Friday, September 23, 2011

7 billion mark coming up: Too many people and too little research

 

As the world population nears 7 billion human souls all looking for earthly fulfillment, speculation again arises on whether we have too many folks on this planet. When we passed the other billion points (and survived) we speculated then too about this issue. Well, were still here say some. No need to worry our pretty little heads about continually passing these billion points when there is not obvious consequences.

But there’s something peculiar about dismissing human populations growth. In all other fields, we get concerned when things continually fill up without constraint. When we pump gas into our vehicles, no one assumes that there is a bottomless tank in our car. One doesn’t pull up to a gas station and expect to spend the rest of their lives filling up their tank with gas. The tank has limits and the pump shuts off. This principle about limits seems to rule our lives in all aspects except human population growth.

Here’s the issues encapsulated by a good series on the subject:

7 billion: What to expect when you’re expanding—a special series | A Grist Special Series | Grist “Series Intro |The world population will hit 7 billion on Halloween this year, according to a guesstimate from the U.N. (Who knew those goons with the black helicopters had such a macabre sense of humor?) So, should you be scared? On the one hand, does the number 7 billion really matter? Didn’t we stop worrying about population decades ago when overblown predictions of global famine failed to come to pass? Aren’t birthrates declining all over the world, with some rich countries actually starting to shrink? Can’t technology enable more people to live better on fewer resources? Don’t we have bigger problems to worry about—the economy, war, human rights,” Grist | Environmental News, Commentary, Advice

We keep growing, increasing our populations exponentially so that each billion mark comes sooner and sooner. There are a zillion excuses as to why folks think we can expand without constraint on a finite planet—the elderly use less resources, technology will save us, our populations will level off at some point, and more—but none of these excuses are based on a rigorous analysis of the facts. We have never put so many people on one planet before.

The past is not much help in understanding overpopulation—not in the human sense anyway. Animal and plant populations just crashed when they overran a place. They either collapsed or moved on. And, mostly humans survived overpopulation by moving to another place.

But, unless we vastly increase our ability to move massive populations of humans to another Earth-like planet, we have no place to go.

It is all very odd: The complacency that we have over this insurmountable problem—overpopulation—is not based on reality. There are a lot of studies and a lot of speculation but there’s no place to check and find out what happens to rapidly growing human populations on a finite planet whose resources human need and are dwindling--all while Climate Change heats the planet up.

It must be one of those things that we don’t really think about much—except when we reach these billion marks and just wonder at our ability to reproduce without constraint.

Or maybe, we’re thinking that because absolutes, like the speed of light, are being challenged, that we can somehow squeeze an infinite amount of humans on a limited amount of space. We are a very inventive species:

Roll over Einstein: Law of physics challenged - Webster, NY - Webster Post “One of the very pillars of physics and Einstein’s theory of relativity — that nothing can go faster than the speed of light — was rocked Thursday by new findings from one of the world’s foremost laboratories.” (September 23, 2011) Homepage - Webster, NY - Webster Post

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