Humanity has many problems that have cyclic feedback on themselves. For example, when the human population has grown there are more people to have children. And the more people there are to have children, the more opportunity there is to have even more children.

From past experience, we can see that there has been enough food since 1625 for the human population to grow, and the population has grown from 0.5 billion people to 8 billion people in 2025. There are sixteen times more people now than then! If at the current rate we double population again in fifty years, there will be sixteen billion people in 2075. The projected life expectancy is currently about eighty years and the current young adults who will vote in the coming US election, that survive to that time, will probably have more than ten years of life expectancy when they get there. But it will be a very different world than we live in now.

However many people there are, they will be living on a greatly reduced primary resource base. I hope there can be found ways to ease these problems, and that is why I’ve been working on some general principles that people can use to cope with the coming world. However, if we get lucky and have a series of abundant years until 2075, we will then have even more opportunities to overshoot the carrying capacity of the Earth and collapse. Even more than more food, we need a world view accepted by the people of the world that will permit humanity to survive.

But that’s only one problem of many that have cyclic feedback loops that grow and grow until the overshoot of that problem creates a general collapse. The current popular hot topic is climate change leading to global warming. The warmer it gets, the feedback will make it get even worse. Solar heat melts the white polar regions of ice leaving darker surface, which absorbs more heat and thus melts even more snow and ice. As the white polar regions get darker, they absorb more heat and the whole world gets hotter. When that happens, the agricultural regions of the world, which have adapted over many years to the climate they have endured, will be less productive. Thus, more people means more stress on the food supply, which is becoming less productive because of overheating. The canary in the “hot” coal mine is the coral reefs of the world, which are dying because of a few degrees of ocean warming.

Another problem linked to these is the melting of mountain glaciers in the more temperate zones. The Himalaya mountains have a steadying effect on runoff of water that feeds billions of people in China, Southeast Asia, India, but when the glaciers are gone the rain that comes will run away into the oceans before it can be used to grow food. It has already become a problem, but it will get far worse. 

Each of these problems can and do generate feedback onto the others and make the others worse. Combine even these few natural problems with the growing instability of the political world, and we are in deep trouble. We might waste everything in a war, and even threats of wars take away productivity from a country. The ease with which cyber conflict created by a few people can disrupt even a smoothly functioning country and destroy much of its ability to grow food is presently unsolvable. As I said above,

Even more than more food we need a world view accepted by the people of the world that will permit humanity to survive.