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Overpopulation

rockwater
Posts: 273
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6/17/2013 3:41:05 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
When I was in middle school in the 90's I remember being taught that people used to think the human population was rapidly approaching a Malthusian catastrophe where war over limited resources, disease from overcrowding, or environmental cataclysm from population-related damage to the environment would upend human civilization and either result in a drastic reduction in the world population or human exctinction. However, I was taught, worry about an imminent population bomb lessened in the late 20th century because advances in agricultural technology allowed larger populations to be fed more easily. Is this still the scientific consensus? Do scientists envision a maximum human population that the planet can maintain regardless of technological advances or drastic changes in the way humans use natural resources? That is, is it popular idea among scientists that the increase in the human population might bring about a global catastrophe before technology can develop to accommodate more people on the planet?

Now, we all know about the threat to human civilization that is posed by human damage to the environment, war, disease, etc, at the current population level. Things are unsustainable even with the current population if human use of natural resources does not change drastically. My question is whether preventing catastrophe requires a large reduction or even reversal in human population growth.

I actually was thinking this before reading that new Dan Brown book (yes, I know how inaccurate and poorly written his books are). I am not that I retested in discussing how lowering the growth rate if the human population should be accomplished, but rather whether it should be accomplished at all. (I strongly believe that no one should be punished for how many children they have, be forced to have an abortion, be forcibly sterilized, etc.)

Finally, if an attempt is made to reduce the growth rate of the human population, how can we prevent an economic catastrophe from occurring as older people live longer with fewer and fewer young people to care for them and work in the economy in order to support government programs that support the elderly? This is a problem already in Japan and less so here, but if the birth rate dropped and lfe expectancy increased significantly even in developing countries could the global economy handle the reduction in the workforce and the increase in medical costs for the elderly? How? (And no, Logan's Run is not an option.)
AlbinoBunny
Posts: 3,781
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6/17/2013 5:28:32 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
I don't know, but I have a feeling we can sustain a global pop. up to about 9 billion without too much trouble. No evidence or reasoning though.
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Lordknukle
Posts: 12,788
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6/17/2013 6:40:10 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
Here's the beauty about exponential growth:

Assume 100 units of resources being used per ten years, doubling with usage every ten years (ex. 1900-1910 (100 units); 1910-1920 (200 units), etc...). If we were to let this go on for 100 years, we would have 100 * 2^9 units being used per ten years, which is 51 200 units per ten years. Therefore, the amount that was previously used in TEN YEARS, would now be used in approximately 0.2 YEARS.

Exponentiation is a b!tch.
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AlbinoBunny
Posts: 3,781
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6/17/2013 7:44:53 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 6/17/2013 6:40:10 PM, Lordknukle wrote:
Here's the beauty about exponential growth:

Assume 100 units of resources being used per ten years, doubling with usage every ten years (ex. 1900-1910 (100 units); 1910-1920 (200 units), etc...). If we were to let this go on for 100 years, we would have 100 * 2^9 units being used per ten years, which is 51 200 units per ten years. Therefore, the amount that was previously used in TEN YEARS, would now be used in approximately 0.2 YEARS.

Exponentiation is a b!tch.

Time to get out the log-something graphs...
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wrichcirw
Posts: 11,196
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6/18/2013 9:50:15 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 6/17/2013 7:44:53 PM, AlbinoBunny wrote:
At 6/17/2013 6:40:10 PM, Lordknukle wrote:
Here's the beauty about exponential growth:

Assume 100 units of resources being used per ten years, doubling with usage every ten years (ex. 1900-1910 (100 units); 1910-1920 (200 units), etc...). If we were to let this go on for 100 years, we would have 100 * 2^9 units being used per ten years, which is 51 200 units per ten years. Therefore, the amount that was previously used in TEN YEARS, would now be used in approximately 0.2 YEARS.

Exponentiation is a b!tch.

Time to get out the log-something graphs...

Why? Global population growth is logarithmic growth.
At 8/9/2013 9:41:24 AM, wrichcirw wrote:
If you are civil with me, I will be civil to you. If you decide to bring unreasonable animosity to bear in a reasonable discussion, then what would you expect other than to get flustered?
wrichcirw
Posts: 11,196
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6/18/2013 10:43:10 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 6/18/2013 9:50:15 AM, wrichcirw wrote:
At 6/17/2013 7:44:53 PM, AlbinoBunny wrote:
At 6/17/2013 6:40:10 PM, Lordknukle wrote:
Here's the beauty about exponential growth:

Assume 100 units of resources being used per ten years, doubling with usage every ten years (ex. 1900-1910 (100 units); 1910-1920 (200 units), etc...). If we were to let this go on for 100 years, we would have 100 * 2^9 units being used per ten years, which is 51 200 units per ten years. Therefore, the amount that was previously used in TEN YEARS, would now be used in approximately 0.2 YEARS.

Exponentiation is a b!tch.

Time to get out the log-something graphs...

Why? Global population growth is logarithmic growth.

nm, I misread this.
At 8/9/2013 9:41:24 AM, wrichcirw wrote:
If you are civil with me, I will be civil to you. If you decide to bring unreasonable animosity to bear in a reasonable discussion, then what would you expect other than to get flustered?
Skynet
Posts: 674
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6/23/2013 10:04:54 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
This was the subject of my first two debates on here. They are probably embarrassing to read, but you could find a ton of sources and raw data in them.

There is a lot of bad information on population sustainability, and it gets quoted as gospel often. But if you take the time to crunch the numbers, it really doesn't add up. There are still the same number of really impoverished people in the 21st century as there were in 1960. About 500,000,000, if I remember right. But, the population has gone from around 4 billion to 7-8 billion since then.

The thing about people is that we aren't just consumers, we are also producers. People are a source of labor and innovation. It was estimated in the early 1900's that the world would run out of useful iron ore in 30 years or so. But when they did, less pure deposits became affordable to mine because the price of iron went up. But by that time, energy had become more efficient (Switching from steam to diesel equipment, and more efficient steam power), so the lower energy price offset the higher refining prices.

Places like Africa are poster children for how Capitalism drains resources from the poor, but it's really not that at all. Africa is mostly untapped, and unexplored for mineral wealth, besides a few famous examples like diamonds and fish. According to my sources in Africa, many people there are stuck in a poverty mindset, where you must consume what you have now, because you may not have it tomorrow. Many people don't know how to save up a margin of safety with wealth, or cannot because of national instability and corruption/crime. Besides the instability part, you can see the same bad habits with poor and soon-to-be-poor people anywhere in the world, including any town in the 1st world.
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Izazovnog
Posts: 15
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7/7/2013 6:39:53 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
Overpopulation is not an issue. We are far from that point. In the UK, a densely populated country 8 million out of 62 million live in London. London is vvery small compared to the country UK, and 8 million out of 62 million is more than one 6th. So we are far from it.
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RoyLatham
Posts: 4,488
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7/8/2013 12:18:38 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
Worry of population induced catastrophe peaked in the late 60s and early 70s. Paul Ehrlich's book "The Population Bomb" was a major force in raising the concern. Computer models were used to show that resource limits would produce economic devastation before the year 2000. It didn't happen. Huge famines of the post-War period have not recurred, and present famines in places like Africa are a product of politics, not resource limits.

The United Nations predicts that the world population will stabilize at about 9 billion within 50 years. The world can support a population that large. Advances in technology have greatly increased food supplies. Along with that, birth rates decline with increased prosperity. Populations in Europe and Japan are declining, and the US population would be decreasing were it not for immigration.

A driving force for population increase in poor countries is that large families traditionally were the social security for old people. It was so children would be available to take care of their parents in old age. Also, large families provide labor for subsistence agriculture. In more prosperous societies children move away, so they are not around to take care of the older generation, and various systems of pensions and savings (and also taxing the young to transfer wealth to the old) replace large families as the mechanism for social security.
Cheshire
Posts: 11
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7/8/2013 1:16:55 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
It seems that less concern is being expressed towards population growth, and more is be shown towards resources (fossil fuels, etc). Population growth is decreasing in developed countries; Japan's growth has already decreased to less than two children per couple ( hence their problem taking care of the elderly), America is expected to do this in a couple of years. I read Generation Alpha (babies born from 2010 to 2024) will have a large amount of job openings due to the decrease.
v3nesl
Posts: 4,463
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7/8/2013 1:47:01 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 7/8/2013 12:18:38 PM, RoyLatham wrote:
Worry of population induced catastrophe peaked in the late 60s and early 70s. Paul Ehrlich's book "The Population Bomb" was a major force in raising the concern.

Yeah, it's so 2nd millenium, lol.

I'm reading this excellent new book by George Gilder, called "Knowledge and Power". It makes an extended analogy between information theory, which is basically the science of telecommunications, and economics. He makes the case that it is the production and transmission of 'know how' that feeds humanity. Pretty interesting. His political conclusion is old fashioned conservatism: Government must provide the quiet communications channel, but must learn to welcome the 'entropy', the disorder of new ideas, because new ideas create wealth for the population at large. (And one can see that in this analogy, the Obama reign has been all noise, preventing any new ideas from reaching anyone's paycheck. The communications channel is filled with noise like Obamacare, drowning out any productive signals)
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RoyLatham
Posts: 4,488
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7/8/2013 2:08:07 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 7/8/2013 1:47:01 PM, v3nesl wrote:
I'm reading this excellent new book by George Gilder, called "Knowledge and Power". It makes an extended analogy between information theory, which is basically the science of telecommunications, and economics. He makes the case that it is the production and transmission of 'know how' that feeds humanity. Pretty interesting.

Liberals are most often opposed to technological change while conservatives who favor it. Liberals oppose automation, thinking it reduces jobs. Liberals want primitive labor-intensive farming methods with no chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or genetically modified plants -- on the grounds that the technology is too scary to risk. Nuclear technology is too scary to risk. Pipelines and fracking are too scary. Government control is based upon regulations established by bureaucrats who cannot tolerate anyone not working to the same rules. Innovation is only allowed according to their rules. Really bad decisions on energy suck money and talent out of innovative solutions and direct it to whatever is government approved. There's a pattern there.
v3nesl
Posts: 4,463
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7/8/2013 2:30:57 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 7/8/2013 2:08:07 PM, RoyLatham wrote:
At 7/8/2013 1:47:01 PM, v3nesl wrote:
I'm reading this excellent new book by George Gilder, called "Knowledge and Power". It makes an extended analogy between information theory, which is basically the science of telecommunications, and economics. He makes the case that it is the production and transmission of 'know how' that feeds humanity. Pretty interesting.

Liberals are most often opposed to technological change while conservatives who favor it. Liberals oppose automation, thinking it reduces jobs. Liberals want primitive labor-intensive farming methods with no chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or genetically modified plants -- on the grounds that the technology is too scary to risk. Nuclear technology is too scary to risk. Pipelines and fracking are too scary. Government control is based upon regulations established by bureaucrats who cannot tolerate anyone not working to the same rules. Innovation is only allowed according to their rules. Really bad decisions on energy suck money and talent out of innovative solutions and direct it to whatever is government approved. There's a pattern there.

Yeah. It's kind of ironic, considering one of their chosen labels is 'progressive'.

I just got to the point in the book where Gilder is pointing out that the great wealth creator of our day, the communications revolution - cell/internet, etc., is increasingly low power. An interesting observation. I've thought about how a good broadband infrastructure promotes telecommuting, further reducing energy consumption.
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