Why Population Matters
These four actions reduce emissions many times more than things like recycling, using low energy light bulbs or drying washing on a line.
Carbon emissions must fall to two tons of CO2 per person by 2050 to avoid severe global warming, but in the US and Australia emissions are currently 16 tons per person and in the UK seven tons. "That's obviously a really big change and we wanted to show that individuals have an opportunity to be a part of that," said Kimberly Nicholas, at Lund University in Sweden and one of the research team.
Having one fewer child equates to a reduction of 58 tons of CO2 for each year of a parent's life. Getting rid of a car saved 2.4 tons a year, avoiding a return transatlantic flight saved 1.6 tons and becoming vegetarian saved 0.8 tons a year.
The figure was calculated by totaling up the emissions of the child and all their descendants, then dividing this total by the parent's lifespan. Each parent was ascribed 50% of the child's emissions, 25% of their grandchildren's emissions and so on.
"We recognize these are deeply personal choices. But we can't ignore the climate effect our lifestyle actually has," said Nicholas. "It is our job as scientists to honestly report the data. Like a doctor who sees the patient is in poor health and might not like the message 'smoking is bad for you', we are forced to confront the fact that current emission levels are really bad for the planet and human society."
Overpopulation has been a controversial factor in the climate change debate, with some pointing out that an American is responsible for 40 times the emissions produced by a Bangladeshi and that overconsumption is the crucial issue.
The savings from switching to an electric car depend on how green electricity generation is, meaning big savings can be made in Australia but the savings in Belgium are six times lower. Switching your home energy supplier to a green energy company also varied, depending on whether the green energy displaces fossil fuel energy or not.
Nicholas said the low-impact actions, such as recycling, were still worth doing: "All of those are good things to do. But they are more of a beginning than an end. They are certainly not sufficient to tackle the scale of the climate challenge that we face.”
Chris Goodall, an author on low carbon living and energy, said: "The paper usefully reminds us what matters in the fight against global warming. But in some ways it will just reinforce the suspicion of the political right that the threat of climate change is simply a cover for reducing people's freedom to live as they want.
"Perhaps more importantly, cutting the number of people on the planet will take hundreds of years. Emissions reduction needs to start now.”Want to Fight Climate Change? Have Fewer Children July 12, 2017, Guardian
The East African Community (EAC), comprised of Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania, has a population of about 150 million people with land area of 1.82 million square kilometres and a combined gross domestic product of Sh7.4 trillion ($74.5 billion).
Africa's population is currently estimated to be 1.4 billion while the world's is at seven billion.
In the EAC, about 60% of pollution related deaths are due to contaminated water or poor hygiene, 40% due to indoor air pollution and one per cent due to outdoor air pollution.
"Demographic changes are one of the most crucial long-term challenges that will have a grave influence on the economy....using a regression analysis, this paper found that population growth affects real economic variables on the negative side," says a 2014 World Bank report dubbed 'Impact of Demographic Changes on Inflation and the Macro-economy'.
Ms Jesca Eriyo, the deputy secretary-general of the EAC, said: "If we don't control the number of children we are giving birth to, poverty levels will grow. This requires re-alignment of policies, processes and systems and sharing of resources for coordinated actions."
She added that it was also life threatening for a woman to give birth to more than eight children.
Changing human habitation patterns, overgrazing, bio piracy, deforestation, pollution, unsustainable exploitation of natural resources and introduction of invasive as well as alien species are some of the changing environmental characteristics that are associated with extremely negative impacts of climate change.
Dr Matano, executive secretary of the Lake Victoria Commission, said that EAC's population growth rate of 6% is overburdening its resources.
United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) executive director Christopher Cox says heavy metals deposits discharged from industries into water bodies including Lake Victoria pose a health hazards to the populace who consume contaminated fish.
"Studies have shown that 95 per cent of waste go directly to the lake leading to nitrification and also health concerns. Micro-plastics are getting into the fish that we eat,” said Mr Cox during the Environmental Research and Scientific Conference to protect Lake Victoria basin from degradation in Mwanza, Tanzania in February.
Experts also warned that huge chunks of forest cover have been transformed into farms leaving most land in the region bare.
Poor farming methods lead to the deposition of nitrogen and phosphate fertilisers into the waters, one reason which has been blamed for the mushrooming of hyacinth and decline of fish in Lake Victoria.
The EAC, once endowed with natural resources, now struggles to sustain water supply, food security and agricultural productivity. Other than health, tourism and livestock production are also threatened, risking sources livelihoods.
Depletion of natural resources is to blame for poor health indicators and high levels of poverty, which is further compounded by the high dependent population ratio.
The average life expectancy at birth is 57 years for the region. Diseases such as tuberculosis malaria, typhoid and bilharzia are widespread while malnutrition is rife among children.
Access to healthcare services is hampered by inadequate and inaccessible medical facilities.
A large number of children in East Africa often die due to starvation, malnutrition, diarrheal diseases and flooding, according to Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report.
Nutritional status is still a big challenge with prevalence of low birth weight being a leading cause of neonatal mortality. This is as high as 7.1% in Rwanda, 8.0% in Kenya, 8.4% in Tanzania, 11.9% in Uganda and 12.9% in Burundi. Moderate to severe stunting is highest in Burundi at 57.7% and lowest in Uganda at 33.4%.
The effects of climate change are already being felt by people in East Africa. In Kenya the ongoing drought has been declared a national disaster.
Observable effects of climate change on water resources in East Africa include change in rainfall patterns, receding or drying up of rivers and flooding that has led to loss of life and destruction of property East Africa, worsening poverty conditions.
Glaciers on Mount Kilimanjaro are disappearing and several rivers are now drying up. It is estimated that 82% of the ice that capped the mountain, when it was first recorded in 1912, is no more.
Women spend days looking for food and water hence cannot engage in any other meaningful economic activities.
Since early 90s, individual countries have made several attempts to control population including limiting the number of children to not more than three, keeping girls in schools to reduce the number of fertility years and step up family planning.
Adoption of family planning services more than half a century ago has not helped much. Kenya, for instance, was the first sub-Saharan African country to adopt a national family planning programme in early 1970s. The slow uptake of the family planning means that there are unmet needs, especially for rural women and teenage pregnancies.
Dr Obeth Nyamirimo, a member of the East African Legislative Assembly said Rwanda's bid to implement a Reproductive Health Bill, limiting the births by every woman to three had hit a snag.
"We introduced the bill but had difficulty in limiting the number and even lacked penalties to spell for those who breached the rule,” she said.
"We realised it is important for the governments and stakeholders to invest in empowering individuals and communities through dialogue and understand the contribution of a healthy environment to good health and manageable population,” she said.
The five EAC partner states agreed to strengthen the integrated population, health, and environment (PHE) programme under Lake Victoria Basin Council so that players from the sectors which affect one another would plan, budget and work together as a strategy for sustainable development.
The initiative involves government ministries and civil societies dealing in health, environment, water, forestry and wildlife for efficiency.
The integrated approach means that if an NGO had pre-dominantly been implementing on HIV/Aids programme, they must adopt environmental conservation.
Those involved in forestry could also educate the public about population control and its effects on environment.
"The PHE approach is one of the key solutions to attaining Sustainable Development Goals in the region.
Community champions in these areas have been trained to educate other community members about environmental conservation, family planning, reproductive health, HIV and Aids, malaria and control of communicable and non-communicable diseases.
Kenya has 50 PHE champions, Uganda 86, Tanzania 42, Rwanda 44 and 34 in Burundi.
Households are taught to have minimum requirements which include ensuring that all children under five are fully immunized, a couple does birth spacing or family planning, treat drinking water, have a dish rack, a clean latrine, a kitchen garden and also plant at least 50 fruit trees to promote agroforestry.High Population Piles Pressure on East African Bloc April 10, 2017, Business Daily
Bob Walker of Population Institute discusses the origins of population growth and its implications for the future, covering social change, scarcity, and environmentalism along the way.Our Origins Are Our Destiny December 20, 2016, You Tube
Chris Darwin Would Really Love it If You'd Eat Less Meat: An Exclusive Interview with Charles Darwin's Great-Great-GrandsonApril 12, 2018, AlterNet By: Matthew Ponsford
Chris Darwin is a Conservationist who claims that "we're living in a car crash moment of natural catastrophes - with climate disasters meeting mass extinctions and human hunger on an unimaginable scale." But, at the same time, he believes that it is not too late to turn things around. Darwin is the great-great grandson of naturalist Charles Darwin.
Recently Darwin was interviewed by Matthew Ponsford, a London-based journalist and producer.
Darwin has devoted himself to the cause by building nature reserves, fighting the extinction of species, and running the Darwin Challenge app (allows people to count their meat free days). He is hopeful that the leaders in the next generation will be inspired by his and others' efforts to "ride to the rescue" and save us from disaster.
According to Darwin, life on Earth has undergone five mass extinction periods in the last four billion years. The dinosaurs dying out 65 million years ago is the most well known. Darwin believes we are now in the middle of the sixth great mass extinction on our planet. According to him the cause is the destruction of natural resources. About 74% of this destruction on land is caused by the livestock industry. Overfishing is the biggest concern offshore.
He says there's a whole lot of train wrecks simultaneously happening: climate change, destruction of the world's ecosystems, the number of people with chronic malnutrition, topsoil loss, or the "two billion people about to arrive on our little, tiny, moist lump of rock spinning through the desert of space."
Darwin doesn't believe that vegetarianism is the only answer. He thinks the remedy for habitat destruction lies in the population restricting themselves to a maximum of three meat days of reasonable portions a week.
Darwin also opined on the ironic concern of many for animal welfare. Why aren't the same rules applied to all animals? For instance it is considered okay by many to string up chickens, slit their throats, and let them bleed out, but it is not okay to do the same to a dog or cat. He also points out that the chicken industry consumes a huge amount of the world's grain, which could and should be utilized by starving children. [3.1 million children according to the World Food Programme https://www.wfp.org/stories/10-facts-about-hunger.] He surmises that this is because human psychology is often blind to things it doesn't want to see.
On the subject of overpopulation, he believes that every concern about the environment is tied to it. The key to solving the problem, he says, is women's education. "If you educate women to have a life beyond raising children, they will have fewer children.”
Darwin's greatest fear is the mess that we are leaving for our children and grandchildren. Looking for another planet is not the answer because we are nowhere near viable transportation. If nothing changes, he predicts that, as a results of society's present lifestyle, our kids are going to have a hard time, and our grandchildren will inherit an even worse set of circumstances to deal with.
An extremely long article, but I strongly recommend that you read it and everything on this website.
The summary below the video covers only the high points
Technology has grown with us, side by side, since the dawn of human society. Each time that we've turned to technology to solve a problem or make us more comfortable, we've been granted a solution.
Technology wakes us in the morning; grows our food and cooks our meals; transports us to and from work or school; entertains us; informs us of world events; enables us to communicate with family, friends, and co-workers; lights, heats, and cools our homes and offices; and treats our injuries and illnesses. So, naturally, we are led to believe that new technologies will solve the most severe global challenges humans have ever faced-in particular, the three big problems of climate change, overpopulation, and biodiversity loss.
In many respects these very problems are side effects of past technological development. Climate change is a side effect of burning fossil fuels-sources of energy that power virtually all aspects of the modern human world, including transportation, manufacturing, and food systems. Rapid population growth has occurred due to improvements in sanitation, medical care, and agriculture. We're losing biodiversity because of deforestation (helped by industrial forestry equipment), overfishing (helped by modern industrial fishing equipment), and environmental pollution (often from the agricultural chemicals that grow food for 7.5 billion humans). All of these issues are related and compound one another.
Unfortunately technology isn't saving us from climate change, overpopulation, or collapsing biodiversity. While solutions have been proposed, some of which are technically viable, our problems are actually getting worse rather than going away, despite the existence of these "solutions." Greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere are rising. World population is growing more, in net numbers annually (85 million), than the entire populations of most countries. And more species are disappearing every year.
We could invest more in solar and wind power. We could develop manufacturing processes that save energy and don't use toxic chemicals that end up putting children and wildlife at risk. We could produce artificial, lab-grown meat so that we don't have to use a third of the planet's arable land for livestock production to feed a growing population.
However, the real problem isn't just that we aren't investing enough money or effort in technological solutions. It's that we are asking technology to solve problems that demand human moral intervention-ones that require ethical decisions, behavior change, negotiation, and sacrifice.
Averting catastrophic climate change will require us to radically redesign our economy -- but how, and to whose advantage? The only humanely acceptable solutions to overpopulation will require a shift in our attitudes toward reproduction and women's rights, and the political will to provide universal access to family planning. And maintaining the world's biodiversity will require preserving habitat-and that means changing land use policies and ownership rights, thus reining in the profit motive.
If we do make collective moral choices that lead to the successful resolution of each of these dilemmas, we may find that the results are mutually supportive. Reducing population would likely make it far easier to address climate change and biodiversity loss. Maintaining biodiversity (particularly in forests and soils) could help stabilize the climate, while protecting the climate would help preserve biodiversity.
Machines won't make the key choices for us. We need to rethink what we delegate to machines, and what we take responsibility for directly as moral beings.
The moral questions that humanity is confronting now are neither abstruse nor academic; they are plain, simple, and urgent. They concern every one of us, and they will surely impact our children and grandchildren. If we put off acknowledging and addressing these questions, we will in effect have made a moral choice -- but one whose consequences will be very difficult for any of us to live with.
Humanity has always faced challenges imposed by the limits of our ecosystems: our population has grown in good times, and fallen during famines and plagues. There are far more of us now, and each of us has (on average) a far greater impact on the environment. Further, our population continues to grow quickly -- and especially in the poorest of countries. Climate change is by far the worst pollution issue in human history, already impacting the entire planet and threatening the viability of future generations. And other species are going extinct at least a thousand times the "background" or normal rate, with two thirds of assessed plant species currently threatened with extinction, a fifth of all mammals, and a third of amphibians.
The scale of human numbers and environmental impacts rose quickly in the nineteenth century. The main driver was cheap, concentrated sources of energy in the forms of coal, oil, and natural gas-fossil fuels. These were a one-time-only gift from nature, and they changed everything.
We used technology to grow more food, extract more raw materials, manufacture more products, transport ourselves and our goods faster and over further distances, defeat diseases with modern medicine, entertain ourselves, and protect ourselves with advanced weaponry. Fossil fuels increased our power over the world around us, and the power of some of us over others.
Unfortunately, extracting, transporting, and burning these fuels polluted air and water, and caused a subtle but gradually accelerating change in the chemistry of the world's atmosphere and oceans. Secondly, fossil fuels are finite, nonrenewable, and depleting resources that we exploit using the low-hanging fruit principle. That means that as we extract and burn them, each new increment entails higher monetary and energy costs, as well as greater environmental risk.
The side effects of all this is depletion of topsoil, the fouling of air and water, and the increasing lethality of warfare. But there are three of these side effects that, if left unchecked, will make everything else irrelevant: climate change, overpopulation, and loss of biodiversity.
At the dawn of the industrial age -- starting in 1750 -- the carbon dioxide content of the global atmosphere was 280 parts per million. In 2015 it averaged 400.83 ppm, and it continues to rise quickly.
Greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere, causing the overall temperature of Earth's surface to rise. It has increased by over one degree Celsius so far; it is projected to rise as much as five degrees more by the end of this century.
Even slight changes in global temperatures can create a ripple effect in sea levels, weather patterns, and the viability of species that have evolved to survive in particular conditions.
Climate change extremes vary from one location to another. The people hit hardest are often those who are most vulnerable and least responsible. The American southwest will likely be afflicted by longer and more severe droughts. At the same time, a hotter atmosphere holds more water, leading to far more severe storms and floods elsewhere. Melting glaciers are causing sea levels to rise, leading to storm surges that can inundate coastal cities, placing hundreds of millions of people at risk. And global agriculture may be seriously impacted, undermining efforts to produce more food to feed a growing population.
The global human population has gone from one billion at the start of the nineteenth century, to 7.5 billion today. Our current rate of growth is 1.1% per year. This will double the population in about 70 years. If our numbers were to continue growing at one percent annually, our population would increase to over 157 trillion during the next thousand years. Of course, that's physically impossible on planet Earth. One way or another, human population growth will end at some point; but when, and under what circumstances?
The equivalent to the populations of New York City, Los Angeles, Tokyo, and Mexico City combined, are added to the planet each year. This amounts to another billion people approximately every 12 years.
A world population of 11 billion is expected by 2100, according to the U.N. -- and most of the growth will occur in nations that are already severely challenged to provide for their current populations and to protect their natural environment.
Rapid population growth creates political instability, contributes to deforestation and other environmental problems, and impairs our efforts to tackle climate change. It also complicates efforts to achieve greater economic equality: the larger our human population, the greater the reduction in living standards of those in wealthier nations that would be required in order to achieve global economic equality.
However, the diminished economic prospects of the American working class have much to do with growing multitudes overseas who can do the same jobs for a fraction of the cost.
Humans and their animals now make up about 97% of all land mammal biomass. The rest of the mammals have to compete with deforestation and other land-use impacts.
Our use of agricultural chemicals has led to the disappearance from farm soils of bacteria, fungi, nematodes, and other tiny organisms that provide natural fertility. As these microscopic soil communities are destroyed, carbon is released into the atmosphere. Even in the human gut, microscopic biodiversity is on the decline, leaving us more prone to immune disorders, multiple sclerosis, obesity, and other diseases.
Today's children are set to inherit a world in which many of the animals that filled the lives, dreams, and imaginations of our ancestors, that provided the metaphors at the root of every human language, will be remembered only in picture books.
Natural systems replenish oxygen in the planetary atmosphere, capture and sequester carbon in soils and forests, pollinate food crops, filter freshwater, buffer storm surges, and break down and recycle wastes. As we lose biodiversity, we also lose these ecosystem services -- which, if we had to perform them ourselves, would cost us over $125 trillion annually, according to some estimates.
In addition to climate change, overpopulation, and biodiversity loss we face the depletion of topsoil, minerals, and fossil fuels. This could have catastrophic impacts for future generations.
Most people and policy makers believe that technologies and markets will eventually provide solutions to these problems outlined above, and that these solutions will require few or no basic changes to our economic system or to the daily lives of most wealthy or middle-class citizens.
The long list of proposed technological solutions include alternative energy (nuclear power, solar and wind energy), energy storage (batteries, flywheels, pumped hydro, compressed air and hydrogen), and electric vehicle, electric self-driving vehicles and Transportation-as-a-Service (TaaS)
But nuclear plants are slow and costly to build, and there are widespread concerns about radiation risk in the wake of the Fukushima reactor meltdowns. Hydro, geothermal, wave, and tidal power are incapable of being scaled up to provide as much energy as society will need. And the rate of transition to renewable energy would have to accelerate to roughly ten times the current rate to achieve a fully renewable energy system in time to avert a climate crisis. Also, it's still unclear whether or at what scale a renewable energy system could be fully self-sustaining (i.e., powering all of its own inputs, such as mining and materials transformation) for decades and centuries to come.
Only 18% of our current final energy is consumed as electricity; much of the rest is used in the form of liquid fuels derived from oil. Most of those liquid fuels are consumed in the transportation sector-in automobiles, trucks, ships, and airplanes. Electric and electric self-driving cars trucks and and Transportation-as-a-Service are green alternatives that may substantially reduce the use of those liquid fuels. But in 2016, over 88 million new light vehicles were built; 99.1% of them had internal combustion engines.
It's undeniable that a rapid shift away from private ownership of gas-guzzling cars would reduce world oil consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. What's not clear is whether that shift can be driven rapidly enough by market forces alone so as to make a significant difference with regard to climate change
The only way to minimize these problems is to dramatically reduce overall energy usage throughout society-a project that will require not just innovation, but also commitment and sacrifice.
Additonal items on the list of proposed technological solutions are carbon capture and storage (CCS), planting trees, carbon farming (perhaps sequestering an additional 1 billion to 3 billion tons of carbon -- to 11 to 34% of current emissions from fossil fuels combustion), surface-based geo-engineering, fertilizing the oceans with powdered iron.
Official climate models in which the global surface temperature remains below 2°C assume high levels of carbon capture and storage. The scientists who construct these models have concluded that there is no other realistic way to reduce carbon emissions sufficiently, and fast enough, while maintaining economic growth. In effect, the only reason policy makers are seriously discussing extreme technologies like CCS and geo-engineering is that the project of shifting to alternative energy sources while maintaining economic growth is so daunting.
Capturing and storing the carbon from coal combustion is estimated to consume 12% to 35% of the power produced, depending on the approach taken. That translates to not only higher prices for coal-generated electricity but also the need for more power plants to serve the same customer base. New technologies designed to make carbon capture more efficient aren't commercial at this point, and their full costs are unknown.
Capturing and burying just 38% of the carbon released from current U.S. coal combustion would entail pipelines, compressors and pumps on a scale equivalent to the size of the nation's oil industry. It is costly and inefficient. A new generation of power plants would do the job much better -- but that means replacing 511 coal-fired current-generation plants, representing over 300 gigawatts of capacity.
Cooling technologies include growing high-albedo crops, spraying fine seawater to whiten clouds and thus increase cloud reflectivity, releasing stratospheric sulfate aerosols, or other reflective substances, and satellite-based mirrors or orbiting dust clouds.
Population growth and the negative agricultural impacts of climate change will require us to grow more food under conditions that are likely to be drier and/or less stable. Technologies that aim to increase crop production are gene splicing and bringing some animals and plants back from extinction.
Another proposed method of CCS is BECCS, which entails growing enormous amounts of biomass, burning it, then capturing the carbon and burying it. BECCS entails the same cost for pipelines, compressors, and pumps, but also requires vast tracts of farmland. By one calculation, an area the size of India would have to be planted in fast-growing crops destined to be combusted in order to offset less than a third of our current carbon dioxide emissions. Setting aside so much arable land for CCS seems highly unrealistic given that more land will also be needed to grow crops to feed a larger human population.
The prospects for carbon farming -- using soil-building agricultural techniques to capture atmospheric carbon and sequester it -- are more favorable. This would yield safer and more nutritious food, protect biodiversity, and pump less pollution into the environment. However, recent research questions the potential of soils to take up carbon. Also, carbon farming is set of techniques that will require significant changes to industrial agriculture. It is not likely to take off without initiative, investment, effort, and sacrifice, supported by political will manifesting through regulations and subsidies.
Managing solar radiation with space mirrors or white roofing material wouldn't remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and therefore wouldn't reduce other effects from these gases, principally ocean acidification. Seeding the atmosphere or oceans with sulfur or other chemicals might have serious unintended consequences, such as significant changes to the hydrological cycle or ozone depletion. Such effects might be cumulative or chaotic in nature, and hard to predict with existing models. And, unless geo-engineering efforts were kept continually operating, climate change impacts being held at bay would immediately reassert themselves.
So far, gene-splicing technologies have mostly been used to make crops immune to proprietary herbicides, with a resulting increase in herbicide usage and little change in crop productivity. Is it worth spraying our fields with even more glyphosate, which the World Health Organization has found to be a "probable" carcinogen that's also associated with collapsing populations of monarch butterflies?
Big claims are being made for new gene-splicing technologies such as CRISPR, which could open the door to different kinds of potential food production improvements. But who would benefit from whatever "improvements" are actually achieved? Farmers? Consumers? Or giant agribusinesses?
Some of the agricultural applications of CRISPR being researched include ones that would alter the biology of insects and weeds, which could spread their edited genes rapidly through wild populations, possibly reshaping entire plant or animal communities in just a few years. The prospects for side effects, such as upsetting food webs and facilitating invasions by other species, are as obvious as they are serious.
Reviving long-gone animals like the mammoth or the passenger pigeon will be a meaningless exercise if these species have no habitat.
So far technology has not solved our biggest problems: atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations are still increasing, climate impacts are worsening; population growth is plateauing, instead of declining, rapid population growth is contributing to political instability in a growing number of poor nations, and the rate at which plant and animal species are disappearing is increasing rather than diminishing.
The most promising solutions with the fewest likely negative side effects are changes in human behavior and in systems.
Throughout the world, successful programs for biodiversity protection have centered on limiting deforestation, restricting fishing, and paying poor landowners to protect wilderness areas. Biologist Edward O. Wilson's vison of setting aside half the Earth's land and seas for biodiversity recovery is both necessary and feasible, according to one expert.
We lack insufficient investment capacity to bring about technological solutions. Most nations can't even afford to maintain much of the infrastructure they already have in place, much less do they have the means to deploy most of the above solutions at the scale needed in order to deal with our three big problems of climate change, overpopulation, and biodiversity loss. Especially given the enormous existing levels of government debt throughout the world. Many shifts in energy usage technology that will be needed to support the transition to all-renewable energy will require households to invest in new machines (electric cars, electric heat pumps to replace furnaces, electric induction cooking stoves to replace gas stoves, solar hot water systems), but most households are likewise drowning in debt.
In addition, the rapid, unprecedented technological transformation that roiled the twentieth century depended upon conditions that cannot be expected to continue. These included the rising availability of cheap energy, plentiful raw materials, fast-growing economies, and the capacity to generate enormous amounts of investment capital. In the future we can expect constrained amounts of available energy, depleting raw materials, stagnant economies, and mountains of debt.
The global economy is generally slowing, a phenomenon called "secular stagnation.” A few economists have explicitly tied this slowing of growth to the well-known phenomenon of diminishing returns, where ach new increment of economic growth produces higher levels of environmental and social costs (i.e., externalities), which can begin to exceed benefits delivered.
Many, if not all, technologies discussed above will have their own negative consequences that, in a few cases, may be as serious as the problems they're intended to solve. Even solar and wind power, whose climate impacts are far lower than those of the fossil fuels they may replace, imply environmental risks and costs, including resource depletion and pollution associated with raw materials extraction and the manufacturing, transport, and installation of panels and turbines.
Inequality, like the other problems we've been discussing, is worsening: while absolute poverty has been reduced worldwide in recent decades, wealth is concentrated in fewer hands today than ever before. Further, as social problems tied to economic inequality proliferate and deepen, they tend to absorb our attention to the point that we lose sight of the ecological conditions that contribute to them-such as climate change and overpopulation. In other words, it is a very serious problem -- as serious in its own way as the three-make-or-break global dilemmas mentioned above.
Policy makers seem to be trying to do four things at once in order to keep social and ecological chaos at bay: (1) reduce economic inequality, (2) accommodate a growing global population, and (3) reduce human impacts on the environment (notably climate change and biodiversity loss), all while (4) growing their economies. Yet from a practical standpoint, the second aim is at odds with the first and the third: a growing population tends to increase (not reduce) environmental impacts, and it also makes programs designed to reduce economic inequality more difficult to fund, because a constantly increasing number of people must be served by those programs. Meanwhile, a larger economy is overwhelmingly likely to have a larger throughput of energy and materials, putting (4) at odds with (3).
Policy makers tend to assume that the technology-related trends mentioned above somehow can eventually make inequality, and the contradictions just mentioned, disappear.
Since the administration of John F. Kennedy, economists have delighted in equating economic growth to "a rising tide that lifts all boats.” That's an encouraging metaphor, but the trouble is that the tide tends to lift the yachts while swamping the canoes. And how helpful is a rising tide if it threatens to undermine the life-supporting capacity of planetary systems?
Demographic transition is a shift, observed over the past century in many countries, from high birth and death rates to lower birth and death rates (and slower net population growth) as those countries became more industrialized and urbanized -- i.e., as they adopted more sophisticated technology. With industrialization and economic growth, the problem of rapid population growth appears to solve itself.
Although addressing the inequality problem could help solve our population dilemma, it also could unintentionally increase overall consumption levels. When currently poor people become wealthier, they tend to spend most of their income gains on consumption, whereas wealthy people tend to withhold more of their income for savings and investments.
The proposed solution is to decouple GDP growth from energy usage and resource consumption -- to do more with less. Decoupling is suggested as the main key to banishing the contradiction inherent in trying to resolve inequality, population growth, and rising environmental impacts. Unfortunately, it turns out that decoupling has been oversold. A recent paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed that even the relative decoupling that most economists believe industrial nations have already achieved is actually the result of false accounting.
Without decoupling, the contradiction between reducing inequality on one hand, and resolving our environmental problems on the other, remains firmly in place. Worse still, it turns out that "demographic transition” is really just a theoretical construct that doesn't fit the data evenly and doesn't necessarily have much predictive value.
Before fossil fuels, and before the technological revolution they fueled, we were forced to confront and adapt to limits. We codified lessons about limits in a set of virtues (sufficiency, modesty, thrift, generosity, and self-control), and vices (greed, selfishness, envy, and gluttony) that were held similarly by people everywhere, in very different and distant societies. Lately we have come to believe that technology makes these virtues and vices at least partly obsolete. We are encouraged to want more, consume more, and waste more because the economy demands it. But doing so doesn't make us better people; it usually does just the opposite. By abandoning those old virtues and ignoring those vices, we merely become more dangerous to ourselves, one another, and our environment.
National / Global Actions
Population Awareness Day Needs AttentionJuly 16, 2018, Stockton Record By: Lee Miller
Once again July 11 is Population Awareness Day. The first one was in 1989 soon after the world's population reached 5 billion. Population awareness is not working well as we have added 2.5 billion in the 40 years since. It is not a celebratory holiday like the 4th of July, but a time to reflect on the human future, as well as our historic past. Each year finds us with less of planet earth per person as 80 million is our net population increase per year.
In 1798, Thomas Malthus, a social economist, warned that population increases exponentially whereas food supply increases more slowly. He stated that "The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man," Hence war, pestilence, famine will be the checks on population growth.
Because there were no widespread contraceptive around in 1798, Malthus believed that the passion between the sexes was not likely to be diminished to avoid high fertility rates. Since then, we have boosted the food production on the planet mostly by an industrial agriculture and food system with high energy inputs and thus people have discounted Malthus' gloomy view of the human future.
However, it takes 10 calories of energy to put 1 calorie of food on the table in developed nations. This high input of energy for food availability is not sustainable. Because fossil fuels are a finite commodity, it is only a matter of time before civilization will be in severe food crisis. Even now 800 million humans are malnourished and underfed, despite our current food technology, so we obviously are now producing more people than can be fed adequately.
What do we do to avoid a population crash that seems just down the road as we deplete the planet of fossil sunshine stored over the past 480 million years? As we burn these resources we are also heating up the planet and causing droughts, more severe storm events and sea rise. The future looks pretty grim to knowledgeable scientists. To reduce population and our carbon footprint, we need to develop alternative energy, reduce consumption per capita and provide contraception to the 214 million who now have no access to them. The population of developed nations with low fertility rates is 1.2 billion whereas underdeveloped nations number 6.2 billion where fertility rates are often high.
Unfortunately, the population problem gets little media coverage -- like it is not even happening, when it is the most consequential, momentous and serious problem facing humanity despite some deniers of the problem. The good news is that developed nations have already reduced fertility rates below replacement and their populations are about to decline which is helpful because these nations are high consumers of energy and resources. It is also good news that science has created a suite of contraceptives to curb fertility and most women in the world desire to have fewer children.
The bad news is that many can't afford or don't have access to contraception or the education to know that it can help them to healthier, better life for themselves and their children. Addressing these unmet needs with a global population assistance effort is what is needed to help these couples reduce their fertility which enhances their families' social, economic and educational opportunities.
Unfortunately, the United States acts like a fool in dealing with the problem. The current president has imposed a gag rule on international family planning providers. Trump has denied funding to the United Nation Population Fund UNFPA and the GOP seeks to defund Planned Parenthood.
If the average family size is one half child less in the future it will mean a billion fewer people by 2050 and 4 billion fewer in 2100. We can do this and we must do it for the sake of future generations. It would only take about a 1.5 percent of our $660 billion defense budget to assure that everyone on the planet could have access to sex education and contraception.
Investing in smaller families through the empowerment of women is part of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals. Gender equality calls for ending all forms of discrimination against women and girls everywhere and this will make acceptance and use of family planning easier. Ending forced marriages of young girls is needed too.
A smaller world population could ease tensions, refugee problems, congestion, pollution, loss of biodiversity, resource depletion and increase opportunities for posterity. The question is, why haven't we done this 60 years ago? Religious opposition, ignorance and lack of awareness and apathy are partners here, but humans also do not face up to intractable long range problems very well. Time is short and the problem is enormous, so it is past time to change our priorities.
Note: this article was first published in the Durango Herald
"As we crawled through the city, we encountered a crowded slum area. The temperature was well over 100, and the air was a haze of dust and smoke. The streets seemed alive with people. People eating, people washing, people sleeping. People visiting, arguing and screaming. People thrusting their hands through the taxi window, begging. People defecating and urinating. People clinging to buses. People herding animals. People, people, people, people."
- Ann and Paul Ehrlich, Population Bomb, 1968
Impact = Population x Affluence (consumption) x Technology
- Ehrlich and Holdren, 1971
Close your eyes for a moment and conjure up an image of overpopulation. Did you picture hundreds of people hanging off a train in India, or dark-skinned crowds in a street in a poor country?
Yes, family planning is important in those scenarios. Voluntary access to modern contraception is important for humanitarian reasons in the global south.
You probably know the litany of its benefits: decreased maternal mortality, healthier children, economic savings, progress in standard of living and education, local environmental protection.
However, the need for effective, universal access to family planning and to safe, legal abortion is much more important in rich countries in the global north. This is because of the issue of consumption.
What? you might be asking. The average woman in many African countries has five or more children. Niger tops the list; the total fertility rate there is over seven!
Surely the population explosion there must be causing problems. Yes, Niger is one of the lowest ranked countries in the U.N.'s Human Development Index. Repeated drought has caused famine and population pressure and overgrazing causes environmental degradation.
Let's compare two countries in the Western Hemisphere - the U.S. and Haiti. They are, respectively, one of the richest and one of the poorest in the world. The carbon footprint of an average person in the U.S. is about 20 tons of CO2 per year, while that of a Haitian is 0.2 tons - one hundredth of ours!
Thus, it would take 100 Haitians to equal the climate damage done by one of us.
Another way to compare the impact of a single person in the two countries is with ecological footprint. The ratio between the two countries is 16:1. Thus, 16 kids of a really large Haitian family would have the same impact of a single-child family in the U.S.
I have to admit that there are several problems with this comparison: It doesn't include the two parents, the average Haitian family size is just a little over three, so I doubt that there are many as large as 16. The legacy of a large family grows over generations.
In Niger, if each generation has seven children, the number of grandchildren would be 49!
The two measures of impact are different. The carbon footprint is global because carbon emissions into the atmosphere spread over the whole planet. The ecological footprint includes carbon emissions, but it also includes effects that are localized, such as damage to the local environment.
In any case, the impact of a person in the U.S. is much greater than one in Haiti or Niger, and it is spread over the planet.
There is good news. The unintended pregnancy rate (this includes mis-timed and unwanted pregnancies) has dropped significantly in the U.S. Whereas this rate has hovered at about 50 percent for years, the latest information is that it has dropped to 45 percent.
The news is especially good for young women for whom an unintended pregnancy can be devastating. This decrease is due to increasing use of effective contraception.
Over the last century, the sea level rose by about 6.7 inches. The rate for the last decade is nearly double that - double the rate of the whole last century.
The vast majority of scientists agree that this rise is human-induced.
The planet is a finite system. It was formed some 4.6 billion years ago, while humans emerged around 200,000 years ago. If we were to compress 4.6 billion years into one day, humans appeared at 23:59:56 hours, or four seconds before midnight. Yet, our presence here has been so intense, so predatory, that we now live in what many call the Anthropocene - causing irreversible changes to the planet.
Population growth remains a key issue, given that the numbers are mounting toward an unsustainable amount. Plus, more people means more resource use: more water, more food, more fuel. Where is all this going to come from? Should we blindly trust technology to rescue us? The recent findings that GMO foods are not any better than normal agricultural techniques don't bode well for this kind of expectation.
Arguments like these make people uncomfortable, annoyed or just plain angry. Change, when forced from the outside, especially by arguments you don't like, is never welcome or easy. People tend to wait until there's no other way out. The trouble with planetary change is that it is gradual and, thus, not scary enough to move people toward life-changing decisions. We can change not by waiting for whom will get elected - whether the candidate who doesn't want to believe in planetary change or the one who does - but by thinking less selfishly about our individual needs, our bank accounts and investments, or the kinds of food we like to eat, or the kind of baths we like to take. By trying to make a difference - first alone and then for the family, for the community, for the country and, finally, for the planet.
Africa's rapid population growth was touted as an attraction to investors but is seen now as a riskOctober 13, 2016, Financial Times Ltd By: Maggie Fick
In a city in the north-west Nigerian state of Zamfara, the average fertility rate is 8.4 children per woman.
A typical man is proud to have "as many children as possible" and sees his large family as part of his contribution to society, He also hopes his children will give back to the community and believes his children will guarantee him a comfortable future.
The number of Africans is forecast to double to 2 billion by 2050, growing at 2.6%, suggesting economic growth coming from the potential of a youthful populace wanting to open bank accounts, buy the latest smartphone and splurge on consumer goods.
But instead the swelling youthful population could be mostly jobless, trapped in poverty and frustrated, as shown in the fall in commodity prices and resulting economic to its lowest pace in more than two decades in many nations.
"Our people are an asset but we have to have the wherewithal to invest in them - without that, it's a tragedy," says a Nigerian official. "It's frightening."
"The doubling of the population in 30 years points to enormous challenges - for productivity, for food production, for health provision, for education,” says Kevin Watkins, head of Save the Children UK. "Governments are not rising to the challenge, either in terms of provisioning or in terms of accelerating the demographic transition [with policies to lower birth rates].”
Many young people are either idle or working part-time work in the informal sector.
To benefit from the demographic bonanza, "African governments and the private sector urgently need to work together,” says Acha Leke, a director at McKinsey, adding that job creation will be critical. "Clear policies are needed to ensure that industrialization takes off, that youth are equipped with the right skills to create the jobs needed and that entrepreneurs are enabled.”
Nigeria's almost 200m people are pushing the country's rundown roads, schools and hospitals to breaking point. The government plans to spend billions of dollars on infrastructure to boost growth but is struggling to fill a $11 billion budget gap with the country in recession.
Even in areas where barefoot children roam the streets fighting over food scraps, people still see it as an obligation to have many children.
The conservative north is a predominantly Muslim region where poverty and high unemployment are cited as factors behind the rise of Boko Haram. In the poorest northern states, the fertility rate is twice that in more prosperous southern ones. In Lagos, the average is 4.1, less than half the average in Zamfara state.
The precept that "God will provide” does not "mean that poor people should bring children in to the world that they cannot feed,” one woman said.
Abdul'aziz Abubakar Yari, governor of Zamfara, acknowledges that "the way we are going, we are bound to have a problem”, yet for the governor to speak out in favor of smaller families would be "political suicide”. "I would be stoned,” he says.
Every year the Population Reference Bureau produces a World Population Data Sheet, a widely used print and digital resource for the latest demographic, health, and environment data from around the world. This year PRB has focused on "human needs and sustainable resources".
While fertility rates have declined, PRB predicts a global population of 9.9 billion people by 2050, an increase of about one third from today.
Over recent years, PRB's 2050 forecast has been increasing. Rates of fertility decline in many sub-Saharan African countries have been slower than anticipated. The top 10 country fertility rates in the world are all in Africa. Niger, the highest, with an average of 7.6 births per woman, will triple in numbers of people by 2050.
Africa's population will more than double by 2050, gaining 1.3 billion people. Asia will gain only 900 million, and the Americas only 223 million. Europe and Russia will lose 12 million people.
Even though lower fertility rates are relatively low, recent rapid increases in world population have resulted in a large number of people of childbearing age, creating what's called "population momentum." This will cause many countries to continue to grow for many years.
Germany experienced the highest net migration of foreigners in its post-war history last year, at slightly more than 1 million people. For the first time, migrants from outside Europe made up the majority of Germany's immigrants.
Global carbon emissions figures, according to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, were up 60% from 1992 to 2013. China's total emissions rose nearly fourfold. India's total emissions increased nearly 300% to 555 million metric tons. Europe's total emissions decreased over this period by 17%, while emissions in Canada and the United States only rose about 5%. Overall, 43 countries were estimated to have reduced their carbon emissions from 1992 to 2013.
Because the "renewables” category includes solid biofuels, which can include whatever people burn for fuel, such as trees and bushes - in addition to solar and wind power, and hydropower --, many low-income countries have high renewable shares, such as Sierra Leone at 80%, while industrialized countries have low renewable shares (8% for the United States). Worldwide, renewables account for 18% of energy consumption, according to the International Energy Agency and World Bank.
Looking at public health, PRB found that increasing urbanization and industrialization in developing countries has led to higher concentrations of fine particulate matter that cause asthma and other serious health problems. Middle-income countries face the biggest challenge as their industrialization process moves more quickly than their ability to manage pollution.
Looking at the global income divide, PRB found that municipal waste is a massive and growing public health and environmental problem, particularly in low-income countries where toxins from large numbers of uncontrolled dumpsites end up in water tables and in the air through unsorted refuse burning. While waste volumes tend to rise in tandem with national incomes, wealthier cities also have more resources to devote to controlled disposal and household waste collection.
The biggest problem is jobs. Robots may beat workers to the punchJuly 7, 2016, Financial Times Ltd By: David Pilling
[Note: WOA's comments are in brackets].
Unlike the 911 terror attacks which changed the world overnight, the rapid increase of Africa's population is a stealth event.
While the populations of Europe and the Americas are close to zero growth, Africa's population of one billion will double to 2 billion within 35 years. By 2100, its population could easily have doubled again, with at least 4 billion of the world's predicted 11 billion people will be African.
In Africa, infant mortality has dropped dramatically, and life expectancy has improved. Until Africa's fertility rate falls sharply, its population will grow exponentially.
According to some, this is a huge "demographic dividend", seeing millions of teenagers becoming "consumers" and "markets". Paul Krugman predicted economic growth due to added inputs of labor. But one does not have to be Thomas Malthus to take a more skeptical view.
By 2035, more than half of all new jobseekers will be African. [but will they find jobs?].
Asia's successful economies had obvious advantages: high savings, competent civil services and a sense of national identity that is lacking in relatively new African countries thrown together by colonialist cartographers. What was a boon for Asia could be a bomb for Africa.
Africa is a net importer of food. Most farming is for subsistence. In Tanzania, where the population has more than quintupled from 10 million at independence to an estimated 55 million today, 70% of farmers use nothing more sophisticated than a hoe. Fortunately, it is fertile and about twice the size of California. [Tanzania is also subject to droughts]. Even so, it will have to double food production just to stand still. Disputes over land are intensifying because of the competing demands of peasant and commercial farmers and those of development. [Tanzania is also cutting down trees in large numbers to produce charcoal for cooking].
In drought-stricken Niger, several million of the 17 million inhabitants have only precarious access to food. Women in Niger have, on average, 7.6 babies. By 2100, Niger could be one of the 10 most populous countries on earth. (Four of the others are likely to be Nigeria, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania.)
Africa's urban population will rise from 470 million to 1.3 billion in the next 35 years, says the Mo Ibrahim Foundation. Today there are 56 cities in Africa with populations over a million, and by 2030 there will be nearly 100. While these cities should be vertical, to maximize creativity, productivity and efficiency, most are sprawling and unplanned. About half of Africa's city dwellers live in slums.
Only a few African countries have anything like a coherent industrial policy. Robots may beat African workers to the punch.
Bringing fertility rates down so that dependency ratios fall, an agricultural revolution, planned cities, tens of millions of formal, taxable jobs, and trustworthy institutions are necessary. Get it right and Africa could yet be an engine for the world. Get it wrong, and Africa will see mass migration, terrorism and conflict.
July 11 is Population Awareness Day. The extent of the population problem is gargantuan as the increase in the number of humans on our planet earth is 228,000 per day, more than 9,500 per hour, 158 per minute. To visualize this, think of 900 jumbo jets landing and deplaning 250 people per day at your local airport.
This horrendous increase in our numbers is ecologically and economically unsustainable. The economist's myth of infinite growth on a finite planet needs to be dispelled and soon. The possible collapse of civilization and the misery that entails should motivate our leaders to face up to the population problem rather than continuing to treat the symptoms.
We encounter congested highways and the clogging grows worse daily. The news is of a world struggling to handle a record 65.3 million ecological and economic refugees. Population pressures are the main cause of this Diaspora. We have spent $1.6 trillion on the war on terror in the past 13 years. Terrorists often are created when young men face economic insecurity as is the case in the Middle East where high birth rates are endemic.
Failed states are characterized by high birth rates, high illiteracy and populations that have outstripped resources and governance. More failed states are coming, e.g. Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt, India, Ethiopia. Reducing birth rates by empowering and educating women is a better investment in the long term than military expenditures to kill terrorists or dealing with the consequences of failed states.
This year's Population Awareness theme is "investing in teenage girls." There never has been a larger generation of young people on Earth, and millions of young women around the world aren't getting the modern family planning resources they want and need. Millions of women cannot exercise what should be a basic human right to fertility control.
Too few leaders associate overpopulation with current world dysfunction. The issues of refugees, wars and conflicts, conservation of species, biodiversity, ores, fuels, soils, forests, ocean life, and controlling global warming all would be much easier to manage and perhaps even resolve, if the population were either stable or in decline. We are currently 7.4 billion and heading for 9.7 billion by 2050, but in 1960, when I graduated from college, we were only 3 billion. This is an unprecedented increase in our numbers and our impact on the planet is a function of both our numbers and rates of resource consumption.
We would be much better off if our numbers were heading toward 3 billion instead of toward 9.7 billion, especially if we want to continue having enough food to eat. We currently use 10 calories of fossil energy to put one calorie of food on the table; clearly this is not sustainable. Finite fossil energy is over half gone and substitutes for it in agriculture and our auto culture are miniscule.
How can we achieve a decline in our numbers? It will take a Herculean effort and serious changes in our priorities and thinking. Empowering women by education and providing contraception and health care through voluntary family planning programs is an essential effective investment in development. We need to spend much more money to make such programs effective. Most women in the US have some level of access to contraception, yet 50 percent of pregnancies here are unplanned and it is much worse in the third world. An estimated 225 million women in the third world nations can't access modern contraceptives despite a desire to delay or prevent pregnancy.
There are things we can do and need to do quickly. European nations, feeling the economic pinch or recession, have had to cut back on family planning aid funding by half. The Republican Congress is stingy with aid for population assistance. Only public awareness and pressure on politicians can change our priorities. Just investing 1 percent of our enormous defense budget would provide $10 billion to fund family planning assistance at a realistic level.
Unfortunately, we live in a nation of many science deniers and uncritical thinkers, so it is hard to be optimistic and yet we are one of the few nations with the resources to deal with this problem. It may be too late to avoid great suffering even if we do all that is necessary. However, fewer children dying of malnutrition or starvation is a worthy goal to work for.
If you have a cause, it is a lost cause unless we reduce our numbers and our impact on our environment. It is for this reason that population always has been my cause - to continue civilization's best benefits and values for future generations.
Israel encourages its denizens to heed the biblical call to "be fruitful and multiply," but Dr. Alon Tal, a lecturer at Ben-Gurion University, said that the most pressing issue facing Israel today is overpopulation.
"There was a time when [having large families] was important for Israel," Tal told The Jerusalem Post.
"Those days are past." ... "We would need to be building 60,000 new apartments each year to keep up, but that's not happening," he said.
Tal will soon be releasing a book on overpopulation, titled The Land Is Full.
Tal slammed Israel's "culture of dependency" that assumes society will foot the bill for large families. "I know of cases where families didn't have a third or forth kid because they couldn't afford it," he said, yet noted that these same people "are being asked to subsidize families of 10, 12, 14 kids who aren't responsible. That's not fair.”
Tal's analysis showed that "most poor children are in large families.” He wants the government to cancel the "perverse incentives” of subsidies and other benefits for each child born in a family.
He also said that adoption is a wonderful way for people to have children while keeping the population balanced and therefore "there's no reason for spending so much money on fertility treatments. There should not be children in the system that don't have a home,” he said.
Even though people think that Filipino president-elect Rodrigo Duterte is a dictator, he has attacked the Catholic church for its opposition to contraception, saying, "we have to do something with our overpopulation".
Many Filipinos are impoverished. In comparison, in Thailand, where Dr Mechai Viravaidya ("Mr Condom") has promoted family planning since the 1970s, the average number of children has fallen drastically.
Thailand will likely be more resilient as extreme weather events associated with climate change play havoc with food production. In the meantime 50 million Africans face hunger after crops failed and in Ethiopia, southern Sudan and Yemen, three countries in most need of food, rampant population growth, a result of high fertility, has not helped them.
In many countries, climate change and increasing demand (much of it from population growth) are now a threat to the water supply and, in turn, food production.
Landmark UNEP Assessment Puts State of the World's Environment under the MicroscopeMay 19, 2016, UNEP News Centre
The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) has published Global Environmental Outlook (GEO-6): Regional Assessments, which is research telling us that environmental change which is sweeping the world is occurring at a faster pace than previously thought, making it imperative that governments act now to reverse the damage being done to the planet.
In almost every region, population growth, rapid urbanization, rising levels of consumption, desertification, land degradation and climate change have combined to leave countries suffering from severe water scarcity. These worrying trends are also making it increasingly hard for the world to feed itself, warn the reports, which involved 1,203 scientists, hundreds of scientific institutions and more than 160 governments.
The Executive Director of UNEP, Achim Steiner, said: "If current trends continue and the world fails to enact solutions that improve current patterns of production and consumption, if we fail to use natural resources sustainably, then the state of the world's environment will continue to decline. It is essential that we understand the pace of environmental change that is upon us and that we start to work with nature instead of against it to tackle the array of environmental threats that face us."
There is still time to tackle many of the worst impacts of environmental change, such as the damage to marine ecosystems and the rising level of air pollution, which has become one of the world's most widespread environmental health risks.
Climate change, the loss of biodiversity, land degradation and water scarcity are growing problems that need to be urgently addressed if the world is to achieve the goals set out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the report states.
In Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) states nitrous oxide emissions - from soils, leaching and runoff, direct emissions, and animal manure - increased by about 29% between 2000 and 2010. The abundance of beef and dairy cattle in the region has also increased methane emissions, which grew by 19% between 2000 and 2010.
Most of the cities in the LAC region have concentrations of particulate matter above World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines. Monterrey in Mexico concentrations of PM2.5 of 85.9, well above the WHO recommended limit of 20. More than 100 million people already live in areas where they are at risk from air pollution and the number is expected to climb to a total of 567 million persons by 2025.
Andean glaciers, which provide vital water resources for millions of people, are shrinking and an increase in the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events are affecting economies
In Asia and the Pacific ,unprecedented economic growth has lifted millions out of poverty, but this has led to unsustainable consumption patterns which are causing worsening air pollution, water scarcity and waste generation, threatening human and environmental health. Increased demand for fossil fuels and natural resources - extensive agriculture, palm oil and rubber plantations, aquaculture and the illegal trade in wildlife - are causing environmental degradation and biodiversity loss.
About 41% of all natural disasters reported over the last two decades occurred in the Asia-Pacific region, which also accounted for 91% of the world's deaths attributable to natural disasters in the last century.
The number of record-breaking rainfall events increased by 56% over the 1981 - 2010 period. By the 2070s the top Asian cities in terms of population exposure to coastal flooding will be Bangkok, Dhaka, Guangzhou, Kolkata, Mumbai and Shanghai, threatening hundreds of millions of people with displacement.
In Southeast Asia, the average area deforested annually is more than 1 million hectares, resulting in the release of hundreds of millions of tons of carbon dioxide every year between 2005 and 2015.
Water sources in the Asian Pacific area are contaminated by agrochemicals and human and industrial waste, including pharmaceutical and personal care products. An estimated 30% of the population uses drinking water contaminated by human feces. Water-related diseases and unsafe water contribute to 1.8 million deaths annually.
Uncontrolled dumping is the main waste disposal method in the region, a major source of disease. In Mumbai 12% of total municipal solid waste is burned either openly on the streets or in landfills, a practice that releases black carbon, dioxins and carcinogenic furans.
A growing middle class in the Asian Pacific and urbanization have led to higher emissions and growing amounts of ill-managed waste. Rapid economic growth and intensified industrialization has also led to increasingly unhealthy, polluting and carbon-intensive lifestyles. The main driver for accelerating domestic material consumption is the expanding middle class (from 21% in 1990 to 56% in 2008).
The size of the global middle class is projected to increase from 1.8 billion (2009) to 4.9 billion in 2030 with most of this growth coming from Asia. The OECD predicts that the middle class's global spending will grow to $56 trillion by 2030 from $21 trillion today and that more than 80% of this increase is expected to come from Asia and the Pacific.
In West Asia, a rise in the amount of degraded land and the spread of desertification are having profound economic and environmental impacts on the region. An increase in water demand, overexploitation of groundwater resources and deteriorating water quality, as well as unsustainable patterns of consumption threaten the region's ability to secure its sources of food, water and energy.
Scarcity of renewable water resources hampers West Asia's ability to produce enough food to meet the growing population's needs. High population growth and rolling conflicts mean that the carrying capacity of the land has become too low to support people with freshwater and food. Only four out of 12 countries in West Asia are above the water scarcity limit of 1000 cubic meters per person per year.
Also in West Asia, continuous conflict and the mass displacement of people throughout the region are triggering severe environmental impacts that endanger the health of people. Heavy metals from explosive munitions and radiation from missiles have leached into the environment as a result of the region's conflicts. The 2.97 million refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, Yemen and Iraq are placing an immense environmental burden on the region, producing about 1,440 tonnes of waste per day in 2015, overwhelming governments and increasing the risk of disease outbreaks.
Air pollution; lack of access to safe water and adequate sanitation; climate change; exposure to hazardous chemicals and wastes; emergencies and disasters; and exposure to radiation are all environmental risks in West Asia region, causing more than 229,500 premature deaths and the loss of 8.24 million healthy life years each year . This means every individual in the West Asia region is losing 17 days of life annually because of modifiable environmental risk factors.
West Asia also has 90% of its municipal solid waste disposed of in unlined landfill sites and leachate from these is contaminating scarce groundwater resources.
Rising populations, urbanization, economic growth, burning of fossil fuels and conflict all place enormous stress on the environment and harm human health. Climate change will exacerbate water stress in the region; biodiversity is under threat from urban expansion, pollution, the overconsumption of biological resources and changes in habitat.
In Africa many of the region's fisheries, both inland and marine, face overexploitation from illegal, under-reported and unregulated fishing. The continent has an opportunity to use its large young population to drive its growth. Low-carbon, climate-resilient choices can develop the continent's infrastructure, accelerate industrialization, increase energy and food production, and promote sustainable natural resource governance.
Indoor air pollution in Africa causes 600,000 premature deaths every year in Africa. The continent's reliance on the use of biomass for cooking, lighting and heating means that 90% of the region's population is exposed to this health threat.
More than half of the population in sub-Saharan Africa still does not have any access to improved sanitation, compared to 90% coverage in North Africa, with a vast difference between urban and rural areas.
African megacities such as Cairo, Kinshasa and Lagos, and emerging megacities such as Dar es Salaam, Johannesburg and Luanda, face challenges from poor management of sanitation services due to inadequate and deteriorating infrastructure resulting from underinvestment.
In Africa, about 500 000 square meters of land is being degraded due to soil erosion, salinization, pollution and deforestation. This land degradation can damage agricultural productivity, nutrition and human health.
A growing population and a rise in the demand for firewood will mean that forest cover in Africa is likely to continue shrinking, declining to less than 600 million hectares by 2050. Over cultivation, inefficient irrigation practices, overgrazing, the overexploitation of resources, uncontrolled mining activities and climate change will further degrade land in Africa, the UNEP report states.
This will lead to reduced food security, which can increase migration and spread disease, the destruction of infrastructure, such as roads and bridges, and high rates of poverty.
In North America, climate change is generating impacts across the region, and aggressive hydrocarbon extraction methods bring the possibility of increased emissions, water use and induced seismicity. The coastal and marine environment is under increasing threat from nutrient loads, ocean acidification, ocean warming, sea level rise, and new forms of marine debris.
New chemical contaminants and new sources of traditional pollutants are emerging as air and water quality problems that are of concern to public health and the environment.
Climate change in North America is damaging the environment. A five-year drought around the state of Texas ended in the spring of 2015 with devastating floods. The persistent drought conditions migrated north and westwards to California, the source of a significant proportion of US food production. Findings suggest that global warming exacerbated the drought by approximately 15-20%.
Hurricane Sandy was directly responsible for approximately 150 deaths and $70 billion in losses. The 30 centimetres of sea level rise off New York City since 1900 likely expanded Hurricane Sandy's flood area by approximately 65 square kilometres, flooding the homes of more than 80 000 additional people in New York and New Jersey alone.
Efforts to mitigate climate change in North America through reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and enhanced carbon sequestration are beginning to show tangible results and to create a foundation for potentially major advances. Solar deployment has increased dramatically, capturing 40% of the market for new electric generating capacity in the US in the first half of 2015. Solar now powers 4.6 million homes.
The Arctic is experiencing a profound transformation that is having important impacts on North America and the world as a whole. These rapid changes in the Arctic are driven largely by interacting forces of climate change and increased human activities. As one of the first areas of the world to experience the impacts of climate change, the Arctic region serves as a barometer for change in the rest of the world.
Warming in the Arctic has increased at twice the global average since 1980. There has been a progressive and dramatic decrease in summer sea ice extent over the past 20 years, which has led to an increased surface area of blue water during the summer months.
The melting of sea ice has also created new expanses of open ocean, allowing large populations of phytoplankton to bloom and change the marine food chain.
Climate change is caused by excessive production of greenhouse gases, but as the late Professor Tony McMichael puts it, the "cause of the causes" should not be overlooked. With climate change already close to an irreversible tipping point, we must reduce both our carbon footprints and the population growth of those creating large footprints or aspiring to do so.
Wise and compassionate promotion of contraceptive care and education in a rights based, culturally appropriate framework offers a cost effective strategy to reduce greenhouse gases.
In the early 1970s, Ehrlich and Holdren identified factors that create humanity's environmental impact, expressed in the IPAT equation: Environmental impact, I =P×A×T.
A = affluence (per person material consumption and effluence of pollutants such as carbon dioxide); T = technology impact per person; P = population (the number of people).
Fewer people requiring food would reduce the startling 30% of greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and meat production combined (including CO2 from deforestation, methane from livestock, and nitrous oxide from fertilizers). In addition, the worldwide trend towards higher meat consumption must also be reversed.
Lowering of death rates, through modern medicine, sanitation, antibiotics, [the green agricultural revolution], along with slow falls in birth rates, have led to a global population of 7.4 billion people, 7 times the number in 1850.
The total fertility rate (TFR) is the average number of children born to woman over her lifetime. A TFR of 2.1 is considered replacement fertility [in countries with low infant mortality]. Many countries have reached a TFR of 2.1, and 46% of people live where fertility has reached replacement rate, yet their populations continue to increase for roughly 60 years because of demographic momentum. Demographic Momentum occurs when there is a "bulge" of young people who were born when fertility rates were higher and are yet to start their families. Since the mid-20th century the world's mean fertility rate has reduced from 5.2 to 2.5.
55% of the world lives in areas where total fertility rates exceed 2.1. In the 48 countries designated by the United Nations as least developed, population is projected to triple by 2100. The UN's latest median world population projection of 11.2 billion by 2100 is based on continuing reductions in fertility rate; at the current fertility rate the world would reach 28 billion by 2100.
Most climate change discussions focus only on technology and consumption. Even if unremitting population growth is recognized, it is usually treated as a "given," something to be measured and (hopefully) adapted to, not as something that is sensitive to policy intervention. This is like noticing a bucket that is filled from a running tap and is close to overflowing, and discussing complex measures to make the bucket larger, rather than turning off the tap.
WHAT CAN BE DONE?
Advocate for voluntary family planning through the basic human right to have children by choice and not by chance. Contraception has many benefits, including reducing maternal and infant mortality and morbidity, teenage conceptions, and the incidence of (unsafe) abortion [as well as family well-being, an improved economy and lessening the drain on public services.] IUDs and contraceptive implants, which are long-acting - are the most effective.
Support organizations acting on population growth such as Population Matters (www.populationmatters.org), Population and Sustainability Network (www.populationandsustainability.org), and PopOffsets (www.popoffsets.org), which helps people and organizations to offset their carbon emission by funding family planning around the world
Removing barriers to accessing contraception. These barriers can be tangible (eg, inadequate resourcing or maintenance of contraceptive supplies, child marriage, or sexual abuse) and intangible (eg, cultural and familial pronatalism, religious or partner opposition to contraception, fatalism, or myths and exaggerations about contraceptive side effects). These barriers can primarily be tackled by education, in the media as well as in schools.
Nations as culturally and politically diverse as Bangladesh and Brazil, Columbia and Cuba, Thailand and Tunisia, and regions such as Kerala in India, have halved their fertility rates in about the same time as China, yet without a coercive one child policy. [Don't forget Iran.]
The Royal Society's 2012 report on climate change, People and the Planet, highlighted "the importance of both slowing population growth and reducing per capita CO2 emissions to stabilize the global climate”. In 2014 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stated, "CO2 emissions could be lower by 30% by 2100 if access to contraception was provided to those women expressing a need for it ... This is important not only in poor countries, however, but also some rich ones like the United States, where there is unmet need for reproductive health services as well as high CO2 emissions per capita.”
The 2012 London Family Planning Summit won promises of $4.6bn (£3.2bn; €4.1bn) from donors and developing countries to provide all requirements for modern contraception for an extra 120 million women by 2020
The Family Planning 2020 global partnership (www.familyplanning2020.org) followed with the ambition to assist the estimated 225 million who wish to avoid a pregnancy but are not using a modern contraceptive.
The UN's third Sustainable Development Goal, Target 3.7 -- to ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing -- reads: "By 2030, ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive healthcare services, including for family planning, information and education, and the integration of reproductive health into national strategies and programmes”
In 2009 a study showed that, by having one less child, an American woman would reduce her "carbon legacy” (the summed emissions of herself and her descendants weighted by relatedness) by 9441 tons. This is around 20 times more than would be saved by recycling and other eco-actions. People in high income countries have the largest footprints: each new UK baby will ultimately be responsible for roughly 35 times more greenhouse gas emissions than one in Bangladesh.
One study concluded that for every $1-2 spent per capita in family planning abates one tonne of CO2 emissions. Achieving the UN's low fertility scenario could contribute16-29% of the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions needed by 2050 to avoid global warming by 2°C.
Many people feel that they cannot satisfy their parental instincts by having only one or two children.
The unsustainability of unremitting population growth can be conveyed through education efforts, as interview data from Ethiopia have shown. Environmental concerns, along with sexual and reproductive health, have been widely and successfully promoted through radio and television "soap operas” (see www.populationmedia.org). These long running, culturally embedded dramas educate through their popular characters, torn between good and bad influences.
50% of pregnancies are unintended. Any contraceptive may fail. 'Voluntary' means large families -- in which child poverty is most common -- should not be criticized or penalized, and there must be a safety net for unintended births.
There is still the myth that concern for human numbers is intrinsically coercive, and this idea still inhibits discussion about population stabilization. Sensible people ought to be able to unite in condemning both coercive contraception and coercive conceptions that arise from women being denied access to the methods that they might choose should the applicable barriers be removed.
Given that intercourse is more frequent than would be required for intentional conceptions, in the absence of access to family planning, having a larger rather than a smaller family is less of a planned decision than an automatic outcome of human sexuality. Small families do, however, result through choice when women have easy access to education and family planning.
Identifying and removing barriers to such access in every setting must have a high priority.
The international community has invested $400 billion over 50 years in the 20 least developed countries that have the highest birth rates, but less than 1% of that has gone soley into contraceptive care.
To meet the unmet need for modern contraception would require investment in contraceptive care to be more than doubled from $4.1bn to $9.4bn annually. This amount is the same as 6 days worth of the US annual expenditure on defense.
Since its establishment, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been working to modernize all sectors from education to health care. The country has a population of about 30 million but it has one of the highest population growth rates in the world and also the highest percentage of youth. Many Saudi homes have an average of more than five children. In some subdivisions, 70% of the population are less than 20 years old. The number of dependents not only overburden heads of the families but it also put burden on the country's planners in the development of infrastructure and creation of new jobs.
There is a need for serious family planning. It is virtually impossible to have enough schools, hospitals, fire stations, police stations and other supporting facilities in such a small area with such high number of population.
Parents often put their children, even the very young, in private schools because there the classrooms are not so crowded. But costs are high and a Saudi family with a monthly income of SR15,000 ($4,000) will only be able to raise and take care of two children.
Saudi Arabia is still one of the most prosperous countries in the world and has a very high standard of living, but it is important to look to the future. Population growth can help make countries more prosperous and productive only if we raise youth, teach them and encourage them to be core of development not a burden. Otherwise, youth can be a burden on the national budget and resources. The faster the population grows, more hardships the youth will face.
This is a reprint from the 2013 Stanford University Scientific Consensus Statement.
A summary of approaches to contemporary global problems addressed six areas: Climate Disruption, Extinctions, Ecosystem Transformation, Pollution, Population Growth and Consumption Disease.
Under Population Growth, an achievable target is no more than 8.5 billion people by 2050 and a peak population size of no more than 9 billion, which is expected to decline from there. A hopeful target is to see no more than 7 billion humans on the planet by the end of the century. This is to be achieved by efforts in education, economy and health care. A special focus should be on family planning and gender equality, which rhymes well with other recommendations from scientific personnel.
In addition, a decrease in per-capita resource use, particularly in developed countries was recommended. Viable approaches include improving efficiency in production, acquisition, trade, and use of goods and promoting environmentally friendly changes in consumer behavior.
Humanity's grand challenge is solving the intertwined problems of human population growth and overconsumption, climate change, pollution, ecosystem destruction, disease spillovers, and extinction, in order to avoid environmental tipping points that would make human life more difficult and would irrevocably damage planetary life support systems.
Already we are seeing increased wildfires and extreme weather, sea-level rise, ocean acidification, pollution (contaminated drinking water in many parts of the world), rapid population growth in some areas (contributing to poverty, war, and increasingly frequent migration) and overconsumption in others (a main driver of overexploitation of resources and greenhouse gas emissions), and new disease outbreaks.
Not long ago, the planet was so big compared to humanity's impacts that Earth's resources seemed limitless. However, the human population has nearly tripled in just one human lifetime, and, at 7.3 billion people, is still growing rapidly, with the equivalent of a new Hong Kong added every month. The food, housing, water, and other goods and services desired by these ever-growing numbers of people has transformed more than 50% of the planet into human constructs. Virtually all of the world's most productive land is already being used to grow food and more than 60% of the world's big rivers have been dammed. Over one third of the total energy provided by all the world's photosynthesis, measured as Net Primary Productivity (NPP), is used by humans for food and biofuel production.
Still, one in nine people in the world go hungry each day; a third are malnourished, and over one in seven get by on a bare minimum of water.
In some areas population size is a major factor related to inadequate resources such as shortage of arable land, inadequate rainfall, and not enough NPP in the Sahel. But often many access-to-resource problems arise from political, economic, and social factors, including large inequalities in economic opportunities and land tenure rights, or poor infrastructure -- as is the case for food production. Although global crop yields are sufficient to feed the world (so far), distribution mechanisms are inadequate to transport it where it is needed.
World total photosynthesis does not provide enough energy to meet the survival requirements of billions of people. Most of the extra energy has been provided by burning fossil fuels. However, relying on fossil fuels to augment the global energy budget has input CO2 (and other greenhouse gases) into the atmosphere at a pace that is 200 times faster than what was normal for Earth's pre-industrial carbon cycle.
The richest one billion of us -- 15% of the human population -- consume half of the energy produced by fossil fuels, and consequently have been responsible for 60% of the CO2 problem. The poorest 3 billion people account for only about 5% of CO2 emissions.
Today we are now changing climate faster than people have ever experienced since our ancestors became Homo sapiens. We are seeing more frequent floods, wildfires and heat waves that kill thousands of people annually; rising sea levels that displace whole communities and cost hundreds of billions of dollars for coastal infrastructure building and repair; and in the oceans, some places are becoming so acidic that oyster and scallop fisheries are beginning to collapse. More than six million people die from fossil fuel-related air pollution each year.
By-products of the fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides we presently rely on to grow food for the world, the pharmaceuticals we use, the chemicals utilized in manufacturing and mining, and the trash we discard have contaminated even the most remote environments of the world. Many of these toxins have recently been shown to mimic hormones important in the metabolism of people and other animals. Whales and polar bears harbor such toxins in their tissues; arctic lakes far from any human settlements exhibit elevated nitrogen levels.
Increasing encroachment of humans into previously little-touched ecosystems is disrupting non-human communities and leading to more frequent and severe 'spillovers' of disease. Climatic change is further increasing the odds that novel diseases will crop up in humans and the plants and animals on which we depend: most of the world's diseases are tropical in origin, and as we build roads and destroy habitats there, we disrupt the native systems leading to an increased probability of exposure risk to us. Many of our wild animals are afflicted with antibiotic resistant forms of bacteria such as MRSA.
All of these human impacts have accelerated the extinction rate of wild animals and plants to levels not seen since the dinosaurs died out. The resulting loss of benefits to humankind already includes reduction in direct ecosystem services such as water filtration, pollination of crops, control of pests, food production, and emotional fulfillment, and indirect impacts like the spread of pathogens ranging from Lyme disease to Ebola.
We have plowed, paved, or otherwise transformed more than 50% of Earth's ice-free land, and no place on land or in the sea is free of our direct or indirect influences.
More than seven billion people alive today will likely grow to 9.5 billion by 2050, and the pressures of high consumption among the middle class and wealthy may well intensify. The best-case scenarios indicate that by 2050, the planet will have to support at least two billion to three billion people more than it does today
At the root of all of the threats listed above are the numbers of people in the world and the ecological footprint of each, especially the excessively large per capita ecological footprints in high income countries.
In a business-as-usual scenario, the food production, distribution, and wastage for 9.5 billion people would require converting even more of Earth's lands to agriculture, and over fishing more of the sea -- but, there simply isn't enough productive land left to accomplish that, or enough of the species we presently like to eat left in the ocean. If we continue BAU burning of fossil fuels, the increased food production would have to take place under climate stresses that agriculture and aquaculture have not yet witnessed.
If the present climate-change trajectory continued to 2100, Earth would be hotter than it has been in at least 14 million years, and large regions would be too hot to support human life outdoors. If present rates of extinction continue, in as little as two human lifetimes, Earth would lose three out of every four familiar species forever. Over half of all the Earth's vertebrate animals have been killed within four decades.
Guiding the planet for the future will likely require some fundamental changes-not just in human economic and governance systems-but also in societal values. Engagement with religious leaders, local communities and businesses, subnational groups and the military and security sectors of society, recently starting to burgeon, are critically important to further these necessary conversations and impel action.
Climate Disruption -- Viable approaches include accelerating development and deployment of carbon neutral energy technologies to replace fossil fuels; making buildings, transportation, manufacturing systems, and settlement patterns more energy-efficient; and conserving forests and regulating land conversion to maximize carbon sequestration.
Extinctions -- Viable approaches include assigning economic valuation to the ways natural ecosystems contribute to human well-being and managing all ecosystems, both in human-dominated regions and in regions far from direct human influence, to sustain and enhance biodiversity and ecosystem services.
Ecosystem Transformation -- Viable agricultural approaches include increasing efficiency in existing food-producing areas; improving food-distribution systems; and decreasing waste. Viable development approaches include enhancing urban landscapes to accommodate growth rather than encouraging suburban sprawl; siting infrastructure to minimize impacts on natural ecosystems; and investing in vital 'green infrastructure,' such as through restoring wetlands, oyster reefs, and forests to secure water quality, flood control, and boost access to recreational benefits.
Pollution -- Viable approaches include using current science about the molecular mechanisms of toxicity and applying the precautionary principle (verification of no harmful effects) to guide regulation of existing chemicals and design of new ones. We have the knowledge and ability to develop a new generation of materials that are inherently far safer than what is available today.
Population Growth and Consumption -- Viable approaches include ensuring that everyone has access to education, economic opportunities, and health care, including family planning services, with a special focus on women's rights. Decrease per-capita resource use, particularly in developed countries. Viable approaches include improving efficiency in production, acquisition, trade, and use of goods and promoting environmentally friendly changes in consumer behavior.
Disease -- Limit road-building and penetration of intact tropical forests. Since most global disease is a subset of tropical diseases, our focus should be on those areas in particular, but even temperate regions require vigilance -- chronic wasting disease, for example, threatens wild and farmed animals alike in North America.
The trajectories of population overgrowth, climate change, ecosystem loss, extinctions, disease, and environmental contamination have been rapidly accelerating over the past half-century. If not arrested within the next decade, their momentum may prevent us from stopping them short of disaster.
Why We Are Failing to Save Civilization - We Have Seriously Underestimated the Existential Threats Facing HumanityJanuary 31, 2016, Survival Acres
Some of the brightest minds have issued stark warnings on what lies ahead, but then turn right around and make unfounded claims that things are going to work out. I've spent years documenting events and effects leading up to the collapse of civilization, from sources all over the world. Here is a blog summary of everything I've uncovered.
Some of you wonder why I get a little excited at times... well, spend 5 - 7 minutes and READ THIS.
* 99% of Rhinos gone since 2014.
* 97% of Tigers gone since 2014.
* 90% of Lions gone since 1993.
* 90% of Sea Turtles gone since 1980.
* 90% of Monarch Butterflies gone since 1995.
* 90% of Big Ocean Fish gone since 1950.
* 80% of Antarctic Krill gone since 1975.
* 80% of Western Gorillas gone since 1955.
* 60% of Forest Elephants gone since 1970.
* 50% of Great Barrier Reef gone since 1985.
* 80% of Western Gorillas gone since 1955.
* 50% of Forest Bird Species will be gone in 50 years.
* 40% of Giraffes gone since 2000.
* 40% of ocean phytoplankton gone since 1950.
*Ocean plankton declines of 1% per year means 50% gone in 70 years, more than 1% is likely.
*Ocean acidification doubles by 2050, triples by 2100.
*30% of Marine Birds gone since 1995.
*70% of Marine Birds gone since 1950.
*28% of Land Animals gone since 1970.
*28% of All Marine Animals gone since 1970.
*Humans and livestock are 97% of earth's land-air vertebrate biomass.
*10,000 years ago humans and livestock were a mere 0.01% of land-air vertebrate biomass.
*Humans and livestock are now 97% of land-air vertebrate biomass.
*Our crop and pasture lands caused 80% of all land vertebrate species extinctions.
*1,000,000 humans, net, are added to earth every 4½ days.
*We must produce more food in the next 50 years than we have in the past 10,000 years combined.
*We need 6 million hectares of new farmland every single year for the next 30 years to do this.
*We lose 12 million hectares of farmland every single year due to soil degradation, depletion and loss.
*Humanity has only 60 years of farming left at current world soil degradation rates.
*We already passed world peak production growth-rates in 2006 for wheat, soy, corn, wood and fish.
*IMPORTANT: All IPCC mitigation, sequestration and adaptive strategies assume m-o-r-e farmland is available,
*In 10 years, 4 billion people will be short of fresh water, 2 billion will be severely short of fresh water.
* One billion humans now walk a mile each day for fresh water.
* Humans and livestock eat 40% of earth's annual land chlorophyll production.
* We are running out of cheap, accessible potassium and phosphates.
*These irreplaceable fertilizers cannot be manufactured by humans.
*We can recycle phosphates, but we don't because of because of mining interests.
*The nitrogen cycle is so badly corrupted it kills off river and ocean life.
*We face mounting crop losses due to drought, flood and extreme weather.
*We destroy 13 million hectares (26 million acres) of forest every single year.
*There are 80,000 untested chemicals in our environment.
*Mixed together in our bodies they are even more dangerous.
*We add thousands of chemicals to our food in a untrustworthy regulatory environment.
*We spray so much herbicide and pesticide, our croplands are "Green Deserts".
*Super Weeds & Super Pests make us spray more & different poisons on the land.
*GM foods destroy soil ecology and poisons us without our permission.
*GM crops destroyed 90% of Monarch Butterflies in 20 years.
*GM cotton stalks kill livestock that eat it.
*3 neo-nicotinoid infused seeds will kill one bird. Nicotinoids are water soluble.
Monocultures cause bee malnutrition due to a lack of bio-diversity in pollen sources.
*Bee malnutrition weakens colonies against poisons, disease and extreme weather.
*We add nanoparticles to our foods without testing for long term safety.
*We add computer designed, synthetic DNA to our food.
*We kill elephants and orangutans in Indonesia to clear forests to grow palm oil.
*This palm oil is burnt as "green" bio-fuel in Germany's diesel cars in Europe.
*Rainforests are slashed and burned in South America to grow soy.
*Pigs in China eat half of all the soy grown in South America.
*Soy oil is burnt as bio-fuel in Northern Europe.
*Our food is killing off life on earth.
How a farmer described growing wheat over the last 20 years...
*Plant seed harvested from previous year
*Allow wheat to grow naturally
*Harvest cutting ~1 foot from ground (storing some seed for next year's use, selling the extra)
*Plow (turning chaff, stubble, and weeds into ground for nutrient breakdown)
*Remove from planting rotation for 1 year
*Plow (cutting off roots)
*Plow (turn plant material into soil)
*Plant seeds bought from GMO manufacturer
*Drench with GMO's herbicide to prevent anything else from growing
*Spray with chemical fertilizers (because the ground doesn't have enough nutrients)
*Spray with herbicide to kill the whole field at once to ensure the whole field is ready to cut at the same time.
*Harvest, cutting the wheat all the way to the ground because it doesn't grow tall enough due to lack of nutrients
*Sell all seeds that came off of plants (it's illegal to keep anything)
*Burn off minimal stubble and turn once into the ground with disc.
*Repeat until soil is gone.
GMO INTENSIVE LIVESTOCK FARMING WILL DESTROY LIFE ON EARTH AND IS A SUPER-NATIONAL SECURITY THREAT TO EVERY HUMAN BEING
Runaway mass extinction is unstoppable and irreversible once started.
Green Energy is our solution to Climate Change. But, Climate Change is only 1 of 6 Direct Drivers for Mass Extinction.
*50% of land vertebrate species died off in the last 50 years.
*50% of land vertebrate species will die off in the next 40 years.
*+50% = Unstoppable Irreversible Mass Extinction.
*75% Species Loss = Mass Extinction.
*The 6 Direct Drivers of Mass Extinction are:
... 1) Invasive Species
... 2) Over-Population
... 3) Over-Exploitation
... 4) Habitat Loss
....5) Climate Change
GREEN ENERGY WILL NOT STOP MASS EXTINCTION
*Humans and livestock are earth's number one invasive species.
*We are in the last doubling of resource demand.
*At current growth rates our energy demand will exceed the output of the sun in 1,500 years.
*Energy demand is set to double in 50 years.
*Emissions have to go down 80% in 30 years.
*Renewable energy uses more minerals for less energy than fossil fuels.
*Post-peak minerals will hit in 20 years - more energy needed for less minerals extracted.
*It takes 10X more intermittent electrical energy to displace one unit of fossil electrical energy.
*It takes one ton of coal to make just 6 solar panels.
*Solar and wind turbine production is deadly toxic.
*Green energy systems only last 30 years and have to be replaced.
*We can't replace billions of green systems every 30 years and save earth.
*Recycling their alloys is difficult and uses more energy than mining.
*Green energy doesn't run on the sun and wind, it runs on mining minerals.
*Green energy is driven by short-term greedy capitalism and corruption.
*Green energy products will have to be replaced in 30 years during extreme shortages.
*Especially under current emissions-depletions-extinction scenarios.
*40% Green Energy requires 200% more copper says John Timmer of Ars Technica.
*Peak copper hits 2030 - 2040 says Ugo Bardi.
*Post peak copper production cannot accelerate at any price says Dave Lowell.
*This is true of any post peak mineral production.
*There is no real substitute for copper says Mat McDermott of Motherboard.
*We mined 50% of all the copper in human history in just the last 30 years.
*100% green energy requires 500% more copper.
*Peak minerals includes more than just copper.
*By 2050, expect to be past peaks for tin, silver, nickel, zinc, cadmium and more.
*Most new hi-tech green energy exotic mineral requirements are energy-cost prohibitive.
*We move some 3 billion tons of earth per year to get 15 millions tons of copper.
*We can't afford to mine 500% more copper at ever lower concentrations.
*We cannot recycle it into existence.
*We cannot conserve it into existence.
*Substituting aluminum for copper wire takes 5X the energy and is a brittle fire hazard.
Google's own Stanford Phd, green energy experts, Ross Koningstein and David Fork, tell IEEE Spectrum why ... green energy "simply won't work" and is a "false dream" without major lifestyle changes.
* You can see humanity fly off the charts here:
* In just 13 years, we will "lock in" an inevitable near term 6°C earth temp rise because we continually exceed the worse-case emissions scenario set out back in 2007 says climate scientist, Dr. Michael Jennings.
Why Trolls Are Green
You will notice I barely mentioned climate change. That's because green energy boosters focus exclusively on climate change and ignore everything else. They know we don't have enough resources to provide renewable energy for 9 billion people every 30 years. Green energy is based on mining, not the sun, the wind and the stars. The number one concern of miners is, supply and the profit-loss break even point. Solar panels and wind turbines are sold by giant conglomerates who just want to sell us as many panels and turbines as they can before we run out. Divestment is just a distraction for rich old and young. Learn why Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein and the NIC (Non-profit Industrial Complex) are funded by Wall Street.
The Most Important COP Briefing That No One Ever Heard, Lies, Racism, Omnicide
The Corporate Sponsors Of Bill McKibben's Divestment Tour
If you are still skeptical, get help, otherwise...
Why We Can't Fix Anything
In the early years of the 20th century millions of black folks in the Congo were murdered for control of the rubber tree plantations that were needed to make car tires. Cars were the latest greatest thing. If you tell a 50 year old man he has to give up his car to save life on earth, he'll tell you to go to hell.
In the early years of the 21st century millions of black folks in the Congo were murdered for control of the exotic minerals our smartphones need to work properly. Smartphones are the latest greatest thing. If you tell a 20 year old they have to give up their smartphones to save life on earth, they will tell you to go to hell.
During the 100 years between all the mass murders in the Congo, America and Europeans sold millions of tons of guns and ammo to poor countries all around the world. If you tell an American he has to give up his guns to save life on earth, he'll tell you to go to hell.
Renewable energy products have a life-cycle time of 30 years, after which they will all have to be replaced during a time of food, water, energy and mineral shortages. If you tell green energy boosters they have to give up renewable energy to save life on earth, they will tell you to go to hell.
Humans and our livestock occupy 97% of the land vertebrate biomass on earth. Humans and livestock consume 40% of annual land chlorophyll production and caused 80% of land vertebrate species extinction. If you tell a meat lover he has to give up meat to save life on earth, he will tell you to go to hell.
James Hansen and several renowned conservation biologists composed an open letter to Green NGOs begging them to stop their opposition to nuclear power in order to save all life on earth. He was told to go to hell.
Sometime in less than 50 years, life on earth will pass the tipping point for runaway, unstoppable, irreversible, cascading mass extinction collapse and because climate change is only 1 out of 6 direct drivers of this event, then renewable energy will do nothing in time to save life on earth and I will be told to go to hell.
You can blame capitalism, big banks and monstrous corporate conspiracies for the near term collapse of life on earth, but these things could not exist without us, and that is why we are all going straight to hell.
WARNING - Cognitively Dissonant Curve Ahead.
* No Soil & Water Before 100% Renewable Energy
Many say we can have 100% renewable energy by 2050. This is factually incorrect.
* We can have 100% renewable electricity production by 2050.
*But electricity production is only 18% of total world energy demand.
*82% of total world energy demand is NOT electricity production.
*The other 82% of the world's energy is used to extract minerals to make roads, cement, bricks, glass, steel and grow food so we can eat and relax. Solar panels and wind turbines will not be making cement or steel anytime soon. Why? Do you really want to know? Here you go.
Total World Energy Demand = TWED
* 18% of TWED is electrical grid generation.
*82% of TWED is not electrical grid generation.
*In 20 years, solar & wind energy is up from 1% to 3% of TWED.
*Solar & wind power are projected to provide only 6% of TWED by 2030.
*When you hear stories about solar & wind generating 50% of all humanity's electrical power by 2050, that's really only 9% of TWED.
*100% of electrical production is 18% of TWED.
*But, it takes 10X as much solar & wind energy to close 1 fossil fuel power plant simply because they don't produce energy all the time.
* That means it will take 10 X 18% of TWED to close all fossil power plants.
*Research says it will take 4 X 82% of TWED for a 100% wind-solar energy transition.
*10 X 18% + 4 X 82% = 100% intermittent TWED.
We require 10X the fossil electrical energy we use now just to solve 18% of the emissions problem. So, even if we use 100% efficient Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) for all the world's electricity generation, we would still only prevent 18% of our emissions. 100% efficient CCS is very unlikely. Switching to electric vehicles would only double electrical demand while most of our roads are made out of distilled oil sludge.
These figures do not include massive electrical storage and grid infrastructure. Such infrastructure is hundreds of millions of tons of materials taking decades, demanding even more energy and additional trillions of dollars.
* Solar & wind systems last 30 years meaning we will always have to replace them all over the world again 50% sooner than fossil sources.
*Solar and wind power are an energy trap.
*It takes 1 ton of coal to make 6-12 solar panels.
Business As Usual = BAU
*In 15 years 40% of humanity will be short of water with BAU.
*In 15 years 20% of humanity will be severely short of water.
* Right now, 1 billion people walk a mile every day for water.
In 60 years humanity will not have enough soil to grow food says Scientific American. They call it, "The End of Human Agriculture." Humanity's soil is eroding and degrading away at 24 million acres per year. And, when they say 60 years they don't mean everything is wonderful until the last day of the 59th year. Soil loss will only increase with severe droughts, storms and low-land floods.
* 50% of Asia's low-land rice paddies are threatened.
*50% of humanity depends on rice to survive.
A 100% TWED transition will take 2 generations to get done - minimum. It is a vastly more difficult and complex goal than you are told.
* We are losing earth's soil and fresh water faster than we can effect 100% renewable TWED.
*In 25 years civilization will end says Lloyds of London and the British Foreign Office.
*In my opinion, in 30 years we won't have enough fossil fuel for a 100% renewable TWED transition.
This is the most important fact I've learned:
* Renewable energy is unsustainable without massive energy demand destruction. * Humanity will destroy its soil and water faster than we can switch to renewable energy with BAU. Without massive political-economic change, civilization will collapse with 100% certainty. But, don't worry, I like to fix things.
Animal Agriculture = AA
* Humans + Livestock = 97% of the weight of all land vertebrate biomass
*Humans + Livestock = 80% of the cause of all land-air extinctions
*Humans + Livestock = 50% of the use of all land surface area
*Humans + Livestock = 40% consumption of all land plant growth *
.....* Net Primary Production.
* 50% of the soy grown in South America is shipped over to China to feed their pigs. Rainforests are cleared to grow animal feed and the required fresh water is, in reality, diverted to China.
*The Himalayan mountains are heating 2X faster than the planet and many fear that China will run out of water in 15 years by 2030.
*50% of China's rivers have vanished since 1980.
*60% of China's groundwater is too poisoned to touch.
*50% of China's cropland is too poisoned to safely grow food.
Animal Agriculture will destroy our soil and water long before we can effect 100% intermittent TWED transition with BAU.
* 7 billion people will not stop eating meat and wasting food without major incentive. Meaning a steadily rising carbon tax on meat. Just saying that can get you killed in some places.
* Without using James Hansen's 100% private tax dividends to carbon tax meat consumption out of the market earth will die. 100% private tax dividends means 100% for you, 0% for government.
* 100% for you, 0% for gov.
The funny thing is that eating meat and fire saved our ancestors from extinction and now eating meat and fire will cause mass extinction of all the life we love on earth. Survival is not an optional menu item as is eating meat. We have to act now, not 5 years from now, or forever be not remembered as the least greatest generation because there'll be no one left to remember us.
Michael Mann says we will lock-in a 2 degree temperature rise in 3 years for 2036 with BAU. Ocean fish will be gone in less than 25 years simply because of meat consumption.
We cannot let governments get control of carbon markets like how Sanders, Klein and McKibben want government to get 40% of your carbon tax dividend money. This is 100% in direct opposition to James Hansen's tax dividend plan and immoral. Hansen said that governments should get 0% of that money, not 40%. I strongly believe your carbon dividends should be in a new open-source world e-currency directly deposited to your phone to be phased in over 10 years.
James Hansen repeated at COP21 that his 100% private carbon tax dividends would unite Democrats and Republicans because government would be 100% excluded. Socialists like Sanders, Klein and McKibben want government to control 40% of that money. They are divisive and confrontational and Republicans will never accept their revolutionary dreams. We don't have time for this endless fighting. We only have time to unite and nothing unites like money. Environmentalism in the 21st century is about a revolving door of money and power for socialists, and not the environment.
Sanders and Boxer introduce 'fee and dividend' climate bill; greens tickled pink
* 10,000 years ago we were 0.01% of land-air vertebrate biomass. * Humans and livestock caused 80% of land-air vertebrate species extinctions and occupy half the land on earth. * 1,000,000 humans, net, added to earth every 4½ days.
Civilization is not, and never will be, carbon neutral. We're stuck with this black monster until we either all drop dead; or we fundamentally change EVERYTHING about our civilization (and it's far, far more then "just stop eating meat" or installing some solar panels). Even that would only buy us a little time. It won't be enough. We've got MONUMENTAL PROBLEMS unfolding now.
Do we really have the time to waste? Obviously not. Civilization and all of its horrible side-effects is still accelerating, creating more of the problems mentioned above and many others. It's as if for every one step forward we take towards solving one of these issues, we're still taking fourteen or even fifty steps backwards. That's not progress. It's naivety disguised as hopium, and it's being told to millions and billions of people. It's a lie. And damn it all to hell - it is not the best that we can do.
Although CEO Rex Tillerson of ExxonMobil says climate change is real, he distrusts U.N. climate models. He calls climate change an engineering problem with an engineering solution. Humans will "adapt to a sea-level rise," as we have always done. He told Charlie Rose: "My philosophy is to make money. If I can drill and make money, then that's what I want to do." He will also keep investing $37 billion per year in exploration. And along with other carbon fuel producers, he will keep fighting for subsidies, deregulation and free-market capitalism. With their war chest of $150 billion annual profits, they can pay all the lobbyists and investors they need to resist the calls for change.
Nobel physicist Robert Laughlin thinks the sixth great period of species extinction has begun, and we are the engine driving the process. We can't blame this on climate-science deniers, Big Oil, the Koch Bros, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Congress. It's us. We are all in denial. We keep making more babies and consuming more fossil fuels as if a planet of rapidly diminishing resources can support endless growth.
Since 1988, the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, with 2,000 scientists, has given us lengthy technical reports every five or six years. But their reports don't focus on population growth - our biggest problem. We make 75 million new babies each year. We're all in denial - leaders, investors, billionaires, the 99%, even most of those who warn about climate change. Surely, U.N scientists must realize that overpopulation is the main force driving the extinction threat. Yet they focus instead on lowering the rate of consequential damage. So, even scientists are in denial. They produce brilliant technical solutions for reducing the impact of global warming, but they avoid the root cause.
Scientific American says that by 2050 world population will grow from today's 7.35 billion to over 9.5 billion. Global population reduction is "the most overlooked and essential strategy for achieving long-term balance with the environment."
In "The Last Taboo," Mother Jones columnist Julia Whitty asks, "What unites the Vatican, lefties, conservatives and scientists in a conspiracy of silence?" Her answer is Population. This hot-button issue ignites powerful reactions. So politicians won't touch it. Nor will U.N. world leaders - even if it's killing us." We tell ourselves we're recyclers, green, love hybrids, eat organic, but we keep buying cars, carbon polluting products, and Big Oil stocks because we subconscious go along with Big Oil's strategy.
In a meeting five years ago, philanthropists Gates, Buffett, Rockefeller, Soros, Bloomberg, Turner, Oprah and others identified their most important causes. When asked if they had an "umbrella cause," it was overpopulation. Jeremy Grantham, whose investment firm manages about $110 billion in assets, said that to address population growth, "We don't need more Big Ag, we need fewer small mouths to feed. "
Bill Gates called for capping global population at 8.3 billion, even as his health initiatives extend life expectancy. Columbia University's Earth Institute Director Jeff Sachs says even 5 billion is unsustainable. To stop adding more is tough enough. But how do we eliminate two billion from today's total?
"One of the disturbing facts of history is that so many civilizations collapse," warns Jared Diamond, environmental anthropologist and author of "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed." A society's demise may begin only a decade or two after it reaches its peak of population, wealth and power. To avoid repeating the mistakes that lead to collapse, Diamond says we need leaders with "the courage to practice long-term thinking, make bold, courageous, anticipatory decisions at a time when problems have become perceptible but before they reach crisis proportions." Yet unfortunately, leaders move from crisis to crisis, often doing too little and acting too late.
Research we recently commissioned in partnership with Lancaster University has revealed that investing in family planning services is an even more cost-effective way to abate carbon dioxide emissions than previously thought.
Reducing future energy demand by preventing unwanted births and hence lifetimes in developed as well as developing countries is far cheaper - US $1.11 per ton - than any renewable energy alternative. The benefits multiply in perpetuity via each never-existing person's never-existing descendants. Furthermore, by reducing the sizes of future populations, the same dollar spent has many other benefits: improving food and water security; reducing soil degradation and desertification; helping to prevent civil conflict and mass migration; protecting biodiversity; empowering women; improving health; stimulating economic development; and reducing unemployment and poverty.
In 2014, more than half of women of reproductive age in developing regions wished to avoid pregnancy. However, approximately 25 per cent of these women - about 225 million - were not using effective contraceptive methods. Those not doing so account for approximately 81 per cent of all unintended pregnancies in developing regions. A respected analysis has shown that fully meeting the global need for modern contraceptive services would cost only about $9.4 billion.
Population Matters Chair Roger Martin said, "Government has been reluctant to consider population size and growth as relevant to energy demand. This study should make them think - not least because the potential cost savings to the taxpayer are enormous. Family planning is a highly cost-effective complement to - not a substitute for - the conventional United Nations approach and if they are serious about climate change it would be irresponsible to ignore it."
Even a world war or pandemic would result in at least 5bn people by 2100.November 2, 2015, AlterNet By: Steve Connor
In a study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Professor Corey Bradshaw of the University of Adelaide and Professor Barry Brook of the University of Tasmania show that today's growth rate will not be easily slowed and there are now so many people that even unimaginable global disasters won't stop growth, not even by apocalyptic events such as a third world war or lethal pandemic.
Although there will eventually be a reduction human fertility in the parts of the world where the population growth is fastest, fertility reduction measures have to go hand-in-hand with policies aimed at reducing the consumption of natural resources, the authors reveal.
Professors Bradshaw and Brooke are prominent ecologists who normally study animal populations in the wild. Their study concludes that, even if every country adopts a draconian "one child" policy, the number of people in the world today is one of the most daunting problems for sustainable living on the planet.
"Even a catastrophic mass mortality event of 2bn deaths over a hypothetical window in the mid-21st century would still yield around 8.5 billion people by 2100," they said.
Demographers project a 9 billion population by 2050. If current fertility rates don't fall from current rates, the world population could reach 25 billion by 2100, but they are expected to continue falling.
"We basically found that the human population size is so large that it has its own momentum. It's like a speeding car travelling at 150mph. You can slam on the brakes but it still takes time to stop," Professor Bradshaw said. Fourteen "per cent of all the human beings that have ever lived are still alive today," he added.
The researchers devised nine different scenarios that could influence human numbers this century, ranging from "business as usual" with existing fertility rates, to an unlikely one-child-per-family policy throughout the world, to broad-scale global catastrophes in which billions die.
"We were surprised that a five-year WWIII scenario mimicking the same proportion of people killed in the First World War and Second World War combined, barely registered a blip on the human population trajectory this century," said Professor Brook.
"Our great-great-great-great-grandchildren might ultimately benefit from such planning, but people alive today will not," Professor Brook said.
Simon Ross, the chief executive of the charity Population Matters, said that introducing modern family planning to the developing world would cost less than $4bn - about one third of the UK's annual aid budget.
"So, while fertility reduction is not a quick fix, it is relatively cheap, reliable, and popular with most, with generally positive side effects. We welcome the recognition of the potential of family planning and reproductive education to alleviate resource availability in the longer term," Mr Ross said.
British television presenter David Attenborough said that he could not think of a single human problem that could not be solved with fewer people.
Well, I can. How about management of information? Surely there would not be so many Gates, Jobs and Zuckerburgs born had there not been a pool of billions of human beings from which to choose in the first place.
But then again, perhaps one would not need all these thousands of smart phone applications and social messaging sites had the human population not mushroomed to the current 7 billion it is today, up from less than 3 billion when I was born.
How many people die trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea each year, month, week or day, on their way to a better life in Europe?
How many people die riding in the backs of trucks on their way to a better life in Europe?
How many more images of children clutching teddy bears crawling under barbed wire on their way to a better life in Europe can we see?
One of the things that education teaches us is that we should not bring more people into this world if we cannot be good parents, providing them with needed guidance, love and financial support.
But that guidance and financial support seem to be missing in large parts of the world.
How many more stories of children being raised in broken homes can one stand to hear?
There are currently enough people in the world to cause every social problem known to man. Refugees run wild, deforestation galore, climate change like never before. And among all this chaos, we have unmarried, unemployed persons with too many children trying to find some person or government official responsible for their current plight.
Last night I saw the dark side of humanity's track on this Earth.
A Southeast Asian nation was trying to deal with countless tons of garbage, while at the same time employing a faulty infrastructure to do so. The cleanup, somewhat successful, was a lesson in the sheer perseverance of the human spirit. It was also a lesson in what too many people leave behind.
This documentary would have made most people sick.
Take Seoul's subway. Have you ever experienced a crowded subway at peak commuting time? What comes into your mind when it becomes clear that sheer numbers of people have made it impossible to move? Does one simply fold in one's wings and allow the weight of the crowd to carry one up the stairs?
Fortunately, South Korea is one of the countries in the world where a declining population will eventually open much needed space - space to breathe, space to relax. Space to breathe. Space to collect one's thoughts. Space to breathe.
But most countries, due to low standards of living and ignorance, continue to encourage people to have more babies.
Babies are great, but they must be provided with the requisite love, care and financial support, things that are in short supply in our overcrowded world.
In the meantime, politicians, economists and governments tell us to have more babies for "the sake of the economy," they say.
It is all they know - or wish -to do.
In Nigeria, the chairman of the National Population Commission, NPC, Eze Duruiheoma, warned that the country's economy was incapable of supporting the nation's population annual exponential growth rate of 3.2% in terms of provision of basic infrastructures, employment opportunities and sufficient food.
The current challenges such as militancy in the Niger Delta, Boko Haram, conflicts between farmers, and other security implications were manifestations of Nigeria's population, he said. "All these require proper understanding of the population dynamics in terms of fertility, mortality and migration." Also "worsening unemployment and ignorance reinforce poverty and they pose serious security challenges".
He said the youth population poses security challenges of unemployment, social vices and the breakdown of family values. Additional challenges are rural-urban migration, declining availability of arable land, and decay in social infrastructure.
Authors: Homer-Dixon, T., B. Walker, R. Biggs, A.-S. Crépin, C. Folke, E. F. Lambin, G. D. Peterson, J. Rockström, M. Scheffer, W. Steffen, and M. Troell
Recent global crises reveal an emerging pattern of causation that could increasingly characterize the birth and progress of future global crises. A conceptual framework identifies this pattern's deep causes, intermediate processes, and ultimate outcomes.
Recent observations show that identifiable boundaries mark the safe limits of human alteration of planetary biophysical systems such as nitrogen and carbon cycles. There are limits levels of key variables, which if exceed, raise the likelihood of a regime shift, which would be a sharp, nonlinear jump or "critical transition" to an alternate state . Such a shift could affect vital social and economic systems and quickly degrade humanity's condition. An important case is climate, the critcal transition of which could cause a sudden drop in world food output that then produces chronic subnational violence, state failure, and broad international conflict.
However, this is a grossly simplistic account of how a catastrophic social-ecological crisis of global scope might occur. There are usually more intricate causal, spatial, and temporal structure variables.
Several global crises occurred in 2008-2009, revealing an emerging pattern or architecture of causation that characterize the birth and progress of crises in the future. In a conceptual framework that consists of a set of linked propositions, we identify the deep causes, intermediate processes, and ultimate outcomes of this pattern, which we call "synchronous failure".
Demographic pressure, climate change, resource scarcities, and financial instability, are working together in intricate ways which increase global systemic risk which can cause a "perfect storm" of simultaneous crises. However this phrase implies that the crises align solely by chance. However the authors maintain that the coming together of these crises is manifestation of an underlying causal pattern that is becoming more prevalent.
By our work, we hope to deepen scientific inquiry into humanity's future challenges.
There have been regular crises in the past, but we argue they were generally less global in scope and less less intersystemic in their causes and consequences. In past crises substantial resources external to the affected societies remained available for repair of these societies and they could learn, hopefully not to repeat their mistakes.
Today such second chances are becoming rarer. The global economy has expanded nearly 20-fold since the 1950s, and inputs of resources from natural systems and outputs of waste back into those systems have increased about 7-fold. Consequently our natural systems are under tremendous strain, with some, like our planet's climate, showing a higher frequency of extreme behavior.
During the same period, the revolution in information technologies, the quintupling of global trade, and the homogenization of human institutions and culture have produced a tightly coupled human social-ecological system and a sharp increase in the speed of operation of human social and economic systems. Tight coupling combined with a major crisis will effect most if not all of this system, minimizing the number of unaffected societies and regions from which afftected societies can draw resources, capital, and knowledge for repair and rebuilding.
Humankind must develop the ability to proactively navigate away from this new kind of crisis that could otherwise irreversibly degrade the biophysical and economic basis for human prosperity. Because humanity is ill-equipped to do this, we conclude, therefore, with recommendations for further research on both emerging patterns of global crisis and on pathways for rapid institutional evolution that could substantially reduce the risk of synchronous failure.
In his new book journalist Joel Bourne says humanity is facing a major problem: The world is running out of food. There are promising developments to meet the threat, he says, but time is running out.
In the 1960s, the farmers of Egypt grew enough wheat to feed the country and export some to its neighbors. But as the country's population grew, its farmers couldn't keep up, and Egypt is now the world's largest importer of wheat. When international food prices spiked in 2008, there were bread riots in the streets of Cairo.
In the 1970s we consumed or utilized more grain than we ate only about four years out of the decade. In the drier '80s, it was about five years. Since 2000, we've consumed more of these feed grains in eight of the first 12 years of the decade. We're starting to see the demand pressures outstrip our ability to produce food.
In the meantime, our yield gains, which have been spectacular since Norman Borlaug introduced the Green Revolution agriculture in the '50s and '60s, started to plateau.
Just as our demands are rising, we're starting to plateau in the amount of grain we're getting per hectare, while things like climate change are really starting to hammer us. There was a heat wave in Europe in 2003 that decimated a third of the wheat and grain and fruit crops. Also Russia had these enormous droughts events and lost up to a third to half of their crop. In the United States in 2012-2013 we had the worst drought since the Dust Bowl days, costing $30 billion.
Because of the increased demand from population growth and increased meat consumption in developing parts of the world, researchers say that we're going to have to double our food production by 2050 to make sure everyone gets enough to eat. Yet climate change is just starting to really hammer it down, so we're in a bit of a pinch.
80-90% of the calories we eat come from wheat, rice and corn. In the 1950s up to 30% of the world's population was chronically malnourished. Then there was this dramatic increase in agricultural yields that we call the Green Revolution. Mexico was depending on more and more imports from the United States. A young plant physiologist named Norman Borlaug developed a short-stemmed wheat that -- if you gave it enough nitrogen, enough phosphorus, enough water -- it would yield like crazy. Even though the population nearly tripled since he started his program in the 1950s, we have more than kept up with this massive influx of wheat and the new types of rice that he also developed.
The downsides of the Green Revolution are rampant fertilizer running into our wetlands and streams, and for the new plants thrive, they need water, they need a lot of fertilizer and they also need a fair number of pesticides. There are something like 300 million square kilometers of coastal zones that are now dead zones every year because of this algal bloom that's fueled by all this fertilizer going off into the water.
Then there is the controversial issue of biofue where huge subsidy programs from the government support the biofuel industry. In the United States ethanol made from corn takes up 40% of the U.S. corn crop every year. In Europe 8-12% of the arable land is devoted to biofuel crops. Most of the economists in the world agree that biofuels as having a major impact on driving up food prices around the word.
As fuel gasoline prices go up farmers can make money by growing biofuels. So food prices are directly linked to energy prices. As energy prices start to go back up, you're going to see rises in grain prices because of this direct connection between fuel and biofuel.
What about how many mouths there will be to feed in coming decades? The U.N. Population Unit has been ramping up its world population figures in the last three estimates. In 2000 - 2009 the median figure was supposed to be 8.9 billion by 2050. In 2011 this number was changed to 9.3 billion. Now it's up to 9.6 billion. That number is projected to rise to 11 billion by the end of the century. That we will have to grow as much food in the next forty years as we have since agriculture began 10,000 years ago. And we have to do it without destroying the water, the oceans, the soils, that we all depend on.
How might we might deal with this challenge? There was this great hope that the ability to transfer genes from all these different species would save us from where we were heading in terms of population and demand. Unfortunately, even though there have been some environmental benefits to GMOs, and they haven't really caused the dramatic health or environmental damage that some of the critics have been worried about, they haven't produced that much yield growth either. Maybe the yield switch is not one we can genetically manipulate. There's only a certain amount of sunlight coming into plants that can be converted into seed. Borlaug said that the Green Revolution would only give us sort of 30 years before it would begin to play out. We've had no yield growth in wheat and rice basically during the entire first of the 21st century.
There have been ways to modify plants and seeds to really increase productivity in some crops. For examples, researchers at UC Davis have developed a flood-resistant rice that can withstand two weeks of being inundated and still come back and produce a crop. This has been enormously popular and successful in Southeast Asia, where a lot of the rice is grown in very flood-prone areas. There is also hope in something called C4 Rice, a high-yielding rice that has the potential to boost rice yields by almost 50% using the same amount of fertilizer, water and all of the inputs. But it's still 20 to 30 years from the farmers' fields.
Organic crops are grown without chemical fertilizers, chemical pesticides, or GMO seeds. It's going to make good crops every year for millennia. And the organic crops are typically much more resistant to drought than conventional crops.
In the area of water conservation, there is micro-irrigation that applies water evenly to plants so you don't waste it.
Half the world lives on $2 a day and spends 60-70% of its income on food. On the other hand people of the middle class typically eat higher things on the food web, such as meat, which is expected to double literally within the next decade; but meat takes a lot more grain to produce a pound of meat than it does when people just eat the grain itself. In countries that need better nutrition, people need more meat, whereas in countries like the United States and Europe, we eat way too much meat.
You want everybody to move up the ladder, but as we do, we're also going to have to adjust consumption, so these are the two swords. You either increase production, or you reduce demand. You reduce consumption by eating lower on the food chain and of course the big question of course is how much we can reduce our population or limit population growth between now and the time when the food really starts to get scarce.
In less than eight months, humanity has used up nature's budget for the entire year, according to data of Global Footprint Network. Carbon emissions from fossil fuel now make up more than half of humanity's demand on nature.
Global Footprint Network tracks humanity's demand on the planet (Ecological Footprint) -- see http://www.footprintnetwork.org/ecological_footprint_nations/ecological.html -- against nature's ability to provide for this demand (biocapacity). The Ecological Footprint adds up humanity's annual demand for the goods and services that our land and seas provide - fruits and vegetables, meat, fish, wood, cotton for clothing and carbon dioxide absorption.
Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when humanity's annual demand on nature exceeds what Earth can regenerate in that year. Earth Overshoot Day has moved from early October in 2000 to August 13th this year.
"Humanity's carbon footprint alone more than doubled since the early 1970s, when the world went into ecological overshoot. It remains the largest and fastest growing component of the Ecological Footprint. It is widening the gap between human demand and the planet's biocapacity," said Mathis Wackernagel, president of Global Footprint Network and the co-creator of the Ecological Footprint resource accounting metric. Over the course of 2015, the absorption of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuel alone would require 85% of the planet's biocapacity.
If global carbon emissions are reduced by at least 30% below today's levels by 2030, in keeping with the below-two-degrees-Celsius scenario worked out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Earth Overshoot Day could be moved back on the calendar to September 16, 2030.
Suggested Correction to the Recent UNDESA (2015) World Population Prospects ReportAugust 11, 2015, William N. Ryerson, Population Media Center By: Dr. Randolph Femmer, the Author of What Every Citizen Should Know About Our Planet
In a letter to Dr. John Wilmoth, Director of the UN's Population Division, Dr. Randolph Femmer, author of What Every Citizen Should Know About Our Planet writes about the new World Population Prospects (see http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/ ), which on page 2 says: "Currently, world population continues to grow...." Wilmoth finds this a useful and commendable launch which could-have simply added"....by 83 million additional persons each year."
"And then the official report could-have further added that 'despite almost 35 years of conferences, papers, and insufficient responses, today's current increases of 83 million additional persons each year ARE LARGER NOW than the 80 million additional persons that were being added each year back in 1981.' "
Instead the statement as actually published reads "Currently,. world population continues to grow..." but then adds "..."...though more slowly than in the recent past."
On the same page the report avoids the clear implications of three billion more already added.
The fact that our worldwide numbers are not only three billions larger now is not mentioned, while the report instead chooses to portray world population growth totals now as growing "more slowly than in the recent past."
The claim that population is growing more slowly is based on the fact that population growth has gone from 1.24% a year a decade ago to 1.18% a year.
Why is this "growing more slowly" assertion problematic? Earth's functioning natural systems and Biospheric life-support machinery are affected more by the 83 million extra added each year now, and three billion more now, than 80 million extra added each year back.
On a continuing, constant, endless, widening, ever-worsening, and ever-accumulating worldwide basis, the natural sytems and life support are endlessly assaulted, damaged, dismantled, impacted, eradicated, and obliterated on a constant, continuous, worldwide, non-stop, ever-growing, ever-widening, and ever-accumulating worldwide basis by greater and greater and ever-growing human numbers and activities.
Note: earlier WOA carried a story from the New York Times titled 'The Unrealized Horrors of Population Explosion' ( http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2015-06-01/why-paul-ehrlich-s-population-bomb-finally-bombed ) which disparages Paul R. Ehrlich and his 1968 book, "The Population Bomb," for having predictions that did not come true. The following is the latest of a series of replies to the NYT article.
Since it is difficult to make predictions, we should cut some slack for Paul Ehrlich, who forecast the imminent breakdown of the world's ability to feed itself.
"Not that Ehrlich himself makes this easy to do." ... "The now-83-year-old Stanford biologist says insufferable things like, "One of the things that people don't understand is that timing to an ecologist is very, very different from timing to an average person." Uh, then why did you write a book clearly aimed at average people that confidently predicted that in the 1970s hundreds of millions would die of famine?," Justin First writes. First decided to finally read Ehrlich's book and was surprised to find that half of Ehrlich's prediction came true. He forecast that population would double by 2005, and, indeed, it went from about 3.5 billion in 1968 to 7 billion in 2011 -- he was only 6 years off.
But Ehrlich turned out to be wrong when he said that the planet's carrying capacity would not be enough to feed the world's people. Just as Ehrlich was finishing his book per-acre grain yields went up much faster due to the Green Revolution came along. Ehrlich was aware of the new technology, and he was "hopeful" about the prospects for an "agricultural revolution," but there were all kinds of things that could go wrong, so he didn't think anybody should bank on it. Productivity bursts, in agriculture as in other economic endeavors, have always been hard to predict.
While Ehrlich dismissed the possibility that populations might start shrinking in the absence of government coercion, but those population declines have been swamped by increases elsewhere, so overall Ehrlich still got it right.
When it came to people and their reproductive rates Ehrlich went over the edge "Population control, of course, is the only solution to population growth," he wrote. Slowing population growth in a few developed countries was nothing more than "short-term fluctuations". He endorsed forced sterilization of fathers of three or more children in India, adding, "Coercion? Perhaps, but coercion in a good cause."
United Nations' latest population projections show that, if high fertility rates continue, global population will pass 10 billion in 27 years and 15 billion in 73 years. It is only if the trend toward having fewer children continues and spreads to many more countries that population will stabilize or even drop.
This means that, instead of coercion, we can rely on college tuition and expensive urban real estate to keep fertility rates in check. Will it turn to out to be any more accurate? Not sure. Predicting is hard. Especially about the future.
Note: WOA does not agree with this article from New York Times, however, if you look at the video that accompany the article, it does show lowering fertility by voluntary family planning.
In 1966 a science fiction novel titled "Make Room! Make Room!" sketched a dystopian world in which too many people scrambled for too few resources. Later the book became the basis for a 1973 film about a hellish future, "Soylent Green." However, no one was more influential than Paul R. Ehrlich, in his 1968 book, "The Population Bomb," which said that humankind stood on the brink of apocalypse because of human overpopulation. He later went on to forecast that hundreds of millions would starve to death in the 1970s, that 65 million of them would be Americans, that crowded India was essentially doomed, that odds were fair "England will not exist in the year 2000." He warned in 1970 that "sometime in the next 15 years, the end will come," with "an utter breakdown of the capacity of the planet to support humanity."
Population is twice what it was when the book was written yet humanity has managed to hang on.
Dr. Ehrlich still asserts that the end is still nigh, and still insists that 'population control' is required, preferably through voluntary methods. But if necessary he would endorse eliminating "tax benefits for having additional children." Allowing women to have as many babies as they wanted, he said, is akin to letting everyone "throw as much of their garbage into their neighbor's backyard as they want."
Stewart Brand, founding editor of the Whole Earth Catalog said, "How many years do you have to not have the world end" to reach a conclusion that "maybe it didn't end because that reason was wrong?"
The world figured out how to feed itself despite its rising numbers, thanks to Norman E. Borlaug, whose breeding of high-yielding, disease-resistant crops led to the Green Revolution [which saved millions of lives].
Julian L. Simon, an economist who established himself as the anti-Ehrlich, argued that "whatever the rate of population growth is, historically it has been that the food supply increases at least as fast, if not faster."
Fred Pearce, a British writer who specializes in global population, is worried about population decline.
Because of improved health standards, birthing many children is not the survival imperative for families that it once was. In cramped cities, large families are not the blessing they were in the agricultural past. And women in many societies are ever more independent, socially and economically; they no longer accept that their fate is to be endlessly pregnant. If anything, the worry in many countries is that their populations are aging and that national vitality is ebbing.
Pearce blames overconsumpton. "Let's look at carbon dioxide emissions, the biggest current concern because of climate change," he continued. "The world's richest half billion people - that's about 7 percent of the global population - are responsible for half of the world's carbon dioxide emissions. Meanwhile, the poorest 50 percent of the population are responsible for just 7 percent of emissions."
Humanity's 'Inexorable' Population Growth is So Rapid That Even a Global Catastrophe Would Not Stop itOctober 27, 2014, Independent UK By: Steve Connor
The global human population is "locked in" to an inexorable rise this century and there is no "quick fix" to the population time-bomb, because there are now so many people that even unimaginable global disasters won't stop growth, scientists have concluded.
Two prominent ecologists have concluded that one of the most daunting challenges for sustainable living on the planet in the coming century is runaway population growth - even if every country adopts a draconian "one child" policy.
Professor Corey Bradshaw of the University of Adelaide and Professor Barry Brook of the University of Tasmania published the results of their study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Professor Bradshaw said that the study was designed to look at human numbers with the insight of an ecologist studying natural impacts on animals to determine whether factors such as pandemics and world wars could dramatically influence the population projections. "Global population has risen so fast over the past century that roughly 14 per cent of all the human beings that have ever lived are still alive today - that's a sobering statistic," he said. "Even a worldwide one-child policy like China's" would have little affect on current growth figures and estimates," he added.
The researchers devised nine different scenarios that could influence human numbers this century, ranging from "business as usual" with existing fertility rates, to an unlikely one-child-per-family policy throughout the world, to broad-scale global catastrophes in which billions die.
Measures to control fertility through family planning policies will eventually have an impact on reducing the pressure on limited resources, but not immediately, Professor Brook said.
Simon Ross, the chief executive of the charity Population Matters, said that introducing modern family planning to the developing world would cost less than $4bn - about one third of the UK's annual aid budget.
"So, while fertility reduction is not a quick fix, it is relatively cheap, reliable, and popular with most, with generally positive side effects. We welcome the recognition of the potential of family planning and reproductive education to alleviate resource availability in the longer term," Mr Ross said.
Well worth reading.
In the introduction to the picture book Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot (OVER), William Ryerson covers all the bases on overpopulation, sustainable living, resource depletion, poverty, preventing unplanned pregnancies, educational soaps, child brides, and so on.
The book was written for the Global Population Speakout, an annual event promoting the 'speaking out' for population awareness. Ryerson is the president of the Population Media Center and CEO of the Population Institute.
. . . more
A new book skips over the statistics and gets right to the emotional core of overpopulationMarch 3, 2015, AlterNet By: Lindsay Abrams
The more than 7 billion humans alive right now are, with 5 billion more expected by the end of the century. Already the planet lost half of its wildlife population in just four decades, and climate change, spurred on by our appetite for fossil fuels, is threatening Earth's future.
The logical arguments for getting population under control are compelling, says Tom Butler of the Foundation for Deep Ecology. Yet somehow they just are not working.
Butler came up with a coffee-table book featuring images of a world overrun by human activity. "Take a look: 7.3 billion people on the planet, trying to get by, living as they do........here's what it looks like," he says.
Not every image included in the book is shocking. But taken together they demand attention and provide a convincing argument for bringing overpopulation and consumption back to the center of the environmental movement.
"The vast majority of people get up every day and are embedded in a system, an economic, social, political system, that seems normal to them but the effects of which are harming the biosphere and making it less and less likely that humanity will have a flourishing future," Butler said.
The response to this problem includes affordable solutions, such as providing girls and women with education and access to family planning, solutions that have benefits beyond just helping to limit population growth. The main problem is that society does "not have the political will" to implement them, commensurate with their level of severity.
Go here to see a slide show of some of the pictures: http://www.salon.com/2015/03/02/visions_of_a_fallen_world_what_our_crowded_imperiled_planet_really_looks_like/
A 45 minute documentary titled 'The Population Emergency,' details the threats implicit in Pakstan's burgeoning population, which carried the country from 34 million in 1950 to 190 million people today. Demographers estimate the Pakistani population to reach 300 million by 2050.
3 million people or a whole new city is added to the population every year. From 34 million in 1950 to 190 million today, Pakistan's population is expected to rise to 300 million by 2050. The documentary labels this trend as unsustainable.
The documentary focuses on the components of the service delivery chain which includes: human resource, information systems, supply chain, governance, and financing.
Dr. Sania Nishtar, founder of Heartfile, stated, "Today, Pakistan's exploding population is the real crisis that threatens the prosperity of our generations. In the face of resource scarcity, constrained economic opportunities and joblessness, population growth is simply pushing youth further into the hands of terrorists, gangs and mafias. It is fuelling a fire that is raving our country. The country is literally bursting at the seams. We must stabilize our population. This is not just an imperative for women's health, wellbeing and poverty reduction; it is also necessary for national progress and development, and for the security of our nation."
Dr. Nishtar also states that curbing population growth is "imperative for women's health."
Rapid population growth not only leads to resource scarcity and constrained economic opportunities, but serves as a huge recruiting pool for radical groups from which to choose, seeking schools of disenfranchised youth.
Real investment in family planning will improve maternal and child survival, ease pressure on the environment, and increase social stability in the developing world.
Every year, more than half a million women die of pregnancy related causes worldwide and millions more suffer serious injuries. Nearly all of these deaths and injuries are preventable. In fact, nearly half of all maternal deaths and a significant proportion of infant deaths could be averted by universal access to contraceptives
Continuing population growth in the developing world is a major contributor to environmental degradation. These environmental stresses mean that many areas of the world lack the food and water resources necessary to sustain their growing populations. The end results are resource depletion, environmental degradation and malnutrition.
Resource scarcity and other population pressures stress fragile governments and social structures. Countries without the means to feed, house, educate and employ their citizens are at risk of civil insecurity.
These and other global problems cannot be solved unless we as a nation commit to doing our part to meet the unmet need for family planning around the globe. Real investment in family planning is not merely a moral imperative, but also a sound investment in the future of our world.
Population Matters has released a report entitled More People, Less Food by London School of Economics and Political Science graduate student Diandian Chen in which the author analyzes the perverse impact of population growth in England during the past 20 years on housing, food production and amenity land.
In 1994, the population of England was approximately 48 million, of whom about 250,000 were "statutory homeless". If the population had been stabilized at that point, then only approximately 5,200 hectares of land would have been required to house all of these people and they could have been housed in two years on land used for commercial purposes that was changed to residential use in 1994 and 1995. Conversion of undeveloped or agricultural land would not have been required.
In practice, because of rapid population growth since then the housing shortage has worsened; about 26,400 hectares of farmland and 3,600 hectares of undeveloped land have been converted for residential use; approximately £63 million (US $95.5 million) worth of annual food production has been lost; homelessness has remained acute; house price inflation caused by demand exceeding supply has continued; and food self-sufficiency has been further reduced.
Looking ahead to 2050, by which time the Office of National Statistics of the United Kingdom projects that the population of the country will have increased by between seven and 46 more Manchesters, local authorities anticipate that more than 700,000 houses will be built in the countryside, including almost 200,000 in undeveloped or agricultural land.
"When England is already the most overcrowded country in Europe, our houses are already the smallest, and our polls show that 80 per cent of us would prefer a smaller population than we have now, this is a truly pathetic situation," said Population Matters Chair Roger Martin. "This shows what happens when the national debate is all about increasing supply in our small island and totally ignores any idea of reducing demand, whether for housing, energy, water or anything else. Until we have a clear national objective of stabilizing our numbers and then frankly reducing them, all of our efforts will be to catch up with population growth while congestion, overload and quality of life steadily worsen."
Note: this article is more than 10 years old, but it is still pertainent
More than 30 years ago, a book called The Limits to Growth created an international sensation. Commissioned by the Club of Rome, an international group of businessmen, states- men, and scientists, The Limits to Growth was compiled by a team of experts from the U.S. and several foreign countries. Using system dynamics theory and a computer model called "World3," the book presented and analyzed 12 scenarios that showed different possible patterns -- and environmental outcomes -- of world development over two centuries from 1900 to 2100.
Already in the 1990s there was compelling evidence that humanity was moving deeper into unsustainable territory. Beyond the Limits argued that in many areas we had "overshot" our limits, or expanded our demands on the planet's resources and sinks beyond what could be sustained over time.
In a new study, Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update, the authors have produced a comprehensive update to the original Limits, in which they conclude that humanity is dangerously in a state of overshoot. The authors are far more pessimistic than they were in 1972. Humanity has squandered the opportunity to correct our current course over the last 30 years, they conclude.
Noted energy economist Matthew Simmons wrote, "The most amazing aspect of the book is how accurate many of the basic trend extrapolations ... still are some 30 years later."
Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update presents the underlying economic structure that leads to these problems. World3 keeps track of stocks such as population, industrial capital, persistent pollution, and cultivated land. In the model, those stocks change through flows such as births and deaths; investment and depreciation; pollution generation and pollution assimilation; land erosion, land development, and land removed for urban and industrial uses.
The model accounts for positive and negative feedback loops that can radically affect the outcome of various scenarios. It also develops nonlinear relationships. For example, as more land is made arable, what's left is drier, or steeper, or has thinner soils. The cost of coping with these problems dramatically raises the cost of developing the land -- a nonlinear relationship.
For more than a century, the world has been experiencing exponential growth in a number of areas, including population and industrial production. Positive feedback loops can reinforce and sustain exponential growth. In 1650, the world's population had a doubling time of 240 years. By 1900, the doubling time was 100 years. When The Limits to Growth was published in 1972, there were under 4 billion people in the world. Today, there are more than 6 billion, and in 2000 we added the equivalent of nine New York cities.
Another area of exponential growth has been the world economy. From 1930 to 2000, the money value of world industrial output grew by a factor of 14-an average doubling time of 19 years. If population had been constant over that period, the material standard of living would have grown by a factor of 14 as well. Because of population growth, however, the average per capita output increased by only a factor of five.
Moreover, in the current system, economic growth generally occurs in the already rich countries and flows disproportionately to the richest people within those countries. Thus, according to the United Nations Development Program, the 20% of the world's people who lived in the wealthiest nations had 30 times the per capita income of the 20% who lived in the poorest nations. By 1995 the average income ratio between the richest and poorest 20% had increased from 30:1 to 82:1.
Limits to growth include both the material and energy that are extracted from the Earth, and the capacity of the planet to absorb the pollutants that are generated as those materials and energy are used. Streams of material and energy flow from the planetary sources through the economic system to the planetary sinks where wastes and pollutants end up. There are limits, however, to the rates at which sources can produce these materials and energy without harm to people, the economy, or the earth's processes of regeneration and regulation.
The shift from muscle power to energy from combustion of fossil fuels releases vast amounts of carbon that living organisms took from the atmosphere hundreds of millions of years ago. Energy stored in the coal, oil and gas of Earth's crust powers large-scale industrialization, while the accompanying greenhouse gas emissions warm Earth's climate.
Technology- intensive industrial agriculture is producing the food for many of Earth's billions. As Western Europe, North America and Japan industrialized, farmers were pushed off their lands and moved to cities. Large families became problematic as women went to work outside the home. Education and the ability to control fertility have combined with these societal changes to cut fertility rates markedly in the developed world.
In many developing countries women commonly have more than five children -- most too poor to buy enough food should prices rise. Meanwhile rapidly developing populous countries have burgeoning middle classes desirous of more animal protein, which requires three to 15 times its weight in feed.
In the last century, world population increased from about 2 billion to 6 billion people. Fortunately global food production kept up thanks to the industrialization of agriculture, including increased mechanization, new plant varieties, refrigeration, long-distance transportation and agrochemicals, including petrochemical fertilizers. Each of these technologies increases emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide -- the very greenhouse gases that hasten climate change and threaten agricultural productivity with drought, flood and soil loss.
In the tropics many small-farm families have been forced onto marginal lands where they face greater threats from floods, drought, erosion, and extreme weather events. One-half the global food supply is is produced by small farmers.
Decreasing snowfalls in the world's high mountain ranges threaten the water supplies essential for production on long-established lands and those newly brought into production by the Green Revolution. In the tropics, where the majority of humanity lives, high temperatures are expected to reduce crop production by up to 50% by 2080.
Defining Sustainability and How Population MattersJanuary 15, 2015, WOA website
Note: In the following piece I borrowed heavily from a quote by Rudy Sovinee on Facebook. ... Karen Gaia
The Brundtland Definition of Sustainability states: "Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." However, Prof. Emeritus Al Bartlett amended the Brundtland definition as follows: "Sustainable development is development that does not compromise the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."
Without Bartlett's amendment, current generations are allowed to continue robbing the future, as the current development has priority - as it certainly has political clout. Thus is set up an inter-generational battle already on display in Congress for the USA and in national capitals around the globe. Without the amendment we would be sacrificing the long term viability of life being sustained so as to prolong the current path of economic dominance by a few over the many while riding the climate, and resources into a dystopian future. Is there a way to survive more than another century, to actually consider at least another seven generations as was the path of indigenous peoples?
We humans are recipients of a beautiful planet of great complexity in life forms. It took 3.6 Billion years for Life to evolve to our current form, and we are set to perhaps end at least the last 600 million years of it in something like the next hundred years. That is just wrong, ethically, morally wrong. Specifically, Prof Bartlett wrote in 2012 - the year before his death: "The Brundtland definition of sustainability is appealing because it has both virtue and vagueness. It is virtuous to give the impression that one is thinking of the wellbeing of future generations, but the definition itself is vague; it gives no specifics or hints about the nature of a sustainable society or about how we must conduct our society in order to become sustainable. This vagueness of definition opens the door for people to use the term 'sustainability' to mean anything they want it to mean. It's straight from Alice in Wonderland where Humpty Dumpty proclaims, 'When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.' With the freedom supplied by the vagueness, anyone can become an expert on sustainability." See this and more at: http://www.albartlett.org/articles/art_meaning_of_sustainability_2012mar20.pdf
With human population continuing to grow (even if it is slowing, it is still compounding its growth), any valid attempt to discuss Sustainability will reach a conclusion of humanity currently being in overshoot. Is there a long term path "that does not compromise the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."? I believe if such a path exists, one of its components will require a way to discuss and implement a reduction in human population.
The problem of any such discussion is our memory of the racial and ethnic violence done so often in recent history - we humans have made discussion of population restraint and reduction into a topic that is generally taboo. Can a consensus be developed collectively that offers a humane and fair way to limit procreation?
In Kibera a young woman has a botched, back-alley abortion. Kibera is the largest slum in Nairobi, and the largest urban slum in Africa. The young woman is lucky that she survived: too many more like her do not survive bad abortions, or suffer long-lasting health problems because of them. And then there's the even greater number of young women who, because they lack resources, keep unplanned children and end up trapped in a cycle of poverty and poor health.
If women were given full reproductive rights, including easy access to contraception and other family-planning options, such abortions would be rare. Family planning and reproductive health are some of the most crucial tools for reducing human suffering in a changing and increasingly crowded world.
The Kenyan census says that at least 200,000 people are crammed into the makeshift, two-square-mile shantytown. The land and city infrastructure can't keep up with the numbers of people.
The average Kenyan woman has 4.5 children, compared with 2.3 worldwide. Kenya's population is expected to more than double by 2050. Despite over a century of family-planning aid work, more than a quarter of Kenyan women are still unable to access the contraceptives they want.
Globally more women than ever before are masters of their own bodies. But in Africa the problems created by a lack of reproductive rights are getting more dire.
The world population has jumped from 500 million in 1650 to 1 billion in 1804, then to 2 billion in 1927 and then it doubled to 4 billion by 1974. In 2011 it passed 7 billion in 2011 and is expected to be up to 12.3 billion by 2100.
A paper in Science tells us that plant and animal species are now disappearing at least 1,000 times faster than they did before humanity's arrival, due mostly to human-caused habitat destruction and climate change.
In the 1970s, with the global population hovering around 4 billion, humanity began using more resources than the Earth could replenish each year, pushing us all deeper and deeper into "ecological overshoot," according to the Global Footprint Network.
In African nations the population is expected to go from 15% of the world's people to 25% by 2050. If Africa's need for family planning is not met, the result will be more and more poor, and poorly educated, people. Kenya, Ethiopia and Malawi, for example, are three nations where large numbers of women can't get the contraception they need and are at high risk for climate change effects like flooding and drought.
In the past three years, Australia, Canada, China, Russia and the U.S. have all suffered devastating floods and droughts that severely impaired food harvests. FAO, the Food and Agriculture Organization said that to feed a population of 9 billion in 2050, the world must increase its food production by an average of 60% to avoid serious food shortages that could bring social unrest and civil wars. Wheat and rice production, increasing at a rate of less than 1% for the past 20 years, have not kept up with population growth.
Mark Montgomery of the Population Council found that the number of urbanites with inadequate water will rise by more than 1 billion by 2050, and cities in certain regions "will struggle to find enough water for the needs of their residents."
The Green Climate Fund does not say anything about population on its website. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change devotes a section of its website to the role gender plays in climate change. Women, it explains, are more vulnerable to its ravages and must be included in adaptation efforts. But family planning and contraception aren't on the official list of adaptation projects.
Because -- under colonialism -- wealthy, predominantly white powers manipulated family planning, and because of 20th century wrong-minded approaches to family planning that have ranged from using risky contraceptives on unwitting clients, such as "an annual application of a contraceptive aerial mist", or offering cash incentives to poor people who agreed to be sterilized, there has been a large backlash. Revolutionary leaders worldwide (including Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in Pakistan) attacked family planning as a symbol of American imperialism, and the Vatican jumped on board, helping organize a global campaign against family-planning efforts, which just happened to line up with the Catholic Church's official stance on procreation.
In 1984, President Ronald Reagan instituted what has become known as the "global gag rule" (officially the Mexico City Policy), which stopped U.S. dollars from flowing to any international family-planning groups that provided abortions. The rule also stipulated that any organization receiving U.S. funding could not educate patients on abortion or take a stand against unsafe abortion. President Bill Clinton repealed the policy in 1993, George W. Bush reinstated it in 2001, and Barack Obama repealed it again in 2009. If a Republican takes the presidency in 2016, the gag rule will likely come back.
When the gag rule was in effect, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funding to family-planning organizations plummeted. Clinics providing everything from condom distribution to HIV/AIDS treatment to neonatal care cut back their staff and services, and in some cases shuttered their doors entirely. In some cases, the rule backfired: Kelly Jones, a senior researcher at the International Food Policy Research Institute, found that in Ghana during gag rule periods, rural pregnancies increased by 12% and the rural abortion rate increased right along with it, going up by 2.3%.
Meanwhile, U.S. funding for family planning abroad has flatlined for several years, even though for every dollar spent on family planning up to $6 is saved on health care, immunization, education and other services.
Faustina Fynn-Nyame, Marie Stopes's country director for Kenya said "Africans see the importance of this. It's not the West telling us to do something."
In 2012, the estimated number of unintended pregnancies was 80 million. World population grow is also 80 million. In other words, if women all over the world had the ability to prevent the pregnancies they don't want, the world's population would stabilize.
In much of the developing world, there remains a deep-seated imperative to have as many children as possible. In part, this is due to the pernicious influence of colonialists and missionaries, but it also stems from many decades ago, when child mortality was so high that if you wanted to have a few kids, you had no choice but to follow one pregnancy with the next.
IUDs have a failure rate of less than 1%, while birth control pills have a failure rate of between 8% and 9%. "If you're on the pill and the pill truck doesn't show up one month, you're pregnant."
In Bangladesh the rising sea level, driven by climate change, is projected to wipe out 17% of its landmass by 2050 and displace 18 million people. But Bangladesh has a family planning program that made contraception free and distributed widely.
In the 1970s, Bangladesh, freshly independent, concluded it was growing too quickly -- it was projected to nearly triple its size in four decades. Women on average gave birth to more than six children. So the government made contraception free and distributed it widely. At the same time, educational opportunities increased: More than 90% of girls enrolled in primary school in 2005. Women who had an average of six children in the 1970s have about 2.2 children today. That fertility rate is well below India's and far lower than Pakistan's.
Iran is another example. It was the steepest population drop ever recorded -- faster even than China's one-child policy. And it came without coercion. The fertility rate fell from seven births per woman in 1966 to fewer than two today. The plunging birth rate, coupled with increasing public education for girls, shifted the role of women in Iran. More women postponed childbirth to attend college, and now the country's universities are 60% female.
Even though in 2006 the-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attempted to halt the decline, urging Iranian girls to marry young, offered cash incentives per child, "Iranian women are not going back," Sussan Tahmasebi, an Iranian women's rights leader said.
When women can have fewer children further apart, they have more time to pursue education and get jobs, earning money that they are more likely to invest back into their family and community than their male counterparts do. They lead healthier lives and have healthier children. Women with more access to resources are less frequently victims of domestic violence, according to USAID.
The Aspen Institute estimates that if all women globally had access to the contraceptives they want, the reduction in unwanted pregnancies would translate into an 8 to 15% reduction in global carbon emissions. Fewer people would be in harm's way as sea levels rise and farmland dries out, and less pressure on resources already stretched thin would mean less violent conflict over those resources.
Columbia University history professor Matthew Connelly argues that the real problem for the planet is overall consumption. In some family-planning clinics, he says, there are posters on the wall depicting two families: the unhappy, unplanned family, living in abject poverty and violence, and the happy, planned family, with a suburban home and two cars parked in the driveway. The idea it promotes is "the miracle of family planning: If you get rid of the kids, you can have more stuff."
The New York Times has a wide readership and a good reputation which gives it a lot of influence. That's why Dave Gardner went back to an article of a few months ago to critique Andrew Revkin's commentary about the link between population and climate change: On the Path Past 9 Billion, Little Crosstalk Between U.N. Sessions on Population and Global Warming.
Garder applauds the following statement of Revkin's: "Largely missed in much of this... is the role of population growth in contributing both to rising emissions of greenhouse gases and rising vulnerability to climate hazards in poor places with high fertility rates."
However, another statement of Revkin's deserves a place on Gardner's Growth Biased Busted 'Wall of Shame': "Obviously, rates of consumption of fossil energy and forests per person matter more than the rise in human numbers. As I've said before, 9 billion vegan monks would have a far different greenhouse-gas imprint than a similar number of people living high on the hog."
Gardner points out that obviously people prefer to having fewer children to lowering their standard of living -- you can tell by the fact that the global average fertility rate has been on the decline for the past 40 years, while the trend in per-capita consumption has been in the opposite direction. However, "we haven't been fully motivated in this endeavor, as we still add nearly 80 million per year to world population," he says.
Gardner also points out that "there is a huge difference between 2 or 3 billion people living modest, happy, sustainable lives, and 9 billion people living the same lifestyle. With 9 billion people the sustainable lifestyle would not be modest and happy. It would be ascetic."
In addition, Revkin seems to relegate the population growth problem to people "over there:" "...Family planning, for instance, should absolutely be seen as a climate resilience strategy in poor regions," he said.
"Surely he realizes that each added family member in the over-developed world does more damage to our climate ... than several dozen in Nigeria." Also, "are not the millions added to the rich world's coastlines going to be a problem, too?," Gardner reasons.
"Every couple that ISN'T living that vegan monk lifestyle should be reading about how much better the odds are for the children of the world if they choose to conceive just one, or even zero, children."
Recent research by University of Washington demographer Prof. Adrian Raftery has found that previous projections on population growth may have been conservative. He predicts somewhere 9.6 and 12.3 billion people by 2100. This is 5 billion people more than have been previously calculated.
A key finding of the study is that the fertility rate in Africa is declining much more slowly than has been previously estimated. In Nigeria - Africa's most populous country - each woman has an average of six children, and in the last 5 years, the child mortality rate has fallen from 136 per 1,000 live births to 117.
"There are already big public health needs and challenges in high-fertility countries, and rapid population growth will make it even harder to meet them." High population density leads to a much higher rate of contact between humans, which means that communicable diseases - ranging from the common cold to Dengue fever - can be much more easily transmitted.
And more people means greater efforts are needed to control waste management and provide clean water. If these needs cannot be adequately met, then diarrheal diseases become much more common, resulting in a big difference in mortality rates.
"There are already big public health needs and challenges in high-fertility countries, and rapid population growth will make it even harder to meet them." A Johns Hopkins report said that unclean water and poor sanitation kill over 12 million people every year, while air pollution kills 3 million, and furthermore, in 64 of 105 developing countries, population has grown faster than food supplies.
The Johns Hopkins team identified two main courses of action to divert these potential disasters.
Firstly - sustainable development. The report authors argued this should include:
*More efficient use of energy
*Managing cities better
*Phasing out subsidies that encourage waste
*Managing water resources and protecting freshwater sources
*Harvesting forest products rather than destroying forests
*Preserving arable land and increasing food production
*Managing coastal zones and ocean fisheries
*Protecting biodiversity hotspots<
The second vital area of action is the stabilization of population through good-quality family planning, which "would buy time to protect natural resources."
Experts consider boosting the education of girls in developing countries to be a prime solution. As well as acquiring more control over their reproductive life, an educated female workforce should have more opportunities of employment and of earning a living wage. Studies report that the children of educated women also have better chances of survival and will become educated themselves. This pattern continuing across generations is associated with a decline in fertility rates.
If the fertility rate were to decline faster, Prof. Raftery suggests that high-fertility countries can reap "a demographic dividend," which is "a period of about a generation during which the number of dependents (children and old people) is small. This frees up resources for public health, education, infrastructure and environmental protection, and can make it easier for the economy to grow. This can happen even while the population is still increasing."
Bangladesh's progress in reducing population growth, from 3% at independence to about 1.2% now, is laudable. But there are indications that the progress made in fertility reduction has slowed down in recent years. In Chittagong and Sylhet divisions, the total fertility rate is still higher than three, while the national average is 2.3, and it is less than two in Khulna Division.
Each year rice production has to increase by 0.4 million tons to meet the need for staple food for a population that is increasing by 1.8 million every year.
With global warming and climate change, another one-sixth of the land may be submerged with brackish water over the next 40 years due to rising sea levels with adverse impact on soil salinity.
The good news is that, with economic progress people now have capacity to access a diversified diet with intake of less rice and more quality food. The per capita consumption of rice has been declining by almost 1.5 kg per person per year. Japan and South Korea had the same experience during their process of economic development.
However there is the problem of accelerating the growth in the production of non-rice foods, such as pulses, oils, fish and animal products.
Recently women's involvement in agriculture has been growing. Women's labour is an additional resource that can contribute to a substantial increase in the production of quality food. Women are already heavily engaged in homestead-based vegetable and fruit gardening, and subsistence-based poultry and livestock farming.
Can the world's people live within ecologically sustainable limits? Can they resolve the growing inequities between the least developed countries and the more developed countries? Can they create a more stable, less violent world?
Family planning (FP) is only one factor in addressing these questions, yet it is a prerequisite for any solution to the world's most complex problems. Women want FP assistance; there is no need to force it on them. The Family Planning 2020 (FP2020) partnership wants to bring another 120 million women access to voluntary FP within the next six years. After a generation of declining interest, this partnership is an important step toward a more balanced and evidence-based approach to population and FP.
Following the 1994 United Nations (UN) International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo, family planning budgets fell and the urgent need for new family planning initiatives, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, was set aside. Today, there are approximately 424 million African children aged 14 or under. In 2050, Africa could have 770 million children, allowing a great deal of demographic momentum to build up. It is questionable whether some economies in sub-Saharan Africa will be able to benefit from the demographic dividend in the way that much of Asia did. These were costly mistakes that will help shape the remainder of the 21st century.
Family planning is vital to reaching other goals for several reasons: First, FP has reduced maternal deaths 40% over the last 20 years. Second, FP reduces infant mortality. A child conceived within six months of a previous birth is 60% more likely to die than a child conceived two years after a previous birth. Third, by making the per-child cost of child services more affordable to government, FP advances educational, health care and economic development, so it pays for itself in reducing these costs. Fourth, FP eliminates the motive for an estimated 47,000 deaths from unsafe abortions each year -- which shows that millions of women who want fewer children lack realistic access to modern contraception. Fifth, by aiding economic development, slowing birth rates through FP can preempt conflict and instability.
When people suggest giving incentives, e.g., transistor radios or, worse, adding hormones to the drinking water or compulsory sterilization, the author considers such ideas not just unnecessary, but counterproductive. Making FP voluntary invites less resistance. We can gain more acceptance for slowing population growth when we promote human rights.
Those working to raise status of women should join with those concerned about the capacity of the biosphere to sustain human activity. The investments and policies needed for both groups are identical: To reverse the trend in population growth, we must advance girls' education and meet the unmet need for FP. Without reducing birthrates, we may find it impossible to achieve a biologically sustainable economy. For the individual, the family, society, and our fragile planet, it is imperative to get voluntary FP and a commitment to slowing rapid population growth back on the same track.
Environmentalists Paul R Erlich and Michael Charles Tobias have co-authored a new book titledMay 21, 2014, Huffington Post
In his 2007 book "The World Without Us," author and journalist Alan Weisman explored some harrowing questions about what Earth would look like without people. In his new book, "Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth?", he focuses on the perils of overpopulation. The population of Earth is nearing 7.5 billion. How healthy does the Earth need to be to ensure human existence? What is an optimum population for the world?
Editors note: This article came out in 2009, and is well worth repeating.
A study from statisticians at Oregon State University shows that having a child has an impact that far outweighs that of other energy-saving behaviors. See http://oregonstate.edu/ua/ncs/archives/2009/jul/family-planning-major-environmental-emphasis
A hypothetical American woman who switches to a more fuel-efficient car, drives less, recycles, installs more efficient light bulbs, and replaces her refrigerator and windows with energy-saving models would see her carbon legacy would eventually rise to nearly 40 times what she had saved by those actions if she were to have two children,.
A typical American woman with one baby will generate nearly seven times the carbon footprint of that of a Chinese woman who has a child, the study found.
The calculations take account of the fact that each child is, in turn, likely to have more children.
Paul Murtaugh, a professor of statistics at O.S.U., said lifestyles "are important issues and it's essential that they should be considered. But an added challenge facing us is continuing population growth and increasing global consumption of resources."
The full report - http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0959378008001003 - is published in the February 2009 edition of the journal Global Environmental Change: Human and Policy Dimensions.
Humanity is taking a gigantic gamble in assuming it can feed and support as many as 9.7 billion people in 2050, a third more than exist today, without revolutionary changes in behavior.
The world community is betting that climate disruption will not prevent continuing increases in yields of grains and soybeans and, combined with ocean acidification, not reduce fisheries productivity. It is betting that, in the face of climate disruption, changes in infrastructure and other measures will prevent further deterioration of water security, especially in critical access to water for irrigation. It is betting that the food system, heavily dependent on oil and itself producer of roughly a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions, can make a substantial start on kicking both habits. It is betting that the need for more food will not prevent society from undertaking a serious commitment towards global atmospheric decarbonization.
It is betting that the energy-intensive and highly polluting Haber-Bosch process can continue to keep nitrogen levels in agricultural systems adequate and to a large degree replace sound soil husbandry, even while reducing the deleterious effects of overfertilization runoff on ocean and freshwater productivity. It is betting that the geopolitical problems surrounding the world's available supplies of phosphorous for fertilizer, especially battles over Western Sahara, will be solved. It is betting that integrated pest management can safely and effectively replace both the pest-control service of winter in midlatitudes as the global annual temperature rises, and the pest-control services of birds, bats, and predacious insects as their populations decline in the great sixth extinction episode now well under way.
That's far from the last of the bets. Humanity is also betting that, especially for the variety and nutritional quality of food, pollination services will be maintained despite the biodiversity crisis. It is betting that the 'genetic insurance' provided by the wild relatives and indigenous cultivars of food crops will not be eroded or eliminated from the countryside and remaining wildlands by the drivers of global environmental change operating in synergy. It is betting that the growing demand for meat and bio-fuels will not greatly reduce the access of the poor to grains. And perhaps most important, it is betting that people will find the jobs that will provide the income to purchase what food is available.
At the moment this looks like a very bad series of bets, especially since close to a billion people are already hungry and more than that are malnourished. Losing several of the bets could easily result in many deaths and great hardship, or even in some combination of mass starvation, epidemics, and warfare (possibly nuclear), leading to a general breakdown.
The odds of avoiding a collapse could be improved if society launched a coordinated effort to stop expanding land under agriculture (to preserve natural ecosystem services); increase yields where possible; revise the industrial agriculture system to make it more ecologically sound, place much more emphasis on soil conservation and increase the efficiency of fertilizer, water and energy use; become more vegetarian; reduce food wastage; stop overfishing and changing the chemistry of the oceans; greatly enlarge investment in, and dramatically change the direction of, agricultural research and development; educate all about how the human food system works, and move proper nutrition for all to the top of the global policy agenda. It is a large order.
Scientists, in analyzing the prospects for supplying an exploding human population with adequate diets, must point out that the citizens of developed nations should stop at an absolute maximum of two children per couple and work to curb their consumption. They must abandon the impossible goal of perpetual economic growth through increasing consumption. For any scientist not to emphasize these points wherever possible borders on the unethical.
The situation in developing nations, especially in sub-Saharan Africa where population is still growing at 2.7% annually, is more complex. It certainly includes a great need for dramatically restraining reproduction in most circumstances, a major exception being in rural areas where infant mortality remains high and where having more than two children is often an economic necessity.
In summary, the human predicament is unlikely to be solved unless the scale of the human enterprise - global population size and per capita consumption among the rich - can be reduced as rapidly as humanely possible.
All is not hopeless. Demographic shrinkage is approaching in many overconsuming rich nations, where it is most important. There is substantial room for improvement in crop yields in Africa, for building rural health clinics there, and for making modern contraception and backup abortion universally available, three areas where aid from the developed world could be invaluable. Giving women equal rights everywhere would constitute a good start on reducing fertility rates and improving humanity's odds of avoiding catastrophe. It would be a lot easier to nourish 8.5 billion people adequately in 2050 than 9.7 billion.
For nearly a year, the 69 member nations of the UN's Open Working Group (OWG) of have been seeking input on future goals for sustainable development once the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) expire in 2015. Led by co-chair ambassadors from Hungary and Kenya, the OWG has delved into topics ranging from issues of governance to health. For five full days the seventh session discussed sustainable cities, settlements, transport, production and consumption, as well as climate change and disaster risk reduction. Leaders in business, industry, science, and politics kicked off each session, framing the issues and describing the task of producing goals, indicators and targets for each theme. However - as is often the case - they avoided issues relating to reproductive and maternal health, family planning, and population.
For the reasons below, we cannot avoid these topics if sustainable development is the goal.
Sustainable cities - By 2050, 70% of all people will live in cities. With cities growing so quickly, effective urban planning and design requires information on demographics and population shifts. We should know, for example, that men often leave women and families behind when they first move to the cities looking for work.
Transport - Since city dwellers in the developing world must move around, places that depend on cars may see 430% traffic increases by 2050. Planning for more sustainable travel options requires good data on transportation requirements forecasting - including population data on women, children, and marginalized populations. As highlighted in a UNFPA position paper, we need to enhance our abilities to assess, project, and plan for population changes that affect sustainable development.
Chemicals & Waste - We currently use between 70,000 to 100,000 chemicals, and we introduce about 1,500 new ones each year. Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) - mostly found in materials such as pesticides, metals, additives or contaminants in food, and personal care products - can impose irreversible health effects and risks to humans, especially women and children. In their statements on sustainable consumption and production, representatives from Denmark, Norway and Ireland noted the consequences of chemical waste on women's reproductive health, but most countries did not.
Climate change - Families face environmental challenges that threaten their health and livelihoods. Most National Adaptation Action Plans recognize the linkages between population change and climate change, and countries, e.g. Norway, Mexico, the U.S., and Peru, have recognized that women are more adversely affected by drought and natural disasters than men. But, while political priorities should reflect the importance of gender equity and reproductive health interventions, the Women's Major Group cited research which found that most nations lag behind.
Disaster risk reduction - Large-scale disasters, e.g. the recent Typhoon Haiyan, disrupt the public health infrastructure and service delivery. Maternal and neonatal mortality rates balloon in disaster areas, so sexual and reproductive health are critical public health needs in such environments.
Sustainable development priorities, including those related to health, gender equality, food, water, energy security, and environmental sustainability, requires better access to family planning and sexual and reproductive health services. Population issues must be part of the sustainable development goals and post-2015 development framework. Working group negotiations began in March, so member states and key stakeholders should act now to ensure that the discussions do not overlook the issues of population dynamics and women's health and rights.
New UN projections forecast that world population will hit nearly 11 billion people by 2100, an unsettling prospect that reflects a collective failure to provide women around the world with safe, effective ways to avoid pregnancies they don't intend or wantJune 24, 2013, Environment 360 By: Robert Engelman, president of the Worldwatch Institute
Bad news for those who expected that falling fertility rates will solve the overpopulation problem before it gets much worse. Until recently, we relied on a 10-year-old U.N. Population Division study that predicted a jump from 7.1 billion to 8.9 billion people by 2050. But their latest biannual forecasts now project a world population of 9.6 billion - an increase nearly equal to the population of Europe. By 2100 the report predicts 10.9 billion with growth continuing by 10 million a year.
Based on 2010 census by nation numbers, women in many of the world's poorest and most conflict-prone countries are bearing more children than previously thought. Fertility rate forecasts in 15 sub-Saharan countries rose by 5%. For example, South Sudan's TFR is now 5.4, up from 3.8. For Somalia it now is 7.1 compared to 6.7. For Ethiopia, 5.3 compared to 4.8. And outside of Africa, for Timor-Leste (East Timor) it's 6.5, up from 5.7, and for Afghanistan it is 6.3, up from 5.1. Some of the revisions reflect corrections on past estimates, while others reflect waning government support for family planning goals. For example, the Philippines has the second highest fertility rate in eastern Asia. But after President Benigno Aquino signed a bill to provide free family planning services, Catholic bishops appealed to the nation's Supreme Court. The law is now on a hold pending review, and reporters expect the bishops to win.
The Guttmacher Institute claims that, both among the rich and poor, about 40% of pregnancies are unintended. Even secular and prosperous people often see the issues of world population, sex education, and family planning as too sensitive to mention. In most nations sex education ranges from scarcely adequate to non-existent, and birth control gets confused with promiscuity and abortion. Even those who warn of climate change fail to mention the role of overpopulation in CO2 generation. The new UN population projections suggest that we will not solve the overpopulation problem until we resolve to act.
Despite growing resource scarcity and other consequences of over-consumption and overpopulation, in 2100 worldwide life expectancy is projected to average 82 years, up from 70 today. By then, Nigeria's population is projected to quintuple from 184 million to 914 million despite violent conflicts, corruption, poor sanitation, and a reliance on oil that will be mostly gone by then. Can Nigeria support one billion people with the land and water it has? Likewise, Egypt and Ethiopia will see their populations more than double from 176 million to 379 million; yet both depend on the Nile water which is nearly fully utilized now. Jordan is already challenged to share its scarce water supply with an influx of Syrian refugees who have boosted its population of 7.3 million by 500,000. Jordan's population is projected to grow 78% by 2100. Technological advances may resolve some problems by then - perhaps helping us to better address climate change and water scarcity. But don't count on an 82-year life expectancy in these poor nations.
Vaclav Smil's books have been recommended by Bill Gates. Smil, a professor emeritus of environment and geography at the University of Manitoba has written nearly three dozen books analyzing the world's biggest challenges - the future of energy, food production, and manufacturing. They're among the most data-heavy books you'll find, with a remarkable way of framing basic facts. (Sample nugget: Humans will consume 17% of what the biosphere produces this year.)
He was aghast at Penn State because it was like the academics there sat at the bottom of a deep well looking up and seeing a sliver of the sky. They know everything about that little sliver of sky and nothing else.
Smil argues that the demise of US manufacturing dooms the country not just intellectually but creatively, because innovation is tied to the process of making things. "In every society, manufacturing builds the lower middle class. If you give up manufacturing, you end up with haves and have-nots and you get social polarization. The whole lower middle class sinks," he said.
Innovation comes companies that want to extend their product reach, improve their costs, increase their returns. It usually arises from somebody taking a product already in production and making it better; innovation always starts with a product. Germany and Switzerland have maintained strong manufacturing sectors by starting kids in apprentice programs at age 14 or 15. They started young and learned from the older people, leading to products can't be matched in quality.
Smil likes renewables, but they move slowly. In 1950 people were only consuming 66,615 kilowatt-hours per capita. But few people had air-conditioning. Now we demand electricity 24/7. This is very difficult with sun and wind.
In Germany where they heavily subsidize renewable energy, when there's no wind or sun, they fire up their old coal-fired power plants, increasing greenhouse gas emissions from 917 million metric tons in 2011 to 931 million in 2012, because they're burning American coal, according to Smil.
With nuclear, we rushed into it, trying to beat Russia. So we took the submarine reactor, which was the wrong reactor and pushed it. The last power plant was ordered in 1974. While the Chinese, Indians, and Russions have nuclear power intentions, most countries are out.
Efficiency gains are limited. Take combustion machines -the best one in the lab now is about 40% efficient. In the field they're about only 15 or 20% efficient.
The same thing is true in agriculture. You cannot increase the efficiency of photosynthesis.
We could make products more energy-efficient - but then we consume so many more products that there's been no absolute dematerialization of anything. We still consume more steel, more aluminum, more glass, and so on.
What about reducing consumption? Smil said: "My wife and I did. We downscaled our house. It took me two years to find a subdivision where they'd let me build a custom house smaller than 2,000 square feet." He put 50% more insulation in my walls, adding very little to the cost. "I pay in a year for electricity what they pay in January. You can have a super-efficient house; you can have a super-efficient car."
On food, Smil said: "We pour all this energy into growing corn and soybeans, and then we put all that into rearing animals while feeding them antibiotics. And then we throw away 40 percent of the food we produce". He says there's nothing wrong with eating meat. It helps to make our big brains. But we eat too much meat - 200 pounds of meat per capita per year. If we eat like they do in India, China, and Malaysia - three people can eat one chicken breast cut up in a Chinese stew - all we need to eat is maybe like 40 pounds a year. But we need to stop giving antibiotics to the animals we eat.
We need better economic policies, better education, and better trade policies. It's like, "Let's not reform the education system, the tax system. Let's not improve our dysfunctional government. Just wait for this innovation manna from a little group of people in Silicon Valley," Smil said.
Britain's continuing population growth threatens our future prosperity.
The number of people in the UK grew by more than that in any other EU country in the last year, according to the latest data from the EU. We had the second largest number of live births, over 800,000, and just below that of France, and the second largest excess of births over deaths (natural change), over 240,000, again just below that of France. These positions were due to Britain's relatively high fertility rate rather than a particularly low mortality rate.
With this natural change being negative in some countries, the UK's natural change was higher than that for the EU as a whole. Add in net migration (the excess of immigration over emigration) of almost 150,000, and Britain's overall growth in the last twelve months was almost 400,000, over one third that for the EU as a whole.
Commented Simon Ross, chief executive of Population Matters, "The cause of our rising cost of living is staring us in the face. Rising numbers and hence demand is putting pressure on limited resource supply, from housing and transport to energy and even water. The cost of the enormous infrastructure projects being added to all of our bills is ultimately due to this population growth.
Rising numbers also affect our quality of life, from easy access to health and education to cramped house sizes and easy access to playing fields and green belt land.
Don't Panic - The Truth About Population: broadcast on BBC Two, 11:20PM Thu, 7 Nov 2013; available on BBC iPlayer until 9:59PM Thu, 14 Nov 2013 Duration 60 minutes (Editor's note: parts of this presentation may only be available in the U.K.; see http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03h8r1j )
This widely publicised programme is introduced as follows:
'Using state-of-the-art 3D graphics and the timing of a stand-up comedian, world-famous statistician Professor Hans Rosling presents a spectacular portrait of our rapidly changing world. With seven billion people already on our planet, we often look to the future with dread, but Rosling's message is surprisingly upbeat. Almost unnoticed, we have actually begun to conquer the problems of rapid population growth and extreme poverty.
Across the world, even in countries like Bangladesh, families of just two children are now the norm - meaning that within a few generations, the population explosion will be over. A smaller proportion of people now live in extreme poverty than ever before in human history and the United Nations has set a target of eradicating it altogether within a few decades. In this as-live studio event, Rosling presents a statistical tour-de-force, including his 'ignorance survey', which demonstrates how British university graduates would be outperformed by chimpanzees in a test of knowledge about developing countries.'
To that, we respond as follows:
Yes, the UN projects that the human population may well peak at around 11 billion in around 100 years, time. Yes, the UN is seeking to end extreme poverty.
We in Population Matters are not reassured.
That is because the programme failed to consider in any detail resource scarcity and depletion, environmental degradation and climate change.
The Global Footprint Network, in association with the WWF and the Zoological Society of London, tell us that humanity is already consuming renewable ecological resources at a rate 50% higher than can be produced sustainably, while non-renewables are steadily depleted. The consequences, which are already with us, are rising resource prices, and environmental degradation. These will of course be increased by a world population some 60% higher than the current level, as well as by rapid industrialisation of countries which have not yet done so.
We cannot be sure to what extent the consequences will be a gradual decline in living standards and quality of life or a series of economic and environmental crises. However, we can be reasonably sure that changes in technological use or affluent lifestyles will be insufficient to avoid one or both of these in the absence of early stabilisation in human numbers.
The programme reported a widespread fall in the birth rate and seemed to leave it at that. In fact, birth rates are increasingly diverse, both between and within countries. The programme acknowledged that birth rates are a variable, not a given - they are affected by a wide range of factors, including the provision of family planning services and clear messages that smaller families are better. Consequently, if we act now, we can reduce that population peak to the enormous benefit of mankind, other species and future generations.
Rosling may be a good statistician, but he is an ecological illiterate. He assumes that 'demography is destiny' - that all current trends will continue. He ignores the facts that: while the proportion of people in poverty is shrinking, the actual number of such people in the high fertility countries is rising; the fertility decline he celebrates has recently stalled - the UN increased their 2050 projections by 300 million this year; the danger of discontinuities or 'tipping points', leading to a sharp increase in mortality, is visibly approaching (cf the 'perfect storm' foreseen by the last UK Chief Scientist); the reduction in fertility rates does not happen automatically, but has taken years of effort, resources and priority to achieve in developing countries; no non-oil country has achieved economic take-off until it reduced its fertility to three births per woman or lower; and the timing of countries' achievement of replacement fertility radically affects their eventual population equilibrium number, which means there is great urgency in achieving it as quickly as possible.
It is also unclear what Rosling, like Fred Pearce and Danny Dorling, aims to achieve with his complacent message "The population problem is solved - don't worry about it". If he succeeded in persuading governments, both donors and recipients, to reduce the still inadequate priority they give to family planning and women's empowerment programmes, the effects would be: to increase the number of unwanted births, unsafe abortions, maternal deaths, and stunted children; to increase the rate of planetary degradation and the probability of crossing a tipping point, with a rapid increase in premature deaths; to reduce the number of people, the Earth can sustain in the long-term; and to reduce the likelihood of all our children enjoying a decent quality of life. Why does he do it?
UK will reach 70m in 15 years
November 7th 2013
The latest official projections confirm that the UK population is likely to rise by six million or around 10% over the next fifteen years (64 million in 2012 to 70 million by 2027).
This growth, equivalent to twelve cities the size of Manchester, will be strongest in England, though also occurring in the rest of the UK.
Additionally, over the next 25 years, people over 75 years of age will almost double in number, rising from ten million (16% of the population) in 2012 to 19 million (26% of the population) in 2037.
These factors, singly or in combination, feed into current policy debates on housing availability and affordability, easy access to education, employment and health, transport and travel congestion, rising energy and water prices, green belt, biodiversity and amenity protection, carbon emissions, air pollution, and room for waste disposal and even burials.
Most (60%) of the projected growth over the next 25 years is due to net migration, either directly (43%), or indirectly (17%), i.e. due to their age and fertility characteristics.
While more distant projections are less certain, the expectation is for continued growth, to 73 million by 2037, 75 million by 2050, 80 million by 2071, 85 million by 2087 and 90 million by 2112.
Variant projects produced at the same time and based on differing levels of births, deaths and migration, indicate alternative possible outcomes, ranging from a low of 63 million by 2112 to a high of 123 million by the same year.
Commented Simon Ross, chief executive of Population Matters, "England is already Europe's most densely populated country. Why should we also have Europe's highest population growth rate? More people make things worse. If we are serious about tackling the many issues we face as a society, we need to address one of the principal underlying causes, which is population growth. Caring for the growing number of elderly should not be an argument for ever more people, but for reducing the costs contingent on population growth. The variant projections indicate that human numbers is something that human ingenuity can address, if we choose to. We can choose to have smaller families, and the government and local authorities must provide the encouragement, sex education and family planning to help us to do that. The government should also limit net migration further and we should all support them in that."
July's column described two Nicaraguan boys with severe malnutrition. Miguel had kwashiorkor, caused by lack of protein. Poor Van's problem was inadequate food energy; he died from marasmus.
There is hunger even in Durango. Before the Manna Soup Kitchen, poor people had no place to go for a free meal. Years ago the Herald ran a haunting story about a woman who had been living in the stables at the Fairgrounds on Main Avenue. Her emaciated body was found at the end of winter. There were decreasing numbers written on the wall that appeared to be her weight at different times; she had starved to death.
What can we in the USA do about world hunger? Why should we care?
The second question is easier to answer than the first. We in rich countries should care because we are all part of the human family, because the world is smaller so we know more about suffering in far off lands, because we have strong spiritual beliefs. Perhaps we should care most because we have seen our own children suffer and know how much it hurts parents who cannot provide for their kids.
I do know that the worst way to help with hunger in poorer parts of the world is to send food. Gifts of food are typically distributed in cities. Hungry people move away from their farms so food production decreases, causing people to become more and more dependant on handouts.
Childhood hunger is a complex problem, not just caused by lack of food. Hunger is the contributor to most of the deaths of children in poor countries. Male preference may be a factor; boys are often given more food than girls when there are limited resources. Furthermore, in some cultures boys are more likely to be taken to the doctor when they are sick than are girls. Sometimes there are just too many mouths to feed. We do know that children are healthier when their mothers are educated, and when pregnancies are spaced at least 24 months apart. Smaller family size helps make sure that everyone has enough to eat.
Of the estimated 17,000 children who die daily, about 4,000 die because of polluted drinking water. Many agrarian societies have poor sanitation and unsafe water supplies. Water is often contaminated with microorganisms, leading to diarrhea and dehydration. For an adult this is a nuisance. For an infant or child an intestinal upset can be life threatening-especially if her nutrition is already borderline. In many places, especially in the tropics, parasites sap kids' nutrition and energy.
Breastfeeding an infant is the best protection against intestinal problems. Unfortunately, commercialism has made artificial formula seem healthier than breast milk for infants. Wanting to do the best for their infants, parents are duped into buying what they cannot afford. The expense of formula can suck away a significant portion of a family's income. Made with contaminated water, the artificial formula will sicken the baby. All too often, formula kills babies.
It is typical in a pre-industrial society to have many children die. With improved sanitation and clean water, with better nutrition and health care and with educated parents, children are much more likely to survive. It seems paradoxical that child survival should slow population growth, but it is true. When people know that their children will grow up to be healthy adults they choose to have smaller families.
This change in a society's makeup, caused by better living conditions and nutrition, is called the "demographic transition". The transition is from high fertility and high death rates to fewer deaths and lower fertility. A society's population grows rapidly while it is making this transition, when child survival is high but before the birth rate drops. It took two centuries for England and Western Europe to complete this transition; fortunately, now many societies make the transition more quickly.
Access to birth control is a prerequisite for the drop in fertility, however. Modern contraception has been available for less than a century, so presumably coitus interruptus (withdrawal) was the primary method in the past.
Perhaps the best we can do to save children is to hasten the demographic transition. This means supporting programs for sanitation, clean drinking water, education and especially family planning. There are many aid organizations that provide all these services to people in poor countries; we should support them in preference to ones that just supply food.
Recently, several op-ed essays in our top news media -- from the Guardian to the New York Times - have declared that overpopulation is not, and has not been, the cause of hunger, desertification, species depletion, etc. For example, based on an archaeologist's analysis of Chinese farming, Ellis Erle claimed that new technologies have always expanded food supplies to meet human needs. He failed to note that China has a long record of famines that occurred when population growth spurts exceeded its farming capacities. Over 20 million people died during China's most recent famine (1958 -1961) which was partially caused by soil depletion under severe pressure from population growth. Before that, hundreds of millions died during Chinese famines, repeatedly proving that the population cannot exceed the food supply limits. China has reduced its famine problems more by means of its one-child policy than by advances in farming methods. But even so, a more prosperous China now can and must bolster local food supplies by importing foods and leasing farmlands overseas.
During the past twenty years, the about 200 million people have died due to hunger-related problems. Places with stable populations suffered few of those deaths. The U.N. reports that one in eight people faces chronic malnourishment. Almost all of those people live in developing regions with burgeoning birthrates and little family planning.
As more people move to cities, 10- 15% of today's farmlands will be taken out of production. Most areas suitable for farming have already been used for farming, and creating new farms in places like rainforests will add to our deforestation and species extinction problems. China, Mexico and Brazil have suffered severe species losses due to expanding settlements. In 1949, when only one million people lived in Israel, many mammal, bird and reptile species thrived there. Today, with eight million people, about a third of the country's 115 indigenous mammal species are endangered and amphibians are almost entirely gone. Although Israel has since set aside 25% of the country to protect endangered species, settlement continues to fragment these habitats and undermine their value.
Technological solutions may help reduce the problems that result from overpopulation, but we should never assume that we needn't be concerned. The global limits affect us all. Even Israel's high tech farms can produce only 45% of the nation's growing food requirements. We need open spaces for water filtration, protection from hurricanes, natural pollinators, soil integrity and recreational resources. The fixes become more difficult as populations expand.
The most effective technological fix is modern contraception. Where that has been applied, the drop in malnourished people in Asia and the Pacific fell from 23.7 % to 13.9 %, and the quality of education, housing and healthcare improved. On a planet with limited resources, sustainable growth is an oxymoron. The quality of life depends on the quantity of life. The earth could support more people if we all did with less and turned or parklands into farms. But do we want that the kind of world ? We can best reduce the consequences of population growth if we recognize that overpopulation is the problem we need to solve.
Human Over-Population: Creation of the Modern ExtinctionOctober 12, 2013, WOA website By: Gabrael Stclair
There is an elephant sitting in the middle of the climate change activists' living room. It is human over-population. We are crowding out and killing off other species, especially trees. We are polluting the planet with our nitrogen moving mass agriculture, and sending the skies toxic levels of CO2 and other greenhouse gases.
Few have the courage to address it directly. Most of us hedge about it and hope that by pointing out moral responsibility for stewardship of the earth that somehow we can sidestep the fact that we now have 7 billion folks on this planet, and that is too many. It is a clear and present danger to our planet's resources.
I am a woman of faith, of Catholic faith. I have spoken to other Catholic women of faith and I am not alone in my values. Since I am over child bearing age, and have never had any children, perhaps I can ask the question. How do we bring down human population in a compassionate and ethical way? We educate women and empower women with control over family planning and family decision making, especially in rural areas.
Pope Benedict XVI referred to this obliquely in his 2006 message to the Director General of Food and Agriculture Organization for the Celebration of World Food Day, when he stated, "Education and formation programs in rural areas need to be broadly based, adequately resourced, and aimed at all age groups. Special attention should be given to the most vulnerable, especially women and the young."
Al Gore, directly outlines the over-population problem and a compassionate approach in an entire chapter of Our Choice: a Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis (Ch. 11, "Population," Rodale, 2009). Mr. Gore observes that we must, move "to a new equilibrium pattern, characterized by low death rates, low birth rates, and small families." He goes on to highly endorse the "widespread education of girls," as pivotal in this process.
As Pope Francis has pointed out, women are very good at making important decisions, important informed decisions based on the signs of the times. How do we make womens' education/ empowerment a primary focus? As people of faith, how would we put the following on the agenda?
"Most investigators now concede that the number of extinctions that have occurred since the end of the last glacial period, some 12,000 years ago, clearly defines the Holocene time interval as one of pronounced and elevated extinction rates. There are many estimates of how many species are currently going extinct each year .... What is clear is that the world's forests are being felled inexorably to make way for agriculture and that the removal of forests leads to extinction .... Estimates of the fauna tally vary, but all carry the grave message that Earth is losing a great number of species rather quickly. Perhaps the most sobering estimate comes from Peter Raven of the National Academy of Sciences, who has suggested that two-thirds of the world's species may be lost by the year 2300. The ultimate cause of this extinction is the runaway population of Homo sapiens." (P. Ward & D. Brownlee, 2000, Rare Earth: Why Complex Life is Uncommon in the Universe, Copernicus, NY, 183)
There are several process networks working our planet today. Humans seem oblivious to this fact. We just keep making more of us! I wonder why more attention is not paid to the Rockstrom et al, 2009 article, "Planetary Boundaries: exploring the Safe Operating Space for Humanity,"
"Humanity has already transgressed three boundaries (climate change, the rate of biodiversity, and the rate of interference with the nitrogen cycle) ....The Earth system is defined as the integrated biophysical and socioeconomic processes and interactions (cycles) among the atmosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere, biosphere, geosphere, and anthroposphere (human enterprise) in both spatial-from local to global-and temporal scales, which determine the environmental state of the planet within its current position in the universe. Thus, humans and their activities are fully part of the Earth System, interacting with other components." (Ecology and Society 14(2):32) http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol14/iss2/art32/
Supporting 7.2 billion people places great strains on mother Earth. Weisman says that we all contribute to the problem as we go about meeting our needs. Of course, the needs we perceive are formed by the quality of life we grow accustomed to, and for most Americans that includes heated and cooled homes, cars, good food, etc. Weisman spent two years traveling the globe, observing and discussing how people can survive in an overpopulated world. After talking with scientists, religious leaders, aid workers and others, he formed a dismal assessment.
Our attempts to satisfy our needs drive other species to extinction, and he questions just how many people the Earth can support without a catastrophic collapse. As we continue adding two million new people every nine days and per-capita consumption continues to grow, Weisman says we place unsustainable stresses on the Earth's environment. Using both experimental and historical examples, he attempts to demonstrate that after human or animal populations grow larger than their environment can support, some form of collapse tends to follow. "Every species that outgrows its resource base suffers a population crash - a crash sometimes fatal to the entire species."
The idea that the Earth may be headed for an apocalypse that takes down all humans overlooks a growing body of evidence. As populations have exceeded the Earth's ability to meet all our needs, many other species have faced apocalypse, but only the world's poorest people face death and starvation. We may see their despair on the TV news; yet many people in richer nations still have plenty of everything. People can and often do send help to the hungry and dying, but not enough to root out the problem, and as the burdens of caring for the needy increase, the well-to-do may give up trying to help. Author Lester Brown says that recent spikes in food prices have doubled the numbers of starving people. But the money others give to help them has not kept pace.
Weisman never tells us how many people the Earth can support, but his evidence leads one to conclude that we have already surpassed that limit. He challenges religious leaders and others who oppose family planning and those who assume that scientists will eventually come up with solutions to bail us out. He also goes after economists and their political allies who believe that we can always solve the problems of unlimited population growth by producing more goods and services. That hypothesis is unsupported.
We now produce more than ever before, and the Earth is reeling under the stress. Overforestation, collapsing fish stocks, desertification, water acidification, climate change, and eroded top soils demonstrate that continuing growth leads to unsustainable levels of both environmental and economic damage, and we can't fix those problems by continually growing the world's economy. As the population pressures keep erupting in different forms, the one solution most likely to resolve that problem is to help the world's people lower their birthrates.
Geneva, Switzerland .. August 20 is Earth Overshoot Day, the approximate date humanity's annual demand on nature exceeds what Earth can renew in a year. In just 7 months and 20 days, we have demanded a level of ecological resources and services - from food and raw materials to sequestering carbon dioxide from fossil fuel emissions - equivalent to what Earth can regenerate for all of 2013. Humanity has exhausted nature's budget for the year.
For the rest of the year, we are operating in overshoot. We will maintain our ecological deficit by depleting stocks of fish, trees and other resources, and accumulating waste such as carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and oceans. As our level of consumption, or "spending," grows, the interest we are paying on this mounting ecological debt - shrinking forests, biodiversity loss, fisheries collapse, food shortages, degraded land productivity and the build-up of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere and oceans - not only burdens the environment but also undermines our economies. Climate change - a result of greenhouse gases being emitted faster than they can be absorbed by forests and oceans - is the most widespread impact of ecological overspending.
In 1961, humanity used only about two-thirds of Earth's available ecological resources. Back then, most countries had ecological reserves. Yet both global demand and population are increasing. In the early 1970s, increased carbon emissions and human demand for resources began outstripping what the planet could renewably produce. We went into ecological overshoot. Global Footprint Network's 2012 National Footprint Accounts show humanity is now using ecological resources and services at a rate it would take just over 1.5 Earths to renew. We are on track to require the resources of two Earths well before mid-century.
Today, more than 80 percent of the world's population lives in countries that use more than the ecosystems within their own borders can renew. These "ecological debtor" countries either deplete their own ecological resources or get them from elsewhere. Japan's residents consume the ecological resources of 7.1 Japans. It would take four Italys to support Italy. Egypt uses the ecological resources of 2.4 Egypts.
Not all countries demand more than their ecosystems can provide, but even the reserves of such "ecological creditors" like Brazil, Indonesia, and Sweden are shrinking over time. We can no longer sustain a widening budget gap between what nature is able to provide and how much our infrastructure, economies and lifestyles require.
It is possible to turn the tide. Ecological debtors have an incentive to reduce their resource dependence, while creditors have the economic, political and strategic motive for preserving their ecological capital. Global Footprint Network and its network of partners are working with organizations, governments and financial institutions around the globe to make decisions aligned with ecological reality. Rather than liquidating resources, it is wiser to treat them as an ongoing source of wealth.
Earth Overshoot Day is a valuable opportunity to raise awareness about humanity's ecological resource use. We invite you to promote Earth Overshoot Day on your website, in your newsletters and on your social media channels. Our Twitter handle (@EndOvershoot) uses the hashtags OvershootDay EcologicalFootprint and EcologicalOvershoot
We would love to hear your plans to mark Earth Overshoot Day, whether as simple as a newsletter item or Facebook post, or as elaborate as a national plant-a-tree campaign. Also, please inform us of any media coverage in the form of links to newspaper articles or broadcast reports. You can reach us at email@example.com.
From Yosemite National Park to Rocky Mountain National Park to Rocky Mountain National Park to New Hampshire's White Mountains and so on, our favorite places have become so crowded that it is difficult to enjoy them.
Three things have happened.
* There has been a population explosion in the United States, regardless of what you hear from conservatives panicking over a mythical "baby bust."
* Growing prosperity in other parts of the world has created new markets for U.S. tourism. China, Brazil and India now account for the largest growth of foreign tourists, a total of 67 million last year.
* It used to be that Americans might take their family in a car for visit to a national park. Now, cheap airfares have made formerly remote places more accessible, fostering the fast-paced three-day weekend.
The macro-solution is: slow population growth. U.S. population is now 314 million, but projected to grow by almost 19 million through 2050. Keeping our birthrates and immigration numbers in check would go far to stem the tide.
Stephen Emmott, in his book Ten Billion, tells how human population went from one million 10,000 years ago, to one billion in 1800, 3 billion in 1960 and now there are now over 7 billion. By 2050 our children and grandchildren will be living on a planet with at least 9 billion. By 2100 there will be 10 billion or more.
The agricultural revolution, the scientific revolution, the industrial revolution and the public-health revolution have enabled our population to grow so much.
Starting with the famine in Ethiopia in 1984, we have seen an increase in unusual drought and flooding. By 2000 the accumulation of CO2, methane and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere - as a result of increasing agriculture, land use and the production, processing and transportation of everything we were consuming - was changing the climate. The 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 1998. We have modified the climate and its four components: the atmosphere (the air we breathe); the hydrosphere (the planet's water); the cryosphere (the ice sheets and glaciers); the biosphere (the planet's plants and animals).
As our numbers continue to grow, we continue to increase our need for far more water, far more food, far more land, far more transport and far more energy, all of which are accelerating the rate at which we're changing our climate.
Most of the things we consume require water. For example it took 42 trillion liters of water to make the 14 billion hamburgers the U.S. population consumed. And, ironically, it takes four litres of water to produce a one-litre plastic bottle of water. It takes around 72,000 litres of water to produce one of the 'chips' that powers your laptop. We're consuming water, like food, at a rate that is completely unsustainable.
Land needed for food is expected to double by 2050, and triple by the end of this century. This will lead to the clearing of the world's remaining tropical rainforests because this is predominantly the only land left for agriculture. Accompanying this will be three gigatons per year extra CO2 emissions. If Siberia thaws out before we finish our deforestation, it would result in a vast amount of new land being available for agriculture, as well as opening up a very rich source of minerals, metals, oil and gas, turning Russia into a remarkable economic and political force. Unfortunately, vast stores of methane - currently sealed under the Siberian permafrost tundra - will be released, greatly accelerating our climate problem even further.
This century will see the rapid expansion of urbanization. Of the 19 Brazilian cities that have doubled in population in the past decade, 10 are in the Amazon.
Despite the fact that demand for food will rise sharply, food productivity is set to decline due to: climate change; soil degradation and desertification - all of which are increasing rapidly in many parts of the world; and water stress.
Continued global shipping and airline transportation are projected to continue to expand rapidly every year, causing more CO2 emissions, more black carbon, and more pollution from mining and processing to make all this stuff. In addition we are also creating a highly efficient network for the global spread of potentially catastrophic diseases and increasing the risk of a new global pandemic. Epidemiologists increasingly agree that a new global pandemic is now a matter of "when" not "if".
To meet the expected increased energy demand by 2100, we would need to build the equivalent of 23,000 nuclear power stations or 1,800 of the world's largest dams. Since the world's oil, coal and gas reserves are worth trillions of dollars, are the world's energy companies going to decide to leave the money in the ground, as demand increases?
As for climate change, the politically agreed global target is to limit the global average temperature rise to 2C. Anything above this carries a significant risk of catastrophic climate change that would almost certainly lead to irreversible planetary "tipping points", caused by events such as the melting of the Greenland ice shelf, the release of frozen methane deposits from Arctic tundra, or dieback of the Amazon. And in the future it looks like we could see a global average rise of 4C or even 6C, leading to runaway climate change, capable of tipping the planet into an entirely different state, rapidly. We will witness unprecedented extremes in weather, fires, floods, heatwaves, loss of crops and forests, water stress and catastrophic sea-level rises.
Under these conditions the UK, the US and most of Europe, may become militarised with heavily defended border controls designed to prevent millions of people from entering, people who are on the move because their own country is no longer habitable. Anyone who thinks that the emerging global state of affairs does not have great potential for civil and international conflict is deluding themselves.
We urgently need to consume less. Radically less. And we need to conserve more. A lot more. Unfortunately the decisions that need to be taken to implement significant behaviour change inevitably make politicians very unpopular.
Global initiatives to stabilize greenhouse gases, stop land degrading and becoming desert, and reduce the rate of biodiversity loss have all failed. Those are only three examples.
The cost of the business activities of the world's 3,000 largest corporations in loss or damage to nature and the environment now stands at $2.2 trillion per year. These costs will have to be paid for by our children and grandchildren. Business has usual must change.
Part of the problem is we're not getting the information we need. The pitiful 'solutions' that we are given overlook the scale and nature of the problems we face.
Saying "Don't have children" is utterly ridiculous. It contradicts every genetically coded piece of information we contain, and one of the most important (and fun) impulses we have. That said, the worst thing we can continue to do - globally - is have children at the current rate. If the current global rate of reproduction continues, by the end of this century there will not be 10 billion of us. According to the United Nations, Zambia's population is projected to increase by 941% by the end of this century. The population of Nigeria is projected to grow by 349% - to 730 million people.
Even the United States' population is projected to grow by 54% by 2100, from 315 million in 2012 to 478 million. If the current global rate of reproduction continues, by the end of this century there be 28 billion of us.
The problem is us. Why we are not doing more about the situation we're in - given the scale of the problem and the urgency needed - cannot be understand. We can rightly call the situation we're in an unprecedented emergency. We urgently need to do - and I mean actually do - something radical to avert a global catastrophe. But I don't think we will.
Here are some facts to consider and some solutions to support as we recognize World Population Day, July 11:
The world now hosts 7.2 billion people. The U.S. has 316 million. Only China and India have more people, and India is about one-third the size of the U.S.
For the first time in history, more than one billion people go to bed hungry every day. Another 768 million people do not have access to safe drinking water.
Almost half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended, and 80 percent of teen pregnancies are unplanned - the highest rates in the industrialized world. Age-appropriate comprehensive sexuality education has been proven to delay teenagers' first sexual encounters and give them the tools they need to become pregnant only when they are ready to support a child. We need to speak up for these programs, as well as Planned Parenthood, Medicaid and Title X, which make affordable health care and family planning services available to millions of women otherwise unable to obtain them.
Worldwide, 222 million women want to plan their families and space their children, but they do not have access to contraception. Recently, first ladies Laura Bush and Michelle Obama were interviewed at a summit of African first ladies in Tanzania. Both stressed the importance of investing in the education and health care of girls and women. We can do this by supporting the U.S. Agency for International Development, International Planned Parenthood, the United Nations Population Fund, and other nongovernmental organizations that provide education and health care.
Lester Brown, an environment and agriculture specialist and president of the Earth Policy Institute observed that population growth, rising affluence, water shortages and climate change are combining to create unprecedented pressure on the world's food supply - pressure that is likely to play out both as slow rises in hunger and as famines linked to extreme weather events.
Last year Brown published "Full Planet, Empty Plates," a book on "the new geopolitics of food scarcity."
In India groundwater is being pumped for irrigation at a rate much faster than it is being naturally replaced. In north Gujarat, water tables are falling by 20 feet a year, Brown said. Population there is growing by 18 million people a year.
In addition, monsoon rains are coming at least two weeks earlier than expected and causing widespread deaths in the Himalaya region of India and Nepal; India's wealthy are turning to a richer diet while its poorest struggle to get enough calories each day, and its farmers battle more extreme weather, adding to the country's risk of food shortages.
Syria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Iraq have already seen their water availability - and grain production - peak and decline.
Brown explained that the world's agriculture "has evolved over 11,000 years to maximize production in a stable system. Suddenly the climate system is changing, and each year it and the agriculture system will be more out of synch with each other."
In the Amazon, for instance, continued destruction of the forest, in part to feed China's growing demand for soybeans, appears to be disrupting rain cycles in South America, threatening more frequent droughts and crop losses in important grain growing regions in Brazil and Argentina.
China is seeing increasingly severe weather, worsening droughts, and fast-dropping groundwater tables. The United States just last year saw as much as $200 billion in agricultural losses after a record drought.
An extreme weather disaster in a major grain-producing country such as the United States, China or India could bring quick and more global famine, said Brown. He thinks the world's population will not reach 9 (or 9.6) billion by 2050, as the United Nations predicts. "The only question is, will it not happen because we get our act together to (slow population growth), or because we don't?"
Brown recommends that we "make sure women everywhere have access to reproductive healthcare and family planning services," to solve the hunger problem. Hundreds of millions of women want to plan their families and space their children "don't have the means to do that."
"A big problem is fragmentation and specialization of knowledge," he said. "We've been so narrowly focused, looking at our own little piece, that very few people see the big picture."
The global challenge to feed 9 billion people in 2050 has been revised: we now need to feed 9.6 billion by that date, since projections have been recently revised upward by the UN. And there is no longer an expectation that world population will stabilize this century: By 2100, according to the latest projections, the number of people on the planet will hit 10.9 billion -- and will still be growing by 10 million a year.
These new calculations have dashed the hopes of optimists who had been assuming that human fertility is falling everywhere and that population growth would end "on its own" within a few decades.
Women in many of the world's poorest and most conflict-prone countries are having significantly more children than previously thought, largely because many governments are no longer making family planning a high priority.
Estimates of fertility rates in many high fertility countries have gone up: Afghanistan from 5.1 to 6.3; South Sudan from 3.8 to 5.4; Timor-Leste 5.7 to 6.5; Somalia 6.7 to 7.1; Ethiopia 4.8 to 5.3, and so on. Some of the boosted fertility estimates reflect real fertility increases, not just improvements on past estimates.
These higher estimates are not good news in a world of changing climate, shrinking farm plots, dwindling fresh water supplies and growing social stress. Mostly these new fertility estimates reflect a collective failure to provide women around the world with something they need: safe and effective ways to avoid pregnancies they don't intend or want, along with the education and autonomy to put their childbearing decisions into effect.
Globally 40% of pregnancies are unintended, according to the Guttmacher Institute. This applies, on average, to the high-consuming developed world, despite our sophisticated health systems, as well as to the developing world. It would take only $8.1 billion (an additional $4 billion over what is already funded) to supply the family planning services that could shrink this number close to zero, the Guttmacher Institute estimates.
Insufficient funding reflects larger obstacles to a sustainable world population. Women still have not achieved real equality with men, and in some countries they are still seen essentially as male property. In few societies is there full acceptance that sexuality is meaningful and valuable even when reproduction is not a personal intention. Sex education is non-existent in many countries and scarcely adequate in any. Contraception gets confused with abortion and is associated with promiscuity -- for example the restricted availability of emergency contraception to sexually active girls.
Then there is the Catholic Church and its opposition to modern contraception. In the Philippines it has blocked the government of the Philippines for years from providing free family planning services to all who seek them. Although President Benigno Aquino recently signed a bill to do just that, the Church has taken the matter to the country's Supreme Court, which put a hold on the law's implementation prior to its review.
World leaders have come to see the issue as too sensitive to bring up: because it offends the anti-contraception Catholic Church, or a few women's rights advocates or leaders of high-fertility countries, who argue that the consumption of the wealthy is a far greater threat to humanity than continued population growth.
The new UN population projections are a blunt reminder of the consequences of our silence. No end to global population growth is in sight. Nor will one be until we resolve to act on women's autonomy, the dignity of sex without reproduction, and the importance of a non-growing population to environmental sustainability.
Since the first UN environment meeting in Stockholm in 1972, environmentalists have debated whether we should include human population growth among the urgent challenges of human consumption, industrial toxins, species loss, global warming, and so forth.
Today it is apparent that population matters. Virtually every nation in the world seeks more commodities for its citizens, and a growing population multiplies the effect of this growing per-capita resource consumption. We could make all the right moves regarding energy systems, transportation, and recycling, and still overshoot Earth's capacity with unsustainable numbers of humans.
Next year, in September 2014, the UN will convene a special session on human population. The intention is to implement a population stabilization plan devised twenty years ago at the U.N. population conference in Cairo. The original strategy, adopted by 180 nations, cited women's rights, birth control, and economic development as keys to stabilizing population growth.
The Cairo strategy remains valid, but is useless if not implemented with meaningful targets and actions. It may also prove useless if we do not re-define "economic development" to focus on better lives for the world's poor, less wasteful consumption among the rich, and less concentration of wealth among the super-rich.
Since Cairo conference, we have gone from 5.7 billion to 7 billion people, adding about 75 million people each year - the equivalent of five cities the size of Beijing each year. But we have failed to match this growth with new infrastructure, shelter, food, water, or health care. As we add more people, we lose some 16 million hectares of forest each year, gain 6 million hectares of desert, lose 26-billion tons of topsoil, deplete aquifers, and drain rivers. These trends are not sustainable.
About ten million people starve to death each year, over a billion people go hungry, and some 2 billion have no access to clean fresh water.
The danger with UN meetings is that no substantive action will follow. Kenya lead the movement for the meeting, but warned that there will be no final document from the 2014 population session. Controversial issues such as universal women's rights, girl's education, abortion rights, and access to contraception are likely to be avoided.
Wherever women have rights over their own reproduction and where families have access to birth control, the fertility rate declines, as history has shown.
In the 1970s, fertility rates fell in Spain and Italy, not because of increased wealth, but rather following the advent of women's rights and available contraception. In Columbia, fertility rates dropped from 6 to 3.5 children per family in 15 years after contraception was made widely available.
To be successful, the U.N. must be willing to confront cultural resistance with education. The Cairo conference recognized the need for comprehensive population policies that include family planning, gender equality, and sex education for both young women and men. However, they also noted that such policies will conflict with cultural habits.
The UNFPA has been working with UNICEF to encourage communities to stop the practice of female genital mutilation. In 2012 they met directly with 1,800 communities to overcome "major obstacles related to culture," according to Babatunde Osotimehin, the UNFPA executive director. They have worked to educate communities in family planning and contraception, which Osotimehin calls "the most important intervention you can give to liberate a women's energy and life."
In the US, the Center for Biological Diversity conducted a Public Poll a found that 60% of Americans now equate human population growth to wildlife extinctions; 57% understand the link to climate change. These represent marked changes from even a decade ago.
The US is predicted to lose 36 million acres of forest to urban sprawl by 2050. In Florida, due to over-pumping of water, salt water is now intruding into the primary aquifer, which supplies water for 19 million people.
Water shortages now appear in most parts of the world, rich and poor - US plains, Beijing, Madras, Mexico - simply because of over-consumption, too many people demanding too much of a limited resources. Since 1960, for example, the Aral Sea has shrunk to about 10% of its original area.
The I = PAT formula invented in the 1970s by Paul Ehrlich and John Holdren to account for human ecological impact on the Earth's systems: Ecological Impact (I) is equal to Population (P) times Affluence (A), or average consumption, times a factor for Technology (T). This formula has been useful, but it has been found that the "Technology" factor is non-linear, meaning that a simple change in technology can create a large, exponential leap in ecological impact. Consider for example the exponential impact of deep sea drilling after the British Petroleum oil-well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, or the exponential impact of a disaster such as the Fukushima nuclear meltdown. A nuclear war would be the ultimate exponential impact.
The other problem with technology is that the living ecological system may also respond with its own multiplying effects. Every time we disturb nature, we set in motion a sequence of system responses, which then have their own impact, usually beyond our control or influence. We witness this with global heating. While carbon in the atmosphere heats the Earth, the heating itself creates feedbacks that include: melting permafrost that releases methane, which increases heating; melting ice that reduces Earth's reflective qualities (albedo), retaining more heat; dying forests that absorb less carbon; increased wildfires; and so forth.
There are ways that we can stabilize human population without unpleasantly imposed restrictions, namely with universal women's rights, education, and available contraception. We can hope that in 2014, the United Nations adopts these policies and takes serious action.
Paul Ehrlich, addressing an audience at the University of Vermont, said, "I believe and all of my colleagues believe that we are on a straightforward course to a collapse of our civilization."
"We're a small-group animal," he said, "both genetically and culturally. We have evolved to relate to groups of somewhere between 50 and 150 people." ... "nd now suddenly we're trying to live in a group not of 150 or 100 people, but of seven billion people, somewhat over seven billion people at the moment, and that is presenting us with a whole array of problems."
Those problems include an inability to recognize gradual, large-scale changes in our environment as dangerous.
"We're facing climate disruption," he said. "That is the most talked about environmental problem we face. It's not necessarily the most serious. ... It may be some of the others are even more serious. The global spread of toxic substances is getting worse every year." Some substances are more dangerous to us in small quantities than large because of the way our cells process them, and we've spread these substances far and wide. "There's already nasty signs about the effects. For instance in some sub-Arctic villages they're having twice as many girl babies born as boy babies."
Ehrlich said we have to cut our fossil fuel use dramatically and completely redesign our water management infrastructure. If we don't, changing precipitation patterns will make it impossible to feed everyone on Earth.
"We're doing a crappy job of feeding people today, and yet we're sitting in a society that with equanimity looks at adding another two and a half billion people to the seven billion people we've got already."
Ehrlich said we also need to concentrate on gradually slowing and then reversing population growth. The Earth's carrying capacity is 1.5 billion people at the very most. To cut the global population from its current level to 1.5 billion, we need a fertility rate of 1.5 children per family.
"How do you do it humanely? Well, first thing you do is work very hard to get every woman on the planet exactly the same rights, opportunities, pay, and so on as every man. When women get rights, birth rates go down." Next, promote birth control.
The problem of overconsumption, Ehrlich said, could be solved almost instantly, given the right government. As an example, he mentioned how quickly the U.S. switched from producing cars to manufacturing tanks during World War II.
"If there's any reason for hope, it's that we do have a history of showing that human beings, human societies, in relatively recent times can change extremely dramatically, extremely rapidly." .. "When the time is right, you can get dramatic, dramatic changes, which indicates to me that there's a chance that when the time is right, we can change the way we behave towards each other and towards our environment and it can happen very very rapidly. I think ... your main challenge is to find a way to ripen the time."
Supporting data, videos, and slideshows are available for free download at: http://www.earth-policy.org/books/fpep
It took all the years from the time that the first modern humans appeared until 1804 for the global population to reach 1 billion in 1804 and until 1927 to add a second billion. Three decades later, in 1960, world population reached 3 billion and then we added another billion every 13 years or so until we hit 7 billion in 2011.
Humans have outrun the carrying capacity of the economy's natural support systems, including its forests, fisheries, grasslands, aquifers, and soils. Additional demand can only be satisfied by consuming the resource base itself. These excesses that are undermining our global civilization.
Consider the lily pond which has started with one lily plant leaf. The second day it adds two leaves, four the third day, eight the fourth, and so on. If the pond is full on the thirtieth day, at what point is it half full? Answer: "On the twenty-ninth day." Our global lily pond may already be in the thirtieth day.
Boosting the world's population to 2.3 billion people (UN's projection of 9.3 billion 2050) is unlikely if we rely solely on declining fertility rates, due to the difficulties in expanding the food supply, such as those posed by spreading water shortages and global warming. Demographic assumptions are based on fertility levels, age distribution, and life expectancy, but rarely on guesses as to will there be enough water to grow food for 2.3 billion more people? Or: will population growth continue without interruption in the face of crop-shrinking heat waves?
While global population growth has slowed from 2.1% in 1967 to 1.1% in 2011, we don't know if population growth will slow further because we accelerate the shift to smaller families or because we fail to do so and eventually death rates begin to rise. Filling the gap of allowing the millions of women in the world who want to plan their families to actually do so by gaining access to reproductive health and family planning services would take us a long way toward stabilizing world population and also improve the health and well-being of women and their families.
Half of the world's people live in countries that are depleting their aquifers by overpumping, but as human numbers multiply, we need more and more irrigation water. 80% of oceanic fisheries are being fished at or beyond their sustainable yield now that world population growth has increased demand for seafood. We could turn to fish farming, this would require us to grow fish food such as corn and soybean meal, putting additional pressure on the earth's land and water resources.
In Africa, the increase in human numbers from 294 million in 1961 to just over 1 billion in 2010 was accompanied by growth in the livestock population from 352 million to 894 million. These livestock numbers are outgrowing grasslands, leaving the land vulnerable to soil erosion and it eventually turns to desert, depriving local people of their livelihood and food supply, as is now happening in parts of Africa, the Middle East, central Asia, and northern China.
The demand for wood due to a growing population is exceeding the regenerative capacity of forests. The world's forests are currently losing a net 5.6 million hectares per year. Mauritania, for example has lost nearly all of its forest and are now essentially treeless. Without trees, erosion will occur, making it more difficult to produce enough food.
Plowing of marginal land leading to soil erosion and eventually cropland abandonment is happening in Africa, the Middle East, and much of Asia.
Faced with falling water tables, not a single country has mobilized to reduce water use so that it would not exceed the sustainable yield of an aquifer. We cannot afford to ignore the threats from the risks we are taking, acting like earlier civilizations that failed to reverse the environmental trends that undermined their food economies.
The bright side is that 44 countries, including nearly all those in both Western and Eastern Europe, with about 14% of humanity, have reached population stability as a result of gradual fertility decline. China's population of 1.35 billion is projected to peak in 2026 at 1.4 billion and then start shrinking.
Latin America's population growth is slowing. From just over 600 million in 2012, is projected to reach 751 million by 2050. Brazil, the largest country in the region, is projected to grow only 12% over nearly four decades.
However, virtually all of the population growth will be in developing countries, the areas least able to support them. This would include the Indian subcontinent: India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh are expected to grow from 1.6 billion people to almost 2.2 billion by 2050; and Africa south of the Sahara: expected to grow from 899 million people to 2.2 billion by 2050.
The big challenge for the world today is to help these fast-growing regions accelerate the shift to smaller families, both by eradicating poverty and by ensuring that all women have access to reproductive health care and family planning services.
Populations in Germany. Russia, and Japan are projected to shrink by roughly one tenth by 2050. Meanwhile, by 2050, Nigeria, about the size of Texas, will go from 167 million people to 390 million; Ethiopia, one of the world's hungriest countries, will go from 87 million to 145 million; and Pakistan, 8% the size of the U.S., from 180 million to 275 million.
The "demographic transition" explains the dynamics of population growth as societies modernize. In pre-modern societies, where both births and deaths are high, there is little or no population growth. Stage Two is when, as health care improves, death rates decline but birth rates remain high and population growth accelerates, typically at 3% a year. Not many of us realize that a 3% annual rate of growth will actually lead to a 20-fold growth in a century. Stage Three is when living standards continue to improve, women are educated, the birth rates start to decline, and births and deaths reach a balance.
Most countries are in stage two or three, but some countries are trapped in stage two, where governments are worn down by the struggle to build schools and provide jobs, often overwhelmed by land and water shortages, disease, civil conflict, and other adverse effects of prolonged rapid population growth. Soon they may no longer be able to provide personal security, food security, or basic social services such as education and health care; and then they lose their legitimacy and often their authority to govern. They may become failed states, such as Yemen, Ethiopia, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Afghanistan. Pakistan and Nigeria are not far behind.
The top 20 failing states, almost without exception, have high levels of fertility, according to Fund for Peace.
Countries that reach stage three, with lower fertility and fewer children, often reap a "demographic bonus," which happens when the number of young dependents declines sharply relative to the number of working adults. Household savings climb, investment rises and economic growth accelerates.
Japan, after it made a big effort to cut family size after WW II, became the first country to gain the bonus benefit, and, after three decades, raised Japan's income per person to one of the highest in the world, its economy second only to the United States. South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore followed shortly thereafter. China's declining birth rate created an unusually large demographic bonus, spurring investment because people were able to save a good share of their incomes. Sri Lanka, Mexico, Iran, Tunisia, and Viet Nam are now seeing the demographic bonus.
If world population growth does not slow dramatically, the number of people trapped in hydrological poverty and hunger will almost certainly grow, threatening food security, economic progress, and political stability. The only humane option is to move quickly to replacement-level fertility of two children per couple.
Egypt imports about half of its food; however, its foreign currency reserves have been shrinking dramatically and without more external aid, it's difficult to see how Egypt will manage to feed itself.
Recently Qatar, Turkey, and Libya pledged $6.2 billion so that Egypt could continue to purchase wheat, cooking oil, and other staples, but without a continuous flow of aid, it is hard to see how Egypt survives. Egypt has been trying to negotiate a $4.8 billion loan from the IMF, but the IMF is not an international relief agency; it expects its loans to be repaid and will not extend credit when repayment is not made.
Egypt has more people than Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, and the United Arab Emirates combined. Egypt is also heavily dependent on diesel imports to transport its food and run its agriculture machinery. One-third of its population is under the age of 15, and it is estimated that 40% of Egyptians are living on less than $2 a day. In 13 years or less, Egypt's population, currently 82 million, is projected to reach 102 million, and by 2050, 135 million.
With political instability in recent years, Egypt can no longer rely upon tourism to pay the bills. And without a healthier economy, there's no end in sight to the political unrest.
Egypt's poor and middle class are heavily dependent on government food and fuel subsidies for their economic survival. The IMF is insisting that the government agree to trim them on the claim that they are wasteful. However, trimming them would almost certainly fuel widespread protests and further undermine the government.
President Morsi is banking on the large number of Egyptian young people as a source of potential economic strength, hoping that Egypt will soon join the emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. Not likely. It would take a whole lot of education and foreign investment to productively employ Egypt's youth; Egypt is just too big.
If Egypt had curbed corruption, educated more girls, empowered women, and instituted economic reforms two or three decades ago, it might have had a fighting chance of turning its demographic corner and joining the BRICS, but its food and foreign currency reserves are steadily shrinking and its population and number of unemployed youth are rising.
In the end, Egypt may be too big and too late to save.
Other countries may see similar dim prospects. Syria is a political nightmare. Yemen's capitol city, Sanaa, could run out of water by the end of this decade. Saudi Arabia is estimated by Citigroup Inc. to be a net oil importer by 2030.
NASA's Landsat program, using a series of satellites, monitors how the human species is altering the surface of the planet. Since 1984, NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has accumulated a stunning catalog of images that, when riffled through and stitched together, create a high-definition slide show of our rapidly changing Earth. TIME magazine, using GOOGLE Earth, is proud to host the public unveiling of these images from orbit.
You can see Dubai, growing from sparse desert metropolis to modern, sprawling megalopolis, or central-pivot irrigation systems turning the sands of Saudi Arabia into an agricultural breadbasket. Watch the high-speed retreat of Mendenhall Glacier in Alaska; the West Virginia Mountains decapitated by the mining industry, and the denuded forests of the Amazon, cut to stubble by loggers.
Google's technology has scrubbed away cloud cover, filled in missing pixels, digitally stitched puzzle-piece pictures together, until the growing, thriving, sometimes dying planet is revealed in all its dynamic churn. The Landsat images take 1.8 trillion pixels per frame, the equivalent of 900,000 high-def TVs assembled into a single mosaic.
Dr. Charles Fowler is a recently retired American scientist who worked for NOAA at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center who in 2008 wrote a paper entitled "Maximizing biodiversity, information and sustainability" - see http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10531-008-9327-2?no-access=true
According to Dr. Fowler, in order to maximize the biodiversity of the planet we would need to reduce human population to about 1/700 (10 million people), overall energy use to 1/6000, CO2 emissions to about 1/8000, consumption of the planet's primary production to 1/13,000, and our water consumption to 1/267,000.
That means each of the 10 million people would use 12% of today's average energy, produce 8% of the CO2, use 5% of the planet's productivity and consume just 0.3% of the fresh water.
These 10 million would have a standard of living of less than 10% what the "world average" person enjoys today.
This is about half the lower-bound number arrived at in Thermodynamic Footprints and Sustainability, which was 20 million people all living a strict hunter-gatherer lifestyle.
We will eventually, somehow revert back to a situation much closer to true sustainability. However, because the gap between where we are and where we need to be is so enormous, it's essentially impossible for us to manage ourselves out of our predicament within the next century. That means an involuntary correction is inevitable, with all the hardship that implies.