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Page added on October 28, 2014

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Culling The Population Is Not A Realistic Environmental Solution


In the 1960s and ’70s, population bomb reality was said to be as settled as climate change is today. No less than Dr. John Holden, current Obama administration Science Czar, co-authored a book called Ecoscience, which argued that forced sterilization and mass abortions might  be necessary, and even viable under the equal protection clause of the Constitution.

And older people today still think population is the problem, though since food and energy are not major issues, they argue culling humanity might be necessary to save the environment. New multi-scenario modeling of world human population has concluded that even mandatory sterilization or abortions or a mass kill-off would not bring about large enough change to solve issues of global sustainability as they are portrayed. So World War III won’t save the planet.

Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, ecologists Professor Corey Bradshaw and Professor Barry Brook from the University of Adelaide’s Environment Institute say instead that we should focus on policies and technologies that reverse rising consumption of natural resources and enhance recycling for more immediate sustainability gains.

Optional fertility reduction efforts, through increased family-planning assistance and education, should still be pursued, but the past has shown us that when basic needs are met, such as food and energy, education and medicine increase and that leads to lower population.

“Global population has risen so fast over the past century that roughly 14% of all the human beings that have ever existed are still alive today – that’s a sobering statistic,” says Professor Bradshaw, Director of Ecological Modeling in the Environment Institute and School of Earth and Environmental Sciences. “This is considered unsustainable for a range of reasons, not least being able to feed everyone as well as the impact on the climate and environment. We examined various scenarios for global human population change to the year 2100 by adjusting fertility and mortality rates to determine the plausible range of population sizes at the end of this century.

“Even a world-wide one-child policy like China’s, implemented over the coming century, or catastrophic mortality events like global conflict or a disease pandemic, would still likely result in 5-10 billion people by 2100.”

The researchers constructed nine different scenarios for continuing population ranging from “business as usual” through various fertility reductions, to highly unlikely broad-scale catastrophes resulting in billions of deaths.

“We were surprised that a five-year WWIII scenario mimicking the same proportion of people killed in the First and Second World Wars combined, barely registered a blip on the human population trajectory this century,” says Professor Barry Brook, Chair of Climate Change at the Environment Institute for this study, and now Professor of Environmental Sustainability at the University of Tasmania.

“Often when I give public lectures about policies to address global change, someone will claim that we are ignoring the ‘elephant in the room’ of human population size. Yet, as our models show clearly, while there needs to be more policy discussion on this issue, the current inexorable momentum of the global human population precludes any demographic ‘quick fixes’ to our sustainability problems.

“Our work reveals that effective family planning and reproduction education worldwide have great potential to constrain the size of the human population and alleviate pressure on resource availability over the longer term. Our great-great-great-great grandchildren might ultimately benefit from such planning, but people alive today will not.”

“The corollary of these findings is that society’s efforts towards sustainability would be directed more productively towards reducing our impact as much as possible through technological and social innovation,” says Professor Bradshaw.

science 2.0

19 Comments on "Culling The Population Is Not A Realistic Environmental Solution"

  1. Makati1 on Tue, 28th Oct 2014 1:58 am 

    Ah, but … WW3 will make WW2 look like a mild flu epidemic. Would the death of, say, three billion people, make a difference? Not that there would be an ecology above the level of rats and roaches left to inhabit what was left of the planet, but….

    To keep world population static, you would have to kill ~150 people per minute, 24/7/365. To reduce it by half in 20 years would take a death rate of another ~300 per minute, or one every 5 seconds above today’s death rates.

    Not even WW1 or WW2 came close.
    WW1 = ~8 deaths per minute.
    WW2 = ~23 deaths per minute.

    No, there is no ‘out’. No ‘save’. No loopholes in the coming chaos and hell on earth.

  2. yoananda on Tue, 28th Oct 2014 2:44 am 

    Recycling is very energy intensive.
    Family planing is indeed a solution on the very long term. It takes generations to make the transition and decrease population.
    Too late for the problem we are facing.
    We should have listened back in the 70’s

  3. dashster on Tue, 28th Oct 2014 3:11 am 

    “Our work reveals that effective family planning and reproduction education worldwide have great potential to constrain the size of the human population and alleviate pressure on resource availability over the longer term. Our great-great-great-great grandchildren might ultimately benefit from such planning, but people alive today will not.”

    Even if true, you don’t want to say it because people aren’t going to change their behavior in order to benefit people a few hundred years down the road.

  4. Perk Earl on Tue, 28th Oct 2014 4:38 am 

    It’s just an exercise in futility to even discuss this topic. People are multiplying while wild species are going extinct, ipso facto.

  5. J-Gav on Tue, 28th Oct 2014 4:54 am 

    “And older people today still think population is the problem, though since food and energy are not major issues, they argue culling humanity might be necessary to save the environment.”

    Firstly, I do not like being told what I think by someone I’ve never even met.

    Secondly, we are left to wonder what rock these people have been living under if they still believe there is a “The Problem” to contend with. What we face instead is an array of “problems” whose potential for convergence could produce a shitstorm of unprecedented proportions.

    There are other issues with this article but I’ll spare you (and myself) the tediousness of a full critique.

  6. Davy on Tue, 28th Oct 2014 5:46 am 

    I am just amazed with the thinking we have today on population. It points to a predicament in human thinking that will ensure no managed efforts will be made from the top down. There will increasingly be bottom up efforts with those well-educated seeing the writing on the wall. Many of these well-educated will also consider smaller families. Yet, this does not even begin to approach the magnitude of overshoot we are in. We are very close to the precipice of food and liquid fuel insecurity. This will be the trigger that initiates the first great wave of the usual childhood and old age deaths. There will be the mass deaths in locations from the usual 4 horsemen across the spectrum of the population. WWIII is always a possibility. I don’t know what odds to put on it. It is not a foregone conclusion that the world must end in a catastrophic war. I have not seen one rational argument yet by academia on population “ZERO”. That is scary because that will ensure little possibility of mitigation efforts on the pain and suffering. We here generally know there is no hope for manage degrowth of population. There is little will for it and the magnitude of the reductions are overwhelming for any effort to succeed. It appears increasingly likely that nature will run its course sometime in the next quarter century striking more or less in conjunctions to the steps down the complexity ladder. Overshoot was only made possible by energy intensity and complexity. Liquid fuel and food insecurity will end complexity. Climate change if the projections are true should kick in for the one-two punch eventually. My really one fear and mental pain is for my children. I am in my 50’s and lived an amazing life. I accept my possible early death and have been in acceptance for at least 10 years. My children will have an amazing life to look forward to but not the good kind. I have no illusions my life span that is by genetics of my grandparents deaths in my mid 80’s to 90’s is likely not possible. I will be lucky to make mid 70’s. 9 out of 10 of us may only have 10 to 15 years. This die off could be very swift. I see a floor at 1BIL per science and history. Yet that may be optimistic considering climate change, industrial poisons, resource depletion, and ecosystem destruction. There is no reason why mass death can’t happen and there is every reason why these idiot professors are misleading themselves. Mark Twain said “Hunger is the handmaiden of genius”. I increasingly believe that our academia is corrupt and deluded. The corruption is from industry the delusion is from exponential thinking. The growth meme is still firmly entrenched. If one buys into the paradigm shift of descent all these projections take on radically different results.

  7. antiwarforever on Tue, 28th Oct 2014 6:05 am 

    Wo wants to “cull population” today ? nobody outside of China. Quite the opposite, the new religious fundamentalists of every persuasion have more and more clout , and their message is “grow and multiply”! but never mind, if humanity continues following its downward spiral, nature will make it known one of these days-with a revenge- that we are too numerous….

  8. nemteck on Tue, 28th Oct 2014 9:38 am 

    Who are these people who think that “… population is the problem, though since food and energy are not major issues”. Even in the ‘richest country’ in the world, 42 Millions frequent food banks. How about the rest of the world?

  9. nemteck on Tue, 28th Oct 2014 9:53 am 

    Davy: Your comments are always interesting. Yet, it would be helpful in reading the text of you could arrange the text into paragraphs to let the reader digest one issue you discuss after another.

  10. Davy on Tue, 28th Oct 2014 10:08 am 

    Alright Nem, let me work on that. I have to balance style with appropriate writing behavior. I guess to be fair it is like a girl going to church in a mini skirt and tank top.

  11. GregT on Tue, 28th Oct 2014 10:15 am 

    “All species expand as much as resources allow and predators, parasites, and physical conditions permit.
    When a species is introduced into a new habitat with abundant resources that accumulated before its arrival,
    the population expands rapidly until all the resources are used up.”

    – David Price, Energy and Human Evolution

    “Anyone who perceives a linear rate of growth, but who is actually up against
    an exponential rate of growth, is likely to be very surprised at how the end
    comes very quickly and seemly out of nowhere.

    They will be completely blindsided.”

    -Dr. Albert Bartlett

  12. Davy on Tue, 28th Oct 2014 11:10 am 

    Greg, good post because it is going to be one hell of a “blindsiding”!

  13. Richard on Tue, 28th Oct 2014 11:17 am 

    Being twenty five, I’m not interested in families what so ever. I think there are too many people who have families without looking at they’re own lives properly.

  14. Kenz300 on Tue, 28th Oct 2014 11:19 am 

    The worlds worst environmental problem is OVER POPULATION.

    Endless population growth is not sustainable.

    Around the world we can find a food crisis, a water crisis, a declining fish stocks crisis, a Climate Change crisis, an unemployment crisis and an OVER POPULATION crisis.

    Overpopulation facts – the problem no one will discuss: Alexandra Paul at TEDxTopanga – YouTube


    Wrap it up……. get it snipped……

    Birth Control Permanent Methods: Learn About Effectiveness

  15. J-Gav on Tue, 28th Oct 2014 4:39 pm 

    GregT – I would only reiterate what I’ve said before: I hold Bartlett’s work in high esteem as I know he was trying to reach the greatest number in as straight a line as possible, and his talks were admirable examples of that very effective approach.

    However, in doing so, he fell somewhat foul of the “linear rate” he argues against since, for reasons of simplification no doubt, he postulated constant rates of growth in his presentations.

    My little quibble is that exponential rates are quite rarely constant but instead generally variable. That complicates the math a bit but doesn’t invalidate the overall message.

  16. J-Gav on Tue, 28th Oct 2014 5:14 pm 

    Davy – The ‘growth meme’ no doubt still has some rosy days ahead of it, even as its completely phony nature becomes more clearly exposed with every passing month.

    How can that be? Well, I think we both (and many others here) know the answer to that question. “What else?” is the second question that sort of answers the first. If it goes down, there’s a world of pain just waiting to be experienced in the so-called ‘developed’ countries. Can’t we put that off just a little bit longer? I’m sure you see what I mean.

  17. Davy on Tue, 28th Oct 2014 6:48 pm 

    Damn straight Gav. That thought reminds me of the King who is dying. So much riches and so little time. Plain and simple I need 3 more years for my long term prep. Short term is covered. Plus I have a bucket list. 1st on my list is sail the great lakes. My parents have a summer house in northern Michigan. There are lots of sailboats and sailing schools up there.

  18. Kylon on Tue, 28th Oct 2014 7:48 pm 

    What’s needed in the short term is a collective effort towards making a super cheap version of concentrated solar. If concentrated solar could be made cheap enough, via the replacement of most solar trackers with complex computer software, and the use of a bare minimum of metal and other materials, combined with massive economies of scale, then we might be able to produce enough clean, cheap, energy to allow us to power technologies to create substitutes or alternatives to most of our economic needs today. I don’t think that’s going to happen though.

  19. Makati1 on Tue, 28th Oct 2014 9:49 pm 

    Kylon, our “needs” are not techie based. Our needs are food, potable water and shelter. All else are wants. To find a non-petroleum source of energy would only accelerate our extinction. We have maxed out the carrying capacity of this planet. More time would only mean continued degradation of the system we need to survive. Think about it.

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