Food systems are going to be of primary importance as population peaks. If, as the UN says, population will reach more than 9 billion in the 2040’s before beginning a steep decline, the causes of that decline are important to consider today. A historical review of population reductions shows that neither war nor the natural disasters we’ve seen so far make a noticeable difference, but suggests that famine and possibly disease have the potential to make major reductions in the population. Decades ago I expected that we might pollute our world so badly that average lifespans would fall, but there has been some progress on preserving the environment and it appears that energy and food shortages created by overpopulation are bigger concerns. (Of course, the primary concern SHOULD be overpopulation itself, as these other problems are results of it.) If organic food and farming methods are more costly than agribusiness’ methods now, why would they replace the hugely productive methods used to produce most food in the developed world today? Continue reading
Category Archives: sustainability
Are we smarter than lemmings? It’s time for humanity to prove how smart we are. We are faced with the biggest crisis we, and perhaps any species on the planet, has ever faced: our own overpopulation. But are we going to continue to grow our numbers until the massive and complicated systems by which we sustain ourselves collapse, essentially “marching off a cliff” as lemmings were once said to do? Or are we smart enough to curb our population growth and find a way to a sustainable world situation? Continue reading
Are we reaching the practical limits of our intelligence as a species? Looking around at our world it seems obvious that we are making huge problems for ourselves by growing faster and more numerous than our environment can sustain. Politically and economically we appear to be functioning more and more in a “thrashing” mode, where our actions are not well-considered or coördinated, the outcomes fail to reflect lasting or meaningful improvements, and we fail to reduce the risks of big problems that are becoming more obvious every day. It seems we need to become smarter about ourselves and our world, and take a more realistic view of our global problems. But what factors are preventing us from doing this, and what improved understanding must we gain to make improvements? We can’t all be experts, but in the United States we all can vote and need to do so intelligently to ensure our leaders are capable of solving the big problems we face. Can we learn and change our thinking and voting in time to avoid ever larger problems in the future? Continue reading
Are the chickens of the population explosion coming home to roost? An Associated Press article today covered the employment situation in the United States, where the addition of 150,000 jobs in the last month barely matched the increase in the population. It occurred to me that these new people in the population will themselves have children someday, and that in the near future we may see the population growth consistently exceeding the addition of jobs by higher and higher margins. This suggests large and increasing numbers of people will be unemployed, and the middle class will be driven into poverty by the simple mathematics of the population explosion. In addition, conservative attacks on unions and public schools means the middle class will be less well educated and increasingly powerless before corporations larger and more powerful than most countries. Continue reading
Will the global economy improve for the average person? Or are we sinking into an age in which workers are more and more powerless before their corporate employers and 99% of us live as serfs, forced into poverty and submission to our corporate overlords? Almost everyone agrees that corporations have far too much influence on government, laws, and our lives today. This situation has evolved slowly, but today corporations, aided by corporate-dominated government, are pushing harder than ever to take control of our lives and economies, purely for profit. As a result, the direction of most economies is towards businesses increasing control of government and a decline in the power of the individual. This suggests political and economic turmoil could increase as unscrupulous corporations skew economies for profit and people react and organize to oppose them, but that it is unlikely the situation will get better. The big issues we all face, like the population explosion and dependence on fossil fuels, will continue to be mostly ignored, though some portions of the population understand and will fight back to keep their rights and protect society, with limited effect. So where might we be in a few decades, and how likely is it that change could favor the people?
As recently as 50 years ago it was common for American families to have gardens and can or freeze what they produced. Many people also waited for seasonal produce sales to stock up, canning or freezing the surplus food for consumption over the following year. In addition, many people had root cellars where they could store apples, potatoes, onions, and many other food items for months at a time including over the winter. Interruptions in the shipments of food into an area were troublesome, but not a serious problem because most people had stores of food they could subsist on for weeks or even months if necessary. Times have changed significantly, however, and the majority of people today not only do not can or preserve food, but don’t even know how to do this. The food in most homes would last for days or weeks at most, not weeks or months as in the past, suggesting the average person’s ability to survive in a food shortage is greatly reduced. Why has this happened? Continue reading
Earth, the Operator’s Manual is a new video program (also available on the PBS website) that gives the best synopsis of the global condition, specifically on trends in population and energy usage. It provides a long-term view of the future and how we may avoid the hard times most of us expect as population peaks and fossil fuel supplies become more scarce and expensive. I hope to write more about it when I get time, but please take a look at this interesting and informative video series.
As always, I welcome your comments. Thanks for your attention to our future. — Tim