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Have We Reached Maximum Sustainable Population Size? 1070

Posted by samzenpus
from the a-little-elbow-room dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Pulitzer prize winning writer Thomas Friedman writes that in few years we may be looking back at the first decade of the 21st century — when food prices spiked, energy prices soared, world population surged, tornados plowed through cities, floods and droughts set records, populations were displaced and governments were threatened by the confluence of it all — and ask ourselves: What were we thinking? 'We're currently caught in two loops,' writes Friedman. 'One is that more population growth and more global warming together are pushing up food prices; rising food prices cause political instability in the Middle East, which leads to higher oil prices, which leads to higher food prices, which leads to more instability.' According to the Global Footprint Network we are currently growing at a rate that is using up the Earth's resources far faster than they can be sustainably replenished, so we are eating into the future. Right now, global growth is using about 1.5 Earths. 'Having only one planet makes this a rather significant problem,' says Paul Gilding. 'We either allow collapse to overtake us or develop a new sustainable economic model. We will choose the latter. We may be slow, but we're not stupid.'"
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Have We Reached Maximum Sustainable Population Size?

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  • by cortesoft (1150075) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @06:21PM (#36380922)

    The Earth wasn't supposed to be able to support half the current global population.

    Then Norman Borlaug came along, and turns out we could support more. Who knows this time around?

  • by knotprawn (1935752) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @06:28PM (#36381044)
    Perhaps we'll become extinct. Perhaps we won't. In the grand scale of things, either outcome, in light of the Earth's roughly 5 billion year lifespan bears less significance than we'd like to believe
  • by Vinegar Joe (998110) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @06:37PM (#36381148)

    "Earth is just too small and fragile a basket for mankind to keep all its eggs in."

  • by drinkypoo (153816) <> on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @06:41PM (#36381222) Homepage Journal

    The problem with your idea is that "Green Revolution" agriculture is harmful to the soil. Because it involves machinery and pesticides it creates dead soil on top of hardpan. The land will no longer produce vegetables after years of monocropping. And of this type of agriculture within a capitalist society inevitably abandons even the most basic of science intended to permit harmony with nature's own processes: most crops are grown what we euphemistically refer to as continuously, which is to say without crop rotation. This is true of all monocrops, but is especially true of crops grown for feed and crops grown for biofuel.

    All old Norman did was sell out the future for short-term gain.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @06:46PM (#36381288)

    "Earth is just too small and fragile a basket for mankind to keep all its eggs in."

    There's a reason science fiction is called fiction, Mister Stillwell.

    Earth is the only option you have, and the only option your children will have, and the only option
    their children will have.

  • Re:lots of nonsense (Score:4, Informative)

    by mbkennel (97636) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @07:00PM (#36381448)

    That's completely BS.

    In the USA in the 19th century, with a gold standard, there were a tremendous number of unjust banking shenanigans which resulted in the confiscation of assets from the productive sector into the banking owners.

    There was always fractional reserve, and private banks had their own control over the money supply. LIke it or not, the Federal Reserve system was an improvement.

  • Re:lots of nonsense (Score:3, Informative)

    by roman_mir (125474) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @07:11PM (#36381558) Homepage Journal

    you are wrong.

    The easy way to display that Federal reserve provided a much worse economic climate, than private banks before it did, even though some of them did do fractional reserve even with gold (sure, why not, fractional gold reserve is the same thing), is that in 19 century the value of US dollar rose by a factor of 2, but since 1913 the value of dollar fell by over 99%, and I left a comment here [] with numbers in it, displaying just how much purchasing power USD lost since 2003 alone.

    But not only did the dollar lose value since the Fed was created, but the prices went up significantly for everything for the people, and think about this fact: prior to 1965 people in USA paid for their doctors out of pocket, insurance was extremely cheap (order of 10 dollars/person per year) but it was insurance with a large deductible of maybe 500USD, but if you need really expensive treatments, you were covered. How many people can afford out of pocket doctor care today?

    How about education? How many people can afford their own education today? Well, back before 1979 dep't of education, and before SS and Medicare took more money from people for general taxes, people used to pay for their own education, especially before all the government loans caused tuition fees to spike out of control.

    Even based on health and education affordability, USA was doing better before the Fed and before various taxes (income / SS /Medicare) and before all the departments and government loans.

  • by pclminion (145572) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @07:15PM (#36381606)

    Just like one hot summer doesn't prove it and one cold winter doesn't disprove it (even ignoring the false notion that global climate change != getting warmer everywhere all the time) we'd need to see evidence of increased storm activity for multiple years in close succession before we could draw any conclusions. In general i'm a "believer" in global climate change, but i'm not in favor of using incorrect data to try and prop up the idea.

    It's not hard to prove that the Earth's temperature is increasing. Measure it at a bunch of different places all over the surface, take the average, weighted by surface area around each measurement, and you get a pretty good measure of the energy in the atmosphere. If you in fact do this, you see that the temperature is increasing, i.e. we are in a non-equilibrium state. To think that corresponding with this increase in total energy of the atmosphere, there is no change of some kind in the global climate, requires you to basically discard the known laws of physics.

  • by Wyatt Earp (1029) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @07:20PM (#36381654)

    I live in 1300 square feet in a condo, Friedman lives in 11,400 square feet in a multiple building estate

    This would be the same if my doctor told me never to smoke while chain smoking 8 packs a day and blowing it my face.

    If Thomas Friedman wants to talk about sustainability, thats great, then he should practice what he preaches. He doesn't, and he and his wife made money off one of the worst drivers of urban sprawl, large lot shopping centers.

  • Re:No (Score:4, Informative)

    by Charcharodon (611187) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @07:43PM (#36381908)
    In the sixties and seventies people could afford 1 car not 2. Cars were death traps back then.

    Gas was completely unregulated back then. I for one don't miss the smog and the lead.

    Food is still relatively inexpensive if you actually make your own. No one in the 60/70's bought large quantites of pre-made food and ate out for 3 meals a day of fast food.

    None of the things that people consider necessities now existed back then, and what did was insanely expensive.

    2-4 cars per family - absolutley fuck no!
    Tv's bigger than 24" no, color TV no, cheap Tv's - no
    Home computers - no.
    Home entertainment systems - no
    Video game consoles - no
    Internet or cable tv - no
    Digital phones, cheap long distance (video/global calls unavailable) - no
    Cell phones - hell no
    Designer/label clothes - yes did everyone wear them - no
    Cheap airfare - no
    Houses bigger than 2000sq ft - rarely
    Cheap electronics - hell no - stereos/record players/tvs were very expensive
    Digital photography - no - just very expensive film based
    Modern medical treatments - no - you lived (or not) with most ailements that are trivial to treat now
    Advanced education nearly universally available - no

    What most people take for granted today as a mediocre lifestyle is beyond what even the wealthy had access to in the 60's and 70's

    If you want to live that dream lifestyle just strip all the things above from you and your family and you'll find today's pay quite easy to get by on

  • Re:Answer: (Score:4, Informative)

    by PhreakOfTime (588141) on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @08:31PM (#36382290) Homepage

    Why is that jackass' garbled, moronic gibberish showing up on Slashdot?

    So we can post THIS! []

  • Re:Answer: (Score:5, Informative)

    by hairyfeet (841228) <> on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @08:40PM (#36382348) Journal

    For those that haven't gotten to read it here is the article by Taibbi [] I assume you're talking about, and anyone who reads it will be hard pressed to see Friedman as anything BUT an absolute moron.

    As for TFA it isn't that we've reached "peak people" it is that the pigs destroy faster than we can create and by HUGE margins! Look at how many things now are "designed for the dump" so some multinational can force you to buy another rather than affordably fixing the one you have. Look at how much wealth is controlled by the top 3% and how much their hoarding tips the scales. These groups have NO problem with poisoning the water table with frakking, with making huge chunks of land uninhabitable with dumped toxins, whatever it takes to get them another 3% profits they are ALL for.

    Frankly most of these problems could be solved if we had real laws with real consequences for causing disasters and massive environmental destruction, but instead these scum will just quietly cash out and leave the superfund sites to the rest of humanity to clean up. if we took a dozen of the top polluters and had their CxOs executed on national TV I bet they wouldn't be so quick to fuck everyone else for another percentage of profit, what do you think?

  • by drinkypoo (153816) <> on Wednesday June 08, 2011 @10:38PM (#36383212) Homepage Journal

    So then, if there's no value left in Midwest soil, why does it continue to be intensively farmed when labor and land would be so much cheaper elsewhere?

    It's flat and very little labor is used because the whole process is now mechanized, and the labor is down to little more than drivers and other equipment operators. Corporate interests have purchased sufficient legislation on a variety of fronts to make it only affordable to engage in that mode of farming on a vast scale with as little overhead as possible. In theory it could be done with poop but we'd have to have a massive poop-redistribution architecture. Meanwhile, in many cases applying even treated manure is actually illegal now. In fact, the zones between farms that slow down wind, trap dust, and harbor beneficial insects are being eradicated at an alarming rate in the name of elimination of pathogens, so the situation is actually worse than I have made it out to be; the last living things in acres of sterile soil are being bulldozed.

Whoever dies with the most toys wins.