Seven (and a Half) Billion Day

Posted: September 9, 2018 in Consumerism, Culture, Debate, History, Industrial Collapse, Politics
Tags: , , , , , ,

See this post on Seven Billion Day only a few years ago as a launching point. We’re now closing in on 7.5 billion people worldwide according to the U.S. Census Bureau. At least one other counter indicates we’ve already crossed that threshold. What used to be called the population explosion or the population bomb has lost its urgency and become generically population growth. By now, application of euphemism to mask intractable problems should be familiar to everyone. I daresay few are fooled, though plenty are calmed enough to stop paying attention. If there is anything to be done to restrain ourselves from proceeding down this easily recognized path to self-destruction, I don’t know what it is. The unwillingness to accept restraints in other aspects of human behavior demonstrate pretty well that consequences be damned — especially if they’re far enough delayed in time that we get to enjoy the here and now.

Two additional links (here and here) provide abundant further information on population growth if one desired to delve more deeply into the topic. The tone of these sites is sober, measured, and academic. As with climate change, hysterical and panic-provoking alarmism is avoided, but dangers known decades and centuries ago have persisted without serious redress. While it’s true that growth rate (a/k/a replacement rate) has decreased considerably since its peak in 1960 or so (the height of the postwar baby boom), absolute numbers continue to climb. The lack of immediate concern reminds me of Al Bartlett’s articles and lectures on the failure to understand the exponential function in math (mentioned in my prior post). Sure, boring old math about which few care. The metaphor that applies is yeast growing in a culture with a doubling factor that makes everything look just peachy until the final doubling that kills everything. In this metaphor, people are the unthinking yeast that believe there’s plenty of room and food and other resources in the culture (i.e., on the planet) and keep consuming and reproducing until everyone dies en mass. How far away in time that final human doubling is no one really knows.

Which brings me to something rather ugly: hearings to confirm Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. No doubt conservative Republican presidents nominate similarly conservative judges just as Democratic presidents nominate progressive centrist judges. That’s to be expected. However, Kavanaugh is being asked pointed questions about settled law and legal precedents perpetually under attack by more extreme elements of the right wing, including Roe v. Wade from 1973. Were we (in the U.S.) to revisit that decision and remove legal abortion (already heavily restricted), public outcry would be horrific, to say nothing of the return of so-called back-alley abortions. Almost no one undertakes such actions lightly. A look back through history, however, reveals a wide range of methods to forestall pregnancy, end pregnancies early, and/or end newborn life quickly (infanticide). Although repugnant to almost everyone, attempts to legislate abortion out of existence and/or punish lawbreakers will succeed no better than did Prohibition or the War Against Drugs. (Same can be said of premarital and underage sex.) Certain aspects of human behavior are frankly indelible despite the moral indignation of one or another political wing. Whether Kavanaugh truly represents the linchpin that will bring new upheavals is impossible to know with certainty. Stay tuned, I guess.

Abortion rights matter quite a lot when placed in context with population growth. Aggregate human behaviors drive out of existence all sorts of plant and animal populations routinely. This includes human populations (domestic and foreign) reduced to abject poverty and mad, often criminal scrambles for survival. The view from on high is that those whose lives fall below some measure of worthwhile contribution are useless eaters. (I don’t recommend delving deeper into that term; it’s a particularly ugly ideology with a long, tawdry history.) Yet removing abortion rights would almost certainly  swell those ranks. Add this topic to the growing list of things I just don’t get.

  1. nickreality65 says:

    All 7.6+E9 people on earth today would stack easily, if somewhat uncomfortably, within half of the Grand Canyon.

    That’s NOT TTTOOOO!! many people.

    There’s been whining and quacking about population for 50 years and those hysterical whiners are still wrong.

    Whatever the REAL problem is it’s not the number.

    I think it’s a bunch of selfish progressive snowflake A-holes who got theirs and don’t want to share. They would really like to just shoot in the head everyone they consider excessive and useless (third world, Africa, China, India, etc.), but holding them in poverty, disease and violence with anti-fossil fuel green agendas doesn’t leave such obvious fingerprints.

    • Brutus says:

      Thanks for your comment. We disagree whether human population represents a problem for the planet and our own future. Stacking humans inside the Grand Canyon is a pointless comparison since that’s not how we inhabit the world. Discussions of ecological footprint and carrying capacity come into play here, which are easy to find with the search function of any computer. Perhaps you missed the point that the problem looms far in advance of populations dying off. We’re witnessing those die-offs in real time right now, though they have not yet tracked up to human populations so much. Your other point about not wanting to share is probably accurate, though I wouldn’t limit it to selfish progressive snowflake A-holes.

      • nickreality65 says:

        I think we agree that the problem isn’t the number per se, but the resources needed.

        If we weren’t pissing away trillions a year on that bogus man-caused climate change and military adventures those funds could be used to address the real problems of famine, disease, poverty, unemployment, etc.

        Problem is that program doesn’t enrich the “right” people.

  2. Brutus says:

    No, we don’t agree. Resources and populations are intertwined, not separable. We witness this close relationship when, for instance, deer populations expand due to plentiful food and then starve in large groups when that food is no longer plentiful. Humans are large mammals, too, and rely on available resources. The big difference is that we ship those resources around the planet (in addition to shipping ourselves to where resources are). I also disagree quite vehemently that anthropogenic climate change is bogus. My blog didn’t start out as a doom blog, but it became one as I studied the subject over a period of over a decade. I won’t attempt to convince you, though; people come to the awful realization in their own time (or never).

    We do agree that most U.S. military adventures are indeed pissing away trillions of dollars. Two primary motivations come into play: securing control over resources (especially oil) and profiteering. Other secondary motivations are present, too, so it’s not all of a piece.

  3. Excellent post. No one is paying attention to this obvious intractable dilemma of exponential population growth. The fact that we went from 7 to 7.5 in 7 years should be cause for serious concern. Instead, People are still gaga about having babies. Though my bet is we don’t reach 15 billion. We’ll run out of room, resources and favorable habitat long before then.

    • Brutus says:

      Thanks for your comment. I’m always hesitant to say such things as “no one is paying attention.” Plenty (like me) pay attention, but that doesn’t change the overall trajectory or indeed the biological drive to procreate. Although we possess executive functions sufficient to suppress instinctual drives, they function in individual cases and within limited demographics (e.g., well-educated populations) rather than species-wide. As a result, we have demographics run amok, especially when considered, say, over a thousand-year timescale or longer.

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