How many people will there be remaining after the coming population crash? The human population appears to be well past what the Earth’s ecosystem is capable of permanently supporting and natural causes will soon come into play which will reduce it to a much smaller number. How severe will that reduction be and what can we do to alleviate its ill effects?
The Green Revolution of agriculture using various forms of genetic manipulation has amplified the ability of plants to convert their bodily mass into human usable foods. Wild plants produce only enough seeds to maximize their species long term survival and not as a food source for humans. But by genetic manipulation plants can be forced to convert half of their living force into seed production.
Clearly the current human population pendulum is in full swing to some higher point. Some think the rate of growth may be slowing down even though the absolute numbers of humans growth per year is greater than any year in the first half of the century. Some say that population can be reduced and point to education of women as being the best method of lowering population. This does have an impact although it will be very slow but it also has a long term negative impact. The problem is that the most intelligent and healthy women are the ones who become most educated and thus have the fewest children. It is the desperately poor and appalling stupid women who go to fertility clinics and have multiple births. Last year the Octopussy mom already with six children on welfare with the aid of a fertility clinic had eight more unwanted children. Those fourteen children will over their lifetimes consume as much natural resources as is being saved by everyone in a whole cities worth of responsible changing from incandescent electric light bulbs to compact florescent ones. She is in an abstract sense murdering people in the not too distant future when her American born children are eating food that is being denied to people in poorer countries. The next time you see a picture of a starving child think of impact of this one woman’s and her fertility clinics doctors ugly voluntary behavior. The point is that reasonable and rational behavior by many people can be totally undone by a few stupid people. Perhaps you have noticed there are lots of stupid people around.
There are many Laws of Nature. The Law of Gravity for example but when it comes to living species there are two laws. Perhaps they should be called the Laws of Life. 1. Survive! and 2. Reproduce! Our genetic heritage has been evolved to support those goals. Even our human intelligence was evolved for that reason. Your brain’s purpose is to help our species survive and reproduce and the rest of the uses you put your brain to is for entertainment. It’s okay to have some fun. But, don’t have fun that brings about a Darwin Award for our species. But that is what is happening. In most present human societies people are permitted to have as many children as they want and in some developed countries the public will pick up the expense raising the children. The belief is that the children are innocent of all wrong doing and they should be given all the opportunities that other luckier children, the ones born to responsible parents, are given. Unfortunately in this approach there is a disconnect of behavior from responsibility. The irresponsibly people are being paid by the responsible ones to be irresponsible and have children which they can not raise properly. Thus after a few generations of this relationship there develops a class of irresponsible people preying on the responsible ones and living a style which has no hope of contributing to the overall functioning of the society or the health of the species.
The Laws of Life and the current morality of the responsible people paying for raising all of the children that irresponsible can create means that the population will continue to grow until a crisis is reached. That crisis can come in many forms and from many causes but ultimately it will resolve itself with the total human population dropping back to a level which the Earth can support. Because the population reckoning will come at a period of maximum population size and those maximum numbers will be exploring every possible way to get food all food will be scoured from every resource and a general famine will be precipitated and the return to smaller population numbers will be precipitous. Because the people will consume everything available the famine will become sharper and the population will drop well below the maximum sustainable number for a while. But how far will the population fall?
The population pendulum concept isn’t a simple swinging past the center point of equilibrium like a clock’s pendulum because in that mechanical form of a balance system the forces on both sides of the pendulums swing are equal. With a population type of pendulum the swings are between a potential for very large numbers on one side and very small ones on the other side. It is an asymmetrical type of swinging about the quantity of food that can be produced. At the moment there are about 6.8 billion humans and one would think that it is obvious that the Earth can support that many people because it is obviously doing so at the moment. However, that huge quantity food is being created by artificial means which our unsustainable because they are dependent on fertilizers, insecticides and farm equipment and transportation systems that require petroleum. It is difficult to predict how long the recoverable petroleum will last or the farm-able soil or the healthy air. But that there may be a serious shortfall of some critical item in as little as ten years seems possible and it seems impossible that there won’t be one or several within fifty years. Usually those the future predictions about oil consumption are based on current the current rate of consumption. But the human population is doubling in about thirty nine years so it is obvious the resources will be used up even quicker. No one is able to predict what will happen or when. It is like you have fallen out of an airplane at night. You know you are falling and you know you are going to hit botter soon but you don’t know just when.
The last time the planet was in balance with the human population was about 1825 with one billion people living as farmers working the land with human physical labor. However after the two centuries of human depredations upon the soil and the rest of the environment it probably wouldn’t support half that many. So for easy calculation lets say 2/3rds of that number of about .68 billion. Furthermore even going from 6.8 billion to one tenth that number .68 billion would not happen without major wars using all of the weapons available which according to TIME magazine is currently some 15,000 atomic bombs. And those major wars would further degrade the soil, the environment and everything else by a multiple of ten or so. Thus even in this nominal population collapse there would be only 100 million people left. It might not be that bad but it might be worse. There is no way to know and quite frankly no one would want to know because it would be so tragic. However, I do believe there will be human survivors because people do have sense enough to lay up some supplies, even at the last moment. Surviving for a year on stored supplies would probably get you through to the Straightened New World. But those survivors will need help to reestablish a healthy Earth. It cannot be as wonderful and diverse as the one we now inhabit but it could be quite nice.
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