What can be done now to help the few humans who do survive the impending population collapse reestablish a sustainable way of life?
First let’s look at a little background information. Here is an historical logarithmic chart of population.
The first surge in human population came with increased sophistication of technology applicable to local hunting and gathering situations. The second surge came from the development of domestic herding, and agriculture and its improvements over time and experience. The third major surge came with the application of non-human power to the creation of food, and the increasing sophistication in finding, and developing those power sources. However, these industrial power sources are non-renewable, and will eventually be consumed. Note that the curve ends in a cliff with nothing at the bottom of the cliff.
“The limitations involve using up non-renewable resources, such as oil and natural gas, non-ferrous industrial metals, precious metals, and minerals such as phosphorous compounds used as fertilizers. These non-renewable resources would actually decrease in availability even if the population and economy were stationary, but the increase of both advances the time when they will all be gone.” Brian A. Tinsley 1980.
People have continued reproducing at an even increasing rate since Tinsley wrote this warning in 1980 and there is no reason to assume that they will voluntarily stop. If we assume that the Earth can sustain a billion people at an agricultural level—as it was doing in 1825— then dividing their carbon footprint by that of a modern North American we find that the population must contract to less than 10 million people if it is to survive at all. I don’t like this either but the population can not continuing exploding indefinitely as it is presently doing without a collapse. Since there is no ethical way to moderate population growth then inevitably there will be either natural ways for the collapse or unethical ways imposed by man, but it will collapse. Both of these ways are going to be very unpleasant for the participants. The natural ways of population reduction are famine, pestilence, and war. War is included as natural because even non-human animals become murderously aggressive when they are starved, and overcrowded. Unethical ways of controlling population—by current standards ,and methods—involve various methods of coercion. But, for this population control to work it must be applied to everyone on the planet and not just some particular polity, such as China, and it would have to be stringently enforced, such as in China. At present this is absolutely unacceptable in democratic countries, and would be impossible to enforce without a very predatory policing system.
When there are no controls on a population it tends to oscillate between rapid growth and, collapse. That is the condition humanity finds itself in at present because we have no predators. Therefore, either we self-impose some enforceable limitations or we go through busting cycles until we happen to hit a zero point from which we never bounce back. However, before the first collapse, which hasn’t happened yet because we are still in the boom period, there might be a period of time when the high technology and massive population we presently enjoy might be prodded into setting up the conditions for a workable society in a long term sustainable humanity. This would not be very costly in modern terms because the society I am proposing would be fairly limited in total numbers.
If we consider the disaster level we design our survival package for then it becomes possible to make some general suggestions. Starting with the worst possible disaster, Probaway-DISS~14 with only a very few survivors say about 1 to 10 on planet Earth we have a truly desperate situation, because even if everything is perfectly provided for for these people there is too little genetic depth for them to survive. Perhaps if each of 10 people came from totally different gene pools there would be a chance. So let’s assume that they are totally unrelated. What could we give them to help them grow back to some permanently sustainable society?
1. Reconstituting a viable society with such a tiny population would require a stored human sperm, and egg bank from several thousand widely varied individuals.
2. Rebuilding a food base would require a stored seed bank of agricultural products but as they do grow in isolation it might be well to include their natural predators and competitors.
3. An information data base would very helpful so these people could adjust and adapt quickly to their probably devastated environment. In the aftermath of a disaster of this magnitude the environment is going to be very hostile on many dimensions: radioactive, hostile microorganisms, really nasty weather fluctuations, unpredictable waves of unknown threats – who knows.
– – – A work in progress – – –