Sunday, April 12, 2009


This week I took a break and went surfing. Here’s a collection of population info-morsels from the Net.
- President Obama’s Science & Technology advisor, Nina Fedoroff, stated that human population exceeds earth’s limit of sustainability. What an incredible change of view from the previous administration.
- Ten thousand years ago, humans and our domesticated animals comprised 0.1% of earth’s total mammal biomass. Today we account for 98%. Incredible! We’ve gone from being totally insignificant to ruling the world.
- So what about the other mammals, the other 2%? Is there room for them on the planet too? Not in Plainfield, New Jersey, where the deer population is deemed too high and when sterilization didn’t work, officials organized hunters to shoot deer from trees. Oregon has a cougar management program that sets the minimum number below which hunting, i.e., culling is not allowed. Bizarre, isn’t it, that they can calculate and control appropriate population numbers for cougars, but not humans.
- On the contrarian side, one website stated that earth’s population will stabilize at 10 billion, which the planet can easily sustain. Water, it claimed, could easily and cost-efficiently be gotten by desalination and rain-water collection. Hmmm?
- An Alternet piece stated “The last 200 years of economic growth has been based on a monumental Ponzi scheme ... and we are coming to realize Thomas Malthus was right.”
My board ran ashore.

3 comments: said...

Many thanks to Nina Federoff and Hans for speaking out.

Wonderful comments. Thank you for it. The ideas generated here appear vital. While I am one who agrees with anyone who reports, "No one can predict the future", I also believe we can likely agree that if the human community keep doing precisely what we are doing now, we will keep getting what we are getting now.

One indication of faulty reasoning and extreme foolishness, I suppose, would be for us to believe that we can keep overconsuming, overproducing and overpopulating in our planetary home as we are doing now and somehow expect to achieve different results from the ones we so clearly see occurring now.

If, for example, by doing "more of the same business-as-usual activities" that we are doing now, we could be leading our children down a "primrose path" to a recognizably horrendous fate of some unknowable kind, would reason and common sense not suggest a change in behavior?

We have self-proclaimed Masters of the Universe among us who are recommending to the children that all of us live large and long by conspicuously consuming limited resources, polluting a frangible environment, overpopulating a finite planet and ravaging the Earth......just the way we are doing now. These arrogant and avaricious leaders are living examples of patently unsustainable lives and, yes, they take pride in their gigantic ecological 'footprints' and lifestyles based upon excessive consumption and unbridled hoarding. If our children were to keep doing what my not-so-great generation of elders are adamantly advocating and doing now, what is likely to become of them? The mere contemplation of the children's prospects leaves with a keen sense of foreboding.

My growing sense of frustration results from a realization that remarkably clear, intellectually honest and morally courageous reports from so many responsible and duty-bound scientists show us that the Masters of the Universe are determined to deny what could somehow be real and not to speak publicly about what they believe to be true regarding the human-driven predicament for which a single generation bears a lion's share of responsibility and in which the family of humanity finds itself in these early years of Century XXI. Even worse, their minions with leadership responsibilities and duties in environmental organizations have collusively allowed themselves to be enjoined from speaking about whatsoever they believe to be true. As a consequence, a conspiracy of silence has been established among the economic powerbrokers and the environmentalists. All the while, absurdly enriched "talking heads" in the mass media eschew intellectual honesty and moral courage in favor of reporting repetitively about whatsoever is politically convenient, economically expedient, socially agreeable and religiously tolerated.

The silence of many too many leaders is deafening, while the duplicitous, disinformational chatter of the talking heads is morally outrageous. What is much worse, sad to say, is that the determination of this woefully inadequate leadership and the bought-and-paid-for talking heads to live large and long in such stupendously unsustainable ways -- come what may for the children -- is not only grossly irresponsible, it is a profound dereliction of their duty to warn, I believe.

Perhaps change is in the offing.

thinkerhead said...

Environmentalism is nice but ultimately I'm a humanist: the environment is important primarily as a place to support human life. When push comes to shove I'll choose a farm rather than a wildlife park - fewer children going hungry rather than a herd of happy gnu. I think most people will if that's the only choice and we fail to think ahead.

Having said that, we would be stupid to allow our environment to become unstable or unsafe and we might want to discuss the reasons for allowing it to become ugly or depressing. We now have increasing evidence that excessively simple ecosystems are unstable as well as unattractive and that monocultures, whether of GM potatoes or of humans are particularly at risk of population crashes. The science of ecology seems to be coming together even if not quantitatively yet.

What makes quantitative ecology pointless and what's really missing is any agreement or even discussion of our objectives in quantitative form. Do we want a future in which each couple have a good chance of eating a healthy, varied diet, bringing up 2.3 children, and educating them to the limit of their abilities or would it be better to have two or three times as many couples competing with other couples and clans to bear as many children as they can before age, famine or plague strike them down.

So far we don't even have a political arena to discuss it in but in the absence of a decision we seem to be heading for option 2 and there won't be any wildlife parks there.

In the medium term the only animals surviving will be those on the farms so perhaps we should stop knocking chinese medicine if we want to see bears, tigers and rhinoceros. said...

I trust I am mistaken about the concern that besets me this morning: One day our children will look back in anger at those in my generation who had the chance at least to try and mitigate the fully expected damages of climate change but abjectly failed because we "played around the edges" and refused to take demonstrably responsible action. Sacrifices of 'sacred cows' often associated with making necessary changes were too damn hard for so soft, satisfied and selfish a generation of leading elders, I suppose.