted to food production. We can actually distribute the air, food and waste efficiently so everybody is healthy and comfortable in their home that measures about fifty square feet (6 sq m). We'd have exercise equipment, room to visit and combine into couples and families, decent horizontal mobility and a class-structure to manage vertical mobility. There'd be a lot of entertainment and culture. Dogs and cats and gardens only for the very very wealthy, but as the author noted, there would be about a billion Shakespeares and "rather more Beatles" alive at any moment.

    Energy is the obvious critical factor because it's the key to food production, not to mention home construction and the transmission of all those neo-Shakespeare plays and neo-Beatles tunes. The key to energy is to build giant solar collectors in high orbit, where they can intercept as much of the sun's rays as we need, and beam the energy to earth stations in tight microwaves. Again, I promise you that the authors worked all this out and it's not only doable, but we could build the infrastructure fast enough to keep up with population growth, if we manage to restructure our governments to focus on the problem.

    The real problem is waste. Not biological waste obviously because that's just recycled into plant fertilizer. It's waste heat. We take in high-frequency short-wave solar electromagnetic energy and convert it into hydroponic processes, air conditioning for those giant stacks of warrens, food distribution, waste removal, transporation, lighting, communication, etc. Oh yeah, and human metabolism. Can you say "entropy"? It ultimately becomes low-frequency long-wave electromagnetic energy, or "heat." The only way to dispose of it is to radiate it back out into space. There's no way to accelerate that process or make it more efficent. (Re-read the comment about entropy.)

    Eventually, as the population hits the ten trillion mark, the ambient temperature of the entire planet reaches 125 degrees F (52C), the maximum that humans can survive. Sure, natural selection will yield a population that can stand a few degrees higher, but within another generation or two half the population will be diying from heatstroke before they reach puberty and can reproduce.

    That's an entropy-baseed equilibrium. Or some might just call it a (barely) living hell.
    Compared to a maximum sustainable population of ten trillion, we're not even close.

    The reason it seems that way is that so many people live under dysfunctional governments, who really don't care that they're living in starvation and squalor.

    It seems unlikely to me that the world's governments could actually launch the project to build those orbital solar collectors and the other project to build warrens for all of us, considering that they can't stop dissipating their GDP on war, and considering that they all seem to be manipulated by the petroleum industry who doesn't want us to take alternative energy sources seriously.

    As to whether the huge portion of the human race that lives under despotism can find their way out, that's another question. Perhaps the Chinese will help, by replacing a dysfunctional despotism with one that at least keeps its subjects fed and housed.

    Fortunately the human population is no longer doubling every thirty years. In fact it's widely predicted that it will never double again, that it will reach a maximum of around ten billion within a hundred years or so, then level off, then start decreasing. The reason for this is that prosperity is the best contraceptive; as people's lives improve they find other things to do besides raise families.

    I think the real problem is energy. Without those solar collectors, and with China and India hell-bent on building two billion more automobiles, an energy crisis is inevitable. We're going to have to make a sad compromise and build nuclear power plants because none of the other energy alternatives will be adequate. I don't know if we can work the bugs out of nuclear fusion; if not, we're stuck with fission plants and their radioactive waste.
  13. Repo Man Valued Senior Member

    Though I've never experienced life anywhere else, I like how we live here in the west. Hot and cold running water, so much food that you can basically poison yourself with it if you want, heat when it is cold, cool air when it is hot, plenty of open space. Even with a globe girdling city complex, growth would (will) have to stop sometime.

    So why not stop at a point where we can be sure that everyone on Earth can be assured of living the way we here in the west do now? We would still have room for all of the large species that are on the brink now, and for whom the future looks very bleak. No need to strip mine the oceans, and cause a fisheries collapse, or (insert endless other ongoing eco disasters here)....

    Or, we can continue on like a culture of bacteria in a petri dish, and consume until we die off from our own metabolic wastes. I don't think evolution has equipped us with the ability to truly grasp the long term consequences of our actions. Virtually no one thinks we are actually going to cause an ecosystem collapse, anymore than smokers really think their habit is going to give them incurable lung cancer. We live in denial of it just as we live in denial of our own certain mortality.
  14. one_raven God is a Chinese Whisper Valued Senior Member

    I certainly hope not!

    The scenario above seems a worse Hell to me than a disease addled human population dying off from over-population.
  15. Cellar_Door Whose Worth's unknown Registered Senior Member

    So we're not over-populated until the earth is completely stretched to breaking point? What kind of logic is that?

    I just don't understand how living in a crowded and polluted world, devoid of open and green spaces, doesn't worry some people.
    That's urbanisation for you.
  16. Syzygys As a mother, I am telling you Valued Senior Member

    People, this question is meaningless without telling on what technological level.

    On the Amish level the earth could carry 15 billions easily, but who the hell wants to live like that? On the American level, I would say it is 3 billion, and keep in mind that most people nowadays DON'T live by Western standards....

    Just so you know....
  17. Avatar smoking revolver Valued Senior Member

    Overpopulated? Depends on where you live. Mongolia is not. And in Latvia we have only over 2m people on 64,000 sq/km, 1/3 living in the capital. We could easily supply ourselves with food from the land.
  18. Diode-Man Awesome User Title Registered Senior Member

    If we were overpopulated the population would naturally drop on its own, so no, we are not overpopulated.
  19. Avatar smoking revolver Valued Senior Member

    At what cost? Ever seen Soylent Green?
  20. Syzygys As a mother, I am telling you Valued Senior Member

    We are going back again to the quality vs. quantity problem kiddos, why is it so hard to see??

    We could have 20 billion people riding all on bicycles and eating rice, but who would want that?
  21. Repo Man Valued Senior Member

  22. Pronatalist Registered Senior Member

    Yes, I have Julian Simon's book, the Ultimate Resource, and I agree with most of what he says hugely discrediting most every possible overpopulation theory. But I just can't agree with the above quote, because there's just no way to get the math to work, "for the next 7 billion years." But just qualify it reasonably like with "well into the forseeable future," and it works out quite nicely. That takes care of the rest of my expected lifetime, that of my children, well until the impending Biblical endtimes.

    The size of the planet, and human inguinuity, are actually somewhat limited. But there's so many ample options humans can and are already much exploring, so many population-driven technology growth innovations already well understood and commonly used in developed countries, that would allow humans to easily ADAPT to a far more vastly and densely populated world. Things like indoor flush toilets, vaccines, proper treatment of water to insure it is well potable, clean gas and electric cookstoves and microwave ovens to eliminate millions of cooking fires from growing cities. These all serve to make it easier to keep on building additional cities, more towns, suburbs upon suburbs, and welcome human bodies to live and breed in closer proximity to their neighbors, on the global scale at least as the planet more urbanizes to hold us all, as naturally-rising numbers may seem to somewhat ultimately require.

    There's really no such thing as "too many" people, as that is a values judgment that implies that some people are expendible, or just pretty much useless, an allegation that those people themselves and their parents, are quitely likely to disagree with and take issue with.

    "How can there be too many children? That's like saying there are too many flowers." Mother Teresa

    "Pro-life is more consistantly prolife, when it is also pro-population." Pronatalist

    People get their value imputed to them by God, and they value themselves, so people aren't subject to base economic "supply and demand" valuations. Each and every human life is just as immensely valuable and sacred, no matter how high the overall population levels may tend to naturally rise.

    No, we aren't overpopulated, and highly likely never ever will be. However, humans are about the only creatures I welcome to multiply "unchecked," as we being, supposedly intelligent, ADAPT so much easier than we can be expected to struggle against nature to "control" our numbers.

    I also take much issue with being made to be treated like lab rats, for Big Pharma's shoddy contraceptive potions and poisons. Humans weren't designed to use any form of "birth control." Why is there such a bewildering array of contraceptives? Answers quite simple when you think about it. Practically every method has soon found to be shoddy and unsatisfactory, so they rush to come out with yet another method. But a little logical deduction, should lead one to question the idea of unnaturally trying to limit human births at all. Whatever happened to letting babies happen as they happen? Whatever happened to people of faith, considering babies to be a wondrous blessing from God? Surely more and more people would be glad to live, so keep the door to life open, and let the babies push out naturally.

    I only expect for people to pair up, responsibly marry first, and properly build their family nest, and love and provide for their children, and train their children up in God's ways to contribute to the wellbeing of society. Children enhance the environment, as people are part of the environment, so it's quite beautiful to see the human race naturally "blossom" in size, and welcome all the more people to come alive and experience life. As some preacher put it, people are supposed to Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth, to spread God's image (people) throughout the world, among many other great reasons.
  23. Roman Banned Banned

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