My near philosophical musings about the world in general its problems and possible ways out.

2018-04-01

Too late – we are too many already


The daily apocalypse in the Niger Delta
Recently I read a Bloomberg article, promising relief: “The Population Bomb Has Been Defused”.

Immediately afterwards I stumbled across a YouTube video on the devastation and ecological disaster in the Niger delta, depicting the pure apocalypse: An inhuman, predatory exploitative state and people who act in a suicidal way in the long term to survive in the short term, a region that is being devastated.

It involuntarily reminded me of a statement by science fiction author William Gibson: "The future is here. It is just not equally distributed“.

Perhaps a dystopian future has already begun here, and for other regions it yet bhas to come. In terms of the capacity of this planet we are probably already too many people on earth. As the Bloomberg author stated the population bomb has been defused and neither the British economic expert Thomas Malthus (~1700) nor the Stanford biologist Paul R. Ehrlich (1968) would have been right with their apocalyptic claims. The fertility of the people on this planet would decrease and everything would be fine: The population bomb can be declared to be defused.

But is that really the case? All statistics claim that we are getting better and better. Soon there would be no more problems. Other developments, however, which are also highly real, are not contained in them:
  1. Population growth continues, however, because a decline in fertility does not begin to have an effect until after a generation at the earliest. Nor does this happen to the same extent all over the world. While Japan, for example, is already on the right track, the population is growing explosively, especially in poor and already overpopulated regions. Examples are Angola or Burundi.

  2. The growing economic inequality of humanity, which will eventually destroy all social order. Several "tribes" already live side by side in the USA without any contact. Occasionally, they fight each other. This trend will intensify. It leads towards isolation tendencies. The globalisation of the 1990s is collapsing before our very eyes. It was never to be confused with fair world trade. Rather, it was used as an instrument of domination to implement hegemonic aspirations. Nevertheless, it has led to interdependence and promoted exchange. Thus, the hoped-for global community is falling apart into increasingly authoritarian power blocs and spheres of interest at a time when community action could perhaps still avert regional and global disasters. This hope now has gone.

  3. The consumption of resources increases parallel to population growth and exponentially with the praised prosperity. It is not only the often mentioned "rare earths" that could become scarce. Agricultural land cannot be increased at will either. A "green revolution" can probably only be repeated once or twice. The soils degrade, are exhausted. Even water for agriculture and human consumption is becoming a scarce commodity. They don't like to say it. But these resources are finite. They cannot be reproduced. Technical progress can still push the boundaries a little further, as can be seen from the example of the "peak oil" theory. However, this does not change the fundamental problem of finite resources.

  4. We are devastating our planet at an increasing rate. We hope that this will have no effect on the progress of the economic development, which we currently perceive as pleasing. A fatal error, I suppose. The rate of deforestation is accelerating more and more. Certain types of forests have now almost completely disappeared. Thousands of years old trees are logged, consumed and processed into garbage every day. Nobody allows them to grow back for thousands of years. Huge garbage patches are floating in the Pacific Ocean, which is already largely contaminated with radioactivity since the Fukushima accident. A large part of it reaches the deep sea, where it will stay at least for thousands of years. It is confused with food and eaten by sea birds, sea creatures feeding on plankton, beaked whales and many other animals. Entire animal species will become extinct as a result.

  5. We are already amidst the "sixth extinction". Animal species are dying before our very eyes. Our children may be able to tell their grandchildren about rhinos, elephants and tigers, unless this will be banned as being politically incorrect. They will not be able to experience these animals any more due to unstoppable poaching. Others will disappear because there is no place on earth left for them to live. Many of them have not even become known to us. This is not a new trend. Even our ancestors literally ate to extinction species like the wholly mammoth, aurochs, great auk, moa, giant sloth, dodo, giant lemur and many other animal species. 10,000 years ago, humans accounted for 1% of the weight of vertebrates, the rest was wild. Today, wild animals account for only 1%. The other 99% are humans, our farm animals and our pets. It is only now that we have the means, and apparently also the determination, to treat remaining rest the same way.
I have not yet mentioned climate change and the dangers of nuclear war. The list could therefore be extended. However, the need for action is already sufficiently great. Perhaps with the exception of the Chinese, apparently no government worldwide seems to be willing to take appropriate measures to ensure the survival of mankind. The issue even is not seriously discussed among them. Rather, retro politics is being pursued, a return "to the swamps, to the swamps".

But the tasks ahead of us are not getting any smaller. “Jute instead of plastic" will not be sufficient. We tend to run out of recipes. I hesitate to give in to the hope that technology will magically come up with some unexpected salvation.

We may have missed the opportunity already for a soft landing as suggested by the Bloomberg article. It is probably already too late and we are already too many.

Population will have to shrink again. Presumably it will be not the 10 billion people predicted for 2050. Rather our planet may only sustainably host about one billion - if we haven’t already plundered it too much.

Maybe Paul Ehrlich wasn't so wrong. By the way, he also believes that a sustainable population counts less than 2 billion people. Otherwise in his opinion, "The collapse of civilization is almost certain within decades".

Horst Walther, Hamburg 2018-04-01
"An optimist in a doomed world"