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Old 12-07-2012, 02:19 AM
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Default The Silent Crisis that is global human population numbers

An interesting piece of analysis on environmental problems

The Silent Crisis that is global human population numbers

Most environmental organisations tell us that ‘if only we each reduced our environmental demand, population growth would not be a problem’. But our economic system based on growth is driving us in the opposite direction. Even if all the efficiency and renewable alternatives could be implemented the savings would be quickly wasted if populations continue to grow.

You can try reducing consumption all you want, but when you keep adding 100 million and another 100 million, you simply drive every human to a lower and lower standard of living. You cannot escape that reality.
The problem isn't what's done so much as it is how much. Governments try to look like they're doing something by spending vast amounts of money on patches, but continue to promote policies that favour reproduction when they should be limiting it.
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Old 01-14-2013, 09:54 PM
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Talking about population has become unpopular in recent years - it was still very popular in the 1980ies and before with a big start in popularity with the book "population bomb" by Paul Ehrlich (who has by the way contributed to a more recent book called "Technofix" which explores the topic I mention next). Still, environmental groups give out condoms with rainforest animals on them to show that birth control will save the environment. Others indeed have fallen to the fantasy that population does not matter (and is unpopular to speak about) if we just get enough technology running to improve efficiency.
So one part says that the main issue is population and that there is too many people in the world and that we have to reduce this (mostly in other countries like Africa and India) because its all about populaiton and if we would not be so many people, we could all afford a good lifestyle without resource depletion
The other part says that population is not an issue, population growth is slowing down anyways and will peak within the next half century and that we can make up for all of this with modern high technology that increases efficiency, uses the oceans as algae farms and indoor nuclear driven greenhouses to feed the world - or we just all have to turn vegans and distribute resources more evenly then we can have 50 billion and live.

I personally think that both of these views are wrong while both issues of concern are right. Population and consumption are two sides of one coin, they are multiplying each other. It does not matter if there are 2 billion more people consuming as much as the average does now, or if 2 billion people double their per capita consumption (which for an average African or Indian or Chinese would still not even cut close to US consumption levels). The factor that is a strain on the Earth is total consumption, which is population multiplied by per capita consumption. So either you tackle both problems or you loose. And back to the book I mentioned - the solution to reducing consumption is not going to be achieved by technology. Technology is good in raising what we call standards of living, but it is not good at all in reducing consumption. Analysis of the past 100 years shows that overall the increased use of technology, even if it is more efficient technology, has increased total per capita resource consumption and continues to do so. It may decrease one parameter but instead vastly increase another. Overall IIRC there is still a 2% growth in resource consumption in the US and of course dont even start to think about China...

My personal conclusion is, that the only viable solution is a reduced consumption plus a sane way to keep population sustainable to a landbase. That means that an area should have only as much people living on it as can truely be supported sustainably indefinitely without needing to import resources to stay alive (which is a cause for many wars if that import is threatened) In that sense, many areas are vastly overconsuming and either have to really get much fewer people or to really use all the efficiency gains to actually use less resources - or more likely they have to do both. I personally think that the number of people that the Earth can truely sustain at our western lifestyle is incredibly small - too small to keep the systems going that support this lifestyle which is largely based on externalizing costs to other parts of the world and to people living there. Literally, each of us here has probably at least one or two "slaves" who produce our clothing, electronics or food in some place in the world - our lifestyle is based on that inequality - if we would have to do all this ourselves, it would take a lot of people working in textile or food industry to support those who do the office jobs that many people nowadays adhere to.
Know your idols: Who said "Hitler killed five million Jews. It is the greatest crime of our time. But the Jews should have offered themselves to the butcher's knife. They should have thrown themselves into the sea from cliffs.". (Solution: "Mahatma" Ghandi)

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