Overpopulation Is Not the Problem

Malthus cautioned law makers on the effects of...

Malthus cautioned law makers on the effects of poverty reduction policies. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) (PD)

Adhering to the apocalyptic overpopulation narrative  has proven to encourage human rights atrocities. It has the effect of dragging anchor on social progress and innovation. To move forward, I feel it is in all of our best interests to weigh anchor, sail out to the horizon, and throw Malthus overboard on the way. What say you, disinfonauts?

via The New York Times

MANY scientists believe that by transforming the earth’s natural landscapes, we are undermining the very life support systems that sustain us. Like bacteria in a petri dish, our exploding numbers are reaching the limits of a finite planet, with dire consequences. Disaster looms as humans exceed the earth’s natural carrying capacity. Clearly, this could not be sustainable.

This is nonsense. Even today, I hear some of my scientific colleagues repeat these and similar claims — often unchallenged. And once, I too believed them. Yet these claims demonstrate a profound misunderstanding of the ecology of human systems. The conditions that sustain humanity are not natural and never have been. Since prehistory, human populations have used technologies and engineered ecosystems to sustain populations well beyond the capabilities of unaltered “natural” ecosystems.

The evidence from archaeology is clear. Our predecessors in the genus Homo used social hunting strategies and tools of stone and fire to extract more sustenance from landscapes than would otherwise be possible. And, of course, Homo sapiens went much further, learning over generations, once their preferred big game became rare or extinct, to make use of a far broader spectrum of species. They did this by extracting more nutrients from these species by cooking and grinding them, by propagating the most useful species and by burning woodlands to enhance hunting and foraging success.

Even before the last ice age had ended, thousands of years before agriculture, hunter-gatherer societies were well established across the earth and depended increasingly on sophisticated technological strategies to sustain growing populations in landscapes long ago transformed by their ancestors.

The planet’s carrying capacity for prehistoric human hunter-gatherers was probably no more than 100 million. But without their Paleolithic technologies and ways of life, the number would be far less — perhaps a few tens of millions. The rise of agriculture enabled even greater population growth requiring ever more intensive land-use practices to gain more sustenance from the same old land. At their peak, those agricultural systems might have sustained as many as three billion people in poverty on near-vegetarian diets.

The world population is now estimated at 7.2 billion. But with current industrial technologies, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has estimated that the more than nine billion people expected by 2050 as the population nears its peak could be supported as long as necessary investments in infrastructure and conducive trade, anti-poverty and food security policies are in place. Who knows what will be possible with the technologies of the future? The important message from these rough numbers should be clear. There really is no such thing as a human carrying capacity. We are nothing at all like bacteria in a petri dish.

Why is it that highly trained natural scientists don’t understand this? My experience is likely to be illustrative. Trained as a biologist, I learned the classic mathematics of population growth — that populations must have their limits and must ultimately reach a balance with their environments. Not to think so would be to misunderstand physics: there is only one earth, of course!

It was only after years of research into the ecology of agriculture in China that I reached the point where my observations forced me to see beyond my biologists’s blinders. Unable to explain how populations grew for millenniums while increasing the productivity of the same land, I discovered the agricultural economist Ester Boserup, the antidote to the demographer and economist Thomas Malthus and his theory that population growth tends to outrun the food supply. Her theories of population growth as a driver of land productivity explained the data I was gathering in ways that Malthus could never do. While remaining an ecologist, I became a fellow traveler with those who directly study long-term human-environment relationships — archaeologists, geographers, environmental historians and agricultural economists.

The science of human sustenance is inherently a social science. Neither physics nor chemistry nor even biology is adequate to understand how it has been possible for one species to reshape both its own future and the destiny of an entire planet. This is the science of the Anthropocene. The idea that humans must live within the natural environmental limits of our planet denies the realities of our entire history, and most likely the future. Humans are niche creators. We transform ecosystems to sustain ourselves. This is what we do and have always done. Our planet’s human-carrying capacity emerges from the capabilities of our social systems and our technologies more than from any environmental limits.

CONTINUE READING

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  • Hadrian999

    lets see what happens in a post pestacide, post antibiotic, and post high energy farming world

  • Rus Archer

    “The conditions that sustain humanity are not natural and never have been.”
    oh, it was aliens

  • American Cannibal

    He uses CHINA as the example disproving overpopulation — A-OK! What a lark. China’s overpopulation problem has destroyed the environment and condemned hundreds of millions of people to live in over-crowded and polluted cities to work as slave-labor. This fellow still has his blinders on.

  • Gjallarbru

    This is a bunch of crock. Another in a long line of fools that think that humans are somehow magically immune to nature, and not really part of it. It is exactly this line of thinking that has lead to our current environmental problems.

    To think that more technology will solve problems that less technology has brought about is wishful thinking. There is a limit to our existence as a species, what that limit is might not be apparent, but it is there. There might not be any next great tech to save our collective asses, so to count on that promised super-tech, when we don’t even know what it is, seems ridiculous.

    The author is right that our current state is unnatural, but it is nothing to be celebrated. Our current state, however we got there, is also not a promise of anything in the future. At one point or another, we will have to pay the price of our arrogance.

    • American Cannibal

      Blame Christian-like thinking for man’s ego-centric notions.

      • Eric_D_Read

        Sure. It might make you feel smarter than those ignorant bible thumpers; but it’s far more likely that christianity and its sibling religions are an expression of human narcissism rather than the source.

        • American Cannibal

          Sure. Human narcissism is exactly what it is. I don’t just blame Christianity for this – there is also the Free Market to blame.

          • echar

            Or one can remove blame entirely and in place accept responsibility. Doing this allows for clarity, vision, and progress. Which is impeded by fearfulness. A state of awareness you seem to exude.

          • American Cannibal

            100% of my electrical energy is from wind power. I also pay about 15% more in energy costs for the privilege. This is the best I can do as an individual, besides eating less/no meat, buying only essentials and limiting my use of private travel.

            You call it blame, I call it narcissistic human nature. The responsible thing to do is to call it what it is.

            I’m well aware of your Christian-centric worldview. But try not to take it so personally, since the Christian world is the Western World too. It’s bigger than you, echar.

          • echar

            How much pride do you feel for taking these actions and letting the world know?

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gyV03FmRAaU

          • American Cannibal

            You’re a pro-lifer and overpopulation denier. So keep taking pride in doing nothing to ease the burden on future generations.

          • echar

            Am I? Or do I need to be such for you to feel righteous?

          • American Cannibal

            I mean, aren’t you? We had this same exact discussion a few days ago. Or did you forget?

          • echar

            I’ll tell you this. I am working towards looking at the whole picture. After observing disinfo closely for a year, I have noticed how easy it is to take sides on any issue. Just shout out a trigger word here or there. Such as pro-lifer, christian, tea-bagger, banker, elitist, and the list goes on.

          • American Cannibal

            Um. I never knew you were a pro-lifer and overpopulation denier before we started talking about it last week, so… I don’t know what to tell you. Take responsibility and own it? Yeah. That sounds right.

            Oh, and do your own thinking instead of posting propaganda. That will go a long way to avoid labels being attached to you.

          • echar

            You have made assumptions which provide you with a payoff that closes you off.

            Your screen name is American Cannibal, clearly you are from America and you eat people.

          • American Cannibal

            Clearly. But they haven’t found me yet!! Ha, ha!

            MEAT, YUMMY YUMMY. Try it sometime.

          • codedp

            Your entire discussion seems to be based on a straw man– Anyone whom views this discussion with an understanding of logic can see your fallacy– Sorry–

          • American Cannibal

            This isn’t a straw man argument. It’s a continuation of a discussion echar began last week.

          • codedp

            Doesn’t seem like a discussion; seems like someone defending themselves from someone holding a presumed view point over their head… Arguing against someones ideals whether or not they hold them, while these ideals aren’t the content of the debate is virtually a straw man in another dimension of thought– The content of the discussion is what matters, and this discussion has very little real content– once you start dictating/attacking/categorizing/demeaning one’s character, you left the path of real discussion– The content is what matters, not the vehicle in which the content comes from, though it can influence the destination; it is a figment in your mind that it must go there–

          • American Cannibal

            Context matters. And you haven’t bothered to go through the whole context or history, so bugger off.

          • echar

            From my perspective, this person is a troll. Who is likely delusional. They likely have some sort of wackjob agenda, and think I have some devious agenda. All I am calling for is to cast aside limiting dogma. Which this person has masterfully demonstrated the harm it can do.

          • InfvoCuernos

            SASQUATCH!

          • echar

            Mumblety-peg!!!

          • The Well Dressed Man

            Vogon Poet!

          • Calypso_1

            post-monasticism unmoor you in the vastness of your collection?

          • The Well Dressed Man

            Pretty much, comrade. My rebellion was truncated by weakness of the flesh before the 3/4 mark. I’ve swung to the other extreme. Perhaps I am that monk who carries the woman across the river, despite the breaking of vows. Everyone’s chapel is uniquely perilous. Triple threes everywhere seem to indicate such a crossing.

          • Andrew

            FREEEEEEEEDOMMMMM!

          • echar

            Please stop editing your comments after the fact. It’s quite deceptive of you.

          • American Cannibal

            When and where? I never edit a comment after someone replies to it.

          • echar

            Your projection about Christianity was not there originally.

            FYI, because I posted a video that comes from an organization that supports pro-life does not make me pro-life. Not that it matters anyhow. It’s like Jan Irving making spurious connections out of people who lived in the same town. Are you he?

          • American Cannibal

            No, it does matter. They have a bias to support anti-overpopulation positions and create pro-Capitalist, pro-Growth videos that screen what matters most: The Details & Contradictions.

          • echar

            Are you above having biases?

          • American Cannibal

            No. But unlike you, I’m constantly monitoring them and checking them.

          • echar

            You are an adorable liar. Wanna cuddle?

          • American Cannibal

            no thanks.

          • echar

            What!!! You’ve been trying to run me through this whole time, and no cuddles? I see how it is.

          • Anti-Crowley

            With the exception of this article..let’s just call it almost constantly.

          • Anti-Crowley

            I wish you weren’t a liar cannibal.

          • Eric_D_Read

            The free market cult is much more recent than the christians.
            Ego-centrism is far older than either

          • American Cannibal

            I agree. These hierarchies and systems were created from our natures. We can name them all day, but who has the time? We just need to be aware of ourselves and keep thinking critically about everything.

          • Logicus

            You can give every human on earth a 1/4 acre of land in Australia (every man, woman and child, not just households) and you would still have the space of Kingsland left over… oh yeah, and the rest of the planet as well… go figure the math. Over population is not the problem.

          • American Cannibal

            Uh, huh. And how will they feed themselves? HMMM?? Is everyone going to be a farmer when the oil/coal runs out? Are we suddenly all going to have the knowledge and skills to bake our own bread from scratch? Raise our own livestock? Birth more children to work the land?

            I think not. You have no argument to defend here if this is your evidence.

          • echar

            Why do you insist that we go back in time? Why do you insist we rely on oil and coal? How does this serve adaptation and survival?

          • Rhoid Rager

            *irony detector ON*

          • American Cannibal

            Mine is in the shop today.

          • Mr Grim

            Err, except that the vast majority of the Australian continent is incapable of supporting any kind of large scale settlement, being waterless, largely treeless desert.

            Also, where the heck is “Kingsland”? Your grasp of geography seems about as solid as that of human overpopulation.

          • Eric_D_Read

            And how many of those people in Australia get stuck with 1/4 acre that is unsuitable for providing the things they need to maintain themselves?

          • Anti-Crowley

            Your right, perhaps we need to adjust the example and not leave the rest of the usable planet out of it.

        • LovelyLady666

          you mean like having 8+ children because they don’t believe in using contraceptives?

          • Eric_D_Read

            I mean humans were ego-centric long before any of the cults of Abraham existed.

          • LovelyLady666

            gotcha. and only a psycho needs 8+ children, people can’t even raise 2 right, let alone more. If you do it right, you won’t need 8. 2 is a good number.

          • Rhoid Rager

            how about 8+ children because children are beautiful?

          • Mr Grim

            How about because having one a year makes for a cheap alternative to Xmas turkey?

          • z@ch

            salt, nutmeg and coriander. brown sugar a little star anise and olive oil. stuff with fig pudding and your soul. Roast at 350 for about 2.5 hours rotate once. Serve with the finest wine cooler available

          • Cortacespedes

            Cheap?
            You’ve obviously never received a bill from “The Birthing Center”.

            Even with insurance, the copay is in the hundreds. Add to that, all the ice cream and “double-doubles w/cheese” it takes to form a child and you have a pretty pricey alternative to the traditional guajolote. Plus newborns only weigh 6-8 pounds, on average, and most of that weight, I have discovered, consists of fecal matter (not tasty no matter how well seasoned).

            Consider the “modest proposal” invalid.

      • http://pneumerology.com/ pneumerology

        I think you might have that backwards.

    • codedp

      If we are a part of nature, than how can we get to a point that is unnatural? I think this is a false dichotomy–

      However for the most part I agree with you; Though I think technology is a major coming factor on our species survival… It is really only to maintain the balance of survival within our own species… As far as other species are concerned, we have already really fucked that up, and I think we are pretty much in a state of denial about this, because we all have come into a world where this was already the norm– What can we do about this? I don’t know, I am not even sure if there is something we can do// But we should look at it from every point we can, and that should be for other species happiness as well.. And if we do look in terms of a species happiness, we have already heavily failed within our own species–

      • Gjallarbru

        how can our state be unnatural?

        Well, from my standpoint, it is because humanity is prone to inventing contrivances instead at looking at what really is. Those contrivances are constructed for our egos, our tastes, or other forms of whims. It’s not like we haven’t broken nature here and there with just our pollution.

        So, no we cannot escape nature, but we do any number of things that do not serve us or our natural needs for a variety of motives. We even do things that are outright destructive for our species. No other species do this, but humanity, hence our unnatural state.

        Of course, since we are issued from nature, perhaps our self-destructive ways, our contrivances, is exactly what is natural for us. I’m willing to admit that possibility.

        • codedp

          We also cannot necessarily see the entire picture, from our angle we may appear destructive; but from another, we may only appear to be on the necessary course of our kind, to get from where we been to where we are going– Destruction is another side of creation, we simply don’t tend to view it that way, the reordering of material–

          Or perhaps we are just meant to be self destructive? But on the level of a species organism, isn’t it just as natural for an individual to go through self brought upon hardship to learn the lessons they need to? So perhaps we are looking at things too disconnected, and not looking that we are the thoughts of a being trying to survive; and we as the thoughts must learn the lesson as a collective–

          • Gjallarbru

            You make an excellent point. We are often shortsighted, and broadsided. Perhaps, we haven’t really learned to see and think, we see and think just to enough to be dangerous… as a species at least.

      • LovelyLady666

        except for the fact we are also drowning in the weight of our electronic waste. Most e-recycling ends up in other countries like India where they have had to make bans due to the amount of waste. Technology won’t “save” us if we refuse to save ourselves and do our own part.

        • codedp

          Hasn’t technology always been an extension of ourselves? Our dependence on it might be the very problem, maybe by doing so we act as an extension of it, and it is only thinking in the way it was programmed… Technology never had the ability to save us, unless maybe it is AI? What I mean is that the coming technology could be the very tool necessary to allow us to change.. And I mean this not only as a physical tool, but a tool of the mind; leverage for a paradigm shift on a global scale… And we often forget that there is technology of the mind, logic as a primitive example is one– So what I mean by technology may not only rely in the hands of the “external” world, but the outlook in which we obtain that allows for new options and viable concepts, that currently most of the world does not seem to recognize– It is in a sense the capability of meme, an idea–

          • echar

            Thank you.

          • LovelyLady666

            if you mean save us by shipping us to another planet then maybe, otherwise technology has is an extension of those who are capable of using it to its full extent. Most citizens can not even operate their computers correctly, only using it for the basics and when they run into a simple problem they end up taking it to someone else. If anything it has taken away a persons problem solving skills.

          • echar

            First, electronics are just a small aspect of technology/innovation.

            To counter what you’ve said here. It depends on knowing what to ask and where to look. In the past, if you wanted to know who wrote what or where linear think began, one may need to visit a professor, maybe visit the library.

            Now we can look for it ourselves, on the spot, from an apparatus in our pockets. Of course the reliability of the source is another challenge. It’s also another skill that can be mastered.

            In other words, if they have a hunger to know, they can find out and
            adapt. If they do not, they are shutting themselves off from a massively
            useful tool. Besides, people who don’t know how to use electronics very well probably don’t have an interest or they are old.

            Something else. Even some Anabaptists understand that they need to adopt some technology. However they find workarounds like some Jewish people. Such as the Shabbat elevator, or just having a Shabbos goy (non jew) do it for them.

    • The Well Dressed Man

      We’re just getting started. The first offworld colonies are just a couple generations of automated asteroid-mining and terraforming away.

  • emperorreagan

    “Our planet’s human-carrying capacity emerges from the capabilities of our social systems and our technologies more than from any environmental limits.”

    This seem true enough on the face of it, looking back at human history. Inventing irrigation, increasing crop yields, turning people into slaves to work the fields, etc. have all allowed humanity to expand in spite of many previous limiting environmental factors.

    It’s not actually true, though, that these changes are free from environmental limits. You can only have as many slaves as you can subdue. Irrigation robs water from one spot to use it to elsewhere. Fossil fuels are a finite source of energy. The limitations are there and many people choose to willfully ignore them in hope of some break-through technology that will win the lottery for humanity yet again, but will such a thing always come through?

    • echar

      Will there be a breakthrough if so many are focused on the limitations?

      • emperorreagan

        Constraints are part of problem solving and optimizing potential solutions.

        People take the constraint of capital & profit very seriously. The other constraints have frequently been ignored or sidelined as just a place to externalize costs.

        • echar

          What good is capital and profit when faced with survival? We can adapt by utilizing capital for our survival?

          • Rhoid Rager

            i pro’lly shouldn’t answer for him, but i think he means that becuz capital & profit have been taken so seriously and the other constraints have been ignored survival is threatened.

          • echar

            I am thinking that is what he meant as well. Perhaps I should have been more direct and ask specifically for a clarification. If this is what he meant, then I agree.

          • emperorreagan

            Yeah, that was my point. When minimizing capital expenditure/maximizing profit are the two constraints people work with, that’s what shapes the solutions, like a guy at the gym with big biceps but little legs.

          • echar

            Ah, the jailbird look.

  • BuzzCoastin

    l lived in very crowded Asia for 6 years
    4 in Beijing
    I told my Chinese wife that I needed to live somewhere
    where no one was at or near my front door when I opened it
    (happened 75% of the time)
    she said
    I thought you didn’t want to live the aMerkin Dream

  • American Cannibal

    This is an obviously simple idea to grasp that egg-head technologists refuse to see reality: The current population of 7 – 8 billion ONLY exists because we have cheap energy sources, largely oil and coal, to drive tractors and machines that grow, harvest, transport and protect our food and water. At current consumption rates, it’s estimated that oil will last to mid-century (2040). That’s 26 years from now. Coal is estimated to run out in 100 years. Both are polluters, both fuels destroy clean sources of drinking water and both sources of energy are being hoarded at the top of the heirarchy. The technologists are in a race against time to replace all these sources of cheap energy, but let’s get real here: It ain’t gonna happen. So when the energy is all gone, we’re going to have a sudden and huge over-population bubble that is go BOOM!!!

    It really is this simple. We are deceived by our technology into thinking that all is well. And the consumption is only going to increase as the population grows. Sit back, spark a J and enjoy the show!

  • American Cannibal

    nice penis.

  • Kropotkin1936

    why don’t my comments show up here?

    • echar

      Sometimes they get flagged for moderation. Usually it’s because of a link. A mod will have to release it. Sometimes this takes a little time. You are not being singled out. Another explanation could be that Disqus gets glitchy/laggy at times. Most likely your comment will show up before too long.

      • Anarchy Pony

        Happens to noobs too.

        • Rhoid Rager

          No one likes dirty, smelly anarchist slime, either. teehee.

          • Anarchy Pony

            =P

  • American Cannibal

    Because Profit.

  • American Cannibal

    Yes… vast ghost cities where even more resources have been wasted, thus bringing us closer to the overpopulation bomb….

    • ersatz

      considering your presence in this thread.. you sound like a scared fool,that’s too easily controlled via fear mongering of a different type.

      it’s ironic how you cite the religious as part of the problem,yet you and many others just like you are simply controlled by elite agendas that have effectively convinced you,like a religion, that the inevitable eco-apocalypse is so dangerously close..minus the cardboard placard that the ‘end is near’…

      and you and your neighbors must repent and conserve, while supposedly being burdens to each others future.

      they’ve effectively made 99% of the rest of the population the threat…while they get to come up with the de-pop solutions,acting as philanthropic saviors.

      they’d probably tell you just off yourself to lighten up the burden for future generations.

      ..but that’s because they’re surely looking out for you.

      • American Cannibal

        Controlled by the Elite? I AM THE ELITE. And I don’t really care if the eco-apocalpyse is near, or not. I’ll be long dead before that happens.

        To believe endless growth is possible forever is the true tell of a scared fool (that’d be you).

  • Rhoid Rager

    what’s the significance of 1936?

  • Rhoid Rager

    Here’s my opinion. It’s harsh, but it’s morally consistent with the undertones of so-called ‘overpopulation arguments’. Anyone who seriously views overpopulation as the problem ought to take the solution seriously in hand, point it towards their head and pull the trigger. That’s being morally consistent in one’s beliefs.

    • echar

      This reminds me of the legendary bumper sticker.

      “Save the planet, kill yourself”

    • American Cannibal

      Or choose not to reproduce.

      • Rhoid Rager

        Actually, no, that’s not enough to remain morally consistent, because problematising population is the same thing as saying “i’m stuck in traffic.” You ARE the traffic.

        • American Cannibal

          The problem isn’t the population #. The problem is the underlining support for the # is eroding.

          I’d rather be morally inconsistent and stay alive, thank you very much.

          • Rhoid Rager

            Exactly. We get to the crux of the issue…it isn’t about #s, it’s about what those #s are doing. That’s why the overpopulation arguments are bogus, non-starters.

          • American Cannibal

            Those #’s are consuming themselves into oblivion. We’re all Cannibals. And when the cheap energy is gone, there will be reckoning and quick population collapse.

          • Rhoid Rager

            Half agreed. Cheap energy is already gone, that’s why the ‘merikun midwest is being swiss cheezed. But that’s off topic. I’m skeptical of the population collapse (at least as far as going over the Seneca cliff into the Olduvai gorge is concerned). Humans are inherently innovative–that means that we all have the potential to be innovative. it’s the current way things are done that stifles it. BAU keeps skews our thinking and actions. Release the monetary grip through financial collapse and watch the local opportunities and actions burgeon, imo.

          • American Cannibal

            Yes, technically, you and I are not currently in an era of overpopulation. And this also goes for a great majority of the world’s current population. However, there is a huge minority group of about 1 billion people who’d agree that they currently live in overpopulated conditions based on their direct observations and daily existence. It’s true that they had to adapt to the situation, yes, but they have adapted at a level that causes a great deal of discomfort and pain, shorter life-spans, disease and heartbreak. This is a condition of too few resources spreading out to too many people. These people ARE innovators, inherently, but the resources, the physical bodily and energy resources, are miss matched to sustain anything close to what we consider a Scientific Lifestyle.

            We need to dig deeper into this jerry-rigged system that supports the Lifestyle and ‘see’ it for what it is: An high-energy operation base on finite resources. I’d take any bet against oil running out in our life-times. Look at the size of the budgets used to fight over the stuff compared to other non-oil wars. The Northern Hemisphere countries may go to war over the Arctic fields, if their arguments aren’t settled in court and energy needs don’t become more dire (they will).

            And with this mad dash to Frack-everything-up in the North East another finite resource is threatened: Clean Water. Thankfully, there are some deep pockets around here who have mounted a defense-campaign for the high moral resource (water), and blocking gas companies, instead of leaving it to the feckless politicians who are bought off by said companies.

            Here’s a get rich capitalist tip for you: Invest now in resources we pull up from the ground, namely, Clean Water, and avoid wasting money on technology we will need to scrub out the garbage from the liquid after the earth is consumed and left fallow. The point is not all technologies are beneficial to the long-term prospects of overcoming death (as wishful a dream as any). And don’t forget, even the ‘good’ tech comes with flaws that reduce well-being more than relieve deep death anxiety and bad health, like the various forms of nuclear technology.

            We have built a shiny and shaky scaffolding hundreds of feel into the are around a non-existent Super-Tower, tricking ourselves into believing the scaffolding IS the imaginary building, and the promise of infinity. This scaffolding is made of bits of string, steel bars and hope. But there is no hope. Fuck hope, Carlin said.

            Each big wind, a whobble sets in, and grows in seismic energy as more and more levels are added to the sky-high project. Massive power, sheering. Then Dink-Dank-Donk, the whole fucking thing comes down, it’s all gone, falled to pieces, along with all our descendants. Christening, in the End, the Dawn of the Cockroach!

          • Rhoid Rager

            Agreed. Shit is ridiculous. People bothered by complex problems looking to even more complex solutions. Recipe for disappointment.
            BUT
            by innovative, I meant adept at adapting, recalcitrant with recycling, and skilled at scrounging.
            Behold! The wave of the future–the Salvage Economy.

          • American Cannibal

            AKA the Sharing Economy.

          • emperorreagan

            The other thing you’ll find other than innovation – when people have skin in the game, no one is going to design something for a 1 or 2 year life cycle. The age of the disposable will disappear.

    • hamvvar

      Well i guess that would be one problem with holding beliefs to begin with :P

      Pretty convenient to claim that the people interested in solving this problem should kill themselves, but any ‘solution’ that involves a mass human die-off can only be a bandaid on an axewound.

      We have 7 billion people on earth because some years ago we produced enough food to make 7 billion, now we produce enough food to make 10 or 12 billion so in a few years time we will have 10 or 12 billion.

      Kill off 3 or 4 billion people and we’re back to 1970, but those remaining 3 or 4 billion people have the same cultural programming as our current cohort and go right back to exponential extraction, production, and expansion.

      A stable economy will lead to stable populations. So to be morally consistent with these facts we’ll have to work together.

      • Rhoid Rager

        what exactly do you mean by a stable economy?

        there’s nothing convenient in my claim–it’s a simple, yet dramatic, presentation of what it means to be consistent in one’s beliefs. This lack of consistency is what makes for bad ideas. It’s the same thing as the environmentalist jet setting around the world to lecture on climate change. Lack of consistency in beliefs means a lack of clarity in thought, which means a lack of understanding for what the real problems are.

        Populations will rise and fall no matter what. We should expect that, and not care much for it, to be honest, since we, as thinking individuals who hold these ideas, cannot change it in any appreciable way. Claiming a certain level of population as desirable has a dirty implication–which is claiming that some people are worthy of life and others aren’t. There is a deep moral inconsistency with that thought, that ought to drive holders of that idea to have long sleepless nights. But people who talk about the ‘population problem’ are usually just reproducing an argument they have read or heard elsewhere (likely numerous times, as the Malthusian trope rears its head throughout our elitist miseducation system), and don’t ponder the issue in anything more than a topical way.

        • hamvvar

          “Beliefs mean a lack of clarity in thought, which means a lack of understanding for what the real problems are.” ftfy ;)

          Of course overpopulation is a biological symptom of a cultural illness. The tumours of a cancer come from damaged genetic code sin what could otherwise be healthy normal cells.

          It’s actually a real issue that can actually be addressed in our time not something absent musings and suicide jokes. Maybe there will still be other primates alive in the wild when our grandchildren’s grandchildren walk the Earth if we take a little responsibility now while we’re alive.

          And, well i may not be flying my personal jet to show people my cool powerpoint show, but i am getting fucked by the same system that fucks you and that fucks the dolphins, the gorillas, and the wolves and the caribou, that in actuality fucks all those repressed Tamils, Palestinians, Israelis or whoever else and–wow even fucks them bastards from Al Gore up to Dubya to Bin Laden and Obama over to Harper and the Queen too.

          Man I mean, fuck the police, all cops are bastards, and (and this is important) they are us too. It’s crazy how abused and fucked up the ones with “the power” actually are but they’re really human like us (and if you are a cop or a politician or a teacher–or some other state power tool, then, yeah I realize you’re human like me even if your programming tells you I’m not and that you don’t have to act like one).

          What would a stable economy mean? Definitely worth exploring more.

          SO– though we can’t actually calculate our carrying capacity, it seems reasonable to posit that our civilized culture has been augmenting its carrying capacity through subverting local biospheres to promote human biomass, and in the modern industrial age using ‘cheap’ energy derived from finite resources (petroleum) to further intensify that subversion and production. By allocating increasingly more resources to that population you increase the carrying capacity and in response the population increases.

          Actually I haven’t said anything to indicate some kind of ‘desirable population’, your argument seems to be that the desired number is “as many as possible regardless of what the ecosystem can support and anybody who thinks otherwise should murder themselves”.

          Proposed Step 1 to “stable economy”
          -stop the socioeconomic increase

          Proposed Step 2 to “stable economy”
          -wean off petroleum

          Proposed Step 3 to “stable economy”
          -the genus homo and its descendants continues live and evolve

          Proposed Step 4 to “stable economy”
          -repeat step 3

          • Rhoid Rager

            “your argument seems to be that the desired number is as many as possible regardless of what the
            ecosystem can support and anybody who thinks otherwise should murder
            themselves.”
            It took you 7 paragraphs of masturbatory ranting to get there?
            A knowledge of population biology does not grant you license to decide other people’s family size or sex lives for them. Because, people will do what they want to do regardless of policy or sophistry about population dynamics. It’s all a non-starter, and I can’t devote any more time to attempting to explain this to you. Wait for my book.

          • American Cannibal

            People do what is dictated to them via resource scarcity.

          • Jin The Ninja

            you mean resource inequality. there is only scarcity when it is necessary to make a profit.

          • hamvvar

            I have no interest in deciding other people’s family size or sex lives for them.

            Regardless of what people want the intersection of diminishing returns and biosphere destruction will curb population growth eventually unless we work on those fundamental issues and their cultural/belief based causes directly.

            Look i’m not going to talk down to you. I have the feeling we could be really great friends.

  • echar

    Do we need to violently overthrow them, or can we do it by adopting technologies without “their” help?

    • Cortacespedes

      “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” -R. Buckminster Fuller

      • echar

        “Pollution is nothing but the resources
        we are not harvesting. We allow them to disperse because we’ve been
        ignorant of their value.”

        ― Buckminster Fuller

        • Rhoid Rager

          It’s a principle in nature that the waste of one thing is the food of another. So what eats MTBE or chlorinated hydrocarbon compounds? That’s the problem.

          • echar

            I am not sure how it is possible to do these things, I am not a chemist. Nor do I consider myself an expert. I prefer to view myself as a beginner to be honest. However, what I like about this quote is the perception behind it.

          • misinformation
          • Rhoid Rager

            Bioremediation is fucking awesome. Once we can get a network of hobby mycologists spawning the right varieties in the right places, mycoremediation will begin to tackle the problem. I know they’re proposing it for the area around Fukushima. Paul Stamets is awesome, too. Thanks for the link.

          • misinformation

            This type of “technology” is never considered by the over-populationists. We’re not lacking for solutions. Only the courage and imagination to enact them.

  • echar

    Thank you.

  • echar

    I’d like to add that you may be mistaken about Bill Gates though. He recently launched a campaign to raise the quality of life in the poorest of countries.

    3 MYTHS THAT BLOCK PROGRESS FOR THE POOR

    http://annualletter.gatesfoundation.org/#section=home

    • ersatz

      yeah, i’d seen bill on his little media campaign with his annual list…and if you look at ‘myth three’ specifically in that annual letter,it addresses the myth of: overpopulation resulting from supposedly ‘saving lives’…instead of completely rejecting the actual myth of overpopulation itself as flawed bullshit.

      and as far as i’m concerned,poor countries,poor populations have every reason to be wary and distrustful of gate’s foundation ulterior motives within his philanthropic campaigns..

      i’d say gates is our generation’s equivalent of the rockefellers’ and carnegies’ way back when they were funding the eugenics movement.

      i’ll always distrust the motivations of any elite philanthropic effort that surely make it a point to publicize all the supposed good they’re doing in the world, whilst patting themselves on the back with pr campaigns…while also funding awful fucking shit,with billions which is never publicized.

      • echar

        At least he and his organization are doing something.

  • Mr Grim

    What’s hilarious about this piece is that the author includes the key reason overpopulation is the problem, and that human ingenuity is only going to take us so far.

    From the third para below the NYT link:

    “And, of course, Homo sapiens went much further, learning over
    generations, once their preferred big game became rare or extinct, to
    make use of a far broader spectrum of species.”

    Where does it stop? Do we adapt and “make use” until there are literally no other species left?

    Where does it end?

    • American Cannibal

      It ends with Free Market Libertarians destroying whats left.

  • Anarchy Pony

    Where exactly does defending nature for its own sake came in? Humans may be able to live in concrete hellscapes on farmed plankton and shit into perpetuity, but other living things can’t. We may be able to keep feeding billions and billions of extra people, by raping ever more land, but where will the wilderness be? Let’s just burn it all for human use, why not? Let’s not let any other organisms continue to exist for their own sake. Fucking anthropocentric psychos.

    • echar

      Do we feel that we are incapable of living in unison with nature?

      • z@ch

        For the most part the attitude seems to be: fuck you(nature) I get mine. Cough syrup influenced rap can have a lot to teach if you listen with the right ears. Kinda like putting your head to the tracks in the old westerns to hear if a train is coming.

        • echar

          Perhaps it is a good idea to start thinking about a synthesis of nature and technology. Then putting that synthesis into use.

    • Ted Heistman

      Yeah, Humans do make up a large portion of the Biomass and I think cereal grains make up 40%. If I am not mistaken humans make up more biomass than any other large mammal by magnitudes

      • Anarchy Pony

        Oddly enough, still outgunned by insects.

  • Jin The Ninja

    word.

    • Rhoid Rager

      he/she’s got a great nick, too. kropotkin is going to be on my kids’ reading list once they hit high school age.

  • Dingbert

    Why would the NY Times even bother printing this? Carrying capacity belongs back over at Stormfront with eugenics and melanin theory.

  • Rhoid Rager

    does that mean you’re a syndicalist?
    why don’t you post on disinfo more often?

  • Rhoid Rager

    Carrying capacity is an abstract concept. I don’t think dingbert is denying that there are limits, but he’s emphasizing the fact that carrying capacity cannot be calculated. Even peak oil is a rough estimate, and many proponents of peak oil have said that the point when oil peaked can only be determined retrospectively (in the rearview mirror).

    Also, to equate carrying capacity to gravity is an attempt to scientifically validate a fundamentally misanthropic argument. That’s thin ice morally, as I’ve already pointed out to you in another comment.

    • hamvvar

      Actually, comparing carrying capacity to gravity illustrates that just as all particles with mass attract one another, biological populations rise and fall in relation to available resources.

      Any measure of carrying capacity absolutely only provides estimates and abstractions, but as you yourself stated there are limits. Sure, we don’t have the equipment to measure every relevant factor to determine the actual carrying capacity– that doesn’t change the fact that it exists.

      We measure gravity in what? Meters per second per second? Something like that? That’s also an abstraction that we can estimate mathematically, but only measure objectively with sufficient data. Clearly biological systems are far more complex and so can’t be modeled in just the same way as simple physics interactions.

      “We can only determine peak oil in retrospect so we’d might as well just pretend like it’ll never run out.” The people running the boat are pretty nutty for sure, hence the impending mutany.

      Is it possible that advocating for mass suicide is slightly more misanthropic than attempting to unite and solve our shared problems of world hunger and biosphere destruction?

      Maybe i missed something but I’m not too clear what your actual perspective is?

      Do you contend that the starving of the world should just keep starving for the benefit of the wealthy west, because manifest destiny or something?

  • echar

    I’d like to think that a large portion of humans have moved beyond violence as a way to solve problems.

  • Gjallarbru

    Well, actually what I see coming is just that, the revolt from the third world. I’m not talking about karma, or Hel. Fruther, how much longer can we ignore things, when our environment is getting screwed too. Yes poorer contries have been abused for far longer, but we are screwing the entire planet. So yes, we will have to pay. The third world suffers because we abused them, but our time is coming, not to punish us, simply because there is no other predictable outcome.

    In this case, please do not put words in my mouth. I’m not talking about punishment, I’m talking about consequences, very natural consequences, that are going to bite us in the rear. This is not otherworldly, no avenging gods are involved, just us being stupid. There are limits to how much abuse anything can take, we are there, right there at the breaking point. I don’t exactly know how this world of ours is going to break, but it is. I believe that our “rich” world will pay the most, for it is the most dependent on oil and cheap labor. When either will fail, and they will, we are screwed.

  • LovelyLady666

    Problem solving is an essential tool for life. There’s no need to debate about this. You mention this is about the reality we live not technology itself, yet the reality we live in is that we buy the newest gadget and throw out the old, it’s a constant cycle and adding more technology won’t change this unless we move into more progressive areas and evolve humans as a whole. what i see technology goes up human ability goes down and eventually we’ll be living in wall-e.

    • codedp

      Yes, by solving the right problem at the root of all problems.. And the answer can come by us progressing to a new paradigm on how we view everything, or a new technology that forces a new paradigm on us.. You see it works either way, either we progress or something forces us to progress– But you cannot look at what we do, as not a part of who we are– You seem to be looking at technology from a materialistic view point, there is a duality here that must be linked to be properly understood.. That is just like there is a form of technology “outside” of us, there is a spiritual technology “inside” of us, the only difference is the form in which it takes– To evolve is to upgrade our own technology, and this can come from within the mind, or without from the environment–

      If you think of our species as an entire organism with a collective mind; one single minds evolution is limited to within the scope available within its environment; that is one can always evolve there mind, but to integrate that wisdom takes a society where that thing is accepted.. which currently doesn’t exist in most places– However, as a global mind, if a new technology became available that not only allowed individual evolution, but practically forced it… Than this is not much different than a single individuals own evolution, in the form of a species..
      Otherwise if you merely demand that people progress, you drown out in a sea of others whom demand it as well.. Progress to where? Where is the linking common factor that allows us to progress as a whole? Authority? Not our authority; plus authority doesn’t ever allow for ones own growth.. it is there for limits… We right now are linked together with limits and divisions– So at best if you demand people to change, it will be superficial at best–

      Now if there is a common link, a common lesson, a common presence that pushes ones own paradigm, that forces one to grow in a different way; not by mere demand (pulling), but sheer force (pushing)– Than could that not come in the form of technology? Why do you put down something for the way people have used it? Why couldn’t seeing something already there in a new way simply be the change? Why couldn’t that something’s next step force us all to change that simple outlook?

      My argument isn’t about that being the necessary change to take place, but that in some ways as I have described, it is the only thing that could take place, so there’s is no real need to focus on technology; as technology will simply mirror what occurs regardless–

      Anyways I heavily suggest reading that link I posted, at it doesn’t appear that you have–

      • LovelyLady666

        lol

  • Dingbert

    The idea isn’t inaccurate. Outside of that biology text, though, it’s been a neo-Nazi buzzword and call to action for decades.

    One example:
    http://www.carryingcapacity.org/

    I guess I wish there was another term, since “scientific” racism has done too good of a job claiming this one.

    • hamvvar

      I see what you’re saying. Actually kind of like how the nazis ‘claimed’ the swaztika– originally an ancient eastern symbol.

      There’s always “biological limiting factors” but it’s a little clunky as a term.

      ‘Carrying capacity’ seems to kind of best describe the idea and has actual scientific precedent so maybe we should ‘take it back’ fuck the nazis and neo nazis. we can’t keep making concessions for those fuckers.

  • Gjallarbru

    Yes well, by screwed I don’t mean there’s nothing to be done. Still, there will be consequences. My point was, in my reply, there is no pseudo-religious apocalyptic punishment involved. Shit will hit the fan because we have piled it so high, and yet it is true that shit can be cleaned away.

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