I’ve been reading a lot lately about “the population crisis”, which is the idea that there are simply too many people on the planet. Now … like a lot of other things in this world, it isn’t a simple black and white question or answer like that … so I thought I’d write a bit of an explanation about what is happening to the planet, and how it relates to population.
To really discuss anything like this, you need a baseline, so let’s begin by constructing such a baseline … then we’ll be able to run scenarios against that baseline, and compare those scenarios to the reality we face.
In the century or so leading up to and following the start of the industrial revolution, the global population doubled then tripled, from a baseline of around 300 million, to 700 million, then a billion by the 1800s.
Imagine the Earth prior to the industrial revolution … humans have machines, but not the same kind of fuelled machines as today. We have windmills, waterwheels, gravity feed systems, horse / oxen power and human power … but of course we do have fire, and the understanding of how to smelt metals and construct large buildings from a range of materials.
So in this world, with a global population like that of the present day USA dispersed over the entire planet, there are a great deal more forests, swamps and other ecosystems, each bursting with abundant variety and quantity of species, as would astound our imaginations today.
But let’s take this back even further to the dawn of agriculture (which I suspect is a lot older than claimed in official history, because if the achievements of the Australian indigenous people were recognised, it would undermine the British claim that Australia was Terra Nullius – and there certainly is evidence of irrigation by Australian aboriginals, though I don’t know how old that is, their presence dates back at least 40,000 years) … but at that 10,000BC (which there needs to be a better date system for, since the whole Christian thing is a hoax), there was likely less than 100 million.
So back at this very early part of civilisation, somewhere between 10-40 thousand years ago, there would have perhaps at most been only millions to tens of millions globally … and you can imagine the impact on the Earth’s ecosystems and species; it may have been recovering at various stages from ice age, asteroid impact, and various other natural disasters … but it was not so polluted, and it had a huge array of species from which to fill any ecological niche in such recovery.
- So we have an Earth with an abundant variety and populations of species, in global ecosystems that have been relatively undisturbed for very long periods of time, and which can quickly recover from disaster;
- We’ve never had human economics, manufacturing, inbuilt obsolescence, nor consumer throw-away culture.
Let’s now take a look at the resources we have available.
Land surface area:
I’ve done this calculation before, but in a slightly different and more complex way, so I’ve simplified it a bit for this example. The general idea is to show just how much land we have, and thus how wasteful our civilisation is. However you may notice the following:
- These estimates assume greening the deserts (but this is actually a really easy, low-tech achievement);
- We have not included the oceans as a food resource at all, which of course it has been for a very long time.
So … of the approximately 510 million square kilometres of the Earth’s surface, around 150 million sq.kms. are land, the rest being oceans, seas, & I guess some of the larger lakes. So let’s have a look at just what can be done with that land.
Firstly, imagine that we were to leave all of the world’s coldest regions as untouched wilderness:
- Greenland + Iceland: 2.25 million sq.kms;
- Siberia (entire): 13.1 million sq.kms;
- Canada: 10 million sq.kms;
- Alaska: 1.7 million sq.kms;
- Antarctica: 14 million sq.kms;
- Total (approx.): 41 million sq.kms.
Secondly, we’re going to do the same for the world’s mountainous regions (even though in today’s world, 10% of the human population lives in those mountainous regions), and declare it untouched wilderness … not because we don’t intend to touch it, but just because it makes the calculations easier:
- Mountains: 30 million sq.kms;
… now there’s likely some considerable overlap between these two figures, but if we ignore it then we’re actually erring on the side of conservatism with the estimate we’re aiming at. So let’s just round this out at a total of 70 million sq.kms., leaving a remainder of 80 million sq.kms.
- The Remainder: 50% of 80 million = 40 million sq.kms;
Taking half of this remaining land as untouched wilderness again, leaves us 40 million sq.kms.; which is enough for every man woman and child of a population of 10 billion people to have an entire acre each. Imagine how many species can exist on all that remaining land, if it were held as wilderness, and imagine how stable such an abundance of wilderness would make our environment across the entire biosphere … imagine also how much better it would recover from natural disasters outside our control, had we not damaged it all.
- It has been estimated that 1/6th of 1 acre is all that is required to grow food for an adult vegan diet;
- For argument’s sake, let’s say we use twice that much per person, ignoring also that babies, children and the elderly will require far less than 1/6th, yet we’re allocating the far higher amount of 1/3rd for a population 2 billion more than it is today … so we know we’re well on track;
- Remember also that we’ve ignored the oceans as a food source, and all our declared wilderness regions have been labelled “untouched”, so they’re completely pristine, and ignored as a food source;
- So we have an acre per person including babies, children and the elderly, for 10 billion people, with untouched oceans, mountains, cold land regions, and HALF of everything remaining after that from the total land surface area … AND … we’ve still got underground also;
- THEREFORE: running out of resources from 8 billion people is incompetence not necessity, and one must wonder how the hell we’ve managed to do it given these statistics and our present technology … but of course the answer is simple: we weren’t looking, we didn’t care, and we were motivated to dominate, destroy and exploit for “profit”.
Hypothetical Scenario 1:
So let’s go back to a pristine state of the Earth, and argue a case for an alternative reality given much of the same timeline of events, but at some stage in the past, we stopped being stupid and insane.
Here’s our scenario:
- Back in the 1600s / 1700s, there was a man who was clearly very much ahead of his time, and while I cannot remember his name, he is the earliest reference I’ve found to someone around the era of the industrial revolution who was able to predict where society was headed, and he basically predicted in very general terms where we are now;
- Clearly, very few people listened, and very little was done about it;
- Now … imagine all the other people whom were ahead of their time, and predicted other things, because they were concerned not so much about fame, wealth or power, but instead about consequences … many or all of whom were also likely partially or completely ignored;
- Now, the world wouldn’t have been entirely pristine, but it’s ecosystems were vastly more robust than today;
- Next, imagine people had indeed listened to them properly, and instead of reacting emotionally to what they saw as a threat to their vested interests, they’d taken the time to actually contemplate what was said, and if having failed to reach the same conclusion, out of genuine curiosity, they’d come to those visionaries and said (something like): “can you please explain it to me again, because when I try to reach the same conclusion, starting at this set of known facts, via this reasoning, I come to this alternative conclusion”;
- NOW … we’re not saying here they merely accept what was said, but we all know how these conversations go down, most people are more concerned about “being right” and seeming clever, than actually seeking the truth;
- We could have seen that steam powered machines from coal oil and gas afforded us an opportunity but also a danger, and we could have taken measures to change the culture way back then, to recognise that profit at the expense of all other species and ecosystems was not wise … but it was ignored for several centuries;
- Had it not been ignored, had we relinquished the control mechanism of religion, and instead provided universal education NOT to produce an army of drones, but instead a civilisation of free-thinkers … we may well have modified our economic system, moderated our breeding, used our newfound technology to support nature rather than just exploit it, and to help each other rather than go to war over power and control … we basically let the idiots run the show, instead of the visionaries;
- It’s entirely possible that down such an alternative timeline, our technology would be vastly more advanced, with every mind allowed to reach its potential, and people fairly rewarded for work (without requiring excessive amounts of their time depriving them of private lives) … we could have had zero unemployment, a 3 day working week, and a guaranteed living wage … with any alternate authorities of this timeline having the insight our own lacked, electing to reveal the truth about religion and other forms of brainwashing, indoctrination and propaganda, thus freeing people from such beliefs (and willingly making their own authority redundant); a big impact of which might be that in the absence of a teaching from “god” saying “go forth and multiply”, and while in the presence of freer discussion and information about contraception / fertility control, and in the presence of understanding the ecological impact of human resource consumption and waste … our society could be more technologically advanced, from less people, with universally high living standards, and none of the present ecological calamity … not to mention with still plenty of room left for population growth without needing a second planet;
Had such a scenario been the case, our planet would still be in great shape, and we’d be potentially on track to finding a stable population balance EVEN IF it eventually ran up to the 10 billion mark. There is no reason at all to conclude such a scenario is not possible. Peoples selfishness is driven by property, people’s breeding is driven by ignorance and insecurity, much of which is driven by brainwashing and the lack of universal free education. We cannot conclude any such things are “inescapable elements of human nature”, that is simply nonsense.
Therefore: with respect to the question “are we over populated”, we can see in this hypothetical scenario, we are only overpopulated given the history of choices made, and thus the present conditions of the status quo.
Hypothetical Scenario 2:
For another example, let’s have a look at a situation in which the earth remains untouched until today, and we simply arrive as a high tech species of already 10 billion people, but operating a completely different culture which looks at ecological concerns, and runs no such idiotic system as the status quo of our own present day.
- We arrive on the planet and make an initial assessment of ecological capacity and resources;
- Clearly wherever we came from, we had resource stocks for our journey & the amazing technology to get here;
- We assess each ecosystem, and decide on the best way to live in that ecosystem without causing negative impact;
- So we have habitats in the ocean, we have tree houses, and habitats underground (where we don’t need to cut down trees, and where we can use renewable and sustainable non-polluting energy to run lighting even for unground and underwater vegetation … we easily fit 10 billion on the planet without damage;
- We could indeed make underground cities with edible gardens and forests powered by geothermal energy and the biomass of human effluent / waste;
- We may retain also an orbital village, and we likely look at colonisation of Mars along with other possibilities for terraforming &/or underground habitats within the solar system;
- People do not breed out of boredom, culture, or expectation … instead they pursue their interests, and contemplate deeply the reasons for bringing children into the world, and who, they want to do that with;
- Effectively to some degree the entire planet is wilderness, as we’ve constructed with sensitivity to the environment, and we have not run a rampant consumerist economic system, instead contemplating resources, the needs of all species, and the various methods of resource extraction and utilisation which can do the least harm.
Fine … we are not this space faring species (yet), but it demonstrates the point nonetheless of what is possible on this planet on an alternate timeline.
Therefore: once again we show that we are ONLY overpopulated with respect to the manner in which our civilisation has run, and continues to run.
Which perhaps makes you wonder: “what about our own timeline and our potential for change?”; which I’ll deal with now in hypothetical number 3.
Hypothetical Scenario 3 – from where we stand:
Ok … So given the damage we’ve already done, can we bring things back under control?
Firstly let me say, Open Empire was designed as a worst case scenario where people would not agree to change, and so we have to make the changes from inside the status quo, as it continues to burn resources, exploit people (& other species), and destroy the planet – ie: it is designed to gradually undermine that system, while working alongside it, wresting control a little at a time, building its capacity to take over economic functions completely.
What about a best case scenario? What if we actually agreed to accelerate these principles?
Here’s how that might look:
- Since health, food and shelter are immediate necessities of all people, but a meat diet is not sustainable in the light of the damage done, and the damage it continues to do … the following short term initiatives are executed:
- Religions and other cultural paradigms modify their “teachings” to renounce any philosophy that promotes having a big family as some kind of virtue, and instead tell people the planet needs time to recover, and that will be easiest if we bring our population down for a while;
- Anyone who wants to grow their own food is given enough land to do so by subdividing existing farms;
- All large scale animal farming is ceased, so if you want eggs, you get your own chickens;
- Preferably people agree not to eat meat, but those who refuse must farm it themselves, and the ONLY hunting allowed is where numbers of a species are known to be high, the species is non-sentient, and hunting such a species is known to make an ecological niche available to other species that are in recovery … so eating insects for example would be fine in many cases, particularly such things as locusts which exist in plague proportions, and which can strip vegetation bare;
- All banking, commerce and industry is stopped for the time being, unless it relates to living necessities, or the restoration of ecological &/or social balance (such as education, housing, etc.), but each is modified to minimise harm and maximise gain in both ecological and social terms;
- All war and machines of war are placed into emergency services only, for rescue and recovery;
- We collect every single piece (and chemical molecule if possible) that we can find of a non-biodegradable &/or toxic nature, with extreme care so as not to cause harm in its collection, and we figure out with each how to render it inert and harmless;
- We look at every ecosystem and species on the planet, figure out how to support it against further degradation, and how to support its recovery and renewal;
- All of which would likely need to continue for at least a century or two before we’d see strong recovery, because even with such measures in place, the general trend / momentum of change, will likely remain in decline for some time, because we have to slow down its presently accelerating rate of decline, and rebuild its resistance to decline, while supporting 8 billion people whom have been intergenerationally brainwashed into doing every imaginable stupid thing, for every imaginable stupid and unnecessary reason
- As the rate of degeneration decelerates, and we start to see some recovery and stability return, we can focus more on the implementation of a system like the Open Empire framework (if it’s not already running), and begin to take civilisation in a brand new and sustainable direction, with zero poverty, and justice for all species.
This is actually my preferred scenario, but it requires consensus, and I do not have enough “faith in humanity” to believe people would agree to it until it was too late for even that to help … because so many people are stupid, and of those whom are not stupid, only a small number are not brainwashed, indoctrinated, deluded or in some other way holding irrational &/or incorrect beliefs.
However: it nonetheless and once again shows in principle, that our status of “over populated” is only ever with respect to the manner in which we conduct ourselves given the circumstances.
Therefore: while we are no doubt in danger of wiping ourselves out, there’s no reason we cannot potentially recover, and eventually find population stability with ecological sustainability and social justice, around our present day population levels … but it will take time, and require significant change across the whole foundation of civilisation.