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What’s the Ideal Number of Humans on Earth?

What’s the Ideal Number of Humans on Earth?

Unread postby AdamB » Mon 25 Dec 2017, 21:49:52


Earth might be looking a little worse for wear, after the last four-hundred years of reckless wide-scale resource extraction, but to its credit it hasn’t collapsed entirely. Despite our best efforts, it continues to gamely welcome our rapidly expanding population, barring the occasional earthquake. Whether the planet might be a little better off with fewer of us is a different question, a freighted one. We are not advocating for reducing the population. We like the population. We wish it well. What we are curious about, in this week’s Giz Asks, is what the planet’s population size would be in an ideal world. Have we blown past that number, or can we pack a few billion more in here before the whole thing falls apart? The economists, geographers, conservationists and population experts we spoke to were, with some exceptions, a bit more optimistic


What’s the Ideal Number of Humans on Earth?
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Re: What’s the Ideal Number of Humans on Earth?

Unread postby MD » Tue 26 Dec 2017, 03:12:13

somewhere about a billion or so. Depends on a lot of other things, but that's the round number.
Stop filling dumpsters, as much as you possibly can, and everything will get better.

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Re: What’s the Ideal Number of Humans on Earth?

Unread postby M_B_S » Tue 26 Dec 2017, 03:58:43

Nature will show us.

Wait and see=>
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What is the ideal number of human like AI´s ?

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Re: What’s the Ideal Number of Humans on Earth?

Unread postby Newfie » Tue 26 Dec 2017, 07:34:52

I think I started a similar threads years ago.

To answer this question you first need to answer:
WHY are we here, what is our purpose, what is humanities goal?

If it is to live and enjoy life then the number is one low enough whereby everyone can be feed from a sustainable supply system. That is sort of the base line. Maybe a billion.

If it is also to advance knowledge then maybe that can also fit roughly within the above.

If it is to have a opulent sustainable lifestyle for a few, then it is much less. Maybe 200 million.

If it is to have the maximum number irrespective of their health, then 3 billion, sustainably.

If it is th have as many as possible for a short time, non sustainable, then about 10 billion.
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Re: What’s the Ideal Number of Humans on Earth?

Unread postby Newfie » Tue 26 Dec 2017, 10:00:54

Reading the opinions of some experts was pretty interesting.


“David Lam

Director, Institute for Social Research, Professor of Economics, and Research Professor, Population Studies Center, University of Michigan”

Seems to have no idea of sustainability and resource extraction or well pretty much anything. He likes 12 billion.

Erle C. Ellis

Professor, Geography & Environmental Systems, University of Maryland

He thinks a trillion. I won’t even comment.

Paul R. Ehrlich

Bing Professor of Population Studies and President of Center for Conservation Biology, Stanford University. Fellow, National Academy of Sciences and Royal Society; Crafoord Prize Laureate

Ehrlich is the one who seems to have given it some real thought, not surprising. He goes for 1.5 to 2 billion.

Frankly most of the so called experts should have declined this opportunity to make tools of themselves. Mostly they gave Presidential Debate style answers. I think the question this survey answered is “Why are we in so much trouble?”
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Re: What’s the Ideal Number of Humans on Earth?

Unread postby Outcast_Searcher » Tue 26 Dec 2017, 11:25:53

Newfie wrote:Reading the opinions of some experts was pretty interesting.


“David Lam

Director, Institute for Social Research, Professor of Economics, and Research Professor, Population Studies Center, University of Michigan”

Seems to have no idea of sustainability and resource extraction or well pretty much anything. He likes 12 billion.

Erle C. Ellis

Professor, Geography & Environmental Systems, University of Maryland

He thinks a trillion. I won’t even comment.

Paul R. Ehrlich

Bing Professor of Population Studies and President of Center for Conservation Biology, Stanford University. Fellow, National Academy of Sciences and Royal Society; Crafoord Prize Laureate

Ehrlich is the one who seems to have given it some real thought, not surprising. He goes for 1.5 to 2 billion.

Frankly most of the so called experts should have declined this opportunity to make tools of themselves. Mostly they gave Presidential Debate style answers. I think the question this survey answered is “Why are we in so much trouble?”

Newf, as you pointed out upthread, the answer greatly depends on one's assumptions. Just because some experts chose 12 billion or more doesn't mean they are unaware of sustainability issues -- they just aren't prioritizing them. (I don't agree with them, but that doesn't make them de-facto "wrong").

Smart people have been discussing this issue for a long time. One of my favorite novels is a 1971 dystopian novel by Robert SIlverberg called "The World Inside".

It pictured a future world with advanced technology like fusion which could consume all waste, PURELY geared toward maximizing human production. Sustainability, in terms of short term thinking, like perhaps 50 to 100 years was planned for via more food growth, etc., but long term, no serious thought.

The implication was clearly that MANY billions of people could possibly be crammed into giant towers on the earth with the technology envisioned -- as though that were some great end in itself.

The novel showed that on the surface, society (mandated by the leaders) pretended like everything was great. However, following the lives of 8 people, life was a nightmare for the individual who had no choice but total conformity, to allow that mode of society to exist. Problems were plastered over. Brain wipes were common, and the ultimate way to deal with peaceful people who couldn't adapt/conform. Violent nonconformers were tossed in the fusion machines -- EVERYONE contributed to society in the end. Chronic Drug addiction (via legal drugs encouraged by society) to deal with the stresses was a normal side effect. Most normal human instincts for privacy, security, long term relationships, etc. were suppressed or completely disallowed.

I think that this, like the Soylent Green novel from 1973 was written to clearly show that actions re expanding global populations have consequences, and those consequences can truly be nightmares.
Given the track record of the perma-doomer blogs, I wouldn't bet a fast crash doomer's money on their predictions.
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Re: What’s the Ideal Number of Humans on Earth?

Unread postby Newfie » Tue 26 Dec 2017, 12:37:49

I would argue it does make them very much wrong. Well, not wrong in some fantasy world where economist live. But very wrong in a physical world where people live.
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Re: What’s the Ideal Number of Humans on Earth?

Unread postby Cog » Tue 26 Dec 2017, 14:03:59

What is ideal depends on whether you want people to live in mud huts or a modern industrialized society. The planet can support 7.5 billion people right now in a variety of economic circumstances. The word ideal implies some knowledge or goal of what is preferable. I live in a modern industrialized society and prefer it to any other.
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Re: What’s the Ideal Number of Humans on Earth?

Unread postby Tanada » Tue 26 Dec 2017, 14:33:55

Newfie wrote:I think I started a similar threads years ago.

To answer this question you first need to answer:
WHY are we here, what is our purpose, what is humanities goal?

If it is to live and enjoy life then the number is one low enough whereby everyone can be feed from a sustainable supply system. That is sort of the base line. Maybe a billion.

If it is also to advance knowledge then maybe that can also fit roughly within the above.

If it is to have a opulent sustainable lifestyle for a few, then it is much less. Maybe 200 million.

If it is to have the maximum number irrespective of their health, then 3 billion, sustainably.

If it is to have as many as possible for a short time, non sustainable, then about 10 billion.


Newfie I don't think you are answering the right question. It isn't what is possible or probable, but what id IDEAL. To some of the folks you find around the world like those in the Voluntary Human Extinction movement the IDEAL number is 0.00 while to some others who believe in a Borg based technotopia the number is TRILLIONS.

So Newfie what is your IDEAL number of humans inhabiting the Earth?

My IDEAL is about 2 Billion because I believe that will give us both the capacity for a highly advanced technological culture and plenty of room for natural reserves where the rest of the ecological system can reign supreme without human interference. Unfortunately I also believe we will experience a civilization decline which will cause a population bottleneck and then we will some hundreds or thousands of years from now top out around 2 Billion low tech people living like the population of India and China lived around 1800 AD. The Earth can support that many with low tech, but it requires that most people be grunt farmers and few wild spaces remain because with low tech farming and other agricultural pursuits require most of the available land for crops/orchards/vineyards/pasture lands. So either way you get 2 Billion, but in the high tech version you get wildlife protection and advanced lifestyles.
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Re: What’s the Ideal Number of Humans on Earth?

Unread postby KaiserJeep » Tue 26 Dec 2017, 16:07:31

I suppose that I am the one who Tanada referred to with the remark about Borg-like trillions of humans. In my own defense, that number refers to a human civilization that is distributed around our solar system in multiple space habitats, and not to a human population on Earth.

I am one of those people who believe that there is a crash for the global ecology and a massive human die-off in our future. I don't believe that with a present population of 7.6+ Billions this fate can be avoided. I think that we have so grievously damaged the planet that the crash cannot be avoided no matter what actions we take.

As for the topic of this thread, about 35 years back I joined what was then called the L5 Society, and we made a calculation that I have shared with the PO members before. Our calculations in the early 1980's sdetermined that the bounds of sustainable human global population were 125M to 1B.

The lower bound of 125M was established using the premise of known Agrarian technologies, using the USA's Amish communities for things such as population densities, lifespans, etc. We assumed an abandonment of all advanced tech, electricity, medicine, petrochemicals, everything. We assumed the careful restoration of damaged ecologies by natural means - abandonment of cities after demolishment and burial of rubble, followed by planting ground covers only. Then the natural restoration of various habitats would be monitored without any interference from mankind.

The upper bound of 1B assumed that we retained high tech up to and including space travel. All ecologies would be restored to prior diversities using seed banks and DNA banks and zoos and wildlife sanctuaries. Active management of all parts of the planet would be attempted using computers and mathematical models and everything we knew plus everything we could learn. The estimate was that 1B humans could live in a fraction of the space that we now occupy, as long as we could restore something near to the prior levels of diversity. (I am attempting to recall work done in the past, most of which is not online today. My own role was limited to projecting future computer tech.)

We saw no reason to believe that more than 1B humans could live long term on this planet. Since that time much damage has accumulated on Earth, I believe a repeat of this rather large effort would result in a figure smaller than 1B. I will not speculate how much smaller that would be. (Yes, we did in fact conclude - as we expected and already believed - that leaving the surface of this planet was mankinds best hope for survival.)

The L5 Society merged into the National Space Society in the late 1980's, and I let my membership lapse. In 2010 my interest in this rather morbid topic was revived by watching Ruppert's film Collapse.
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Re: What’s the Ideal Number of Humans on Earth?

Unread postby KingM » Wed 27 Dec 2017, 08:19:55

I agree that about a billion is a good number. It's enough to maintain natural areas of the world with little human encroachment, diverse cultures and languages, and to build something approaching sustainability. With a billion we could harvest the ocean at a sustainable level, have enough workers to do large projects when needed, and rotate farmlands with no risk of droughts.

Forests would be enough to sustain our wood needs, carbon emissions would be manageable, and we could make do by recycling the minerals we've already dug out of the earth.

Fossil fuels would still be an issue, but hydro would be a much larger part of our overall energy mix. 13% of our electricity is renewable. Divide the population by 7, and we're almost there.
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Re: What’s the Ideal Number of Humans on Earth?

Unread postby Newfie » Wed 27 Dec 2017, 09:06:47

Yes King, you make sense.

Of course the rub is how to get “there.” I’ve no good answer to that one.
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Re: What’s the Ideal Number of Humans on Earth?

Unread postby M_B_S » Thu 28 Dec 2017, 04:47:53

@ KaiserJeep

Good points.

The Human Species must expand to other earth like planets maybe with the help of own created AIs or go extinct on its fast dieing own home planet earth.

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Re: What’s the Ideal Number of Humans on Earth?

Unread postby Tanada » Thu 28 Dec 2017, 09:18:41

KaiserJeep wrote:I suppose that I am the one who Tanada referred to with the remark about Borg-like trillions of humans. In my own defense, that number refers to a human civilization that is distributed around our solar system in multiple space habitats, and not to a human population on Earth.


Actually I was referring to the Transhumanists who believe we will all soon store our brain patterns on personal super computers and once we are all juts computer programs we will have only an energy limit to how many of use can be stored in the memory systems as independent interactive programs.
I should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, design a building, write, balance accounts, build a wall, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, pitch manure, program a computer, cook, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
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Re: What’s the Ideal Number of Humans on Earth?

Unread postby onlooker » Thu 28 Dec 2017, 09:52:07

Obviously, this question is tied intricately with both what one defines as Ideal and with how those present on Earth maintain their environment. I also cite the 1 billion figure as helpful in defining this Ideal state on Earth. This number should remain fairly stable and the people would have an opportunity to live technological lifestyles with technologies that are not so pernicious to the Ecosystems. They could also enjoy relatively pristine primitive lifestyles as well. A combination if you will. The Caveat is in fact is what level of functionality to support us, will this planet be left with after all is said and done with Collapse and the subsequent restoration of a balance between us and the planet. The fact of the matter is we have degraded some aspects of the Biosphere and its homeostasis. Like most noteworthy the climate. We have also depleted some resources that humans may not have access to in a very long time. Can we adapt? Perhaps. In the meantime, I contend that Earth will not be so fruitful, bountiful or hospitable to us as we have been accustomed to, for quite some time.
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Re: What’s the Ideal Number of Humans on Earth?

Unread postby jedrider » Thu 28 Dec 2017, 11:12:35

ZERO

ZERO

ZERO

Why?

Brain TOO BIG!
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Re: What’s the Ideal Number of Humans on Earth?

Unread postby KaiserJeep » Thu 28 Dec 2017, 15:25:07

Actually, I think the total ties quite closely to how much money and effort one puts into monitoring and managing the environment.

My own neighborhood in the Southern extreme of California's Silicon Valley is a prime example. Make no mistake, this is a part of a medium density but quite large urban environment, the San Francisco Bay Area. It includes the classic dense city of San Francisco itself, the North Bay, Oakland, the South Bay, The East Bay, Silicon Valley, the Peninsula, and closeby communities such as Morgan Hill, Almaden Valley, Los Gatos, etc. In total between 7 and 12 million people, depending upon your definition of "bay area".

My home is smack against a county park, and we live with wildlife. I regularly have deer, turkey, racoons, opossums, coyotes, bobcats, and other critters on my property. In addition when hiking in the park I have seen a single mountain lion three times in 30 years, plus groups of wild pigs. My neighbors don't want to accept reality, which is that you cannot safely allow cats, dogs, or small children to run around outside unprotected. By the grace of God it has been a couple of decades since the last mountain lion fatality - a healthy woman jogger, not a child. But I weary of all the "lost pet" postings in the neighborhood online group - I mean get a clue, people, the surrounding predators are using your pets as a smorgasboard. You definately don't want to leave small children unsupervised in your backyard, as with 7' high redwood board fences I get both coyote and bobcat visitors in mine.

The human predators are even worse, of course. Ever since "Megan's Law", we have an online registry, and the sheer number of registered sex offenders in the surrounding neighborhood is startling - that's not counting those that have not yet been caught or who do not live at their registered address but live here instead.

Note that the suburbs and medium density apartments have filled the area from bay to hills on all sides, few undeveloped properties exist, and we are totally dependant upon food imported from outside the bay area, power generated outside, and vehicle fuels as well. Yes we have busses and trains and vanpools, but without cheap oil, this place would be uninhabitable.

Still, with further development of renewable energies, plus transport not dependant upon petroleum fuels, I do not doubt that the present most populous state could feed itself without oil, and still manage to export some food. I doubt that we would continue to supply 1/4th the USA's vegetables and fruits as we do today.

The USA as a whole IMHO would sustainably support 100M people. Unfortunately we have 330+M today. A vital part of falling back to the sustainable number is closing our borders to refugees. Although that sounds harsh, it is absolutely necessary. I don't know how much interst there is in the process of reducing the Earth as a whole from 7.6+B to 1B or less, or whether we need a seperate thread to discuss this related topic.
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Re: What’s the Ideal Number of Humans on Earth?

Unread postby Newfie » Thu 28 Dec 2017, 15:38:29

You are right KJ, lots of answers, none we want to hear.

As someone else said ..... Bartlett right hand column.
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Re: What’s the Ideal Number of Humans on Earth?

Unread postby Outcast_Searcher » Fri 05 Jan 2018, 17:13:38

Tanada wrote:
KaiserJeep wrote:I suppose that I am the one who Tanada referred to with the remark about Borg-like trillions of humans. In my own defense, that number refers to a human civilization that is distributed around our solar system in multiple space habitats, and not to a human population on Earth.


Actually I was referring to the Transhumanists who believe we will all soon store our brain patterns on personal super computers and once we are all juts computer programs we will have only an energy limit to how many of use can be stored in the memory systems as independent interactive programs.

And with all the problems of technology errors (like the recent bugs found in pretty much all computers, allowing hacking exposures), hacking and the massive exposure of the internet, etc., what could possibly go wrong? It's not like embodying intelligence in a computer will magically cause people to be moral.

I wouldn't count on such a scheme lasting much longer than a blink of an eye in cosmological time, even relative to home sapiens.
Given the track record of the perma-doomer blogs, I wouldn't bet a fast crash doomer's money on their predictions.
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Re: What’s the Ideal Number of Humans on Earth?

Unread postby dohboi » Fri 05 Jan 2018, 21:00:31

As often, newf cuts right to the quick:

"WHY are we here, what is our purpose, what is humanities goal?"

Cog, too, in is way, also gets to the core...

If we are talking about 'modern industrial humans' then jed is clearly right...zero, zero, zero...

As industrial ideologies and lifestyles are inherently un-sustainable and ultimately threaten the extinction of life on the planet.

But people in 'mud huts' with similarly humble global aspirations....perhaps a few more than zero...???
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