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Olduvai III: Catacylsm
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Do we have room for a billion Americans?

Do we have room for a billion Americans?

As I was reading Matthew Yglesias’ piece “The Case for Adding 672 Million More Americans,” the Soviet-era designation of Mother Heroine, initiated by Joseph Stalin in 1944, came to mind. Stalin and subsequent Soviet leaders gave Mother Heroine medals to mothers who bore and raised 10 or more children. Lesser honors were provided for mothers who bore and raised between five and nine children. There is some mention of additional financial assistance from the state to those with such large families, but I could not find much information on this.

For America’s version of Mother Heroines (and Heroes), Yglesias proposes “not just paid leave but financial assistance, preschool and after-care services, reasonable summer programming, and affordable college for all qualified student”—all in order to encourage larger families (which he claims Americans actually want).

Yglesias thinks we need to increase our population so that we will be able to compete with 1.4 billion Chinese. Whether you think competing with the Chinese is important or not, there is a problem with the hidden metaphor that Yglesias is using throughout his piece. He is imagining that the United States of America is like the family room in your home. Normally, you might have two or three members in the room at once, watching television, reading, or munching on snacks. But actually, you could fit 10 or maybe even 15 people in the room comfortably if you rearrange the furniture.

So, Yglesias thinks if we, so to speak, rearrange America’s furniture a bit—build more housing near major metropolitan areas, provide more assistance to families, encourage more legal immigration—we can reach 1 billion in population. “America should aspire to be the greatest nation on earth,” he tells us.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…


Fighting Overpopulation: Ten methods to exterminate most of humankind

Fighting Overpopulation: Ten methods to exterminate most of humankind

First of all, a disclaimer: I am not advocating the extermination of anyone! This post is just an attempt of mine to place myself in the boots of the bad guys who could think of doing such a thing and examine how they could do it. Could these scenarios occur for real? I don’t know but, as I say at the beginning of this blog, “always plan for the worst case hypothesis”

You know that there are people whom we call the “powers that be” (PTB) who can do things that we commoners can’t even dream of doing. Obviously, they can’t miss the fact that for decades the world’s best scientists have been speaking about a coming collapse of the global ecosystem, mainly because of climate change. So, would they act on this knowledge? And, if so, how?

Like everybody else, the PTBs think in terms of their personal survival and some of them reacted to the threat of the collapse of the ecosystem by buying desert bunkers and stockpiling food and weapons in there. But what if some of them decided to take a more proactive stance? When the PTB decide that something is to be done, they usually succeed by a combination of propaganda, money, and sheer force. Not being scientists, they may well reason in simplified terms: what is the cause of the coming collapse? Those pesky humans, of course. Then, an obvious solution is to get rid of most of them.

The bad guys who plan the extermination of humankind are a classic element of science fiction, but large scale exterminations are a constant of real history. So, what shape could a large scale extermination plan take, nowadays? In the following, I tried to provide an answer.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…



“Neo-Malthusian promotion of family planning as the solution to hunger, conflict, and poverty has contributed to destructive population control approaches, that are targeted most often at poor, racialized women.”

While often thought of as a given reality, definitions of population are highly political. They are most often negatively associated with notions of “overpopulation” or “too many” Black, Brown and Indigenous people, supposedly overly fertile women and poor people, as well as some religious and ethnic groups. These ideas about population serve the purpose of classifying people and marking them as in need of intervention, defining whose life and ways of life are valuable or worthy of reproduction. In this line, it is important to question how population numbers are calculated and how they are used, as they help shape possible futures.

In relation to the environment and environmental conflict, population is often defined as a problem in neo-Malthusian terms. Neo-Malthusianism builds on British economist Thomas Malthus’s predictions of population-induced resource scarcity and violence. Neo-Malthusian promotion of family planning as the solution to hunger, conflict, and poverty has contributed to destructive population control approaches, that are targeted most often at poor, racialized women.

Population control was an international development policy from the 1960s to mid-1990s. Its policies have been based on top-down, coercive interventions. Such interventions are tied with imperial strategies for restraining local populations. Examples include China’s one-child policy, sterilization abuses in 1970s India and 1990s Peru, and the wide-scale dissemination of long-acting reversible contraceptive methods in the global South as a condition of international aid, like Norplant implants in Indonesia and elsewhere. Although the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development foregrounded sexual and reproductive health and rights and women’s empowerment and moved away from population control, it continues in practice. Population control is part of a troubled present, and cannot be relegated to history as dated international development policy.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

So It Turns Out ‘Overpopulation’ Was Always A Stupid Patriarchal Myth

So It Turns Out ‘Overpopulation’ Was Always A Stupid Patriarchal Myth

new study published in the Lancet confirms what people like myself have been saying over and over again for years: that the human population is unlikely to get much bigger than it is right now, and will in fact begin declining in the latter half of this century as more and more women obtain money, education, and reproductive sovereignty.

“It has nothing to do with sperm counts or the usual things that come to mind when discussing fertility,” BBC News explains. “Instead it is being driven by more women in education and work, as well as greater access to contraception, leading to women choosing to have fewer children.”

The mass media have been discussing these findings with shock and alarm, because such information is likely to be new and surprising to anyone who has never gone through the all-consuming herculean effort of motherhood. To anyone who has, the idea that most women would choose to have two or fewer children if given the resources, information and freedom to do so is just self-evident common sense.

For decades, the absurd belief that the world population will keep exploding until we either choke the planet to death with tens of billions of humans or figure out how to send people off to live in space has been promoted everywhere from the mass media to Hollywood to oligarchs just saying it themselves. Preventing overpopulation was the driving motivator behind Thanos, the ultimate supervillain of the Marvel Cinematic Universe who featured in Avengers: Endgame, the highest-grossing film of all time. It has also been the foremost stated concern of plutocrats like Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos, the latter of whom revealed last year that his grand vision for humanity is to send most of the world population off planet and have a trillion human beings living in giant rotating space cylinders.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Overpopulation, Nature’s Revenge, & Pandemic

 Photograph by 15734951 (Pixabay)

Overpopulation, Nature’s Revenge, & Pandemic

Don’t Dismiss the Design Option

Has the planet simply had enough of people? Are there are too many of us, and this pandemic is the paramount example? It’s easy to let our minds meander this way, but we have likely had more serious pandemics (Let’s see this one reach its conclusion before we declare that). In just gross number of deaths, and certainly in percentage of population infected and lost, there are similar, perhaps even more frightening, catastrophes littered through our history.

  • The Spanish Flu happened in 1918, infected approximately 500 million people with an estimated 50 million deaths. The world population was a little under two billion, roughly a quarter of where it stands today. Humanity decreased by 10%
  • The Black Death, or the second coming of the Bubonic Plague, is estimated to have accounted for 75 million deaths in the 1300s, when the population was less than half a billion. That’s less than one-tenth of today’s population.
  • Eight hundred years prior to The Black Death, in the 500s, The Justinian Plague, is believed to have taken 50 million, just over a quarter of the planet’s population at the time. That was less than 2.5 percent of the current population.

To avoid belabouring the point further, pandemics are certainly tied to big numbers of people, in particular tightly packed populations, but to sum them up as a result of overpopulation alone is just not the case. We are 1500 years removed (and 7.6 billion people amplified) from the Justinian Plague, which was 1000 years after the first recorded plague in Athens during the Peloponnesian War.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Why is Overpopulation Ignored by the Media? The Reasons of a Historical Failure

Why is Overpopulation Ignored by the Media? The Reasons of a Historical Failure

Some people think there exists a conspiracy that prevents the media from ever mentioning the charged word, “overpopulation.” Conspiracies do exist but, in this case, my impression is that population is such a charged issue simply because it has to do with the fact that we are all humans and discussing about reducing population touches some inner mechanisms of our psyche that we feel uncomfortable about.

But there is more to that: the real problem with overpopulation is that most decision makers lack the concept of “overshoot,”  a view that didn’t exist in the study of social systems until Jay Forrester introduced it in the 1960s.If you don’t understand overshoot, at best you can understand that there are limits to population, but you can’t understand that population could exceed the limits and crash down ruinously with the deterioration of the agricultural system that feeds it.

The lack of a the concept of overshoot may well be what leads the concerned and the unconcerned to minimize the problem. Many people seem to think that the “demographic transition,” the reduction in fertility observed in most rich nations of the world, will spread over all humankind and stabilize the world’s population at a sustainable level without any need for governments to intervene to force lower birth rates.

Almost certainly, it is too late for that: we should have started decades ago. But only China implemented a serious policy birth control — for the rest of the world it was a historical failure.

In the discussion, below, Bernard Gilland discusses the problems we will face in the attempt of stabilizing the human population mainly in terms of the degradation of the agricultural system in its dependence on non-sustainable resources.
…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Frank Kaminski reviews two peak oil documentaries from 2008

Frank Kaminski reviews two peak oil documentaries from 2008

BLIND SPOT: Peak Oil and the Coming Global Crisis

A Documentary Directed, Written, Photographed, and Edited by Adolfo Doring–1 hour, 26 minutes

and FUEL

A Documentary Directed and Narrated by Josh Tickell–1 hour, 52 minutes

These two documentaries on the world oil crisis came out in 2008, a time of growing concern over humankind’s energy future. In the decade since then, public interest in the issue has waned, but the relevance of these films hasn’t–they remain valuable, engaging portraits of the quandary we face at the end of the oil age. Blind Spot provides the proverbial 30,000-foot view of our situation, whereas Fuel gives a personal, on-the-ground account of one man’s activist crusade. Both films are far from perfect. One fails to adequately address how we should respond to our crisis, while the other is unrealistically optimistic about the responses it suggests. Still, both are important films, and they’re all the more compelling when viewed together, given their disparate but complementary perspectives.

A Documentary

Blind Spot is uncompromising about the realities we face as we leave the era of cheap, abundant oil behind. A formidable cast of geoscientists, physicists, environmental analysts, inventors and other experts details the essence of our plight. Our modern world, which requires ever-increasing quantities of easily obtainable oil, faces a future of ever-dwindling supply. Because oil is finite and the rate of new oil discoveries has been dropping since the early 1960s, logic and mathematics dictate that its production will eventually reach an all-time high, followed by permanent decline. The numbers indicate that the point of peak production, a phenomenon called “peak oil,” is imminent. And, sadly, alternative energy sources, for all the hype they’ve generated, are powerless to save us. They are nowhere near as energy-dense as oil, and we’ve already waited too long to invest meaningfully in them.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The curse of Thomas Malthus

The curse of Thomas Malthus

Running through some notes from last year, I came across an article by Dietrich Vollrath published in 2017 that I’d printed out to give it proper consideration. It’s called, “Who are you calling Malthusian?”, and it addresses that interesting futures question of why calling someone “Malthusian” is such an effective form of ad hominem attack that it closes down any possible argument.

Poor old Malthus. He has had a bad reputation ever since he predicted, towards the end of the 18th century, that over-population would lead to famine and then to social collapse. It didn’t turn out like that, largely because we stumbled across a one-off supply of cheap energy, and because of the Industrial Revolution. And, because he turned out to be wrong, that means that if you mention Malthus these days you are instantly labelled as a crank.

So Vollrath does us a service in his long post in two ways. First, he tries to create Malthus’ argument in its original context, and second he goes back to the relationships that sit behind Malthus’ model of the world.

Malthusian relationships

The relationships are simple.

One: living standards are negatively related to the size of population. This is because at time of writing the major factor of production was land, whose supply is largely fixed. Vollrath shares a diagram, originally from Greg Clark’s work, which demonstrates this. Peter Turchin’s model in Secular Cycles effectively has this relationship at its core.

Clark UK population and real wages Malthus

Two: population growth is positively correlated with living standards. As Vollrath notes

“This may be because kids are a normal good, and so fertility rises when people have higher incomes. Or it may be because health is a normal good, so people take better care of themselves (and their kids) when they have higher income.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Ted Nordhaus Is Wrong: We Are Exceeding Earth’s Carrying Capacity

Ted Nordhaus Is Wrong: We Are Exceeding Earth’s Carrying Capacity

The co-founder of the Breakthrough Institute has a cheery vision of the future. If only that vision were plausible.

IN HIS ARTICLE, “The Earth’s Carrying Capacity for Human Life is Not Fixed,” Ted Nordhaus, co-founder of the Breakthrough Institute, a California-based energy and environment think tank, seeks to enlist readers in his optimistic vision of the future. It’s a future in which there are many more people on the planet and each enjoys a high standard of living, while environmental impacts are reduced. It’s a cheery vision.

The core of Nordhaus’ case is that we are now living in a magical society that is immune to the ecological law of gravity.

If only it were plausible.

Nordhaus’s argument hinges on dismissing the longstanding biological concept of “carrying capacity” — the number of organisms an environment can support without becoming degraded. “Applied to ecology, the concept [of carrying capacity] is problematic,” Nordhaus writes, arguing in a nutshell that the planet’s ability to support human civilization can be, one presumes, infinitely tweaked through a combination of social and physical engineering.

Few actual ecologists, however, would agree. Indeed, the concept of carrying capacity is useful in instance after instance — including modeling the population dynamics of nonhuman species, and in gauging the health of virtually any ecosystem, be it ocean, river, prairie, desert, or forest. While exact population numbers are sometimes difficult to predict on the basis of the carrying capacity concept, it is nevertheless clear that, wherever habitat is degraded, creatures suffer and their numbers decline.

The controversy deepens in applying the carrying capacity concept to humans. Nordhaus seems to think we are exceptions to the rules. Still, as archaeologists have affirmed, many past human societies consumed resources or polluted environments to the point of collapse.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Overpopulation Problem? What Overpopulation Problem?

Overpopulation Problem? What Overpopulation Problem?

Some people seem to be horrified at the sight of these images. For me, it is more a sensation of melancholy. These masses of people can exist only for a brief moment in the history of humankind. Overpopulation is a problem that will solve itself rather quickly although, unfortunately, not without pain.

I keep reading more and more comments about overpopulation on the social media. It is not just an impression: the trend of increasing interest in population matters is visible in Google Trends. Still weak, but it is there.

It is puzzling how the question is returning. It had disappeared from the media after it had been popular in the 1970s, at the time of the first “The Limits to Growth” study. At that time, there were less than 4 billion people and that was viewed as a huge problem. Then, somehow, it became unfashionable to mention overpopulation, just as it became unfashionable to consider “The Limits to Growth” as anything more than a completely wrong study written by people not smarter than Chicken Little (it wasn’t the case).

Now, with twice as many people – 7.6 billion humans – we see a return of the idea that – really – there may be a little problem of overpopulation. Humans are so many that they are appropriating a larger and larger fraction of the ecosystem. That means less and less space for other species which are, indeed, fast disappearing. When you read that, in a not too remote future, the only large animal left on the Earth will be the cow, well, that makes you think.
…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Making It To The 4th Second

Prince Ea

Making It To The 4th Second

A hard-hitting delivery of the predicament humanity faces

Our work here at PeakProsperity.com focuses on raising awareness of the serious challenges facing humanity as we continue to live well beyond our economic, energetic and ecological means.

Through the Three Es framework presented in The Crash Course, we’ve engaged millions of critical thinkers around the world. And we’ve inspired many of them to invest in a more resilient lifestyle, for their sake as well as the planet’s.

But at this point, we’re still only talking to a small minority of the people in the world. And we’re always looking for new channels, new approaches, and new partners that can help get this message out to a wider audience: If humanity wants a future worth inheriting, we need to become agents of regeneration, not destruction.

We especially keep an eye out for effective vehicles that resonante with a younger demographic. The millennials and the generations behind them are the ones who need this information most, as they’re the ones who will experience the full brunt of the Three Es during their lifetimes and on whose shoulders the responsibility of finding solutions will rest.

But as older guys in our forties and fifties, Chris and I realize that we’re probably not the most compelling messengers to this segment. So we’re constantly looking for others who can be.

In that vein, this short video below from Prince Ea recently caught my attention. It delivers a hard-hitting emotional call-to-action for sustainability and resilience using much of the same data we frequently cite here at Peak Prosperity:

If there are people in your life, especially younger ones, whom you think would benefit from watching this video and contemplating the existential question it poses (Will we adapt our behavior in time to make it to the 4th Second?), please share it with them.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Bill Ryerson — Dealing With The Elephant In The Room: Overpopulation


Strategies for dealing with this massive, third-rail issue

Worldwide, three new humans are born every second. Every day, 225,000 more mouths are added to the global dinner table.

That adds up to 80 million new people per year — the population equivalent of the five largest cities in the world. That’s like a new Shanghai, a new Beijing, a new New Delhi, a new Lagos, and a new Tianjin being added every year.

This growth trajectory is simply not sustainable from a planetary resources standpoint. As the global population continues to grow at an exponential rate, its demand is causing key resources like fresh water aquifers, rainforest canopies, fishing stocks, fertile topsoils, etc to similarly deplete exponentially. These oppositional exponentials, mathematically, can only result in an evitable planetary ‘overshoot’ — which many argue we are already well into.

What can be done? Bill Ryerson, president of the Population Institute, joins us to discuss the work of the Population Media Center in addressing the interconnected issues of the full rights of women and girls, population, and the environment. It’s mission is to empower people to live healthier and more prosperous lives and to stabilize global population at a level at which people can live sustainably with the world’s renewable resources.

Our earlier podcast with Bill focused on the existential dangers of overpopulation (you can listen to it here). This week’s podcast focuses on the strategies that show the most promise for slowing, or perhaps even reversing, world population growth, should we be willing to pursue them:

All of those new people on the planet have needs for food, shelter, housing, and clothing. When you look at their environmental impact, the number of new people is a major driver of lost biodiversity, and it’s a significant factor in climate change.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

If you can’t see it, it can kill you. Propaganda, for instance.

If you can’t see it, it can kill you. Propaganda, for instance.

If you never took this test before, spend two minutes on it before reading the text below. 
The “selective attention” test you see above was developed in 1999 by Christopher Chablis and Daniel Simons.  It shows how people have difficulties in perceiving the most obvious things when they are focused on something that engages their attention. Often, it has been seen as just a sort of psychological parlor game, but it has a deep significance.
This selective attention phenomenon may well describe the current world’s situation. Our aging leaders seem to be so fixated on their manhood – and unsure about it – that they try to reassure themselves by firing missiles around. And, in doing that, they neglect everything else. But it is not just a question of aging leaders, the whole Western world shows evident signs of senility at the societal level. Most of us in our daily life are fixated on details of no relevance and miss the important issues that threaten our very existence.
So, we are missing the gorilla which is climate change, as well as other gorillas which go under different names: ecosystem collapse, resource depletion, overpopulation, widespread pollution, and more. Some of these gorillas are recognized and described by the scientific community, but the public and the leaders alike fail to hear the advice they receive.
Even more worrisome is the possibility that there exist gorillas which not even scientists can detect. As an example, we are daily being exposed to a cocktail or toxic metals resulting from industrial activity. We know that each single metal, alone, doesn’t (normally) reach concentrations in our bodies so high to be deemed as dangerous. But we don’t really know what happens when people have several low concentration metals inside their body – which is the case for most of us.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Paul Ehrlich: ‘Collapse of civilisation is a near certainty within decades’

Fifty years after the publication of his controversial book The Population Bomb, biologist Paul Ehrlich warns overpopulation and overconsumption are driving us over the edge

The toxification of the planet with synthetic chemicals may be more dangerous to people and wildlife than climate change, says Ehrlich.
The toxification of the planet with synthetic chemicals may be more dangerous to people and wildlife than climate change, says Ehrlich. Photograph: Linh Pham/Getty Images

Ashattering collapse of civilisation is a “near certainty” in the next few decades due to humanity’s continuing destruction of the natural world that sustains all life on Earth, according to biologist Prof Paul Ehrlich.

In May, it will be 50 years since the eminent biologist published his most famous and controversial book, The Population Bomb. But Ehrlich remains as outspoken as ever.

Prof Paul Ehrlich of Stanford University.
Prof Paul Ehrlich of Stanford University. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

The world’s optimum population is less than two billion people – 5.6 billion fewer than on the planet today, he argues, and there is an increasing toxification of the entire planet by synthetic chemicals that may be more dangerous to people and wildlife than climate change.

Ehrlich also says an unprecedented redistribution of wealth is needed to end the over-consumption of resources, but “the rich who now run the global system – that hold the annual ‘world destroyer’ meetings in Davos – are unlikely to let it happen”.

The Population Bomb, written with his wife Anne Ehrlich in 1968, predicted “hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death” in the 1970s – a fate that was avoided by the green revolution in intensive agriculture.

Many details and timings of events were wrong, Paul Ehrlich acknowledges today, but he says the book was correct overall.

“Population growth, along with over-consumption per capita, is driving civilisation over the edge: billions of people are now hungry or micronutrient malnourished, and climate disruption is killing people.”

Ehrlich has been at Stanford University since 1959 and is also president of the Millennium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere, which works “to reduce the threat of a shattering collapse of civilisation”.

“It is a near certainty in the next few decades, and the risk is increasing continually as long as perpetual growth of the human enterprise remains the goal of economic and political systems,” he says. “As I’ve said many times, ‘perpetual growth is the creed of the cancer cell’.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…


Overpopulation is a Problem, but Capitalist Overdevelopment is a Bigger Problem

Saral misreads my statement. He says

“Richard writes, “Capitalism, not population is the main driver of planetary ecological collapse … .”. It sounds like an echo of statements from old-Marxist-socialism. It is not serious. Is Richard telling us that, while we are fighting a long-drawn-out battle against capitalism in order to overcome it, we can allow the population to continuously grow without risking any further destruction of the environment? Should we then think that a world population of ten billion by 2050 would not be any problem?”

By emphasizing population in bold italics he distorts my meaning. What I said was that “Capitalism, not population is the main driver of planetary collapse. . . ” — that is, the MAIN driver, not the ONLY driver. Though I’ve never written about this topic at length, I’ve never claimed that population growth is no problem at all. Saral’s right that some Marxists claim that the whole problem is capitalism, that there is no population problem, that the human population could grow more or less forever. They’re mostly responding to Malthusians who contend that overpopulation is the whole problem, not capitalism. I understand where they’re coming from. But both approaches seem simplistic to me. Of course overpopulation is a problem, a huge problem. Look around. I live in one of the most crowded pieces of real-estate in the world, in the middle of Manhattan. Sometimes the sidewalks are so full I have to walk along on the street to get by the crowds of people. By any rational measure there are just way too many people here.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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