One question: As the population explosion peaks and major population decline begins, will science help us slow the fall and minimize the harm? Or will it just allow us a much clearer view of our demise as a civilization? I expect the answer will be “mixed”.
How numerous can we get before Mother Nature’s interventions take hold? In any case, global sustainability probably maximizes, with the best of our technologies, at less than 3 billion (maybe a LOT less). This suggests that, to achieve sustainability, 4 to 5 billion people must die. Almost half of the world’s species are now extinct, I read, and I think that we might be one of the last left at the end. It depends on how badly we mess the planet up and how soon people become enlightened and understand the fundamental importance of overpopulation in our problems, local, regional, and global.
Education and understanding are key. Until the majority of people worldwide understand the overpopulation problem, it is unlikely it will be dealt with effectively. As now, piecemeal efforts will be made, with predictably poor results. There will be a lot of talk as people the world over scramble to survive, but it appears there may be too little accomplished too late to prevent large scale, and even global catastrophes. Sea level rise being one of the latter, it is disappointing to see so little preparation for it.
Current indications are that far too little is being done. While huge multi-billion dollar investments may protect some especially vulnerable places for a while, there is no guarantee sea levels won’t rise by 20 feet or more in the next century. And there is no guarantee sea level rise will occur gradually. I am sad to see no container ports – the bedrock of world commerce and the food supply of billions – raising their equipment or otherwise preparing for sea level rise, and they are highly vulnerable.
We’ve failed to take care of near-earth space. Space travel and even the utility of satellites may soon be lost as low earth orbit fills with every size of trash, all traveling in different directions at 15-20,000 miles per hour. Even a piece the size of a BB can blow a hole in a spacecraft wall. Soon escape to anywhere else will be impossible, possible for millennia.
The crowded conditions are their own distraction. Far too many people can’t focus on saving the planet because they are trying to save themselves, and this will only get worse. More than a billion people are said to not have enough food today, and that number will grow, and these people cannot be expected to spend time worrying about a global climate change, rising sea levels, crop failures, or pandemics while their families are starving.
Many current governments are heading the wrong direction. The rise of fascism, long existing in Russia, has been echoed in many places in the world, including the fascist and antidemocratic efforts of the U.S. Republican party, the election of Duterte as head of the Philippines, and many others. Fascism weakens the economies and oppresses the people, and benefits only the rulers, who are happy to profit while most of the people suffer in poverty. Fascist leaders often denounce climate change as a hoax or unimportant, as they are focused on personal profit and not the welfare of the country or its people. All this distracts severely from our global problems and, even today, I hear almost nothing about overpopulation in the press or common discussion, even though it is clearly the source of our biggest problems, and threatens our existence.
Business culture will not be helpful against overpopulation. Corporations are sociopathic by nature, as their focus is usually just profit. They will battle with each other and with countries to bolster their profits, but will turn to facing society’s problems late and with an insufficient response as stockholders, realizing too late that our overpopulation problem can cause global disasters that will impact their bottom lines, demand they do something helpful.
How much can the disasters we’ve caused by mitigated? This is a big question. It appears we are probably far too late to avoid disasters of unprecedented proportions, but will we be smart enough to minimize the damage and loss of life? It is hard to envision sustainability arriving without one or more centuries of concentrated work and the loss of several billions lives.
People will increasingly see the decline of civilization approaching. In past economic collapses, studies have shown that nearly everyone saw the end approaching. Often these collapses (Mayan culture, Mohenjo Daro, and others) took place during a long, severe drought, possibly combined with earthquakes or other triggering events. Will this be the first time that humans saw clearly what was coming and did something to successfully reverse the trends and mitigate the problems? Or will we fail to see the global food chain failing, the disappearance of birds and insects, the disappearance of fish species, and other signs before store shelves become empty and billions succumb to panic, followed by starvation. And, of course, pandemic usually shows up at such times. Hmmmm.
Good luck to us all. Try to raise peoples’ consciousnesses. Global birthrates have fallen significantly in poorer countries, possibly because people have cellphones and internet now, and have a college education in their hands if they want it. The population estimates suggest the peak may be around 9.5 or 10 billion, possibly just after 2050, but we don’t know how much the planet can stand. We will find out.
Thanks for reading — Tim