Letter to an Overpopulation Alarmist

I really dislike becoming as outraged as I do, but what you are saying is simply outrageous.

Perhaps you should write up your proposal for the elimination of at least 9/10 of the world’s population, with reasons why it makes sense to you.  That way I can pick it apart and then later remind you of what you have forgotten we agreed on.

Why do you think this is necessary again?  Some ecological catastrophe?  I believe we have agreed that any particular ecological catastrophe is uncertain, though you would like to believe it is inevitable that some disaster on a scale of a mass extinction event will occur.  Since you can’t actually prove there will be any particular catastrophe, that belief in its certainty seems unfounded.  This is not a reason to ignore the possibility, but nor is it a reason to assume its certainty.

You must be aware that the 200 year history of the Malthusian catastrophe argument about over-population was based on precisely the same kind of fears, fear  that we will run out of food and we will never adjust in time.  But it never happened, and it is illuminating to understand why.  That doesn’t prove it will never happen, certainly.  But it should take some wind out of your sails, and motivate you to prove your point rather than merely assert once again that it is an inevitable certainty.  You are basing the desire and willingness to unconditionally eliminate at least 9 out of 10 people on an uncertain conjecture of some catastrophe. Read the rest of this entry »

Population Growth is Not the Problem

I have a friend who believes that the high population of humans in the world (almost 7 billion in 2009) is a problem in and of itself, and the population growth is only making things worse.  I maintain that the population is not the right thing to focus on and that the real problems are elsewhere.

What are we honestly going to do about the size of the population and the rate of growth in order to have any sufficient impact on the real problems?

What is your guess about how overpopulated we are, assuming we are?  Are there 10 times too many people?  Would you advocate that we somehow eliminate some large number of people (9 out of 10 people!?) to reduce the population to what you believe is OK?  Of course not (or I certainly hope not, but I do worry about a few deranged extremists who believe that would be a good idea)! Read the rest of this entry »

World Population is Stabilizing

You may be surprised to learn that the average human lifespan across the planet is now over 60 years.   When did that happen?  It has been happening all along, gradually increasing with each new increase in health and food production.  And the average life expectancy increased dramatically as we radically reduced the number of deaths in early childhood.

But another surprising consequence of reducing childhood mortality is that people are having fewer children.  Makes sense when you think about it, but we do it without thinking about it.  At this time,  most of the world has families with about 2 to 3 children.

Please watch this great video: Hans Rosling: no more boring data.

Read the rest of this entry »

Why Global Consensus?

Why Global?

The world is a big place, big enough that we still have troubles getting together with our neighbors in neighboring towns, let alone on continents across the oceans.

However, the world is rapidly shrinking in many ways.

  • Local problems anywhere in the world are soon problems for the entire world. We are all increasingly interconnected, which is a good thing if we can use it to fix our problems before they spin out of control.
  • Using electronic telecommunications and the internet, we can connect with anyone in the world in an instant. We don’t need to travel anywhere in order to do any of the things that merely require our presence of mind.

With our rapid rate of industrial growth, we now have many global problems that seem to be no one’s responsibility. Every nation, acting in its own best self-interest, has the incentive to exploit its “own” resources and the shared resources of the world such as the oceans and atmosphere. Every person and corporate entity has the incentive to get what they can before someone else beats them to it. And so we all suffer as a consequence. This is called the “Tragedy of the Commons” . Read the rest of this entry »