Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Earth Math Science

The Uncertain Future of Global Population Numbers 279

Posted by Zonk
from the let's-see-one-two-three-four-five-six-a-kabillion-and-one dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The question of global population is a pretty crucial one; how many people will there be in ten years? In forty? The New York Times notes research done by a group called the Worldwatch Institute, research that concludes world population figures are too fluid to make any sort of educated guesses. Childbearing populations combined with severe resource shortages in some parts of the world make pinning down a global headcount unfeasible for ten years from now, let alone out to 2050. The article continues beyond its original borders, as well, with commenters in the field of population studies noting we don't even have a good grasp on how many people were alive in 2007."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

The Uncertain Future of Global Population Numbers

Comments Filter:
  • by ViX44 (893232) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @02:53AM (#22763726)
    2007: Too many.
    Future: Way too many.
    • by The Ancients (626689) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @02:56AM (#22763730) Homepage

      Far future: none.

      You forgot the last one, which shows we should take more notice of the preceding figures.

    • by timmarhy (659436) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @03:56AM (#22763936)
      if you really think there are too many people in the world, then why not shoot yourself right now and stop contributing to the problem?
    • by STrinity (723872) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @10:12AM (#22765068) Homepage

      Future: Way too many.


      People have been saying that since Malthus and predicting a massive population collapse. The funny thing is, civilization keeps finding ways to accommodate larger numbers.
       
      You should also note that most industrialized countries are pretty close to zero-population growth without immigration -- Europe is a little below ZPG, America a little above. You want to stabilize the population, focus on industrializing the Third World.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by microbox (704317)
        People have been saying that since Malthus and predicting a massive population collapse. The funny thing is, civilization keeps finding ways to accommodate larger numbers.

        So therefore: the world will never suffer population collapse. Good thinking 86.
        • by STrinity (723872) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @11:15AM (#22765362) Homepage

          So therefore: the world will never suffer population collapse.
          No, merely that doomsayers need evidence stronger than, "If we extrapolate the trendline, it shows we're all doomed," before it's worth listening to them.
          • by microbox (704317) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @12:24PM (#22765766)
            The earth is a closed eco-system, unless we head for the stars. There have been many studies of population growth in closed systems. They end with a lot of suffering.

            It's quite possible that human population will trend nicely towards an equilibrium, however, our very economic system is based on perpetual growth and not equilibrium. It is a matter of time until we see some limiting factor in the natural world, that will prevent that magic 5% year-on-year growth. At this point, investment will collapse, and we'll be forced to develop equilibrium based economics.

            It is worrying that we are tending more and more to keep our system going by drawing down on our resources faster, instead of being conservative and clever about our use of the planet. If human population is going to gently move to towards equilibrium, then there must be careful consideration of sustainable development. If we continue our hack-n-slash approach, we may well end up with a disaster on our hands. We are already seeing signs of imminent future problems with arable land, energy resources, fresh water and climate change.

            Perhaps it would be sane to penalize obviously myopic economic activities, like mining oil-sands, trawler fishing, and massive deforestation. Unfortutely, our economic system is structured such that companies can gain "growth" by hiding costs in externalities. That is precisely the problem with "next-quarter" economics, and characterizes much of the mentality of wall-street.

            Our growth based economic system is a tradition that has grown out of the folkways of antiquity. It is no more or less wise than bacteria growing exponentially across an agar jell. This economic system co-exists with, and is ultimately subordinate to the matter-energy relationship that we have with the planet. This is analogous to the bacterial growth hitting the edge of the petri dish.

            Perhaps you could try to argue that we'll just find cleverer and cleverer ways of doing things. Blind faith in the genius inventor is an excuse for pillaging the world right now. It's just that the scientific method that gave us the industrial revolution is the same scientific method that is saying we need to curb carbon emissions. The problem isn't with science, but with myopic greed and stubborn ignorance about our relationship with the world.

            Expect human society to behave no wiser than the bacteria on the agar jell. We'll consume ever faster, and change our ways only after significant insurmountable problems arise. This situation is analogous to how a person sinks into depression, and then resolves to significant change after they realize that depression is not living.

            We learnt nothing from the extinction of the dodo. There will be many more dodos in the future.
            • by STrinity (723872)

              The earth is a closed eco-system, unless we head for the stars. There have been many studies of population growth in closed systems. They end with a lot of suffering.

              Studies involving animals that can only improve their exploitation of the environment through evolution. Humans aren't so limited -- as tool users, we can optimize our use of the environment with technology. The hard-limits of physics -- the amount of phosphorous -- are a long way away.

              It's quite possible that human population will trend nic

              • by microbox (704317)
                Humans aren't so limited -- as tool users, we can optimize our use of the environment with technology. The hard-limits of physics -- the amount of phosphorous -- are a long way away.

                This is true, there is no argument there from me.

                The point is that if we really were such clever tool-wielding mammals, then we wouldn't (for example) gamble with highly unpredictable and potentially catastrophic climate change, because of a need to temporarily satiate ourselves. This justification through faith in an econ
                • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                  by STrinity (723872)

                  The point is that if we really were such clever tool-wielding mammals, then we wouldn't (for example) gamble with highly unpredictable and potentially catastrophic climate change,

                  As intelligent tool users, the question we should ask ourselves about climate change is at what point the economic tradeoff of stopping it outweighs the economic costs of letting it continue. This is a serious discussion that we should be having, but aren't because conservatives have their heads in the sands about whether it's ha

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by OakDragon (885217)
            I thought the population "bomb" was a bit passe, anyway, and the prophets of doom had switched to global warming - er, I mean global climate change.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Teancum (67324)
              Don't worry.... the next issue is going to be Solar System environmentalism. In other words, now that we've screwed up the Earth, let's not spread the "disease" called humanity anywhere else. They are already building the case.

              I personally think this is as absurd of an issue as the other extremists causes, but it is something to be aware of. I don't understand Lunar environmentalism, or the desire to preserve Mars as some sort of international version of Yellowstone (actually more drastic... they don't w
      • People have been saying that since Malthus and predicting a massive population collapse. The funny thing is, civilization keeps finding ways to accommodate larger numbers.

        Agreed, but that does not mean it always can. So long as all our eggs are in one basket, we are constrained with finite space, and therefore, finite resources. With unchecked population increase, consumption will inevitably overtake maximum production limits, likely resulting in precipitous—and immensely uncomfortable—pop

        • by Tango42 (662363)
          Population decline is not inevitable. Population growth must eventually stop, but we may well be able to stop it before overshooting the maximum supportable (which could well be much much higher than current populations, depending on future advances in technology) and then just have a stable population.
      • by 0xdeadbeef (28836)
        If doom wasn't predicted, why would architects of the Green Revolution such as Norman Borlaug [wikipedia.org] consider increasing food production a moral imperative? You people keep dismissing the cause for the effect.

        Blind faith in technological progress is particularly dangerous mental disease. Ten years ago the Tofflerians were saying the Internet would never be controlled, that it would bring about some kind of intellectual utopia, and that we didn't government policy protecting its beautiful state of anarchy because i
      • Long ago I read a paper that said for everybody to have a living standard on par with a European 1st world nation the planet could only sustain 2 billion people.

        Industrializing the 3rd world can not solve the problem simply because the current global system that supports industrialized nations depends upon exploiting 3rd world resources and labor. Note: I'm not even getting into environmental issues.

        - Alternatives:

        How about GM food? China has rice that causes birth defects. You already eat GM food like the
    • by rjhubs (929158) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @10:52AM (#22765230)

      You are very mistaken, this is an extremely complicated question, moreso than TFA states. In 1798, Thomas Malthus started worrying about population growth saying because we were growing at an exponential pace. This thought continued and Hardin used at as one of his main points in his famous paper the Tragedy of the Commons [wikipedia.org]. But, as this became a more important question, we have gathered more data and it turns out our assumption that population growth would stay exponential was wrong.

      Here [wikipedia.org] midway on the page are some graphs of current population estimates and global growth rates. You can see that global birth rates have already declined. And even the high end estimates for global population start to taper off. Some even predict global population will decline.

      The reasons for this decline are also complicated, but the two most prevalent explanations are first, the advent of birth control finally allows women to control when they have children. And second, and more importantly, look at this picture [wikimedia.org] a growth rate of 0 means the population of that country is staying at a constant level (for every birth there is a death), negative means population decline, >0 means population growth. Notice that most of what we call "industrialized" nations are at a maintenance level or are in population decrease. That includes China and India, the two most populated countries in the world. While most the population growth is just in Africa and parts of the Middle East and South America(and note the south africa and egypt don't have growth). The reason for all this is explained as, as a society gets more 'industrialized' the need for families to be larger decreases. While in places where farming is necessary for survival, the incentive to have more children (free labor) is high. Its not that Africans don't have access to birth control, its that its more beneficial for them to not use it.

      So the prevailing theory today is that as Africa gets more industrialized, their population growth will go down and global population will stabilize. We could argue about whether or not Africa will get industrialized, but I think in absence of very strong evidence, we have to believe the more industrialized a nation gets, its population growth approaches 0 or even negative.

    • by HeroreV (869368)
      Too many people is not the problem. The problem is that we aren't making good use of our resources.

      Saying we have too many people reminds me of those network admins who whine about ever increasing hard disk capacities and how hard it is getting to back up so much data. The problem is not that hard disks hold too much data, the problem is that we haven't yet figured out a good way of backing up all that data.

      People are good (overall). I want more of them. The earth could easily support 20 billion people; we
  • by cjfs (1253208) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @02:57AM (#22763734) Homepage Journal

    ... and all still on the same rock.

    We need to get out more.

  • by slap20 (168152) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @02:58AM (#22763736)
    As populations grow out of control, lack of food and resources in some parts of the world will limit population growth, and as diseases and virus' change, our antibiotics are becoming less effective. I think the issue with population levels, and the rapid rate of growth that we are seeing, is far more worrysome than global warming. At least in my opinion. I think we are starting to approach a critical mass point, where we are going to have to start doing something, start making large changes soon. Whether it be global warming, over-population, or some other issue, each is only one of many "Holy crap what are we going to do?" problems. I would love to see the release of Duke Nukem Forever, but will we really be around to see it? :-)

    -Eric-
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Bill Dog (726542)
      I think the issue with population levels, and the rapid rate of growth that we are seeing, is far more worrysome than global warming.

      Then I must notify you that you are thinking an unacceptable thought. With all the fluidity and complexity and variables in population change, it's okay to admit we can't predict, but with all the fluidity and complexity and variables in climate change, we can be certain of Global Warming.
      • by countvlad (666933) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @04:44AM (#22764060)
        I'm sure the population numbers are "fluid" but I think sure we can safely say it's monotonically increasing (albeit not in a strictly mathematical sense).

        No, the GP is right on this one. I'm far more concerned with overpopulation, because it's a driving force for the causes of global warming. As grossly overpopulated areas industrialize - and grow - so to will CO2, CFC, et al, emissions. And that's aside from the other obvious impacts on the environment overpopulation has, including the need for vast amounts of natural resources, which has and will lead to the destruction of the largest forests on this planet.

        Growing populations are clearly more of a detriment to the environment than global warming, which is still arguably "part of nature". By your own admission, there are many variables in climate change, and given our inability to determine even the most basic weather phenomenon or reach consensus on global warming, the *certain* effects the overpopulation are far greater AND more likely.
        • You should read the global baby bust [foreignaffairs.org]. Under-population threatens to be a serious problem to developed economies in future - this is partly why immigration is allowed in such large numbers. I'm not saying it'll happen for sure, but I can well believe that in 30 years we'll look back on worries about over-population the same way we look at 70s worries about global cooling today.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by sudo (194998)
            From that article ... "But having averted the danger of overpopulation, the world now faces the opposite problem: an aging and declining population." (Written by another corporate sponsored lapdog working for the "New American" think-tank)

            In the article, it was estimated that the U.S. was going to reach a peak of 1.1Billion ... where a city the size of New York is built every 10 months.

            Yeah, sounds like an underpopulation problem to me. The article had very rose colored glasses on and completely ignored maj
          • by hawkfish (8978)

            Under-population threatens to be a serious problem to developed economies in future - this is partly why immigration is allowed in such large numbers.

            Assuming we ever get there. Have a look at Jared Diamond's Collapse [newyorker.com]. I agree that it could be an issue if we do get there, but it is not clear to me that we will.

            I'm not saying it'll happen for sure, but I can well believe that in 30 years we'll look back on worries about over-population the same way we look at 70s worries about global cooling today.

            Plese st

        • You are more optimistic than I am.

          The population crash will reduce the number of people on the world by 99%. Depending on what we do today, the remaining 70 million people will either be pushed back into a stone age existence, or be ready to usher in a Golden Age that could last a millenium or longer.

          If we package our current knowledge in ways that will survive the turmoils of the great crash, and are easily accessible to the survivors, then they will have the wealth of the emptied cities and farmlands to

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Shikaku (1129753)
      Maybe I'm too hopeful of humanity, but if there's more people born and surviving in general, wouldn't that mean that those more people will be able to somehow INCREASE the world capacity of human life on earth in some way? Or better yet, maybe those people will help us in some other way, like inventing neat things for us, useful or just fun in general. For example, cheap space travel or terraforming. I say we should do nothing about the population problem except increase the capacity in all ways possible
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mlts (1038732) *
      What I'm worried about is a perfect storm for a disease to hit. First, people are moving into more densely packed areas where human contact with many others is a must for most of the day. Second, with the wide ranging of travel, a bug which started in Arizona can make it to Berlin in a matter of hours and start infecting people. Lastly, even existing bacteria and viruses seem to be giving us trouble, as they mutate into strains resistant to known antibiotics.

      Its theorized that diseases that hit a high po
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by STrinity (723872)

        What I'm worried about is a perfect storm for a disease to hit.

        A perfect storm for a disease is what happened when Cortes met the Aztecs. There appear to have been very few or no diseases in Precolumbian America, so once European diseases were introduced, they ripped through the native population with an estimated 90% lethality rate. For a perfect storm to occur again, you'd need a completely virgin population, which doesn't exist in the modern world.

        Its theorized that diseases that hit a high population

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by timmarhy (659436)
      most reputable models point to a leveling out of the worlds population at 10 billion. personally seeing as we are at 6.6billion now i think we will pass that point by another 5.

      The reason we will peak is because if it wasn't for immigration developed countries would have had a negative growth rate, that coupled with the AIDS virus and effective birth control. poor countries will develop and large families will not be needed anymore. http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn1108-global-population-to-peak-in-20 [newscientist.com]

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Spitfire75 (800119)
        "If all living things strive to satisfy their innate urges, none ever forgets to go forth and multiply. They can't: wild creatures are programmed to breed for nothing, certainly not for old-age care. Homo sapiens, exceptional by its brain, broke this rule. Though sex remains one of the most powerful human instincts, intelligence, or the contraceptives it invents, allows people the fun without the function. Evolution has made us the thinking beings who know how to trade blind multiplication for the good life
    • by STrinity (723872)

      As populations grow out of control, lack of food and resources in some parts of the world will limit population growth, and as diseases and virus' change, our antibiotics are becoming less effective
      Thank you, Malthus, but in the 210 years since you first made that prediction, it hasn't come true.
      • Thank you, Malthus, but in the 210 years since you first made that prediction, it hasn't come true.

        Yet.

        You do realize (and perhaps this is rhetorical since you don't seem to) that "210 years" is, let's see ...

        A quick search for "age of humans" [sciencedaily.com] comes up to about 1.5 million years.

        So a tiny fraction of the denominator.

        So give Malthus a break, it's hard to be that accurate when you're working with big numbers. Unfortunately, I think he will be correct sooner or later. "Sooner or later" being fai

    • by MtViewGuy (197597)
      I think the limitations on how much fresh water we can get and how much food we can grow on a per acre/hectare basis will limit how far human population can grow. It's also an issue of how we can transport foodstuffs around at reasonable prices, too. I see a possible dramatic drop in human population growth until new technologies that replace most of our current petroleum usage become widely available.
  • by Wellington Grey (942717) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @03:00AM (#22763738) Homepage Journal
    Optimists cite plunging fertility rates in some countries as evidence that Earth's human passenger list will not reach 9 billion. Pessimists see a chance of zooming well past that mark, and they add that with all the signs of strained resources (what's the price of oil today?), this trajectory will lead to some hard knocks. Some say we've already shot over the edge of the cliff and, like Wile E. Coyote in the old cartoons, simply haven't noticed.

    Looks to me like the optimists actually have some evidence behind them. The more crowded the world gets, the more expensive it will be to have many children, and the fewer people will have.

    -Grey [silverclipboard.com]
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by HeLLFiRe1151 (743468)
      Population has always been tied to economic and survival factors. When you see famine in Africa, you think why do they have more kids? They think they need more kids so that one or two might survive. It's exactly the same for most animals.
      • by TapeCutter (624760) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @05:40AM (#22764210) Journal
        Yes we are all organic, the input of energy from oil and coal over the last 100/200 yrs has been reflected in a food and population explosion (germ theory was an added bonus). However, the byproducts from that energy boost have screwed up the environment to such an extent it will show up in the fossil record as 'the sixth great extinction' (along with a global layer of plastic dust). Vast tract of ocean are no longer productive, changes in storm tracks are screwing with harvests, even Santa's castle is melting.

        Econimists are now saying we must account for waste as a cost (insurance underwriters were saying it first), we need them (among others) to find a 'soft landing' for when oil declines and coal becomes expensive (due to sane emmision controls). However when I look at the politics and past civilization that have succum to rapid environmental change, I think it's more than likely that we will see a global population crash this century. Of course we will call the crash a war and blame the whole thing (including the initial shortage of resources), on the loser's nastyness.
        • by hawkfish (8978) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @10:23AM (#22765122) Homepage

          Of course we will call the crash a war and blame the whole thing (including the initial shortage of resources), on the loser's nastyness.
          One of the most interesting (and chilling) sections of Jared Diamond's Collapse [newyorker.com] was the studies of the Rwandan genocide that documented how the same level of "genocide" occurred in tribally homogeneous areas. One particular area had a single Tutsui, but the death ratio was comparable to the rest of the country. To a large extent, the patterns of murder in this area appeared connected with land disputes caused by overpopulation.
    • by NMerriam (15122) <NMerriam@artboy.org> on Sunday March 16, 2008 @04:11AM (#22763974) Homepage
      I can't even tell if I'm an optimist or a pessimist by this standard, since it seems clear that both cases are true. I don't know why it is pessimistic to believe population will grow to 9 billion, I'd think that was the "good news" scenario, where mortality declines and resources are used more effectively, the way both trends have gone for the past several hundred years.

      Sure, when a society gets to a certain economic and technological stage, your birth rate declines (and in some first world countries is already below the replacement rate). So as the rest of the world catches up to our standard of living, we'll eventually reach some sort of rough global population plateau, but I seriously doubt we're going to hit that limit in a matter of decades. Africa could easily hold another one or two billion people with no new technology, just economic maturity.

      Yeah, peak oil and whatever other resource issues crop up will be a pain in the butt to deal with, but eventually they will be dealt with and the population will keep growing. Even the looming global disaster of fresh water is just a single technology breakthrough away from being an interesting historical footnote.
      • I'm more on the pessimistic side as to how things will sort themselves out but I agree, the only way to save a faltering industrial revoution from imploding is to apply more science.
      • by vertinox (846076) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @08:57AM (#22764754)
        Yeah, peak oil and whatever other resource issues crop up will be a pain in the butt to deal with, but eventually they will be dealt with and the population will keep growing. Even the looming global disaster of fresh water is just a single technology breakthrough away from being an interesting historical footnote.

        For the life of me I can't remember or find the source, but a particular person in the field of sociology had figured out if the current rate of population (which is still exponential) there would be more humans than atoms in 17,000 years which he concluded something has to give at one point between now and then.

        The fact of the matter is that someday humans will have to stop having kids in order to make life comfortable for the living. In fact its arguable that mass death is often followed by times of economic prosperity such as the emergence of the middle class and renaissance after the black death of the middle ages. Now I'm not arguing for humans should die off but rather they should focus on accepting birth control as a societal norm until the individual is ready to actually have a child.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Fallingcow (213461)
          I'm always a bit baffled by people who are just *SO* disgusted by China's government-mandated birth control.

          It's something that most other countries on the planet will probably have to do eventually; WTF do they want a country with a huge population and out-of-control birth rates to do? Let people breed as they want, seeking to meet immediate, individual needs, so that they can collectively cause a huge starvation die-off a couple of decades later? Or collectively enforce birth control so the die-off does
      • I don't know why it is pessimistic to believe population will grow to 9 billion, I'd think that was the "good news" scenario, where mortality declines and resources are used more effectively, the way both trends have gone for the past several hundred years.

        Let's look more closely at the numbers. [earth-policy.org]

        1. Current population: 6.7 billion
        2. Estimate for 2015: 7.2 billion
        3. Difference: 0.5 billion

        That is basically an increase of half a billion children younger than 7 years. I think it is a bit much to expect these youngsters to be providing us with knowledge about how to use our resources more effectively; we will need to accommodate their needs with what we already know. In fact, since they are still growing, we can expect these kids to more than double their drain on r

    • by imsabbel (611519)
      Thats bull, really.

      The pesimists use the same data than the optimists, with different interpredation:
      Richer people have less kids.

      Just the optimists think everybody will get rich in the future, while the pesimists think that the dropping in resource availability will cause countries to tumble down to a pre-developed state at some time (including those nice 7.x children per woman rates we can still see in some african countries).
    • Nope (Score:4, Informative)

      by SpeelingChekka (314128) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @09:40AM (#22764940) Homepage

      The more crowded the world gets, the more expensive it will be to have many children, and the fewer people will have

      If that were the case, then wealthier people would be having more children and poorer people would be having fewer. In fact it is the EXACT opposite; the people who can afford the least children, have the most, and vice versa. There are many reasons/factors that come into play, e.g. cultural (it's become "socially unacceptable", for example, amongst the "educated class" to have lots of children - you are considered low class now if you have lots of kids, this was not true even just a few generations ago in our own culture, e.g. my gran was one of over a dozen kids and that was 'normal' then; conversely in many African cultures here, for example, having many children IS regarded as 'wealth'). Another factor I believe is a kind of instinct present in many animals too whereby when times are tough and infant survival rates thus lower, more offspring are produced to increase chances of survival.

      The biggest drop in fertility rates amongst the world's wealthy educated minority did not actually coincide with education though, it coincided with the development and widespread availability of 'The Pill' in the late 60s / early 70s. Most of the world's poor either can't afford good contraception or aren't terribly interested in it.

      For various reasons the poor are still able to survive in big numbers - their basic needs, like food, are mostly taken care of. In some cases this is thanks to welfare and AID, in others thanks to industrial agriculture allowing the earth to produce a lot of food at low cost. Also things like basic medicines/vaccines are comparatively widely available now globally. So average infant survival rates are MUCH higher than they were even fifty years ago. People just aren't dying much, even in poor countries, so producing children IS very cheap UNLESS you actually want to house and educate them properly, but most do not do this.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by riverat1 (1048260)
        I believe research has shown that the single biggest factor in fertility levels is the educational level of women. In general the areas with the highest population growth are the areas where women are the least educated.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          Yeah, I've wondered about this, I'm not completely convinced, but then again haven't studied the 'real research' ... if that's the case, then it may be that the feminist movement in the West has been the largest contributor to declining fertility rates. Likely it's a combination of the various factors (education / contraception availability / cultural), with some factors contributing more. Of course the downside to all this is that uneducated people are experiencing a population explosion - and of course, w
  • by scsirob (246572) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @03:33AM (#22763870)
    In 2063 there will be 30 billion.. All Borg. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Trek:_First_Contact [wikipedia.org]
    • More precisely there will be 15 billion Republiborgs and 15 billion Demoborgs.
      You may think voting is futile, but you wouldn't want the wrong borg to get in would you?

  • by rseuhs (322520) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @03:52AM (#22763914)
    What few people realize, is that the earth can support more people than what is commonly called the "carrying capacity" - temporarily.

    Of course when you look at some examples:

    Easter islands, where the polynesians peaked at about 10000 inhabitants before falling to about 2000 because they chopped down all trees. (no more boats -> no more fishing, no more houses -> starvation, disease)

    Haiti, where the population has stripped their half of the island almost literally bare (almost the complete population survives on food-aid, now you can imagine what happens when the food-aid stops.)

    China, where groundwater continues to fall and many areas are already dry.

    Great Britain, which is extremely densely populated, has to import about half of it's food and is stupid enough to let half a million immigrants in every year.

    It becomes clear that the world just can't go on like that forever. It probably can't even go on like that for more than a couple of years. The green revolution has been made possible by oil and gas and both are getting much more expensive each and every year now.

    And no, it's not a "global problem" like the one-worlders want us to believe. Some countries will be able to manage well (like Iceland which with almost zero immigration and geothermal energy plants is well prepared), some will be average (like France which can keep the lights up with nuclear power, but has a huge 3rd-world immigration problem on the other hand or Japan which is overpopulated but may solve that problem with low birthrates and not mass-famine), some will turn into hell-holes (like England which has an even bigger trade deficit than the USA per capita and cannot feed it's population even now while oil and gas is still cheap and there is still some coming from the North Sea oilfields. On top of that immigration has transformed a once cohesive population into a society that with a huge potential for civil strife or even civil war, London is already one of the most crime-ridden cities in the world.) or continue to be hell-holes (like most of the 3rd world)

    I would be very surprised if there will be more than 3 billion people living in 2050.

    Of course the human species will carry on, future historians will probably think of the 20th century as some crazy period full of socialist (in the late 20th/early 21st-century USA usually called "liberal") experiments.

    • by kestasjk (933987)
      Well at least now we know.
    • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

      by timmarhy (659436)
      all of these problems would have occurred 2 decades ago if they were a real problem. we aren't running out of oil anytime soon inspsite of what the rabid global warming nutters want you to think. most of the price rises are due to artificial restrictions on supply.
      • by rseuhs (322520) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @04:42AM (#22764058)
        all of these problems would have occurred 2 decades ago if they were a real problem.

        Maybe the Polynesian who chopped down the last tree on easter island had exactly the same thoughts? Who knows?

        First of all, many of these problems DID already occur, the easter island die-off occoured before the island was descouvered by Europeans, probably somewhen around 1500 AD.

        Second, many problems occured (like Haiti's complete lack of forest despite being a tropical half-island) but are merely covered up. (The do-gooders are sending food aid to Haiti to make sure the population continues to breed like crazy)

        Third, problems occur when they occur. To say they never occur because they didn't occur 2 decades ago is just plain nonsense.

        we aren't running out of oil anytime soon

        True, but the oil will be harder to get, more expensive to extract and there will be less of it.

        inspsite of what the rabid global warming nutters want you to think.

        Global warming has nothing to do with the end of cheap oil.

        most of the price rises are due to artificial restrictions on supply.

        It's true that the oil industry has shown a general lack of interest in building new refineries in the last years. (and that was a problem during Katrina because refinery capacity was not enough)

        However the reason for that is that the oil industry knows very well that oil and gas will peak (or already has peaked) and it doesn't make any sense to build a refinery which needs 10 years to pay itself when there won't be any fuel for it after 5 years. (Not because we are "running out of oil" but because the old, refineries can manage the slowly declining supply)

    • by seyyah (986027) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @04:44AM (#22764062)

      ... let half a million immigrants in every year ...

      ... a huge 3rd-world immigration problem ...

      ... immigration has transformed a once cohesive population ...

      ... Iceland with almost zero immigration ... is well prepared ...


      So, Mr. Huntington, what do you think is the world's greatest problem today?
      • by Teun (17872)
        Hehe, it's pretty obvious that man lacks self confidence and is suffering from selectively reading the well know British tabloids.

        Plus the United Kingdom is only #51 on the list of population densities, for example The Netherlands is running one of the healthiest European economies from spot #25.
        South Korea is in place #21 and doing extremely well.

        Besides, the UK being an Island Nation seriously needs to stock up it's limited gene pool :)
        • by rseuhs (322520)
          The UK includes Scotland which is pretty poor from a farming-POV. England (which is not the same as the UK, FYI) is very densely populated and isn't prime farming country either (though better than Scotland).

          Also, England has a horrible trade deficit in almost everything. Essentially England exports just printed paper (pound-notes, stocks, etc) and gets indebted more and more. Even without Peak Oil, England could not function like that forever.

          You can try to insult me if you like ("lacks self confidence

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by chrispalasz (974485)
      I would be very surprised if there will be more than 3 billion people living in 2050.

      That's quite an exaggeration. I would be surprised if there will be less than 8 billion. After doing extensive world traveling in 2007, I think non-travelers forget exactly how absolutely huge the earth is. Of course there will be some individual nations (like China, to name just one) that start to give us a window into what happens to an overpopulated land area, but I don't believe it will become a global problem befor
    • by IamTheRealMike (537420) <mike@plan99.net> on Sunday March 16, 2008 @06:53AM (#22764410) Homepage

      What few people realize, is that the earth can support more people than what is commonly called the "carrying capacity" - temporarily.

      You state that as fact, but as far as I know the concept of "carrying capacity" is not defined or even studied. Whilst it makes intuitive sense that there must be some limit, it also makes sense that this limit would itself be fluid - changing with the march of technology and changes in living standards. I've never seen anybody calculate a carrying capacity for 21st century Earth, especially not scientifically. People who use the term invariably assume it must be lower than our current population - how much lower is usually pulled out of thin air.

      It becomes clear that the world just can't go on like that forever. It probably can't even go on like that for more than a couple of years. The green revolution has been made possible by oil and gas and both are getting much more expensive each and every year now.

      Your list of societies is disingenous - you list a primitive, fully collapsed society like Easter Island right alongside Great Britain, which last time I lived there imported half its food because you can't grow strawberries there year round, not because it was about to collapse. Britain could feed itself tomorrow simply by converting some of its farming capacity from meat production to cereal production.

      Also, the green revolution was triggered mostly by the development of nitrogen fertilisers, weed killers and crop varieties that could handle being treated with them. Although we use hydrogen from natural gas to make nitrogen fertilisers today, you can produce it using electrolysis without problem. And whilst it's true that today farm machinery is mostly gasoline powered, that's something independent of the green revolution. If you haven't already read it, I suggest checking out Stanifords Food to 2050 [theoildrum.com] for a data-based analysis of whether the green revolution can be sustained.

      And no, it's not a "global problem" like the one-worlders want us to believe. Some countries will be able to manage well (like Iceland which with almost zero immigration and geothermal energy plants is well prepared)

      Only a small proportion of Icelands power comes from geothermal. Most of it is hydro. Iceland has much bigger problems than electricity anyway - there's basically nothing there, and whilst it has energy in abundance the economy is mostly based on industrial fishing. Once the fish stocks are exhausted, there'll be little left to sustain it.

      I would be very surprised if there will be more than 3 billion people living in 2050.

      Ah ha, I knew it. As soon as I read the term "carrying capacity" I was waiting for the ass-pulled number. Why 3 billion? Why not 2, or 4? Or 100 million? I don't see any particular constraints on slow population growth - it's been boringly linear for most of the 20th century in most developed countries, and in large parts of Europe is going to head sharply downwards soon due to natural demographic trends anyway. Whilst places like Africa or Chian might get miserable, Africa is already miserable and there's no obvious reason why in the long term China would see different population trends from other developed countries.

      • by Epistax (544591)
        Wow. You pwned him.

        I tip my hat to you.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by STrinity (723872)

        Whilst it makes intuitive sense that there must be some limit, it also makes sense that this limit would itself be fluid -

        Actually, no. The ultimate bottleneck for human population growth is the amount of available phosphorous. There are theoretical work-arounds for every other limiting factor, but the phosphorous limit would require mass-scale transmutation of matter to get past. Assuming we strip mine the entire solar system for phosphorous, the upper bounds for the human population on Earth is 10e22.

      • by rseuhs (322520)
        You state that as fact, but as far as I know the concept of "carrying capacity" is not defined or even studied. Whilst it makes intuitive sense that there must be some limit, it also makes sense that this limit would itself be fluid - changing with the march of technology and changes in living standards. I've never seen anybody calculate a carrying capacity for 21st century Earth, especially not scientifically. People who use the term invariably assume it must be lower than our current population - how much
    • by renoX (11677)
      >What few people realize, is that the earth can support more people than what is commonly called the "carrying capacity" - temporarily.

      Uh? Why do you claim that few people realize this?
      It's quite obvious, except that of course the "carrying capacity" depends a lot on the technology and the way of living of the people..

      [cut]
      >some will be average (like France which can keep the lights up with nuclear power, but has a huge 3rd-world immigration problem on the other hand

      This show quite well your bias: the
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by arpad1 (458649)
      Yeah, Easter Island, a geographically isolated, stone-age culture with a total population that would give it "small town" status today has a lot to teach us about the dangers that face a globe-spanning economy with resources the Easter Islander's would dismiss as fantasies and technologies they'd scarcely understand.

      The rest of the post consists of either misrepresentation of the current situation as in your use of England as an example of the dangers of overpopulation or clear repudiation of the beliefs of
  • the answer is simple.

    Stop brining people back from the dead.

    When somebody dies don't strap electrodes on them and shock them back to life. When somebody dies don't give them mouth to mouth and bring them back to life.

    Leave the dead alone.

    Now I know this will be difficult if your child has died from drowning or your grandpa died from a heart attack but we as a society must accept that people are going to die eventually. No matter how many times you bring them back to life they are going to die anyway.

    Maybe n
    • Perhaps not everyone shares your definition of death, which is why many will see your post as advocating a form of murder.

      What if that person is hanging off the edge of a cliff, sure to lose his grip at any moment. Are you going to pull him back from the dead?
    • Around 1% of people survive an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest to discharge from hospital.

      The vast majority of these are outside their breeding years.

      This has no bearing on birth or death rates - they rarely last too long anyway.

      There are few people medically worth resuscitating due to the futility of it anyway. But we do it because society demands we try, and we can't predict which ones will be successful too well.

      Why not advocate getting rid of antibiotics? That would be about the most significant medical
    • by vertinox (846076)
      Stop brining people back from the dead.

      What? Do they even have the medical means to do this in countries where overpopulation is the worst?

      What you are saying is like going to a starving country in Africa and telling them they shouldn't eat so much because it causes obesity. Its not the problem! The problem is that there is no food!
  • "When you kill one, it is a tragedy. When you kill ten million, it is a statistic."
  • by Anonymous Coward
    For once, porn really is the answer!
  • Environmental extremists have been controlling the population for years by banning DDT.
  • by underpants_gnome (1226602) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @07:40AM (#22764522)
    I heard that a dude called Xenu knows the solution to the population prob...

    Oh wait, someone's knocking on my door. BRB.
  • by CAIMLAS (41445) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @09:04AM (#22764788) Homepage
    This whole approach irritates me.

    Thirty-five odd years ago, there was a similar group of scientists trying to figure the same thing out (or so they said). They made some crazy predictions; namely, that the world would be over-populated, and primarily due to the heat put off by large cities, the global temperatures would result in us all looking like overdone chicken. TEOTWAWKI kind of stuff, all largely targeted at the gas guzzling, "consumerist" way of life.*

    Or, at least, that's how the policy and information filtered down to school-aged kids in the late 80's/early 90's, and how it was communicated through laws and national/international (US and other Western countries) efforts to sap some of the world's hunger - primarily in Africa - to hopefully offset the problem now, so maybe in the future they could take care of themselves. Problem: Africa's population exploded, as did the disease and warfare. And the West is still funding this destructive cycle today, even though it's been proven - time and time again - to make the situation immeasurably worse, not better.

    The supporters of these policies would say "oh, but this just proves the policies were effective!" (with regard to the initial population decines after those seminal works were published) - but they would be wrong. The world population was already in decline before these "runaway population" projection supporters tooted their horns. And since then, world population increase has been anything but exponential. China's population shrank markedly due to birth control; the Western countries (including Russia) have all shrunk substantially in population, and India is moving that way now.

    What we should be trending and looking at predicting is what the next politically-foisted, crack theory will be. Just look back over the past 5 years, and you'll see an obscene amount of variance in just the "global warming/cooling/etc." argument; look back 30 years, and they're using the same models to predict something different still: the globe is cooling, new ice age - oh wait, it's warming, and we'll all look like overdone chicken by 2010... oh, what's that? 2008 is the coldest year on record in 30+ years so far?

    And the same thing applies to population hokum. You can not predict something this complex: there are simply too many factors, internal and external, which have sway. It is significantly more complex than the global warming/cooling argument, because it directly depends (and bases most of its assumptions) on the global warming/cooling expectations. Then you've got cultural changes (ie, women having fewer/almost no children - which is exactly what happens when countries become "westernized", and what was directly overlooked/unknown in the "explosive population" projections), wars, famines, poor land management, extinction of bees (needed to fertilize all flowering plants), epidemics/panemics, and any number of other things.

    * while some of it was noble, it went about it in such a reckless, dishonest manner that the message was largely discredited through the approach. yet enough was absorbed by members of my generation that much of the stupid policies and beliefs impregnated in our minds at a young age, and have taken root now that we are adults. yay, brainwashing.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Teun (17872)

      This whole approach irritates me.

      snip

      The world population was already in decline before these "runaway population" projection supporters tooted their horns. And since then, world population increase has been anything but exponential. China's population shrank markedly due to birth control; the Western countries (including Russia) have all shrunk substantially in population, and India is moving that way now.

      From what orifice do you pull this information?
      The only significant country with a factual decline in population is Russia, or a little wider, parts of the Former Soviet Union.
      China's population is still increasing rapidly even though the government does since decades it's best to control it, your statement to the opposite is plain stupid.

      What we should be trending and looking at predicting is what the next politically-foisted, crack theory will be. Just look back over the past 5 years, and you'll see an obscene amount of variance in just the "global warming/cooling/etc." argument; look back 30 years, and they're using the same models to predict something different still: the globe is cooling, new ice age - oh wait, it's warming, and we'll all look like overdone chicken by 2010... oh, what's that? 2008 is the coldest year on record in 30+ years so far?

      That's what applied science is all about, you continually adjust your experiments with the latest knowledge.
      And the latest knowledge (that's not the same as


  • Our planet is in imminent danger of being eaten by an enormous mutant star goat!


  • by SpecialAgentXXX (623692) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @02:52PM (#22766794)
    The population has exploded in the past century for one and only one reason - PEAK OIL. For every calorie of food that we consume it takes about 10 calories of energy to make. It is not sustainable to expend more calories than you consume. Through the use of oil, we have been able to have machines do the manual labor of farming. Through the use of natural gas, we have created fertilizers to grow crops. Take away the fossil fuels and our farming capacity dramatically drops.

    Industrializing 3rd world nations will only hasten the global die-off. Look at the HUGE impact on commodities that China & India have place since they industrialized. If China was to consume like we do in the US, it would take 7 planet earths. A real good DVD to watch is A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash [oilcrashmovie.com].

    I strongly urged all /.'ers to read The Oil Drum [theoildrum.com] blog, especially the daily DrumBeat's.
  • by LynnwoodRooster (966895) on Sunday March 16, 2008 @06:07PM (#22767940) Journal
    If you moved every single person in the world to the land area within Texas, we'd have less population density than New York City (cites: NYC [wikipedia.org], land area of Texas [census.gov], world population [census.gov]).

    The water outflow of the Columbia River would provide each and every person with nearly 26 gallons of fresh water per day (cites: Columbia River [wikipedia.org]).

    We could feed all those people - about 500 square meters per person - with the existing farmland within the US (cites: vegan food estimates [vegansociety.com], farmland in the US [usda.gov]).

    Essentially, we could live mid-density, and feed and provide potable water for every single person on the face of the earth, and not require a single person living outside of Texas - no one on the other 6 continents, the oceans, or any other State. No one in Canada or Mexico.

    We could feed everyone without a single acre converted from farmland - wouldn't need to touch a single acre of forest, nor city, nor ocean, nor park.

    The earth can support a LOT of people; the problem is distribution of the resources. And that is a purely political issue. Concerns about too many people on earth are demonstrably false.

An optimist believes we live in the best world possible; a pessimist fears this is true.

Working...