We humans are clearly overrunning the planet, but few understand or will face what is happening. As population hits an all-time peak later this century, life on the planet will get much tougher and there will be no simple answers to the problems that will arise or simply increase in severity. While it is hard to see ahead with any detail, past experience says there will never be a single crisis that challenges humanity like overpopulation does (barring an asteroid impact, a global volcanic surprise, or the sun doing something unexpected). This is because human nature drives us to want to live better and have more children. Can we successfully change ourselves to have less offspring and live more sustainably? Continue reading
Tag Archives: long-range planning
All my life, growing up in the capitalist United States economy, the success of the system has depended on growth. This is widely recognized, and growth is often invoked as a remedy for economic problems. “Growth ” has become a business (and, by extension, government) mantra – the panacea for all our ills. Unfortunately, this makes no sense at a very fundamental level. How big will we grow and how much resources will we devour reaching the point where population is completely unsustainable, and famine and disease roam the world killing millions? Can we stop worshipping growth now?
(This is a reprint of a recent posting in my personal blog that I think is quite appropriate to share here. Please comment if you like . Thanks for reading. – Tim)
Why is overpopulation taboo? It is incredibly frustrating to see so many people and organizations thrashing around over climate change and related issues when none of those problems would exist if we weren’t overpopulating the planet. The problems of epidemic and famine that will emerge over the next two or three decades will compound our relatively new problems with weather and increasing sea levels, and it is likely that at least a few billion people will die untimely deaths before the end of this century, all attributable to the human population explosion. Isn’t a focus on reducing birthrates worldwide what we really need? Are we putting ourselves at risk by addressing the more superficial issues and ignoring the root cause? Continue reading
It may seem like simple logic that, if human numbers continue to grow rapidly, there will be a point where shortages of food, energy, and other natural resources will cause shortages, and a global collapse would occur. I wrote a post about this and our prospects for bailing ourselves out with technology back in 2012, titled “Can We Invent Our Way Out of the Population Explosion? Not the Way You’re Thinking“. Still and understandably, many people, including those in official roles with plenty of evidence before them, have consistently denied the risks and signs of future collapse, possibly due to the influence of corporate interests who feel that efforts to counter the situation could affect their profits. Now a NASA project report offers a highly credible wake-up call to governments, corporations and business – and consumers – to recognise that ‘business as usual’ cannot be sustained, and that policy and structural changes are required immediately. Here is a Guardian columnist’s analysis of the study. Continue reading
Important Question for your Legislators: Can Growth Continue Indefinitely and, If Not, What Follows It?
Hindsight is golden – no question about that. All through the recent election season I pondered what the right question was to ask legislators and, of course, it hit me days after the election: “Do you think population and economic growth can continue forever and, if not, what do you think will happen when the trend reverses?” This and similar questions should be at the top of everyone’s list, not just today but every day for decades to come. Continue reading
What we build today may have to sustain us for a century. The population explosion is expected to peak in the 2040’s, just 30 years away, and we can’t expect that time to be easy. Not only will out-of-control growth exceed the capacity of much of our infrastructure, but when the trend turns around with a declining population will come a declining tax base, and there may truly be no money for infrastructure repairs and improvement. For this reason, when we pursue an infrastructure update project today we should build it to serve us with minimum maintenance for a century, not just a few years. I can’t help but think of the Roman roads, some of which are still in use 2000 years after they were built. Can we think in those terms? Are we smart enough as a species to anticipate the future and prepare for scenarios that are likely but still decades away? Or are we closer to lemmings, insects, and bacteria than we think, such that we won’t be able to avoid growing explosively until our infrastructure fails and our numbers are reduced by mass starvation? It is up to us, but serious action is needed now, and I’m not sure we’ve set an encouraging track record so far. This is a badly needed bit of consciousness raising, but we need to be talking seriously about what will happen in the next century, for our children and grandchildren if not for ourselves.
As always, your comments are welcome. Thanks for reading – Tim
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