25
Feb
10

Overpopulation Is A Myth

A ran across another mention of overpopulation. No need to bother with links as we have all heard it numerous times over. Just how many people are on the planet? Some 6 billion. 6,000,000,000. Thats quite a large number, no doubt about it, but it is hard to conceptualize. So lets look at some examples.

If those 6 billion people all lived in the population density of New York City (density 27,440 per square mile) those people would cover the land mass of Alaska, Texas, California, Montana, New Mexico and Wyoming. That is a fair amount. But NYC is far from the highest density city, so lets look at another, Hong Kong. HK’s population density is 91,500. Using that density we would be able to fit every single person on earth, plus another 1.5 billion in the landmass of Idaho. That would leave the entire rest of the earth 100% free of humanity so obviously overcrowding is not really an issue

Of course landmass is not the only issue, and fresh water is another bit part of the problem, but it is not an insurmountable issue. Water IS available, but we lack the political will to capture it for human use. Take India for example. The yearly monsoons drop so much water that people drown in the floods every year, not to mention the mudslides from rain soaked land. I don’t pretend that all of that water could be captured, but India has ideas on where to place dams to sequester the monsoon floods to both serve their population as well as protect them. But why doesn’t this happen? According to those Indians I’ve worked with, it is due to political corruption. Here in the States its the ever present cry of the environmentalists who would stop any such proposal. But the water is here. The amount of rain that falls on the Oregon Territory (Washington, Oregon, Idaho) is tremendous and if it were to be dammed and piped to other states much of their demand could be alleviated.

And then there is conservation. It is important to note that the US has not gone on a serious conservation plan, but according to the USGS our water usage has not varied more than 3% since 1985 despite adding well in excess of 30 (maybe 40) million in population. Withdrawals in 1990 averaged nearly 1,620 gallons per day per person; in 2000, the per capita average had declined to about 1,430 gallons per day. (Note: that includes industrial and agriculture, and is certainly not the daily home usage) That means that from rising awareness and simple economics the US has found ways to do the same or more with less. Should there be some sort of moral or legal imperative to save further water no doubt we would find a way to do so.

All that to say this. I am sick and tired of hearing how the world is overpopulated and cannot cope with the population that we already have. If we ever get to 50 billion, then I will worry about it.

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17 Responses to “Overpopulation Is A Myth”


  1. February 26, 2010 at 5:20 AM

    There is no water shortage. Water is the singel most abundant resource on the planet. 2/3 of the Earth’s surface is water. It is so abundant that it litterally falls out of the sky onto us in a form that requires no refining to use. There are regional shortages in places that are inhospitalbe to human life. As you suggest, even those places could be made better with a little distribution.

    If the dams in America were not mostly built in the 20’s and 30’s we would not have them here either. In fact, environmentalists are in the process of getting dams torn down to return rivers to their pristine conditions.

    A major problem with water in the old world is 5-10,000 years of human habitation in the same place has irreversably contaminated the ground water. The industrial revoluion (just in the last decade for places like CHina and India) has further added heavy metals and other toxins to the human waste already dumped into the water courses. But these are problems that the local people are not interested in correcting. The cost is higher than they are willing to pay to have clean water to drink.

    It wouldn’t bother me so much to leave them in the filth they create, but many of them abandon their home countries to come here where the air and water are clean, as if those are just the natural conditions we inherited from the indians and not something we created with large investments of capital in the past century.

  2. February 26, 2010 at 12:55 PM

    There most certainly is a very real overpopulation problem…an overpopulation of proles. The elite don’t want any more proles than necessary to provide them with labor to ensure their continued life of opulent luxury.

    The feminist movement is all about prole population control.

  3. February 26, 2010 at 1:48 PM

    Dan, care to elaborate upon that?

    Dave,
    I agree on both points. There are certainly those who are worried about their standing and they are some of the biggest proponents of the overpopulation myth.

    And the feminist movement is about limiting population growth while adding tremendously to the labor pool while minimizing the increase of consumption which keeps wages low.

  4. February 26, 2010 at 3:16 PM

    Dan,

    I have fairly demonstrated that if there is a wall it is a long way off. When Paul Ehrlich wrote his book, The Population Bomb in 1968 there were 3.5 billion people on the planet. Now the best estimate is 6.8 billion. We have nearly doubled, yet his prediction that the world will undergo famines–hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate has proven false. And it should be noted that he predicted this for the 70’s and 80’s.

    Ehrlich also made statements such as “India couldn’t possibly feed two hundred million more people by 1980.” But guess what? India’s population has tripled since 1960 (to 1.2 billion) and we still do not see millions starving to death.

    So what we see is that there are increases to technology and practices that have allowed people to not only eat, but attain higher standard of living as well.

  5. 5 Oekedulleke
    February 26, 2010 at 3:16 PM

    Those projects to capture all that fresh water, and then (i assume) transport them to places with higher population density and need, will cost an awful lot of energy (read fossil fuels) and thats where we are going to run into problems in the coming decades.

    In the same line, modern food production is almost entirely based on artificial fertilizers, also based on oil.

    For more info on peak oil I recommend http://www.theoildrum.com

    I don’t think, however, that we will ever be able to “solve” this problem.

    Humans, just like other animals, will happely breed themselves way past the long term carying capacity of their environment and set themselves up for a die-off.

  6. 6 Oekedulleke
    February 26, 2010 at 5:27 PM

    Another thing: your paragraph on overcrowding is very flaud reasoning.

    By using the population density of Hong Kong, or any other city, your are completely ignoring the space and resources used to support such a density.

    If you cramp the entire human population (+1.5 billion) on the landmass of Idaho, where are you going to grow all the food for those 8 billion people ? where are you going to generate their electricity ? build their cars, trucks and plasma tv’s ? What about wood production, ore mining, refining, etc.

    The rest of the earth would hardly be “free of humans”, unless the plan is to make Idaho one massive graveyard with 91.500 graves per square mile. (what is the ‘population’ density of an average western graveyard anyway ?)

  7. February 26, 2010 at 5:56 PM

    Oeke,

    Peak Oil is another myth that will need to be addressed, but in another post. It does tie into overpopulation myth tho and are used by the same groups to try to limit both consumption and population. Peak Oil is also makes for a bad economic model. If it were possible to know every last ounce of oil on the planet it would still not make for a good model. The reason being is that as technology progresses and demand rises in relation to economically viable supply, uses of oil will shift and new technologies will take over. It has happened with copper, and has more recently happened with nickle (that technology change dropped the price of nickle by 75% in a very short period of time)

    As for shoving all the population into one State, I hope you do not think that I was proposing that. I was offering an example of how small an area it would take to hold the earths population. But as for Hong Kong, do you think that they don’t produce anything? The population density would be MUCH higher if it were just housing, but it is not. There are places to work, places to eat, shop, relax etc. Just like any other city on Earth. Sure they don’t produce the food that is required, and no city will ever be able to do so. Crops and animals still require lots of space to raise and always will, but with gains in technology the tonnage per acre increases tremendously. I would imagine that if the technology that we use here in the US to grow crops were exported to other countries the space and resources required to grow food would drop tremendously.

  8. 8 Oekedulleke
    February 27, 2010 at 1:38 AM

    I see you fall into the same trap that many people do.

    Technology does not equal energy.

    While I do not dismiss technology as an important part of the sollution to our coming energy problems. (go fusion, make it happen) Even with unlimited electicity you’re not going to create the fertilisers needed to maintain the increased food production we already have.

    If peak oil is a myth, then why doesn’t the US, with all its new technology, come back from its peak in 1970 ? While new drilling and discovery methods can increase the total of ultimatly recoverable oil in some ways, they will never create new oil. Its a finite resource, so we will hit a peak in its production (chances are we already have in 2007) and we will eventually run out of it.

    I also know that you aren’t seriously proposing the Idaho thing. But you generously underestimate the infrastructure needed outside of the city, to maintain it. Food production for HK is not two farms somewhere out there in the back, along with a small forest for some meat and wood. The area of HK itself is used many times over in order to keep it running. The graveyard part was exactly to point out what the end result of the Idaho experiment would be. Its not a valid argument at all to show how little space humans need.

  9. February 27, 2010 at 5:47 AM

    Oeke,

    I guess, looking back at the original post where I wrote “Thats quite a large number, no doubt about it, but it is hard to conceptualize. So lets look at some examples.” I rather figured that the reader would look at the word “conceptualize” and realize that the following examples were aids in conceiving. I shouldn’t take such things for granted because obviously you have failed to grok that I was not suggesting that all the people could live in a small area. I didn’t think I would have to spell that out as even the moon bats with the zeitgeist movement realize that.

    You are right, technology doers not equal energy. I fail to see where I stated it did? Technology DOES increase the conservation of the various resources, doing more with less. Its the entire focus of improving technology on all fronts. Its what every engineer does in his daily work. For an example of already available technology (actually pretty low grade tech) take a look at SolarCrete which is a way of building everything from homes to warehouses, be it plain or decorative. The use of such a construction technique minimizes the energy needed to heat or cool the building, thereby drastically cutting the usage of electricity.

    I had not really addressed the food supply, but as I didn’t it would be easy enough to assume that it goes on much like it does today, scattered across billions of acres. Yes, this requires people to be outside of my hypothetical Idaho, but that was just a conceptual aid remember? But back to those gains in technology, in 1968 the average yield of corn was 88 bushels per acre, today it is about 165 per acre. And it isn’t just corn that we have done that with. Its part of that whole doing more with less thing as mentioned above.

  10. 10 Oekedulleke
    February 27, 2010 at 7:14 AM

    You did end your “conceptualisation” with the line “That would leave the entire rest of the earth 100% free of humanity so obviously overcrowding is not really an issue”

    So I apologise if it was not clear that this statement is my problem, not the Idaho concept itself. Your concept is fine, the conclusion you draw from it is not.

    Technology is an important part of conservation, no doubt about it.
    But lets say we figure out how to make cars that run twice as efficiently as the ones we have now. If we keep increasing the number of cars on our roads with 10% per year, the conservation gained from those better cars will be lost after a while.
    My opinion on conservation is that (without discarding the benefits of technology) we should also recognise that putting limits to the quantitive part of it all is also vital. And as a society, apperantly, we just dont want to do that.

    I have to say I was surprised by your, hmmm… ‘argessive’ response. So again, I apologise if I don’t make sense somewhere. I try hard to make good english sentences, but as its not my first language I have to think about them a lot and look up a lot of words.

  11. February 27, 2010 at 8:04 PM

    I think the response to the doomsayers is that they have repeatedly been proved incorrect. That does not mean they will be wrong this time around, but they need pretty good evidence to overcome their previous failed predictions.

    And have you seen these guys? Ignore the environmental claims, but the technology looks promising.

  12. February 28, 2010 at 7:45 AM

    Overpopulation in the advanced world is a myth. Population there is imploding rapidly. Overpopulation in the third world will correct itself as soon as the advanced world stops propping up the third world.

    Julian Simon’s free online book “The Ultimate Resource” (at juliansimon.com) provides a refreshing look at Earth’s “resource crisis.”

    Young minds are programmed in schools to believe that the Earth is crowded with human bodies who are killing the Earth and depleting all its resources. It is hard to fight one’s programming. But if you are not to be a zombie, you must fight to free your minds from someone else’s vision.

  13. 13 Gil
    February 28, 2010 at 8:04 AM

    Why should Norman Borlaug, who warned people not to merely breed up and squander the technological gains he provided, decided not to tackle the problem how to feed even more people because the gains will just be eaten up anyway? Suppose 1 billion or more just plain starved. Besides why is more people a goal to aspire to? A man wanted umpteen children comes from the ideas that more babies means more hands to help out with, there’s safety in numbers and, most importantly, it shows other men he’s awesomely virile. However in the modern world more babies doesn’t mean much and guys can posts photos or videos over the Internet to show he can laid umpteen times.

  14. February 28, 2010 at 11:32 PM

    At this point, I think that this should be mentioned.

    1/10 acre, 3 tons of food, in the middle of Pasadena. Food is a non-issue.

    Keeping the State’s crisis-manufacturing wing under control? We’ll have to get back to you on that one. Let’s not forget that the most massive starvation die-off this last century was State-sponsored.

  15. March 1, 2010 at 7:00 AM

    Using the state size as a model: There is enough aerable land in Texas alone to produce enough food for the whole world. So if we used idaho for living and texas for growing, that still leaves the entire rest of the world and its oceans for mining, timbering, manufacturing and enegy production. The point is, there is plenty of land to go around for all purposes. we are not even close to using it up.

    WRT finite resources. Except for a few NASA programs, the world is a closed system with energy being added to it every day. Every atom of substance that was here a thousand years ago is still here. Fertilizer from oil becomes nutrients in crops which becomes human remains or waste, which can then be reclaimed and used again.

    WRT Peak oil: I do not believe we understand how oil is made. It is a complex process and appears to be completely unrelated to rotting dinosaurs. There is likely much more of it than we currently know about and there is some evidence of some oil fields “refilling”, again from processes we don’t quite understand. We aren’t going to run out in our lifetime or that of our children. After that, I don’t care. That is some distant generation’s problem.

    We are producing less oil in the USA than in teh 1970’s because buying it from other countries is cheaper than producing it here. If that changes, so will the amount produced here. Oil is not free. It costs money to find it, collect it, transport it and refine it. Foreign oil costs less to refine, and less to pump. Add to that the environmental costs of drilling here and the cost of transporting it from the other side of the planet are more than offset.

  16. 16 Deansdale
    March 10, 2010 at 8:28 AM

    The problem with oil and energy is an artifically created one.
    If a few % of the stimulus money were spent on building nuclear power plants, electricity could very well be free in the US.
    Think about how that would change everything.
    Yeah, it’d require those plants to be owned by the state, but the US already has most of the disadvantages of socialism, it’s time to have it’s benefits too đŸ™‚
    Also, the money currently handed out to feminist organizations could be diverted to pay the wages and etc at those power plants. It would be a win-win situation.
    Furthermore, building those plants would have given jobs to buliding companies, also saving lots of men from the effects of the mancession.


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