Monday, December 16, 2013

Full Planet

A popular argument for the - wait, what should I call them? Pro-procreates? Pro-population? Natalists? I feel like calling them anti-Nature, because they seem to think the world can just keep going, and are not hearing the groans of it under the weight of us. OK, more on that another time. Suggestions welcome. A popular argument for those who DON'T think we need to slam the brakes on population is that the planet can handle a lot more than we have now. Let's turn back to Mr. Butler and his point of view for an example. He says: 
The world is not ‘full up’
The world is not experiencing runaway population growth. While population is growing, the rate of this growth is actually slowing down. This is mostly due to rising urbanization and marginal improvements in women’s access to birth control technology. The rate of population growth peaked at 2% annually in the 1960s, and has fallen consistently since then.

Yeah, I'm definitely not falling for that. What this utterly fails to take into consideration is the exponential nature of population growth. Growth is not linear. It IS exponential. 
According to the UN the average number of children born per woman fell from 4.9 in the late 1960s to 2.7 in 1999.[2] A December 2008 assessment from the US Census Bureau predicts a steady decline to 0.5% annual population growth by 2050.
Between 1950 and 2000 world population increased by 140%. Experts predict a rise of 50% between 2000 and 2050 and just 11% in the 50 years following that.

Again, please take into account that in the 1950s, the world population was under 3 billion. There's that little equation we learned in 7th grade that has to do with exponential increases. Perhaps that wasn't covered in this gentleman's math class. 
In contrast, the rate of greenhouse gas emissions is rising out of control. Polluting technology, rampant consumerism and corporate greed are driving this increase – not population.

Yes, these things are definitely problems. I fail to understand how rising population is NOT a factor here. When you have more consumers, rampant consumerism is even more rampant. These things must be addressed, and they must be addressed in concert with lower population growth. Fewer people of course means more resources consumed. How can an increased population NOT consume more? 

Another popular argument deals with being able to feed all this humanity. It's one of my favorite discussions. 
Can we feed this many people? Studies by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation insist it is possible to feed well over 10 billion people sustainably – but only if we move to a very different food system. A diversified and organic farming system which produces a balanced mix of plant foods, along with small amounts of meat, could, according to British biologist Colin Tudge, sustain 10 billion people without farming any new areas.
A shift to sustainable farming is also desperately needed to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
This really stumps me. We aren't feeding all the people who are here already. Starvation is a huge problem. And with the addition of climate change - floods, droughts, heat, etc - the future of crops becomes a little iffy. How do we feed 10 billion people if a portion of the 7 billion is starving? Yes, yes, in a perfect world where everything is working properly and there is no greed and there are no dictators and there is no poverty... sure, in that world, everyone is fed. We don't have that world. We can say we want to work toward that world, but really, when is that going to happen? I just don't have that much faith in humanity. Isn't it more logical to figure out how to feed the 7 billion or less, before we try to feed billions more? "...but only if we move to a very different food system." Is this move happening? Is it going to? Can we be sure of that? What evidence do we have that we CAN do so? 

There is no proof that we can feed 10 billion people. Because we are not feeding 7 billion. If we were feeding 7 billion, I could try to accept that this shift is possible. It is not. Let's stop trying to pretend that it is, and deal with the numbers we have now. To do otherwise is to heap more strain and suffering on the species and the planet.

So, yes, I feel the need to say that the planet IS full, and until we can play nice with it, we need to stop adding more with misguided thoughts that it will all be OK. Learn to do it right first. That'd be different. Yeah. Let's try that for awhile.

Quotes courtesy of by Simon Butler of Green Left Weekly. Maybe he has changed his mind by now. 

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