There sure seem to be a lot of people trying to get rich quick these days, with many of them employing methods that are unethical, immoral, or downright criminal. Injustices abound, but those that involve making and keeping people poor are everywhere, and have become so blatant that some of them have even been written into the laws. So why are so many people trying to take advantage of others, and of a legal system increasingly rigged to increase the profits of billionaires and billionaire corporations, with an expectation that they can become rich? Continue reading
Tag Archives: globalization
Awareness of humanity’s biggest problems is rising. While there appears to finally be a slow groundswell of popular understanding and alarm about what humans are doing to the planet (which is quite late but very good), there is still a lot of mishandling (and often misrepresentation) of the news. This results in persistent widespread misconceptions about our position and probable future on the planet. So what kinds of things are we “not getting”? 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
The global human population is piling up. In the project management game (my current profession) we often observe a phenomenon that we call “snow plowing”. Essentially this is the putting off of work, or putting off of dealing with problems, until the uncompleted work and unresolved problems pile higher and higher and drive risk and costs needlessly high, to the point that the project could be canceled or simply fail to meet its objectives. It is easy to see, when you look at published population curves or see the sprawl of our suburbs and the decay in our infrastructure that we are rapidly plowing up a huge “drift” of problems and doing too little to mitigate them. Perhaps it’s time for a little truth, even though it may come across as shock therapy. My intent is not to shock, but to give a pause for thought that may affect future choices and actions.
First a few assumptions. Given that human population was less than one billion until 1804, and then didn’t pass two billion until 1927 (chart), it is safe to assume that, without the technological development that enabled our runaway population growth, a sustainable human population might actually be in the neighborhood of two to three billion. But humans are nothing if not adaptable and creative. It is possible we’ll be able to sustain ourselves with three or four billion if we invent a new source of energy to replace fossil fuels. Sadly, we are already near 7 billion and predicted to exceed 9 billion by 2040, leaving us a long way down to find a sustainable situation again. Keep in mind that these reductions must also counter the birth rate at that time.
Population: 9 billion
Sustainable population: 3 billion
Difference: 6 billion
Years to sustainability (by 2095): 50 (this might be less)
Reduction in population per year (average): 120,000,000 = 6 billion ⁄ 50 years
Reduction in population per day (average): 328,767 = 120 million⁄ 365 days/yr
Natural disasters haven’t come close to these numbers of deaths in the past. Of the natural events causing loss of human life in the past (list), only a few exceeded 100,000 in a single day. This suggests the reduction will involve human factors such as infrastructure failures, with resulting famine. Supply lines for most of us are already global, and both food and resources often travel through convoluted routes with a variety of risks. If populations in parts of the world are under pressure, they might block or otherwise hinder the supply routes, cutting off critical resources to the other parts of the world. In the past famine has often been accompanied by plague, and while our microbiological risks have increased due to overuse of antibiotics and our amazing transportation infrastructure, they could increase much more in the future.
Simple economics: fossil fuels will become unaffordable to most people within the 21st century. As population rises and we consume our energy resources at a faster and faster rate, there will be a point where further expansion is uneconomical and refineries will change over to produce products with higher value than regular gasoline, where they can still achieve a decent profit margin. This will further shorten supply and accelerate price increases. Oil is being exhausted most quickly, with somewhat longer futures for natural gas and coal, even though the former has environmental problems with its extraction process, only now being recognized, and the latter is a dirty fuel that is less affordable when the sulfur and other undesirable pollutants are removed. The problem with losing use of these fuels is not just transportation, but agriculture and manufacturing. Fertilizers and plastics (and most products involving chemicals) depend on large quantities of petroleum. Can you imagine the things you buy daily being packaged in, and often made solely from, wood, paper, or other renewable materials? When I see plastic I immediately wonder how much oil it took to make it, and what I would be using if there were no plastics.
A lot of people will have to die early before we’ll have a sustainable world again. While natural and human-caused disasters happen all the time, few (list) have ever killed enough humans to make a noticeable dent in the global population. The extreme steepness and height of the population curve suggests that, in the absence of determined actions to lower birthrates worldwide, those disasters will be much more prevalent and much worse in the next few decades. I hate to think about the size of disaster, and the number of dead it would take to make a significant reduction in world population but, given the number by which the population will need to be reduced, disasters will be far worse than we have seen in the past. Unpleasant as it is, we need to face the facts, change our direction, and begin working furiously in an all-out effort to curb population growth and invent ways to avoid the inevitable disasters.
This information needs to be faced directly by our political, economic, and social leaders. It’s obvious that we are still in a runaway condition as far as population is concerned, and it is creating ever larger problems involving supplies of energy and food, immigration, political conflicts, and economic instability. I have explored in other entries (here, here, here, here) reasons why people can’t bring themselves to speak of this topic, why news media, government, corporate, and political organizations refuse to accept, let alone address, the inevitable problems of the coming century. If we are to reduce and control the severity of these massive population reductions, and possibly save the lives of our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, we need to act today. For starters, this huge problem needs to be discussed publicly. Facts need to be brought to light and calm, clear-headed efforts to mitigate the coming disasters need to start today. Governments that balk at funding family planning efforts, for example, need to give such endeavors top priority.
What can you and I do? Mobilization against overpopulation and its effects is needed on a global scale. Effort needs to be expended in a manner similar to that experienced by some countries during World War II, with businesses forgoing profits, government-regulated rationing, and huge investments being made in science and technology, except that this needs to be global in scale. Since corporations are not sensitive to such long-term and seemingly remote problems, governments will need to focus the effort and force the corporate world to behave appropriately. This will only happen if we demand it at every turn. It is up to us to change the perspective of politicians and business leaders, to take no quarter in our pursuit of the measures needed to address the huge problem we have made for ourselves and all life on the planet. Painful as it is, the trouble inherent in publicizing the truth and demanding it be addressed is nothing compared with the trouble we will have in three or five decades when hundreds of thousands of people are dying every day, somewhere in the world, and we are all suffering extreme hardship.
On a personal level, I expect that every bit of conservation I pursue might buy my grandchildren an extra second to devise creative solutions to mitigate the problems of overpopulation. If I and everyone does enough in this regard, the time gained could be a big factor in reducing the inevitable suffering.
Write or speak with your representatives and explain the truths, over and over. The simple numbers are compelling and frightening, and maybe some properly placed fear will get people and institutions to face and address the realities. The contrast between today and where we will likely be in a half century is compelling. Tell this simple story to your representatives and demand action. Make it clear you will vote for the candidate who shows the best understanding and most vigorous actions against overpopulation and the resulting problems which are already upon us. Do everything you can to get the message across: we need action against overpopulation and we need it yesterday.
As always, I welcome your comments. — Tim
The population explosion can’t keep exploding forever. Sooner or later we must hit the limits of space and resources, and our numbers will be forced to decline. I see more and more signs in population-related news items (collected by the Population Connection folks) that global consciousness of the population problem is increasing noticeably. It is still far from sufficient to influence governments and corporations to do much about it, however. There has also been a change in UN projections of population growth such that they now give a high and low estimate for the year 2100, described in an article at foriegnpolicy.com, in which it is noted that the difference between high and low population projections for 2100 is about equal to the entire global population in 1950. That will give you an idea how fast the population is actually exploding. So how might population reduction occur?