Tuesday, April 21, 2009

More in the Box Thinking about Populations...

"Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn."
Recently I have had the opportunity to explore some issues involving population of the world questions and so called "stresses on our environment", with possibly more discussions in the near future. I included the quote above since the paradigm of the "Population Bomb" is so ingrained in our conscious mind that we {at least a good number of us have been raised under it} accept anything that comes from so called experts. We have in essence failed to see the underlying forces as to why we see bad news at nearly every turn. We are like the old widow that reads the paper every day and imagines the world outside as one scary place that is only good to hurry back and forth for life's daily needs.

While this is trite and trivial, maybe we have failed to learn for ourselves and to question the prevailing paradigms of our time {or at least to have the right teachers as the beginning quote would suggest}. Although Searching for the Right Passage from Childhood and School By Maurice Gibbons presents a lot of physical manifestations of a quest for young people before their adulthood, there is still the inner and outer "jihad" {struggle in the basic sense}. And each must choose their own path of what is the truth to them.

So instead of dealing with the hundreds of gloom and doom forecasts {e.g. Mega-droughts In Sub-Saharan Africa Normal For Region: Droughts Likely To Worsen With Climate Change or Ocean Dead Zones Likely To Expand: Increasing Carbon Dioxide And Decreasing Oxygen Make It Harder For Deep-sea Animals To Breath or Too many ’straws’ sucking water out of the Colorado River} let me start with the most headline grabbing article that has the "experts" tell us the most pressing problems in the world in the article entitled: Worst Environmental Problem? Overpopulation, Experts Say
Overpopulation is the world’s top environmental issue, followed closely by climate change and the need to develop renewable energy resources to replace fossil fuels, according to a survey of the faculty at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF).
Well this non-expert thinks that if you can solve the energy problem {to most people's satisfaction} then it would solve the carbon problem and thus the strain on the environment, thus on casual observation they have the order reversed and was similar to an analysis I came away with nearly 30 years ago.

Overpopulation came out on top, with several professors pointing out its ties to other problems that rank high on the list.

“Overpopulation is the only problem,” said Dr. Charles A. Hall, a systems ecologist. “If we had 100 million people on Earth — or better, 10 million — no others would be a problem.” (Current estimates put the planet’s population at more than six billion.)

Dr. Allan P. Drew, a forest ecologist, put it this way: “Overpopulation means that we are putting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than we should, just because more people are doing it and this is related to overconsumption by people in general, especially in the ‘developed’ world.”
I have heard about wacko environmentalists talking about 1 billion or less but 100 or even 10 million starts to get really ridiculous. Even the Americas supported at least 40 million with the most primitive of cultivation methods. Unless the "experts" think the native Americans were ravaging the environment then at least that should provide a basis for what amount is allowed even in their criteria. Honestly I think the world can support 15-20 Billion humans especially if we think in concepts of what the minimum humans consume which is the carbon we expel in breathing and the carbon in the food we eat. Any other resource could be made from dirt.

What I mean by dirt is the fact that the basic chemicals are in the dirt like silica, nitrogen and carbon and everything else is just transformation of the basic building blocks into patterns that would suit human consumption. It is not like nature is really upset that humans have dug something out of the ground that no any other living thing needs.

In addition to what the Natives in North and South America obtained, we also have some other historical numbers to go by what was achievable with the given technologies. According the book by Gillis, the pre-agricultural era that ended about 12,000 years ago achieved less than 100 million world's population. Is he really thinking like Derrick Jensen as we should go back to hunter-gatherers? The transition for settled agriculture to the industrial revolution was around 1.7 billion in 1800. Again if they supported it with just traditional agricultural technology, then why can't man with such advances now do better?

But I do have advice for all people like this, which I affectionately call Pedantic Nihilists, is that they leave this world but be sure to leave all their assets including their chemicals to the government. In that list also includes any human capital that we have deem to be important like systems ecologists and forest ecologists. Of course if we ever do get to this level of numbers of humans then we definitely will have no need for these people and there would not even be a base to support that type of specialty. They would be superfluous.

Of course it would be quite a strange world if the dreams became reality since there is a large degree of synergy and linkages in our technologies we have now and this would push the population closer and closer together until I would imagine a one city world with some outlying "villages" that would be for farming, mining, fishing and other manual hands on work.

Rounding out the top 10 issues on the ESF list are overconsumption, the need for more sustainable practices worldwide, the growing need for energy conservation, the need for humans to see themselves as part of the global ecosystem, overall carbon dioxide emissions, the need to develop ways to produce consumer products from renewable resources, and dwindling fresh water resources.
While that is an interesting list a more practical list is provided by Bjorn Lomborg the Global prioritizer and with The outcome of Copenhagen Consensus 2008. Of course it is interesting that they place Global Warming at position 14th first since they break it down by category. Even that is just trying to increase technology to help low income countries, as Jeffery Sachs would also support. Other than that the other criteria is just mitigating the effects of global warming.

A fairly long article but a good read is: Bound to Burn Humanity will keep spewing carbon into the atmosphere, but good policy can help sink it back into the earth. I do not share the pessimism of the writer on many of the points but the conclusions are well worth the read to build his points on. Which I include a part here:
If we’re truly worried about carbon, we must instead approach it as if the emissions originated in an annual eruption of Mount Krakatoa. Don’t try to persuade the volcano to sign a treaty promising to stop. Focus instead on what might be done to protect and promote the planet’s carbon sinks—the systems that suck carbon back out of the air and bury it. Green plants currently pump 15 to 20 times as much carbon out of the atmosphere as humanity releases into it—that’s the pump that put all that carbon underground in the first place, millions of years ago. At present, almost all of that plant-captured carbon is released back into the atmosphere within a year or so by animal consumers. North America, however, is currently sinking almost two-thirds of its carbon emissions back into prairies and forests that were originally leveled in the 1800s but are now recovering. For the next 50 years or so, we should focus on promoting better land use and reforestation worldwide. Beyond that, weather and the oceans naturally sink about one-fifth of total fossil-fuel emissions. We should also investigate large-scale options for accelerating the process of ocean sequestration.

Gillis, M., D.W. Perkins, M. Roemer and D.R. Snodgrass (1996) Economics of Development, New York and London: W.W. Norton; fourth edition, Chapter 8, Pages 191-219.


Blogger marry said...

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Doctoral Dissertation

12/10/2009 2:12 AM  

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