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Population Growth


{Nature_and_Environment.14.1}: Kai Hagen {kai} Sat, 13 Mar 2004 18:16:41 CST (HTML)

This is an important issue. And a very complicated one.

It took all of human history to 1830 for world population to reach one billion. By 1930 world population doubled to two billion. In 1960, it reached three billion. In 1975, four billion. Eleven years later, in 1986, five billion. And in 1999 there were more than six billion of us.


{Nature_and_Environment.14.2}: Rick Neilson {lichenman} Sat, 13 Mar 2004 20:16:21 CST (75 lines)

Thanks Kia.

Richard, I took the liberty of pasting your last post in Climate
Change here:
Environment.7.135}: Richard Witty {gisland2} Sat, 13 Mar 2004
12:30:05 CST (18 lines)

just as in justice, not just as in only.

The limits of population growth are really of impact, of which
population is a component factor.

If a population lived in a way that had very minimal destructive
impact on the rest of the earth, more of them could live without
disturbing ecology, than how the west live.

Mobility and social flexibility relate to the earth being saturated
with people, that no people can migrate without forcefully displacing

By the way we live as a society (and as individuals, but not only as
individuals), we can have a small footprint, and more of us can live
on the earth without harming it and others, or we can have a large
and heavy footprint, and less of us can live on the earth without<<<<
>Just as in justice<
I understood that.

>>>If a population lived in a way that had very minimal destructive
impact on the rest of the earth, more of them could live without
disturbing ecology,<<<

I agree that if we collectively had less impact on the earth there
would be room for more of us.  What that would ultimatly mean is
that when we reached the population limit there would be a whole lot
more of us.  If the earth were ten times the size that it is, we
would eventually reach the same crisis.

If the population of the earth was small enough, humans could live
the way that humans are.  We sit at the top of the food chain and we
creat a lot of waste.  That is our nature.  If it weren't, we
wouldn't be having the problems of climate change, pollution and
ecosystem distruction.  Primitive tribes did not have a low impact
on their environment because they were *so very aware*.  If the area
became degraded, they moved on.  They had space.

As I see it, there are three possible solutions to the problem of

1.  Humanity agrees that we must limit population growth and we set
up rules concerning reproduction.  I calculate that if we had a one-
couple/one-child rule, the population of the earth would have
dwindled to zero by about the year 2600.  Of course, at a certain
point between now and then the population could be held steady.
This would be the best solution but I doubt that it can happen.

2.  Rules regarding reproduction could be imposed by a leadership
that recognizes that there is no alternative.

3.  The population will crash due to the stresses of overcrowding.
This would most likely be in the form of desease, starvation and
war.  The most hopeful possibility with regard to this would be that
fertility rates drop (something we are already seeing in the west).

Earlier, in "Climate Change", someone (I think it was you) mentioned
about how we have not found agreement on how to protect the

When we speak of the commons, we are saying that the earth
belongs to all of us.  I dissagree with that notion.  If we were to
realize that, in fact, WE BELONG TO THE EARTH, we would have a much
easier time of making it better.


{Nature_and_Environment.14.3}: Richard Witty {gisland2} Sat, 13 Mar 2004 20:36:14 CST (42 lines)

The big issue is with "rules". Your solutions all
incorporated "rules" to accomplish the ends.

Historically, other solutions have been effective. They complement
each other.

One is education and improvement of the social status of women. By
education I don't mean specific fertility education, although I'm
sure that MANY women would seek that. Education empowers, in many
respects. We in the west have virtually no concept of the status and
experience of women in many areas. It is very very suppressed.

The second is improvement in living standards and pre and post natal
health. Although in the first generation, improvements in early
childhood survival increase populations, it is temporary. Once
families realize that it is not necessary or desirable to have 10
pregnancies to realize 4 healthy working children, they won't
emphasize child-bearing as much. It won't be as much of a need.

These two characteristics have reduced the desired birthrate in all
countries in Western Europe, without force.

Norms die more slowly, but they do. Reason is more practical.
Consider the birthrate in Italy. The current average family size is
MUCH smaller than a generation ago.

I'm not sure if its a certainty that population will inevitably
overstep the carrying capacity of the planet. Certainly, population
living the way we do now will harm it.

But, I don't think 10 billion of a single species by itself
overstresses the earth itself, if that species is innocuous. We are
not the most populous species on the planet, and we may not even
exert the largest impact. I think we do exert the longest impact.
(When ants or insects decimate a locale's vegetation, it grows back.
A deforested and paved jungle doesn't.)

I think there might ultimately be lifeways in which humans don't
overstep. Maybe 15 generations hence we'll shift. Like many of the
eastern Indian tribes genuinely shifted from perpetual war and excess
to peace and sufficiency.


{Nature_and_Environment.14.4}: {lichenman} Sun, 14 Mar 2004 00:33:30 CST (0 lines)
{erased by lichenman Sun, 14 Mar 2004 02:03:52 CST}


{Nature_and_Environment.14.5}: Rick Neilson {lichenman} Sun, 14 Mar 2004 02:07:09 CST (17 lines)

#1 is about consensus and it would be the most desireable solution.

#2 *is* about imposing rules.

#3 is what I suggest will happen if we do not address the problem -
if we do nothing.  I think it is the most likely outcome.

A more affluent and educated population will undoubtedly have fewer
children but the population would most likely still continue to
grow.  The big problem would be that individuals will require more
resourses (bigger footprint).

Just look at the North American/European lifestyle.  I see no sign
that we are willing to reduce our patterns of consumption.  Should
developing nations expect to take less than us?

Can we wait 15 generations?


{Nature_and_Environment.14.6}: Richard Witty {gisland2} Sun, 14 Mar 2004 07:02:37 CST (25 lines)

Your solution 1 is that all governments agree to set up rules. RULES.

Rigid equality doesn't work. Its cruel. There are places where the
people themselves NEED many children to survive and work. And, they
neither see nor have other alternatives.

China is a good example. Although China has succeeded in stabilizing
its population, through a combination of force and incentive, it has
permanently increased its footprint, and not very ecologically.

Ultimately, the way to make population decrease is to reduce the NEED
for children. That combined with education will result in the choice
tto have less children.

There is a congruence between educated women's choices and
environmental need.

The earth itself is not that desparate that the factors that effect
choice, shouldn't apply.

On 15 generations, if we start now, it will take only 15 (an
arbitrary number). If we focus on quantity rather than impact, we
won't address impact individually or socially, and then it will take


{Nature_and_Environment.14.7}: Rick Neilson {lichenman} Sun, 14 Mar 2004 09:47:02 CST (10 lines)

>Your solution 1 is that all governments agree to set up rules.

In practical terms, I concede that you are correct.  In practical
terms, this would be all but impossible to set up.  It is possible,
though, that humanity COULD agree.  Agreed upon rules is consensus.

Any solution that you can give me that would solve our ecological
delema is impossible to achieve unless humanity agrees or it is


{Nature_and_Environment.14.8}: Richard Witty {gisland2} Sun, 14 Mar 2004 10:49:53 CST (21 lines)

The irony Rick though is that the communities that don't need many
children just don't have them already.

All of the developed world is already population stable.

Its in the rural agricultural undeveloped world (undeveloped by any
design criteria - green or western) that families NEED children to

The problem that I see is selfishness, and unwillingness to do two

1. Reduce the impact of the western countries (though MANY European
countries have made real progress)
2. Universally increase the standard of living and education.

Both are possible, whether one locale at a time, or many at a time.
It takes funding and people. Which takes convincing people who
control money first.

Noone turns down real assistance. That would be agreed to easily.


{Nature_and_Environment.14.9}: Rick Neilson {lichenman} Sun, 14 Mar 2004 13:49:37 CST (16 lines)

How will we reduce the impact of the western countries?  I contend
that we are unwilling to give up our wasteful lifestyles.  Will you
legislate behaviour?  Increase taxes on wasteful behaviours?

The reality is that the democratic government that would act against
wasteful consumerism will be thrown out of office.

Universally increasing the standard of living and education is an
admirable goal.  How could it be done without increasing consumer

The third world has it nose pressed against our window.  The
talented ones are allowed to enter and partake of the luxuries that
we enjoy.

Are we getting anywhere?


{Nature_and_Environment.14.10}: Richard Witty {gisland2} Sun, 14 Mar 2004 16:38:13 CST (29 lines)

At home. There are successful policies. One of note is a law in
Germany that requires manufacturers to provide for recycling of the
product, pay a fee if not done, and disclose if the product is not
contracted to be recycled.

It makes the recycling component part of the cost of the product. It
puts German goods at a price disadvantage if the law is not adopted
universally though.

Another policy that I favor is to modify the right to property to
acknowledge an obligation to the commons/wild. As all property
originated in commons/wild and ultimately is common/wilds in
posterity, there should be a mandatory insurance to restore all land
to its qualitative original state. As it would be extremely expensive
to restore toxified property to its original state, it would
incorporate the social cost into the actual cost of all products.

If you're just thinking about population, and improving livelihoods,
the two most prominent characteristics are education and purchasing
power. If you arranged to provide investment capital, education, and
distribution of purchasing power widely, you'd assist in developing a
regional economy. They'd buy some commercial trash, but the smartest
would invest in the means to continue producing regional necessities.

Its doable, if there is a will to do it.

The World Bank is actually a good prospect to conduct it, in spite of
the misguided hate for the institution.


{Nature_and_Environment.14.11}: Rick Neilson {lichenman} Sun, 14 Mar 2004 18:41:18 CST (1 line)

...Pie in the sky.


{Nature_and_Environment.14.12}: Richard Witty {gisland2} Mon, 15 Mar 2004 07:57:56 CST (21 lines)

Not if we work for it.

To make the economy green the KEY element is to internalize the
unnaccounted for externalities.

An externality is a harm to a third party, or in this case to the
commons, that results from a transaction between two.

A business-person can define themselves as "fair" in that they
complete their contracts effectively and convivially, and still cause
enormous harms to third parties and commons.

Its a real liability, that most like to ignore. The federal
government ignores it in their financial statements. For example, the
federal government is the US insurer of last resort, and as such when
a business harms the environment beyond its net worth, it
functionally defaults on its liabilities. As the public health is at
stake, the feds (in some cases this is legislated: nuclear power for
example) foot the bill. The feds DON'T record a liability on their
books for the estimable public health liabilities that it covers for
derelict private parties.


{Nature_and_Environment.14.13}: John Hargrove {sidehill} Wed, 17 Mar 2004 08:18:19 CST (4 lines)

Richard - I caught your posts in "Global Warming" forum.  I seem to
be very closely aligned to your views.  What is your profession? (I'm
a semi-retired civil engineer, and I've done more than my share of
global destruction...)


{Nature_and_Environment.14.14}: Richard Witty {gisland2} Wed, 17 Mar 2004 09:13:53 CST (2 lines)

Take a look at my bio. (click on my name).


{Nature_and_Environment.14.15}: Rick Neilson {lichenman} Wed, 17 Mar 2004 13:01:57 CST (11 lines)

John, I agree whole-heartedly with your post,{Environment.7.180} in
the Climate Change topic.

How do you think we can realize global population stability?

Do you think that educating the women in third world countries is
going to solve that problem or will increased affluence inevitably
lead to a desire for ever more consumer goods and further
environmental degradation?


{Nature_and_Environment.14.16}: Jan Rickey {jrickey} Wed, 17 Mar 2004 13:47:45 CST (1 line)

And while we educate the women, can we also educate the men?


{Nature_and_Environment.14.17}: Rick Neilson {lichenman} Wed, 17 Mar 2004 19:53:56 CST (6 lines)

Good plan, Jan.

I am refering to an earlier post.

Do you think that bringing the third world into the economic fold
would help the environment or harm it?


{Nature_and_Environment.14.18}: Jan Rickey {jrickey} Wed, 17 Mar 2004 20:02:36 CST (8 lines)

China has spent the past few decades coming up to speed as far as its
economic standing in the world. And part of that movement has meant a
drastic increase in the amount of vehicles. That means a drastic
increase in oil consumption and the related pollutions.

If China is an indication of what today's 3rd world countries would
do, I'd say the environment is in grave danger, beyond what it
already is.


{Nature_and_Environment.14.19}: Richard Witty {gisland2} Thu, 18 Mar 2004 06:19:41 CST (7 lines)

If the third world undertakes rational green design, then temporary
population increase would accompany reduced environmental impact.

And when the effects of the increased living standard results in less
births, the net impact will be greatly reduced.

IMPACT not statistics!!!


{Nature_and_Environment.14.20}: Rick Neilson {lichenman} Thu, 18 Mar 2004 07:58:24 CST (2 lines)

What do you mena by, "rational green design", Richard?  How would it
come about?


{Nature_and_Environment.14.21}: John Hargrove {sidehill} Thu, 18 Mar 2004 20:50:28 CST (31 lines)

re. post 15. Rick, normally I think education and affluence leads to
reduced birth rates and eventually to reduced population.  The rub is
that increased affluence also normally means more consumption of
fossil fuels and more land raping by the appropriatin of natural
wealth in the form of oil, coal, fisheries, chemical agriculture,
etc.  How will the race end?  The empowerment of people (Have Nots)
by their shedding the yoke of poverty REQUIRES the gifting of a hand
up (by loans, gifts, land reform, funded educational missions, etc.)
by the Haves, and our record in this area is dismal.  We seem to be
unable to shed our greed and self-righteous pride long enough to
actually SEE how revolutions are seeded and how wealth MUST be
distributed ("trickle down" is simply too much of a trickle, and time
will run out before enough trickles down to help) and the pump of
self-interested effort is sufficiently primed.

Working for us (the healthy world) is the GREATLY diminished "size"
of the world.  The Pope sneezes, and all our Cardinals are
immediately (within 30 minutes) speculating when the chimney will
smoke and for whom.  This process used to take months, years before
everything came to be known about a particular succession need.
Tribes in New Guinea watch CNN, Discovery Channel and All My
Children.  A huge shift is under way now, and its pace is
accelerating.  People are coming to KNOW what is going on in the

My opinion is that we'll get thru this, but it will be a squeaker
because of powerful vested interests and frightened, armed egos.  All
governments will respond appropriately too late and too little, so
I'm betting we'll save our earth in the long run, but there won't be
as many of us to enjoy the salvation.  If our great grandchildren are
lucky, they'll see the dawning in their lifetime.


{Nature_and_Environment.14.22}: Rick Neilson {lichenman} Thu, 18 Mar 2004 22:19:34 CST (15 lines)

Great post, Richard.

I am also optimistic that in the end humans will survive.   It will
happen not because we have been good stewards.  It will happen
because humans are survivors.  We can adapt to a wide range of

We will, unfortunately, inherit a much deminished earth.  We are at
the begining of an unpresidented species die-off.

Most people would think that this whole forum is a load of crap.  We
are at the leading edge of a way of thinking that has to become
mainstream.  I think we can best do that by finding and discussing
our points of agreement.  We won't persuade anyone by arguing with


{Nature_and_Environment.14.23}: Richard Witty {gisland2} Fri, 19 Mar 2004 07:55:16 CST (15 lines)

Green design:

Its different on a situation by situation basis. The common threads
of all green design are

Attention to utilization of capital materials (scarce, costly)
Minimal use of toxins in products and processes
Utilization of locally available resources to the extent possible
Utilization of "free materials" (sunlight, wind, shade, volcanic,
landscaping, earth)
Utilization of local peoples' skills, work and further education

Green social design seeks to empower people widely,
providing "enough" as a right, and amenities by earning


{Nature_and_Environment.14.24}: Vincent Vacarello {vincent1167} Sat, 20 Mar 2004 07:33:49 CST (HTML)

In general, I agree with John that, if anything, the response will be a too-little, too-late type of thing. We always wait for a crisis.

Some would say we are in a crisis now. But I'm afraid that it will require a more hitting-home type of crisis for the general population and insitutions to respond. It might be when all the SUVs run out of gas, and there's no more gas to fill them up. Or when a bunch of middle-class white kids die from air poisoning.

And even then, there's only an outside chance that we will respond appropriately, and in time for it to matter.

The big picture aside, I have to applaud what the environmental movement has done, despite everything they are up against. A lot of it has been token and incremental, but I have noticed a difference, just within the past few years. The Jersey Shore appears to be a good example.


{Nature_and_Environment.14.25}: Richard Witty {gisland2} Sat, 20 Mar 2004 09:41:58 CST (25 lines)

Things do improve by work and attention. For example, the toxins
in "Love Canal" have recently been measured and gotten a clean bill
of health.

It happened through a combination of regulation compelling mitigation
of emissions, technology in actually handling the emissions.

The downside is that a lot of the emissions migrated to where there
was not sufficient regulation.

To reduce the negative environmental impact, the regulation would
have to be global. Perhaps flexible, but still global in scale and

I personally believe that impact is THE relevant measure, and
population is merely a component of impact.

In nature itself, one species waste is another species' food. If that
concept is successfully incorporated into our human community, our
impact can be reduced greatly, and the planet itself can support a
much larger population than currently.

Other aspects of population, the stress of crowds, are real but
psychological. We shouldn't confuse the two in our minds, the
objective physical impacts and the personal need for room.


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