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Deforestation and world population sustainability: a quantitative analysis

Deforestation and world population sustainability: a quantitative analysis

Abstract

In this paper we afford a quantitative analysis of the sustainability of current world population growth in relation to the parallel deforestation process adopting a statistical point of view. We consider a simplified model based on a stochastic growth process driven by a continuous time random walk, which depicts the technological evolution of human kind, in conjunction with a deterministic generalised logistic model for humans-forest interaction and we evaluate the probability of avoiding the self-destruction of our civilisation. Based on the current resource consumption rates and best estimate of technological rate growth our study shows that we have very low probability, less than 10% in most optimistic estimate, to survive without facing a catastrophic collapse.

Introduction

In the last few decades, the debate on climate change has assumed global importance with consequences on national and global policies. Many factors due to human activity are considered as possible responsible of the observed changes: among these water and air contamination (mostly greenhouse effect) and deforestation are the mostly cited. While the extent of human contribution to the greenhouse effect and temperature changes is still a matter of discussion, the deforestation is an undeniable fact. Indeed before the development of human civilisations, our planet was covered by 60 million square kilometres of forest1. As a result of deforestation, less than 40 million square kilometres currently remain2. In this paper, we focus on the consequence of indiscriminate deforestation.

Trees’ services to our planet range from carbon storage, oxygen production to soil conservation and water cycle regulation. They support natural and human food systems and provide homes for countless species, including us, through building materials. Trees and forests are our best atmosphere cleaners and, due to the key role they play in the terrestrial ecosystem, it is highly unlikely to imagine the survival of many species, including ours, on Earth without them…

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