Tuesday, March 1, 2011

When Do We Right The Ship?

 Historically man's numbers were small and fairly stable but with the development of science, technology, and the division of labor we were suddenly able to produce enough food to literally fuel a population explosion. The last century has witnessed a flash of consumption – and a corresponding reduction in natural resources.  As these resources continue to diminish and population continues to grow something will have to give.  Presumably the population will level off or reduce to a number that can be sustained by the remaining resources.  But the longer we postpone resolving this conundrum the more difficult the eventual solution will be.  So far politicians and industrialists have proposed everything but the obvious.  The P word (population) is absolutely taboo because it would mean political suicide – and a stable population probably implies a stable economy (unless extraterrestrial resources become available someday).

I expect we will face up to and achieve stability within the next hundred years or so.  It would seem possible to achieve stability with a wide range of population densities – it's a matter of how much we do with and without.  What a shame we didn't initiate population stabilization efforts a couple hundred years ago. It's just common sense that we can achieve stability more easily with 5 billion than 10 billion, or with 10 billion than 15 billion, and so on.
In the above graphs the red band width represents world population and the green height represents natural resources – note how they change over time. In any event it seems obvious that using up resources and producing more people is a catastrophe waiting to happen.  This is an awful predicament somebody will have to face – it just doesn't seem fair – but then, if life was fair horses would ride half the time.