Mother nature always curbs runaway populations, sooner or later. How that occurs depends on many factors, and the ways it can occur can be simple or extremely complicated. One or more diseases could arise that would reduce the birthrate, for example, and that may have saved other overpopulating species from catastrophic collapse before. Now the Zika virus is reported to reduce fertility in men, and that introduces the idea that maybe the population explosion will be softened a bit if viruses like Zika significantly reduce the human global birthrate. It is also helpful that Zika does best in warm, tropical climates, as those conditions are prevalent in the parts of the world currently having the highest birthrates. Continue reading
Tag Archives: Earth
A number of studies described in a recent NPR article agree that slightly over 70,000 years ago, after a supervolcano eruption much larger than any we’ve seen in recorded history, total human numbers were reduced to a few thousand or less. Now we find ourselves in a heavily overpopulated situation where we may surpass the Earth’s capacity to provide food and energy within the next few decades, and we need to think ahead as to how to survive the coming period of extreme volatility. Still, there are supervolcanos in the world that are centuries and millennia past their normal eruption cycle, just ready to blow. Surely we are smart enough as a species to think ahead and prepare for such calamities, aren’t we?
I leave this as an open question. It has meaning well beyond the immediate topic. Thanks for reading – Tim
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
We invented our way into this situation. Many of our past inventions made life easier, food more plentiful, etc., and enabled population growth. When anything threatened to kill us off, we fought it with creativity and developed technologies to deal with it. Except for those inventions specifically aimed at killing people or managing our birthrates (the Chinese “One Child Law“, for example), our inventions have permitted us to thrive and propagate more and more effectively, and to increase our numbers at faster and faster rates. The problem we perceive now is that sooner or later the needs of our unchecked population will exceed available resources. This would seem a normal pattern for any life form, but there are plenty of examples where animal birthrates slowed inexplicably in the face of food shortages. That makes it seem that humans have lost the instinct for avoiding population-driven catastrophes (if we ever had it), which leaves our fate up to us. It also suggests the population challenge will require types of creativity we haven’t used before, or often. So just how smart are we? Continue reading