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
Tag Archives: population explosion
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
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
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
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