Lots of people worry about Doomsday, but these series of Lifehaven blogs are an attempt to prepare for it in a way that gives humankind some hope of surviving beyond that day, and learning from the experience. Aside from the superhuman intelligence of our huge interacting society of individually intelligent beings, which has brought us to such a dominant position in the environment, there is our natural desire to reproduce to the carrying capacity of our environment. Those three factors — reproduction, intelligence, sociability — each valuable in themselves — in combination have brought us to the precipice of doom. There are attempts to control population, but until methods are fully instituted for controlling the reproductive capacity of every last person on the planet the population will grow to its carrying capacity. Intelligence, and sociability are likewise built into the species, but it is only the application of these qualities to destructive activities that creates problems for humanity as a whole. Those qualities are controlled by proper education, and good laws enforced for the good of the entire planetary society. The immediate problem is population, but there is no way of controlling that when there are 6.7 billion freely breeding individuals. Because there are no outside predators to contain our population numbers there is nothing to hold us in check except our own behavior. This can either be through appropriate laws, appropriately enforced, or by uncontrolled cataclysmic famine, disease and war. Population is the driving thing, and because at some point an essential resource will become limited, because of the consumption by these people, a conflict will eventually arise between the contending parties as to who gets the resource. I suspect that it is too late at present to prevent a Doomsday event because there are far too many resource destroying processes in play, and at present no one is willing to create, promote, and enforce the worldwide laws necessary to bring them under control. So this series of blogs attempts to analyze the factors that will bring on the Doomsday event, and make obvious the necessity of creating Lifehavens.
There has been enormous concern about the consequences of human population growth for the environment and for social and economic development. But this growth is likely to come to an end in the foreseeable future. Improving on earlier methods of probabilistic forecasting1, here we show that there is around an 85 per cent chance that the world’s population will stop growing before the end of the century. There is a 60 per cent probability that the world’s population will not exceed 10 billion people before 2100, and around a 15 per cent probability that the world’s population at the end of the century will be lower than it is today. For different regions, the date and size of the peak population will vary considerably.
This is a population projection of Earth through the year 2100 from Nature, one of the most highly respected science magazines in the world. This is typical of this kind of rational prediction, and in this case it is certainly irrational. It isn’t saying much even if we accept their premise. It predicts 4 to 15 billion people, a rather broad guess, and it assumes total smoothness of population transitions from one moment to the next, which is highly unlikely. It assumes no wars, no famines, no epidemics, and no surprises. The brief perusal of history will not show a single hundred year period where any of those assumptions were true. And now, in a world with super weapons, the war-caused shifts can be much sharper than ever before. In a world with super transportation systems the epidemics can be much more sudden, and worldwide than ever before and with a world transportation system making everyone dependent upon the world supply of food, and not their local food sources a worldwide famine instead of local famine becomes more likely than ever before. And, of surprises that no one can predict, what can be said except that we are now one world, and not a huge batch of separate self sustaining communities so the surprise when it comes will be worldwide. Below is another projection using similar, but more complex rationalizations.
World Energy Projections from Combusem.
This chart was dated at 1992, and I redrew it for greater clarity, but the curves are the same as in the original. The problem with this chart is that it leaves out the obvious discontinuities that are almost certain to happen – social collapse, famine, epidemic, war, and surprises. Although it is total speculation let me sketch out a more probable future which puts in these abrupt, shifts and their probable consequences.
A graph of the Doomsday population crash.
This graph when viewed one hundred years into the future will probably look more like the historically accurate figures than the preceding one. The curves are generalized and the dates are made variable by having the year marks with range markers rather than specific years. If the 2000 mark is moved to the left side of the range it moves the Doomsday a little into the future, and if the 2000 marker is moved to the right side then Doomsday is upon us sooner. There is nothing specifically predictive about any of these curves, not even the world oil production curve which may be replaced by some other energy source. Note that the pollution curve rises sharply with the Doomsday event and is slow to descend which is because of radioactive pollution. Most of the short term radioactivity will dissipate in the first year but there will probably be long term secondary effects which will be slow to fade away. The life expectancy at birth will drop precipitously until the various contamination sources dissipate, and will be slow to return to even 1900 levels, because of the accumulation of stressful factors. All of the other curves drop to very low levels compared to pre-event times, but after the first few years they may stabilize at the lower levels. The total number of people will drop vastly below the current 6.7 billion, possibly as low as 10 million, or even lower but after a couple of years that should remain stable, and even start growing again. If the Lifehaven project is activated, and even a single haven is fully functioning then the return to what we consider a normal life may be possible. Without a Lifehaven even a much larger surviving population may not have the broad range of genetic material in the seed and germ banks to make good recovery — ever.