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Thread: Preventing a resource crunch

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    Preventing a resource crunch

    All of history for life has been survival of the fittest. It has caused evolution of species to become stronger or take advantage of any niche. Clearly humans have done this, but it seems that within a relatively short time humans will over populate the earth. Many science fiction stories have been written dealing with these issues. How could the resource problem be solved? The limitations on this exercise would be, it cannot be through government control, it cannot be through a monstrous act like the movie END GAME. Obviously most of Europe, Japan, China, Russia, Canada, United States, and some others are headed toward population declines in the present, or near future.
    So it is mostly modern countries that are having these population declines. Is it the modern country or education or what that has changed that people aren't having many children.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Copernicus View Post
    All of history for life has been survival of the fittest.
    I wonder if you are misinterpreting this. It does not mean healthiest or strongest.

    It has caused evolution of species to become stronger or take advantage of any niche.
    Stronger? There is no evolutionary trend towards greater strength.

    Clearly humans have done this, but it seems that within a relatively short time humans will over populate the earth.
    Birth rates are falling. Already fewer children are being born than the replacement rate. So soon the population will stop growing and peak. The population level may be problematic (especially with climate change) but need not be disastrous.

    Many science fiction stories have been written dealing with these issues.
    On the other hand, much science has been done on it too. We know the best way to increase the reduction in birth rate (improved education, health and wealth in the still developing countries).

    So it is mostly modern countries that are having these population declines. Is it the modern country or education or what that has changed that people aren't having many children.
    It is partly because having large numbers of children is a consequence of high mortality levels. And also of poverty: you need as many people working the land or bringing in an income as possible (especially if there is a good chance that some of them will die early). Also, improving wealth means people can afford contraception. And, finally, education which gives people more opportunities to earn, lets them learn about good health, etc. etc.

    All of this depends, of course, on good governance. Which is also the single most important factor in avoiding famine and the effects of natural disasters.

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    Lower birth rates correlate with education and emancipation of women, plus of course contraception technology. A secondary effect might be the declining sperm count in men, with various proposed causes including pollution. In earlier times, giving birth was hazardous to women and must have had a genetic effect favouring women who were good at it. Modern medicine has stopped that tendency and civilised life has made children expensive where before they were essential for future income and support. Inadvertent fiscal policy as well as direct incentives play a part. The trend toward individualism replacing collective identity acts against choosing to have children where choice has become possible so recently in history. Lovelock (Gaia hypothesis) thinks the global population will be one billion at end of this century, maybe he is right?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Copernicus View Post
    All of history for life has been survival of the fittest. It has caused evolution of species to become stronger or take advantage of any niche.
    And how have we become "stronger"? Through social cooperation. As individuals we could never have walked on the Moon. It was unified effort that did that.

    As others point out, evolutionary fitness for survival is not about personal health or power. It's the total condition of a species.

    Clearly humans have done this, but it seems that within a relatively short time humans will over populate the earth. Many science fiction stories have been written dealing with these issues.
    We already overpopulate the Earth's carrying capacity. There are two not-mutually-exclusive solutions; Decrease population load, increase carrying capacity. Malthusian catastrophe was averted somewhat by the Green Revolution and other agricultural and food storage advances. The capacity increased.

    Our currently civilization is enormously wasteful and inefficient with its resource use. In addition to improving our profligate ways, alternative resources might become more viable through improvements in energy generation and things like asteroid mining.

    How could the resource problem be solved? The limitations on this exercise would be, it cannot be through government control, it cannot be through a monstrous act like the movie END GAME. Obviously most of Europe, Japan, China, Russia, Canada, United States, and some others are headed toward population declines in the present, or near future.
    So it is mostly modern countries that are having these population declines. Is it the modern country or education or what that has changed that people aren't having many children.
    People mostly want large families due to social acculturation: "tradition". The same social factor can be used to reduce the expectation of many children. The majority of examinations of women worldwide have shown, that most will have smaller families if their society allows it.
    Last edited by Noclevername; 2020-Jan-28 at 01:24 PM.
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    The rate at which the population increases has been falling since the 1960s, and is predicted to continue to fall, with the population peaking out at about 11 billion.
    All the data you might want to inform discussion is here.

    Grant Hutchison

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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    The rate at which the population increases has been falling since the 1960s, and is predicted to continue to fall, with the population peaking out at about 11 billion.
    All the data you might want to inform discussion is here.

    Grant Hutchison
    Thanks for that link, loads of after dinner meat there.
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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    The rate at which the population increases has been falling since the 1960s, and is predicted to continue to fall, with the population peaking out at about 11 billion.
    All the data you might want to inform discussion is here.

    Grant Hutchison
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    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    Lower birth rates correlate with education and emancipation of women, plus of course contraception technology. A secondary effect might be the declining sperm count in men, with various proposed causes including pollution. In earlier times, giving birth was hazardous to women and must have had a genetic effect favouring women who were good at it. Modern medicine has stopped that tendency and civilised life has made children expensive where before they were essential for future income and support. Inadvertent fiscal policy as well as direct incentives play a part. The trend toward individualism replacing collective identity acts against choosing to have children where choice has become possible so recently in history. Lovelock (Gaia hypothesis) thinks the global population will be one billion at end of this century, maybe he is right?
    I wonder how much decreased fertility is contributing. I have a hard time believing people wanted so many children.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Copernicus View Post
    I have a hard time believing people wanted so many children.
    Desire for large numbers of children is a result of 2 factors in general; lack of birth control, and compensation for high rates of childhood mortality. The 20th century saw a drop in infant mortality worldwide, while social pressures to have large families (and the spread of acceptance of birth control) has lagged several generations behind. The result is massive overpopulation. But the pop-drop in industrialized countries shows that the trend can be bucked over time.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    Desire for large numbers of children is a result of 2 factors in general; lack of birth control, and compensation for high rates of childhood mortality.
    Also, not so much desire as lack of choice. That is one of the reasons that increasing health, wealth and education (especially of women) is so effective: it gives people options.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    Also, not so much desire as lack of choice. That is one of the reasons that increasing health, wealth and education (especially of women) is so effective: it gives people options.
    Is there any evidence that social security has caused much more wealth distribution to the elderly, leaving young people with very little money or ability to afford children. It cost about one hundred thousand dollars per year to take care of someone in a nursing home, but about ten thousand dollars per year to send children to school. The United States spends about 780 billion per year just on Medicare, while K12 education is about 600 billion, medicaid spending is another 600 billion, social security is another 800 billion dollars, disability benefits in the United states are another 650 billion dollars. One could argue that giving money to the disabled and elderly has taken away resources from the young so they cannot afford to have children. Way more is spent of the old and disabled than on children.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Copernicus View Post
    I wonder how much decreased fertility is contributing. I have a hard time believing people wanted so many children.
    Having seen my Mom raise me and my two brothers and all the headaches we caused her, I doubt many people would even want three.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Copernicus View Post
    Is there any evidence that social security has caused much more wealth distribution to the elderly, leaving young people with very little money or ability to afford children. It cost about one hundred thousand dollars per year to take care of someone in a nursing home, but about ten thousand dollars per year to send children to school. The United States spends about 780 billion per year just on Medicare, while K12 education is about 600 billion, medicaid spending is another 600 billion, social security is another 800 billion dollars, disability benefits in the United states are another 650 billion dollars. One could argue that giving money to the disabled and elderly has taken away resources from the young so they cannot afford to have children. Way more is spent of the old and disabled than on children.
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    The whole "demographic time-bomb" thing is largely generated by looking at the wrong numbers, anyway. Sure, the proportion of people over a particular age is increasing in societies that have made the transition to <2 children per couple. But if you look at people with remaining life expectancy over some threshold (usually 15 years), the proportion of the total population has stayed about the same, because the age at which RLE is 15 years has increased steadily, in parallel to the demographic shift. So all these older people, who might have been in the final stages of their lives in a care home in the 1950s, are instead productive and independent members of society. The mean time to death once you take up residence in a care home in the UK is about two years, but people are older when that threshold is crossed.
    Indeed, the aim of modern medicine is to compress that period of end-of-life dependency into as short a window as possible.

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  15. 2020-Jan-29, 12:29 AM

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    As far as resource use per age goes, children outnumber the elderly. So kids would use more resources, on the whole.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    As far as resource use per age goes, children outnumber the elderly. So kids would use more resources, on the whole.
    On a global scale that’s certainly true, but in Europe and North America the numbers of people aged under 15 and those aged 65 and higher are basically equal. In Japan aged people are quite a bit more numerous than children.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    On a global scale that’s certainly true, but in Europe and North America the numbers of people aged under 15 and those aged 65 and higher are basically equal. In Japan aged people are quite a bit more numerous than children.
    Yes, I should have said globally, by "on the whole" I meant the entire population but it wasn't clear enough I guess.
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    If humans are about to overpopulate the earth, what would the correct amount of population be?
    A: "Things that are equal to the same are equal to each other"
    B: "The two sides of this triangle are things that are equal to the same"
    C: "If A and B are true, Z must be true"
    D: "If A and B and C are true, Z must be true"
    E: "If A and B and C and D are true, Z must be true"

    Therefore, Z: "The two sides of this triangle are equal to each other"

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    Quote Originally Posted by 21st century schizoid man View Post
    if humans are about to overpopulate the earth, what would the correct amount of population be?
    tbd
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    Quote Originally Posted by 21st Century Schizoid Man View Post
    If humans are about to overpopulate the earth, what would the correct amount of population be?
    I would hazard a guess that the correct number will be those that can be fed using non-fossil fuel based agriculture. That's not just fertiliser and pesticides but machinery, transportation etc. Even without AGW, that energy source is not infinite so a time will come when the natural constraints will come back into play.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 21st Century Schizoid Man View Post
    If humans are about to overpopulate the earth, what would the correct amount of population be?
    One of the difficulties in coming up with that number is how much damage to the environment you are willing to accept. At one extreme (a larger human population) you would have to allow for a maximum of environmental damage just shy of making the Earth uninhabitable for humans. If you say you want less environmental damage than that, then you have to accept a lower human population. I don't know how you quantify that.

    Another difficulty is what level of quality of life do you want the humans to have: a quality of life equivalent to current Western nations (for example) or just to be able to survive (are you willing to give up your car, game console, and Internet).
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    Quote Originally Posted by 21st Century Schizoid Man View Post
    If humans are about to overpopulate the earth, what would the correct amount of population be?
    I suspect that for many people (now and throughout history) it would something like "before it all started going wrong", which usually translates to "when I was a child". (The same is true for language change.)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Swift View Post
    One of the difficulties in coming up with that number is how much damage to the environment you are willing to accept. At one extreme (a larger human population) you would have to allow for a maximum of environmental damage just shy of making the Earth uninhabitable for humans. If you say you want less environmental damage than that, then you have to accept a lower human population. I don't know how you quantify that.

    Another difficulty is what level of quality of life do you want the humans to have: a quality of life equivalent to current Western nations (for example) or just to be able to survive (are you willing to give up your car, game console, and Internet).
    And also what new technologies will allow more people to be fed etc. It was technology that initially stopped Malthus from being right.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Swift View Post
    One of the difficulties in coming up with that number is how much damage to the environment you are willing to accept. At one extreme (a larger human population) you would have to allow for a maximum of environmental damage just shy of making the Earth uninhabitable for humans. If you say you want less environmental damage than that, then you have to accept a lower human population. I don't know how you quantify that.
    I agree with part of that; however, the amount of environmental damage per person is not fixed.

    But, the reason I ask is, because the OP said,

    Quote Originally Posted by Copernicus View Post
    but it seems that within a relatively short time humans will over populate the earth.
    Surely one who feels this way must have some idea of what the correct level of population is? Otherwise, how can we say within a short time that humans will "over" populate the earth?

    As the title of the thread includes "research crunch", I'm inclined to point out that all of human history has been one continual resource crunch. No society has ever said, "wow, we have so much of everything, each person can use how ever much he wants, and there will still be enough!" There are mechanisms to deal with scarcity; for example, scarce resources can be allocated by a market mechanism, which provides incentives to consume less and produce more when a resource becomes scarce. There are alternatives to market mechanisms, with their own advantages and disadvantages, but the point here is, there has always been a need to allocate scarce resources - this isn't exactly something new. (Environmental damage is arguably no different, it being a "bad" rather than a "good" - the main catch is, individuals often don't pay for the environmental damage they cause. That is starting to change, with things like carbon taxes.)

    The Ehrlich's, back in 1968, predicted massive resource crunches during the 1970s, and famines in which hundreds of millions would die. The world population has more than doubled since then, and the percentage of people suffering from malnutrition has dropped by more than half, from 33% to 16%. Given the larger population, that means the number of malnourished people has remained approximately the same, but another way to look at it is, the world has since 1968 added an additional 3.5 billion people (equal to the entire global population at that time) who are well-nourished. Not exactly consistent with predictions of massive worldwide famines in the 1970s.

    So more than fifty years ago, when the world population was less than half what it is now, we had predictions of impending global catastrophe due to overpopulation. Are the current predictions better founded?

    Quote Originally Posted by Swift View Post
    Another difficulty is what level of quality of life do you want the humans to have: a quality of life equivalent to current Western nations (for example) or just to be able to survive (are you willing to give up your car, game console, and Internet).
    I agree with that as well, although I'd have to acquire two of the three things you mention, before I'd be able to give them up. Of these three things, the one I do have is one of the two that did not exist back in 1968, when the world was suffering from overpopulation and facing imminent severe resource crunches.
    A: "Things that are equal to the same are equal to each other"
    B: "The two sides of this triangle are things that are equal to the same"
    C: "If A and B are true, Z must be true"
    D: "If A and B and C are true, Z must be true"
    E: "If A and B and C and D are true, Z must be true"

    Therefore, Z: "The two sides of this triangle are equal to each other"

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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    I suspect that for many people (now and throughout history) it would something like "before it all started going wrong", which usually translates to "when I was a child". (The same is true for language change.)


    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    And also what new technologies will allow more people to be fed etc. It was technology that initially stopped Malthus from being right.
    Yes, Malthus had one of the worst cases of bad timing in all of history.
    A: "Things that are equal to the same are equal to each other"
    B: "The two sides of this triangle are things that are equal to the same"
    C: "If A and B are true, Z must be true"
    D: "If A and B and C are true, Z must be true"
    E: "If A and B and C and D are true, Z must be true"

    Therefore, Z: "The two sides of this triangle are equal to each other"

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    Quote Originally Posted by 21st Century Schizoid Man View Post
    Are the current predictions better founded?
    Based on more data and more honed analytical models and tools. I'm inclined to say yes, they are.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    Based on more data and more honed analytical models and tools. I'm inclined to say yes, they are.
    If the OP's concerns about over population and resource crunches are based on data and well-honed analytical models and tools, rather than just a vague sense of unease, then I'd be interested in hearing the answer those data and models give to my original question, about what the correct level of population (as opposed to "over population") is.
    A: "Things that are equal to the same are equal to each other"
    B: "The two sides of this triangle are things that are equal to the same"
    C: "If A and B are true, Z must be true"
    D: "If A and B and C are true, Z must be true"
    E: "If A and B and C and D are true, Z must be true"

    Therefore, Z: "The two sides of this triangle are equal to each other"

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    Quote Originally Posted by 21st Century Schizoid Man View Post
    If humans are about to overpopulate the earth, what would the correct amount of population be?
    I'm pretty sure we are over populated already. Many species are on the brink. It is not just about us. Now if we could find a way to bring back species, like tigers, rhino's.
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    Quote Originally Posted by 21st Century Schizoid Man View Post
    If the OP's concerns about over population and resource crunches are based on data and well-honed analytical models and tools, rather than just a vague sense of unease, then I'd be interested in hearing the answer those data and models give to my original question, about what the correct level of population (as opposed to "over population") is.
    I can't answer for the OP.
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    Quote Originally Posted by 21st Century Schizoid Man View Post
    If the OP's concerns about over population and resource crunches are based on data and well-honed analytical models and tools, rather than just a vague sense of unease, then I'd be interested in hearing the answer those data and models give to my original question, about what the correct level of population (as opposed to "over population") is.
    I'm not sure what you mean by "correct level of population," but I guess you mean "maximum acceptable population," because if you just mean "correct level" then there's really no way to say whether 10 million or 20 million people would be better. I think it's pretty hard to determine, but I think it is certainly fewer than our current population, assuming that we aim to maintain a relatively high standard of living and that it must be sustainable.
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