This is a serious post. It’s one of the posts that should be posted. It’s one of those posts that you should read.
With all the less important stuff that you see on STM, it’s kind of like watching a soapy and then changing the channel to a David Attenborough narrated doccie. You get the picture…
Pollution, destruction of biodiversity, climate change, massively depleted fish stocks, inhumane livestock farming, and dwindling of all finite resources. All serious issues we are currently facing on earth, all interlinked, and all essentially because of one underlying problem – a human population that is set to hit 7 billion in 2011.
A little population timeline:
C.E. 1000-1100 – 300 million
1200-1300 – 380million
1300-1400 – 420 million (Bubonic plague kills more than a quarter of the population)
1500-1600 – 500 million (African slave trade begins, Europeans create trading posts in Africa)
1700-1800 – 720 million (vaccine for small pox created, population increases by 40%)
1800-1900 – 1 billion
1900 – 2000 – beginning of the century 1.7 billion, end of the century 6.1 billion
How the hell did it explode like this you ask? Well modern medicine, better living conditions, commercial farming and then pure mathematics. The power of compounding – wonderful when it comes to your investments but not so good when it comes to population numbers. According to the World Bank’s most recent figures the global population is growing at 1.2% annually. Doesn’t sound like much does it, but when you calculate how many years it will take to double the population, the answer is shocking. 58 years.
Here is a brilliant analogy by Dr. Albert Bartlett about steady growth in a finite environment that makes the problem blatantly clear:
“Bacteria grow by doubling. One bacterium divides to become two, the two divide to become 4, the 4 become 8, 16 and so on. Suppose we had bacteria that doubled in number this way every minute. Suppose we put one of these bacteria into an empty bottle at 11:00 in the morning, and then observe that the bottle is full at 12:00 noon. There’s our case of just ordinary steady growth: it has a doubling time of one minute, it’s in the finite environment of one bottle.
I want to ask you three questions.
Number one: at what time was the bottle half full? Well, would you believe 11:59, one minute before 12:00? Because they double in number every minute.
And the second question: if you were an average bacterium in that bottle, at what time would you first realize you were running of space? Well, let’s just look at the last minutes in the bottle. At 12:00 noon, it’s full; one minute before, it’s half full; 2 minutes before, it’s a quarter full. Let me ask you, at 5 minutes before 12:00, when the bottle is only 3% full and is 97% open space just yearning for development, how many of you would realize there’s a problem?”
So how many people can the earth sustain? This is an extremely complex question to answer because it is less about space, like the bacteria’s bottle, than about consumption of resources. The majority of the word’s population in Africa and Asia currently live off very little but this is changing rapidly in places like India and China (Africa not so much, ag shame) and more people start living like, well, you and I.
According to Dr. David Pimentel (Cornell University) the earth could only sustain between 1-2 billion people living like Americans. So it’s clear that the world cannot all live like us, but that is what everyone is striving for, and can you blame them. How much do you think you would enjoy life if it didn’t include a bed to sleep in, running water, flush toilets, a fridge full of food, TV, a car, internet access etc?
So what do we do? We use science to increase resources – we find renewable sources of energy to take over from fossil fuels, clever biotechnologists make plants that produce more food, we desalinate water and many other, less honourable things, but it is not enough if we don’t turn population growth negative.
And it’s intellectually dishonest to talk about saving the environment without stressing the obvious fact that stopping population growth is a necessary condition for saving the environment and for sustainability.
Here is an awesome list of things that will reduce the population:
Disease, war, murder, famine, natural disaster…
Now I am a fan of some of the above, but if you are a little more humanitarian, you really only have one choice.
STOP BLOODY BREEDING!
Anyone who has more than one child, to replace each parent, is contributing to population growth and to the destruction of the earth and should, in my mind be, be shunned and publically ridiculed for their ignorance.
I will leave you to think about whether you want to have any children at all with this excerpt from an interview with Isaac Asimov (the science fiction writer you cretin).
Asked of Asimov, “What happens to the idea of the dignity of the human species if this population growth continues?” and Asimov says, “It’ll be completely destroyed. I like to use what I call my bathroom metaphor. If two people live in an apartment, and there are two bathrooms, then they both have freedom of the bathroom. You can go to the bathroom anytime you want, stay as long as you want, for whatever you need. And everyone believes in freedom of the bathroom. It should be right there in the constitution. But if you have twenty people in the apartment and two bathrooms, then no matter how much every person believes in freedom of the bathroom, there’s no such thing. You have to set up times for each person, you have to bang on the door, ‘Aren’t you through yet?’ and so on.” And Asimov concluded with one of the most profound observations I’ve seen in years. He said, “In the same way, democracy cannot survive overpopulation. Human dignity cannot survive overpopulation. Convenience and decency cannot survive overpopulation. As you put more and more people into the world, the value of life not only declines, it disappears. It doesn’t matter if someone dies, the more people there are, the less one individual matters.”