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What Every Citizen Should Know About Our Planet - 2011 Edition

What Every Citizen Should Know About Our Planet - 2011 Edition


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NEW 2011 EDITION "What Every Citizen Should Know About Our Planet" WECSKAOP - III - ... featuring "the single most important data set in the history of our species."

Beginning with a worldwide population of two billion in 1930, our species will reach seven billion sometime late in 2011 (five additional billions in a single human lifetime), with still more billions (numbers eight and nine) on-track to arrive before 2050.

A graph of civilization's demographic history over the past ten millennia (8000 BC - 2000 AD) exhibits late-phase exponential conditions strikingly similar to a graph of the fission events in the nuclear detonation that destroyed Hiroshima, Japan at the close of World War II.

"We submit that there exists a specific and fundamental repertoire of scientific information that every citizen should know about our planet

and that this information includes thresholds, tipping points, and unintended consequences; carrying capacities, limiting factors, delayed feedbacks, and overshoot; exponential mathematics and J-curves; as well as demographics and world population levels past, present, and future."

"Brilliant"... ..."Light years better than Beyond Six Billion" ... "A Template for Biospherics 101" ...

EYE-OPENING - Its mathematical depiction of real-world population calamities that are produced by populations that occupy ***less than 2/1000ths of one percent*** of the "open space" that appears to remain theoretically-available to them (e.g. - The red-tide dinoflagellates known as Karenia brevis AND a classic 20th century study of climb and collapse in a reindeer herd on an Alaskan island).

In other words, both of the above calamities (including catastrophic fish kills in marine environments and a 99% die-off among the reindeer) took place and proceeded to completion in environments that were 99.998% "empty" - in environments that, to any visually-sentient species, would have appeared to be ALMOST ENTIRELY EMPTY.
NEW 2011 EDITION "What Every Citizen Should Know About Our Planet" WECSKAOP - III - ... featuring "the single most important data set in the history of our species."

Beginning with a worldwide population of two billion in 1930, our species will reach seven billion sometime late in 2011 (five additional billions in a single human lifetime), with still more billions (numbers eight and nine) on-track to arrive before 2050.

A graph of civilization's demographic history over the past ten millennia (8000 BC - 2000 AD) exhibits late-phase exponential conditions strikingly similar to a graph of the fission events in the nuclear detonation that destroyed Hiroshima, Japan at the close of World War II.

"We submit that there exists a specific and fundamental repertoire of scientific information that every citizen should know about our planet

and that this information includes thresholds, tipping points, and unintended consequences; carrying capacities, limiting factors, delayed feedbacks, and overshoot; exponential mathematics and J-curves; as well as demographics and world population levels past, present, and future."

"Brilliant"... ..."Light years better than Beyond Six Billion" ... "A Template for Biospherics 101" ...

EYE-OPENING - Its mathematical depiction of real-world population calamities that are produced by populations that occupy ***less than 2/1000ths of one percent*** of the "open space" that appears to remain theoretically-available to them (e.g. - The red-tide dinoflagellates known as Karenia brevis AND a classic 20th century study of climb and collapse in a reindeer herd on an Alaskan island).

In other words, both of the above calamities (including catastrophic fish kills in marine environments and a 99% die-off among the reindeer) took place and proceeded to completion in environments that were 99.998% "empty" - in environments that, to any visually-sentient species, would have appeared to be ALMOST ENTIRELY EMPTY.

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Published by: The Wecskaop Project on Jan 30, 2010
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What Every Citizen Should Know About Our Planet

100 key understandings for the half-century that lies ahead

A handbook for

Biospherics 101

Light years better than Beyond Six Billion



The Wecskaop Project


The continued functioning of natural systems? Somewhere during the 90% eradication that current policy envisions and may permit, a catastrophic threshold or tipping point with global repercussions will almost certainly be crossed. Dinoflagellates such as Karenia brevis, which produce catastrophic outbreaks of red-tide in marine environments, constitute quintessential real-world examples of organisms that induce calamity by their production of wastes. And they manage to inflict such population disasters even as they physically-occupy less than 2/1000ths of one percent of apparently "vast amounts of open space" that appear to remain theoretically available to them (a set of conditions perhaps worth noting since our own species exhibits an extraordinarily similar pattern of behavior). Unfortunately, however, our own species does not confine itself to releasing only our biological, cellular, and metabolic wastes into our surroundings. Instead, we supplement our biological wastes, in a way that is utterly unprecedented in the history of life on earth, with billions of tons of societal and industrial wastes, so that we may be embarked upon a trajectory that is not only worse than that of red-tide dinoflagellates - but is multiple orders of magnitude worse at that.

Copyright © 2011, Randolph Femmer. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic or mechanical, or by any information storage and retrieval system, including photocopying and recording without written permission from the author except for brief quotations in a review. The Wecskaop Project. ISBN 978-0-933078-18-5

M. Arman Publishing
P.O. Box 785 Oak Hill, Florida 32759 386-673-5576 Fax: 386-951-1101


Throughout history, we have always been able to count on the functioning of earth's natural systems as a given. As this book will show, however, today our population has already become so large, and is growing larger so rapidly, that such presumptions are no longer warranted. A continuation of today’s demographic tidal wave may constitute the greatest single risk that our species has ever undertaken. Imagine the first domino in a row of adjacent dominos being toppled, thereby causing all the others to fall in quick succession. In such an event, even an accidental instability imparted to a single domino can unexpectedly topple a far wider and interconnected system. We are living at a time when each of humanity’s added billions is impacting one natural system after another, incrementally, and in most cases, repeatedly – again, and again, and again. And a disconcerting amount of accumulating evidence suggests that some of earth’s most important dominos may already be toppling. We submit that there is a specific and fundamental repertoire of scientific information that every citizen should know about our planet and that this information includes thresholds, tipping points, and unintended consequences; carrying capacities, limiting factors, delayed feedbacks, and overshoot; exponential mathematics and J-curves; as well as, among other things, demographics and world population levels, past, present, and future.


“If current predictions of population growth prove accurate and patterns of human activity on the planet remain unchanged, science and technology may not be able to prevent... irreversible degradation of the environment.”
Joint statement, officers of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and Britain’s Royal Society, 1992

"The earth is finite. Its ability to absorb wastes and destructive effluent is finite. Its ability to provide food and energy is finite. Its ability to provide for growing numbers of people is finite. And we are fast approaching many of the earth's limits."
An urgent warning to humanity (1992) Signed by 1500 top scientists, including 99 recipients of the Nobel Prize

“Any population-economy-environment system that has feedback delays and slow physical responses, that has thresholds and erosion mechanisms, is literally unmanageable. No matter how brilliant its technologies, no matter how efficient its economy, no matter how wise its decision-makers, it simply can't steer itself away from hazards unless it tests its limits very, very slowly. If it constantly tries to accelerate, it is bound to overshoot."
Beyond the Limits Meadows, Meadows, and Randers, 1992

Speaking a half century ago, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once addressed “the modern plague of overpopulation. What is lacking,” he said, “is… universal consciousness of the gravity of the problem and the education of billions of people who are its victims.” Today his insights are more applicable than ever.

Light years better than BEYOND SIX BILLION


Table of Contents
00 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 8 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 Preface Why Wecskaop? Numeric Literacy – A Million and a Billion 1 Civilization's Demographic Journey 1 Carrying Capacity and Limiting Factors Ecological Services and Ecological Release 1 Fragile Films – Earth's Atmosphere and Seas Exponential Mathematics A Mathematical Fire Alarm Riddles of the Dinoflagellates Other Planets The Open-space Delusion Limits, Feedbacks, Overshoot and Collapse Thresholds, Tipping Points and Unintended Consequences . The Big Question: Carrying Capacity Projections, Comments and Critiques Sri Lanka and Caenorhabditis elegans Biodiversity and Human Impacts The Paleolithic, the Neolithic and Now A Conservation Roadmap Humanitarian Snapshots: A Descent into Chaos. Frequently Asked Questions . - . What We Can Do "Floorspace" and the Cornucopians . Nine Assumptions that Invite Calamity . .
. .

08 15 38 43 53 69 82 93 .103 115 123 130 139

172 183 198 210 222 230 242 . .257 . 278 . 305 319 330 334 339 343 345

00 Appendix 1 – Wecskaop Checklist 00 Appendix 2 – Key Concepts Checklist Appendix 3 - Supporting Mathematics Appendix 4 - The Open-space Hypothesis II 00 Sources and Cited References



The most important data sets in the history of our species

Medium projections to 2100 High projections to 2100

Human Population
in billions

Notice that BOTH of these graphs of human population growth are. J-CURVES and that in both cases, our numbers are rocketing up upward along the explosive y-axis. Also notice that essentially all of our growth has taken place in the last two hundred years, with the bulk of that growth having occurred since our population milestone of two billion in 1930. United Nations medium projections released in May 2011 estimate that our numbers will have reached NINE bilion by 2041 and high-fertility projections send us to 15.8 billion by 2100. These graphs should be all the more sobering if one consid . considers the effect that a J-curve once had on Hiroshima, Japan.


We begin this book with what may be the most important data sets in the history of our species. In the graphs shown left notice that beginning with a world population of two billion in 1930, we reach seven billion in late 2011 – meaning that we will have added FIVE billion additional people in less than a single human lifetime, followed by still more billions (numbers eight and nine) on-track to arrive before 2045. Given that earth’s planetary carrying capacity for a modern industrialized humanity (with all persons living at a WesternEuropean standard of living) is on the order of two billion or less, as well as the worldwide damage that we are already inflicting on earth’s planetary life-support machinery, together with the massive degrees of poverty and hunger that already exist and the impending arrival of our 7th, 8th, and 9th billions before 2045, as well as the levels of overpopulation and environmental impacts that we already exhibit, a continuation of our current tidal wave may constitute the greatest single risk that our species has ever undertaken. While the numbers in the smaller of our two graphs that lead to a worldwide population of more than TEN billion by the end of this century are dangerous enough, the numbers in the larger of the two graphs are even more dangerous. According to population projections released by the U.N. in May, 2011, if worldwide fertility rates average just ½ child per woman higher than the latest medium-fertility estimates, we will find ourselves on a course toward 15.8 billion by century’s end.


Notice especially that the years since 1830 and 1930 differ radically from all earlier eras of human history as we began to rocket upward over the past 180 years, and that since then our growth has been, and continues to be, so exponential, so rapid, and so extreme that some have described this pattern as “hyper-exponential.” For readers already familiar with exponential mathematics, our two graphs argue that we are living in the closing and catastrophic late phase conditions of an exponential progression whose shape bears a disturbing similarity to a graph of the fission events that destroyed Hiroshima, Japan at the end of World War II. If the previous information is not worrisome enough, however, there are at least three factors that suggest that the worst of these two U.N. trajectories may be the more accurate of the two. 1. It seems, for example, that U.N. population projections traditionally fail to contemplate, hint, or comment on planetary carrying capacities, limiting factors, tipping points, or thresholds, nor on the human, biospheric, and civilizational implications if our worldwide numbers overshoot those limits (even though multiple independent lines of evidence argue that we have moved into overshoot mode already). 2. The world demographic projections that have prompted this discussion, including those of the U.N., appear to allocate little, if any, contemplation of recent research into life-extension, despite the fact that over the past two decades, scientists have already achieved SIX-FOLD extensions of life in laboratory organisms, and achievement of an equivalent extension in humans would result in healthy, active 500-year-olds (e.g., Kenyon, 2005). And in an interview, Cambridge University geneticist Aubrey de Grey (2005) recently suggested that “the first 1000 year old human may have already been born.”


If even a tiny fraction of such changes occur in humans, the U.N’s current population projections, as worrisome as they already are, would be tossed right out the window, and young people alive today might actually experience the calamitous unfolding of the U.N.’s 15.8 billion trajectory. It is interesting to note that if sixfold life-extensions were to ever be widely achieved in humans, worldwide replacement-level fertility rates might have to decline to just two-tenths of a child per woman - per century.

3. Among scholars and policymakers in general, there is dangerously-little attention to population growth and carrying capacities, and too many assessments still focus largely on assorted “running-out-of” suppositions such as running-out-of food or water, or oil, or other resources. There are, however, other limiting factors that could end up inducing calamity even sooner, such as: (a) The sheer levels of ongoing physical eradication, degradation, and damage that we are inflicting on the earth’s biospheric life-support machinery, and (b) our ongoing and worsening daily worldwide avalanche of societal and industrial wastes. We will see that over the past four decades, we have been repeatedly adding one billion additional persons to our planet every twelve years, so that our numbers invite a storm of humanitarian and biospheric calamities over the decades immediately ahead. For example, given the impacts that our extreme numbers, combined with our wastes, damage, industrialization, and consumption have already induced, when only half of us are industrialized, it is hard to imagine how things are going to improve as billions number eight, nine, and ten (and possibly numbers eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, and more) join us before the close of this century. And when it comes to our demographic and physical impacts on earth's biological life-support machinery (which produces, for example, the food that we eat and the oxygen that we breathe) no planetary “do-overs" will be available if we fail to get things right this first time around.

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In the past, we have always been able to count on the functioning of earth's natural systems as a given. As this book will show, however, today our population has already become so large, and is growing larger so rapidly, that such presumptions are no longer warranted. Try to imagine, for example, a team of astronauts in a space vehicle if they were to cannibalize 95% of their guidance and propulsion systems, annihilate 93% of their heat shields, destroy 87% of their CO2 scrubbers, degrade 77% of their computer codes, and eviscerate the other life-support systems of their spacecraft.

In a similar way, try to imagine the owner of a new and pristine automobile who begins to systematically degrade its multiple operating systems, degrading 50% of its steering system, 75% of its tires, and then destroying its carburetor, most of its spark plugs, half of its axles and brake shoes, and 93% of its ignition and electrical systems, while simultaneously pouring additional contaminants each day into its gasoline, oil, radiator, battery, transmission fluid, and brake fluid. And then suppose that this individual can't understand why his automobile, which "has always worked in the past," doesn't function anymore. Not so bright, is he? Do we know anyone who seems to treat the only planetary life support machinery so far known to exist anywhere in the universe in a similar way? No rational astronauts would ever dream of inflicting such damage upon the vehicle that sustains their lives in space, and the rest of us would never dream of inflicting such damage upon our automobiles. Amazingly, however, we seem to suppose that we can systematically destroy, eradicate and dismantle the only planetary life-support machinery so far known to exist anywhere in the universe and to presume that it will nevertheless continue to function as it has always done in the past. Notice that the above has nothing to do with "running-out-of” food or resources or anything else but instead counsels the urgency of caution when it comes to the degree of sheer physical damage that we are inflicting today on earth's biological machinery and life-support systems.

While civilizations today consist of endless and diverse philosophies and perspectives, we must not try to shoe-horn the natural world to fit into any of our economic or political ideologies. The natural world does not know, nor care, in any sentient way, about economic philosophies, political systems, or markets. Given the abuses inflicted by each of our multiple

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billions, either earth’s natural systems will continue to function or they will not. In this book we will sample “miles” of evidence (multiple independent lines of evidence) that argue that earth’s biospheric carrying capacity that would permit everyone on earth to live both in comfort and sustainably at at modern Western European standard of living is on the order of two billion or less. Notice, then from our page seven graph, that we passed that numerical milestone many, many decades ago, meaning that we have already exceeded earth's carrying capacity for a modern, industrialized, educated, comfortable, and sustainable humanity by FIVE additional billions in less than a single human lifetime. So our situation has now become this: If the U.N.’s newest “high-fertility” population projections actually emerge (and they are only .½ child per woman higher. than their “medium-fertility” projections), then they become, like the trajectory of a “near-earth asteroid,” an exceedingly-dangerous real-world possibility that could carry us to a collision between our planet and 15.8 billion of us by century’s end. So how close is this “near-earth object” to the obliterating collision trajectory? This object and inescapable collision are so close that the only thing that worldwide fertility rates have to do is average just ½ child per woman higher than the U.N.’s “medium-fertility” estimates for the calamitous fifteen billion impacts to emerge. If such a near-earth asteroid were on a path toward the earth, astronomers, NASA, and international space agencies would launch attempts to “nudge” the object out of its collision orbit - but that nudging would have to BEGIN when the object is still far enough away for the nudging to have an effect. Yet, we know that an ever-greater portion of those who will make up world population in 2050

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have already been born, so that more and more of the trajectory becomes locked into place and threatens to become inescapable. Thus, given the demographics we introduce in our early chapters, this object that is threatens to hit us is fifteen billion humans on a planet whose machinery already started to break at populations of five and six billion, so that the emergency nudging that we have to accomplish is to ensure that the world’s highest birth rates start nudging lower beginning TODAY, because every hour, day, and instant that we delay has the effect of increasingly locking-in the potential collision trajectory so that the collision becomes more and more inescapable. So what, exactly, should every person, student, educator, policymaker, and citizen know about our planet? We submit that there exists a precise and specific repertoire of biospheric and demographic information that includes understandings, concepts, and data sets such as, among other things: carrying capacities, thresholds, ecosystem services, and tipping points; delayed feedbacks and unintended consequences; limiting factors and overshoot; hotspots and conservation biology; the power and behavior of exponential mathematics; and demographics and world population levels past, present, and future. Whether one is dealing with poverty, hunger, failed states, the environment, governance, foreign affairs, or terrorism, biospheric understandings are crucial as world population growth roils the environmental and geopolitical oceans in which today’s nations and foreign policies must swim. While civilization should have begun a Roosevelt/Churchillian level of response two decades ago, too many of today's books, articles, broadcasts, and scholarly venues continue to ignore the existence of the population elephant in the room. Thus, Wecskaop gathers an assemblage of data sets, concepts, and demograph-

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ic understandings constituting, for example, an introductory survey of Biospherics 101 - information that can help us minimize or avert some portion of the humanitarian, biospheric, and civilizational crises that our current trajectories invite. Alarmed by the atomic detonations that ended World War II, Nobelist Harold Urey and three other Chicago scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project formed an “emergency committee of atomic scientists” – leading quickly to the founding of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. Something similar is needed now addressing the calamitous implications of human demographics in the four decades that lie ahead. Note that this book’s intent is educational: It is a collation of biospherics, concepts, data sets, and demographics unique to this moment in history. It does not advocate policy and is most em-phatically not a policy document. It does, however, view our present demographic and environmental trajectories with alarm, so that this book argues in behalf of knowledge, and counsels us to proceed entirely voluntarily and ethically in addressing the demographic maelstrom in which we live. Because books alone cannot achieve the rapid universalization that is needed, this book must be teamed with a speedy assortment of wide-audience and educational initiatives such as films, documentaries, foreign-language broadcasts, radio, emergency workshops, and multiple digital and internet resources for educators and their students. If we do not find a way to quickly universalize these understandings within the next three years and choose instead to proceed upon our current trajectories of “business as usual,” then the near-future for civilization, science, human well-being, and the biosphere are likely to be calamitous - if not worse.

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1 Why Wecskaop?
Three days from now, as a result of today's staggering rates of population growth, earth will be home to more than 681,000 extra people. How can this be? For every person who dies during the next three days, somewhere around the world a baby will be born who will, physically speaking, replace that death. And after all of those replacement births take place, 681,000 additional births will occur (after PRB, 2009). It is important for each of us to fit these numbers into the mental framework of our daily lives. For example, the dangers of the modern world are many, including nuclear weapons and terrorism. May it never happen, but imagine that somewhere, a disaster occurs that is equivalent to one hundred Pearl Harbors taking place on a single day. Even if such a disaster should result in a nearly unimaginable 400,000 deaths, at our current rates of population growth, all the victims would be physically replaced in less than 48 hours by the 454,000 extra births that currently take place over each two day period (ibid). Many people mistakenly believe that humanity’s population crisis has ended due to the achievement of subreplacement fertility in Europe and several other regions – and these misimpressions are urged upon us by assorted corporate apologists who write for powerful financial and Wall Street interests. Today it is possible to cite some statistical signs of pro-

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gress, despite the fact that we continue to lose ground, quickly and seriously, even as this progress has been made. Worldwide, for example, fertility (the number of children born to the average woman during her lifetime) has dropped from approximately 3.83 in 1975 to approximately 2.56 today. In sharp contrast, however, the world’s fifty poorest countries are on-track to double in size by 2050. Today’s demographics read like a tale of two worlds. Russia for instance, seems likely to become less crowded over the four decades just ahead, along with Germany, Bulgaria, and Romania. In the Middle East, on the other hand, current rates of change between now and 2025 in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Yemen, and the Palestinian Territories show trajectories that are likely to double their combined populations by mid-century (after UNDESA, 2009). Humanitarian implications What are the humanitarian implications of high fertility rates? How does one eradicate hunger and poverty, for example, and simultaneously achieve development, and provide jobs, security, and stable governance in the world's poorest and least developed nations when their populations are doubling every 25-30 years? According to the U.N., for example, "in 31 of the 49 least-developed countries, total fertility exceeds five children per woman" (March, 2009). A sampling of the fertility rates (average number of children per woman per lifetime) in the world's poorest countries can help us understand the nature of the unfolding humanitarian disasters that the world's poorest populations face: Afghanistan, 6.8; Angola, 5.8; Benin 5.8; Burkina Faso, 6.2; Burundi, 5.6; Democratic Republic of the Congo, 6.3; Chad, 6.6; Niger, 7.3; Mali, 6.3; Somalia, 6.7; Uganda, 6.8 and Zambia, 6.2 (ibid).

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A Descent into Chaos? What might be the governance, security, and civilizational implications of such numbers? Since the end of the Cold War, multiple authors have painted for us a “picture of a world in chaos” (see, for instance, Huntington, 1996; Brzezinski, 1993; Kaplan, 1994, and Moynihan, 1993). As Harvard's S.P. Huntington pointed out, “Much evidence exists… for the relevance of the ‘sheer chaos’ paradigm of world affairs: a global breakdown of law and order, failed states and increasing anarchy in many parts of the world…” (1996). In today’s world, for instance, political stability, governance, education, employment, and global politics are all challenged by demographic tidal waves that are inundating (and sometimes emerging from) failed and high-fertility states. For example, consider the 2005-2010 fertility rates that characterize some of the following unstable and/or turbulent regions: Afghanistan (again) - an average of 6.8 children per woman; Pakistan - an average of four children per woman; Iraq - 4.11; Syria - 3.29; Yemen - 5.30; Rwanda, 5.43, and Somalia, again, at 6.7 (UNDESA, 2009; FSI, 2010). What diplomat, for instance, can even begin to fix the problems of the Middle East when the region’s doubling population is taking them off the edge of a demographic cliff? According to the most recent U.N. data, for example (2009), fertilty among the women of the Palestinian territories (number of children per woman over her lifetime) averages approximately 5.09 children each. And, writing more generally concerning the “crucial impact of population growth on instability and the balance of power,” Harvard’s S..P. Huntington pointed out that “shifts in… demographic balances and youth

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bulges of twenty percent or more account for many of the intercivilizational conflicts of the late twentieth century.” As Huntington observed, “a demographic explosion of…large numbers of often unemployed males between the ages of fifteen and thirty is a natural source of instability and violence” and “whatever other causes may be at work, this factor alone would go a long way [toward] explaining [Middle Eastern] violence in [recent decades]” (ibid). It is hard to imagine that any of these difficulties are going to be lessened as the area’s population doubles in the decades just ahead. Contrasting Fertility Patterns Thus, in many parts of the world, including much of Africa and the Middle East, the old exponential population processes are still underway, and the old fertility rates of the 1960s still prevail. Contrast France, for example, which has a fertility rate of 1.8 children born to the average woman during her lifetime with Guinea Bissau, where, according to a March, 2009 UN report, the average woman has 7.4 children (among the highest in the world), or Madagascar, where the average woman has 5.4 children. Thus, the numbers in large parts of Africa, as we have already seen, are increasingly desperate. As this is written, journalists bring us images of emaciated children dying of starvation in Niger, Chad, and Sudan while their mothers wait for the arrival of relief supplies. One reporter informs us that locusts, drought, and war have brought about this humanitarian crisis. He fails to mention, however, that Niger’s population today is double what it was two decades ago, and is on track to double again over the next 21 years, and that, according to the U.N., the country’s current fertility rate is 7.2 children per woman (UN, 2009). Nor are we told that half of Niger’s population

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is under fifteen, its national literacy rate is 28.7%, fewer than half the men have attended school, or that 40% of its national budget comes from foreign aid (FSI, 2010). (Notice that these data do not result from drought and locusts.) Clearly, such a large population under the age of fifteen will need millions of jobs ten years from now, and worsening instability and chaos might be expected if that employment is not there. Good News and Bad News Out of Bangladesh comes a typical “good news/bad news” set of data. First, Bangladesh is a nation of more than 156 million people compressed into an area slightly smaller than our state of Iowa. Imagine taking half of everyone living in the United States (California, Oklahoma, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Miami, Seattle, New Orleans, Boston, Manhattan, Chicago, Texas, and dozens more) and moving all of them into Iowa. Now take away virtually all of their wealth and industrialized amenities and add assorted water-borne diseases, poverty, ground water contaminated by arsenic, intermittent water shortages due to falling water tables, refugees seeking shelter from instability in Burma, and routine inundation of most of the country by monsoons and hurricanes or tropical cyclones (CIA, 2005, and FSI, 2010), and we can begin to picture Bangladesh as it exists today. The good news is that fertility rates in Bangladesh have fallen to an average of approximately 2.36 children per woman (UN, 2009). The bad news, however, is that: (a) At these rates, the population of Bangladesh is on-track to double again over the next five decades (think about that), and (b) because its fertility rates remain well above replacement levels of approximately 2.1 children per woman per lifetime, the population of Bangladesh is still growing by 1.42% per year (ibid).

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Thus, despite the fact that Bangladesh has achieved one sort of progress in lowering its fertility rates, it continues to lose ground, quickly and seriously. In effect, even with pressure applied to its fertility brakes, Bangladesh now finds itself headed off the edge of its demographic cliff at 40 miles per hour instead of 60 miles per hour. Over the Weekend If today is Friday, by this same time on Monday earth will be home to more than 681,000 extra human beings. In effect, every person who dies over the weekend will be replaced, physically speaking, by a baby who is born somewhere in the world. And then, after all those “replacement” births take place, 681,000 additional births occur. Clearly, it is going to be necessary for someone, somewhere, to grow a lot of extra food over the weekend. Throughout history, we have always been able to count on the functioning of earth's natural systems as a given. As this book will show, however, today’s world population has already become so large, and is growing larger so rapidly, that such presumptions are no longer warranted. Unless they have been misled by economic apologists, almost everyone today understands that earth's human population is growing larger. For the most part, however, the actual numbers that quantify our growth more precisely receive little mention in our school curricula and often, they are not covered at all. If we were to shift some of our current emphases on frog dissections, Napoleon, cosines, and the value of pi and were to instead introduce all of our students to basic demographic information, we would be better equipped to address the challenges of the times in which we live.

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The core of all demographic information involves births and deaths. On an average day, if the number of births and number of deaths are approximately equal, then a population will not grow larger nor smaller – it will remain stable. On the other hand, if births exceed deaths, then a population will grow larger – as ours is doing. As these words are written, there are approximately 380,000* births that take place somewhere in the world on an average day (PRB, 2009). And during the same 24 hours, approximately 153,000 deaths occur. Information to update these figures is periodically available at www.census.gov, www.prb.org, and esa.un.org/unpp.
*As of 2009, posted values at www.prb.org place these numbers at 380,683 births per day and 153,653 deaths per day for a net increase of 227,030 per day.

Notice that the number of births (380,000 per day) and deaths (153,000 per day) are not equal. In effect, there are 153,000 babies who will, in a physical sense, replace all those persons who die. However, after all of these “replacement” births occur, 227,000 additional births take place. As a result, world population increases by approximately 227,000 persons on an average day. We thus see three fundamental aspects of today's demographic tidal wave: births, deaths, and net increase. If our numbers grow by 227,000 on an average day, then in one week, we will have added about 1,589,000 extra persons to world population. And five days after that we will add another million and then another and another, and we are on track to continue this way repeatedly into the foreseeable future. Although assorted economic apologists urge us to imagine conditions of ‘business as usual,” our graph on page seven shows this assumption to be a colossal and probably calamitous mistake. Instead, we appear to be participants in a collision, at hyperexponential rates, with one or more of earth’s limits. Before

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the 1950s, no other generations in all of human history had to live their lives in the face of such a demographic onslaught. And never before in human history have we asked our governments, infrastructure, social institutions, earth's environment, and the social fabric of our civilizations to respond to and accommodate such mammoth numbers and enormous levels of physical damage and wastes in such compressed periods of time. Put another way, "the rates, scales, kinds, and combinations of change occurring now are fundamentally different from those at any other time in history...” (Vitousek, et al., 1997). After Fifty Years Imagine an aircraft carrier traveling at full speed. Because of its enormous momentum, such a massive vehicle travels ever onward for mile after mile after mile – even if it attempts to stop with all engines full astern. This leaves the populations of nations like China and India, whose fertility rates have shown improvement, still careening numerically upward as their absolute numbers continue to climb. China’s population, for example, despite the reduced fertility rates produced by its stringent “one-child” policies, still continues to grow and may peak near 1.5 billion by 2020, making it “the biggest player in the history of man” (Huntington, 1996) (to be soon thereafter overtaken and surpassed, perhaps, by India). And even if China’s numbers were to stabilize or begin to decline after that, the environmental impacts of its industrializing population seem poised to steadily worsen as its economic engines and increased consumption produce ever more wastes, more greenhouse gases, and necessitate steadily increasing damage and quantities of raw materials. Meanwhile, as fertility in some nations has shifted to re-

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placement and/or subreplacement levels, half the world still has its fertility “pedal to the metal.” In 1960, human populations were growing exponentially with a base of three billion people. The good news today is that half the world shows progress toward more rational fertility levels. At the same time, however, over half of us continue to rocket upward. Today, as world population nears seven billions, we can say that after fifty years, there are still three billion of us growing exponentially. Some economic theorists and pro-growth apologists ask us to bemoan a “birth dearth” (even as world population grows ever-larger by 227,000 each day) and seem to suggest that our currently explosive rates are somehow not enough. In reality, after fifty years, we are still three billion humans growing exponentially. Today, however, our planet and its life-support machinery also has to deal with the physical damage and societal wastes of all the rest of us. The fact is, on a worldwide scale, with record billions of us already here, our numbers are still growing. And the pace of today's growth is not casual, nor slow, nor manageable. Instead, taken globally, worldwide rates of population growth today remain staggering in their enormity. The numbers we have already sampled, for example, tell us that we need enormous amounts of extra food, homes, schools, jobs, clean water, and dozens of other necessities every few days. These difficulties would not be so pressing if we were growing slowly, and they would not be necessary at all if our population remained the same from one day to the next. Top scientific bodies have warned repeatedly of the environmental impacts of our growing numbers: "If current predictions of population growth prove accurate and patterns of human activity on the planet remain unchanged, science and technology may not be able to prevent... irreversible degra-

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dation of the environment (Atiyah, Press, et al., 1992). Since that joint statement by the officers of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and Britain’s Royal Society of London was issued, we have added more than one billion additional people to our planet, and U.N. medium estimates show billions number 7, 8, and 9 will have joined us between now and midcentury (UNPD, 2005; 2010). If we divide our daily 227,030 increase by twenty-four hours, we find that with each passing hour we are joined by more than 9,459 extra persons, all needing each of the necessities of life – and desiring the luxuries of life. Thus, in the short time since we picked up this book together, earth has become home to a thousand or more extra persons. Such unrelenting numbers quickly add up to impacts on hunger, poverty, civilization, infrastructure, taxes, crowding, increasing biospheric damage, and wastes. They also add up to impacts on traffic, jobs, education, wages, pollution, immigration, and governance, and constitute an ongoing assault on international stability and on our political, ethical, and social systems. A Tidal Wave Imagine an on-rushing tidal wave as it washes over and flattens a coastal village. Or imagine an avalanche of snow and ice crashing down a mountainside, wiping out trees and flattening every other living thing in its path. Such images involve sudden, rapid events of immense local proportions that quickly overwhelm and annihilate local infrastructure and ecosystems. At this moment, we ourselves comprise a tidal wave of unprecedented proportions, washing suddenly, rapidly, and furiously over the face of the entire earth so that we do not constitute a localized event. And, like an avalanche or a tidal wave, we and our wastes are well on our way to overwhelming and physically-annihilating everything in our path.

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Our growth is so rapid and of such enormous proportions that it threatens to degrade and/or eradicate ecological machinery and infrastructure that help sustain both civilization and the biosphere itself. In their text, BIOLOGY, Raven and Johnson offer this appraisal: "...both the current human population and the projected growth rate have potential consequences for our future that are extremely grave" (1999). If Today is Friday We have seen that between Friday and the same time on Monday, earth becomes home to more than 681,000 additional persons, resulting in still more damage and wastes and requiring still more food supplies every three days. Not only do we challenge ourselves to meet these steep demands, but they must be met over and over and over again every three days. First earth must feed our existing billions and accommodate our damage, impacts, and wastes, and then must do so again for 681,000 more, and another 681,000, and another 681,000 - on and on, endlessly into the foreseeable future. When Marie Antoinette was told that the poor did not have enough bread to eat, she was sent, as the story goes, to the guillotine when she proposed to "Let them eat cake."* After contemplating Marie’s fate, world leaders might not want to recommend "Let them eat rat's heads, blue-green algae, and fried insects, and drink recycled sewage." On the other hand, these may, of necessity, be better than nothing at all.
* Some scholars dispute the attributed quotation, as engaging as it is.

If Today is Monday If today is Monday, then earth will be home to approximately 908,000 additional people by this same time on Friday. And, in addition to their CO2 and climate impacts and their

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need for food, water, jobs, health care, and sanitation, these 908,000 new arrivals necessitate ongoing completion of additional schools and classrooms every four days – in a world with insufficient schools and classrooms right now. At this pace, how many new classrooms must we provide every four days? First assume that we can accommodate all the replacement births in existing classrooms. Then, if we can house approximately twenty-five students in a typical classroom, dividing 908,000 extra by twenty-five shows that we must complete more than 36,320 new classrooms every four days. Keep in mind that these must be funded, built, finished, supplied, and staffed immediately because at today’s pace of 908,000 extra arrivals every four days, we have to ask ourselves if we we prepared to accomplish this same task and to fund it with billions in taxes repeatedly over every four day period year after year in the decades just ahead? The need to repeatedly complete so many new classrooms in so short a time has corollaries such as: What if they are not built? If education does not keep up with population growth in distant and unstable parts of the world, that doesn't affect us, does it? As Harvard University president Derek Bok once observed: "If you think education is expensive, try ignorance." At the present time, however, our delivery of schooling and skills is not keeping pace with today’s explosive rates of population growth, because each month's avalanche of new arrivals make it impossible for us to keep up. Given the challenges cited above, along with the wastes and CO2 that we produce, as well as the impacts that we already exert on natural systems, climate, and earth’s biosphere today, there is an emerging repertoire of information that every citizen should know about our planet. And if these demographic and biospheric understandings are not quickly universal-

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ized, it is difficult to see how things are going to improve as each of our additional billions join us in the decades just ahead. Certainly our current trajectories are likely to be calamitous. Chaos and Dysfunctional States We have recently been presented with assorted film documentaries and first-hand accounts that depict roving paramilitary bands of ten and twelve year olds dressed in camouflage and carrying AK-47s (e.g., Beah, 2007). What formal education have they had? What job skills are they mastering? If this is their youth, what will be their careers as adults? And what values, knowledge, and skills will they pass on to their own children? Citing links between violence, social disorder, and rapid population growth, other recent authors have pointed to the dangers and chaos posed by dysfunctional states. For example, one writer (Mallaby, 2002) has observed that the chaos in today’s world “is too threatening to ignore, and existing methods for dealing with that chaos have been tried and found wanting.” In an era of terrorism, he suggests, chaotic states “provide profit and sanctuary to nihilist outlaws…” and “in the toughest countries… state failure threatens the export of chaos.” Furthermore, “violence and social disorder are linked to rapid population growth, and this demographic pressure shows no sign of abating” (ibid; see also Huntington, 1996; Kaplan, 1994; Brzezinski, 1993, and Sachs, 2008). For example, “…over the next twenty years, the world's population is projected to grow from around six billion to eight billion, with nearly all of the increase concentrated in poor countries” (Mallaby, 2002). Furthermore, “some of the sharpest [of these] demographic stresses will be concentrated in

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Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and the Palestinian territories -- all Islamic societies with powerful currents of anti-Western extremism” (ibid). Increasingly, explosive population growth can destabilize both governance and international affairs as high-fertility nations exert or export destabilizing demographic pressures upon their neighbors. When Pulitzer prize winner Thomas Friedman recently visited Pakistan, he described a nation whose secular state education system had been replaced by madrasas: "In 1978 there were 3,000 madrasas in Pakistan; today there are 39,000. It was disquieting," Friedman writes, "because their almost entirely religious curriculum was designed by the Mogul emperor Aurangzeb Alamgir who died in 1707. There was one shelf of science books in the library – largely from the 1920s" (Friedman, 2002). Trying to Make Things Better Similarly, across a great band of Africa, a worsening humanitarian crisis is unfolding as exploding populations are overwhelming nation after nation. Imagine, for example, that you are the newly-elected president of a country where most citizens live on less than one dollar a day, where the literacy rate is 29% (and 15% for women), where more than half the men have never attended school, and where your predecessor in office assumed emergency powers, suspended the constitution, dismissed the courts and the parliament, and where your government depends entirely on foreign aid for 40% of your annual budget. These are real data from a real country (e.g., FSI, 2010). If you are the president in such a setting, you are clearly going to have enormous difficulties in providing for the jobs, schools, health care, safety, sanitation, and security needs of

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your citizens. There are also, however, still more demographic challenges: Half of your nation's population is under fifteen, and two/thirds of your citizens are under twenty-five, so that over the next ten years, millions more young people will be pouring into an already insufficient job market (ibid). In addition, during the course of their lives, the women in your nation have an average of 5.8 children each (PRB, 2010). One result of this is that your country's total population is growing at a rate of 3.0% a year - a trajectory that leads to a doubling of a population in twenty-three years (ibid). Given that most of your citizens already live on less than one dollar a day, what are your chances of success? Unfortunately, today large parts of sub-Saharan Africa face a demographic challenge where “an excruciating combination of high birth rates and widespread aids infection threatens social disintegration and governmental collapse…” (Mallaby, 2002). Consider the nation of Liberia, for example. According to the World Bank, Liberia’s adult literacy rates are 56%, its infant mortality rate is 235 per 1000, life expectancy at birth is 47.1 years, with a gross national per capita income of $140 per year - or less than fifty cents per person per day (World Bank, 2004). In addition, according to on-the-ground reports, 80% of Liberians live below the poverty line; 20% are homeless (one visitor found 8,000 people sheltering in an abandoned Masonic lodge), and 85% are unemployed. In the near past, fourteen years of violent civil war killed more than 200,000 people, and as of 2005, the capital city of Monrovia had been without electricity for over a decade (Deeter, 2005). Simultaneously, U.N. figures (2009) show that Liberia's population doubled in just the fourteen years between 1995-2009, with a yearly population growth rate of 4.11%, while the 43% of its population under the age of fifteen will soon need jobs.

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Finally, add a catastrophic level of political violence and instability to the hurdles that Liberia has faced. In recent decades, a coup d’etat led by a semiliterate insurgent killed the country’s president in bed, publicly executed thirteen presidential aides, and suspended the nation’s constitution. Eventually, however, the leader of the coup was ousted and tortured to death on film by one of his rivals (Deeter, 2005). . The point is this: It would be hard for Liberia's new leaders to overcome their country's problems even if its population remained stable and there were no population growth whatsoever. Yet, applying current fertility rates (PRB, 2010), Liberia's population is on a trajectory that leads to doubling over the next 28 years. Imagine that you have become the new president of Liberia. If, with superhuman effort, honesty, good luck, correct decisions, and lots of money you manage to address the multiple disasters that confront your nation, all of your efforts will soon be wiped out as your population doubles within the next twenty-to-thirty years. . The United States with all of its wealth, jobs, technology, and schooling would not find it easy to both establish, and then double, all of its infrastructure in so short a time. Even if Liberia were to double all of its jobs, infrastructure, schooling, and services over the same period of time, it would still have exactly the same sets of statistical woes that it has now, because its population would have also doubled, promising to also increase both its suffering and govenance challenges. Thus, even if a nation doubles its jobs and infrastructure, rapid population growth can cancel out all of its progress and end up doubling human suffering because even though mathematical percentages may remain unchanged, the absolute number of people who are unemployed, living in poverty, or are homeless doubles as well. And that same doubling is also

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likely to obliterate any progress that might otherwise be made against infant mortality rates and illiteracy. And this assessment is just one example, for as one study has shown, over the past fifteen years, “poverty in sub-Saharan Africa continues to rise both in numbers …and as a proportion of the population (Mabogunje, 2007). If population growth and urbanization occur so rapidly that stability, civil order, education, employment, and infrastructure needs cannot keep pace, the resulting turbulence and youth bulges can carry a society into chaos, leading to ungovernable regions and/or failed states. Later we will consider some of these chaotic and fast-growing regions again, but we already see too many nations in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East where millions of adolescents are nearing adulthood with minimal literacy, no job skills, and little hope for employment. Despite recent attention to population and poverty (for example, COMMON WEALTH: Economics for a Crowded Planet; Sachs, 2008) and to population and failed states (e.g., Huntington, 1996), words such as overpopulation, population growth, and population doubling have been almost entirely absent from presidential news conferences, broadcast journalism, and public dialogue in the United States for three decades now. Meanwhile, many, if not most, biologists view our demographics as a train wreck in progress. . Samuel P. Huntington has warned that “Much evidence exists …for the relevance of the ‘sheer chaos’ paradigm of world affairs: a global breakdown of law and order, failed states, and increasing anarchy in many parts of the world… (Huntington, 1996). Think of places, for example, where governments are essentially meaningless – failed states that have come apart and are essentially ungovernable. Some countries exhibit these conditions already, while others, such as Pakis-

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tan, which had a 1951 population of 34 million and now finds itself headed toward 340 million by 2050, appear to face worsening population challenges to security, governance, education, and stability with each passing year. In the United States, former CIA director Michael Hayden recently commented that his analysts now believe the most worrying trend in the world is “…not terrorism but demographics.” In an address at Kansas State University, Hayden noted that “…there are many poor, fragile states where governance is actually difficult today, where populations will grow rapidly: Afghanistan, Liberia, Niger, the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Among that group the population is expected to triple by mid-century. At the same time, “the number of people in Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Yemen is likely to more than double.” And like Huntington, Hayden notes the resulting “large concentration of young people” with basic needs for food, housing, education, employment, and freedoms, which, if not met, could“.. result in violence, civil unrest, and extremism” (Hayden, 2008; emphasis added). . In his book, THE CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS AND THE REMAKING OF WORLD ORDER, Huntington writes of sheer chaos – the weakening of existing states and the appearance of failed states and an image of a world in anarchy. Observing that “law and order is the first prerequisite of civilization,” Huntington notes that in many parts of the world “…it appears to be evaporating” (ibid). And, as we will see in a later chapter, as early as 1994, Robert Kaplan wrote a piece entitled “The Coming Anarchy” which is a description of a chaos of war, poverty, squalor, disease, illiteracy, ethnic violence, drug cartels, and crime that constitute third world realities. And he writes of governments and national borders (in West Africa, for example) that have become “essentially meaningless,” and of chaotic parts of the world that are rapid-

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ly slipping into anarchy. As Huntington noted, “…the chaos paradigm is close to reality” (1996).*
* See also Brzezinski, 1993; Moynihan, 1993; Kaplan, 1994, and Beah, 2007.

Demographic Literacy How can a society or its public officials make wise policy decisions in the absence of certain basic demographic understandings? For example: What is earth's population today? How many births and deaths occur each day and what is the net rate of daily increase? What demands for jobs, schools, taxes, and health care arise from these rates of growth? Can we be fooled by the deceptive and powerful behavior of exponential number sequences? Do we all know that we currently add one billion additional persons to our population every twelve to fifteen years? Do we fully appreciate the enormous difference between a million and a billion? Can earth’s oceans, atmosphere, and climate continue to accommodate additional millions of tons of carbon dioxide as world population continues to explode and as more and more of us successfully industrialize? And are our assumptions concerning the continued functioning of earth’s biotic machinery and natural systems justified under current conditions of eradication, degradation, population growth, and rampant consumption? Certainly government leaders could wage war without such demographic knowledge. Clearly, too, new schools might be designed, funded, and constructed. But will leaders overlook conditions that help breed failed states and war? Or will they cause enough schools to be built, as quickly as they are needed? Without the demographic fundamentals that we address in this book, a leader will almost certainly fail in these responsibilities – to the detriment of humanity, civilization, and the biota of our planet.

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Despite the gravity of today's numbers, as individuals and as societies, we are largely illiterate when it comes to demographics and biospherics. Over the last two decades, top scientists from the National Academy of Sciences and Nobel prize winners in physics, chemistry, biology, and medicine have issued warnings which have been completely ignored. For example, in a keynote address to an annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Dr. Peter Raven opened his speech with the observation that our world "is in trouble – trouble serious enough to demand our urgent attention. The large-scale problems of overpopulation and overdevelopment are eradicating the lands and organisms that sustain life on this planet" (Raven, 1987). Although Dr. Raven's speech was given in 1987, his sense of urgency still warrants our attention today. Indeed, the intervening years have seen us add 1.5 billion additional people to our population, so that his words take on an even greater urgency: "By ignoring these issues...while attending to what seem more urgent, personal priorities, we are courting disaster" (Raven, 1987, 1992.) In 2004, the National 9/11 Commission issued its final report and commented on the role of high birthrates in producing “a large, steadily increasing population of young men without any reasonable expectation of suitable or steady employment – a sure prescription for social turbulence.” An Unwarranted Assumption Today we operate our societies on the presumption that the functioning of earth's natural systems is a "given." Those scientists who study such systems, however, now recognize that such assumptions are no longer warranted under current conditions of damage, eradication, and population growth.

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Recent papers express similar assessments: "At some point, some threshold may be crossed, with unforeseeable but probably catastrophic consequences for humans" (Jenkins, 2003). Later in this book we will see that damage is increasingly apparent in many natural systems (e.g., IPCC, 2007; Pimm, 2002), and is likely to become worse as our numbers continue to soar. A Paradox Today we live in a society filled with intelligent, kind, caring, and creative people. Our civilizations have given us dedicated parents, great writers, paramedics who save lives, and gifted musicians, engineers, artists, health professionals, and educators. Yet, in a paradoxical and ironic way, we are headed toward catastrophe because, as individuals, our working understandings of our planet do not include certain demographic and biospheric basics about the times in which we live. Our secondary school biology curricula almost universally introduce students to the gullet of a paramecium, the metanephridia of an earthworm, or the latissimus dorsi muscle of a frog. Similarly, almost all of our math curricula demand student mastery of sines and cosines and the value of pi. When we pause to appraise such topics, however, it becomes clear that our students can become exemplary parents and citizens without ever having encountered any such information. On the other hand, it can be argued that knowledge of the mathematics, numerics, demographics, whole-systems ecology, and biospheric data that we address in Wecskaop are indispensable to everyone today, to the functioning of the natural world, and to the future of civilization. If we do not understand that between 8,000 B.C. and 2,000 A.D. a graph of human population growth mimics the exponential J-curve of a

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and earth's natural life-support machinery are in serious trouble. then we. sclerenchyma cells. only one-third of U. secondary xylem. And even if students are required to take introductory biology for their degree.000 extra people by this same time tomorrow. The Demographic Forces of Our Times Virtually all K-12 curricula in the United States introduce students to the multiplication tables. and if we do not know the enormous difference between a million and a billion. 1999). Such mistaken emphases are dangerous in light of the times in which we live. which material do you suppose they hurry through or never get to at all? The same difficulty occurs elsewhere in undergraduate curricula. Even our college curricula are not exempt. .S. Wilson. the probability is high that we will gain no introduction to the numbers and data addressed in this book. when professors and teachers run out of time at the end of the year. and if we do not know that earth will be home to more than 227. Every first-year undergraduate. one undergraduate biology text recently observed that "the human population explosion is now Earth's most significant biological phenomenon" (Campbell. of every major. colleges require at least one natural science course in order to earn a degree (1997). O.36 - . the point just cited is not made until the reader is past page one thousand and encountering the last several chapters of a 54 chapter text. For example. Instead. our civilizations. should master Wecskaop-like data and concepts by the end of their first semester. Why does this matter? In the real world. the founding of our nation. our topics are far too likely to include a plethora of details involving coenocytic fungi. According to Harvard’s E. and/or the anatomy of an annelid worm. While this text might be applauded for its overall excellence.nuclear detonation.

And if we equip ourselves with this information. our students. and young people around the world with the demographic forces that are shaping this moment in history and the very future of life and civilization on earth. we can work together to help minimize the damage that is taking place even as we turn these pages together.poetry in English class. As it is now. The truly enormous size of a billion will therefore be our first topic in chapter two. biospheric. and numeric information that should also comprise a central component of this education is no more difficult than these other simple and straight-forward concepts – although it has been largely neglected in the past. with another and another (numbers eight and nine) on-track to arrive by mid-century. and the Civil War. and are.37 - . quite possibly. we are reaching our seventh billion. and key components of which are itemized in its appendices). That is why this book has been written: To help familiarize ourselves. past it. The demographic. If we somehow manage to keep from wrecking our civilizations and our planet by adding our next billion. We should have acted on these problems twenty or thirty years ago. we note a profoundly disturbing characteristic of the times in which we live: We have just added one BILLION additional people to our planet in a span of only twelve years. we are nearing our last chance. There exists a specific repertoire of information that every citizen should know about our planet (which this book’s chapters present. . the decades ahead promise us still more billions and more damage until all sorts of things break. Despite these facts and their implications. and as this is written. our traditional schooling typically leaves our students with little appreciation of how unimaginably large a billion really is. As we conclude this first chapter.

2 Numeric Literacy: a Million and a Billion
For most of us, a million and a billion are simply two very large numbers. If we could earn a million dollars, that would be great, and a billion dollars would be even better. And while it is true that both values are large, the reality is that the two numbers are enormously different. Since data involving human population growth typically involves additional millions and additional billions, we must be able to distinguish between the two. Today we add more than one MILLION people to our planet every five days, but we add an extra one BILLION people to our planet every twelve to fifteen years. Between 1975 and 1987, for example, world population grew from four billion to five billion, and between 1987 and late 1999 it grew from five billion to six billion (UNDESA, 2004). Thus, to appreciate the real-world implications of adding an additional billion persons to our population, over and over and over again, we must be comfortable with how enormously immense a billion really is. . To help us picture a "billion" we need an example. If we are dealing with a college audience, we might imagine an assignment involving endless library shelves of Principia Mathematica, Tolstoy, or college physics. On the other hand, knowing the undergraduate proclivity for pizza, we might imagine something involving billions of slices of pizza. Since, howev-

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er, there are routinely suggestions calling for a strengthening of our educational systems, we will consider, as our example, the situation of a student whose district has decided to require one billion homework questions for graduation. First: A Million Suppose that school systems in your state adopt a more rigorous graduation standard that requires each student to complete one MILLION homework questions in order to receive a diploma. Now further suppose that a conscientious student decides to work toward this requirement by completing one hundred questions each night, five nights per week, fifty-two weeks a year until all one million questions are finished. A staggering thought, is it not? Working at this rate, how long will the student need to finish his or her homework? .
The answer is 38.5 years.

Next: A Billion Suppose that one of the school districts decides to adopt a more stringent policy and requires its students to complete one BILLION homework questions in order to graduate. If our young scholar decides to tackle this assignment at the same rate (one hundred questions per night, five nights each week, fifty-two weeks each year), how long will be needed before their homework assignment is complete? .
Answer: To complete a billion homework questions at 500 per week, 52 weeks per year, would require 38,461 years

Thus, we see that a billion is not just a large number, but that it is a truly enormous number. .

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Wooly Mammoths Since a billion is of such demographic importance, let us add further clarity to our example: Assume that a cave-student began to work on this assignment twenty thousand years ago, when ice was one-mile thick over Wisconsin and Ohio, when wooly-mammoths and saber-toothed tigers roamed the Earth, and people still lived in caves. Assume further that this student conscientiously completes five hundred questions each and every week, fifty-two weeks per year, beginning twenty thousand years ago and works from then until now. Despite the most staggering homework achievement in the history of humanity, our young scholar would have to continue to work for another 18,461 years into the future in order to finish such an assignment. This riddle helps us appreciate that a billion is an extraordinarily large number. Every Twelve to Fifteen Years We can now use our riddle to better understand the times in which we live. First, suppose that we take all of those homework questions, five hundred questions a week from each and every week from all 38,461 years, and change each and every one of those questions into a human being. Now suppose that we add all of those persons as extra individuals to the surface of our planet every twelve to fifteen years. Next, let us arm them with bulldozers, AK-47s, sport utility vehicles, chain saws, hydroelectric dams, nuclear wastes, greenhouse gases, heavy metals, double-bacon cheeseburgers, investment portfolios, and pesticides. Given each new multitude, so armed and so numerous, and therefore so dangerous, it is little wonder that our combined impacts might quickly amount to an ecological holocaust.

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Myers (1995), writing in the journal Science, raises the possibility of unexpected environmental consequences. "First, ecosystems can absorb a certain amount of stress without noticeable effect, but once a critical level is reached the disruption may be cataclysmic" (see also Gallagher, et al., 1995). Secondly, it is also possible for two or more environmental processes "...to interact in unforeseen ways so that the outcome is not additive, but multiplicative" (ibid). Other papers conclude that current environmental changes are "profoundly altering the functioning of the biosphere" (Chapin et al., 1997). By helping to quantify the immensity of a billion, our example encourages us to better appraise the potential severity of our impacts on earth's ecological, climatic, and wastecleansing machinery. Madison Square Garden To further picture the impacts of our present avalanche, we might also imagine a boxing match in Madison Square Garden. In one corner stands the heavyweight boxing champion of the world. In the opposite corner stands a fragile old lady, "Mother Nature." Each fist of the champion is fitted with a boxing glove labeled "one billion additional people." . With the bell, round one begins – it will last for twelve years. As Mother Nature moves to the center of the ring, the huge right fist of the champion smashes her with a crushing blow. Down she goes, bruised, bloodied and dazed. Struggling, however, she staggers to her feet as the first round ends. Round two also lasts twelve to fifteen years, and the same scenario unfolds: A powerful left fist, featuring the staggering impacts of a billion additional people blasts the old lady. The champion taunts her to get up. The crowd falls silent. How

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severe must be her injuries? Will she ever get up again? She is hemorrhaging and barely functioning. Is the match over? Why don't the officials stop the fight? Round three begins. As its twelve to fifteen years proceed, the champion shows no signs of mercy, no signs of tiring, and no signs of weakening. The world's leaders show no inclination to stop the assault when the profits are so enormous. It is obvious to everyone watching that the repeated blows – a staggering one billion followed by another and another and another are too much for the old lady. The only question is this: Which blow is going to be the last? After one of these billions, the old lady will fall and will not get up. Today's young people are living their lives at a time when humanity is crushing earth's natural, biotic, and climatic systems with the impacts of one billion additional people every twelve to fifteen years. With each such blow, these systems are injured, bloodied, and staggered. The possibility exists, however, that one of these billions will be the final blow. Food May Not Be Our First Worry Dozens of population analyses have been published that focus on food, nutrition, and agriculture such as “Can the growing human population feed itself?” (Bongaarts, 1994). Because producing enough food is both important and intuitively obvious, such papers are clearly appropriate and worthwhile. (For others of this genre, see Revelle, 1974 and 1976; Farrell, et al., 1984; Hudson, 1989, and Waggoner, 1994.) In 1995 Joel Cohen nicely surveyed a host of these studies. With the exception of Cohen’s, however, these papers are flawed because most of them are based on an assumption (that is almost always unstated) that supplies of food are the most critical, most immediate.or ultimate limiting factor regulating or

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affecting our population. This assumption, which is routinely unstated and unchallenged, diminishes what are otherwise worthwhile papers authored by economists, statisticians, and demographers with limited expertise in biological systems. The most immediate danger to our planet, its natural systems, and our civilizations may not be food, and we may be distracting ourselves if we imagine that it is. It may be, for example, that our ultimate, more immediate, and most serious dangers lie in the physical damage we have inflicted, are inflicting, and will inflict on earth's biotic machinery, as well as the avalanches of our industrial and societal wastes. Biologists Campbell, Reece, and Mitchell (1999) observe that it is "possible that our population will eventually be limited by the [environment's limited capacity] to absorb the wastes and other insults imposed by humans." Vitousek, et al. (1997) make a similar point: "Often it is the waste products and byproducts of human activity that drive global environmental change." Similarly, "today's rapid relative and absolute increase in population stretches the...absorptive and recuperative capacities of the Earth...." (Cohen, 2002). As a result, we devote several later chapters to these alternate likelihoods. Demographic and Numeric Literacy The central contention of this chapter is this: There are certain biospheric, whole-system, and demographic "basics" that must be a part of every school and degree curriculum and our shared societal knowledge if we are to be functionally literate citizens in today's world. First, we must be demographically literate. Each of us must understand, on an ongoing basis, the number of births and deaths that take place on an average day, as well as the ap-

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Our math and science texts of this twenty-first century must ensure that chapter one and its opening pages introduce students to the numerics. data. In the same paper he observes that "genetic and demographic processes [also] have thresholds. and other limits and consider what happens when populations exceed them. deaths. the sclerenchyma cells of a plant.. If we are to address our impacts over the decades just ahead. and the enormous contrast between a million and a billion constitute an appropriate place to start. as well as our policymakers. journalists.. we examine thresholds. and leaders.. Births. in our science curricula.44 - . demographics. Similarly. Secondly. Mathematics texts of the last century targeted student mastery of polynomial expansions. most of us were probably taught too much about the physiology of a frog. and the revolving nosepiece of a microscope. . raise challenges to our civilizations and our planet that may be insurmountable. Euclidean geometry. we must each recognize the truly enormous numbers represented by each of our additional billions. society at large. Soule (1985) observes that "many. must be cognizant of the major concepts. net daily increase. and principles that Wecskaop sets forth and collates. and the breathtaking rapidity with which they are arriving. and biospherics that will shape their lives and the future of our planet. tipping points.proximate number of additional persons we add to our population as a result. multiplication tables. These enormous numbers. if not all ecological processes have thresholds" (another way of commenting on limits). and quadratic equations." In our later chapters.

our population was quite small compared to today's numbers. Here and there are scattered small settlements where our forebears are experimenting with a new way of life called agriculture. for the first time ever. Let us begin by visiting an early sunrise of civilization. What milestones brought us to this point? And where is our momentum taking us? In this chapter we trace significant milestones in humanity's demographic journey over the past ten thousand years. where are we now? Late in 1999. We have grown from two billion in 1930 to our seventh billion (2011) so that we have just added FIVE BILLION to our numbers in just eight decades . We don't have to be exact about the year or the number.45 - .with still MORE billions (numbers eight and nine) on-track to arrive by 2050. 8000 B. world population reached six billion and we now find ourselves witnessing the arrival of our seventh billion (2011).C. (c) Most of our population growth has taken place explosively in the lifetimes of persons now living. It is enough to under- . we find ourselves in the year 8. If we travel back ten thousand years.3 Civilization's Demographic Journey Demographically speaking. At this time. (b) Our numbers began to soar sharply upward in the 1800s.000 B. As we survey our demographic past. human population worldwide amounts to perhaps FIVE MILLION persons. and.C. we will see that: (a) For most of history.

It has been 1650 years since our last stop.C. (Notice the “doubling time” that characterized our species during this period. We now jump forward in time. . One A. Sometime around this period our worldwide numbers climb to about 250 MILLION.) 1830 – One Billion Our next leap brings us forward to 1830.S. We also see the splendor of the Renaissance and the great voyages of Magellan and Columbus.D. our numbers have doubled from 250 million to 500 million. As the centuries peel away. This number is smaller than the population of the U. for the first time ever. when we needed nearly 1. we will travel forward to the year 1650. world population amounts to approximately one BILLION individuals. we see the fall of Rome followed by the Middle Ages with their castles and plagues. and find ourselves in the times of pirates and Spanish treasure fleets.46 - .* This is a truly momentous milestone because. As we board our time machine for the next section of our journey.700 years to double our population.stand that earth was home to approximately five million people sometime around 8000 B. The world is still largely wilderness.D. Thousands upon thousands of years go by and we find ourselves in the Mediterranean basin in the year one A. or Europe alone in the modern world.D. This is just one-third the size of many of our large cities today. but human population now reaches a new historic high – we now number approximately 500 MILLION. but in the intervening centuries. 1650 A. Finally we arrive in 1650.

we have just added our SECOND billion in only one hundred years. however.By this time. Many persons still living today were alive to witness the year when we first reached this unprecedented second billion. Dramatic Changes We need to make another observation involving 1930: Even though it took all of human history until 1830 for us to reach our first billion.47 - . Something about our journey has changed. Something of utmost importance is happening: A species whose population had taken millennia to reach one billion has taken only one hundred years to add a second billion. the stock market has crashed. (* Interpolated from U. of course.S. and baseball games and radio broadcasts are the social threads that tie Americans together. Population data. and our rate of population growth has begun to accelerate. and families everywhere are battling to make ends meet during the Great Depression.) 1930 – Two Billion On this stop we find ourselves in the year 1930 and our numbers rush past still another critical milestone. we notice that our numbers have once again doubled.N. our doubling has taken place in less than two hundred years. Census Bureau and U. and the United States is waging war against the Seminole Indians of Florida. George Washington. At this pause in our journey. and Benjamin Franklin are all dead. we find ourselves in a world that is home to approximately TWO billion people. World War II and the music of Glenn Miller are only a decade away. Here we are and the roaring twenties have ended. . however. founders of our country such as Thomas Jefferson. This time. And in this year.

pesticides. In the world of the 1830s. with the help of antibiotics. (c) from advances in medicine. What has happened to cause this? Did families suddenly begin to have larger and larger numbers of children? No. families had large numbers of children but death rates were high. our doubling time has fallen to only one hundred years. By 1975 we find that human numbers continue to rocket upward. 1960 —Three Billion By now our demographic journey has brought us all the way forward in time to 1960. families still had large numbers of children. to add the newest billion. Kennedy is elected president of the United States. our population has surged to THREE billion. and yet we have suddenly reached FOUR billion.48 - .And this time. This time it took only thirty years. The number of births did not decline much. The great demographic acceleration that began in the 1830s resulted from: (a) advances in agriculture. At the time of our 1975 mile- . The cold war between the Soviet Union and the United States is underway and the two superpowers have just begun a space race. but advances in medicine dramatically lowered the death rate so that more of these children survived. And. and a post World War II baby boom. and most importantly. 1975 – Four Billion It is significant that the stops on our journey are now becoming more and more frequent. By the 1930s. from 1930 to 1960. This time just fifteen years have elapsed since our last stop. (b) the industrial revolution. . John F. but death rates fell sharply.

our journey brings us to our most recent milestone. we shouldn't be surprised since by 1987 earth had become home to FIVE billion of us. our rates of growth between 1975 and 1987 are unprecedented. three . and unrest. to.bill- .49 - . This time it has taken only twelve years to add still another billion to our numbers. social conditions. . along with infrastructure. On the world stage dramatic changes are underway in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. And elsewhere. dissatisfaction. In terms of sheer numbers. supplies of food and water. As populations in these nations continue to grow explosively. many people begin to notice that our roads. radicalization. more and more nations must strive frantically to find food and employment for their rapidly-growing populations. DOUBLE. helping to breed chaos. Gerald Ford is the president of the United States and both the Vietnam war and NASA's program of Apollo moon missions have ended. 1987 – Five Billion By 1987 our population continues to hurtle upward. our numbers. and parks are increasingly crowded. . from. and effective find themselves sitting atop a potential powder keg. schools. Actually. and services begin to deteriorate. lawlessness. we reach our SIXTH billion – and keep right on growing. As we near the year 2000. just forty years have been required (from three billion in 1960 to six billion in 2000) . In the poor and developing countries of the world. jobs. For all intents and purposes.stone. instability. Around the world. well-meaning. honest. 1999 – Six Billion Late in 1999. even leaders who are competent. Nothing like it has ever been seen in history.

axis Also notice that essentially all of our growth has taken place in the last two hundred years.8 billion by century’s end. .Medium projections to 2100 High projections to 2100 Human Population in billions Notice that we are rocketing upward along the y-axis of this graph.50 - . It fertility also seems worth noting that both J-curves impart an extraor n extraordinarily late-phase exponential look to each graph. Recent United Nations medium population projections estimate that our numbers will have surpassed nine billion by 2041 and their high-fertility projections estimate 15. and with the bulk of that growth having oc occurred since our population milestone of two billion in 1930.

And in the next twelve years we did it again. while nature and earth's natural systems had all of human history until 1830 to adjust to the impacts of our first billion. we now demand that they make the same adjustments (and more. find themselves in a world that is more than three times as crowded as that of their youth. because we are industrialized) – repeatedly – every twelve to fifteen years. to an increasingly crowded planet. And in less than 100 years we have grown from 1.51 - . 1987 and 1999. Thus. and those are numbers that we will come to regret. again and again in the decades just ahead. in their older years. And we have multiplied our numbers sixfold in less than 200 years. unabated.ion to six billion. now. Even though it took all of human history until 1830 for mankind to reach its first billion. Joel Cohen summarized our current conditions this way: "the size and speed of growth . our wastes. adding five additional billions. And we now seem fully prepared to add still further billions. On the near horizon we now see looming at least an eighth and ninth billion prepared to join us by 2041 – (and ten to fifteen billion may well arrive by the end of this century).8 billion to seven billion. Asking Natural Systems To Adjust The three most recent milestones in our journey (between 1975 and 1987. and our damage. That is where our momentum is taking us. And they underscore why we are such a dangerous and destabilizing force on our planet today when this has never been so in the past. and 1999-2011) underscore the way in which our time in history exceptionally different than any that our species has ever known. by 1987 we added a like amount in just twelve years. The World War II generation who began their lives in a world shared with only two billion other persons.

some writers seem complacent. quarterly earnings or economic theory). economics. rapid and large-scale changes are typically catastrophic. gambling our way through a dangerous experiment of global proportions. talk-show discussions. If natural systems are stressed now. eighth. Either such natural systems will continue to function or they will not. including some of the world’s top scientists. In the face of this explosion. no matter the outcome of our studies. Even though natural systems routinely respond to small changes over long periods of time. But for many others. Thus." and "collision course" when discussing it. the potential consequences are worrisome enough that many use terms such as "catastrophic. 1995). However. and congressional debates. Today's overpopulation and our continuing avalanche of additional growth is one of the defining characteristics of the times in which we live. education. the functioning of the natural world cares nothing about all of our talk -(Nor about markets.of the human population today have no precedent in all the Earth's history before the last half of the twentieth century” (Cohen. many young people living today may see this question answered in their lifetimes. what can we expect as our numbers reach our seventh.52 - . How many people can the earth support in the near term and over the long term without suffering irreparable damage? Unfortunately." "urgent. As citizens we can debate among ourselves important societal questions involving foreign policy. and ninth billions between now and mid-century? . and the environment. we now find ourselves at a critical hinge-point in history.

at some point.4 Carrying Capacity and Limiting Factors In this chapter we are going to consider limits. If a bus has enough seats for fifty passengers. each has an upper limit to the population that it can support. Why should we suppose that the earth's environmental machinery is invulnerable? Carrying Capacity How many individuals can a particular ecosystem [or planet] indefinitely support over a long period of time without suffering severe or irreparable damage? To scientists. Since ecosystems are finite in their size and resources. a critical system would fail. or twelve hundred. the answer to such a question constitutes the system's carrying capacity. . the transmission would fail. the axles would break. or the engine would blow a gasket. the tires would blow. we would all agree that we could crowd a few extra persons on board in an emergency. Imagine our planet as a global bus. or five thousand? Clearly.53 - . In all likelihood. The engine would overheat. the first system to be affected by crowding would be the restroom at the back of the bus which would overflow as the total amount of waste generated by the passengers overwhelmed its capacity to accommodate those wastes. each system has an upper limit to its ability to provide food. But how many extras could the vehicle accommodate? What if two hundred passengers climb aboard. Thus.

54 - . Joel Cohen points out that we have moved into ".. ecological processes have thresholds…. constitute critical boundaries in a system. and provide the assorted ecological services that allow a given population to exist." In a similar way.. What happens if an animal population exceeds its carrying capacity? What factors limit a population's ultimate size? In his book HOW MANY PEOPLE CAN THE EARTH SUPPORT? (1995).. Exceeding Carrying Capacities In a classic study of a “boom-and-bust” population explosion Scheffer (1951) followed a population of reindeer on St.have been anticipated and may be encountered.resources. should not be transgressed. 2002). elevators and aircraft have characteristic weight thresholds which. Hardin (1986) likens carrying capacity to an “engineer's…estimate of the carrying capacity of a bridge. and repair itself." and points out that "genetic and demographic processes" also have thresholds (ibid)... when exceeded. "the historically unprecedented population expansion in the poorest parts of the world continues largely unabated" and ". if not all. perpetuate. for safe operation." More recently we see that despite recently slowing population growth in the rich and most technologically advanced countries. In this chapter and throughout this book. where four-fifths of the world's population lives" (Bongaarts.a poorly charted zone where limits. we are addressing earth's carrying capacity for our own species. nearly all future global growth will be concentrated in the developing countries. Biologists also sometimes use the term "thresholds" to refer to limits that. maintain.as a consequence. resist damage. As Soule (1985) observes. "Many.. Paul .

The Rise and Fall of a Reindeer Herd on St. Paul Island, Alaska

The 40 square mile island had no wolves, predators, or major com competitors for the reindeer in the study. Notice the shape of the curve produced as the population grew over the years. Secondly, n pulation notice the collapse represented by the last data point in the graph in which n a 99% die-off concluded. Thirdly, the reindeer occupied less than two-1000ths of one percent of the area theoretically available to them at the time of the collapse so that the die-off took place even off as vast “amounts of open space” appeared to remain seemingly available. We will encounter this and similar patterns throughout this book. (No data were able to be collected during World War II.)
Graph is after Scheffer, V.B. 1951. The rise and fall of a reindeer herd. Scientific Monthly 73: 356-362.

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Island, Alaska from 1910 to 1950. The island had no wolves, predators, or major competitors so that the reindeer population exhibited approximately 28 years of relatively unrestricted and unfettered growth (see graph on previous page). The herd’s initial phase of exponential growth, however, was followed by a catastrophic die-off or collapse in which 99% of the herd died out by the close of the study. It is important to note that the herd occupied less than 2/1000ths of one percent of the area that appeared to remain theoretically-available as their collapse began, so that the die-off took place in an environment that was ALMOST ENTIRELY EMPTY. In a follow-up study to test Scheffer’s results, a second small reindeer population was introduced to Alaska’s St. Matthew Island under much the same conditions. When Klein (1968) reported on the fate of this second herd, the results were similar – and equally unsettling. Initially, Klein’s herd also grew exponentially until it too underwent an even more precipitous die-off in which 99% of the reindeer died over a one year period. Perhaps the most disconcerting aspect of these two studies is the following: A graph that traces our own population growth (see page 50) not only mimics the pattern seen in the climb-and-collapse of the two reindeer herds, but our own pattern of growth (which is not just exponential but is “hyperexponential”) is both more pronounced and far more extreme than that seen in both reindeer herds as they neared collapse. We devote multiple later chapters to these considerations and their implications. Limiting Factors Scientists recognize a variety of limiting factors that play a role in regulating the ultimate size of a population in a given environment. And while finite supplies of essential resources

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such as food and water are sometimes important, they are not the only factors that determine a system's carrying capacity. There are many other important factors, for instance, that act to limit a population’s size. As one example, we have already seen that the absence of wolves, bears, and competing species allowed the reindeer herds in the two Alaskan experiments to grow far beyond the carrying capacities of their environments. As a general rule, as populations become larger and increasingly crowded, increasing competition occurs between individuals and between species. Thus, among birds, there may be competition for a limited number of nesting sites, and marine tunicates and sponges may compete for limited attachment sites on a pier piling or offshore rocks. Similarly, ever-larger populations are an invitation to sanitation problems and/or to an increasing likelihood of epidemic disease. (e.g., Odum, 1959). Still other limiting factors, such as predation, commonly play a critical role in regulating the size of a population. As one example, Paine (1966; 1969) described the role of the predatory sea star, Pisaster, in regulating the abundance of various prey species in rocky intertidal marine habitats. A similar pattern is also seen in the role of sea otters that prey upon and thereby regulate, sea urchin populations in California's kelp beds (e.g., Estes and Palmisano, 1974; Duggins, 1980). Even hormonal, adrenal, and physiological stresses can act as limiting factors. For example, crowded populations often exhibit increases in aggression and infant mortality, along with hormonal and physiological stress responses. Some studies have shown, for instance, that "rabbits, when crowded, ex-

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hibit a shock disease...with enlarged adrenals, a breakdown in the adrenopituitary system, and a whole-sale die-off" (Christian, 1950, 1956; Christian and Davis, 1964; Calhoun, 1962). Damaging the Physical Environment As populations become larger and/or more crowded, they often degrade or inflict damaging changes to their physical environment. Each ecosystem has an ability to maintain itself and resist or heal physical damage, but these capabilities have limits. For example, when lakes and ponds undergo eutrophication,* they demonstrate damaging changes that are inflicted by the populations that they host. If plants and other autotrophs living in a lake or pond are nourished with abundant nutrients (e.g.- from animal wastes or fertilizers) they respond with a burst of exuberant growth. The problem is, dissolved oxygen levels in the water are limited. Each night at dusk, even though photosynthetic production of oxygen ceases, the crowded and over-abundant populations living in the pond continue consuming the limited supply of O2 all night long.
* Eutrophication constitutes an over-fertilized condition resulting from fertilizer run-off or animal wastes, etc.

In this case, heterotrophic microbes utilize the available “O2 faster than it can be replenished,” resulting in “complete depletion of O2" (Prescott, 1999). When this happens, the pond or lake becomes anoxic (without oxygen), thereby suffocating essentially all aerobic populations in the pond. Thus, in this case we see calamitous changes that result from too many organisms drawing on a limited resource.*
* Also notice that the problem above is not due to limited supplies of food and nutrients. Instead, in this instance, extra nutrients actually serve to fuel the growth that leads to depletion of O2.

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Damage to the physical environment can also be inflicted by vertebrate animals like ourselves. We see, for example, that when elephants are confined to small areas, they destroy the very trees and vegetation needed for sustenance. In the same way, when predator populations were reduced near the Grand Canyon in the early 1900s, local deer populations exploded and began to consume "...every leaf of available vegetation" (Odum, 1959). Nearly everywhere we look and nearly everywhere we travel, we see evidence that our own species is inflicting physical and chemical damage to earth's ecosystems and to our physical, climatic, and biological environments. . A Limited Capacity to Accept Wastes It is intuitively obvious to most of us that the carrying capacity of a particular environment can be limited by the amount of food and other resources a population requires. However, carrying capacities can also be limited by the ability of an environment to accept and process the wastes of a given population. For example, in a population of yeast, Gause (1932) cited alcohol's effects on new cells as the limiting factor. Similarly, as Stiling has observed (2002) "It is interesting that in this situation population growth was limited by pollution of the environment by alcohol [and] not by limiting resources.” Continuing, he notes that many people “think the same will be true of humans" (ibid). In the case of humans, of course, the wastes of our bodies, our biological wastes, generally constitute a minimal threat to the earth's environment. On the other hand, the cumulative impacts of our industrial and societal wastes (including chlorofluorocarbons, heavy metals, radioactive nuclear wastes and rising levels of greenhouse gases) represent significant challenges to global systems. As William Catton once observed,

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we are "already suffering the plight of yeast cells in the wine vat. Accumulation of the noxious and toxic extrametabolites of high-energy industrial civilization [has] become a world problem" (Catton, 1982). Our point is this: Although it is quite appropriate to consider finite supplies of food, water, and critical resources as factors that limit a species to some ultimate population size, we are guilty of error if we allow those topics to be the only focus of our concern. On a passenger bus, it is easy to recognize a finite supply of available seating as a limiting factor that affects the vehicle's ultimate capacity. But if we were to actually crowd additional passengers onto, for example, a tour bus, while the seating might become more crowded and increasingly uncomfortable, the vehicle might still lumber forward, even with a load of one hundred or more. . Possible Implications for Us On the other hand, that restroom at the back of the bus is easy to overlook until actual crowding takes place. Even though the transmission, axles, seating, brakes, and engine might be stressed by one hundred or more passengers, those systems might manage to struggle onward under the load. That restroom, however, might not respond so well. Assuming a long trip, one can imagine overwhelming its capacity by the presence of as few as sixty or seventy passengers. . Upon reflection, we can see that this scenario might apply to earth. If we assess the collective impacts we have right now, with a population in excess of seven billion, a lot of the stresses we see are the result of our societal and industrial wastes. Food and other resource shortages may be out there on the horizon as looming problems, but earth's ability to accept, re-

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cycle, cleanse, and dissipate our avalanche of societal and industrial wastes (such as CO2) appears to be stressed already. In their text BIOLOGY (1999), Campbell, Reece, and Mitchell express a similar caution: "It is... possible that our population will eventually be limited by the capacity of the environment to absorb the wastes and other insults imposed by humans." Joel Cohen has made a similar appraisal: "Today's rapid relative and absolute increase in population stretches the productive, absorptive, and recuperative capacities of the earth" (1995). Still others, such as Raven and Johnson (1999), remind us that "the world ecosystem is already under considerable stress." Thus, if we allow ourselves to focus exclusively on food supplies, which too many previous studies have done (see, for example, Revelle, 1976), we may distract our attention from other critically important aspects of our problem. In his book OVERSHOOT, William Catton wrote: "...the capacity of the world's oceans, continents, and atmosphere to absorb the substances [Homo sapiens] must put somewhere in the process of living is limited. Even as a waste [pollution] disposal site, the world is finite" (1982). The Open-space Delusion When discussing population limits, we are often tempted to suggest that a growing population may eventually "run out of space." We argue that such appraisals require clear specificity lest they be misleading. The term "space," for example, technically refers to a mathematical area or volume. The resulting problem then, is this: The term carrying capacity does not refer to the sheer number of individuals whose bodies can be physically squeezed into a given area or volume.

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First, among mammals, the two experiments with reindeer herds on Alaskan islands resulted, in each case, in a population explosion that was immediately followed by a catastrophic die-off, with 99% mortality in both cases. Furthermore, in both cases the die-off in both reindeer populations occurred even though each herd had vast amounts of “open space” remaining at the time of the collapse. For example, the St. Paul Island herd (page55) collapsed even when more than 99.99% of the island remained theoretically available to them. Thus, envisioning quantities of “open space” as a standard by which to quantify earth’s carrying capacity for an industrialized humanity constitutes a dangerously erroneous supposition. . ..... To clarify this point further, imagine a national park in Africa and its carrying capacity for lions. Although the enormous measured areas of a large reserve might allow us to physically squeeze hundreds of thousands or even millions of lions into such a park, to sustain even small numbers of lions, there must be vast game herds with populations large enough to allow a harvestable surplus of zebra and wildebeest. ....... These vast game herds, in turn, require enormously greater expanses of grasslands to sustain their grazing and seasonal migrations, along with adequate supplies of water. As a result, approximately 250 square kilometers of "open-space" are required to support a small population of about fifteen adult lions and their young. Thus, to suggest that millions of lions might occupy a reserve simply because its mathematical dimensions can physically accommodate their bodies would constitute a gross misrepresentation of biospheric reality. .... It is clear that attachment sites for marine invertebrates such as sponges and bryozoans might, in one sense, be considered "space-limited" resources. And, to establish nature reserves for conservation purposes, expansive quantities of "space" are

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Soule. and some cases of hormonal. aggression.. for example. the occupants of a eutrophic (over-fertilized) lake or pond can induce lake-wide anoxic conditions (a lethal depletion of dissolved oxygen) even though the volume physically occupied by their bodies and cells constitutes an insignificant proportion of the total volume available.63 - . populations of dinoflagellate cells routinely poison hundreds of square kilometers of the sea even as the cells themselves occupy volumetrically insignificant portions of the “space” in which they live (chapter eleven addresses this phenomenon in detail). territorial disputes. the sheer physical dimensions (area or volume) of available space.are usually too small to contain viable populations of large carnivores" (Soule. We have already seen. physiological. A yeast population. not just intuitively-obvious limiting factors such as supplies of food and water. incorporate other more-immediate limiting factors that operate and exert their influences within that space.. 1985). observes that even the largest nature reserves and national parks today ".* Likewise.essential if viable populations are to persist... while necessary. However. nor its seas are so immense as we might initially suppose. but also predation. which means that the apparently “vast open spaces” of the American west or the Australian outback or the Mongolian steppes are largely irrelevant. * Chapter six demonstrates that niether earth’s atmosphere . ... poisons its grape juice environment with ethanol while occupying a volumetrically insignificant portion of the bottle in which it resides. competition between and within species.. Hence... while chapter eleven assesses the "open-space delusion. for example. waste accumulation. for example." . environmental damage. and/or behavioral dysfunction. disease. Similarly.. the sheer amount of available “space” is seldom biology’s central limiting factor.

streams.. armadillo. squirrel. . cat. expansive grasslands.. Upon reflection. orangutan. manatee. rivers.64 - . the size of Minnesota. the ensuing chaos and carnage resulting from movement. Secondly. and rhino shoulder to shoulder into an area the size of Minnesota. such statements omit enough key considerations that they render themselves invalid. we could squeeze all of earth's wildlife populations shoulder to shoulder into a geographic area "X. chimpanzee. Imagine. it would be entirely unrealistic and absurd to suppose it to have any relationship at all with real-world systems. the scenario leaves no allowance for the sheer physical damage and waste products generated by all of those organisms.Shoulder to Shoulder One occasionally encounters blogs or talk show discussions in which a little mathematics is used to suggest that "all the people on our planet could stand shoulder to shoulder in an area the size of Minnesota. elephant. or the waters. squirrel. In order to evaluate such comments." for argument's sake. food. mountain lion. komodo dragon. (and as pages 127-135 will show). First of all. they are actually founded upon exactly the same fallacious “available open space” ideas that we have just been addressing. aggression. such a scenario leaves no room for the woodlands and forests. Even if this could somehow be done in a grotesquely physical sense.. grains. bird. buffalo." While such statements may initially sound persuasive. then. squeezing every horse. sea lion. And thirdly.. tiger. however.. whale. and specialized habitat niches needed to support those populations. mathematically speaking. dog. and predator-prey interactions would be unimaginable. we might begin with a modified version as follows: Suppose someone suggests that. .. cow. competition. giraffe. musk oxen. for example.

Examples of these include accelerating emissions of greenhouse gases. Why? Because they ask us to presume that the physical "amount of space" constitutes the principle limiting factor affecting our species. collapsing fisheries. climatic. disappearing polar ice. and an imminent mass extinction that may become the greatest biological disaster since the disappearance of the dinosaurs (e. The Global Dashboard A passenger bus has warning lamps on its dashboard that light up to indicate trouble. acid precipitation. Pimm. falling water tables. On earth today.. ozone depletion. dead-zones in the sea.g. melting permafrost. statements that imagine crowding all of humanity shoulder to shoulder into geographic area "Z" are just as fallacious. it would be more appropriate to ask how many people can live in Minnesota on a long-term basis (many generations) if they must rely solely on the resources and waste-cleansing capacity of that state alone.In the same way. . massive deforestation in the tropics.). 2007. and environmental machinery survive the cumulative impacts of our ever-expanding numbers? We don't know the exact answers to these questions yet.65 - . but children now living are likely to find out. disappearing wilderness. IPCC. 2001. waste-cleansing. To achieve a more realistic appraisal of a carrying capacity. desertification. we already see a disconcerting number of warning lights beginning to light up the global dashboard. etc. what will happen when that portion of humanity who are not yet industrialized attempt to emulate our own standard of living? And what will happen if we add the stresses of additional billions over the next thirty years? How long can earth's biological. If our planet already shows so many signs of stress with our present population of seven billion people.

however. Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas Friedman cites a Conservation International estimate that a “forest area the size of three hundred soccer fields is cut down in Indonesia every hour” (Friedman. and the Philippines will "have a particularly high impact on biodiversity" (ibid). Similarly. she points out that "every year humans destroy an area of forest equivalent to the size of Oklahoma. 90% of the nonhuman primates. Jenkins adds: "almost all wild lands in the tropics will be impoverished in numbers and diversity of larger animal species" and concludes that continuing loss of forests in Indonesia. with billions of additional human passengers boarding. 2003). will be by and large extremely scarce and some will have disappeared entirely" (Jenkins. 1996). and Eichhorn: "As many as 40. et al. 2008).. 1986). ". Sylvia Mader explains that today "two-thirds of the plant species. We hear similar concerns expressed by Raven. for example.. By mid-century.. and 90% of the insects live in the tropics" (Mader. about five percent of the native plant species are in current danger of extinction" (Raven. At this rate.000 species of tropical plants may be in danger of extinction in the wild within the next several decades" while "in temperate regions. these forests and the species they contain will disappear completely in just a few more decades" (ibid). Likewise. 40% of birds of prey.66 - . Today. and particularly large predators. Madagascar. Other species occupy much of the available seating. that suffering will be self-inflicted. If our own species suffers because of our own actions or inactions. Continuing. But what about all the other passengers aboard our bus? Do other species have a right to exist? Is it our right to drive them .large species. Continuing.Other Passengers We are not alone on our global bus. these other species are being displaced at an accelerating rate. Evert.

. we see squirrels that compete with birds for birdseeds. and rapacious humanity – along with the economic engines of our wealthiest societies – lays waste to the natural world at a rate unparalleled in human history. poor. if any. And in such a competition. however. Which.. a hungry.to extinction? Or does there exist a moral imperative to preserve our biotic inheritance and the fabric of life on earth? . we see vines that compete with trees for sunlight.. Today. In Africa. humans compete with wildlife for wilderness. At the edge of a forest. and destroy to the maximum extent possible? .67 - . species will survive the holocaust that is now underway? What portion of earth's biota will we drive to extinction in the years just ahead? We devote three later chapters (17-19) to such questions and their implications.. In the backyards of our homes. pollute. Closing Questions and a Recommendation How far can we push natural systems before they break? How many people can the earth support? At what standard of living? How many should it support? Do other species have a right to exist or should all of earth's resources be used to support humans alone? Do future generations have any rights to resources and raw materials? Or is it the right of generations now living to consume all such materials entirely and leave the poisonous wastes for someone else to clean up later? Do future generations have a right to inherit an intact planet with functioning ecosystems and the biodiversity that we inherited when we arrived? Or is it the right of those of us now living (or of our economic and corporate entities) to consume. wildlife and wilderness stand no chance. Similar instances of competition exist throughout the natural world. Today. hyenas compete with lions for a carcass.

biology. including the possibility. . social scientists. atmospheric science. political scientists. botany. ecology.68 - .What happens when a population overshoots the carrying capacity of its environment? What evidence will we see when such overshoot has occurred or is occurring? Might humanity be in an overshoot mode already – right now? (We are. from their role in regulating our populations? Is our species currently undergoing a population phenomenon known as ecological release? What price is to be paid if we continue on our present course? Is it reasonable to expect natural and biospheric systems subjected to 75-90% levels of degradation and/or eradication to continue to function as they have always done in the past? The National Academy of Sciences should immediately empanel a team to evaluate such questions of overshoot. likelihood. public health. and statisticians. and antibiotics suppressed our chief predators. the members of the panel should be well-represented by natural scientists specializing in population biology. marine science.) What happens to other species when they overshoot the carrying capacity of their environments? To what extent have our advances in medicine. and consequences. pathogenic microbes. life extension. and chemistry -. in our opinion. zoology. And. in the event that our present overshoot of earth's carrying capacity continues over the half-century ahead. economists.as opposed to demographers.

degradation. we begin to understand that earth's living systems provide important ecological services that some theorists erroneously assume will always unfailingly carry on their biospheric and biological functions with "business as usual" regularity no matter how much abuse. And they have taken place for so long and are so ubiquitous that most of us simply take them for granted. while others moderate our climate.a kind of "free work" that has virtually irreplaceable economic and ecological value. .5 Ecological Services and Ecological Release Living things perform a host of indispensable ecological services that are useful for us . pollinate the plants that produce our food and oxygen. generate our rainfall. Still others help break down. the very fact that such systems help maintain life on our planet should be sufficient reason to save and protect them. Some such ecological services provide us with food and oxygen. and fertilize our soils. however. Like many important things in our lives. if we do nothing more than evaluate earth's biota in a completely selfish way. and survival value. If living systems had no economic value whatsoever. cleanse.69 - . and eradication we heap upon them. and recycle wastes. looking for the economic and practical benefits they afford us. we will miss them most when they are gone. These and many other types of "free work" have practical economic. However. environmental.

these plant compounds were found to be powerful weapons in treating Hodgkin's lymphoma and acute leukemia. Rainforests. of course. et al. while today 90% of such patients survive (ibid). for example. 1999). weed-like flower called the "periwinkle" (Catharanthus roseus) produces vincristine and vinblastine. This transpiration process is so efficient. an average-sized maple tree releases 200 liters of water per hour into the atmosphere (Campbell. The plants of earth’s rainforests and their pollinators also help maintain nature's genetic storehouse of pharmaceuticals. they help combat the greenhouse effect by removing billions of tons of carbon dioxide from earth's atmosphere.. disease resistance." with still others. Before researchers discovered the lowly periwinkle's medicinal secrets. et al.70 - . Sylvia Mader (1996) notes that “one-fourth of the medicines we currently use come from tropical forests. In addition. as well as vascular plants in general. For example. Pharmaceuticals. abundant yields. a chemical used as a muscle relaxant during open-heart surgery (Raven. salt-tolerance. And the unimposing. During the summer in temperate latitudes. 1986). and Rainfall Through photosynthesis..Food. Forests. approximately 80% of patients afflicted with Hodgkin's lymphoma died. . derived from marine organisms and/or microbes. that water that is in the soil in the . one species of rainforest plant synthesizes D-tubocurarine chloride. and temperature-tolerance to our crops. vigor. make their own rain each day by the transpiration of tons and tons of water.. In the 1960s. Wild plant populations also constitute a vast repository of genes and genetic information that scientists can use to impart drought-tolerance. also help generate rainfall and maintain climate. plants produce the food that we eat and the oxygen that we breathe. Oxygen.

Wilson writes.71 - . even in completely protected reserves” (ibid). when we cut down the trees of a rainforest. for example. Thus. is home to 1300 species of butterflies. In addition. as biologist Edward O. they are home to earth’s greatest store of biodiversity – from lowland gorillas and chimpanzees to forest elephants and Sumatran rhinos. through their photosynthesis. transpiration of water into the atmosphere is diminished accordingly and the rainforest further deteriorates as the climate becomes ever drier. and rapid clearing is underway. The Lungs of the World The vast Amazon rainforest and other wet tropical forests of the world are so old. Water moves up through the plant bodies at rates up to fifteen meters per hour (ibid). He notes that the moist tropical forests of Indonesia “may be closely approaching the critical damage levels predicted by theory. mathematical models “suggest that a tipping point exists that…could cause the forest ecosystem to collapse” (2002). referring to the forests of Borneo in 2002. . We thus see an ecological service in which undisturbed ecosystems help maintain both rainfall and climate. and be pulled from its leaves and into the atmosphere in time to fall as rain that same afternoon. and “exhaling” billions of tons of the atmospheric O2 that we breathe. and so extensive in area. travel up the plant body. Just one corner of Peru’s Manu National Park. Yet.morning can enter a plant's roots. Wilson reports that “many of the dipterocarp species have failed to reproduce at all since 1991. Eighty percent of the forest cover has been committed to logging and replacement by oil palm and other plantations. that they are sometimes described as “the lungs of the world” – taking in many billions of tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and.” Similarly.

thence down all the way to the sea. between 1965 and 1995 the water table beneath Beijing fell 121 feet. beginning in 1972. 1995). estuarine. when undisturbed. support massive annual salmon runs. et .. but simply harvest their produce each year. as far inland as the capital. In other words.4 million pounds" (Meadows. for example. crabs. In America’s Midwest. and if we do not over-harvest the biota that they produce. oysters. while up to 80% of [China’s] major rivers no longer support fish (ibid). marine. bluefin tuna declined 94% and "the shrimp catch off the Florida keys. and seas. Over a span of twenty years.72 - . Jinan. 2002). and fish. clams. But all is not well in our rivers. the underground waters of the Oglala aquifer are used to irrigate North America’s “breadbasket of the world. and freshwater biomes produce shrimp and other seafood for us each year. tend. marine fisheries are also in trouble. And at the same time. “the river stopped flowing for 130 days.” and. And in China. lakes. We do not have to plant. for example. oceans.. wild northern rivers. or fertilize these systems.” yet aquifer water levels are falling as water is pumped faster than it is replenished (Cohen. Marine Fisheries Meanwhile.Estuaries and Aquifers Marine estuaries such as salt marshes and tropical mangrove estuaries act as "nurseries" for a host of important marine creatures such as shrimp. in 1997. “the Yellow River channel has gone bone dry almost yearly through part of its course in Shandong Province. All these systems carry out all this work for us for free – if we just leave them alone. At the same time. [and] then restarted and stopped again through the year for a record total of 226 dry days” (Wilson.4 million pounds per year to 2. declined from 6.

by the early 1990s. as well as sonar. it is equally likely that we will use our technologies and ingenuity in ways that amplify our adverse impacts. 1992). see also Pimm. fishermen and the number of nations that exploit the resource. and drift nets that are thirty miles long (Meadows. Back then. Problematic Aspects of the "Technology Will Save Us" Supposition Certain economic apologists invite us to suppose that. satellite tracking... refrigerated processing boats. 2001)..al. then.. does one go about destroying a fishery that flourished for nearly four hundred years? First. and Genetic Libraries Oceanographers learned long ago that phytoplankton in marine and aquatic habitats produce half or more of the atmospheric O2 that we breathe and play important roles in global . for example. But in reality. 1992. one could make a lot of quick profits by working out the most efficient way ". with the creative use of newer technologies. one can use technology. As another example. Today it might take up to eighty nets.. the average codfish in the spring would probably be 25 to 40 pounds. also Pimm. Plankton. 2001). and human ingenuity to make a company's fishing fleets more efficient at finding and catching fish than the fish are at reproducing and maturing. If one works at it. Now its 5 to 8 pounds" (see Dumanoski. Then equip each fleet with cutting-edge technology such as satellites to spot and track each school of fish. How. what might be expected to happen when practitioners harvest a population faster than its ability to replenish itself). no matter what population and environmental troubles may arise. 1988. One fisherman at the time told the Boston Globe: "I remember catching 5000 pounds of fish in eight nets.73 - . after all. increase the number of boats. or which allow us to make things worse more efficiently and at an even faster rate.to find and catch every last fish" (Meadows. et al. Cycling. somehow mankind's ingenuity and technologies can always be expected to ride in at the last instant to save us from ourselves. it was becoming clear that New England's four-hundred-year-old cod fishery was facing collapse (which is. 1992). et al. In fact.

and successional interactions" (Prescott. Caution alone counsels conservation of the wilderness. Several key genera of bacteria. et al. microbes. soils. we can now access and read thousands of genes of potential use in agriculture. This service supplies the nitrogen atoms needed to synthesize essential molecules of life such as DNA.” Microorganisms are essential components of every ecosystem and perform a host of ecological services. and forests that house and sustain these storehouses and not allow them to be destroyed for short-term economic gain.74 - . and iron" (ibid). RNA.. industry. et al. 1999). proteins. With the advent of DNA sequencing. And many of these genes also constitute remnants of ancient metabolic pathways. amino acids.temperature and cloud cover regimes.so long as we leave them alone and do not destroy the web of life that allows them to exist. Importantly. reefs. microbes and fungi help decompose and recycle our wastes and play other "essential roles in the transformation of carbon. Earth's biota have provided such services to our planet and to humanity for millennia and they will continue to do so in the future -. thereby fertilizing earth's crops. for example. and dozens of others In addition. the compound's oxidation products "can influence. . (1999) explain that the cycling of sulfur in the world’s oceans includes a compound called dimethyl sulfide (DMS) an algal osmolite which can escape into the atmosphere and which comprises 90% of the volatile sulfur compounds in the sulfur cycle. lock atmospheric nitrogen into nitrates that are utilized by plants. sulfur. Organisms are also repositories of a vast genetic library that is housed in the DNA of all living things. and wildlands – for free. For example.. "playing roles in biogeochemical cycling. nitrogen. and medical genetics.. Prescott. earth's temperature and cloud formation. decomposition processes. enzymes.

As an example.75 - . A bacterium." (ibid). 1997). sites that are "." Recent estimates indicate that about ten percent of U. Strontium-90 and cesium-137. and. et al.. providing an imaginative tool for the emerging discipline of restoration ecology (ibid). along with metals such as cobalt. allowing the contaminants to be recovered from the ash.. Recently. 1999). and copper have been recovered in this way. Pollinating Crops and Rainforests Other important ecological services involve the role of bees.so contaminated that not even weeds grow have been planted with 3100 hybrid poplar trees" (Dobson. zinc. imagine at- .S. Today.There are also other practical benefits that humanity derives from life's metabolic diversity... that allow us to recover "…up to 70% of the copper in low-grade ores. Repeated crops are grown on the contaminated soils. et. al. gave us the enzyme used in polymerase chain reactions (Prescott. This use of plants to remove metals and radionuclides from soils is known as phytoextraction. hummingbirds. butterflies. Today. lead. too. copper is obtained by “bioleaching ore through the activity of bacteria such as Thiobacillus. As an example. the biotechnology known as the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is used to synthesize multiple copies of tiny DNA samples.. and similar organisms in the pollination of essentially all of earth's flowering plants. when harvested. for example. life on earth would be profoundly different without the tireless "free work" of such species. the biomass is incinerated. Another process called bioleaching employs populations of the bacterium Thiobacillus ferrooxidans. techniques have emerged that utilize plant hybrids to help decontaminate soils and mine tailings polluted with heavy metals and various organics.. Thermus aquaticus..

The above account of jackrabbit numbers illustrates a biological phenomenon known as ECOLOGICAL RELEASE . ranchers put out poisoned carcasses to kill the coyotes. a population explosion of jackrabbits occurred in Wyoming.which is a population explosion that occurs when a key predator or competitor is removed from a system.by hand. One lesson this offers is this: Even though coyotes kill an occasional sheep. each year. Sea Otters and Ecological Release Living things also help control pest populations. Or try to imagine the cost of pollinating by hand. however.000plus species of flowering plants (including many forest trees. To reduce these losses. Archival film footage from the era also depicts similar outbreaks of thousands of jackrabbits re- . all the coffee trees in Brazil. as long as we do not destroy the species and systems that allow it to occur. each year. and plants such as orchids. When the coyotes died. and it is accomplished free of charge. Newspapers ran the story along with a photograph of a family attacking a swarm of jackrabbits with baseball bats. II . rakes. it turns out that jackrabbits make up one of their favorite foods. all the vegetables in California's truck farms. the local jackrabbit populations soon underwent a population explosion. many agricultural crops.76 - . dust storms suffocated cattle when their lungs became coated with dust. all the cacao trees in Africa. During the dust bowl years in Oklahoma. all the orange groves in Florida. and brooms. and the rainforests of the world) . and all the olive trees in southern Europe.Jackrabbits. the bulk of earth's 250.tempting to pollinate. During one summer not too long ago. What had happened? Some ranchers were concerned because coyotes were occasionally killing some of their sheep. All of this work represents an ecosystem service that benefits humans and all other life on earth. shotguns.

shrimplike krill underwent ecological release as a result. but among their favorites are sea urchins. Humans and Ecological Release These accounts of ecological release in the natural world help us to understand ourselves. populations of miniature." Then. Because sea otter populations fell. Estes and Palmisano. But the predators that did most to hold our past numbers in check were the pathogens that . as the urchin population skyrocketed. 1974). How could fewer sea otters possibly reduce kelp beds? It turns out that sea otters feed on a number of marine organisms. their numbers increased explosively. Having seen ecological release in other species. many predators and competitors existed. Another example of ecological release took place in California. but also its coyotes. many of the state’s offshore kelp beds also began to disappear. 1980. we can now see that this same thing has happened to our own species over the past two centuries. when populations of California sea otters began to decline.sulting from an ecological release that occurred when severe dust storms suffocated not just the region’s cattle. thousands of urchins began to decimate offshore kelp beds (Duggins. which are pincushion-like animals that crawl about on the sea floor grazing on things such as kelp. The krill were the principle food of the baleen whales. An example of important competitors are those insect populations that compete with us for our crops. and in the absence of predation.77 - . sea urchin populations underwent an "ecological release. as fleets of mechanized whale ships decimated earth’s populations of baleen whales (driving many whale species to near extinction). In the mid-twentieth century. For our ancestors. During the mid-1900s.

to double every aspect of their infrastructure in short two-or-three decade spans of time. today. is this: Our own population explosion is not a localized event. Ecological release often has unanticipated ramifications and impacts. instability. chaos. a localized event. in many parts of Asia. Africa. lawlessness. This was largely due to a decline in the death rate" (Mader. An Experiment With “Biosphere 2” Suppose that we label our functioning planet earth with its life. We just saw. for poverty. With each advance in medicine and agriculture. the world’s most developed countries "doubled their populations between 1850 and 1950. As Mader points out. While the sea urchin population explosion was enormous. they too were localized.” How resilient are its living and environmental systems? And could a miniature. Thus. and the Middle East. it would seem. our species has escaped the natural influences that once controlled our numbers. The problem. humanitarian crises. must somehow find a way. self-contained duplicate be built that might support . A sure recipe. and its climatic stability as a self-contained “BIOSPHERE 1. its multitudes of interacting species. which are far behind already. and with each new pesticide and antibiotic. and failed states.78 - . And even though its effects were also enormous. it is planet-wide in both its scope and implications. at least. as well as the money. Instead. some nations. enclosed. for example. however. it was.cause disease. that when California’s sea urchins underwent release. their exploding populations began to destroy the offshore kelp beds in which they lived. Today many of the world’s poorest nations are doubling their populations in as little as 25-30 years. even though most Western nations had approximately one hundred years to adjust to their growing populations. 1996).

79 - . grasslands. deserts. oxygen had to be pumped in. and marshes. the surface of Mars? Could human ingenuity construct a miniaturized system that would mimic the functioning of the earth’s living systems as a whole? As an experiment to test these ideas. water. Finally. researchers Joel Cohen and David Tilman reported the initial findings. Over the next few years. eight human “biospherians” entered the enclosure to begin a twoyear sojourn physically sealed off from the outside world. ponds. almost all of them) “had no future beyond the lifetime of the individuals already present” (ibid). oceans. Meanwhile. in 1991.a team of astronauts on. some of which we summarize below: In sixteen months. and waste-cleansing machinery that they would need to survive would have to come from the plants. (If all pollinator . with large daily and seasonal oscillations even as N2O levels in the atmosphere rose to concentrations that could impair or damage the human brain. more than 75% of the vertebrate animal species went extinct as did a majority of introduced insect species. animals. This meant that every plant species dependent upon insect or animal pollinators (in other words. The air. a 3. Services That Most People Take for Granted During the experiment. and microbes that inhabited Biosphere 2 with them. Shockingly (your author’s term) every one of the pollinator species became extinct. for example. carbon dioxide levels skyrocketed. In an article entitled Biosphere 2 and Biodiversity: The Lessons So Far (1996). food.15 acre enclosed dome called BIOSPHERE 2 was constructed in Arizona beginning in 1984. the closed system was fitted with miniaturized versions of rainforests. oxygen levels fell from 21% to 14% so that before the experiment ended in 1993.

Finally.species become extinct. cockroaches. abundant yields. and cleanse and recycle wastes.) On the other hand. No one yet knows how to engineer systems that provide humans with the life-supporting services that natural systems produce for free. They help fertilize earth's soils. And the vines were so aggressive that they threatened to overgrow and kill other plant species including the food crops needed to support the humans. Cohen and Tilman thus report their major retrospective conclusions as follows: “At present there is no demonstrated alternative to maintaining the viability of the earth. when studied with ingenuity. the ecosystem involved faces looming collapse. and moderate conditions on our planet.80 - . They generate clouds and rainfall and moderate our climate. they pro- .” Ecological Services – Ecological Release This chapter shows that living things perform a host of ecological services that help maintain life. They remove billions of tons of carbon dioxide from earth's atmosphere. personal efforts to maintain ecosystems services that most people take for granted in natural ecosystems. pollinate our crops and rainforests. the biospherians “had to make enormous. often heroic. and vigor to our crops. natural systems. and especially crazy ants (Paratrichina longicornus) were running everywhere. They provide the oxygen that we breathe and the food that we eat. They control pests and provide the genetic resources we employ to impart drought-resistance. “even these efforts did not suffice to keep the closed system safe for humans or viable for many nonhuman species” (ibid). To survive and complete the experiment.” yet. They provide us with compounds that benefit agriculture and serve as pharmaceuticals. populations of certain species such as katydids.

this chapter has introduced examples of ecological release. Solitude. These examples underscore the following: The ecological services performed by earth’s biota have economic. for the mere purpose of enabling it to support a larger but not a better or a happier population. I sincerely hope. for the sake of posterity. Other species have provided services like these to our planet for millions of years – and they will continue to do so in the future so long as we do not destroy the web of life that allows them to exist. In his famous book. It is not good for man to be kept perforce at all times in the presence of his species. If the earth must lose that great portion of its pleasantness. Advances in medicine. that the unlimited increase of wealth and population would extirpate from it. and pollute earth’s air. long before necessity compels them to it. Despite their importance. that they will be content to be stationary. and soils with our societal wastes. and survival value. Finally. and agriculture have allowed our species to temporarily escape the pressures of disease that once held our numbers in check..vide us with tools we can use in fields as diverse as biotechnology or restoring polluted soils.81 - . medical. Principles of Political Economy (1848). consume the products of civilization. And all of these impacts will assuredly worsen as seven.. eight. today earth’s systems are under unprecedented assault as we log and eradicate forests. health care. stripmine the sea of its living resources. though all be amply supplied with food and raiment. A world from which solitude is extirpated is a very poor ideal. water. and solitude in the presence of natural beauty and grandeur. . and the population explosion we have experienced in the last 180 years constitutes a classical example of ecological release. genetic. climatic. the British philosopher John Stuart Mill wrote with eloquence about another important ecological service: A population may be too crowded. but which society could ill do without. in the sense of being often alone. agricultural. is the cradle of thoughts and aspirations which are not only good for the individual. is essential to any depth of meditation or of character. and nine billions of us amplify our impacts by 2050.

it orbits the sun at a distance that allows most of this water to exist in its liquid state. If we were a little closer to the sun. earth has several characteristics that allow life as we know it to exist. we can think of the earth as . if our worldview assumes that the earth and its atmosphere and seas are so immense as to be beyond harm from human activities. we will see that earth's atmosphere and seas constitute precariously thin and fragile surface films that are more vulnerable than we might initially imagine. then pollution and other human abuses might be viewed as relatively minor insults to an otherwise robust and pristine system. and atmospheric resources were immense. our water would freeze and exist as ice. it has immense quantities of water.82 - .6 Thin Fragile Films: Earth's Atmosphere and Seas Is our planet fragile or robust? If the functioning of natural systems is robust. so that we could call ourselves the "Water Planet. Thus. As a planet. then. seas." Secondly. If we were a little further from the sun. our water would exist primarily in its gaseous state. First. In these respects. But is such a worldview justified? Or is it an artifact of the fact that we ourselves are such tiny beings and that our planet simply seems comparatively large as a result of our own diminutive size? In this chapter. and if the earth's water. then our economic and societal behavior will reflect that perception.

and tears (and amniotic fluid) are composed of salt water (ibid). if we were to use all earth's mountains and land masses to fill in the deepest parts of the sea. sweat. earth has immense quantities of water. the plant body of each seven metric ton Saguaro cactus includes approximately six metric tons of water. we would end up with no land at all. fog. Approximately 77% of its surface is covered with some form of water (for example. for instance. And even the cells. In addition. water vapor. and humidity. is filled with clouds. earth would be covered with a layer of water 2. we examine earth's atmosphere and seas through two vastly different lenses – and we will better appreciate these thin and fragile films when we have finished. Anson. 1991). for example. and bodies of earth's biota constitute surprising reservoirs of water. Instead. 1977). are up to 98% salt water. Its atmosphere. When jellyfish wash onto a beach.83 - . their bodies soon disappear by evaporation – as one writer has put it. water covers 60% of the northern hemisphere and approximately 80% of the southern hemisphere. rain. and snow). tissues. as oceans. Lettuce and celery are good diet foods because they are composed mostly of water. but even our blood. Living cells.” In Arizona.an "Unlikely Planet" (IOF. In addition to these immense reservoirs of water. 1977. earth also has less visible reservoirs of water. . not only does water make up 60-70% of our body weight. The Pacific Ocean alone covers more of the earth's surface than all of our land masses combined. they literally “disappear into thin air. In this chapter. 1996. Immense Quantities of Water? Compared to other known planets. Finally. lakes.5 kilometers deep (after IOF. glaciers. Our farms and cities rely on vast underground aquifers containing remnant waters from rains that fell thousands of years ago. Furthermore.

however. we would need a layer of water just 12/1000ths of an inch deep to proportionately represent the depth of earth's oceans (ibid). and our seas are as immense as they seem. If we accept this impression as true. this apparent enormity is simply an illusion. superficial layer of water that we refer to as an ocean exists only as an inexpressibly thin and precarious surface film that is just six one-hundredths of 1% as thick as the earth itself. If we analyze the proportional depth . or overfish them. In reality. for if we appraise them mathematically. however. an entirely different perspective emerges. Thus. and its molten interior. it might seem unlikely that we could damage them with our pollutants. can be viewed in the same way. 99. The thin. however. the film it leaves behind would be too deep to correctly characterize the depth of earth's oceans (ibid). Mathematically speaking. that earth's oceans. To illustrate such a depth to scale on a model globe. the apparent immensity of the oceans can mislead us. Like the Skin of an Onion It turns out that our ocean of air. which can drown us a few dozen yards offshore. each of us is so tiny compared to the size of our planet. If we were to wipe a wet paper towel across a twenty-inch globe. As living organisms.94% of our planet consists of its crust. If we assess earth's oceans. earth's atmosphere.Or a Thin and Fragile Film? As a data set. all of these numbers seemingly suggest that our planet has an abundance of water. or drive vast deep-sea regions to anoxia.84 - . mantle. only seem large if they are compared to our own diminutive body size. as simply a feature of our planet. our oceans comprise a superficial surface film with more potential vulnerabilities than we might initially suppose.

of earth's atmosphere, we find that what appears to be a seemingly endless atmosphere is also little more than another thin and fragile film. Astronauts and cosmonauts who have taken photographs from space, have likened earth’s atmosphere to a single layer of skin on an onion. And as mountain climbers, pilots, and skiers know, most of our atmosphere is also thin in the gaseous sense. Seen from this perspective, even our individual impacts constitute an unfolding disaster. Thus, the thin layer of air comprising our atmosphere can be viewed as far more precarious and vulnerable than intuition alone suggests. No Other Animals Do This As a test of this last observation, envision an individual animal of any species other than our own. In virtually all of these cases, the organism’s daily pollution of its environment is limited to its daily production of its bodily wastes. Next, however, envision an ordinary human being living in an industrialized country. One’s daily body wastes are again a factor, of course, but humanity’s collective biological wastes are natural productions that have, in a planetary sense, little impact on global systems. Continuing, however, envision this same human being in an automobile, backed up in crowded traffic on a busy eight-lane highway. All around in every direction are hundreds of other cars and trucks and buses, each spewing exhaust from an internal combustion engine. This indicates that each of us as individuals are contributing much more than our body wastes to our surroundings. Notice also that these additional wastes do not constitute a once-in-a-lifetime contribution by each of us. Instead we repeat these assaults again and again and again, day after day after day, throughout our lives. Every day, from all of those tailpipes on each and every bumper-to-bum-

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per interstate, boulevard, and highway, we spew molecules of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide and other noxious fumes. We are the only animals on earth that do this, and we do so during each and every rush hour, on every grocery run, on every holiday trip to visit family, and during every postal delivery. And we repeat this behavior every day - again and again and again – in Beijing, Los Angeles, Mumbai, Tokyo, Cairo, Karachi, Jakarta, Paris, Moscow, Rio de Janeiro, Capetown, and New York City, releasing more multiple billions of tons of waste, without fail, relentlessly into the onion-skinthin layer of air that makes up earth’s atmosphere. We are the only animals on earth that do this - and we are not even at home or at work yet. Now we switch on our heating or air-conditioning units, run a dishwasher and clothes drier, run our lawnmowers and weed-trimmers, our refrigerators and freezers, our street lights, fluorescent lights, toaster-ovens, microwaves, hair-dryers, steel mills, shopping malls, motor-boats, televisions, computers, and hot-water heaters. And then we repeat these same activities every day, again and again and again, so that our power plants, on our behalf, release still more tons of wastes and fumes, without fail, relentlessly and endlessly, into the onion-skin-thin layer of air that constitutes earth’s atmosphere. We are the only animals that do this, and we still have not yet added the wastes generated by unwanted catalogue mailings, tons of throw-away containers, and all the items that we ship halfway around the world. No other animals on earth do this – how can we imagine that endless billions of us can endlessly behave in this way without calamitous repercussions?
If we intend to enjoy such extravagance, our populations must be smaller.

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In his book HOT, FLAT, AND CROWDED (2008) Pulitzer prize winner Thomas Friedman quotes California Institute of Technology chemist Nate Lewis: “Imagine you are driving your car and every mile you drive you throw a pound of trash out your window. And everyone else on the freeway in their cars and trucks are doing the exact same thing, and people driving Hummers are throwing two bags out at a time – one out the driver-side window and one out the passenger-side window. How would you feel? Not so good. Well, that is exactly what we are doing; you just can’t see it. Only what we are throwing out is a pound of CO2 – that’s what goes into the atmosphere, on average, every mile we drive” (Friedman, 2008). If world population did not grow at all, all of these impacts would likely double as the world’s poorest nations industrialize and seek to emulate our own standard of living. Knowing that earth’s atmosphere is not responding to our assaults very well right now,* we are nevertheless on-track to reach our 7th, 8th, and 9th billions by 2041 (and 10 to 15.8 billion by 2100).
* To imagine that carbon “cap-and-trade” strategies and energy-efficient light-bulbs (which often contain mercury) can adequately assuage such impacts is akin to using band-aids as cancer therapy. Given a continuation of the behaviors as outlined above, to suppose that our ongoing assaults will exact no price is an enormous error.

Methane Hydrates and Warming What other impacts do we exert today? Rising levels of the greenhouse gas CO2 have been repeatedly implicated in studies of global warming (For example see IPCC, 2007; Schellnhuber, 2006; Kluger, 2006; Salleh, 2003; Houghton, 1987; Bacastow, et al., 1985, and Neftel, Moor, et al., 1985). But methane gas (CH4) is also a greenhouse gas. And when compared to carbon dioxide, a single molecule of CH4 has twenty times the warming effect of a molecule of CO2 (Weiner, 1990). Among the broader public, it is less well known that

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"methane levels in the atmosphere have been increasing approximately 1% per year, from 0.7 to 1.6 to 1.7 ppm in the last 300 years" (Prescott, et al., 1999). Some of this methane is released from rice paddies, marshes, coal mines, and sewage plants. Even microbes inhabiting the intestines of termites release methane daily, along with the intestinal microbes of cattle and similar ruminants that release about 200 to 400 liters per animal per day (ibid). A particularly immense storehouse of methane is also currently locked away in earth’s permafrost, and in the form of "massive deposits of methane hydrate...in ocean sediments" (Prescott, et al., 1999). In these frozen muds of the deep sea, methane is trapped in tiny lattice-like cages of crystalline water, representing an estimated "10,000 billion metric tons of carbon...as methane hydrate worldwide" (ibid). If present warming continues and both earth’s permafrost and its deep-sea muds begin to warm, a self-fueling release of ever more gigatons of CH4 could result (e.g., Revelle, 1983; Bell, 1982; IPCC, 2007). If rising levels of CO2 induce enough warming, they could trigger the addition of billions of tons CH4 gas by release from permafrost and deep sea muds setting off a run-away and essentially unstoppable cascade of self-amplifying climate change. Interactions and Impacts As organisms carry out their life activities, there are three patterns that characterize their interactions with each other and with their environments. First, the abiotic (non-living) environment can affect living things. Here we might think of lightning striking a tree or a fire burning a forest. Alternatively, we can imagine late freezes, avalanches, extended droughts,

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tidal waves, tornados, and floods that dramatically affect living things. Secondly, living things can affect each other. We might picture an Alaskan bear, for instance, capturing a salmon. Or we can imagine a pet that has a quieting effect on one's blood pressure. Or we can envision bryozoans, sea squirts, and encrusting sponges competing for attachment sites on a pier piling. Or we might observe a butterfly pollinating a species of flowering plant. Less intuitively, however, but of special importance to our discussion, there is a third major pattern: Living things can affect the non-living environment. Thus, we can think of beavers building a dam across a mountain creek. Or we can think of marine dinoflagellates releasing brevetoxins during an outbreak of red-tide. Or we might think of corals building a reef that produces and then protects a shallow and placid lagoon. It is important that all of us envision this latter principle at work on a planet-wide scale. We might contemplate, for instance, all of the plants and other photosynthetic life-support machinery that generate the molecular O2 making up 21% of earth’s atmosphere – the actual oxygen that we breathe. Our Neighbor In Space - Venus In the early decades of the U.S. space program, NASA began to investigate the possibility of manned research stations on other planets. Most intriguing of these, of course, is the possibility of a near-term manned research station on Mars. But Carl Sagan and other scientists also offered intriguing speculations about possible missions to earth's other near neighbor in space - Venus.

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At the present time, any thought of manned missions to Venus is out of the question. At its surface, Venus has a temperature of about 900 o F, and above that surface lies the crushing weight of a carbon dioxide atmosphere laced with enveloping clouds of sulfuric acid. As Sagan and his colleagues suggested, however, the currently harsh conditions on Venus might be made more moderate and earth-like by a process they called terraforming, a biologically-based method of planetary engineering. Terraforming Venus The innovative suggestion that the harsh conditions on Venus might be ameliorated and made more earth-like, though speculative, is nevertheless informative. Imagine sending a rocket to Venus containing a single, photosynthetic thermoacidophilic bacterium (an organism that thrives in hot, acidic conditions). Today, bacteria with these approximate characteristics exist in boiling pools in Yellowstone National Park, and genetic engineering would allow us to fine-tune a candidate organism as needed. Thus, Sagan and his colleagues envisioned the following scenario: Release such a bacterium in the high atmosphere of Venus where temperatures are cooler. To nourish itself, the organism would require the usual raw materials for photosynthesis, namely, carbon dioxide, sunlight, and (as condensed high altitude droplets) water. Since Venus has all these, the bacterium ought to be able to accomplish photosynthesis as summarized by this equation:

.6 CO2. + 6 H2O + light . C6H12O6 + .6 O2.
Notice that photosynthesis causes carbon dioxide (on the lefthand side of the equation) to be systematically removed from the atmosphere. Since CO2 acts as a greenhouse gas and traps

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heat, this ongoing removal would have the effect, over time, of cooling the planet. Secondly, notice the right-hand side of the equation where one of the two products of photosynthesis is molecular oxygen that would be released into the Venusian atmosphere. Thus, by employing biology alone, we see both a reduction in CO2 (producing a gradual cooling), along with a gradual increase in atmospheric O2. Under these conditions, the bacterial population would grow (by dividing repeatedly) and set off a cascade of subsequent events. With no competitors, predators, or diseases present to hold their numbers in check, the bacterial population would increase exponentially. With time, as their numbers increase, the bacteria would remove more and more CO2, thereby systematically reducing greenhouse conditions and allowing planetary temperatures to cool more and more. Eventually, such falling temperatures would allow water vapor to begin to condense and fall as rain, thereby producing a startling new set of conditions - including puddles, lakes, and streams - on the Venusian surface. Living Things Can Change Entire Planets The events we have just envisioned illustrate two key biological principles: First, living things have a potential capacity to change entire planets. Even a single cell, so small that it can only be seen using 400x magnification under a microscope, and so fragile that it can be killed by osmotic imbalance, an antiseptic rinse, or warm salt water, has the potential to alter conditions on an entire planet. Secondly, in an ironic and paradoxical way, living things can be, simultaneously, both fragile and extraordinarily powerful. Unfortunately, the capacity to change entire planets can be a double-edged sword. Sometimes, for instance, the activities

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while red-tides and algal blooms are localized phenomena.8 km.2 kilometers added to earth's overall diameter. Finally. (iv) This means that 12. We are reminded of this by phenomena such as algal blooms (population explosions of algae) that deplete oxygen supplies in marine and aquatic systems and outbreaks of dinoflagellate red-tide that routinely induce mass mortality in marine systems by their production and release of wastes into their surroundings. rocky mantle. as illustrated by NASA’s scenario for terraforming Venus. . approximately 3.6 kilometers deep. (i) Earth's oceans are. (For a twenty-inch lecture hall globe.732. Mathematical footnote Some readers may be interested in the mathematics behind our discussion of earth's thin films. this represents an addition of 7. rocky mantle. we assess the implications of our blind complacency and unwarranted assumptions. and covering of oceans) is approximately 12.) . crustal plates. Despite this and our current impacts. (v) Notice that the average depth of the oceans accounts for only six one-hundredths of one percent of earth's diameter – an inexpressibly thin film indeed.8 km out of 12. so that our own activities today already appear to be having global effects… right now. In the chapters which follow. (iii) Thus.732.0006 times 20 inches would equal oceans. and crustal plates.94%) of earth's diameter consists of its molten interior. the earth's diameter would only be 12. On the other hand.2 kilometers of ocean.6 kilometers on the opposite side. our own impacts are a planet-wide phenomenon. on average. population explosions of living things can also be harmful to their environments. we seem mindlessly intent upon adding still additional billions of extra persons to our population by mid-century.740 kilometers. without the 7. so that the scale model would need a layer of water that is 12/1000ths of an inch deep to represent the ocean's depth in proportionally correct terms. Here in outline form is that mathematics.740 km (or 99. If we have 3. (ii) Earth's overall diameter (including its molten interior.of living things can be beneficial.92 - .6 kilometers of water on one side of our planet and another 3.

compounding interest rates. proliferating cancer cells. the pH scale in chemistry. 2005 for additional). Exponential mathematics is necessary to properly understand human population growth between 8. and 2. monetary inflation.D. earthquake scales. .93 - . and human population growth over a span of ten millennia. expertise in the powerful and counterintuitive properties of this "exponential" mathematics receives far too little emphasis. In the pages that follow. chain reaction explosions. however. Emeritus Professor of Physics and Astrophysics at the University of Colorado. however. that has extraordinary importance in the modern world. Dr. algal blooms. dinoflagellate red-tides. A far more powerful type of mathematics exists.000 A. we will contrast the “grocery-store” mathematics of our elementary years with the powerful and deceptive characteristics of exponential mathematics. Even in highly literate societies. radioactive decay rates.7 Exponential Mathematics Our elementary school and K-12 curricula help develop student competence in an "arithmetic" mathematics that comprises a simple kind of "grocery-store" arithmetic that is applicable to our daily lives. has called the mathematics of the exponential function "the world's most important arithmetic" (see Bartlett.000 B. Albert Bartlett. This same mathematics also applies to phenomena such as nuclear detonations.C.

it is dangerous because we teach it so exclusively. we arrive at dangerously incorrect answers. From childhood on. we leave today's students ill-equipped to deal with (or to even perceive) the critical real-world mathematics of the twenty-first century: The mathematics of the exponential function. As a result. one of our dangers is this: With each passing year. and division and other traditional mathematics of the past. highly dangerous. however. in its way. How can "2 + 2" or "4 x 12" possibly be dangerous? Such understandings. we are taught such “grocery-store” arithmetic so completely and so exclusively. Because we place so much emphasis on the skills of addition. so thoroughly. Aren't such calculations a "fundamental" that all of us should master? While such mathematics clearly applies to our role as consumers. that such simple math can be. to apply this elementaryschool expertise to numbers that behave exponentially. subtraction.94 - . and so well. multiplication. subtraction. after all. that our minds are literally wired to “interpret the world” using the mathematics of our daily lives. It turns out.Linear Mathematics The mathematics of our earliest schooling centers on operations such as addition. we are wiring our students' brains with the same mathematics that prepared their great grandparents for life in the 1930s and a different time in history. make up the mathematics of our daily lives. however. multiplication. If we try. and division – those simple and non-sophisticated types of math that we might categorize as elementary-school arithmetic. . and each new homework set.

In this example....16.. we obtain a J-curve like the curve one shown on the next page. we say that they are growing arithmetically and when we graph such a sequence over time. Exponential Mathematics Numbers that increase “exponentially” grow by repeated muled tiplications by like amounts. Notice that an exponential graph is shaped a little like the letter “J” so that initially.. unway. no notice that each number has been multiplied by two. An example of an exponen exponential sequence is 1. In this example.. the graph they produce.95 - . by re row repeatedly adding a like amount to a growing variable.4.. and gen generate a linear graph like the one below. etc.. When numbers grow in this way..32... a straight line.. it rises slowly from the x-axis like an airplane rising from a runway..8. like the one above. Increasing Numbers Linear  Time  Linear graphs are characteristic of number sequences that ins crease by repeated additions of like amounts.Some number sequences grow in a traditional way..64. such as: 3… 6. is linear – that is. 9…12…15…18…21… etc.. .2. When we tiplied graph an exponential progression. the numbers are growing by repeated additions of three.

this pay is to his increase each day as follows: On day one we receive $1000 and on day two we receive $2000. for example. Furthermore. human population growth between 8000 B. etc. On day days. We must also e appreciate the special and counterintuitive properties of exponential progressions (number sequences) in order to evaluate humanity’s current trajectories in an historical context. To assess today's demographic and environmental issues accuratemental ly. 1 . the data from chapter three). cal The two examples below will help us contrast linear (“ (“arithmetic”) versus exponential patterns of growth. Since . we gen hapter generate a J-shaped or exponential graph like the one depict on depicted page seven and simil to the similar one depicted left. exceedingly powerful powerful.D.96 - . on day four we earn $4000. we must be comfortable with analyzing numbers in an exponential context. (Notice that we have just earned three thousand dollars over the first two days. We will see that expo exponential sequences are misleading and deceptive. however.) three our pay is $3000.Toward the end of the data set. Exponential progression that progressions produce graphs like this one are our interest in the pages ahead. and 2000 A.An "Arithmetic" Progression Linear mathematics is illustrated by the following exam lustrated example: Suppose one is offered a contract with a salary for thirty days pose of work over a one-month period. If we graph .C. (using. and frequently dangerous. numbers that grow exponentially turn sharply upward like a rocket.

. However. How much will each pattern generate in the effective month? The first progression is exceptionally generous at the outset. the arithmetic option generates $28. for one’s work on day two. by the end of the first week. on day four. but will it remain most generous by month's end? Since some months are thirty-one days long. We want to know which option will be more rewarding. During the same period of time. how much difference will a day make? During the first seven days.000.97 - . the pay for day thirty alone will be $30. In this case. Because the numbers in this progression are growing by repeated multiplications by like amounts. we say that the pattern of growth is exponential. Contrasting the Options Let us now contrast the two options.000. On day three the pay for the entire day is four cents. however.this salary increases by a pattern of repeated additions of like amounts ($1000) we say that it is growing ARITHMETICALLY. the pay climbs to eight cents and jumps again to sixteen cents on day five. In this case. (Notice that the total for the first three days is only seven cents.) Then. this increases to two cents. exponential growth = $1.27 – or about two cents an hour. Thus.An Exponential Alternative Suppose that a mathematician suggests asking for a more humble salary that grows larger EXPONENTIALLY each day.000 while the total for all thirty days will amount to $465. the net result is: arithmetic growth = $28. 2 .27. one's initial salary will be painfully small with a total day one salary of just one cent.000. Thus. the salary grows steadily and predictably larger at a straight-forward rate of an extra one thousand dollars per day. the exponential option generates a total of just $1.

28 2. nearly halfway through the month.12 Initially the arithmetic alternative.23) during the same period.368. it becomes clear that the exponential option (that began with such tiny amounts) will reward one with more than ten million dollars ($10. .32 671.544. so far.000 while the exponential salary generates a total income of just $163. Day 26 Day 27 Day 28 Day 29 Day 30 335.737. the exponential progression seems to be a poor choice. Thus. At this point. Anyone who chose a salary that grows exponentially. When was most of this exponential salary generated? When did most of the numerical growth take place? Answer: The values peaked explosively in the closing or late-phase stages of the sequence.342. The Remainder of the Month The reader is invited to use a calculator to compare the two salaries over the remaining days of the month.709.56 5.354. however.83 – (averaging a little less than $1.50 an hour).98 - . however.000. Knowing that most of us are busy.This disparity continues during week two.000 as the one-day salary due on that day alone. the tally stands at: arithmetic growth = $105. however. Now. very little to show for it. During the remainder of the month. Then: . the results will be quite different.83.418.684. the exponential option generates more than $167.177. we have calculated some of the results as follows: On day twenty-five. By the end of the first fourteen days. the arithmetic option amounts to $105.64 1.088.000 looked quite attractive. exponential growth = $163. with a thirty-day total of $465. for example. has.

(This will also cause the month's 31-day total to also double. a number set that begins with one cent turn itself into more than $21. what difference does a day make? If we choose a month that is 31 days long. This fact underscores a second crucial characteristic: Most of the growth in an exponential progression occurs toward the end of the progression. there was a popular blues piece entitled “What difference does a day make?” The song was about a love affair. This means that numbers that grow exponentially behave in a deceptive and counterintuitive way that can be seriously misleading. If a set of numbers grows exponentially. but its title presents an interesting question in the context of a salary that grows exponentially.24.418. growing to more than twenty-one million dollars.737. Because it is possible for the beginning numbers to be quite small.) Summarizing Exponential Patterns Let us summarize several key observations: First. its numbers grow explo- .000. the extra day will double the salary again to $10. they invite us to suppose that they are innocuous and require little attention.000 in just 31 days.99 - . We should also notice that the exponential salary is still exceptionally modest even after two full weeks. notice that although the numbers making up the linear sequence seem attractively large at the outset (and present themselves in obvious terms) the earliest numbers of an EXPONENTIAL data set can be so small that they seem to be harmless or unimportant. As the sequence proceeds.In the mid-twentieth century. however. and then they hammer us. We have just seen. Numbers that behave in this way tend to be extraordinarily dangerous because first they lure us into complacency.

and (d) potentially dangerous. (b) deceptive. Because exponential sequences are both powerful and deceptive. Finally.000 in just 31 days. has been exponential (or even. Thus the nuclear fission events inside the atomic weapon that destroyed Hiroshima. they can also be extremely dangerous. In chapter three we sketched a demogra- .100 - . however.D. the energy released by the atomic fission destroyed the city. with most of these dollars piling up in the closing stages of the progression.C. In one way. produce a J-curve like our page 96 graph. releasing enough energy to suddenly destroy the city and kill tens of thousands of people. they are EXPONENTIAL events that. (And our sample exercise also displays a startling transformation from modest values to complete calamity in just two weeks. as Joel Cohen points out. it was the exponential nature of the fission events that destroyed the city. Instead. In another sense. (c) counterintuitive.) This shows us that exponential growth can turn tiny numbers into exceedingly large numbers in unexpectedly short periods of time.sively larger. These characteristics should alarm us because human population growth over the millennia between 8000 B. we see that exponential progressions are exceedingly powerful. when graphed. (a) powerful.000. The Hiroshima Weapon Events inside explosions and nuclear detonations are not linear / arithmetic events. and 2000 A. "hyperexponential"). Thus. We just saw one cent transformed into more than $21. Japan in World War II followed an exponential pattern. four key adjectives serve as our summary so far: Exponential numbers behave in a way that is. piling up ever-more astronomically in the closing stages of the sequence. simultaneously.

et al. Reece. but in more than fifty nations in the Middle East. we may be (indeed. appear to be) in the "late-phase" closing stages of a detonation that is not unlike the detonation that flattened Hiroshima. As this is written. and Mitchell (1999) described it this way: "The exponential growth model.phic journey through human history.. it is unlikely that any other population of large animals has ever sustained so much growth for so long.. And a decade earlier. Campbell. Ours is a singular case.. and sub-Saharan Africa. “catastrophic events share characteristic nonlinear behaviors [that] result in surprises that cannot be easily predicted” (Peters. 2004). and ending in 2000. If not checked.C. populations are still rocketing upward. in the strictly mathematical sense of the term. much of the industrialized world seems to exhibit some retreat from this exponential population track (though not from exponential consumption). When we graph the data from that chapter. describes the population explosion in humans. For example. including 99 recipients of the Nobel prize issued an "Urgent warning to humanity" which we excerpt as follows: "Human beings and the natural world are on a collision course. beginning with earth's human population in 8000 B." We should find this disquieting because. more than 1500 top scientists.101 - . and may so alter . many of our current practices put at serious risk the future that we wish for human society and the plant and animal kingdoms. A Collision Course In recent decades. Human activities inflict harsh and often irreversible damage on the environment and on critical resources. we obtain a classical J-curve like our graphs on page seven. Japan in World War II. parts of Asia. top scientists from around the world have written papers and issued formal warnings about human population growth and our impacts on our planet.

all of which underscore.the living world that it will be unable to sustain life in the manner that we know. we must accept limits to that growth. in an economic and financial context.. large banks. perhaps. and the government regulatory agencies responsible for overseeing them collectively failed to prevent the economic and financial bubbles of 2008-2009 . A great change in our stewardship of the earth and the life on it is required if vast human misery is to be avoided and our global home on this planet is not to be irretrievably mutilated" (Kendall. If we are to halt the destruction of our environment. the undersigned. Its ability to provide food and energy is finite. eighth. In the years since that warning.* * Scholars tried to warn government officials and residents of New Orleans repeatedly about category five hurricanes and the insufficiency of the city’s levee system for more than a decade before hurricane Katrina struck in 2005." "Pressures resulting from unrestrained population growth put demands on the natural world that can overwhelm any efforts to achieve a sustainable future. and have something less than a 100% track record in their responses to warnings. .” We. And we are fast approaching many of the earth's limits." The signatories then warn that "The earth is finite. insurance companies. our seventh. and ninth billions are likely to all have joined us by 2050. et al.N. we have added more than one billion additional people to our planet and according to current U. 1992).102 - . the fact that governments and institutions have slow and/or inadequate response times. Fundamental changes are urgent if we are to avoid the collision our present course will bring about. . medium projections." "No more than one or a few decades remain before the chance to avert the threats we now confront will be lost and the prospects for humanity immeasurably diminished. hereby warn all humanity of what lies ahead. Its ability to provide for growing numbers of people is finite. Its ability to absorb wastes and destructive effluent is finite. And. senior members of the world's scientific community.

however. makes them exceedingly dangerous. the sound warns that potential danger exists and that precautionary measures are needed immediately. the rest of us generally have little occasion to work with exponential progressions. many of earth's top scientists warn of a potentially catastrophic collision (their words) of humanity with earth's natural environment while the rest of us find it hard to believe that it is really so. In today's world. Anyone who ignores such an alarm does so at one's own peril.103 - . of course. In contrast. they are routinely cognizant of the late-phase characteristics that occur in exponential sequences. can so easily deceive us. we can all hear a fire alarm as it sounds. As a result. Any numbers that mimic the . If one is at work and hears a fire-alarm.8 A Mathematical Fire-Alarm Because scientists work with exponential mathematics in their fields of research and in their college curricula. In a burning building. combined with their power and counterintuitive behavior. so long as our hearing is normal and unimpaired. however. a J-curve is the mathematical equivalent of a fire-alarm going off in a burning building. It signals that an interruption in ordinary conditions exists and attention to a potential crisis is urgently required. The fact that exponential sequences.

and highly dangerous is un underway.D. out of the ordinary. In the last chapter. set forth mathe mathematically.fission events in a nuclear detonation should warrant our most serious attention. The point should be unsettling. we saw that exponential mathematics can change one cent into $21 million dollars in thirty days If we days. If we graph the fission events that took place in the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima at the close of World War II. And if we graph human population over the ten thousand years between 8. and 2100 A. we should react to the data that curve. for there it is. (using. demanding that both emergency attention and precaution be cautions exercised without delay. something power omething powerful. When we encounter a J-curve. graph the daily numbers in that progression.000 B. produced it just as we would react to a fire alarm in a build building. Like an explosion or a chain-reaction. they too produce a J-curve. inescapably. they produce a Jcurve. the numbers we encount encountered in chapter three) the diagram that results is a J J-curve. and dramatically: A graph of our own demographics over a span of ten millennia mimics the graph . exponential sequences produce a charac characteristic J-curve approximating the illustration depicted below picted below.C.104 - . When graphed. for example.

counted on luck and inaction to save the city. there are differences. climatologist Stephen Schneider once noted that "it is precisely because the responsible scientific community cannot rule out . of course. Faculty at Louisiana State University and others repeatedly warned the public and government officials of the vulnerabilities that the city of New Orleans faced if a powerful hurricane should strike the city... everyone involved ended up with a disastrous outcome as officialdom failed to prepare for reality. During its detonation. And addressing climate change. even though terms such as “a population explosion” or “a population bomb" seem frightening.105 - . the utter disaster was relatively localized and took place in a matter of moments. Thus. When city and government officials. The numbers that depict our demographics follow a pattern whose graph mimics a graph of the fission events in the atomic detonation that destroyed Hiroshima. Our Time in History Of course. the Hiroshima weapon exploded over a matter of seconds and flattened a city. while most of our own detonation has occurred since 1930 and we are flattening the biota and biospheric systems of our planet. At Hiroshima.of a nuclear detonation. most of our own detonation has occurred primarily over . 2002).catastrophic outcomes at a high level of confidence that climate mitigation policies are seriously proposed." He then went on to assess the status of climate change this way: "We could be lucky and see a mild effect or unlucky and get catastrophic outcomes" (Schneider. however. they are actually a precise and mathematically accurate description of human demographics over a period of ten thousand years. On the other hand.

If we examine a graph of our own population growth over the past ten millennia (page seven. for example). The city of Hiroshima was not damaged by the earliest stages of the detonation. its people. The point to be made is this: The early phases of the Hiroshima detonation did no damage to the city. We can use the graph above to reflect upon the early stages of the Hiroshima detonation. or its environment. The disaster did not occur until the fission events began skyrocketing upward during the closing "late-phase" conditions of the progression as our own graph is doing now.the past 180 years instead of a few minutes (and primarily since 1930) – and instead of devastating a city and its residents.106 - . we are obliterating the natural systems and biota of our planet so that our own explosion is global in its impacts. for in this region of the graph the growing numbers are still so small that they deceptively appear to be harmless or unimportant. we see that for . Notice the region where the graph is still flat and rising slowly from the x-axis like an airplane rising from a runway.

Notice that in this case.. 42. to 2....16. In such seque n sequences.. .21..... One example of such a sequence might be 7.35.C. Exponential Graphs of nuclear detonations (and human population growth from 8.D. we added seven each time. and most of the damage is done..28.128 and 256...000 B...4. 8.. most of the growth occurs..107 - . etc..... In such seque ences..32. in the closing phase of phases the progression as the graph rockets upwards...64. One example of this sort of expo exponential progression might be 1.14.2.. in which we multiply repeatedly by two.. we can count on a steady and intuitively predictable progression in which tomorrow's conditions will be a continuation of conditions typical of yesterday and today.) produce J-curves similar to the graph shown here.000 A.... etc.....Linear This above graph results from a linear progression that grows by repeated addition additions of like amounts.

. if we do not understand the unique power and deceptive nature of Jcurves and exponential mathematics. its biospheric sytems. errors of catastrophic magnitude are inevitable. and its life support machinery.most of that history. Andrew Jackson.108 - . Our moment in history is characterized by late-phase numbers that are rocketing upward in the closing phases of an exponential progression. Linear versus Exponential The two graphs shown on the previous page summarize several important differences between linear and exponential patterns. and curricula omit J-curves (and the behavior of the exponential progressions that produce them) then we cannot hear the alarm they send and their dangers are invisible. On the other hand.. as our numbers rocket upward along our graph. . and the survival of earth's biota. Thousands of us will achieve success in life even if we are not experts at geometry and even if we never hear of a tessellation. ourselves. and we are all participants in an unfolding calamity. In our next chapter we will see that our intuitions (and much of our schooling) produce in us an inclination to interpret our world using a linear mindset that is based on everyday mathematics like that depicted atop the previous page. * This is a problem because if we try to use linear reasoning to understand and deal with problems that are behaving exponentially. our graph rose slowly from the x-axis. coenocytic fungi. textbooks. or the value of pi. If our teachers. our societies. sclerenchyma cells.. then we imperil our civilizations. The perils inherent in exponential mathematics are only apparent if our schooling ensures a thorough understanding of the power and the deceptive nature of such progressions. .. a tangent. But our most destructive impacts are occurring today.

denotes a critical inflection point which marks the beginning ginning of a phase of gradual deceleration. This increasing deceleration in the rate of growth results from density-dependent dependent feedbacks and increasing environmental resistance as lim limiting .109 - . how however. sions An S-Curve Some populations exhibit a pattern of population growth call called an S-CURVE. The arrow in the diagram. but at increasingly slower rates. are not just powerful. Exponential progressions. he  time  Notice that the initial stages of an S-curve begin with a esan sentially exponential pattern during which growth accelerates as births exceed deaths. And their numbers. so . but deceptive. like the one depicted in the graph below.Linear progressions are straight-forward and obvious and pre forward present themselves in a completely predictable way so that we can count on relatively steady increments of change from one t day to the next. seemingly small and unimportant in the early phases of a pro progression multiply and amplify themselves repeatedly in a ca calamitous self-amplifying pattern that is typical of phenom phenomena that happen to include explosions and nuclear detonations. on the other hand. in which births still exce exceed deaths.

should you wish to graph them yourself. limited resources. incorrectly. between 8000 B. predation. causing rates of population growth to slow until births and deaths finally begin to offset each other so that the resulting graph gradually flattens out and fluctuates around a condition of stability or equilibrium for extended periods. Hence. The DENSITY-DEPENDENT feedbacks that cause growth to slow as crowding increases include negative factors that tend to become worse as population densities increase. As a career Ph. he was both highly intelligent and mathematically adept.D. and 2000 A. such "negative-feedbacks" tend to become more severe.factors begin to exert their influence more and more. intensely crowded populations face greater and more pronounced adversities such as: Accumulating wastes. however.D. notice that an idealized S-curve eventually flattens out. stabilizes. increased aggression. for example). climb too far. and thereafter oscillates gently around an equilibrium in which births and deaths are approximately equal.our actual numbers.. as we will see in the sections that follow. malnutrition. competition. and exposure to epidemic disease. there is no S-curve in that data -. As we have already seen (in chapter three. do not support his claim.C.110 - . but others. . some populations do exhibit S-curves. As crowding intensifies. In nature. and suddenly collapse as death rates surge. generate the J-curve that we have been addressing (and which is depicted in our graph on page seven). A retired physicist once told me. . Finally.. that humans do not follow a J-shaped curve. . Our data. He had also read enough biology to know that many animals with long lives and relatively small numbers of young (known as "k-strategists") commonly exhibit the stabilizing pattern of population growth epitomized by an S-curve. exhibit J-curves as they climb rapidly.

Climb and Collapse Climb-and-collapse disasters exhibit exponential growth dur during their early stages until OVERSHOOT occurs as a population exceeds one or more critical environmental limits. we saw that the same thing happened. in "the nearly complete annihilation of the herd” (1968). Klein's data is depicted in the graph above. 1963 . more than 99% of the reindeer died as the collapse he occurred. R. Klein (1968) up documented a second catastrophic climb-and-collapse pattern collapse in a second herd of reindeer on St. Alaska. followed by a quick and massive die-off. even more extreme than the graph . And because a graph of our own popu population curve is. We saw one classical example (page 52) of a climb-and-collapse calamity involving a herd of reind on reindeer St. the experiment resulted r. Scheffer’s results. Alaska (Scheffer. The exu exuberant growth then suddenly ends.111 - . 1951).B. Matthew Island. Paul Island. As Klein noted in his paper. D. if anything. In the our page 55 graph of V. Notice that in this study also.6000 Reindeer 1944 29 Reindeer 1964 42 Reindeer  time  In a follow-up to Scheffer’s classic study.

D. And although there is some retreat from our maximal rates of three decades ago (largely resulting from stringent one-child policies in China and a general stabilization in the first-world nations of western Europe). and our hopes and simply graph our demographic history and then examine the resulting graph as objectively as possible. for some reason. And. if ever.Be Happy Our own numbers from 8000 B. almost never appears on television. most emphatically do not generate the comfortable Scurve that causes some to suppose that all is well – at least not so far. over the course of the past 180 years.. limiting factors. Perhaps you recall a popular reggae tune that cheerfully admonishes us "don't worry – be happy. over a span of three decades. when graphed. however.000 years shows that optimism to seem most unwarranted.C. Unfortunately. many of these seem intend- .112 - . for there is no S-curve there – at least not in the data that brings us to the year 2000. of course. been brought up in a presidential news conference or in annual state of the union messages. Don't Worry . if we set aside our denials. it has rarely. Facing reality. an actual graph of our own demographics over the past 10. Occasionally. and delayed feedbacks in population dynamics. wisdom suggests that we all become a bit more familiar with carrying capacities.of either reindeer herd." The subject of population growth. we may see a newspaper article or a book that addresses population. There are also problems inherent in "demographic transition theory" which we address in pages 207-209. to 2000 A. what we actually see appears to show that we are living in the closing phases of a J-curve that has been skyrocketing upward. our wishes. overshoot. hyperexponentially.

and the first questions on our standardized exams address the realworld math and understandings that will be needed to navigate and mitigate the crises that lie ahead. science. how can one lead wisely if one does not know: (a) That current rates of population growth necessitate provision of more than 36. Thus. and social studies classroom. and exponential understandings are mastered in every math. we are wiring our students’ brains so completely with 1930s arithmetic that we leave them ill-equipped to deal with. But what about the real-world mathematics needed by each and every citizen? Civilization and our planet will collectively benefit if teachers and school districts everywhere ensure that “real-world” demographics. quadratic equations and polynomial expansions will be professional necessities. the real-world mathematics of this 21st century. The Decades Just Ahead As our young people live their lives in this 21st century. After all. there are fundamental mathematical skills that each of them needs to master. we must ensure that the opening pages of our textbooks.repeatedly and endlessly over the decades that lie ahead. teaches us the dangerous.320 additional classrooms .113 - . and deceptive behavior of exponential number sequences. counterintuitive. At this decisive moment.every four days . somewhere. . powerful.ed to advance economic special interests and to omit the principles and the raw numbers that we are addressing here. with each new homework set. For those who will become scientists and engineers. Numbers making up an exponential sequence are like a firealarm going off in a burning building – but this alarm can only be heard if some teacher. the opening presentations in our classrooms. numerics. or even to perceive.

and non-linear mathematics? (c) The difference between a million and a billion? (d) That we currently add more than 681.114 - . and counterintuitive behavior of J-curves.000 additional people to world population every three days? (e) And that we are adding one BILLION additional persons to our planet every twelve to fifteen years? As former United States CIA director Jim Woolsey once observed.” (From: Friedman.(b) The powerful. exponential. “nature is not always going to behave in linear fashion [just] because our minds think that way. deceptive. 2008) .

however. our early schooling leaves us ill-prepared to interpret number sequences that are behaving in an exponential or non-linear fashion.9 Riddles of the Dinoflagellates If we graph human population from 8000 B. nor do we learn to avoid the errors that their misleading behaviors invite. that can help us better discern and avoid the dangerously counterintuitive pitfalls of exponential progressions. however. certain dinoflagellate populations that serve as such powerful and quintessential examples of population explosions that culminate in environmental calamity (massive fish kills known as red tides in marine systems).C. so repeatedly and so well that our minds literally “interpret the world” using the intuitions and ordinary arithmetic of our everyday lives. The term dinosaur. to 2000 A. There are. Thus. we see that it generates the classical J-curve that characterizes exponential number sequences and nuclear detonations.D. .115 - . for example.. one-celled marine organisms called dinoflagellates. As a general rule. for example. we are not accustomed to the powerful and counterintuitive behaviors of such progressions. we are often taught and drilled in linear mathematics so thoroughly. In our schooling." In this chapter we are going to examine some tiny. in nearly all cases. There are a series of simple riddles. that the nomenclature designating them as terrible flagellates is strikingly appropriate. means "terrible lizard.

Then. included his famous lectures on exponential mathematics. Next suppose that we set the jar aside and return to check the experiment later.m. Bartlett's classical example here. . thirty-two. Suppose that a single dinoflagellate is placed in the bottle at ten a. 1978. Albert Bartlett. And these will then be followed by eight. one minute later.116 - . they will both divide to produce four dinoflagellates.m. One hour later (eleven a. 2000). the bottle is . sixteen. there will be two dinoflagellates. Since this population grows larger by repeated multiplications (multiplying by 2 plying each minute). etc. . on-line transcript.Exponential Growth in a Finite Environment While teaching at the University of Colorado.) we notice that two changes have occurred: First. At the end of the first sixty seconds. Suppose that members of this imaginary species divide once every sixty seconds so that their population doubles its num numbers with each passing minute minute. 2005. except our mental experiment will feature an imaginary spe species of one-celled dinoflagellates within the finite confines of a bottle of salt water. We are going to employ Dr. its pattern of growth is ex exponential. Professor of Physics and Astrophysics. and sixty-four individuals. One of his examples in involves a population of bacteria growing exponentiall within exponentially a container (Bartlett.

Thus. ever (which our dinoflagellates are doing) the 10:30 answer is incorrect because the patterns that apply to ordinary school arithmetic DO NOT WORK with numbers that grow exponentially. Employing ordinary arithmetic. In fact. This answer seems logical if we use the math we have been taught since our earliest years. they are all dead. our seemingly-innate or auto innate automatic first response is to imagine that the jar s must be half-full at 10:30 a.. . . and. during the hour that has passed. With a number sequence that is growing exponentially. here is the riddle: When is the bottle half-full? If we base our answer on math from our ear early schooling. if the bottle is completely filled at 11:00 a.but only if the dinoflagellate population were growing by ordinary linear means (arithmetically).m. this would be the correct answer . in addition llates.now completely filled with dinoflagellates. their container will be half-full at 10:59.117 - . then it would intuitively seem be half-full at the halfway point: 10:30. how. Given this background. the dinoflagellate in noflagellate inhabitants have succeeded in completely filling their bottle bottle. Half Full and 50% Empty Since the dinoflagellates in our experiment are increasing exponentially. for example.m. addition.

our automatic.m. . we present our second riddle: When is the container one-quarter full? If we. To the occupants living in a jar that is one-quarter full. first-impulse answer is likely to be 10:15. they are lly). When Is The Bottle One-Quarter Full? Since our dinoflagellates comprise an imaginary species any anyway. though conditions in the half-empty container seem to remain comparatively innocuous. facing container-wide calamity in just one more minute minute. complete filling completely their container by 11:00 a. With this in mind. quarter 75% of their bottle's total volume is still empty. the error will blind them to both the degree and the prox proximity of the catastrophe that is about to overtake them them. because the dinoflagellate numbers ly are growing exponentially (instead of arithmetically). The mistaken logic of such reasoning. of . If a population attempts an arithmetic interpretation of events that are being governed by an exponential pattern of progression.The reasoning is as follows: If the jar is half-full at 10:59 and full its occupants all divide over the next sixty seconds.118 - .try to apply the grocery-store instincts and intuitions developed by much of our early schooling. then they will have thereby doubled their numbers. This reveals an unsettling aspect of exponential number se ettling sequences because the dinoflagellate population has only sixty more seconds to exist before the disaster that lies ahead Alahead. let us confer upon them an awareness of their surround ir surroundings.

m.m. however.. their bottle will be completely filled by 11:00 a.01/8th full?  At what time is the container 1/16th . Each question below tends to elicit from us an intuitive. however.119 - . When this 10:58 population doubles. being that “since the jar is ¼ full.  At what time is the container . Thus. At 10:56 a. the dinoflagellates occupy a largely empty environment. the bottle is ¼ full at 10:58 a. with only three minutes remaining before container-wide disaster. it is easy to understand how the dinoflagellates might find themselves seduced into complacency if they interpret their world using linear mathematics. With only two doublings left before an oncoming catastrophe. the jar will . and incorrect response based on our tendency to use the ordinary. However. everyday mathematics and intuitions that we learn in school.m. conditions again seem relatively innocuous. As the drawing shows. first-impulse. so that.m. ¼ of the hour must have gone by.full?  At what time is the container 1/32nd full? The bottle will be one-eighth full at 10:57 a. Let us then test the exponential pattern in three more instances. At the same time.course. since the inhabitants are increasing their numbers exponentially. only four minutes before disaster. what seems to constitute minimal danger is seriously misleading. the dinoflagellates inhabit an environment that is 87% empty. And when the 10:59 dinoflagellates double again. with mostly empty volume remaining seemingly-available.” With so much empty volume seemingly available. each question also has a correct answer that can be determined by analyzing the data as an exponential progression.. the container will be half-filled at 10:59.

that the organisms exhibit an exponential pattern of growth so that trying to analyze an exponential sequence using a linear. at 10:55 a. their realization will come TOO LATE. will be 98% empty. Thus. then the organisms can address their problem at some time in the distant future. if that assessment is true. . When Does Realization Occur? If we have a sentient species of dinoflagellates.120 - . however.m. the jar. Finally. it "seems logical" to assume that one has another fifty-nine minutes available before conditions become too severe.. with only five minutes left until disaster. arithmetic or intuitive interpretation of the data results in a seriously wrong answer. The problem is. It is difficult to accept that danger is present when so much empty volume abounds. which is 1/32nd full. And. when will this population realize that they have a problem? The answer is: If they try to interpret their world using a linear or an arithmetic mindset. This sort of reasoning would be correct if the population under discussion were following an arithmetic pattern of growth. then it is completely impossible to see the oncoming disaster.be one-sixteenth full while the remaining 93% of its volume remains unoccupied. One can imagine a grocery-store analysis something like this: Since it took fifty-nine minutes for the jar to become half-full. if the chief mathematics that we internalize and use involves “arithmetic” number sequences.

the subject of the exam involves exponential mathematics. great literature.121 - . brainless. our future. demographics. our dinoflagellate colleagues are completely clueless – but. If we evaluate our two species only upon the subjects of population. manufacture a refrigerator. . If our government officials. then we are blind to the demographic forces that have been shaping. and the difference between a million and a billion. aren't we? Libraries. we are clearly much smarter than dinoflagellates. teachers. and other opinion leaders do not know the math by which we add one billion additional people to our planet every twelve to fifteen years. if this population interprets its world using grocery-store arithmetic. for example. and if we do not understand the power and deceptive nature of exponential mathematics. Clearly. for the most part. with less than one minute to go before calamity. journalists. cannot memorize Hamlet. dinoflagellates. and Literature Actually. libraries. if as individuals we do not know how enormously large a billion really is. of course. of course. and are very possibly wrecking. space travel. and the power and misleading behavior of an exponential sequence. Symphonies. What all of this means. and symphonies. launch a satellite. when it comes to communications. or write a book. therefore. Nor can they record their own history. having seen how deceptive an exponential progression can be. demographics. or write computer code. if we cannot quantify daily births and deaths. It is obvious. are shaping. we can at least be thankful that we are smarter than a population of microscopic.Thus. that we humans are much smarter than dinoflagellates – unless. . is that. one-celled dinoflagellates. it will be blind to the immediacy of its danger. so are we.

and dinoflagellates employed in this chapter can help us appreciate the dangerously deceptive and counterintuitive behavior of an exponential progression. all of the drawings would have to look almost empty . . Instead. 1/8 full.122 - . and 1/8. to approximate the real-life appearance of a "completely filled" bottle of dinoflagellates in the closing moments of their disaster. final. and textbooks. In the real-world. In terms of the exponential bottles that this chapter has just considered then. Footnote: There are additional disquieting aspects beyond this chapter's discussions of dinoflagellate disasters. counterintuitive. Clearly. teach us the misleading. or how many dinoflagellate cells might be able to be supported under optimized photosynthetic conditions. dinoflagellate disasters known as redtides actually arise LONG BEFORE the cells themselves actually "fill" an available volume in a physical sense. of course. and deadly-stage conditions of the last bottle all take place within a real-life environment that visually appears to be ALMOST ENTIRELY EMPTY. however. 1/4. and extraordinarily powerful nature of exponential mathematics. curricula. After one has internalized such understandings. Thus. teachers. when. the illustration of our final bottle would have to approximate the appearance of the drawing shown on page 129. a presentation along the lines of the riddles. etc.even the final bottle that represents the closing moment of disaster. all the while. comments.. surrounded by "vast amounts of open space. bottles. 1/4 full. and drawings that we have employed and imagine all of the bottles to be redrawn so that actual real-life dinoflagellate progression to the closing. . but this particular alarm can only be discerned if our schools. And correspondingly. for example. everywhere. when the cells themselves physically-occupy LESS THAN 2/1000ths of ONE PERCENT of the volume that appears to remain seemingly-available to them. their wastes produce disaster long beforehand. all of the other drawings (1/2 full. for our drawings of the bottles to more accurately reflect reality. etc. thus making it even more difficult for a sentient population of dinoflagellates to accept that danger is present when so much empty volume surrounds them and appears to remain seemingly-available. . One can imagine that in a seemingly-empty environment. some dinoflagellates might decide to estimate whether their population might soon deplete their reserves of nitrates. This means that real-world dinoflagellate red-tides and their associated fish-kills take place at a time when the dinoflagellate cells inhabit surroundings that visually appear to be ALMOST ENTIRELY EMPTY (see page 129 for a diagram). one might revisit all of the riddles." their wastes (in this case) are about to take their toll.Numbers making up a J-curve or an exponential sequence are similar to a fire-alarm going off in a burning building.) would have to have "dots" that are respectively smaller than the page 129 dot by 1/2.

such an outpost might come to resemble the research stations that exist in Antarctica today. our species may send astronauts to Mars. it turns out that other planets are an impossible safety valve. our nearest neighboring planets. But will Mars and other planets save us from our current patterns of population growth? Are they an ultimate safety valve if our population problems get out of hand? Although the thought is tempting. These ideas are real possibilities. Soon. Someday. And if we do. it is quite possible that humanity will have established an inhabited research station on the red planet by mid-century. Mars and Venus.123 - .10 Other Planets There is still another balloon to be popped. if not sooner. for example. It is easy to imagine that our species will eventually travel to and colonize other planets. one that also lures us into complacency when we evaluate our possible demographic futures. Colonizing other planets is not a safety valve that is going to have any impact whatsoever on overpopulation here at home. First. We are sometimes tempted to imagine that other planets represent a sort of ultimate safety outlet if our population problems worsen. There may be a dozen or so scientists who spend a year or two at a time at such a facility. are atmospherically and cli- .

water and sewer plants. that a billion is a truly enormous number. Now imagine how much it would cost to fund the hundreds of thousands of missions that would be necessary to accomplish such a feat. Mars Won't Work Either Aside from sets of prohibitively hostile conditions that exist on the other planets in our solar system. Venus. has surface temperatures of 900 o F. puddles of melted lead on its surface. how much it will eventually cost to fly astronauts to Mars aboard a small fleet of three or four spacecraft. of course. for instance. roads. a crushing atmosphere of carbon dioxide. remembering. is a possibility. But even if billions of people volunteered themselves and their families for such a hazardous trip. all the governments and taxes in the world could not afford to send those billions to Mars. along with all the expenditures needed to build the necessary homes. And although terraforming. much less human beings. . . It would be a complete nightmare of expense and logistics to fly billions of people to Tierra del Fuego – never mind sending those same billions to the planet Mars. for example.matically unsuited to any sort of large-scale human habitation. factories. Suppose. it would take a very long time even if it worked. Might we send a dozen or so astronauts to Mars on a mission of exploration? Of course. farms. Imagine. instead. and similar infrastructure the new human colonies would require on their new planetary home. We have yet to devise unmanned spacecraft that can long survive or function on its surface. that one or two billion people simply volunteer to move to Mars to ease overcrowding here at home. as discussed earlier.124 - . and clouds composed of sulfuric acid. the problems involving costs and logistics are also insurmountable. schools.

1978. Suppose also that they are extraordinarily lucky in their ex narily explorations and fortuitously discover three more containers ex exactly like their home jar (After Bartlett. ready for immediate dinoflagellate habitation. Let us further imagine that these new bottles contain salt wa water. by sheer good for fortune.125 - . and light conditions that are nearly identical to those of their home jar.Lessons of the Dinoflagellates II Recall for a moment the mental experiment involving di dinoflagellates in our last chapter. how much more time do the di dinoflagellates buy for themselves? Do they buy themselves three more hours? . if the dinoflagel dinoflagellate population can somehow accomplish the necessary transpor transportation. the dinoflagellat gellates completely occupied their bottle in the course of an hour. all three of their new bottles are. Suppose that our dinoflagellates are a technologically ad llates advanced species and. in the last few minutes before disaster. they explore distant parts of the laboratory in which they live. Thus. nutrients. 2005) (see il illustration above). We saw that by doubling their ling numbers repeatedly every sixty seconds. If all of these lucky events occur. that ter. temperature.

) Real-world dinoflagellates (as well as the classical reindeer herd experiments discussed earlier) both confirm and demonstrate that this misperception is seriously incorrect.126 - . however. (.. During an .. there are four biospheres with four times as many individuals facing death as the population finally exceeds the limits of its environment.. In this case. our intuitions lead us once again to an incorrect answer. so that the fortunate discovery of three additional bottles does not buy the organisms three more hours.m.m. by 11:02 a. these organisms are growing in an exponential pattern. for instance. suggested by our intuitions and most of our K-12 training goes like this: “It took one hour to fill the first bottle. In addition.. their numbers continue to double every sixty seconds. In an exponential setting. And the occupants of those two jars will all double in another sixty seconds.. Thus. This means that the occupants of a filled jar at 11:00 a. so that two bottles are full at 11:01 a. we find ourselves with four bottles completely filled with dinoflagellates who are just as close to calamity as they were two minutes ago. will double over the course of the next minute.” As we saw in the last chapter. so three more bottles must buy the species three more hours. a topic that we will specifically address in our next chapter . As the dinoflagellates approach the environmental limits of their home jar. The logic.Three More Hours? Unfortunately. however. there is a widely-held misperception that a calamitous overpopulation somehow cannot exist or cannot be very serious so long as "vast amounts of open space" are still available in a population's environment. such extremely fortunate discoveries buy the organisms just two more minutes.m.

however. We have devoted a lot of attention to our dinoflagellates because they are a useful vehicle to better understand ourselves. Good Planets Are Hard To Find We are.127 - .outbreak of deadly red-tide in the ocean. real-world dinoflagellates such as Karenia brevis routinely trigger waste-induced calamities in the aqueous surroundings in which they reside. for example. interested in ourselves and our planet.* *We treat this topic further in our next chapter. In this way. In other words. Thankfully of course. and allocate appendix three to an outline of the supporting mathematics. making their red-tide outbreaks one of nature's quintessential examples of population-induced disasters. real-world dinoflagellates produce their redtide catastrophes LONG BEFORE the dinoflagellate cells themselves manage to physically “fill” the environment in which they live. not really interested in dinoflagellates and their imaginary bottles. Yet. We are. the sample has toxic concentrations of "brevetoxins" that are released into the water by the dinoflagellate cells. that they manage to induce population disasters in the aqueous environments in which they reside even when they physically occupy only an insignificant fraction of the total “empty space” that appears to remain seemingly-available. the one million dinoflagellate cells per liter whose activities have poisoned the water sample in which they reside manage to do so while occupying LESS THAN 2/1000ths OF ONE PERCENT of the total amount of theoretically-available "open-space" in their one-liter environment. our own doubling time is not one minute. Our own doubling times have become shorter and shorter throughout history (yet another cha- . if we collect one liter of sea water from an outbreak of red-tide. in fact. It should be disconcerting. of course.

In their book BEYOND THE LIMITS (1992) they note that "out of the thousands of computer runs we have tried over the years. Meadows. no matter how efficient its economy. it is bound to overshoot. But when pop- . commenting on permafrost and feedbacks. As former CIA director Jim Woolsey. has recently noted. and in a vast ocean with few dinoflagellates. no matter how wise its decision makers. Our most recent doubling time has been approximately forty years as we proceeded to grow from three billion in 1960 to six billion in late 1999. Do they trigger violent phenomena such as wars or aggression? No. Meadows.racteristic of exponential number progressions). Do they trigger outbreaks of epidemic disease or an infectious virus? No. that has thresholds and erosive mechanisms.128 - . 2008)." They go on to observe that "any population-economyenvironment system that has feedback delays and slow physical responses. very slowly. and Randers conducted computer tests of population-econonomy-environment interactions and their potential real-world implications. overshoot and collapse has been by far the most frequent outcome. For twenty years. these wastes are diluted and have no ill effect." What Dinoflagellates Tell Us About Wastes From our discussions. Among dinoflagellates. Do they produce hunger and mass starvation in their surroundings? No. “nature is not always going to behave in linear fashion [just] because our minds think that way” (as quoted in Friedman. it simply can't steer itself away from hazards unless it tests its limits very. If it constantly tries to accelerate. No matter how brilliant its technologies. is literally unmanageable. it is useful to imagine what might actually induce the red-tide calamities that they produce. each organism releases tiny amounts of poisonous brevetoxins into its environment.

probably against their will. . In sum. But can other planets allow us to escape our present collision with the carrying capacity of our planet and its environment? Even if we were to fly billions of people. Thus. and whales and manatees).129 - . our discussions of dinoflagellates and exponential topics underscore the fact that most of the growth in an exponential sequence occurs at the end of the progression.ulation explosions result in a million or more dinoflagellates per liter. to presently uninhabitable planets at unimaginable costs. we see that: (a) Colonizing other planets is not a safety valve that is going to have any impact whatsoever on problems of overpopulation here at home. One hopes that it is our destiny in the decades and millennia ahead to visit other planets and to explore the universe that is our home. and (b) Even the existence of seemingly "vast amounts of open space” does nothing to shield a species from population catastrophe. for instance. We thus see one of nature's quintessential examples of organisms that induce environmental calamity by their production of wastes. and that second chances and opportunties for global-scale planetary “do-overs” should not be expected if our current trajectories persist. other planets are not going to save us from the collision that is presently underway and which promises to carry us at breakneck speeds toward 2050 and beyond. the toxins become sufficiently abundant to poison scores of marine species (including. fishes seabirds. along with the degree and the rapidity with which circumstances can deteriorate during those closing and calamitous late-phase conditions. .

First of all. “open-space” suppositions mathematically – lest we permit them to distract us any longer from the true extent of the dangers that our current trajectories invite. that our species is closer in time to calamitous humanitarian. civilizational. Such “open-space” suppositions or intuitions are extraordinarily dangerous because they tend to tempt us into complacency. and (b) Each reindeer population physically occupied less than 2/1000ths of 1% of the area that appeared to remain theoretically-available even at their maximum numbers and as each respective collapse began. and biospheric outcomes than we are to the Apollo moon missions and the Vietnam war. It may be.11 The Open-Space Delusion A mathematical assessment of "vast open-space" suppositions There is a widely-held misperception within our societies that human population growth and overpopulation cannot be truly serious so long as “vast amounts of open space” appear to remain seemingly-available. but deeply-erroneous. a critique of the real-world marine dinoflagellate Karenia brevis may have something to tell us about ourselves. In this respect. if not disconcerting. This chapter will assess these seductive. It should at least be provocative. that in each instance: (a) Our own J-curve is both more pronounced and more extreme. for example. an initial period of exponential growth was followed by a catastrophic 99% die-off as each population collapsed. . In each case. recall the two classic studies of reindeer herds by Scheffer (1951) and Klein (1968) that we have already seen.130 - .

In the marine environment, real-world dinoflagellate populations such as Karenia brevis produce red-tides and their associated fish-kills when their populations reach concentrations of 100,000 to 1,000,000 or more K. brevis cells per liter. Because each cell releases, on an ongoing basis, small amounts of poisonous “brevetoxins,” the accumulation of toxins reaches calamitous levels within the aqueous environment in which the population resides. Thus, Karenia brevis and similar red-tide dinoflagellates constitute prototypical examples of population calamities that arise even as seemingly enormous amounts of "open-space" appear to remain theoretically-available in surrounding environments that visually appear to be - ALMOST ENTIRELY EMPTY. To illustrate this, we have prepared the illustration depicted on the next page (Figure 11.1). While the dot in the image denotes just two one-thousandths of one percent, the remaining 99.99872% of the rectangle depicts an enormous quantity of unoccupied and seemingly-plentiful open space.
In the illustration, which is proportional, all one million K. brevis cells could physically-occupy the area denoted proportionally by the dot while the remainder of the one-liter water sample (which equals a volume of 61.024 cubic inches) is proportionally depicted by the remainder of the empty rectangle.

Thus, in a one liter water sample taken from an outbreak of red-tide, the liter's entire population of K. brevis cells responsible for the calamity occupy less than 2/1000ths of one percent of a volume that otherwise appears to be almost entirely empty. And in a proportionally correct way, the area denoted by the small dot in Figure 11.1 denotes the physical amount of space needed to accommodate all one million cells making up the one-liter sampling of the K. brevis population.
An outline of the supporting mathematics for the examples in this chapter can be found in appendix three.

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Figure 11.1 - The dot depicted below denotes two one-thousandths of one percent

while the remaining 99.998 72% of the rectangle
represents an enormous quantity of unoccupied "open space"
* A volume of one liter is propotionally represented here by the colorless rectangle. In an outbreak of red-tide, the one million individual Karenia brevis cells per liter that cause the calamity could fit into the proportional area denoted by the dot.

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In other words, despite a seemingly empty environment and apparently enormous amounts of open space, and despite the fact that the Karenia brevis population occupies a volumetrically-insignificant portion of the area or volume that appears to remain available, they have, by their combined overpopulation and their production of wastes, managed to calamitouslyalter the environment in which they reside (a set of conditions which would seem to be worth noting since our own species exhibits an extraordinarily similar pattern of behavior). . Notice then, that in each of our population growth/population calamity examples (two reindeer herds and red-tides), realworld population disasters have taken place in environments that appear to be (99.9% plus) almost entirely empty. . Why should we imagine that our own species is invulnerable? We have thus seen that volumetrically-insignificant numbers of individual dinoflagellates, surrounded on all sides by “vast amounts of open space,” routinely manage to calamitouslyalter the aqueous environment in which they live. And specifically, that, in a one-liter sample of water from a red-tide, the dinoflagellate cells themselves collectively occupy a total area equivalent to (or less than) the area proportionally represented by the dot in our illustration. . This, of course, is not to necessarily suggest a direct applicability of dinoflagellate impacts and trajectories to humanity’s own global trajectories and impacts today. It is, however, at least provocative to consider that today our own species, surrounded by a seemingly enormous atmosphere and seemingly “vast amounts of open space” also appears to be well on its way, via an ongoing release of assorted industrial and societal wastes, to a significant alteration of the entire gaseous

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environment in which we live (not to mention the catastrophic physical damage that we also inflict everywhere else). Given the current demographic corner into which we seem to have painted ourselves (and with our eighth and ninth billions on-track to arrive between now and mid-century), one would hope that we are collectively smarter than a mindless population of one-celled dinoflagellates that repeatedly prove themselves capable of calamity even while occupying less than 2/1000ths of one percent of the volume in which a sampled population resides. Invoking sobriety, however, we may actually be following a trajectory that is provocatively similar to that of the dinoflagellates, because our own species, like the red-tide dinoflagellates of marine habitats, releases chemical wastes and toxins into our surroundings. Worse still, from at least one point of view, we may actually be on a trajectory that is considerably worse than that of the dinoflagellates* .
* (and multiple orders of magnitude worse, at that)

for each dinoflagellate cell releases only its metabolic, cellular, and biological wastes into its surroundings. In the case of humankind, however, we release not only our biological and metabolic wastes, but also an unprecedented daily worldwide avalanche of societal and industrial wastes that are being increasingly-amplified by our growing numbers and increasing industrialization. . Recall also that the seeming immensity of earth’s atmosphere and seas is also an illusion – another widely-held misperception that invites complacency. Because three-quarters of the earth's surface is covered with lakes, rivers, oceans, seas, and ice, it is both easy, and descriptive, to picture our home as "a

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water planet" that could easily be known as "Planet Ocean" (IOF, 1978; Anson, 1991, 1996, 2007). On the other hand, if we consider earth's oceans and atmosphere as strictly surface features of our planet, as discussed in chapter six, an entirely different assessment presents itself.
Recall (from pages 81-82 and 89, for example), that 99.94% of our planet consists of its crust, mantle, and molten interior, and the thin layer of water that we refer to as an ocean exists only as a thin and precarious surface film that is just six one-hundredths of one percent as thick as the earth itself. To proportionally illustrate such a depth to scale on a model globe, we would need a thin film of water approximately twelve one-thousandths of one inch deep to correctly depict the proportional depth of the earth's oceans. . Similarly, recall that earth's atmosphere also qualifies as another thin surface film that astronauts and cosmonauts have likened to "a single layer of skin on an onion.”

No Other Animals Do This Thus, although our own pollution is in some ways reminiscent of that produced by population explosions of dinoflagellates in a marine environment, there is a disturbing exceptionality to our own pollution because it consists of far more than our biological and metabolic wastes. . Recall our earlier assessment of an ordinary human being living in an industrialized country. One's daily body wastes are again present, of course, but humanity's collective biological wastes are natural products that have little impact on global systems. Next, however, we envisioned this same person in an automobile, backed up in crowded traffic on a busy eightlane highway, surrounded in every direction by hundreds of cars and trucks and buses, each spewing exhaust from an internal combustion engine. We thus see that we are individually contributing much more than our body wastes to our surroundings. And the pollutants

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into the onionskin-thin layer of air that comprises the atmosphere. . throwaway containers. televisions. relentlessly and endlessly. If we intend to enjoy such extravagance. but are daily. bowling lanes. We are the only animals on earth that do this and we repeat this behavior again and again. microwaves. We are the only animals that do this (or that have ever done this) . . hair-dryers. every day. Tokyo. and Rio de Janiero. No other animals on earth have EVER supplemented their biological and metabolic wastes in this way. fluorescent lights..our populations must be smaller. Mumbai. in Los Angeles. toaster-ovens. Cairo. shopping malls. ongoing wastes that we generate virtually every day throughout our lives. And our exceptionality in this behavior is not an incidental or minimal footnote to our biology – it is one of our most pronounced and all-encompassing characteristics. New York City. in the worst red tide outbreaks in history have never supplemented their cellular and metabolic wastes in this way. And even dinoflagellates.that we emit.) No other animals on earth supplement their biological and metabolic wastes in this way.136 - . of course (about a pound of CO2 per mile). steelmills. so that in serving us.and even these ongoing demands are not yet finished: We also switch on our heating or air-conditioning systems. our street lights. . releasing multiple billions of tons of wastes relentlessly into the thin layer of air that makes up earth's atmosphere. Rome. and millions of items that have been shipped halfway around the world. Beijing. Nairobi. Sydney. refrigerators and freezers. our power plants release tons upon tons of additional wastes. How can we imagine that endless billions of us can endlessly behave in this way without calamitous repercussions? If we intend to enjoy such extravagance.and to these we have yet to add wastes generated by unwanted catalogue mailings. . And we repeat these and similar activities every day. are not rare or occasional wastes. run our dishwashers and clothes dryers. operate lawnmowers and weed-trimmers. Jakarta. Marseilles.. (And our outbreak is not localized. and hot-water heaters. Karachi. We are the only animals on earth that do this .

these and similar impacts might be expected to double as the world's poorest nations industrialize and seek to emulate our own standard of living. 9th. on average. you just can’t see it. even though the earth's razor-thin atmosphere is not responding very well to our current assaults. Only what we are throwing out is a pound of CO2 – that’s what goes into the atmosphere.137 - . and metabolic wastes into our surroundings. humanity’s release of environmental wastes and toxins exemplifies our own population explosion. it is provocative that calamitous red tides. Author Friedman cites California Institute of Technology chemist Nate Lewis as follows: "Imagine you are driving your car and every mile you drive you throw a pound of trash out your window. however. A provocative perspective has recently been offered in HOT. we nevertheless appear on-track to add at least our 8th. Yet. cellular. and people driving Hummers are throwing two bags out at a time – one out the driver-side window and one out the passenger-side window. many more. Well. . like those produced by Karenia brevis (which constitute a quintessential example of population explosions that are accompanied by poisonous wastes) characteristically induce disastrous consequences in the environment in which they reside. and 10th billions to our numbers by 2100. FLAT. Unfortunately. every mile we drive. in a similar way. AND CROWDED (Friedman.” Multiple Orders of Magnitude To summarize. And everyone else on the freeway in their cars and trucks are doing the exact same thing. and maybe many. we are not releasing only our biological. Today. that is exactly what we are doing. 2008).Even if world population did not grow at all. .

we also supplement our wastes with ongoing and equally unprecedented levels of sheer physical damage to and eradication of earth's life-support machinery. it also proves interesting to apply an identical analysis to the peak numbers of human occupants on Easter Island relative to the island's total area. In his 2005 best-selling book COLLAPSE. in a way that is unprecedented in the history of life on earth. and (c) that our daily production of such wastes is multiple orders of magnitude worse than the production of wastes in even a catastrophic outbreak of red-tide should serve. (b) unique among all animals on earth. The fact that our production of industrial and societal wastes is: (a) worldwide. to note that the results of the dinoflagellate and reindeer analyses (2/1000ths of 1% occupancy) show such an unexpected similarity to an analysis of the humans living on Easter Island (less than 3/1000ths of 1% occupancy).” .Instead. our own species supplements its biological wastes. . then. Thus. in appendix four (p 340). The mathematics suggests that the island's human residents and their environment both underwent collapse even while 99. perhaps. and dangerously-erroneous “open-space delusion. seriously. Thus. the widely-held supposition that the existence of “vast amounts of open space” somehow exempts us from population calamity is nothing more than an illusion – a deeply. And of course. Footnote Recall that population explosions of dinoflagellates bring about calamitous red-tides even as the dinoflagellate cells themselves physically occupy less than 2/1000ths of 1% of the water sample in which they reside.138 - . with tons upon tons of societal and industrial wastes so that we appear to be following a trajectory that is even worse than that of red-tide dinoflagellates and multiple orders of magnitude worse. of course. It is interesting. A major difference.997% of the island's total area remained unoccupied and "enormous amounts of open-space" still remained theoretically-available. we set forth an analysis of Easter Island's total area (open space) just preceding the collapse of its human population. . as a bit of food for thought. is that the dinoflagellate impacts arise from wastes released into their surroundings. while the impacts of the pre-industrial human population on Easter Island probably reflect physical and ecological impacts such as deforestation and an overexploitation of island birds and seabirds. at that. Just as it has proven provocative to calculate that outbreaks of red-tide dinoflagellates induce calamity even as they occupy less than 2/1000ths of 1% of the water samples in which they reside. one of Jared Diamond's opening chapters explores the growth and collapse of the original human population of Easter Island.

but then their rate of growth gradually and increasingly slows until it eventually flattens out and stabilizes around the carrying capacity of the environment. starvation. Feedbacks. . epidemic disease. causing the rate of growth to slow more and more. Overshoot and Collapse Some populations increase in numbers quickly.. Carrying Capacity Increasing numbers  Time  Such curves can sometimes result if. 12 Limits. Examples of such "density-dependent feedbacks" include undesirable factors such as pollution. . When graphed. such patterns of growth generate an S-shaped or sigmoid curve as depicted below. environmental degradation and resistance. and increasing aggression. infant mortality. .139 - . various "negative feedbacks" become more pronounced or more intense. as a population becomes increasingly crowded.

. fail to slow and stabilize in time. Such patterns are sometimes described as “boom-and-bust” or “ “climb-andcollapse” population patterns. and environmental damage occur at unsustainable rates. consump consumption. and/or physical damage to ecosystems. but continue growing rapidly. . these instances.Other populations. (Mayflies and dinoflagellate inoflagellate red-tides constitute real-life examples of such event life events. the population “overshoots” the carrying ca s” capacity of its environment. exhaustion of food or haustion resources. Q: Do mammals ever exhibit “CLIMB AND COLLAPSE?” OLLAPSE A: Yes. even mammals and other advanced organisms can exhibit boom-and-bust patterns. this does not always happen. even as their numbers rocket past the long-term carrying capacity of their environment In term environment. In curves. from accumulating wastes. end able ending in a large and rapid die-off called a COLLAPSE. however. Although it is common for mammals to exhibit S-curves. As overshoot occurs. Overshoot Carrying Capacity Collapse Notice the initial columns denoting exponential growth and that overshoot is followed shortly by a collapse.) Some collapses can result from an exotic or non-native predator or competitor.140 - .

situations where key predators or competitors are removed, petitors mammals, like other organisms, can temporarily escape the y normal controls that would limit their population and undergo population explosions resulting from ecological release. . The Rise and Fall of a Reindeer Herd In chapters four and eight we referenced V.B. Scheffer’s classic study, The Rise and Fall of a Reindeer Herd (1951) (1951). Scheffer's study took place over a period of four decades be between 1910 and 1950, generating the graph depicted below below. The reindeer population in that study underwent a population went explosion followed by a catastrophic die-off, even with vast amounts of open space remaining. Within a few years, Klein , completed a similar study with similar results (1968). ). .

Increasing Numbers

2046 Reindeer

25 reindeer

8 reindeer

>> Time >> The Scheffer study began in 1910 when scientists introduced a small herd of twenty-five reindeer to forty-one square mile one St. Paul Island. The island had no timber wolves or other predators, and no major competitors. Thus, at the outset, with the island all to itself, the reindeer population increased its

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numbers exponentially in a classical case of ecological release. On the previous page, part one of the graph depicts the reindeer numbers in the initial exponential phases of the study. By 1938, however, reindeer numbers peaked at more than two thousand individuals. Notice that the data over these first 28 years produce a classical J-curve as the herd underwent an exponential increase in numbers. Notice also, however, that almost the entire herd (99%) died over the next twelve years in the calamitous die-off or collapse that followed. Part two of the page 141 graph depicts the steep decline that took place during the last twelve years of the study. Notice that following the peak in 1938 (when the population occupied less than 2/1000ths of one percent of the “open space” that appeared to remain seemingly available), reindeer numbers fell repeatedly and precipitously. During that collapse, the herd was virtually eradicated with a 99% die-off, so that as the study ended in 1950, only eight reindeer still survived on the island. Note also that the graph on the previous page depicts no data for the years 1942-1945 as the chaos of World War II interrupted the study. And in a similar study, a second reindeer population underwent a similar 99% die-off following its own exponential trajectory and overshoot in a strikingly comparable and disquieting way (Klein, 1968). We thus see that mammalian populations are not immune to overshoot and collapse. In the last one hundred years, humanity has been so successful at conquering pathogenic microbes and hunger (at least temporarily), that we have escaped the natural controls that once held our numbers in check. With each new advance in medicine, our population has extended its temporary release. As a result, our worldwide numbers, which began rocketing sharply upward in the mid-1800s, have continued to soar (as shown in the graph on the next page) and we are now in a condition of calamitous overshoot.

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Medium projections to 2100 High projections to 2100

Human Population
in billions

Notice that either one of our graphs is, if anything, far steeper and far more extreme than those that preceded the collapse in each of the reindeer populations. We do not yet know the earth's precise carrying capacity for pacity our species, but it would have been wise to address that topic ave two decades ago. As it is, many, if not most, scientists sur surmise that we are already well beyond earth's carrying capacity for our species, in a classic case of overshoot. . .

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Stoplights and Twisting Mountain Roads We are able to successfully navigate dangerous curves on a twisting mountain road, or negotiate a stoplight at a busy highway intersection because of feedbacks that allow us to respond to conditions as they change. In their book BEYOND THE LIMITS, Meadows, et al. (1992) offered insights into the dynamics of delayed feedbacks, overshoot, and collapse. . Suppose that you are in an automobile that is traveling at a high rate of speed on a twisting mountain road. If you and/or your vehicle fail to make necessary adjustments in an ongoing and timely manner, the needed response will occur too late and a dangerous and deadly overshoot will result – perhaps sending your vehicle and its passengers off a precipice. . Or suppose that this same automobile is approaching a red stoplight in the near distance. Normally, a driver will take his or her foot off the accelerator and press on the brake pedal in a way that slows the vehicle to a safer speed, or which brings the vehicle to a gentle stop as it nears the red light. Lag Times, Uncertainties, and Delayed Feedbacks Meadows, et al. (ibid) ask us to imagine what happens if there are delayed feedbacks or lag times in such a system: What if your side of the window is fogged up so that a passenger must inform you about the stoplight's condition and its distance? What if the passenger lies to you? What if the passenger tells you the truth, but you do not believe his or her report? What if the brakes, when touched, require two minutes before exerting their influence? What if the speed and mass of the vehicle produces so much momentum that hundreds of yards are needed to stop – as in the case of an aircraft carrier that must slow from its maximal speed?

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Delays of these sorts can cause a driver to shoot past a stoplight or go off a cliff on a mountain road, destroying the vehicle and its passengers. In an automobile, delayed feedbacks and slow response times can prevent a driver from adjusting quickly and accurately enough to changing conditions, resulting in an overshoot and its accompanying disaster for the vehicle and its occupants. In society, where our governments and social institutions are cumbersome and lumber along, such delays are the rule rather than the exception. And just like the perils facing passengers in our imaginary vehicle, slow responses, lag times, and delayed feedbacks can lead to disaster. . Certainties, Uncertainties, and Delayed Feedbacks Imagine new data sets and information that are vitally important, but which include initial uncertainties. Early reports and papers concerning greenhouse gases and climate change both come to mind. Despite serious environmental implications, such information may also have significant economic consequences. Thus, the possibility of economic repercussions might prompt pleas for "more certainty" before taking action. What if economic interests or a majority of government leaders do not want to believe the implications of early data? In society, extended lag times can result when officials, confronted by economic interests, elect to consign a problem to a backburner “until it can be studied more." In addition, when issues have high economic stakes, a classic conflict between financial interests and issues of the public good can arise. Recent financial mismanagement, scandals, and bailouts remind us, painfully, that when money is involved, vested interests can dispense misleading or inaccurate information.

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of course. from a global and biospheric perspective. biological diversity. and infrastructure. the same strategy can be employed in policy debates. the information could be entirely disingenuous. minerals. thus raising the possibility of misinformation and/or disinformation. we are in a condition of overshoot right now. Assorted accounts. because. however. but they could also be partially inaccurate.146 - . There is a delay between the time we empty CO2 into the atmosphere and the time that its full climatic effects take place. Such delays are a problem. Even if replacement-level fertility could be achieved instantly. agriculture. There is a delay between the time that we empty chlorofluorocarbons into the atmosphere and the time when their atmospheric effects become apparent.Those who stand to realize a financial gain from a given outcome may not always provide entirely trustworthy information. for instance. Judged by such standards. so that we will revisit such omission/disinformation issues again in a later chapter. can result in responses that come too late. . could be entirely accurate. disease. Time Delays and Overshoot In his book HOW MANY PEOPLE CAN EARTH SUPPORT (1995) author Joel Cohen writes of time as a critical aspect of our population problem. it seems certain that. on the other hand. Or. Internationally. it is common for intelligence agencies to occasionally dispense “disinformation” to put perceived enemies at a disadvantage. there would still be a delay of many years before world population stops growing. "Time is required to solve problems of energy. as Cohen points out. resulting in overshoot. Such delays and lag times." . or might omit information that adversely impacts investment portfolios or desired business outcomes. Unfortunately.

and natural scientists seem to recognize both the rapidity and the degree of the changes that we are generating. And if we grow too fast. 1999. An example of this complacency can be seen in BEYOND SIX BILLION edited by John Bongaarts and Rodolfo Bulatao and published by the National Academy Press in 2000. wave direction. as well as the sensitivity of natural systems to our repeated and large-scale insults (e. Press. Campbell. and social institutions are notoriously slow and unwieldy in their response to change. Biologists. 2001. wind speeds. and Raven. and cautious manner. 2007. complacent. however. it would be packed with data on the ship's past and future speeds. . Kendall.g. And it is reckless to contemplate accommodating one additional billion after another in the breathlessly few years that pass between one demographic tidal wave followed by another and another and another. Reece and Mitchell. traditions. political institutions. 1987). a vehicle and its passengers can overshoot their limits and fly off a cliff. climatologists. . When heedless speeding takes place on a winding mountain road. But there would be nothing in the book about colliding with icebergs. Hansen. at best..147 - . seem to be. IPCC. 1992. methodical. engine data.. 2005. Beyond Six Billion Other writers. and engine RPMs. Pimm. 2006. we can find multiple hazards appearing suddenly and unexpectedly and confronting us too quickly for us to respond. et al. as is happening now. and fail to negotiate the curves and hazards in a careful. Schellnhuber. If BEYOND SIX BILLION were written about the voyage of the passenger liner Titanic. time at sea and distances that can be traveled under alternate assumptions about currents.Our societies. 1992.

. nor in its recommendations. overshoot. and overshoot. and citations – for which we thank the contributors. transitional fertility. analysis. BSB offers no discussion nor contemplation of the possibility. The decades just ahead are about hitting an iceberg – not whether we will hit the iceberg at a speed of 28 knots or 22 knots. nor in its index. or consideration whatsoever of limits. data tables. The BSB report offers its readers no discussion. To anyone who turns to BEYOND SIX BILLION to enlighten themselves about earth's population.. international migration. however. eighth. manage to appear repeatedly).. Similarly. graphs.148 - . reasonable. . These missing topics are serious intellectual omissions in any report carrying the imprimatur of the National Academy Press. mortality.. or planetary carrying capacity. And there are included a host of charts. terms and concepts such as carrying capacity. evaluation. limiting factors. By including no evaluation. For example. or analysis of the environmental impacts of a seventh." in contrast. these terms are not to be found anywhere in the book's 217 pages. not about whether our estimates of speed are exactly accurate or if they are off by a factor of 3%. post-transitional fertility. and collapse are entirely missing (though the words "business as usual. and implausible carrying capacities. not about whe- . or even an eleventh billion. ecological release. is this: It contains no discussion. Indeed. . unreasonable. . ninth.. thresholds. or evaluation of plausible. tenth. presentation.There are chapters on population projections. nor implications of limits. the accuracy of past projections. the BSB report has ignored the very reason that population issues should be discussed. and forecast uncertainties. overshoot. arguably the topic's most important terms and concepts are not to be found. likelihood. The report's great weakness. . exponential..

it is appropriate to argue that serious review of a topic that is fundamentally biological should have included more biologists and fewer political scientists.149 - . these fields were seriously underrepresented on the panel.ther we will hit the iceberg in thirty minutes or in thirty-one minutes. Captain of the Titanic: I notice that you have nothing here about running into icebergs. The omission of carrying capacities. including climatology. Alas. and population biologists would have raised and addressed these issues.carrying capacities) are externalities and are too unpredictable. ecology. and economists. the natural sciences. Two panelists brought biological credentials and ecological perspectives to the BSB panel (most notably Joel Cohen) but in general. four were economists. and limits from BSB does not banish such topics into nonexistence. Our point is this: Botanists. two were political scientists. . however. Without criticizing any panelist as an individual or as a professional. without criticizing any non-biologists individually. Statistician: Because icebergs are outside our field of expertise. overshoot. simply consider the composition of the panel itself. zoologists. statisticians. . Why not? Economist: Because icebergs (i. Expertise and Externalities The report's serious omissions might have been predicted considering the make-up of the panel that conducted the study. So would marine and atmospheric scientists and climatologists. and population biology were seriously underrepresented.e. Thus. and two were statisticians or mathematicians. but. Of the twenty members. five were demographers. five were sociologists. sociologists. .

oceanographers.* Not only do we multiply our humanitarian and civilizational disasters. such as. Population topics are not just about ultimate limits and carrying capacities. there seems to be an assumption that our political systems. and (b) seriously contemplate the impacts and implications arising from each of our additional billions. and biospheric systems can respond instantaneously and accurately to the tsunamis of problems and change that each of our added billions will pose in the decades ahead. (c) Perhaps the editors might have sampled an assortment of OTHER population estimates and assessments from another "community" or two. and physicists. deforestation. . they are also about the degree and rapidity of our demands and the inadequate time we are allotting for our infrastructure. climatologists. illiteracy. Those BSB editors or panelists who minimized or ignored such topics should: (a) spend a few months in the poverty.unfortunately.150 - . unemployment. In reality. crowding. however. populations. it does diminish the chances of serious public discussion.’ but perhaps several steps below the standards that we normally expect from the NRC and the National Academy Press). and environmental systems to adjust. and uncontrolled violence in the crowded and high-fertility countries of today’s world. chemists. and habitat destruction. social institutions. chain saws. and humanitarian disasters that characterize today’s high-fertility states.” (a) Perhaps this might be explained to the millions of victims of hunger. * There is actually an air of seemingly-deliberate complacency that the BSB report appears to urge upon its readers. hydroelectric projects. pesticides. biologists. it is obvious that such systems and social institutions are notoriously slow and cumbersome and virtually incapable of accurate and instantaneous responses. For example: “There is a sense in the international aid community that the problem of rapid population growth is no longer an urgent priority. nuclear weapons. for instance. poverty. bulldozers. lawlessness. greenhouse gases. In some circles. atmospheric scientists. disease. (b) Note that the BSB editors report to us a ‘sense’ that demographic urgency and priority are no longer necessary (which would appear to be a step above a ‘gut feeling. . but we also increase our biospheric assaults in the form of pollution.

In their 1992 book "Beyond the Limits. economists.the model system. for example).Thus. in the thousands of model runs we have tried over the years. we address thresholds. and consequences of overshoot now and/or in the decades just ahead. If we try to negotiate the curves that we encounter on a twisting mountain road at too great a speed. In our next chapter. overshoot and collapse has been by far the most frequent outcome" (Meadows. This chapter has addressed lag times. and to report on the likelihood. and overshoot. tipping points.. et al. In fact. and unintended consequences. .. In short. implications.151 - . delayed feedbacks. has a strong tendency to overshoot and collapse. and demographers) to analyze the earth's carrying capacity (at a Western European standard of living. its assorted limits (including its capacity to tolerate damage and to degrade or assimilate wastes). possibility.. and by implication the 'realworld' system.which is earth's carrying capacity for an industrialized humanity. inviting a calamitous overshoot that can take ourselves and our vehicle off a cliff. we do not leave ourselves or our vehicle enough time to respond to the rapidity of the changes that we face. We have seen that time itself is a critical factor. 1992). to be followed in chapter fourteen with a consideration of "the big question" ." Meadows et al. they found that ". one of our recommendations is this: The National Research Council/National Academy of Sciences should empanel a team of natural scientists (as opposed to statisticians. updated their World3 computer models to test future outcomes arising from differing trends in population growth and resource use and the results repeatedly generated projections of industrial collapse by the mid-21st century.

tipping points. for safe operation. should not be transgressed. that result in dramatic changes when transgressed. along with a host of unanticipated thresholds and/or thresholds whose precise values have not yet been quantified. . In this chapter we will consider thresholds. Examples of known thresholds also occur in physical. and Unintended Consequences Imagine the first domino in a row of adjacent dominos being toppled. and in most cases. repeatedly – again. leading to potential collapse or failure. and environmental systems. the integrity of the structure is compromised. whether known or unknown. While an engineering firm may build a bridge to support a particular tonnage. incrementally. We are living at a time when each of humanity’s added billions is impacting one natural system after another. elevators and aircraft have characteristic weight thresholds which. Such ”thresholds” are points that denote a limit or a boundary. In such an event. if that threshold is breached. And a disconcerting amount of accumulating evidence suggests that some of earth’s most important dominos may already be toppling.13 Thresholds. even an accidental instability imparted to a single domino can unexpectedly topple a far wider and interconnected system. and again. thereby causing all the others to fall in quick succession. biological. and unintended consequences. chemical. and again. Tipping Points.152 - . In a similar way.

or even that some such thresholds may have been exceeded already. result in acidosis or alkalosis which are both potentially fatal. we increase the temperature by just one added degree.The boiling point of water is an example of such a boundary. only to be followed in each case by a precipitous collapse in which more than 99% of the population died (Scheffer.35 (lower threshold) and 7. If. Klein. Each of these instances illustrates a threshold with implications for essential life-functions. Seemingly small transgressions. In each experiment. Some scientists worry that our population and our impacts may soon exceed one or more of earth’s ecological thresholds. the system persists in its liquid state. the system is carried past a critical and. a mammalian population paid a deadly price for exceeding an unmarked threshold .153 - . a nerve cell will not fire unless a critical number of neurotransmitters bind to its cell-surface receptors. and our chapters 4. 2006). As an example of thresholds in a biological system.* * One wonders how many such experiments are required before their clear implications become convincing.4. known or unknown.45 (upper threshold). and transforms abruptly to a gaseous system of billowing steam (after Kluger. As a third example. however. pH buffers in our blood maintain blood pH at a mildly alkaline 7. 1968. however. 1951. in this case. an unmarked tipping point. If we imagine a pan of hot water at 211 o F under conditions of standard pressure. will the nerve cell “fire” and transmit a message onward. Only if that threshold number of neurotransmitters is reached or exceeded. 8 and 11).the carrying capacity of its environment. In this book we have already recounted two examples of reindeer herds that grew explosively. beyond 7. .

and then a third. each seemingly small. oratory balance or a schoolyard see-saw in a state of delicate saw balance. from an initial condition of equilibrium or stasis to a radically different paradigm. and tip the system into an entirely new configuration. If a naable. . Imagine a row of dominos like those shown in the illus illustration above. followed by a second small increment of change. a single increment of change triggers an abrupt and unexpected shift to vastly (or even catas catastrophically) different conditions. Suppose. it is also both precarious and vulnerable. have an additive or cumulative effect that mulative abruptly tips the entire system. While the apparent stasis depicted in the illustra sis illustration is real. such incremental changes. At this point. Next imagine that a prevailing set of existing conditions in a system is increasingly destabilized by an accumulation of small changes until a critical threshold or tipping point is ping reached. First imagine a lab. resulting in a sudden shift . shift the balance. Small changes in position or small changes in mass at one end can destroy the equilibrium. and then a fifth increment of change.Tipping Points Natural systems also have tipping points. a fourth. for example. that we introduce a small change with no apparent effect. At some point.154 - .

2005.tural system displays a similar condition of apparent stasis. the West Antarctic ice sheet. might produce paradigm shifts with global repercussions. 2006. the ozone layer. IPCC. 2004. researchers returning from western Siberia “found that an area of permafrost spanning a million . ocean acidification. the temperaturesensitive El Nino .) As an example. multiple systems may be more vulnerable to disruption than expected so that such assumptions that contemplate “business as usual” are both unjustified and dangerous. the east Asian monsoon. etc. Suggested examples of such key regulatory systems have included (among others): Methane clathrates frozen in Arctic permafrost and deep sea sediments. Lenton. or catastrophic.. Recently. In the dominos in our illustration.g. and the Amazon rainforest (e.La Nina phenomenon. in 2005. researchers have begun to identify assorted examples of natural regulatory dominos that if tipped.155 - .. Doney. Schellnhuber. 2006. the Antarctic Circumpolar Current. the North Atlantic thermohaline current. In this manner. or both. if destabilized beyond critical thresholds. the Greenland ice sheet. 2008. some economic interests ask us to assume that “business-asusual” will govern that system. the Sahara desert. inadvertently tipping one domino can trigger an essentially unstoppable succession of other events. might act as tipping points with feedbacks capable of irreversibly toppling other global processes. 2007. Yet. for example. et al. producing an abrupt shift that may be largely irreversible. no matter what pressures to which it may be subjected. These represent systems that. Whitty. 2006. exceeding a critical threshold (whether it is known or not) can act as a tipping point that results in the failure or collapse of an existing paradigm.

David Viner. Kirpotin termed the change an “ecological landslide that is probably irreversible” (Kirpotin and Marquand.” forcing climate scientists to revise their projections of global temperatures upwards (Sample.156 - . Kirpotin and Marquand.square kilometers . into the atmosphere” (Pearce. 2005. 2005). some of which are more than a kilometer across. 2005). 2007). Pearce. is the world's largest frozen peat bog and scientists fear that as thawing occurs. it will release billions of tons of methane. 2005. 2000). a greenhouse gas twenty times more potent than carbon dioxide. 2005). which covers the entire sub-Arctic region of western Siberia. over the coming century. 2005. according to some estimates.” Kirpotin suspects that some unknown critical threshold has been crossed. This change may be of global significance because. a senior scientist at Great Britain’s University of East Anglia points out that “this is a big deal because you can’t put the permafrost back once it’s gone. The area. .” He also warns that we can produce situations in which such processes can become unstoppable where “there are no brakes you can apply” (Pearce. triggering the melting. . 2005. IPCC. atmospheric concentrations could “effectively double. 2005. The area.000 years ago at the end of the last ice age. Pielke. If. Sample.g. 700 million tons a year). Estimating the melting to have begun in the past three or four years.the size of France and Germany combined . warming gradually releases just a portion of this to the atmosphere (e. the west Siberia permafrost contains up to 700 billion additional tons of trapped methane gas (Pearce.has started to melt for the first time since it formed 11. Dr. which has remained completely frozen for more than ten millennia. is now turning into “…a broken landscape of mud and lakes.

In a cascade of this sort. 2005). releases additional billions of tons of methane gas. then melting of polar snow and ice represent a second domino that changes earth’s albedo (reflectivity). in 2005. melting permafrost could release “several hundred billion tons” of carbon into the atmosphere. if rising levels of CO2 represent a first domino. scientists at Australia’s Global Carbon Project identified “melting permafrost as a major source of feedbacks that could accelerate climate change. 2005. once atmospheric CO2 (the first domino) reaches an unmarked. which cause still more warming. the frozen muds of deep-sea sediments are estimated to hold still more gigatons of methane gas so that rising ocean temperatures might represent still another falling domino. Field and Canadell. which. In this scenario.157 - . yet critical. causing further warming. threshold and starts melting earth’s snow. earth’s thawing permafrost thus constitutes a third domino.” As project scientist Pep Canadell observes. An ecosystem that crosses a critical threshold or tipping point may thus collapse or abruptly shift from one equilibrium con- . the event can also trigger a chain-reaction of self-reinforcing feedbacks (positive or amplifying feedbacks) that act to magnify or intensify an existing trend or trajectory. Instead of white snow and ice reflecting light energy back into space. And finally. dark polar waters and soils instead absorb that solar energy. (Pearce. As one example. the other dominos might irreversibly follow. when tipped.Self-fueling Feedbacks If a system exceeds a critical threshold or passes a key tipping point. and permafrost. ice. Thus. Other feedbacks result when disappearing ice and snow expose dark-colored ground and ocean which are more likely to absorb solar heat than the snow and ice.

new. but dumping whole glaciers” (ibid). be likely] that “global climate systems are booby-trapped with tipping points and feedback loops. Melt enough Greenland ice. can steadily nudge a system toward . 2008). and you reach the point at which you’re not simply dripping meltwater into the sea. The change may constitute a relatively abrupt. an accumulation of additive inputs. It seems possible [and may. As Kluger writes: “Pump enough CO2 into the sky. and that last part per million of greenhouse gas behaves like the 212th degree Fahrenheit that turns a pot of hot water into a plume of billowing steam. nobody “…captured in their energy-economy models the acceleration of emissions from China in the last five years.. Dr. That is what is so scary. even though a system at equilibrium can frequently adjust to small changes and still maintain itself. Thus. Commenting on greenhouse gases.g. 2007). a tipping point is a condition or threshold where the additive or cumulative effects of individual changes act to “tip” a system from an existing condition of stasis or equilibrium to failure. climate change models and IPCC projections.158 - . in fact. or to an alternate. even if they are relatively small. or significantly different set of prevailing conditions..dition to another with a sudden loss in biological productivity. Bill Collins of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has noted that “most of the data in the IPCC model related to China’s economic activities… predates the last five years when China greatly intensified its already booming efforts…. 2006). Thus. UN/Sigma Xi. thresholds past which the slow creep of environmental decay gives way to sudden and self-perpetuating collapse” (Kluger. What is happening now is worse than the worst-case projections that went into the IPCC model” (as cited by Friedman..” As a result. unstoppable and/or irreversible paradigm shift or failure (e.

1967). Similarly. they reprovisioned their supplies of food and water. . Stephen’s Island is located off the coast of New Zealand and in 1894.159 - . as Robert Pielke. Xenicus lyalli. Unintended Consequences . Sr. they happened upon three species of flightless birds known as Dodos living in the Mauritius Islands. First. One of the simplest illustrations of unintended consequences can be seen in the story of the Stephen’s Island wren. of course. “a tipping point that results in serious. when explorers crossed the Indian Ocean in 1507. the cat soon discovered a species of tiny bird previously unknown to science. observes (2005).” Thus. the arrival of the lighthouse keeper’s pet cat was a threshold event that set in motion a quick set of unexpected outcomes.1 History shows us that even everyday human activities that we presume to be benign or that we routinely intend to be beneficial. Unfortunately. can often have unanticipated consequences with unexpectedly deleterious repercussions. not only did the cat discover the world’s only population of Xenicus lyalli. Upon arrival. negative impacts on societal and environmental conditions could be catastrophic. the initial arrival of an invasive species that survives and successfully propagates can constitute a tipping point. it also soon drove the species to extinction (after Greenway. Thus. the possibility of some or multiple selffueling feedbacks means that assorted climatic and environmental systems may be more vulnerable to a self-amplifying cascade of unexpected shocks than intuition might suggest. In this case. its lighthouse keeper brought his pet cat to the island to keep him company. .a tipping point where a failure or a new paradigm is abruptly (and/or irreversibly) produced. And. the flightless Dodos . As ships visited the islands over the next 100 years.

In this way.were easy to catch and their eggs were easy to collect. for the sharp decline of large sharks at the apex of the food chain unexpectedly destroyed a centurylong scallop industry (ibid). it was not intended for rats to swim from the ships to the islands and to eat Dodo eggs (ibid). among other things. sharp declines range from “87% for sandbar sharks (Carcharhinus plumbeus). thinking of future voyages. zygaena) sharks (Myers. for instance. It also was not intended. 2007).A.160 - . up to 97% for tiger sharks (Galeocerdo cuvier) and 99% or more for bull (C. the simple arrival. leucas). survival. we may guess the consequences of all these events: The ultimate extinction of all three Dodo populations. These sobering declines over a span of a several decades both inform us of our own rapacious behavior as well as constituting a story in themselves. 93% for blacktip sharks Carcharhinus limbatus).. Unintended Consequences – 2 Overharvesting and overexploitation of a biotic resource can also have unintended consequences. . And finally. and propagation of an invasive species can constitute a threshold or tipping point event that sets off an unexpected cascade of unintended outcomes. et al. Since 1972. obscurus). dusky (C. the sailors released male and female pigs onto the islands. In hindsight. Secondly.. chronic overfishing has resulted in massive declines in the populations of large sharks that once dominated the top of the food chain. Along the eastern seaboard of the United States. R. But these declines also had unintended consequences. …………. Dodo eggs. for example. and smooth hammerhead (S. of course. Notice that this series of events originated with the simple arrival of humans which then set off a cascading series of unintended consequences. . however. that the pigs should also eat.

A census of the population documented approximately 16. The ensuing increase in feeding pressures by the smaller species resulted in a precipitous and unforeseen reduction in the scallop populations (ibid).while a more recent census of same area turned up a total of just three individuals (ibid). … . research in the 1960s documented dense populations of the white abalone Haliotis sorenseni on the sea floor off Catalina Island in California. What had happened? When the populations of the larger sharks declined. and rays whose populations all exploded in a classical example of ecological release.000 individual abalone. Worse still. Yet.No one fishing for sharks intended to destroy the livelihood of the scallop fishermen. the population was judged to be robust and reproductively well-buffered against overexploitation. a survey over a five year period found a total of just eight live white abalone in eight hectares of habitat. As another example. By 1981. With a nearly astronomical reproductive capacity. it was known that individual females of the species release approximately fifteen million eggs into the water each year. the population of the species had collapsed from about 10. 1997). human impacts at one level of a food chain set off a cascade of unintended outcomes in other critical parts of the system. or about 10. Thus. the prey species upon which they fed included smaller sharks. In this way. within nine years the fishery had collapsed in a drastic and unanticipated decline. a survey of the seabed around Channel Islands National Park turned up only 21 individuals in the same area examined in the 1960s research.000 per hectare to just one individual per hectare .000 white abalone per hectare (see Malakoff.000 to 82. What had happened? When commercial harvesting of these abalone began in 1965. skates.161 - . in spite of minimum size regulations.

whether they are known or not.As happens often with human activities. as a matter of routine. there were unanticipated vulnerabilities that commercial harvesters and officialdom had not foreseen: Unless males are present within one meter or so of the females. As park biologist Gary Davis observes. In other words. Some have suggested that other abalone populations are likely in deeper nearby waters. and those animals have been dying from natural causes ever since” (ibid). and. (3) That. areas of the Channel Islands National Park. “It looks as if the last successful breeding season was in 1969. . past human activities have commonly had adverse and unanticipated outcomes. but depauperated. Unintended Consequences . If this is so however. (4) There is no reason to assume that we and/or our leaders will not continue to make a host of sometimes simple and sometimes profound blunders in the future. abalone must be close enough together for gametes released into the water column to find each other.162 - . The main points we wish to make here are: (1) That even an apparently prolific species can have hidden or unexpected vulnerabilities that can lead to unintended consequences.3 Industrial scale production and use of plastics began as a post World War II phenomenon. there are not enough sperm in close proximity to fertilize the seemingly astronomical fifteen million eggs. apparently no successful recruitment / recolonization has occurred in the protected. Despite the large number of eggs produced yearly by each female. the reproductive strategy of this species is ineffective if individual animals are not close enough together. (2) That transgressing certain thresholds. Early instances of unintended consequences were noticed when plastic sandwich bags be- . can lead to serious and unexpected repercussions.

2007.gan to kill sea turtles (who mistook them for jellyfish and ate them) while various birds and marine mammals were killed when they became entangled in monofilament fishing line or in six-pack rings.163 - . chromosomal abnormalities. six and seven decades out. 2005). for example. and effects on the development of a fetus.000 plants in India alone that manufacture such pellets which are then used.* . breast and prostate abnormalities. amounting to 5. we empty billions of pellets and microspheres down the drain each year. Meanwhile. the cumulative effects and wider impacts of nonbiodegradable plastics are beginning to emerge. * Some plastics also contain endocrine disrupters such as PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls such as bisphenol A) and phthalates. some of which may be linked to reproductive abnormalities. As a collective result. old flip-flops and plastic bottles to slow-swirling mid-ocean vortices where they accumulate as Texas-sized refuse-dumps (ibid). As an example: Each year 250 million pounds of tiny plastic pellets are manufactured for use in thousands of plastic products. There are 5. the ingested plastics become increasingly concentrated with each step of the food chain so that a recent study of dead seabird carcasses (fulmars) showed that 95% of them had consumed an average of 44 pieces of plastic. As a result. Worse still. Thompson. as abrasives in cosmetics such as beauty creams and body scrubs in place of the ground seeds or walnut shells that were once used. the pellets are eaten by sea creatures who mistake them for food particles and fish eggs. Now. once taken up. .5 quadrillion pellets per year. These tiny polyethylene microspheres find similar use in products used to blast and scour paint from boats (Weisman. Upon reaching the ocean. feminization of fishes. the particles turn up in the transparent bodies of jellyfishes and salps or in the intestines of barnacles and similar filter-feeders (ibid). Another study in 1998 found more plastic by weight than plankton at the ocean’s surface. ocean currents continue to transport tons of discarded six-pack rings.

And elsewhere. change the earth’s reflectivity (albedo). or to impair or harm microscopic phytoplankton in the sea and thereby weaken or topple virtually every marine food chain. they also play a critical role in removing CO2 from the earth’s atmosphere. and/or other damage that we have inflicted or continue to inflict could have serious unintended consequences. with its floods in some regions and droughts in others. . Whitty..* Nor was it ever our intent that thousands of Arctic lakes should disappear in the last thirty years or that the greenhouse gas . of course. human-induced extinction events of nearly unimaginable proportions. In addition. 2008.g. certain for-profit ocean fertilization schemes that are currently contemplated could conceivably cause development of calamitous deep sea anoxic conditions capable of triggering widespread. 2006). or to produce ice-free Arctic seas by the summer of 2050. 2005.g.164 - . Whitty. It has not been our intention to melt the permafrost. pollution. 2006). It has not been humanity’s intention to melt Arctic sea ice or Greenland’s ice sheets. Not only do these tiny phytoplankton produce the greater portion of the oxygen that we breathe.Unintended Consequences . but they also act as the ocean's "pastures" that sustain virtually all of the higher forms of life in the sea. becomes more or less permanent (e. warming waters could potentially transgress an El Nino/La Nina tipping point.4 It is not humanity’s intention. Yet ocean acidification. and/or ozone depletion thresholds that we should not test and must not cross.. 2006. There are thus an assortment of acidification. et al. Schellnhuber. thereby acting as a brake on global warming (e. Lenton. For example. passing a critical threshold beyond which the El Nino phenomenon. 2004.. nutrient enrichment. . to cause any portions of the deep-sea to ever become anoxic dead zones.

. the possibility of ice-free Arctic seas as early as the summer of 2020 or even 2012 have been suggested. 2006). Further Examples When the pesticide DDT was first developed. DDT . Still others. (Consider. DDT killed mosquitoes. For example. that Greenland lost 12% more surface ice in the summer of 2007 than in its previous worst year ever and that the amount of sea ice floating in the Arctic Ocean was 23% below its previous record. et al. all of these things have either already happened or are happening now or may occur sometime soon (for examples from the literature see Overpeck. Doney. igniting a match above the opening. Then. as this is written. Nor has it ever been our intention to increase the acidity of the ocean. Recent studies. 2008. 2007).) As one analyst noted. when sprayed on marshes. have found accelerated rates of glacial retreat along the margins of both the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets (NCAR. 2006. worry that the data may indicate that the climate has passed “an ominous tipping point” and that we may now be “entering a new regime” (ibid). Eilperin. Lenton. 2006. when sprayed on crops.methane should literally bubble out of melting Arctic peat bogs. it’s “even worse than…[our] models predicted” (ibid). 2006. NCAR. As one example.. 2006. et al. Otto-Bleisner. for example. Schellnhuber. Interestingly. 2006. 2007). however. Yet. Field and Canadell.. for example. 2006. contend that the 2007 summer data may simply be an anomalous blip within a longer-term trend. records of past ice-sheet melting indicate that the rate of future melting and related sea-level rise could be faster than widely thought (Overpeck. the geophysicist had to jump quickly aside to avoid a two-meter pillar of flaming methane gas erupting from the vent. Deutsche-Welle television aired a striking report (December. however. helping disrupt the spread of malaria. et al. et al. ponds. Pearce. Yet.. * The rate of Arctic melting unexpectedly accelerated in the summer of 2007 as summer ice volumes declined by 50% over 2004 totals and summer ocean temperatures were the “…highest seen in the Arctic in 77 years of record-keeping” (Borenstein. Other researchers. it seemed quite promising. Only one year earlier. 2007) depicting a Russian scientist chopping a hole into the Siberian ice. 2006). and wetlands. In addition. 2005. 2005.165 - . and IPCC. a model projecting ice-free Arctic seas as early as 2040 was greeted as an off-the-mark aberration.

166 - . . the pesticide most notably affected reproduction in birds. raising the possibility of multiple extinctions and dozens of falling dominos. its appearance in human breast milk. pelicans and bald eagles and other bird populations underwent steep decline. then it was widely used. As it turned out. Only many years later did we learn about its wide dispersal. In many places. the weakened eggshells resulted in fewer young birds being hatched. raised agricultural yields. Notice the progression: Initially DDT was developed. and dispersed throughout the world where it underwent ecological magnification. and the sea. and helped feed a hungry world." . becoming increasingly concentrated with each step in the trophic pyramid. our own species dodged the bullet simply by accident. however. . And soon it turned out that: (a) DDT weakened eggshells.killed insects. even as their parents and other older birds continued to die as they aged. is that it could just as easily have affected human health. streams. The cautionary nature of this tale. At the top of many food chains. In birds. describing the bioaccumulation of DDT and its implications. entering the base of the food chain where it was passed on to consumers. birds were soon consuming high concentrations of DDT. so that in this case. In effect. its effects on other species. But DDT also had unintended consequences. its concentration was magnified with each new level of consumers in a process known as bioaccumulation or "ecological magnification. and the effects of its bioaccumulation. it was unexpectedly taken up by microscopic organisms. Soon Rachel Carson's book SILENT SPRING appeared. and (b) that DDT was also appearing in human breast milk and in Arctic mammals and birds far removed from any farms or fields. When rain washed it into ponds.

but the unintended consequences were deadly just the same. cases of mercury poisoning. of course. for example. can turn out to have unintended consequences with serious or even deadly repercussions. and death. and stumbling from one blunder to another (auwe!). is potentially serious . coma. . with the supposition being.Other bioaccumulations are also known. These considerations remind us that even our everyday activities that we hope to be beneficial or that we presume to be benign. . as human beings. breaking things (oops!). however. the mercury was not only taken up by marine organisms.. mercury wastes emptied into the ocean at Minimata bay were expected to be dispersed.. of course. We may accidentally forget that the car is low on gas. Blunders and Good Intentions Examples like these and others illustrate a routine characteristic of human activities: We know that as human beings we are fallible and that to be human is to blunder. began occurring in fishing families who were dependent upon the bay. essentially irreversible. political leaders of every affiliation also commit blunders. And. including neurological disorders. to produce “Minimata disease” among its neighbors. Shortly afterwards. of course. Unfortunately. that a little additional mercury in so large an ocean would be both harmless and little noticed. although unexpected and unintended. or spill that can of paint onto the kitchen floor. for example. As it turned out. It was not the company’s intention.and some of it will be. we are something like a bull in earth’s planetary “china shop” of natural systems. In Japan.. accidentally knocking things over (crash!).167 - . or trip as we cross the stage during graduation. As a species. but its concentration was increased with each ascending step in the food chain. like the melting of the permafrost. much of the damage that we are causing.

and unfamiliar road. views of time and place. dark. safety precautions. When we are infants. or even benign. Assumptions. In one case. when one is driving too fast on a winding. a combination of mathematics. some unintended consequences arise from our natural. whose feeding. Meadows. our local sphere of awareness is generally limited to today or to this week and to our own homes and neighborhoods. unimportant. all of our excuses do nothing to mitigate the effects of a calamitous blunder. of course. when humans killed too many of California’s sea otters. Other unintended consequences. an unexpected population explosion with unforeseen impacts occurred as a result of human activities that were expected to be inconsequential. brought about wide destruction of the famous offshore kelp beds and their biota. Finally. we examined the phenomenon of ecological release. yet dangerously provincial. In a second example.168 - . our typical unintended consequences are entirely accidental.As Meadows. may arise from arrogance and/or from economic motives that place the welfare of a few individuals above the interests of everyone else and above the interests of our planet as a whole. the result was a population explosion among jackrabbits. who would have thought…”). in turn. for instance. "mechanisms that function well in a more slowly changing society cannot solve problems [that arrive] at an exponential rate" (1992). the result was a population explosion of sea urchins. and Randers observed. Accidents. And since exponential progressions tend to be a "source of surprises" (ibid). As individuals. In each of these examples. And although we might excuse ourselves in one way (“Well. our sphere of awareness is confined entirely with- . when ranchers in Wyoming poisoned coyotes near their ranches. and Ripples By definition. and wisdom might suggest a slower speed. In chapter five.

Yet. given our numbers today and . and natural processes for granted – by imagining or supposing that they constitute a kind of ongoing constant. 2001). As one recent observer notes. then our collective impacts are more like tsunamis. .. In effect. and billion-year spans of time does not readily assert itself as a top priority in our everyday consciousness. and disappearing rainforests seems fuzzier. melting permafrost. delayed feedbacks. Even when we have the luxury of time to contemplate tomorrow. of course. and the dinosaurs of the Mesozoic. we continue to grow until gradually. with its thousand-year... our wider world with its changing albedo. that wash as waves of destruction across our planet with each of our added billions. the history of ancient Rome. the earth as an entire entity. its history. with education. if our individual impacts can be pictured as ripples. less apparent. To expand upon Western’s observation. in the absence of education and curiosity. . Over the years. Worse still. our awareness of time may gradually expand to incorporate five years ago. million-year. And simultaneously. and less immediate. while our perception of time broadens to include yesterday and an hour from now. our “local sphere of awareness blinds us to the global ripples” that we cause (Western. the perceptions of time and space that comprise the universe and our planet. we typically do so while taking the continued functioning of nature.169 - . and its biological machinery may never develop at all.in a periphery of a one or two meters and a time span of right now. As we grow a little older.. we become aware of a living room and a front yard. As a result. In contrast. the demands of daily life have genetically and culturally programmed us to deal mostly or entirely with “today” and to deal with near-term conditions and surroundings. natural systems. our perceptions broaden to include our nations and our hometowns.

whether in the biosphere. Notice that the above has nothing to do with "running out of" food or resources or anything else but instead suggests the critical importance of far greater caution when it comes to the extent of the sheer physical damage that we are inflicting today on earth's biological machinery and life-support systems. In such circumstances. degrade 87% of their CO2 scrubbers. and 93% of its ignition and electrical systems. however. . Thus. most of its spark plugs. destroy 93% of their heat shields. the first domino in a row of adjacent dominos being toppled. radiator. 2001). Many present-day conservation goals and strategies envision saving a 10% representative sample of as many of earth's biomes and ecosystems as possible. Some recent papers conclude. that around the world today. a team of astronauts in a space vehicle if they were to cannibalize 95% of their guidance and propulsion systems. and brake fluid. . or atmosphere. for example.170 - . No rational astronauts would ever dream of inflicting such damage upon the vehicle that sustains their lives in space. is already altered or dominated by human activity” (Western. 75% of its tires. and erroneously imagine to be invulnerable. for example. gasoline. we seem to suppose that we can systematically degrade. try to imagine degrading 50% of your car's steering system. and our powerful technologies are already devastating multiple natural systems that we routinely. while simultaneously pouring more and more contaminants each day into its oil. Alternatively. Amazingly. even an acciden- .a technological leveraging that amplifies our impacts. half of its axles and brake shoes. needs. and delete 77% of their computer codes. and the rest of us would never dream of inflicting such damage upon our automobiles. eradicate and dismantle the only planetary life-support machinery so far known to exist anywhere in the universe and to presume that it will nevertheless continue to function as it has always done in the past. battery. Try to imagine. and then expecting one's car (or one's spacecraft) to continue to operate as it has always done in the past. “every major planetary process. and destroying its carburetor. wastes. 2001). however. thereby causing all the others to fall in quick succession. along with our consumption. transmission fluid. complacently. today's world population (billions). hydrosphere. Imagine. lithosphere. many scientists now voice concerns again and again about “the integrity of the biosphere’s environmental services that we still take for granted” (Woodruff.

. repeatedly – again. As a species. Instead. for instance. We did not. another writer has noted the dramatic changes that the United States was able to accomplish in the twelve months following Pearl Harbor. Nor was it ever our intention to melt the earth’s permafrost or damage the ozone layer or to change the earth’s albedo. and foresight to fully anticipate where our collective actions and decisions are likely to take us. and again. and (b) although as a species we are inventive. we are also brash and lack the understanding. And a disconcerting amount of evidence suggests that some of earth’s most important dominos may already be toppling. intend to drive the Stephen’s Island wren to extinction. suggesting that in times of emergency. these have been the unintended results of our routine behaviors and activities. today. we did it by accident. our societies are capable of rapid transformations if we put our minds to the task (Whitty. and again. On the other hand. The reasons our serious impacts are happening now and not at some other time in history are: (a) There are so many of us – billions and more billions of us invading and inhabiting every corner of the biosphere. and in most cases. humility. Thomas Friedman has recently reminded us that “there is a line between a can-do optimism and a keen awareness that the hour is late and the scale of the problems practically overwhelming" (2008). it seems. our minds are geared to help us survive this day. 2006). right now – with too little thought or respect for the years and decades that constitute tomorrow. .171 - .tal instability imparted to a single domino can unexpectedly topple a far wider and interconnected system. sometimes incrementally. . We are living at a time when each of our collective billions exerts a host of unrelenting impacts on one natural system after another.

and civilizational calamity. hungry. Today a poor. pollution. 1996. water. An- . and 2000 A. biospheric. How much worse might this become in the decades just ahead? On the one hand. and ecological services required to sustain a given population on a perpetual basis at a specified standard of living (e. as some have said.g.14 The Big Question: Earth's Carrying Capacity In this chapter we address the big question. Reese. 1992. it must be on the side of caution – on the low side. Wackernagle and Rees. our pattern of growth has been exponential (or.172 - . If err we must. between 8000 B. and environmental impacts. resource consumption. On the other hand. we must not permit an overestimate. and rapacious humanity. others have been deeply erroneous. While some past estimates have been reasonable. One approach is to estimate carrying capacity based upon an ecological footprint. and an overestimate of carrying capacity is an invitation to humanitarian.. or the total area/quantity of land. which is earth's carrying capacity: How many people can the earth support over a long period of time (indefinitely) without suffering irreversible damage? When estimating an answer to this question. 2010). for the consequences of overestimation invite disaster. hyperexponential). is laying waste to earth's biota and natural systems at rates unparalleled in human history. our societies have also greatly increased our corresponding levels of damage.D. GFN. along with the economic engines of our richest societies.C.

and by the pollution. 1996). 1996). jobs. consumption. and amenities that such a standard implies. This must likewise incorporate the levels of sheer physical degradation. One type reflects increased population with too many people relative to carrying capacity – a pattern seen today in many of the poorest and fastest-growing nations of the world. or in behalf of.other approach is to estimate our total environmental impacts (EI) as the number of persons multiplied by the resource consumption of each and the amount of pollution released by each (Mader.g. and the sheer physical damage inflicted by (or in behalf) of each of us as individuals (ibid) The ecological footprint approach is quite useful (although it has been suggested that the term itself is "too benign") (e. a Western European standard of living. 2010) and might be better described as an ecological damage trail that tends to become worse with increasing wealth. or eradication that are inflicted by. Reasonable Standards To estimate earth's carrying capacity. and that all enjoy the health care. (2) We estimate with the intent that a representative system of wilderness and wildlife reserves occupy at least 30-50% of earth's land and waters. we apply the following standards: (1) We estimate with the intent that all earth's people enjoy. each. schooling. damage. see Thomas. An alternate type of overpopulation results from the pollution..173 - . by the resources that we each consume. with no less-developed countries. and waste that we generate means that there are two possible types of overpopulation (Mader. damage. In this chapter we will employ these and similar considerations to estimate earth's approximate carrying capacity for an industrialized humanity. consumption. and industrialization. The fact that we impact our environment by our sheer numbers. at a minimum. that they remain es- .

900. as we have reached seven billion (less than half of whom are industrialized). we use 25% of the fuel on the planet" and argues that "it is not possible for every person on the planet to live like an American. Rees analyzed the number of hectares needed to sustain the lives and lifestyles of 1. Ecological Footprints . "ecological footprint" analyses of cities (e. Rees..7 million Canadians residing in the 400.An example In a similar way. For example.B. As an example. 1992.Fraser Valley region of British Columbia. . and ecological services that the city and its neighboring region must draw upon from somewhere else in the world in order to sustain its current population at their current standards of living. carbon assimilation.g.000 hectare Vancouver . 1996) conclude that "however brilliant its economic star. and. that their functioning remains entirely intact.." the region's inhabitants conservatively require at least "8. (3) Our pollution and wastes do not accumulate and our activities do not eradicate nor degrade earth's environment or the functioning of its natural systems. Notice then. 2003). there simply are not enough resources for six billion people to share our lifestyle" (Bush. our collective impacts are already wreaking unparalleled damage to earth's environment and natural systems.000 hectares of food production. .3 million hectares of land in continuous production" (1992). W. we already appear to be well past earth's long term carrying capacity. a deficit of approximately 7. one biologist points out that although the United States represents "just 3% of the global population.sentially undisturbed by mankind. that they are thoroughly self-sustaining and self-perpetuating. M. noting that to support only their "food and fossil fuel demands. Judged by such standards. every city is an ecological black hole drawing on the material resources and productivity of a vast and scattered hinterland many times the size of the city itself" (emphasis added). Wackernagel and Rees. We can see that already.174 - .

tends to blind city residents to the far-off social and ecological effects of their imported consumption. and carrying capacity units from distant places in order to offset their huge populationlifestyle-consumption deficits.. the fraction of the land's biological production that is used or dominated) fall in the range of 39 to 50%. . that ".the fraction of land transformed or degraded by humanity (or its corollary.175 - .are not something to face in the future." and reducing our global impacts "involves slowing human population growth" (Vitousek. Impacting Climate. Vitousek. for example.. and Species Writing in the journal Science. however. cities. Kluger (2006) offers this: “During the last ice age. 1997). The fact that deforestation. and in many cases accelerating. as wonderful as they may be. (1997) conclude that human "activities are causing rapid. in that land that has not been transformed often has been divided into fragments by human alteration of the surrounding area. these estimates understate the global impact of land transformation. they are with us now.. or ecosystem exploitation. In just . putting earth into a deep freeze…. the atmosphere’s CO2 concentrations were just 180 ppm.." Vitousek and his colleagues also observe that the global consequences of human activity "." They also note that. and substantial changes to Earth's ecosystems. the Land. The fact that ecological sustainability/life-support services within a city's physical boundaries are entirely insufficient to the expenditures (consumption) means that cities and wealthy nations must import their wealthy lifestyles and sustainability at the expense of places distant and elsewhere. All of these changes are ongoing. are not ecologically self-sufficient entities and are only sustainable if they import food. novel." They note. et al. ecological services. et al. "if anything.. Similarly.Thus.. or degradation is taking place in distant places..

there have been widespread repercussions including a warming and drying of the region's climate and virtual eradication of the fishing industry it once . The Aral Sea. for example. seas. And we can also expect these same impacts to worsen further as we add still more billions (numbers eight and nine. Rice et al. Similarly. at the North and South poles. 2005). 2005. and fisheries. Other scientists offer similar assessments. Micklin. aquifers. Aquifers and the Aral Sea Our species. Stuart Pimm. report that tropical deforestation continues "relentlessly and on a vast scale." and. but water diversion for agriculture began in the 1960s and the lake began drying up as the primary rivers that fed the sea have been diverted and tapped nearly dry for cotton farming and other agriculture” (NASA. . we have pushed [that] level to 381 ppm …so that. even at current population levels. Once the thaw begins. our glaciers and ice caps have started crumbling to slush. As the Aral Sea disappears. and possibly more) in the four or five decades just ahead..the past century and a half. 1988)." We can expect all of these and similar impacts to double as the world’s poorest nations aspire to and achieve an industrialized standard of living. a number of mechanisms kick in to keep it going” (ibid). already exerts adverse impacts on earth's waters. was once the fourth largest lake on earth. as of the late 1980s. located in Kazakhstan of the former Soviet Union.176 - . reports that "the world's tropical forests are shrinking by 10% of their original area per decade" (2001). "less than 1/8th of 1% of the world's tropical forests were operating on a sustained yield basis. NASA reports that recent hydrographic surveys have revised downward the lifespan of the dying lake so that “desiccation could happen in as few as 15 years” (NASA..

Why are they happening now." For decades now. in less than half a human lifetime. Similarly. a World Bank project begun in 2003 calls for a permanent dike to save and partially restore part of the northern (smaller) portion of the sea. 1995). they are rapid. These dramatic changes to a water body that has been present for thousands of years did not occur hundreds of years ago. when in reality. wells have pumped water out of this aquifer (mined the aquifer) at rates faster than rainfall can replenish it. however. As William Catton wrote in his book OVERSHOOT. Columbia's Jeffrey Sachs (2008) likens today's in- . our species has mistaken "withdrawal of savings deposits for a rise in income" (1982).supported. Nor are they natural changes. The southern Aral Sea (the largest portion) “has been deemed beyond salvaging” (ibid). will seal “the southern half’s fate” (ibid). For instance. We are using our resources as though they are income. we are living on repeated withdrawals of principle from a savings account. however. although it is “never expected to regain its former extent. Hunter-gatherers with Machine Guns Our power to adversely impact marine environments has also increased. Instead. between the 1930s and the 1970s international whaling fleets induced the collapse of one whale stock after another (and the near-extinction of several whale species) as whaling and hunting technologies became more efficient than the whales were at reproducing (Pimm. in the times in which we live? In America's Midwest. dramatic. 2001). an underground reservoir of "fossil" water called the Oglala aquifer provides irrigation for America's "breadbasket of the world. and human-induced. However. so that water tables in the aquifer are falling as its water is consumed (Cohen.177 - .” Exactly the same dike.

and dozens of others like them. Given such conditions. And when such price signals are given. rather than inducing conservation. become scarce. complete with fishnets that stretch for miles and satellite-based tracking of open-sea schools of fish” (ibid). and bluefin tuna.. testify to the adverse effects of our present population of seven billion human beings. market mechanisms "do not [even] allocate the fish to those who most need it for food because the hungry have no power in the market" (ibid). fishermen developed a "get-it-while-you-can" outlook which they began to implement with fleets "so big and technology so good that fish no longer have anywhere to hide" (Meadows et al. note. they "perversely encourage more fishing effort" [so that] the "population continues to be depleted. prices per pound soar.. for instance." noting that “the natural prey is simply no match for the incredible power and technology of modern fishing fleets. As Meadows et al. The Age of Overpopulation The examples just cited.dustrialized fishing fleets to “hunter-gatherers with machine guns. market mechanisms alone provide no corrective feedbacks to keep this from happening. Market mechanisms also fail to conserve large. but instead permits us to make things worse more quickly. markets actually reward "those who get there first and take the most" (ibid)." And even as prices rise and the hunted populations collapse. As New England's populations of flounder and haddock neared their record lows in the early 1990s.. When combined with the poverty.178 - . extensively. hunger... As giant bluefin tuna. slowly-maturing species like whales. 1992). Note here that technology does not serve to solve the above problem. . rather than rewarding conservation. and efficiently than ever. redwood trees.* and lack of health care seen in more than half the .

ozone depletion. In a longer book with a different purpose. nuclear wastes. roads. In addition. we see our crowded cities. disappearing wildlife. traffic jams. our growth remains so immense that we imagine that earth might somehow absorb both the doubled impacts of our existing numbers. These conditions already existed under yesterday’s population of six-plus billion. we clearly seem to have already far exceeded earth's long-term carrying capacity. And since less than half of us are industrialized. and argues that the human family has "committed itself to living beyond its means" by . Yet. suburbs.179 - . our current impacts argue that our numbers are already too large to prevent further and ongoing damage to earth and its natural systems.world. 2009). industrialization. the melting of polar and glacial ice. we could expect our current impacts to more than double as less developed nations seek to emulate our own standard of living. extinctions. along with the added impacts of still more billions in five decades. most of us can see that today's farmlands and wilderness areas are disappearing before an onslaught of development. acid precipitation. and expanding urbanization. and desertification. television already brought us images of schoolchildren in Haiti eating cookies made from mud every day to help quell the hunger pangs of an empty stomach (Schmidt and Ayer. William Catton (1982) has called the times in which we live the AGE OF OVERPOPULATION. even if our population does not grow at all – as (or if) that portion of humanity that currently lives in poverty is able to lift itself to higher standards of living. If our population did not grow at all. all of these impacts can be expected to more than double. * As these words were first written (before the earthquake). we might mention dozens of additional examples involving greenhouse gases. and parks. and disappearing wilderness and wildlife. suppose Similarly. schools. Measured by such impacts.

If earth's environmental machinery. fisheries. and biota experience significant failures or catastrophic collapse in the years ahead. Biologist Sylvia Mader makes a similar point when she writes that today's industrial society lives on borrowed carrying capacity by borrowing from the past and the future (Mader." (1) It depends on what standard of living we wish to enjoy. it is seemingly. that we will find out during the lifetimes of children now living. however. those of us living today are confronted with an historic question: What is earth's carrying capacity for an industrialized humanity? Today. It may be.. Therefore.180 - . will have numerical values as answers. there are few questions of greater importance – yet not only does it remain unanswered. In effect. historians can record the population and consumption level(s) at which each collapse and failure occurs so that our descendants. 2005). climate. the Big Question Thus.spending nature's legacy as if it were income. 1996). How many of us can earth's ecological and biospheric machinery support over the long term without suffering irreversible damage? Our first answer must be that we don't precisely know earth's carrying capacity for an industrialized humanity (not yet. 1996. .g. ignored. although it appears to be something far less than today's seven billion.. and perhaps deliberately. Mader. Heinberg. and by harvesting energy from a temporary subsidy of fossil fuels from earth's distant past (e. if any.. we are sustaining today’s extravagance by depriving future generations of the resources we consume today. at least). Do we wish for . It Depends Another reason it is difficult to say exactly what earth's carrying capacity might be is because "it depends.

nature reserves. rainforests. it appears that we are rushing headlong into our future and that these critical questions will never be asked by society at large (nor apparently. and functioning environment? Or do those of us now living have the right to devastate the earth's life-support machinery and consume all of earth's resources for ourselves and leave our mess for some other generation to clean up later? An Estimate and a Default Setting These questions must be answered in order to derive a reasonable estimate of earth's carrying capacity. Unfortunately. wilderness areas.all of earth's peoples to enjoy a standard of living like our own with computers. Do other species have a right to exist? Or should all of earth's resources be devoted solely to supporting humans? If we obliterate all whales. and seafoods? Or are we willing to accept a mass of humanity living in abject poverty and subsisting on a bowl or two of grain each day? In the latter case. air-conditioning. and affordable steaks. rational calculation (and it must also be a correct calculation). If we do not make a studied. orangutans.181 - . (2) It also depends on whether we want a world in which wildlife and wilderness still exist. cacti. (3) It also depends on whether future generations have any rights. undamaged. restaurants. then earth can support more people. Do today’s children and our descendants have a right to a clean. cars. by most of today’s professional journalists). then we will find ourselves constrained by a biologically determined default setting that is li- . protein. corn. insects. and algae to feed a mass of humanity. national parks. wheat. and redwood trees and ensure that 100% of earth's resources are utilized to produce rice. the earth can support more people. gorillas.

and other pollutants each year so that six billion or seven billion are clearly too many. and ecosystems. CO2. and drawdown its aquifers to satisfy our consumption... that earth’s carrying capacity for an industrialized humanity is something less than two billion. stripmine its seas. (2) The great bulk of today’s pollution. WECSKAOP thus suggests. and demands. for example) ought to be able to meet the standards enunciated earlier: (1) A Western European standard of living for all.kely to include humanitarian calamities. and have been and are clearly introducing accumulating tons of poisons. together with the observations below.182 - . habitats. this suggests that three billion is also too many. assuming the reasonable standards cited at the outset of this chapter. freshwater. and damage is being produced and driven by the fifty percent of humanity that is industrialized. selfperpetuating. fish stocks. and large-scale devastation of earth's natural systems and biospheric machinery. . and functioning reserves of a representative 4050% of earth's wilderness. radioactive wastes. a global population somewhat under two billion (similar to world levels in 1920. . and. 3) Accordingly.. (3) A minimal accumulation of wastes and little or no inflicted biospheric or environmental damage. Why? (1) Because even our previous six billions and our current seven billions are obviously inflicting damage. needs. as we obliterate earth's forests. overexploiting forests. elevated death rates. overexploitation. and aquifers. Since this half of humanity numbers approximately three billion whose consumption and ecological damage trails make up most of today's damage. obliteration of wildlife and wilderness. (2) Self-sustaining.

In terms of population today. and Critiques This chapter introduces and critiques a sampling of past and present population reports and projections. projections however. And nearly all of this future growth ". Comments. Russia. According to recent U. 2011). so that we will have multiplied our numbers four times over in a single human lifetime . In fact. And continuing thereafter. It took all of history and prehistory combined until 1930 for our population to reach two billion people worldwide. we are still adding more than 681.will be concentrated in the developing world where four-fifths of the world's population lives" (Bongaarts. 2009). 2002). 2003). In most of today’s developed and industrialized nations. and Italy). we live in two worlds. numbers by 2050 are actually expected to be smaller than they are today. by 2025 we may well reach a population of eight billion.after which we will still be growing.183 - . . Japan. in a number of these countries (for example. those same projections projects our numbers to reach or exceed ten to fifteen billion by 2100 (UNDESA. And we are still adding ONE BILLION extra persons to our planet every 12 to 15 years .which is what this book is all about..N.15 Projections.. Despite this apparent progress. birth rates have fallen enough to bring most of these nations to fertility rates (the average number of children born per woman during her lifetime) that are at or below replacement (Cohen. however.000 additional persons to our planet every three days (derived from PRB.

unabated. The calamitous nature of such "constant fertility" projections. emphasis added).world population could rise to 244 billion persons in 2150 and 134 trillion in 2300" (UNDESA. (b) A LOW fertility assumption that envisions dramatic reductions in fertility. U. projections showed that ".’s Population Division. The U. Everyone understood (including U. analysts. Reference Table 15. and finally. that the short-term outcomes of the constant fertility scenario [the most disastrous scenario] were "not as yet beyond the realm of possibility" (ibid). (c) A HIGH fertility projection applied to the decades between now and mid-century. 2003c. In effect. and notice that the highest number projected for 2050 is thirteen billion which is about double 2005's world population. The report itself rightly labeled any long-term continuation of such rates as "unsustainable. though impossible over the long-term.In a 2003 report issued by the U.1 (next page). 2003a). into the future.184 - .." It did note however. .1) were generated by computer models that envision four alternative futures by assuming: (a) A CONSTANT fertility scenario in which today’s fertility behaviors simply persist over the decades ahead. analysts estimated world populations in the event that then-current fertility levels were to simply persist unchanged over the next two centuries: Given such "constant fertility" assumptions. were nevertheless intellectually useful because they portrayed the future that would emerge if then-current worldwide fertility rates were to simply continue. they showed us the outcomes of then-current behaviors. World Population in 2300. of course) that such numbers were utterly impossible and that such high fertility rates could not continue indefinitely. Population Division.N.N..N..N. projections depicted on the next page (Table 15. These high numbers result . (d) A MEDIUM fertility assumption (UNDESA.

has released its World Population Prospects Report.org/unpp/p2k0data. medium levels of fertility. 2009).asp 2003 The table's data are based on several sets of assumptions. the U. however. As we go to press (2009).un.N.8 billion in July. if fertility rates remain constant over the decades ahead (in other words. 2008 revision with similar worldwide totals of approximately 9. also attempt to estimate future population levels assuming high levels of fertility. then our planet's population will double to thirteen billion by mid-century. 2009.1gh Fertility United Nations Population Projections Low Fertility Variant Constant Fertility Year 2020 2040 2050 World population reached approximately 6.185 - Source: http://esa. The U. First of all.N. ria Constant Low Medium High Fertility Fertility Fertility Fertility 08 040 000 000 7 241 000 000 7 580 000 000 07 900 000 000 10 935 000 000 7 850 000 000 8 850 000 000 09 900 000 000 13 050 000 000 7 860 000 000 9 300 000 000 10 930 000 000 . projections. or low levels of fertility. (UNDESA.15 billion in 2050. . if today's rates persist into the future).Year Medium Fertility VariaTable 15.

however. then. advances in medicine. This is because even the U.'s current projections right out the window and result in far higher numbers than ." Caution is warranted. models shown in the table (which tested high. Note. so that any dramatic reductions in mortality that result may toss the U. models arise from assumptions involving future fertility. because assumptions that focus chiefly on fertility are historically prone to underestimates . In addition. is this: The outcomes projected by the U. and medium fertility scenarios) generated numbers considerably below the “constant" or unchanged projection of thirteen billion.because dramatic advances in medicine and agriculture can commonly lower mortality rates enough to cancel-out any progress that might otherwise be expected from falling fertility.186 - . molecular biology.N. many of the world's least developed countries still exhibit unsustainably high rates. and the human genome project may be on the verge of ushering in a revolution in medical science and longevity.N. Fertility and Underestimates A key point to be made.N.N. however (2000).N. low. therefore. genetic engineering. and even the U.’s highest fertility assumptions imagine (with wishful optimism?) a continuing worldwide decline in fertility resulting in future rates (including even the highest) that are imagined to be lower in the future than the average rates that prevail today.when models assume nothing more than a simple extrapolation of the worldwide fertility rates that existed at the outset of this century. that all of the 2003 U. cell biology. projections provide alternative scenarios "only for fertility. most population projections do not provide alternate scenarios at all. As Bongaarts and Bulatao noted. As of 2010-2011. however.

what if there are unexpected reductions in mortality-rates that cancel out gains that are otherwise expected to result from falling fertility? As . It appears that the icebergs representing all sorts of limits are now out there. other than the “constant-fertility” variant. 2008 medium projections of 9. and 10 billion by 2100.current models suggest. What if this assumption is incorrect? And perhaps more importantly. and biospheric disasters may be about to unfold.. ……. A Legacy of Underestimates As we have seen. 2011).’s “medium-fertility” projections turn out to be accurate (just an assumption).N.1 estimates optimistically assume that high. If the U. it is not the fate of a single ship or a single city that is being put at risk. the same complacency and inaction appears to characterize today’s world responses to today's population warnings. civilizational. numbers (i.. more than double our present size" (Cohen. if fertility rates were to simply remain at today's levels. our numbers "…would grow to 12.’s "high-fertility" projections prevail (UNDESA. As Joel Cohen points out. turn out to be underestimates). an assortment of humanitarian.8 billion by 2050.15 billion by 2050) are accurate (or. 2003). however. even worse. nine billion by 2041 or so.8 billion of us by century’s end – like adding SEVEN more Indias in a span of ninety years. and medium-fertility levels in the years ahead will all be less than current fertility levels. our planet could be home to 15. low. we can expect a population of about seven billion people by late 2011.N. all of the other table 15.e. On the other hand. A real-world example of such a scenario will be one of our topics in our next chapter. if the U. Just as government officials failed to protect New Orleans despite years of reports warning of the danger of a Katrina-like hurricane.N. In today's case.187 - . but if the current U.

087. "the pace of. 2000). Census Bureau projected U..175 (approximately 14% under).609.188 - . the U. Social Security forecasts that "consistently underprojected long-run… life expectancy" (Bongaarts and Bulatao. This track record of underestimating future population levels is important because we are rushing headlong into enormous numbers that challenge and threaten our civilizations and our natural systems and if our current projections also turn out to be underestimates. the results could be catastrophic.. population of 146. population levels for 1950-1975 as follows (Whelpton.000.697. Continuing advances in science and medical research repeatedly extend life expectancies and succeed in reducing mortality more signifcantly than contemplated by demographic models. "based on the record of previous projections. page 204) lag-times with the potential to undermine current "demographic transition" expectations.. In 1947. Back in 1947. .S.Bongaarts and Bulatao observed (2000). the bureau anticipated a U.S.361 by approximately 3%.S. mortality transitions has been the source of errors in projections for most developing countries” (ibid).000. for example. This understated the actual 1950 count of 150.g. a greater risk exists of a large understatement of future world growth than of a large overstatement. population in 1960 amounted to 157. Examples of this can be seen in past U. This turned out to be a sizable understatement of the actual count which was 179. Consequently. 1947): For 1950.323. Why have past population projections often understated the actual numbers that eventually appeared? One reason arises from faulty assumptions involving mortality rates.S.S." We will also see (e. the census bureau projections for the U.

we are poised to lower mortality rates more rapidly than our fertility rates fall. population projections that include constant. The actual count in 1970 was 203. Notice then. world population reports issued over the past decade.189 - . estimates for 1970 envisioned a population of 169. that for all three instances.The bureau's original U. Trust Perhaps . as has happened so many times already. Poised to Lower Mortality Rates? Those demographic optimists who imagine that today’s fertility rates will decline significantly in the decades just ahead need to further contemplate the potential impacts of the rapid and startling advances taking place today in medicine and genetics. the “World Population Projections to 2300” issued in 2003 suggests the need for thoughtful skepticism.N.S.But Verify Of the several U. To . notice that in all three instances the projected figures significantly underestimated the actual numbers that finally materialized. And of equal importance. high. What if these advances lower death rates enough to cancel-out anticipated declines in fertility? It is quite possible that. thereby resulting in a world population that is higher than the levels presently being forecast.307.031 or 20% higher than expected.612. In the future. low. the best projections of analysts were wrong. and medium fertility variants should explicitly incorporate one additional variant into their models: A variant that contemplates dramatic and/or unanticipated medical advances that extend lives sufficiently to cancel out expected reductions in fertility and that incorporates ongoing lag-times in fertility responses governed by social customs and traditions.000 which also turned out to underestimate the reality that emerged.

low.3 billion until eventually reaching nine billion or so around 2300. The assumptions used to generate the “medium-fertility” projections produced the following estimates: A world of about seven billion people around 2012. Anyone who accepted the above statement trustingly might suppose it to mean that humanity would gradually rise from its 2003 level of 6. In its press release. Thus. about nine billion before 2055. .3 billion to around nine billion by 2300. First. together with several further assumptions. But worse still. journalists.190 - . And the very first of those itemized "key findings" misled its readers as follows: According to the medium scenario. thereby producing the seriously erroneous impression that we and our planet had nearly 300 . the department listed the “key findings” of its report. and constant fertility scenarios depicted in Table 15. the U. about eight billion people around 2025.generate that report. policymakers. the 2003c press release summarized the "key findings" of the department's report.1 were employed. followed thereafter by a world population that oscillates gently above and below nine billion for the ensuing 245 years (ibid). we should question the appropriateness of trying to project anything 300 years into the future. and individuals who depend upon and trustingly accept data and pronouncements from official and presumably reliable sources to guide their policy decisions. the high. medium. And we might suspect that advances in science and medical research could end up canceling-out some of the more optimistic effects of fertility reductions. 2003c). however. …world population would rise from today’s 6. for all of those world leaders.’s press release (2003c) that outlined the study’s findings was so misleading as to be disingenuous (which is not to reflect on today's personnel or later reports). to generate projections to the year 2300 (UNDESA.N.

Imagine. This omission was decidedly dangerous because each of those billions has a host of implications for crowding.N.191 - . and 9th billions are all likely to arrive before 2050. In addition. they might have been excused for ignoring the information. By offering projections to the year 2300. had an enormous multitude of problems in both their own societies and their individual lives. environmental impacts. political stability. . A Confrontation with Our Ninth Billion The press release thus misled those who read it because it made no mention of the fact that our 7th.’s 2003c report tempted policymakers. social services. citizens of the year 1720 attempting to project the eventualities of the year 2020. had they been offered projections involving the year 2020. and the world public at large to dismiss immediate population matters and to assign our own responsibilities to distant generations. of possible conditions in the year 2020. of course.N.years before facing any direct confrontation with our ninth billion. the U. wages. humanitarian conditions. schooling. If they had been warned. 8th. so that. governance. for example. taxes. and infrastructure today .'s 2003c report managed to obscure the avalanche that awaits us immediately in the decades ahead and to distract its readers and the world from the immediate nature of the crises that we face. families living back then might have responded by simply assigning responsibility for 2020 to those of us living in the year 2020.RIGHT NOW . for example. Thus. health. People living in 1720.in the lifetimes of those of us now living. journalists. employment. . the 300-year projection of the U. terrorism. . the report probably errored in offering projections three centuries into the future.

that negative population growth (i. as follows: In the medium scenario. Unfortunately. If one is a world leader inundated with crises of international affairs. and one's staff reads the executive summary of the U. and busy people everywhere. affairs of state.e. when released to the world's press and opinion leaders. the world's press. The same sentence then goes on to imply (again incorrectly) that this negative growth can be expected to persist for 160 years before becoming "positive again in 2175-2180.." If the report's 2003 statement were correct (and it is not). jobs. and then to rise steadily until positive again in 2175-2180 (emphasis added).The Need to Read Critically There were still other difficulties in the 2003c United Nations report. resulted in a typographical error (one hopes it was accidental) transmitted around the world. And talk show hosts might rely upon an innocent (two misleading errors in just one sentence?) mistake as an excuse to minimize any need to address world population growth as an immediate or emergency policy issue. . the sentence managed to promulgate an error of one hundred years magnitude. who are not demographers and who are faced with dozens of other urgent matters. “minus 14 million per year”) can be expected as soon as 2010-2015.N. war. and economics.192 - .incorrectly . report. what information does item seven convey? Notice that the statement tells its reader . might innocently conclude that negative population growth might be on-track to begin in just a few years. unemployment. policymakers. which. the annual change of world population is projected to decrease steadily from 77 million in 2003 to minus 14 million in 2010-2015. as opposed to its executive summary. this time in its executive summary where item seven also misled. terrorism. The report itself.

a minus fourteen million event occurs in . and fishing fleets six-fold. along with the traffic on our highways and the crowding in our national parks. and power plant emissions six times. suburbs. and landfills six times. – (not in 2010).. hydroelectric dams. but his ultimate legacy may undermine some of his other contributions. automobile exhausts. .shows that under the medium projection assumptions.. It seems increasingly likely that environmental damage and pollution may constitute more immediate limiting factors than food or resource abundance alone. we can multiply the impacts of our current seven billion by a factor of six. . bulldozers. logging concessions. it is hard to imagine a carrying capacity of 44 billion. Revelle once estimated earth's carrying capacity to be 44 billion – a number that he derived primarily by imagining that food supplies (as opposed to industrial wastes. what will be left if we multiply our population six times? Imagine. multiplying our production of greenhouse gases. 1974. acid rain. for example.. The Fallacy of the Agricultural Maximum The late Roger Revelle achieved much distinction in his life and his career. particulates. Multiply the drawdown of our aquifers by six. To envision a world with 44 billion people. Multiply the number of chain saws. asphalt parking lots.2110.193 - . And that is also assuming that the medium projection with its starting assumptions is correct and is not an underestimate. physical eradication. Writing several decades ago. Revelle's estimate reflects assorted omissions and unstated and flawed assumptions. condominiums. Dr. nuclear wastes. If tropical deforestation is taking place today. or environmental damage) constitute humanity’s principle limiting factor (Revelle. strip mines. Multiply the number of shopping malls. 1976). Given our impacts today.

And is it wise to proceed to the very limits of those maxima. The papers' weaknesses. . for example. obviously. soils. arable lands. chief. In the two Revelle papers referenced above. . agricultural capabilities and trends. what are the waste maxima and damage maxima that can be inflicted upon an environment (or a planet) without catastrophic repercussions? Most of us. and intuitively important).194 - . Unfortunately. or for planetary limits to accommodating those wastesand that damage. that we have somehow identified earth's carrying capacity for our species. and weapons of modern society. It is a fallacy to suppose that. this same unstated supposition is also common in the analyses of assorted economists and agronomists. and with no consideration of the destructive impacts inflicted by each of those added billions when armed with the machinery. do not deliberately inflict damage upon our homes or automobiles. agriculture. arise from a reliance upon an unstated and unexamined assumption that agriculture and food are the principle. we see that other estimates must be made. for example.How on earth was an imagined carrying capacity of 44 billion ever derived? It was derived utilizing optimistic calculations involving agriculture and food supplies. pollution. luxuries. Today. however. technologies. or is it safer to chart a course for civilization that stays far below such maxima and does not test them? .with no allowance. by simply calculating an agricultural maximum. fertilizers. and potential food supplies (all of which are clearly. . for the wastes and sheer physical damage that accompany or are generated by each of our billions. For instance. or even the only factors governing mankind's limits. growing seasons. the reader is offered a detailed appraisal of hunger.

195 - . endangered species. What are the consequences if his estimates of 44 billion are too high and the number that emerges is just five billion or three billion or. as a lot of data might suggest.3 billion. much less a larger one" (Raven. Joel Cohen assembled for us more than two dozen past estimates of planetary carrying capacity. In instance after instance. or our physical damage to the functioning of natural systems. the estimates show essentially no . significantly less than two billion? What price will be paid by earth’s natural systems. In his book HOW MANY PEOPLE CAN EARTH SUPPORT? (1995). 1991). those estimates had better not be too high. when world population was approximately 5. apparently under the assumption (usually unstated) that food and agriculture are the central – or even the sole – limiting factors affecting human population levels. and all of humanity if the Revelle estimate and its modern counterparts are not borne out? And what if food supplies and agricultural considerations are not the limiting factors that act upon us first? What if our industrial and societal wastes. or technological overspecializations affect us first? The point to be made is this: If one makes estimates of earth's carrying capacity. the estimates address food and agricultural considerations – again. Other Estimates We offered our own estimate by applying certain "reasonable standards" (chapter fourteen) which led us to an estimated carrying capacity of somewhat less than two billion people. In virtually every instance. In the early 1990s. civilization. botanist Peter Raven remarked that there "is no evidence that the world can sustain its present population. climatic machinery.Here is the major question arising from Roger Revelle's estimates: What if his estimates are wrong? Nowhere in his papers does he contemplate or address this possibility.

degradation... despite declining fertility in much of the developed world. elimination. some forty trillion watts. If we adopt such an assumption.” To suggest that earth might support a human population of seventeen billion (as seems to be imagined in the cited sentence) is a problem in that its estimate mistakenly invites us to accept. reduction. Another example: “If humans utilized as food all of the energy captured by plant photosynthesis on land and sea. the planet could support seventeen billion people…. consider again its key points.but would surely have become a hellish place to exist. . for example. but to the omissions and flawed assumptions of the writers whose work he has surveyed.. and environmental functioning that assorted global systems that we depend upon undergo collapse. we .196 - . then we neglect other dangerous possibilities that damage to.) Notice. to whom we are indebted. however. journalists. The statement is almost certainly an overestimate which may tempt and mislead policymakers. a fallacious food-alone assessment.) (Possibilities worth considering. and the world public by encouraging us to erroneously suppose that seventeen billion might actually be supported so long as food energy is available. cleanse. These oversights and errors are not due in any way to Dr. and risk.. fragmentation.contemplation of the environmental damage and wastes generated by each of those additional billions. that the quotation fails to suggest any limits to earth’s ability to accommodate. Cohen. perhaps. biotic. given multiple independent lines of evidence that some such disruptions appear to already be underway. First. . or recycle the industrial and societal wastes that we generate. Estimates Must Not Be Too High As we close this chapter. destruction. and eradication of vast percentages of earth’s biota and natural systems may so disrupt climatic.

one's estimates had better not be too high." Given the added billions currently projected between now and mid-century. and we are still adding one billion extra persons to our planet every twelve to fifteen years. As Bongaarts and Bulatao (2000) put it. "…based on the record of previous projections. if our latest projections also turn out to be underestimates. . a greater risk exists of a large understatement of future world growth than of a large overstatement.are still adding 681.) Fourthly. we have encountered highly misleading pronouncements and errors in recent U. current projections.N. because of social customs and traditions. routinely lag behind for an entire generation or more. . while changes in fertility rates.197 - . Thirdly. may be placing too little emphasis on the possibility that current advances in medicine and genomics may suddenly and unexpectedly lower mortality rates enough to cancel out benefits expected to arise from falling fertility. like many in the past. materials that tend to obscure the crises of the decades just ahead. And lastly. We have additionally seen that dangerous overestimates of carrying capacity can result if we begin with sets of unwarranted assumptions that exemplify the fallacy of the agricultural maximum. (This is because we are commonly able to implement medical advances almost instantaneously. we have seen that population projections commonly underestimate the actual population sizes that eventually emerge.000 extra persons to our population every three days. Secondly. we have suggested that if one makes estimates of earth's carrying capacity. the results may well be more than problematic.

as good news for our planet. to allow what we hope will happen to influence our analyses of recent sobering evidence. It turns out that population data from the island of Sri Lanka and experiments involving a tiny species of roundworm known as Caenorhabditis elegans demonstrate why many of today's population projections that are based largely on data involving fertility must be taken with a grain of salt. If. During the past three decades.16 Sri Lanka. As such declining birth rate data comes in.198 - . birth rates have fallen in many parts of the world. (Unless collapse occurs in the meantime.) It would be a calamitous mistake. and Caenorhabditis elegans What on earth does a graph of the population of Sri Lanka in the mid-twentieth century have to do with a tiny roundworm known to science as Caenorhabditis elegans? And how are two such disparate topics related to demographic transition theory and the future of our planet? As this chapter will demonstrate. runaway population growth and its impacts pose serious biospheric. Life Extension. in an environmental sense. humanitarian. for instance. many of today's population projections may turn out to be underestimating the worldwide population numbers that may eventually emerge. and civili- . after all. it is rightfully interpreted as a demographic step in the right direction and.

death rates are falling even faster. And falling death rates also constitute good news because we are saving more lives and people are living longer.zational challenges. Clearly. Births / 1000 Deaths / 1000 Sri Lanka: Falling birth rates and falling death rates Upper line: Births/1000 Lower line: Deaths/1000 . when combined. There is just one catch. . then falling birth rates might surely indicate some easing of the crisis. . given our impacts upon our planet.199 - . to the above interpretation: Quite often when birth rates are falling. falling birth rates can be considered good news. however. they may add up to biospheric bad news. Sri Lanka In the decades following World War II the nation of Sri Lanka generated a set of data that illustrates the interactive role of birth rates and death rates in a human population. however. Here is its graph for the years 1939-1984: . Ironically.

however. there were . 14 18 17 28 26 24 24 22 22 19 . Notice that birth rates fell substantially from 35/1000 in 1939 to just 27/1000 forty-five years later. Mitchell. How could this be? What had happened? In 1939 there were fourteen extra babies per thousand residents. by 1984 Sri Lanka's rate of population growth was fifty percent faster than it was originally. 1997. however. In the real world.14 . and then . each person who died had been physically replaced. Examining the data for 1939. and Reese. by the end of 1939.200 - . With a fairly substantial decline in its birth rate.fourteen extra babies were born per 1000. there were 35 births and 21 deaths. In other words. By 1984.The data used to generate the graph are displayed in the table below: Campbell.twenty-one. Thus. Year 1939 1940 1945 1947 1950 1955 1960 1965 1970 1975 1980 1984 Births per 1000 35 34 38 36 39 35 32 33 30 28 25 27 Deaths per 1000 21 20 20 19 11 09 08 09 08 06 06 06 Extra per 1000 . . this seems like a step toward reducing Sri Lanka's rapid rate of population growth. Initially. Next refer to the data for 1984. despite more .21. extra babies born per thousand residents. we might expect Sri Lanka’s population to grow less rapidly. we notice that for every thousand residents of Sri Lanka that year.

by 1984 Sri Lanka's rate of growth actually increased by fifty percent. however. But when we check for its value forty-five years later (in 1984). of one hundred years to accommodate their increasing numbers. 1996). between 1850 and 1950 the world’s most developed countries doubled their populations.than four decades of generally falling birth rates. many such populations are growing so fast that it is impossible for their infrastructure. Sachs.. The bottom line tracks death rates recorded during the same years. we note that in 1939 the gap between births and deaths is fairly narrow. jobs. the top line depicts birth rates over the study period.) Poverty traps In contrast. This means that even though there was a 25% reduction in birth rates. for instance. . As a result. while birth rates remained high and changed little. In the graph of the Sri Lanka data. that today’s developed nations had the luxury. however.g. that today’s LDCs do not have the luxury of 100 years to adjust because many of their populations are doubling every thirty years or less . Notice. mortality declines followed quickly. If we consider the gap that separates the two lines. . have quadrupled since 1950 (e.201 - .and are doing so repeatedly. the number of extra babies born per thousand was far larger in 1984 than it was at the outset. at least. when today’s LDCs (less developed countries) imported modern medicines following World War II. "largely due to a decline in the death rate" (Mader. 2008). For example. What we see in Sri Lanka's data during this period mirrors events around the world over the past two centuries (and may well foreshadow worldwide events in the decades just ahead). and service sectors . Populations of sub-Saharan Africa. the gap had appreciably widened. (Notice.

while both trends each constitute one sort of good news. that. agriculture. and living in abject poverty. Of course. As author Sachs notes. if any. unschooled. there were significant advances in bettering human lives.” Jeffrey Sachs at Columbia University characterizes similar suites of conditions as “poverty traps” (2008). partly due to significant progress in the war against malaria. humanity today has painted itself into a demographic and environmental corner with few. “as the world’s population has continued to increase. and technology lowered Sri Lanka's death rate even more than its birth rate had fallen. Thus.to keep up. in retrospect. “the population of the LDCs began to increase dramatically… and many people in these countries are underfed. at the end of the day. painless exit options. and a massive bulge of population ensued. might have been expected: Major advances in medicine. This last fact is the lesson that Sri Lanka holds for the world today: Even if we succeed in lowering birth rates around the world. 2008). when taken together. and (b) Its death rates also dropped. .” and now. saving many lives and allowing its citizens to live longer and healthier lives. something else was also happening. “the decline of fertility lagged behind the decline of mortality. ill-housed. In effect. . Thus.202 - . Good News and Bad News The good news in Sri Lanka was that: (a) Its birth rates fell. on two fronts. . As Mader points out (ibid). the threats to human well-being from rising populations have also multiplied” (Sachs. our populations could end up growing faster instead of more slowly. progress in medical research and biotechnologies may well end up lowering our death rates even more.

Although the pro- . In a significant review article. may turn out to be vastly incorrect. 1988). for example.. Kenyon reports on six-fold extensions of lifespans in Caenorhabditis that have already occurred. 2005. each of extra and unexpected billion increases the seriousness of overshoot. an equivalent extension would result in healthy.g. have shown that dietary change in C. Kenyon.beginning with a tiny little roundworm known to researchers as Caenorhabditis elegans.g. Asencio. something similar may be about to happen on a worldwide scale. et al. active 500-year-olds (ibid).. (We predicted that if a similar set of events were to take place worldwide and affect generations now living.Sri Lanka illustrates the need to look again at our demographic projections for the decades ahead. world population by 2100 could end up closer to 13 billion than to the 9 or 10 billion imagined by the 2003-8 U. 2005). Caenorhabditis elegans What has a tiny little worm species called Caenorhabditis elegans got to do with this book's central topic of human population growth? Recent studies of C. Some experiments. and Friedman and Johnson. 2002). if we are already testing earth's long-term limits. elegans (and other species) are generating provocative insights into the biology and genetics of longevity and aging (e. which are often presented with an optimistic cast. Other recent laboratory studies have succeeded in multiplying lifespan six-fold (e.) And. In those cases where dramatically lower death rates have not been factored in. 2003. In our next section we will see how medicine and molecular genetics could dramatically alter the demographics of humanity's near future -. see Kenyon. Just as Sri Lanka grew faster after three decades of falling birth rates. noting that in human terms. current projections.. elegans can extend lifespan up to 60% (Larsen and Clarke.203 - .N. projections.

Cohen. many decades of active and healthy life expectancy still remaining. et al. and Similar Advances What might be the longevity and mortality implications of today’s genetically-modified organisms (GMOs). a person alive to witness such events in 1633 could still be alive today .. 2000. 2002. 2004).204 - . upon insertion into a living cell. provides the benefits of calorie restriction without the extreme difficulty of the regimen itself" (ibid).g. 2004. as shown by papers by Sinclair and Guarente. Columbia.per century?) Similar research is also being conducted by major universities and the National Institutes of Health. (Necessitating. GMOs. the longer the life-span for the organisms under study" (e. Though in its infancy. for the time being at least. pending further studies. “the higher the level of this protein.I. 2006. at age 33. a human being born in the year 1600 who. however. hypothetical. and similar medical and molecular advances? Recently. 2006. Other research is targeting a gene (sir2) and its protein (Sir2) that suggests that. and M.. Scripps Research Institute. Jazwinski. Synthetic Biology. This is another example of a technology that may eventually lower mortality rates in ways that are currently unaccounted .. and H.T. If what has already been accomplished in Caenorhabditis had occurred back then in humans. perhaps. Larsen and Clarke. of course.. Imagine. "We believe that these studies could lead to. those possibilities still remain. replacement-level fertility rates of just 4/10ths child per woman . this capability already exists and is under further study at labs like those at Caltech. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. (Gibbs. was alive to witness the trial of Galileo in the Court of the Inquisition.Y. may direct cells to carry out various activities that are spelled-out by the scientists themselves.and with many. genomics.. a drug that.spect of successful human approaches may be possible. 2004). Guarente.. scientists have begun testing sets of DNA-based “BioBricks” that. 2000).

and wide . Aeronautics. sixteen top students at M. bioengineered bacteria may be used to produce the cancer drug taxol and other medicines (ibid). First there is an initial achievement or discovery that is quickly followed by rapid advances. proliferation. coli cells flash in unison” as a demonstration of the new technology’s potential (ibid). coli.this time on a worldwide basis.for in most population projections. Keasling anticipates that artemisinin-based medicines might be supplied to the Third World “for about one-tenth the current price.” In early 2003.I.205 - . Keasling’s lab “increased yields by a factor of one million. Researchers have already generated genes that alternate between two stable states. DNA. As our Sri Lanka discussion has shown.T. for example.” In a similar way. In just three years. were “able in one month to specify four genetic programs to make groups of E. falling mortality has repeatedly undermined population projections in the past.” By amplifying the yields another 25-to-50 times. producing a modified bacterium that exhibits “a rudimentary digital memory. and Caenorhabditis Over the past one hundred years. Other insights into such studies can be seen in research at the synthetic biology department at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory where Jay Keasling and his team have engineered “a large network of wormwood and yeast genes into E. mankind has followed a repeated pattern following new discoveries and technical advances.” enabling the bacterium to synthesize a chemical precursor to artemisinin – an “anti-malarial drug that is currently too expensive for… parts of the developing world that need it most” (ibid). and current research suggests that the same thing may be about to happen once again .

The benefits of each such advance tend to be realized relatively quickly by immediately saving lives and reducing mortality (imagine anti-malarial applications. Less than seven decades later. U. If . A good example of this is illustrated by the development of aeronautics: At Kitty Hawk. if such engineering proves even ". and genomics. Orville and Wilbur Wright flew a heavierthan-air vehicle for twelve seconds and a distance of 120 feet. 1998). for example). Today. Similar patterns have also characterized the development of computers.. communications. such advances may well cause humanity to further overshoot calamitous demographic and ecological thresholds. And. if at all. and molecular biology – each beginning with technical advances. such sweeping assumptions are no longer justified.. molecular genetics. Over and over again. as this chapter has argued. research. DNA technologies. and biotechnologies (including early work like that seen with Caenorhabditis) may have far-reaching impacts on death rates and demographics in the half-century just ahead. and fertility adjustments do not occur for decades.and novel applications. social customs. lengthy delays (lag-times) occur when traditions.partly successful. Historically. astronauts traveled to the moon.S. All of this suggests that today's advances in medicine. North Carolina in 1903. landed on its surface. and returned safely to earth again in just over one week. At the same time. demographic projections often adopt an assumption of business as usual when modeling alternative demographic futures. followed by quick proliferation and progression to today's capabilities with breathtaking speed. however. Some writers note that genetic engineers will “certainly aim for greater longevity" and. we underestimate the impacts of dramatic (and unexpected) medical and technical advances and rapid implementation that characterize modern science. it will create vast social and economic dislocations” (Wilson.206 - .

our early steps in understanding longevity, lifespan, and aging develop and proliferate in a way analogous to the advances we have seen in biotechnology, aeronautics, DNA, computers, and communications, precipitous declines in mortality could be on the horizon. If so, then today's demographic projections may constitute serious underestimates of earth's future populations and may lull us into an exceedingly dangerous state of complacency and inaction. Past projections have generated underestimates that have occurred again and again exactly as seen in our data from Sri Lanka. We should appreciate, therefore, that dramatic or unexpected declines in mortality are capable of offsetting or cancelling-out anticipated gains that we otherwise expect based on declining fertility. Inadequacies in Transition Theory Suppose that unexpected medical advances bring about a sudden reduction in mortality. In this circumstance, demographic theory envisions a period of “demographic transition” during which there is a time-delay before reductions in fertility occur to reflect the reduced mortality – and during this lag-time, populations skyrocket as births greatly exceed the lowered death rates. Finally, however (perhaps after one or more generations), transition theory postulates a gradual decline in fertility rates that slowly reduces them to levels commensurate with mortality rates, and a population stabilizes. Thus, demographers commonly envision our time of soaring populations as a transition period during which fertility rates have not yet caught up to our falling mortality rates. And they hope, imagine, and suppose that the transition will complete itself any decade now. One worrisome problem is, however, that such hopes and expectations may well be subverted by a nuanced and unexpected limitation within the theory. .

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How? Why? Because science, medicine, and technology repeatedly lower mortality rates not just once, but over and over and over again – so that we live in a perpetual state of transition. In other words, we repeatedly extend and perpetuate the period of demographic transition (with its skyrocketing populations) so that its completion never occurs or is repeatedly postponed.
In effect, each of our breakthroughs in medicine and longevity re-initiate the transition period, delaying its completion and extending its duration more and more - so that our falling fertility rates are never allowed to catch up.

As fertility rates slowly and gradually adjust to an initial mortality reduction, today’s genetics, technologies, and medical advances institute a second, third, fourth, and fifth mortality reduction in increasingly quick succession. As a result, falling fertility never catches up to the multiple new reductions in mortality and the interim stage of the transition (with its period of soaring population) is never completed.
(It will be completed eventually, of course, but with each delay in the transition, the completion is increasingly likely to occur as a collapse.)

What current theory does not fully articulate, therefore, is the role of science, technology, and medicine that are currently making reductions in death rates so quickly and repeatedly that offsetting fertility reductions do not (or cannot) occur in the short times available. In effect, falling fertility is never able to completely catch-up and conclude the transition, because science and medicine keep perpetually extending the transition over and over again. In the meantime, of course, our already exploding populations continue to rise dangerously higher. And finally, the coup de grace of all this is that the emerging advances in longevity seen in Caenorhabditis (and longevity compounds, perhaps) seem set to perhaps amplify and worsen our current

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overshoot and carry us calamitously past natural thresh-olds and tipping points that should not be transgressed. Most strikingly, our ingenious advances in genetics, molecular biology, and medicine are repeatedly and systematically reducing mortality rates (which we should pursue, of course, and for which their discoverers should be greatly honored and rewarded). The transition, however, becomes perpetual and never ends because constant advances keep extending it before it can proceed to completion. Each such advance, therefore, can act to cancel-out or neutralize a key expectation of the demographic transition theory and repeatedly postpone completion of the expected transition so that it never occurs or it never ends until our degree of overshoot is so great that complete collapse can no longer be avoided. More problematic than we currently imagine Realistic population projections need to explicitly incorporate at least one variant that contemplates the possibility that widespread and nearly-instantaneous mortality declines may cancel-out gains otherwise expected from falling fertility. And these models should also incorporate assorted lag-times and delayed feedbacks that arise from age-old fertility traditions and social customs. If advances in medicine, molecular genetics, and longevity (e.g., Kenyon, 2005) develop and proliferate in ways approximating those we have seen in computers, DNA technologies, communications, and the progress of aeronautics from zero to moon landings in a span of less than seven decades, we could be in more severe trouble than we currently imagine. In short, with maturation of advances that are currently underway, we may see falling death rates in the decades ahead that were unimaginable just a few years ago.

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and Human Impacts What is biodiversity and where do earth’s endangered species live? We cannot save mountain gorillas with national parks in South America or Indonesia because mountain gorillas survive only in particular forests in Africa. inviolate reserves for orangutans must be established and maintained on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra which are the exclusive homes of the species. et al. while the tropical Andes are believed "to contain at least 20.000 species or one sixth of the planetary total" (Myers. Hotspots. And enlarged.17 Biodiversity. It turns out that earth’s plant and animal species are not uniformly spread across earth’s lands and seas – instead. for example. Similarly. This means that allocation of significant levels of conservation support to these areas can "go far to stem the mass extinction that is now underway" (ibid). 2000).” If we assess earth's terrestrial plants and animals. Similarly. "is believed to harbor the earth's richest flora.210 - .000 endemic species of plants. their habitats are found only on the island of Madagascar. Brazil alone..000 known plant endemics" (ibid). the island of New Guinea is home to an estimated 15. we discover that an important percentage of today's species are concentrated into such hotspots. they are concentrated in areas that harbor large numbers of different species in comparatively restricted regions that biologists call “hotspots. . at least 50. if we are to save lemurs.

non-governmental organizations (NGOs). R. Biodiversity Hotspots Beginning in 1989. . battalions of loggers armed with bulldozers and chainsaws could wipe these habitats off the face of the earth in a few months” (Wilson.211 - . mammals. conservation planners. If we do nothing and these areas are destroyed. and bird species occur in twenty-five hotspots that individually occupy no more than 2% of the ice-free land surface" (Pimm and Raven.. . 2000). "roughly 30-50% of plant. and amphibians” (Mittermeier. Conservation International posts information at http:// www.. For readers who wish to know more about the status of each hotspot and its biota. 2005). et al. reptile. Time is of the essence.149 plant species that represent 44% of all vascular plant species on earth (Myers. significant portions of this biodiversity can be protected if we allocate sufficient funds and efforts now (2000). the losses will be disastrous.7 percent of the world’s land surface… astonishingly. Unfortunately. Although the terrestrial hotspots “take up only 2. 2000). . poverty. amphibian. and unemployment are high and where conservation resources are scarce. 2002). biologists have identified approximately 34 biodiversity hotspots around the world. On the other hand. “…in a nightmare scenario. they are the exclusive homes of 44 percent of the world’s plant species and more than a third of all species of birds. however. Additionally. reptiles. and biologists began targeting individual biodiversity hotspots around the globe. Eleven of the locales "have already lost . mammal.As this is written. for sixteen of the hotspots are in tropical developing countries where population growth.org.biodiversityhotspots. as Myers and his colleagues point out. These species-rich locales comprise the sole remaining habitats of 133.

Over the past three decades. and yet a poacher can earn ten years income from a single rhino kill (Wilson.2 billion people is home to about one-third of the world's tigers. et al. and Rathambhore which has become "an island in a heaving sea of strikingly impoverished humanity" (Kvinta. it was discovered in 2004 that poachers had "decimated" Rathambhore's tiger population and had killed every single tiger in Sariska (ibid). to lose much if not most of their remaining primary vegetation within the foreseeable future" (Myers. Only about 300 Sumatran rhinos survive. 2009). with a population of 1. . women enter the park each day and return "with freshly-cut branches atop their heads" while herders drive their goats into the park each day to forage. 2002). . Experts who work “…on the problem agree that Dicerorhinus sumatrensis has entered the end-game. Tigers and India Densely crowded India. rhino and elephant populations in Africa and Asia have collapsed as they have been killed by poachers for their horns and tusks. for example. In addition. .212 - . which was the home of project tiger. Among the tiger reserves are two national parks: Sariska.. One hundred thousand villagers now surround much of Rathambhore. The country's 1400 tigers are scattered across a fragmented system of 27 reserves which are under the governance of seventeen different state governments.at least 90% [of their primary vegetation] and three have lost 95%.” and scientist Wilson laments “the madness of it all” because the poaching and folkremedy sales of rhino horn are taking place in the complete absence of any scientific evidence for curative powers (ibid). in "the absence of greatly increased conservation efforts." and seem likely. 2000). and with no wood or trees for fuel.

where scores of skins are sold each year. Finally. however. "There is no coordination. Madagascar. Madagascar's eastern mountains were once cloaked with vast mountain forests and dense rainforests. grasslands. and a swath of islands that includes Indonesia and Borneo. the islands of the Caribbean. including 55 species and subspecies of lemurs – as well as 310 unique genera of plants. the scale of which is indescribable" (ibid). and thirty-five unique genera of birds (ibid). there exists "an extraordinary desert-adapted flora in which as many as 98% of the species are unique" (Tattersall. while other areas feature arid conditions. and deciduous forests. .When news of the Sariskan and Rathambhore "meltdowns" became public. is located off the southeast coast of Africa. According to the article. thereby triggering a tide of thousands of people flooding into the forests As one observer noted. fourteen unique genera of primates. Madagascar Five of the "hottest" hotspots include the Atlantic forest of Brazil. a second law was passed granting rights to residents of the parks. many of the country's tigers ended up in Tibet and China. the tropical Andes. About 85% of its biota are unique. We have a mess on our hands. the island of Madagascar. which is about twice as large as Arizona. In the island's far south. and is home to varieties of plants and animals that occur nowhere else on earth.213 - . 400-plus villages are situated inside India's various tiger reserves so that one recent law provides for the villages to be relocated. 1993). Meanwhile. investigators belatedly discovered that a local poaching ring linked to international criminal kingpins was responsible. .

the per capita GDP was just $800. and its biota today. And further deforestation and degradation threaten the patches that remain. 2009). the island's population has a doubling time of 25 years (CIA.But this portrait of a more pristine Madagascar is out of date. In 2003. even if Madagascar’s population did not grow at all. what devastation and deterioration must lie ahead as its demographic tidal wave continues unabated? Madagascar is thus a microcosm of the difficulties faced by other poor countries around the world. In Madagascar we see a country that must allocate most of its limited monies to provide education and similar government services to its citizens .9% per year.214 - . Given the decimation of its ecosystems during recent decades. Given the challenges facing Madagascar's people." And what are the near-term prospects for Madagascar. . 44% of its population is less than 15 years old (after PRB. its biota. cannot afford to police its remaining reserves adequately. The island's once continuous tract of forest along its humid eastern escarpment has been largely denuded by slash-andburn agriculture. or a little over two dollars per person per day. and it is doing so at one of the fastest rates in the world. the average woman bears five children during her lifetime. despite its government's genuine concern. As Tattersall points out. the future would seem bleak under currently existing conditions. Madagascar. contemplating jobs and impacts. and its natural systems? With an estimated population growth rate of 2. its people. and its "lemur populations continue to dwindle. But its population is growing. or in some cases. its ecosystems. Its birth rates today (38 births/1000) greatly exceed its death rates of 9/1000. and. commercial logging. 2004). and cutting of the trees for fuel (ibid). at all.

we convert wilderness into farms and farmlands into cities. 2006. hydroelectric dams. in just five years. And their rates of mass loss also doubled between 1996 and 2005 (Kerr. 2006). et al. the glaciers radiating from Greenland’s three-kilometer-thick ice sheet doubled the rate of their advance to the sea. and natural systems are to be saved. Humans today impact our planet far more than at any time in history. When human populations. is this: If Madagascar's plants.215 - . 2007).. Human Impacts As humanity collides with earth's limits and the other organisms that live here with us. and technology compete with wilderness and wildlife. are going to have to lead the efforts and shoulder a lion's share of the costs.– leaving little extra for the protection of its environment and endangered biota. For example. see also UN-Sigma Xi. “at no time in at least the past ten million years has the atmospheric content of CO2 exceeded the present value of 380 ppmv” (Kennedy and Hanson.. humanity’s impacts today are “…substantial and growing. the rich nations of the world. armed with bulldozers. other species are increasingly being driven to extinction. . the carbon dioxide concentration has increased by nearly thirty percent.. animals. .. then. Between one-third and one-half of [earth’s] land surface has been transformed by human action. for the time being. In addition. chainsaws. investment portfolios. Thus. The reality. and about one-quarter of all the bird species on Earth have been driven to extinction" (Vitousek. more than half of all accessible surface fresh water is put to use by humanity. And. earth's wilderness and wildlife stand no chance. 1997). mechanized fishing fleets. as our numbers grow.

Pimm. The concerns implied by these examples should not be dismissed as alarmism: “I earnestly wish that accusation [of alarmism] were true. After this first fatal step. Sobering Assessments Recent sobering assessments include book-length surveys with titles like Requiem for Nature by John Terborgh (1999). "some ten million hectares of new land. and convert wilderness into cities. By statured scientists I mean those who collect and analyze the data. while others write of empty oceans (Ellis. perhaps the foremost challenge facing nature and natural systems today is the continuing destruction. often including their rivals” (Wilson." to support a grow- . 2001).O. At a conference entitled Defying Nature’s End.. For example. 1993. is needed each year. As a result. “Unfortunately. conservation NGOs (non-governmental organizations) convened an assemblage of top conservationists and biologists. settlers clear the forests. and publish articles vetted for professional journals by other experts. construct dams..216 - .” writes Harvard’s E. 2002). 2003) or the silent forest syndrome (Wilson. farms. and pastures.When our population was six billion we used or consumed 60% of earth’s accessible freshwater and exerted unprecedented impacts on world fisheries. Construction of roads into roadless areas allows access to entire regions that were once wilderness. build the theoretical models. Wilson. interpret the results. and degradation of the natural habitats that still remain. fragmentation. suburbs. cleared largely from forests. it is the reality-grounded opinion of the overwhelming majority of statured scientists who study the environment. while competition for water continues to become a potential source of conflict between nations (Homer-Dixon et al. 1998).

1998. 2000). between one-third and two-thirds of all species would be likely to disappear within the foreseeable future" and such an extinction. Wilson writes that our planet “is in a precarious state already. . and collectively. et al.ing world population at current levels of nutritional and agricultural yields" (Noble and Dirzo. in the last half century of human history? The reason these things are happening now is because there are so many of us. Others write that "the situation looks set to become rapidly worse" and observe that "what we do (or do not do) within the next few decades will determine the long-term future of the biosphere" (Myers..” and warns that “humanity is in a final struggle with the rest of life” (Wilson. If our species is exerting such sobering and unprecedented impacts now.. what will be our impacts as we continue adding a billion additional people every 12 to 15 years and find ourselves climbing to levels of ten to fifteen billion by the end of this century? . 2002). What can we expect to happen as we add still more billions in the decades between now and 2100? Myers and his colleagues (2000) summarize the prospects this way: "were the present mass extinction of species to proceed virtually unchecked. approximately half of earth’s tropical humid forests were gone and we clear another “one million square kilometers every five to ten years. O.217 - . if allowed to persist ". 2000).. we are overexploiting resources to a degree that is completely unprecedented in the history of our species." . would constitute a problem with far more enduring impact than any other environmental problem. 1997). burning and logging “severely damages” several times the area that is cleared (Pimm and Raven. Why are these things happening now.” In addition. E. By 2000.

" and that a more accurate descriptor such as an "ecological damage trail" might more accurately portray the extensive degree of our daily individual and collective impacts. 2010) that the term itself is "too benign.5 acres) per person. commerce. Disturbance. levels of consumption with existing technology would require four more planet earths” (ibid). “for every person in the world to reach present U.S.g. It is worth noting that while the innovative ecological economics concept of an "ecological footprint" has proven powerful. Succession. In a poor or developing nation. Imagine.” In the United States.. There must also be wild "corridors" that allow colonists and replenishment individuals to travel from one protected habitat to another. for example.218 - . water. or to replenish populations that are harmed by the vagaries of chance. As Wilson notes. 2002). it has recently been suggested (K.6 hectares or 24 acres per person (ibid). this footprint is about one hectare (about 2. on the other hand. Wackernagel and Rees. and waste absorption” (Wilson. Worldwide. 1996).2 acres). Thomas.1 hectares (5. energy. “the average amount of productive land and shallow sea appropriated by each person in bits and pieces from around the world for food.Ecological Damage Trails One way to measure our individual and/or collective impacts and objectively quantify the average environmental demands that we make is to estimate an average person’s or a nation's ecological footprint (e. and Recovery Wildlife and natural systems require inviolate refugia that humans and predators cannot access. housing. our footprint is about 9. . “the footprint for the total human population is 2. transportation. They also need undeveloped adjacent or nearby areas to supply the new individuals needed to colonize sites that are disturbed.

economic. Bangladesh and Southeast Asia. as we render earth's classical successional processes more and more inoperative. a system's natural successional processes are impeded or destroyed.or the processes that once took place naturally will only occur with the assistance of human intervention and expenditures. in the decades ahead.219 - .Ecosystems can recover from damage by a process called succession. their biological characteristics. or a fire. Thus. a bulldozer. political. These early colonists are then followed over the course of months or years by still other. the amount of remaining habitat. such processes constitute a mechanism by which an ecosystem may potentially heal the wounds of a hurricane. slower-growing species. and (b) The demographic. Over the course of several decades or centuries. if our citizenry does not know: (a) The places where they live. . cultural. Biogeography A formal geography curriculum with a pronounced biogeographic component should be returned to its once-prominent position in school curricula. for example. but we are disrupting the natural mechanisms that once managed these things for us for free. Without nearby source populations to provide replenishment. in which colonists and pioneers from nearby undisturbed areas arrive at a damaged site and begin the process of recovery by establishing themselves on the disturbed site. such natural healing processes either will not occur – with all the implications that entails -. Today's bioremediation projects and restoration ecology fall short of the natural processes. But the process of recovery requires nearby undisturbed natural areas as its source of colonists. How can we save the tiger populations of India. and the status of the endangered populations. and employ- .

units might address similar topics on a global scale. and posters should be presented as comparative triplets: Rainforests. In new geography courses. literacy rates. along with mountains. montane biomes. biotic resources. and grasslands. riverine systems. past. along with the locations of (and critical services provided by) tropical rainforests. perhaps).220 - . traditional maps. projected environmental and biotic trends. major national parks and nature reserves (nominal or actual). such curricula should address biogeography and world biosphere reserves as well as economic geography (agriculture. wind farms. and projected: Birth rates and death rates. geothermal resources. such curricula might introduce students to the geography of their own nation or continent and in a following semester. national parks. desert biomes. however. Today’s geography courses might address traditional geography (including each state and its capitol.ment attributes of the places in which they live? In too many states geography courses have been abandoned. and they should be forthwith restored to middle school curricula with prominent treatment of biogeography. employment (or lack thereof). polar ice. the same globes and maps with erasures and excisions to portray the present. mineral deposits. present. and a third . In addition. this new fusion of geography and biogeography might juxtapose demographics and ecological footprints. fertility rates. in these courses. etc. and megacities. globes. however. etc. along with historical sites and events. Finally. along with environmental impacts. and river systems. and ecological footprints in their original and historic extent. In one semester.). etc. fisheries. urbanization. units must address biodiversity hotspots and the minimum critical size of ecosystems. grasslands. For assorted nations of the world. population pyramids. densities.

“Biodiversity hotspots should always be a… major part of conservation planning. and the arrival of our 8th. 9th and 10th (plus) billions by 2100. 2005). . As Peter Kareiva. “To bet on a safe passage is a terrible choice. including earth’s entire biosphere and civilization itself. the drying of the Aral Sea.221 - . the cost will be ruinous” (emphasis added). earth’s top scientists warn us not to gamble. we will also see that we must conserve regions vast enough to conserve not just species. Shortly. NASA photographs of smoke rising from a burning Amazon. 1998) notes. the sheer avalanche of our numbers and our impacts threatens to overwhelm literally everything that we hold dear.iteration with further excisions and erasures depicting alternate future conditions suggested by projections. But we need to supplement our maps of species richness with maps of carbon storage … and so forth” (Kareiva. and changes in the ozone hole above Antarctica can help students appreciate the planet-wide changes and impacts that humanity is exerting on the only biosphere known to exist anywhere in the universe. because the stakes on the table are just about everything” and “if you lose the bet down the line. As one biologist (Wilson. Conserving Ecosystem Services and Functions This chapter illustrates the fundamental role that biodiversity hotspots must play in any planet-wide conservation strategy. the biodiversity approach is effective at protecting long lists of species. a senior scientist with the NATURE CONSERVANCY has observed. shrinking polar ice. . and current trends. With one added billion every twelve to fifteen years. but also ecosystem functions and critical services. computer models. With increasing urgency. but it fails to maintain important ecosystem services. however.

Most of these organisms. after all. scorpions. . et al. and cobras? To be fair. melt earth’s permafrost. Furthermore. nor do they kill other animals for sport. pollute the ocean. None of the species mentioned in the previous paragraph. perhaps we should defend the nominees cited above. or threaten to change the climate of the entire planet. and many of the crops that sustain humanity itself. cut down rainforests. organisms such as bees are key pollinators that are indispensable to perpetuating earth’s flowering plants. 2007).222 - . for instance. Should great white sharks be selected for this dubious distinction? Or might we nominate a deadly box jellyfish along the coast of Australia.. and Now In this chapter. And they do not shoot endangered rhinos to be used for dagger handles and headache remedies that don’t work. They do not supplement their biological and metabolic wastes with massive quantities of societal and industrial wastes.18 The Paleolithic. Nor do they generate radioactive wastes. we consider “the world’s most dangerous animal” (Begley. There is. a voracious pack of timber wolves. or build nuclear weapons. are dangerous solely in the interests of capturing food or for self-defense. another nominee that the rest of the biosphere might designate as the most dangerous species of all. or salt-water crocodiles? Or should we bestow this unflattering title on venomous creatures such as rattlesnakes. forests. of course. the Neolithic.

Sometimes such changes can be beneficial. the slow. drought. Some of the reasons for this are clear from the paragraphs above. We try to educate our children. millennia following the arrival of [human] colonists” (ibid). as seen in the early NASA scenarios for terraforming Venus. This capacity. and the tasty” so that. while other data (from archaeology. transmit. floods. and tsunamis. the evidence suggests that the earth’s most dangerous animal is probably us. however. that when humans colonize new continents. 2003). at most. to provide humanitarian assistance to the sick. Quick examples include dinoflagellate red-tides that can poison seawater with brevetoxins or freshwater algal blooms in eutrophic ponds and lakes that can produce deadly anoxic conditions that suffocate virtually every aerobic inhabitant of the water body in which they live. “archaeologists have found that… extinction spasms occur within a period of a few centuries or. is a double-edged sword. Continuing. for example) seem to point in the same direction. the first animals to disappear “are the big. islands. most of the megafauna soon vanished” (Wilson. Recent archaeological and paleontological research suggests. however. provide for our families. and to celebrate. and to others who are affected by earthquakes.We have seen earlier that living things can affect their environments and even dramatically change entire planets. population explosions routinely exert negative impacts on other species and on environmental systems. . or land masses. as a rule “…wherever people entered a virgin environment. .223 - . Vanished in a Geologic Twinkling We generally think of ourselves as considerate and conscientious beings (and we are). and cherish our cultures. of course. We try. On the other hand. for example. . to the elderly. If we examine our current role in earth’s biosphere. for instance.

beginning about 13. 2007). During this same period.” Among the victims were giant armadillos and glyptodonts.000 years ago. Big Brains plus Weapons In the new world. all pretty much gone at the same time” (Martin. the dwarf mammoth. In other places. human colonists appear to have arrived in Madagascar around 700 A.Some analysts note that mass extinctions in Australia did not occur until shortly after human beings arrived about 53. Then. Not a single land-dwelling species larger than a human being survived” (ibid). In other words.000 years ago.. Whether we examine the disappearance of megafauna in Australia. five sloth species (such as the Shasta ground sloth).224 - . …… Similarly. not long afterward. and an American lion (ibid). the imperial mammoth. the pattern was much the same. Mada- . the wooly mammoth. at least seventy genera of large animals “all vanished in a geologic twinkling of about 1000 years… all pretty much gone at once. an American cheetah. birds. the Columbian mammoth. nearly forty species of large terrestrial animals were wiped out in a geologically short period of time. several North American varieties of camels and tapirs. lethal wallop. “virtually all of the native species of mammals. the ancient megafauna came to an abrupt end. apparently disappearing entirely “no later than 40. followed by the establishment of numerous settlements and villages by the eleventh century.000 years ago. In the Americas. however. mastodons. 2005. and reptiles above 10 kg (roughly 20 pounds) vanished” (ibid). saber-toothed tigers. terrestrial “megafauna” that suffered “an enormous. Weisman. for instance. it was the large.D. even though smaller species such as mice and shrews emerged relatively unscathed (ibid).000 to 60. three genera of American horses.

in Neolithic times. As disconcerting as this is. however. so that the megafauna that our forebears encountered were all exterminated “simply because it could be done” (Martin. a similar progression plays itself out.” while in two national parks in Thailand. As E. Malaysia… not a single large mammal remained.gascar. and “by the middle of the fourteenth century. it appears that some proportion of our overall population can always be counted on to pursue short-sighted policies of avarice. On a bell-curve of our species. environmental destruction. tigers. Today Project Tiger has No Tigers Unfortunately. 1969. 2007. the moas were gone” (2003). 1961). Ardrey. a matter of a few decades. of course. Weisman. as we add our seventh. and ninth billion between now and 2041. humanity’s weapons and big brains seem to have allowed a “killer instinct that never relents” to express itself more and more efficiently. “elephants.225 - .” Likewise recall that India’s Sariska National Park. It is not the case. or of unthinking eradication. logging roads and armies have opened access to many of the earth’s last great wild places. and. or the Americas. for instance. it describes events that are occurring now. O. “now has no tigers. just one year “after a logging road went into forest areas in Sarawak. it appears that our species is not yet finished with its remorseless slaughter. which was once famous as the home of Project Tiger. the first Polynesians came ashore in New Zealand in the late thirteenth century. 2005. as Elizabeth Bennett notes. and wild cattle have been hunted into oblivion” (ibid). Wilson writes. in onceimpenetrable wilderness areas. eight. hunters and weapons soon follow (ibid). In one case. that every human in a population participates in a hunt or extinction process in any direct way. Today. . As a result.

since the gorillas’ bodies were left behind and an infant…was found clinging to its dead mother in one of the earlier murders. journalists who covered the deaths of the slaughtered gorillas were struck by two things: “One was how human the great animals seemed in death. Instead. donations by conservation groups and private citizens in Europe have so far ensured that the rangers can continue their work. surviving mountain gorillas amount to approximately 720 individuals and seven of these have just been killed in “possibly the worst…slaughter in 25 years” (Klaidman. Authorities doubt the killers were poachers. but it was the seventh killing of the critically endangered primates in two months. 2007). a 600-pound male silverback lay with one hand across his chest. rangers risk their lives trying to protect the surviving gorillas. as if he had just been beating it.a Slaughter in the Jungle As this is written. Among the suspects in the gorilla slaughter are members of “a corrupt mafia of charcoal merchants” which has recently begun felling trees in Virunga’s forests “to fuel a $30 million- .Gorillas . . “experts are concerned that the most dangerous animal in the world [has] found yet another excuse to slaughter the creatures with whom we share the planet” (ibid). In their article “Slaughter in the Jungle.” One of the dead female gorillas was Mburanumwe.226 - . his head bowed in grief” (Johnson.” Begley et al.” Because of the senseless and brutal nature of the crime. According to Klaidman (2007). In the Virunga National Park. (2007) report that “park rangers don’t know who killed the four gorillas found shot to death in Virunga [Africa’s oldest national park]. Yet they have not received pay from their own countries for years. “One ranger grabbed her hand and held it for a long time. 2007). The other was the tenderness with which the rangers treated the bodies.

2008). carrying the tusks back to Sudan where they are secreted onto ships bound mostly for Asia – or traded for weapons” (ibid).” When the ranger later posted a blog accusing the charcoal merchants of contributing to the destruction of the gorillas’ habitat. * Notice that women are not doing this. outgunned and outmanned. Now. “about 120 rangers have been killed in the line of duty” (ibid). Begley also cites wildlife officials who report that “some 100 rangers. In a May.. et al. they have butchered “hundreds of elephants around Zakouma. the militia has expanded the killing fields to endangered species.* . the ranger was accosted by “men in military uniforms…[who] flogged him in front of the audience. Janjaweed marauders galloped into the park and killed three park rangers in pursuit of $1. a female gorilla under his care was found murdered two days later by unknown gunmen.” Begley reports.3 million dollars of confiscated ivory stored at the park’s headquarters (Begley. reports arrived that rangers were forced to leave Virunga with the arrival of an invading rebel army. 2008 attack. In the past two years. Militias and Killing Fields The last refuge of Chad’s once-thriving elephant population is Zakouma National Park. The attackers were part of the same Janjaweed militias that are responsible for the genocidal attacks on their fellow human beings in Darfur. are killed . In her article. particularly in lawless regions and failed states. To protect wild places and wildlife today. Since the mid-1990s.227 - . Only months later. is a dangerous profession. when village residents gathered to hear a park ranger discuss the threats posed by the charcoal industry.” In one instance. “lured by easy money.a-year industry. for example.

Meanwhile. with a lot of protection and effort. however.or this. a small population of northern white rhinos in Garamba National Park slowly grew “from thirteen in 1983” to thirty-two in 2003.” Late in 2003. DNA analysis showed that all the ivory in one of the shipments from Cameroon “came from elephants in eastern Gabon and the neighboring Congo. Individual wildlife poaching and trafficking appear to have been replaced by large.000 killed elephants. 8th. .. Other wildlife is also being decimated. fueled by rising poverty. 2008).” as though contractors had received a “purchase order for a specific quantity of ivory” (Begley. and chaos that have grown out of runaway population growth. lawlessness. et al. * How is any of this going to improve as we add a 7th. “ Janjaweed militias armed with AK-47s began arriving” and as of 2007.228 - . however. For example.” A recent attack in Kenya took place three days after the attack in Chad when a group of heavily armed Somali poachers “fired 300 rounds from their assault rifles and killed three Kenyan rangers…” * (ibid). lawless extremists in Congo killed two baby gorillas whose stuffed bodies can bring enough money “for a nice haul of assault rifles” (ibid).. . because the trade also depends on buyers.* . $10-to-$20 billion dollar-a-year crime syndicates.. and 9th billion by mid-century? The slaughter of earth’s wildlife cannot be blamed solely on poachers. Begley cites fifteen shipments of contraband ivory (approximately forty tons) that were shipped to a single businessman in Taiwan – requiring the tusks of 4. unemployment. * . a death sentence for that population” (ibid).every year defending Africa’s wildlife. there were only “two rhinos left in Garamba.

as world population surpasses seven billion people.for we did it in the Paleolithic. And today this is made worse because our weapons. . on a bell-curve of our species. Asia. and the United States are the largest markets for contraband such as ivory. and we are doing it now. and decimate wildlife. about half of whom earn less than two or three dollars a day. as always. thoughtless. and Now These accounts and others like them describe conditions as they exist now. And this same slaughter and illegal trade in endangered species that occurs today seems poised to increase further as human numbers grow. this appears to be a habitual trait that we have exhibited throughout the history of our species . an unfortunate amount of evidence suggests that some portion of our species can always be counted upon to indiscriminately slaughter every animal that we encounter that is larger than ten or twenty pounds. . and use of palm oil. rhino horn (up to $25. China. decimate habitat and wilderness. the Neolithic. we also contribute to the holocaust. access. prompt replacement of rainforest with palm oil plantations and logging roads and concessions that chew up (and open up) more and more forest.including internet sales. and technologies have greatly amplified our effectiveness. paper. we did it in the Neolithic. although the impacts of the rest of us are mostly unintentional and indirect. Thus. And unfortunately. some portion of humanity continues to participate directly in the destruction of wilderness and wildlife with an instinctive. Our simple needs for wood. it appears that today. and selfish abandon. Worse still. exotic birds. the Middle East.000 per pound). . and reptiles.229 - . tiger parts. for example. Thus. shark fins. The Paleolithic.

230 - .19 A Conservation Roadmap There was a time when the interstate highway system of the United States existed only as an ambitious plan requiring implementation over several decades. such costs are also relatively painless in the context of the world economy. We will see that costs exist. . To its credit. These costs. the Eisenhower administration both initiated and funded the interstate highways that today are such key components of our national infrastructure. Preserving and conserving earth's ecosystem services and biological infrastructure must be worth at least as much as conducting a long and costly war on the other side of the world.) Today. The costs we will encounter are also tiny when compared with the importance of the ecological infrastructure that supports life on earth -. or sponsoring an Olympic games might be to a city or a nation. of course – but that they are both affordable and manageable – something like car or home loan payments might be to an individual or a family.and with reasonably modest funding over the next thirty years. furthermore. but as necessary hospital costs to treat a deteriorating and potentially catastrophic condition. must not be thought of as luxuries. conserving earth’s ecosystems and biodiversity hotspots must be planned and implemented in a similar way. . (Just try to imagine our nation without them.

the Nature Conservancy. yet are exclusive home to 44% of all earth’s plant species and more than a third of all species of birds. 1986.If we can so readily afford millions of dollars for one cruise missile. a conservation “roadmap” has emerged from the studies. (e) Climate change and global warming. and (f) Pollution. O. mammals. and the World Wildlife Fund). reptiles. 1. and amphibians. UN-Sigma Xi. (Jenkins. and two billion dollars a week for a war in a dusty stretch of desert. 2007). As a first step. there must be immediate acquisition and strict protection of earth’s biodiversity hotspots. 2001. (d) Wildlife populations that are forced to compete with humans and non-native (exotic) species.. policy. 2003. Myers. (b) A continuing loss of habitat due to destruction. fragmentation. 2000. Wilson notes (2002). and to reduce or minimize the number of extinctions that occur in the years ahead.231 - . Pimm. and planning activities of top scientists and conservation NGOs (non-governmental organizations such as Conservation International. Lovejoy. Immediate Acquisition of Biodiversity Hotspots To conserve ecosystem functions and services. et al. multiple processes require our attention. Many human activities currently contribute to extinctions.4% of earth’s land surface. Over the past two decades. civilization would be derelict indeed to fail to protect the ecological and biospheric machinery that allows life as we know it to exist. The terrestrial “hotspots” currently identified comprise just 1. “the tropical wilderness areas and the hottest of . (c) Severe overexploitation of biotic stocks such as forests and fisheries. millions more for a single bunker-buster bomb. and degradation. Among these are: (a) Rapid human population growth. As E.

2005). Such set-asides and inviolate reserves necessitate immediate “emergency room” expenditures. establishing a permanent wilderness belt around the equator large enough to sustain a substantial fraction of earth’s biodiversity” . is estimated to have spent $12 billion for the 2004 Olympics held in Athens. keep in mind that a single nation. Wall Street firms. 2002).” To put this in perspective. and three nations. . then world leaders ought to be able to make the expenditures required to preserve the functioning of earth's natural systems and the fabric of life on earth. Conservation International showed how much can be done both quickly and with modest expense when they outbid a logging company and purchased 200. because. and financial entities. (ibid). the United States. among other things.a prospect that might be in reach for less than ten billion dollars. as Wilson reminds . in less than a decade.232 - .the hotspots…which together contain perhaps 70% of earth’s plant and animal species can be saved by a single investment of roughly $30 billion. and London may spend $17 billion on the Olympics of 2012 (Maidment. with additional such allocations in 2009. recall the emergency funding of more than $700 billion that the United States allocated in 2008 to save banks. In 2000.000 acres of tropical rainforest as a conservation concession in Guyana for an initial fee of $20. . During that same year. Greece. Similarly. the NGO also organized a conference entitled “Defying Nature’s End” where strategists suggested. can make financial outlays that ensure that the Olympic games survive and prosper. If one nation. Beijing spent $10 billion or more to host the games in 2008. can make financial outlays of a trillion dollars or more over the course of eighteen months to save its financial sector.000 and fifteen cents per acre per year (Wilson.

fragmented. As a second step. botanical gardens. as a second feature of a conservation roadmap. Thus.233 - . ambitious road and development projects that penetrate or cross biodiversity hotspots and remaining wilderness regions must be abandoned or redirected. Brazil might redirect these investments to strengthen "existing settlement regions before roads are paved deeper into the forest" (ibid). and degradation of the natural habitats that still remain. But how .. or damaged areas. If implemented. zoos. As an alternate policy. 2002). 2. Minimum Critical Size of Ecosystems Perhaps the foremost challenge facing nature and natural systems today is the continuing eradication. perhaps with the “average ecological footprint” of each nation as a proportional consideration.us. By all rights. 3. a conservation roadmap requires attention to the minimum critical size of ecosystems. minimum viable populations. . contemplates infrastructure investments of approximately $45 billion over an eight-year period (Carvalho. . and the restoration of disturbed. fragmentation. cannot shoulder all the necessary costs alone. et al. 2001). Finally. “the windows of opportunity are closing fast. however.a recipe for further human intrusion and deforestation.” The heroic efforts of today’s NGOs serve as an example of what can be done and is being done already. We address several of these in the remainder of this chapter. A recent Brazilian development project. Private organizations. parts of the plan would add 6245 km of paved highways through core areas of the Amazon rainforest (ibid) . captive breeding. these costs should be shared by all the nations of the world. we might “keep existing frontier forests intact and cease logging of old-growth forests everywhere” (Wilson. for example.

Such principles of island biogeography are important aspects of conservation biology because the world's nature reserves and parks have largely become "islands" in a sea of humanity. In all biomes and habitats. 2003). the team tracked species diversity and environmental conditions in a set of rainforest "islands" left as remnants in an area where virgin Amazon forest had been clearcut and removed (Lovejoy. reserves must be large enough to be perpetually self-sustaining. As Michael Soule noted (1985). including logging concessions and the world's seas and oceans. In addition.large must reserves." Thomas Lovejoy and his colleagues designed an early project to help quantify "the minimum critical size of ecosystems.234 - . The point is this: It is not enough to preserve a park of three acres or to establish a dozen or one hundred such parks. biologically speaking. parks and wilderness islands be in order to function as self-perpetuating nature reserves? In their classic study of island biogeography. And the bad news is that too many of our parks and reserves are... 1986). "the species extinction rate is generally higher in small sites" and even the largest nature reserves and national parks ". that fragments smaller than one km2 lose 50% of their bird species in less than 15 years." In their study. Wilson and Robert MacArthur demonstrated that large oceanic islands support more species than smaller ones (1967).are usually too small to contain viable populations of large carnivores. To conserve endangered species and functioning systems. each should include large roadless areas that are . E.. This long-running project showed. O. a fragment must be 1000 times larger (Ferraz. and that to slow the rate of species loss ten-fold. among other things. . inviolate reserves and set-asides are going to be increasingly necessary. too small. et al.

bounded and buffered by low intensity woodlands, forests, and national parks. In Central America, Costa Rica is famous for its series of megareserves with their protected and undisturbed core areas. While no economic activity is allowed in these core areas, they are protected and buffered by adjacent regions that permit limited nondestructive activities. Can Systems Survive 90% Eradication? .

Two-thirds of South America’s rainforests lie in Brazil. Yet, as recently as 2002 , “only three to five percent” of Brazil’s forest cover was set aside as fully-protected reserves. As some writers report, however, the Brazilian government has recently established an ultimate goal of fully protecting 10% (Wilson, 2002). While this more robust goal is to be applauded, Wilson promptly adds that “ten percent is not enough to save the Amazon as we know it” (ibid). . Although some development plans envision 10% as sufficient to save half the species (we should not be at all cavalier in writing off 50% of the species in what may be earth’s richest biome, of course), in fact, it seems most unlikely that such a percentage would preserve the existing climatic services and global functioning of the tropical systems. Somewhere during the 90% eradication that existing policy envisions and may permit, a catastrophic threshold or tipping point (with global repercussions) will almost certainly be crossed. . Furthermore, “…removal of 90% of the habitat allows about half of the species to hang on [but] removal of the final 10% can wipe out the remaining half in one stroke” (ibid), so that, with all the remaining populations in a single “basket,” the survivors are at risk of extinction arising from natural disasters and occasional stochastic events such as fires, hurricanes, outbursts of poaching, temporary but massive human

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immigration resulting from war, famine, or natural disaster, corruption, extended drought, and/or logging concessions, etc. One reasonable starting suggestion might be, as Wilson notes, to allocate about half for humanity and “half for the rest of life” (ibid). Why 10% Conservation is Not Enough .

The objective of conserving earth’s species, biodiversity, and the genetic and pharmaceutical libraries that they contain must be achieved. But conserving species does not necessarily conserve function (after Kareiva, 2005). If Brazil “saves” only ten percent of its rainforests, will the remnant forest still generate the region’s rain each day? And sequester the world’s carbon? And generate an equilibrial supply of molecular oxygen? Will it still continue to function as “the lungs of the world?” Or will disappearance of ninety percent of the forest spell the end of its role as a functioning system, so that even the remaining ten percent gradually deteriorates and collapses? Suppose that we take samples of the cells, tissues, and molecules in a human body and store them. And by so doing, we successfully manage to conserve representative tissue samples of endocrine, bone, blood, heart, muscle, brain, connective tissue, and kidneys. Saving tiny samples of each of these tissues offers no assurance that the organism itself will continue to function. . It is not an exact analogy, of course, but think again of the moist tropical forests functioning as the “lungs of the world.” If we were to save 10% of a person’s lung tissues and destroy the remaining 90%, could we reasonably expect the person to even survive, much less to continue to function normally?

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Why then, should we suppose that earth’s natural systems and environmental machinery are invulnerable? Is saving one lung and one kidney enough? One lung would amount to 50% and one kidney is 50%. Is that sufficient to maintain even a suboptimal level of physiological function? Or does a 50% loss of each system constitute a new and highly precarious condition? Is it sufficient if we save some of the endocrine glands? If a person loses one lung and one kidney and half of their endocrine glands, what happens to their overall prognosis? We probably need to save at least fifty percent of earth’s natural systems - and, to the extent that the above analogies hold, that fifty percent may not be enough. Whole-systems risks In a related way, we might also envision risks to whole-system dynamics by trying to imagine, for example, a team of astronauts in a space vehicle if they were to cannibalize 95% of their guidance and propulsion systems, degrade 87% of their CO2 scrubbers, destroy 93% of their heat shields, delete 77% of their computer codes, and randomly eviscerate other sectors of their craft's life-support systems. In a similar way,we might try to imagine the owner of a new and pristine automobile who begins to systematically degrade its multiple operating systems, degrading 50% of its steering system, 75% of its tires, and then destroying its carburetor, most of its spark plugs, half of its axles and brake shoes, and 93% of its ignition and electrical systems, while simultaneously adding daily avalanches of contaminants to its gasoline, oil, radiator, battery, transmission fluid, and brake fluid. And then suppose that this individual can't understand why his automobile, which "has always worked in the past," doesn't function anymore. ( Not so bright, is he? )

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" [so that] the "conservation of an ecologically representative global network of protected areas would cost only $27.238 - . but there are assorted longterm measures that we should enact as well.. "We estimate that to buy and manage a broadly representative system of nature reserves covering nearly 15%* of the global land area (10% strictly protected) would cost roughly $16. percentage almost certainly needs to be far larger. eradicate and dismantle the only planetary life-support machinery so far known to exist anywhere in the universe and to presume that it will nevertheless continue to function as it has always done in the past. and the rest of us would never dream of inflicting such damage upon our automobiles." . Alexander James and his colleagues analyzed costs for near-term conservation initiatives. *This James.. et al. however.5 billion per year. or $500 million annually." Such "emergency room" conservation measures can and should be taken quickly. (2000): "We could go far towards safe-guarding the hotspots and thus a large proportion of all species at risk for an average of twenty million dollars per hotspot per year. Emergency Room Conservation Affordable conservation measures that can be accomplished quickly have been suggested by Norman Myers. Writing in the journal Science (1999).. et al. Amazingly. we seem to suppose that we can systematically destroy.6 billion per year on top of the $6. ..Do we know anyone who seems to treat the only planetary life support machinery so far known to exist anywhere in the universe in a similar way? No rational astronauts would ever dream of inflicting such damage upon the vehicle that susains their lives in space.0 billion currently spent.

Management and administration of these areas would add around $3. and the financial sector..Given recent U. "Surveying 20% of the global land area would require roughly $4.. for now. expenditures of more than one trillion dollars to "rescue" banks. .S. most of the monies needed to implement a comprehensive conservation strategy exist already.2 billion” (a one-time cost). ” [less than two years of the cost of the war in Iraq]. health care. As Wilson notes.... . the James estimate of a worldwide shared cost of about $27 billion must be viewed as extraordinarily modest. the fish catch from the world’s oceans “is worth about $100 billion dockside.. If national budgets were purged of such expenditures. the monies saved would provide most of the support needed for conservation efforts around the world. in an amount “so high that it would be more economical to close all the mines and send the workers home at full pay” (Wilson.3 billion annually" (James. If. . which if implemented over 30 years would entail an annual outlay of $10. 1999). Since the poorest nations of the world find it hard to provide sanitation. insurance companies. while “buying the land so that 10% of the area of each region [lay within] strictly protected reserves” would require approximately $164 billion. governments simply reallocate funds that currently support such perverse subsidies. must be borne by the earth’s developed nations.. the government of Germany provides subsidized support for coal mining. Repealing Perverse Subsidies What is a ‘perverse subsidy?” As a quick example.. the costs of conservation... The initial "survey and acquisition costs are both one-time expenditures. 2002).. and jobs for their citizens.9 billion (amortized at 5%). education. over the next three decades. but it is sold for $80 billion. et al.239 - . with the difference being paid by government subsidies” (2002).

. indicates that the rich nations of the world have an aggregate annual economy of $30 trillion ($30.000. . required significant efforts and financial commitments to bring to fruition.000.S. Now we see that planning and implementing a comprehensive global conservation strategy should be as affordable and manageable as sponsoring an Olympic games might be for a city or a nation. interstate highway system. it seems quite likely that a goal that envisions conservation of just 15% of earth's living systems is far too low and needs to tested in a closed system context. This means that a time-limited allocation of just 3½ cents out of $100 (1/3 of 1/10th of one percent) by the rich nations of the world would generate $10½ billion a year to finance the immediate conservation of vast portions of earth’s biodiversity. Thomas Lovejoy and others have noted a process of ecosystem decay that sets in as fragmented habitats are produced and isolated. which was offered in the context of global poverty. For example. His analysis. It may be that a higher percentage of protected areas (as high as 45 . In retrospect. such fragments deteriorate in microclimate. These analyses suggest the levels of planning and expenditures required to preserve the existence. is also applicable to funding conservation initiatives. species. Report on Global Poverty (2005). and functioning of living systems. Unfortunately.N.On Financing Conservation Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University.240 - . lead author of a recent U. .000. Because They Need To Be Done The U. however. Depending on initial size. when planned. . and biodiversity. composition. we cannot envision our nation without them and the foresight and wisdom of its advocates are apparent to us all.65%) will be required to offset our growing impacts.000).

“the windows of opportunity are closing fast. “… so are cardiac surgery and building space vehicles…. On the other hand.” Anyone can see. climate. of course. and equilibrium. and its initial steps need to be taken immediately. Competent people get on with them because they need to be done” (ibid). efforts and expenditures.Today the world faces an emergency requirement to conserve and protect the species and systems that maintain its ecosystems. as Wilson (2002) points out. but affordable. because. The task will require significant. life. that the required efforts are somewhat difficult and somewhat costly. .241 - .

6 billion earn between $1 and $3 per day” and more than one billion are uncertain of obtaining food from one day to the next (Wilson. 1998). and poverty confront the natural environment – or the capacity of a nation to guarantee public safety? Biologist E. dollar a day. . and employment necessities of its public? What happens when explosive population growth.S. Wilson.242 - . education. writing in 1998. however. Roughly 1. points out that “few people in industrialized countries are fully aware of how badly off the poor of the world really are. Slipping into Anarchy What happens when populations overwhelm the ability of a government to provide the health.20 Humanitarian Considerations: A Descent into Chaos In his book LONGITUDES AND ATTITUDES (2002). education. it is not a matter of the wheels not being on very tight – it is a matter of the wheels coming off the vehicle. An additional 1.3 billion people have cash incomes of under one U. O. Friedman remarked that "the wheels aren't on very tight out there. This chapter takes us on a journey to those parts of the world that the rich never visit. . infrastructure. and local environments. . sanitation. When his wife asked him about his trip. Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas Friedman described his return from a trip to troubled parts of the world. roads. unemployment. economies. government services." In too many countries. In too many countries the norms of civilization are being undermined by rapid population growth that overwhelms governments. health care.

Kaplan's piece is a sobering description of war. who are sheltered by our broadcast media. and black plastic wrap: "the earth crawls with foot-long lizards both inside and outside the shacks. as Kaplan points out. today's governments "show little ability to function.) . For example. and crime. 2003). how will its unemployed. 1993. poverty. As recent United Nations and other analyses have shown. eighth. He described homes made of cardboard. he described shanty-towns that are home to more than 500. "without reductions in fertility. Children defecate in a stream filled with . ethnic violence." Kaplan's article painted for us a picture of "what war. and distance. In it.. most of earth's population increase in coming decades is going to occur in the poorest regions of the world. Robert Kaplan wrote a piece in the Atlantic Monthly (February) entitled The Coming Anarchy.. illiteracy. squalor. Kaplan described conditions as they existed in some of the world's fastest-growing populations – before the arrival of any of our sixth. the capital of the Ivory Coast. drug cartels. These are exactly the places where. and money laundering. Moynihan. and ethnic politics will be like a few decades from now. In Abidjan." Homes of Cardboard One of Kaplan's trips was to West Africa. the population of the 49 least developed countries of the world could double by 2025 and more than quadruple by 2050" (UNPD.243 - . seldom see.000 people. [to] implement even marginal improvements. and ninth billions. geography. seventh. If a nation has no industries other than logging. let alone. and armed gangs of juveniles spend their days and their lives? (See also Brzezinski. disease. subsistence farming. zinc corrugated roofs. borders. 1993.In 1994. uneducated. Kaplan described third world realities that we.

The streets were one long puddle of floating garbage. and jumbles of wire mesh.3 births per thousand.S.1. The median age of the population is 18. Liberia's birthrate is about forty births per thousand citizens. arms dealing. Ivoirian government accuses Liberia of supporting Ivoirian rebels." He wrote that "mosquitoes and flies were everywhere. (For comparison. many of whom had protruding bellies. which corresponds to a doubling time of approximately 23 years (after PRB. junked cars. In its World Factbook data (2003 estimates) for all the nations of the world. 2003). droning with malarial mosquitoes. refugees and rebels contribute to border instabilities with Sierra Leone.) Finally. Kaplan also described a forty-five minute drive in another nation (from Guinea's airport to its capital) as a journey through one never-ending shanty-town: "The corrugated metal shacks and scabrous walls were coated with black slime.” . criminal activity. women do the washing. see also FSI. corruption. loss of biodiversity. and Guinea. the birthrate in Spain is about 9. which is about the size of Tennessee. 2009. seemed as numerous as ants. Liberia's annual rate of natural increase is approximately three percent. trans- . Central Intelligence Agency offered the following word portrait of Liberia today: Tropical rainforest deforestation. the U. which means that fully half the population is still under eighteen years old – and that their demands for jobs will be exploding in the years ahead. Children. raw sewage and oil residue in coastal waters.garbage and pigs. today's total fertility rate averages approximately 5.244 - . In this stream.8 children per woman per lifetime. Cote d'Ivoire. A Population Portrait In Liberia. 2009 and CIA. Stores were built out of rusted shipping containers." .

In the face of drought and overgrazing in sub-Saharan Africa. has offered one recent portrait of your challenges. UN imposed sanctions on Liberian diamonds. 80%. civil war.shipment point for cocaine and heroin. Conakry. years of fighting. statisticians. economists. . indictment of the nation's president for war crimes. squalor. illiteracy. We argue here that all those demographers. or provide public safety for their urban millions can scarcely afford to divert resources to zoning boards and code enforcement teams.245 - . sewer systems. health care. ten or more billions while carrying on with "business as usual" (Bongaarts and Bulatao. as Robert Kaplan painted a portrait during his visit fifteen years ago. [and] literacy 58%. and Karachi. Governments that cannot afford education. prepare to have your work undone as your nation's population.I. Abidjan. The Wheels are Coming Off Out There If you are Liberia's new president. 1993). The C. . some theorists have argued that "the proper response would be to adjust land-use rules . the wheels have already come off your vehicle.A. and the populations of your neighbors in the region continue to explode in the decades just ahead. and journalists who would have us proceed complacently into a future of nine. as you develop your solutions. It is hard to imagine that a "change in zoning" is going to have any affect whatsoever on the ongoing crisis that exists today. How do you help your people? How do you educate them? How do you employ them? How do you fix your country? And. population below the poverty line. crime. 2000) should spend several weeks each year living in the chaos. poverty. and disease that we see today in cities such as Lagos.change the zoning so to speak" (Mann. flight of most businesses.

who once thought that earth's carrying capacity might be as high as forty-four billion people (1974. They should eat the rat's heads and the fried insects and the bushmeat that are the diets of millions. literacy. Those who are complacent should film videos during their tours. sanitation.246 - . Thus. . 1982). pedalto-the-metal admonitions as the "more the merrier. if we divide the number 70 by the natural increase of the U. death rates.1. and schools. Table 20. William Catton once pointed out that the world's developed nations have been widely regarded as previews of the future that awaits less developed countries. 1976). environmental.S. (0. hospitals. our data from Table 20.1 allows us to compare birth rates. Each of our added billions will take on far more meaning if we are forced to confront the social. A Lot More Meaning To the late Roger Revelle. at its current rates of growth (excluding immigration) the population doubling ." and to their living equivalents. when he went on to suggest that the reverse prediction could turn out to be far more accurate (after Catton. and doubling times of assorted countries around the world. and to the late Wall Street Journal editor Robert Bartley whose editorials included such pro-growth.In his book Overshoot. as we reach our seventh billion.54% per year). and humanitarian disasters that runaway population growth has already produced – and most assuredly has not solved – in those places that the rich never visit. On the next page. He may have been quite prescient. however. They should record the condition of the homes. we offer several snapshots of conditions today. The DOUBLING TIME for a population can be determined using the "rule of 70" in which we divide the number 70 by the rate of annual increase. we find that.

0y 32.53% 2.0 18.47% 0. 700y 130y 32% 46% 79% 38% 31% 68% 24% 29.7 9.1 9.4 44.0 8.7 2.3y Source: World Factbook.247 - .8 46.1 Births.3 9.1y 27. United States Central Intelligence Agency.36% 2.8 13.2 10.49 9.6 38.7y 25.01% 0.50% 2.74% 2. and Literacy Compared for Selected Nations Births Deaths Natural Percent Dblng /1000 /1000 Increase Literate Time Afghanistan Sudan Syria Pakistan Sierra Leone Nigeria Somalia India Spain England United States 41 37.14% 2. Doubling Times.3 11.7.8 23.54% 97% 100% 97% .8 5.Table 20. 2003. .2 30 30. Deaths.58% 2.000y. Natural Increase.1 17.6 18.1% 0.7y 27.5y 28. DC.7y 24.3 8. Washington.3 14.88% 1.

hospitals. while Sudan.1 we see population snapshots from Spain and India to Great Britain. As one example. technology. for all practical purposes. expertise. Spain's population will take approximately 7000 years to double. Notice that its birth rate (9. notice Somalia's strikingly low literacy rate of 24% and its doubling time of 24 years.3 per 1000) is essentially equal to its death rate which is 9.2 per thousand (CIA. will have to complete its task in just twenty-five years. which is already in trouble. stable. with all of its wealth. education. and the United States.time for the United States is 129.248 - . Even if Somalia's government invests wisely and works competently . Notice. very low rates of literacy. and expertise would find nearly impossible to do. and other infrastructure over the same 24 years – something that the United States itself.1 have high birth rates. if present rates persist. Remember. that other nations listed in Table 20. Spain will need about twice as many schools and hospitals in 7000 years. Spain is a good country to use as a baseline because its population is.6 years. high rates of natual increase. Nigeria. schools. Also notice that. Thus. And what if Somalia manages to succeed at the gargantuan task that lies ahead? Will living conditions and literacy rates for its people have improved? No. at current rates of increase. commitment. too. and very short doubling times: A recipe for demographic disaster. however. and good fortune to double its jobs. The table also shows that Somalia must solve its many current problems in 24 years and must likewise find the money. that Somalia must also double its supplies of food and water. roads. experience. Other Snapshots In Table 20. 2003). sewage treatment.

1 would remain the same.and frantically. factors that militate against the provision of basic services for the population. Thus even with a quarter century of expensive effort to improve conditions. The continuation of rapid population growth poses serious challenges to their future development” (ibid). the United States of America. While most developing countries. the United Republic of Tanzania. reports point out that on a worldwide basis. a doubling population may actually worsen conditions or cancel-out gains. for instance. and doubles all its necessities and social services and suppresses its poachers. for example. Chad. its percentages shown in 20. China and Bangladesh" (UNDESA. 2009). We note that the above statement comments on serious challenges to development. the Democratic Republic of the Congo. seven countries still have fertility levels of 6 children per woman or higher in 2005-2010 and in Niger total fertility is greater than 7 children per woman. . Meanwhile. Timor-Leste and Uganda" and "a number of them have been experiencing civil strife and political instability in recent years." During 2010-2050. pirates and lawlessness. but does not appear to contemplate challenges to earth's natural and biospheric systems or to the biotic machinery that maintains life as we know it. Ethiopia. "nine countries are expected to account for half of the world’s projected population increase: India. Niger. at today's rates of population growth. "population growth remains concentrated in the populous countries. Nigeria. These seven countries are least developed countries—Afghanistan. Pakistan. Somalia. The most recent U. the ability of the world's poorest nations to pull themselves out of poverty is still hampered by runaway rates of population growth.249 - . "are already far advanced in the transition from high to low fertility. the Democratic Republic of Congo.N.

Lastly. “There was a deeper cause. O. As Wilson observes.. and similar cities in the developing world as so crowded with children that they give the feeling “…of a gigantic school just let out. Wilson describes the streets of Lagos. Wilson tells us. One of the most horrendous genocides in human history played itself out in the tiny African nation of Rwanda in the 1990s.” He adds. “…more than 40% of the population is under fifteen years of age” (ibid). Manaus..6 billion children and 1. the Rwanda catastrophe was a classic example of “ethnic rivalry run amok.0 billion young people). Karachi. rooted in environment and demography. Soon these children reached adulthood only to find that the millions of jobs they needed were not waiting for them. In his book THE FUTURE OF LIFE (2002). Today.5 million to 8. posing a major challenge for their countries. Jobs What happens when birth rates exceed jobs. the United States is serving as a safety-valve for this lack of demographic foresight as millions of jobless young people migrate northward seeking jobs and a better standard of living.” and . Instead.” Between 1950 and 1994. in at least 68 countries of the world. schooling.” And these are not isolated examples.250 - . high birth rates added millions of children to the population.. of course. which are faced with the necessity of providviding education or employment to large cohorts of children and youth even as the current economic and financial crisis unfolds" (ibid). in one sense. "the numbers of children and young people in the less developed regions are at an all time high (1.5 million. Rwanda’s population “more than tripled from 2. biologist E. however. that this interpretation is true only in part. and infrastructure? In Mexico in the mid-1980s.

" As a result. from 835 million inhabitants in 2009 to 1. the population of the less developed regions is projected to rise from 5. Haiti [see footnote below] and El Salvador. emphasis added). Another author notes that one consequence of systems failure can be a world "full of failed and failing states" (Taylor. 2009. are also among the most densely populated…” (Wilson. is second. and water supplies dropped. As per capita grain production. and schooling. by . 2008).N. data shows that Rwanda's fertility rate is still. two of the chronically most troubled nations in the Western Hemisphere. 2002. Burundi.N.7 billion in 2050.9 billion in 2050. hundreds of thousands of young people reached a job market where there were no jobs waiting. and A.. births continued to outstrip the nation’s infrastructure. . See also COLLAPSE by Jared Diamond. on average.by 1992 the tiny nation had the highest rate of population growth in the world at eight children per woman per lifetime (ibid). Projections for Less Developed Regions Based on recent U. As this is written (2009). Shortly. 2005). (before the earthquake) PBS broadcasts show schoolchildren in Port-au-Prince. Ayers.. .251 - . Is it coincidental that similar demographics are characteristic of other unstable and problematic regions of the world? Wilson notes that “Rwanda is the most overpopulated country in Africa.. Haiti eating cookies fashioned from mud each day and "baked" to dryness on concrete in order to help quell the daily hunger pangs in their stomachs (Schmidt.6 billion in 2009 to 7. in the most direct possible way (after Wilson. As this is written. estimates. farm size. B. the most recent U. Thus unemployed teenage Hutu and Tutsi soldiers soon found themselves involved in solving old ethnic rivalries – and their nation’s population problem. 2002). while the population of the least developed "countries is projected to more than double. . its war-torn neighbor. economic growth. approximately 5.43 children per woman per lifetime.

Nigeria. Uganda. In the early years of this 21st century. 86 per cent of the world population is expected to live in the less developed regions (UNDESA.1 children per woman). . (ibid) also reports that "120 countries or areas (all of which are located in the less developed regions) have total fertility levels at or above [replacement]" (2. Pakistan. in order of population size" (ibid).3 per cent each year . In a dozen pages or so. Salak's article recounts her journey to the home of the highly endangered mountain gorillas made famous by Dian Fossey in her book. GORILLAS IN THE MIST.N. and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Furthermore. Virunga. Furthermore. Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo) "will be among the ten most populous countries in the world" together with "India. doubles a population's size in just thirty years. the United States.2050. China. recent U. three of the least developed countries (Bangladesh. The U. Salak visited Africa's oldest national park. and the three nations that share the park within their borders: Rwanda. 2009).N. twenty-seven of these 120 countries "have total fertility levels at or above five children per woman. A Place of Lawlessness Another snapshot of today's world can be found in "Places of Darkness." even as "seven countries still have fertility levels of six children per woman or higher in 2005-2010" while in Niger total fertility is greater than seven children per woman.252 - . and that furthermore. . data (2009) shows the populations of the world's least developed countries continuing to grow at a rate of approximately 2. if continued." an article written by Kira Salak (2003). Indonesia and Brazil.a pace that. by 2050.

The nine-year old is accompanied by a thirteenyear-old carrying a rocket launcher and other teenagers with assault rifles. Whether they decide to steal your money or simply shoot you depends upon their whim of the moment (ibid). 9th. Particularly disturbing are Salak's descriptions of armies of child soldiers. What has this snapshot to do with our topic? Today this is a place with no public schools. mostly civilians. the United Nations calculated that nearly 1. drugged up. who is. lawlessness. and soon there will be no forests. until we reach ten or fifteen billion by 2100. chimpanzee populations decimated by Ebola virus.Salak describes a place of lawlessness: An eighty year old woman with both her arms cut off." along with park tourists hacked to death by insurgent gangs and a general nightmare of corruption. These are challenges that demand attention right now. no public safety. murdered in ethnic warfare in the span of 100 days. and carrying an AK-47. We see similar first-hand accounts by Ishmael Beah who personally lived through similar conditions (2007). with resulting problems that exist right now.5 billion young people will reach employment age (20-24 years-old) around the world between 2000 and 2015 and warned that . 800.253 - . How can we possibly imagine that the conditions just described are going to improve as we add an 8th . wearing army fatigues. One of their compatriots drives a truck filled with looted furniture. endangered mountain gorillas killed and sold in markets as "bush meat. when we are failing in the face of the catastrophes that we already see today? By 2006. and 10th billion in the decades just ahead? These are conditions on earth right now. and warfare. How can we possibly address the problems of one billion additional people after another. in her words.000 people. She describes a nine or ten-year old.

“…partly as a result of rapid population growth. In a recent discussion of foreign affairs and emerging instability. As Campbell (2007) and her colleagues report. Why? Of many reasons. according to the U. Recently. if not impossible. the number of people living in extreme poverty” climbed “from 231 million in 1990 to 318 million in 2001 (Campbell. and the possibility of its further dissolution into a failed state (C-span. Recently. (2009) Pakis- . 2007). with a “population of 15 million today could hit 80 million in 2050” while “Afghanistan could grow from 30 million to 82 million” (emphasis added). and Pakistan may be slipping (or have already descended) into failed state status. et al. . Population Growth and Failed States Rapid population growth makes successful foreign policy and international stability difficult. And in sub-Saharan Africa. Niger. et al..N. 2008). to achieve for rapid population growth roils the ocean in which today’s nations and foreign policies must swim. Somalia. It is hard to imagine how these present and emerging crises are going to be overcome in the face of the third world’s ongoing population explosion. UNFPA.254 - . we have a first-hand description of the reality of West Africa's chaos and warfare as reported by Ishmael Beah whose book details the savage nightmare of his life as a wandering child soldier in his homeland of Sierra Leone (Beah. nations such as Haiti. 2007). foreign policy analysts considered Pakistan’s transition from strong state to weak state status.“they will fuel political instability” if enough jobs aren’t there (Campbell. 2007. for example. 2006). we suggest two that appear to play a central role: First. The region’s instability and chaotic violence has also figured prominently in recent film reenactments. December.

280. and the Ivory Coast as follows: "roughly 400. 2008). And secondly. Imagine an experiment with a quadrupling time of 50 years. tens of thousands of madrasas. A Descent Into Chaos We have not been able to survey each and every nation of the world. Kaplan (1994) describes governments and national borders that are becoming increasingly meaningless. As former CIA director Michael Hayden notes.000 Sierra Leonians are internally displaced. Sierra Leone. Pakistan's population was approximately 41 million. Liberia.” such as Afghanistan. . another 100. and Taliban and Al Qaeda hideouts in its lawless and ungoverned tribal regions. there are numerous other instances of nations with rapid population growth where governance is already “difficult. and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Hayden. . Gondama. even as 400.000 have fled to Liberia. many of which dispense a radical and intolerant version of Islam. With [an additional] 600. He writes. Liberia. funding thousands of madrasas. which grew to 181 million by the year 2000 (more than quadrupled in five decades). Kaplan’s descriptions of 1994 were descriptions of anarchy of failed states and chaotic and ungovernable regions where . Beginning in 1950. for example. foreign money has poured into Pakistan.tan's repeatedly doubling population seems set to almost double again by 2050. Writing of West Africa and elsewhere.000 Liberians in Guinea and 250.000 more have fled to neighboring Guinea. Consider our summary below: . the borders dividing those countries have become largely meaningless" (emphasis added). about the governments and borders of Guinea. The third largest city in Sierra Leone. but we have seen enough to realize that Kaplan's "descent into chaos" appears to exist already in many parts of the world. is a displaced-persons camp.000 Liberians have fled to Sierra Leone.255 - . . and is now on-track to reach 335 million by 2050 in a country with nuclear weapons.000 in Ivory Coast.

terrorists can hide. garbagelittered street that is lined with cardboard shacks with no electricity. the poor. Europe." The rest of humanity. with a modified version of one of Kaplan's analogies: Think of a luxurious limousine on a muddy. violence. anarchy. and no toilets. Switzerland. and instability can no longer be safely ignored. no running water. . The passengers inside that air-conditioned limousine "are the post-industrial regions of North America. eating bushmeat. poverty. While leaders of the World Economic Forum gather in Davos. Today’s world has already taught us that the tumult and humanitarian crises of these crowded. In addition. and overpopulated seas of joblessness. is excluded from that limousine and find themselves flooding into cities. no schools. millions of families. and each day children in Haiti are eating cookies made of mud. no doctors. warfare. and jobless populations of the third world continue growing explosively. dangers and abysmal poverty of their homelands now constitute an evergrowing flood of migrants pouring into the earth’s developed nations. . places from which plotters can board planes or sneak across unguarded borders. and the Pacific Rim. and rat's heads and at the mercy of lawless and armed criminal gangs of unemployed 17-30 year-old males who are carrying rocket launchers and automatic weapons. and proliferate in places of lawlessness. Let us close then. fried crickets. plot. desperate to escape the chaos. however.256 - . hungry. heaving. Those who read Kaplan's descriptions will be rewarded with a host of thought-provoking descriptions and insights.

all of these deaths are. . follow-up discussions typically include an assortment of frequently asked questions. A1: First let us consider the one million Americans who died in all U. In November. 2001. 1970. of course. all of these deaths are replaced (in a physical or numeric sense) in a day and a half. For instance.257 - . in a numeric sense. with one hundred thousand others never found.* . At today's rates of population growth.21 Frequently Asked Questions When readers and audiences are presented with information like that presented in this book. the 227. wars between 1776 and 2000. * The reader will agree. With its death toll of three hundred thousand. a hurricane killed at least two hundred thousand people along the coasts of Bangladesh. that counting on wars or disasters to deal with overpopulation is unethical. the storm claimed one hundred times more victims than the terrorist attacks of September. At current rates of population growth. In this chapter we address a sampling of such questions.000 extra births that take place on an average day result in more than one million extra persons in less than five days. In other words.S. replaced in just four and one-half days. population discussions often prompt questions about all the people who die in wars and disasters. In effect. A2: We can also consider one of the deadliest natural disasters in history.000 extra . with the birth of 227.

Q: Doesn't earth have “vast amounts of open space” left? . on our fellow human beings. and occupied less than 2/1000ths of 1% of the “empty space” that seemed to remain theoretically available to them.999%) empty. ethanol wastes produced by yeast. Today’s rates of population growth are still so enormous that they overwhelm even the worst of our historical disasters.e. and on future generations. even populations that occupy a volumetrically insignificant portion of their environments (i. . . As the data above show. there is still a “lot of room” left) can commonly inflict calamitous changes upon those environments (such as the dinoflagellate brevetoxins.. In Scheffer’s classic 1951 description of climb-and-collapse in a reindeer herd in Alaska (see pages 55 and 141). it wouldn't work anyway.(non-replacement) infants every day. . mi. all the extra births that take place over a period of 36-hours physically replace all 300. A3: It would be most unethical to depend on or count on natural disasters and wars to save the rest of us from the demographic damage that we are selfishly inflicting on our planet. For example.258 - . In other words.000 people who lost their lives in that hurricane. and depletion of dissolved oxygen by nutrient-fueled algal blooms in eutrophic ponds). the reindeer exceeded the carrying capacity of their environment even as “vast amounts of open space” remained and their island home visually appeared to be almost entirely (99. Also consider again the dot in the image on the next page which denotes 2/1000ths of one percent. A1: Organisms in nature do not squash or crush each other to death due to overpopulation and overcrowding because other limiting factors affect species and their environments long before “running out of space” becomes their problem. the herd suffered a 99% die-off even though its 2046 individuals lived on an island of 40 sq.

greenhouse gases. nuclear wastes. organisms such as Karenia brevis manage to catastrophically alter the aqueous environment in which they live even as the cells themselves physically occupy less than 2/1000. Given our worldwide release of pesticides. Thus.g.. Gause.White dot denotes 2/1000ths of 1% Recall that in outbreaks of dinoflagellate red-tides (see chapters 10 and 11). dilute. Catton. cleanse.259 - . herbicides. and exhausts that produce . such as levels of sheer physical damage and eradication and the limited capacity of an environment to accept.ths of one percent of the volume that remains theoretically-available to them (proportionally-denoted above). . 1934. the resulting accumulation of ethanol soon poisons the surroundings in which they live (e. CFCs. dissipate. 1982). as a population of yeast cells grows. or recycle the wastes that are generated by a growing population. Note that the yeast manage to poison their environment even as the “amount of space” occupied by the yeast cells themselves is volumetrically insignificant. A2: Also consider other limiting factors that are often overlooked.

1985). Pitts Jr. Won’t free markets cure everything? A1: Unfortunately. Q: If the problem really does become severe. Would you volunteer yourself and your family for such a dangerous journey? What if there are not enough volunteers? In the 1830s. Hopefully none of us today would imagine legislating a planet-wide version of the shameful “Trail of Tears” that resulted. Andrew Jackson and the U. There is not enough money among all the governments of the world combined to accomplish such a task.. can't we? A1: The problem already is severe and we have yet to send even a first manned expedition to Mars. et al. fog. . we can always just go to other planets. . Congress enacted the Indian Removal Act which legislated the forcible relocation of five nations of native Americans from their southeastern homelands to the grasslands of Oklahoma. and dew (Karl. sending billions of “extra” people to another planet also won't work on a humanitarian level. Think of the expense to send a dozen astronauts to Mars. it would be ethically and logistically impossible to send millions or billions of men. and children to Mars (almost certainly against their will) and to build infrastructure to support them there.260 - . it seems clear that today's human population of seven billion already greatly exceeds earth's limits. clouds. women. Although rapidly growing populations present a host of problems for earth's natural systems and for governments.acidic rain..S. or just a single unmanned rover that costs hundreds of millions of dollars. 1997. A2: When we think about it. First. economic activities frequently generate environmental problems or cause them to worsen. for an economic entity additional people are often seen as more consumers or . Q.

a ten-year American experiment that left financial. and a laissezfaire creed of economic religiosity among influential corporate. melting ice caps. uncollateralized debt. rewarded themselves with millions of dollars in bonuses for their mistakes. or accumulating stores of toxic wastes. and poor management. after expending millions on corporate jets and lobbyists. then. At least one lesson. Although free markets. insurance companies. would seem to be this: An assemblage of market theorists. bundling. A2: As recently as 2008-2009. left governments. overfishing.customers. we see society's long-term interests sacrificed for the sake of private economic gain. global warming. .261 - . and Wall Street financial entities that had been allowed to become "too big to fail. and free enterprise all play powerful roles in modern civilization.S. capitalism. . CEOs and financial elites. bailouts. loans. budget surplus in 1999-2000 turned into a housing bubble followed by unprecedented deficits and bailouts brought about by unregulated financial markets. and families lost their homes. economic. and money in circulation. disappearing wildlife. mainstream economics routinely fails to prevent (and often tends to exacerbate) problems such as deforestation. financial. leveraging. and more fees. financiers. increased revenues and profits. and economic elites. taxpayers and working families around the world (along with future generations) having to rescue mismanaged banks. added supplies of cheap labor. and mainstream econnomic apologists gave the world a disaster in their own area . and market interests largely to their own devices resulted in one of the most expensive economic calamities in the history of civilization. losses. What had been a U. Ponzi schemes. At least one result. And frequently." While workers lost their jobs and health insurance.

and Health South also illustrate that unfettered free-market philosophies. tobacco products. their employees. Charles A. Worldcom. why should the world trust them when it comes to issues of carrying capacities. have founded an entirely new discipline known as ecological economics and have. The point to be made. and the role of.” U. and the only planetary life-support machinery so far known to exist anywhere in the universe? * * Another. The evidence on the seriousness of the risk from inaction or delayed action is . although free enterprise can act as a tool to harness self-interest and greed to advance standards of living and/or the quality of life. cannot be unfailingly trusted to serve the greater public and biospheric good. along with avarice and self-interest. and nicotine. collectively speaking. their countrymen. example is also instructive: In April 1994. A number of thoughtful and influential cross-disciplinary scholars. House. and natural systems. and their investors from the house of cards upon which their policy decisions were built. for more than two decades now. energy. (Use of a search engine will turn up the full text of their testimony including sworn statements such as. it can also result in overexploitation. and catastrophically mistaken policies. population. the presidents and /or CEOs of major tobacco companies testified before a Congressional committee addressing the health effects of cigarettes. .262 - . Hall and others have devised models of biophysical economics that incorporate the impacts upon. Given free rein. Similarly. Such tobacco testimony. . then. . for example. is this: If mainstream economics and the collective leadership of the financial world are unable to manage affairs in their own field of expertise. “No. William Rees.S. Sir Nicholas Stern. 1994). cofounded by former World Bank senior economist Herman Daly and biologist Robert Costanza. but older. because decisions in corporate suites can be too easily conflicted by financial considerations as opposed to the greater long-term public good. they failed. * To be fair. I don’t believe nicotine is addictive. not all economists and financial theorists can be saddled with the calamitous "growth at any cost" ideologies that we criticize here. unsustainable expectations of natural systems.of claimed expertise. published an academic journal of the same name. Thus. along with corporate scandals such as those at Enron. former chief economist of the World Bank recently observed that "climate change is a result of the greatest market failure the world has seen. to regulate themselves and failed to protect the interests of their companies. Their testimony demonstrates the effects that an utterly laissez-faire approach to issues affecting the public health and/or the environment can have. Mathis Wackernagel. nature. In addition.

. Pianka. mistakenly assume that our planet’s myriad of natural systems and environmental processes are somehow invulnerable and will always continue to function no matter how much damage and abuse we heap upon them. for example. Finally. Pianka likens some of today’s economics to a pyramid scheme in which “upside down pyramids must fall over” and “bubbles always burst. as Wilson notes. 2009). many of whom know little or next to nothing about science." he observes. as in medicine. growth.g. A3: Some observers (e. as some have noted. .” As a result. a false positive diagnosis is an inconvenience.O. and that such “runaway growth only expands a bubble that cannot be sustained in a finite world.” because “in ecology.263 - . .now overwhelming" (2006. international monetary exchange rates. or the overnight lending rate. but a false negative diagnosis can be a catastrophe. 2008) have noted that our economic system is based on the principle of a chain letter: (“growth. what will happen when that population bubble bursts? . or physics. Stern Review). ecology.” We have just seen what happens when a financial and economic bubble bursts..” Thus Wilson asks: “Shall we gamble? "To bet on a safe passage. many people advocate an “economics as if people and the planet matter" (NEF. chemistry. A4: As Harvard's E. Wilson reminds us that “it is a mistake to dismiss a worried ecologist or a worried doctor as an alarmist. many “influential economists still make recommendations as though there were no environment” (ibid). this is because too many market theorists. If we are living in the midst of a population bubble.Wilson suggests.. Yet. "is a terrible choice. From at least one perspective. make talk show appearances to recommend the M-1 money supply. and more growth”). “the single greatest intellectual obstacle to environmental realism… is the myopia of most professional economists” (1998).. Few biologists and natural scientists.

respectively. and humanitarian crises that arise from these enormous numbers. and 9th billions were all projected to arrive by 2050.. we have seen that there are many other factors that can limit the size of a population including phenomena such . 1998). . pollution.3 billion to around 9 billion persons in 2300.264 - . Unfortunately. chapter four). A1: First. the cost will ruinous” (Wilson. and 2050 were likely to bring our 7th. Q: Some people suggest that we have plenty of food right now and that hunger in the world today is simply a political problem or a problem of distribution. Consequently. migration.g. world population would rise from today's 6." Anyone who does not turn to the report itself is left with the false impression that world population will gradually rise from today's levels to about nine billion three hundred years from now. however (e. and 9th billion. Elsewhere.. the release (2003) neglected to mention that our 7th. 8th. the press release creates a mistaken impression that we have nearly three hundred years before any confrontation with our ninth billion will take place. and that most people living today will face the crowding. taxes.because the stakes on the table are just about everything [and] …if you lose the bet down the line. instability. environmental. Q: Didn't a recent United Nations study project that our population might be just nine billion people 300 years from now? A: The wording of a United Nations press release in December 2003 was either poorly chosen or disingenuous: "According to the medium scenario. climate. 2025. 8th. notice that the statement above assumes that hunger and food supplies constitute the principle limiting factors affecting human populations. .. A more accurate press release would have informed us that the report projects that the years 2011.

distribution inequities. By 2050. A: Probably reassuring is not the right word to use. CO2 and other wastes and our physical damage to ecosystem services and functions have already begun to exert noticeably adverse effects. A2: When it is asked. 8th. freightage.000 extra every three days is not going to solve many of today's problems. But there would be nothing about running into icebergs. aggression.265 - . Q: Aren't there instances of reassuring complacency in some recent reports and literature? . .. . it would be filled with a host of data involving alternate speeds and distance potentials that might be expected under assorted water conditions. and pollution. engine RPMs. if the BSB study were a report on the passenger liner Titanic. the question above implies that we simply need to solve today's political and distribution problems.as physical damage to the environment. we are unlikely to live in a utopian world that has magically eliminated sociopolitical problems. and passenger numbers. And as we said. Today. however. 2000) which seems shockingly complacent in the face of a 7th. currents. Furthermore. we can be pretty sure that adding two or three billion more people at a rate of 681. It would be wiser to solve our existing problems before adding more and more billions. and 9th billion expected to arrive by mid-century. corruption. . What limits are out there? Where are they? How close are they? How fast are we approaching them? Which ones pose . but the reference to complacency is definitely appropriate. wastes. In chapter twelve. one after another and another in the decades just ahead. and incompetence. epidemic disease. The reason population projections are warranted in today's world is because there are icebergs out there called limits. for example. we commented on Beyond Six Billion (Bongaarts and Bulatao. eds.

And thirdly. and inaction . ignored six specific and repeated warnings of dangers. inaction. fail to grasp.. why shouldn’t I approach the subject of population growth in a similar way? . or ignore. A1: The captain of the Titanic had a positive and optimistic tive outlook when he: (a) assumed that was ship unsinkable (b) unsinkable. There are powerful arguments against complacency. typical environmental response times and feedbacks are characterized by lag-times and dangerous delays that the BSB editors either discount. Alaska Q: Since I consider myself a reasonable and optimistic per person with a positive outlook. Paul Island. mistaken suppositions. incor incorrect assessments. . we have absolutely no assurance that earth's natural systems lutely (which are already being impacted and damaged at present d population levels) can survive continued assaults by another ) billion and another and another in the decades just ahead . and (c) chose to proceed with business-as-usual. First is the fact that one billion is a truly enormous number. ahead..266 - . . Second Secondly. resulting in the loss of his ship and 1500 lives based on complacency. Climb and Collapse Graph of a Reindeer herd on St.the greatest and most immediate dangers? What corrective mmediate actions should we take to avoid a catastrophic collision? .

000 individuals. Paul Island. Why should we imagine that nature's rules do not apply to us? We thus have two provocative examples of boom-and-bust disasters in reindeer populations. not once. Matthew Island. making it the second of two classical field studies to confirm the realities of climb-and-collapse population progressions (and 99% die-offs) in mammalian populations which are freed from predators and competitors. (b) the “island” that we are damaging is the earth itself. Q: Haven't there been assorted books and articles by economists who say that things are getting better and that science. is: (a) our own species currently exhibits a trajectory that is even more extreme than that seen in the reindeer herds as they approached collapse. . and take one’s foot off the accelerator. brake.A2: Look again at the graph on the previous page. Do you have children or grandchildren? If you are a passenger in a crowded vehicle whose driver is carrying you down a mountain road at a high rate of speed. What is most disconcerting. 1951). A3: Consider again the graph illustrating the climb-and-collapse of the reindeer living on St. Given such circumstances. After temporarily peaking at more than 2. The reason biologists and other scientists bring up issues of collapse is because it can and does occur. How many such real-world data sets does one need? A follow-up study of another reindeer herd living on St. but twice over the past hundred years. and. categorizing one's self as an optimist is irrelevant. 99% of the population died in the resulting collapse (Scheffer. it would be irresponsible to ignore the dangers and speed onward when any intelligent or pragmatic person would act to slow down. Alaska. . 1968) showed a similar pattern.267 - . Alaska (Klein. and your children and grandchildren are in the vehicle with you. however.

Biologists and scientists. and whales. Positioning a company for a hundred years from now is usually not very high on a board of directors’ list of priorities. about this quarter's performance and this quarter's dividends." For the most part. . bluefin tuna. * Or be converted into executive bonues. and humanity's best minds will solve any problems that arise? A1: Mainstream economics is famous for its practice of "discounting the future.. CEO salaries." thereby excluding them (and thus their implications and costs) from economic calculations. ozone depletion. acid rain. 2002). an economic entity can often realize a rapid gain by simply liquidating the resource and converting it into cash that can be invested elsewhere at a higher rate of return* (after Pimm. too many traditional economists treat things such as ecosystem services. are accustomed to evaluating systems over centuries and millennia and analyzing their long-term interactions. today's prevailing economics is about the here and now. Unfortunately. and fleets of corporate jets. photosynthesis. a refusal to acknowledge such phenomena does nothing to banish them and their real-world implications from existence (pages 307-308 offer sample discussions).268 - . and processes. . and endangered species as inconvenient "externalities. on the other hand. slow-growing species like redwood trees.technology. melting ice-sheets. yachts." which constitutes one of the most erroneous and unwarranted assumptions of our age. A2: If one attempts to apply pure principles of neoclassical economics to large. A3: Some market theorists and pro-growth apologists routinely urge us to envision future conditions based on modeled assumptions of “business as usual. trends. pollution. In addition.

" he quickly adds. reporters. As Thomas Friedman notes..269 - . “in too many cases. dangerous. worldview. In chapter 23 we will examine a book whose contents appear to equate "beverage can pop-tops" with "pollution" (Simon. not to mention the future of the biosphere and civilization. ".. Given such conflicted interests. and/or financial ties between business interests and the editors.. 2008). and enormously different demographics that our species and our planet have ever faced.” Consider again our page seven graph that denotes the most ominous. and legislation that address an issue from an economic vantage point might appear to be misleading or disingenuous when viewed from a natural science perspective. to board an . analysts. they manage to distract us from or to otherwise obscure today’s extremely perilous demographic realities that constitute anything but “business as usual. and theorists with whom they deal. . “if the spread of freedom and free markets is not accompanied by a new approach to how… we treat the environment …then Mother Nature and planet earth will impose their own constraints and limits on our way of life – constraints and limits. regulators. recommendations. books... so that self-serving ideological or financial considerations may drive the policies. and arguments that their authors and analysts advance. placed misleading ads… and bought out politicians. it should not surprise us that assorted presentations. A4: There are often philosophical. “greedy" companies within the “dirty fuels system. articles. have helped rig the game” and. As Pulitzer prize winner Thomas Friedman has recently observed (2008).. 1981).In so doing.that will be worse than Communism” (Friedman. they have distorted facts.” He goes on to suggest that the funding from this “energy-industrial complex… has obscured our ability to tell the ecological truth” (ibid). A5: Would you allow yourself and your family..

biospherics. When its brakes. . we might as well climb onto an unfinished and untested roller-coaster ride with an unfinished and incomplete track that is rocketing us straight upward – as though the phenonmenon of gravity did not exist. political scientists. Why are they so completely blind and cavalier when it comes to caring for the only known planetary life-support machinery so far known to exist anywhere? . whose trajectory is more extreme than those seen in boom-and-bust catastrophes in reindeer studies.D. and electrical systems begin to fail and its engine begins to overheat. market theorists take care of their cars. and statisticians to assume that a financial or economic ideology somehow exempts humanity from the realities of biology. which are. replaceable.untested rocket that no one has ever ridden before . or ecology. adhere to business-asusual. science. . Suffice it to say that an unwarranted degree of hubris is required for mainstream economic theorists. climate. climatology. and the rules and limits that govern biospheric machinery. ecology. atmospheric science. in fact.and a rocket. A6: Why should we subscribe to an economic view of a topic that is fundamentally biological in nature? Few market theorists. at that. after all. which shows us skyrocketing directly upward. chemistry. expertise in biology. the envrironment. Having walked on land for our whole lives. in the known universe – and that a replacement for it cannot be bought anywhere at any price. along with the whole of this book. and one that is fueled by hyperexponential processes typical of atomic explosions? Our population graph alone. transmission. should you ignore the warning lamps. for example.270 - . A7: Suppose that you are bequeathed a unique and beautiful automobile – the only automobile. should make it clear that our demographic moment in history could not differ more radically from any previous situation that our species and our planet have ever faced. have Ph. and continue driving until you have destroyed it? Presumably.

000 extra births that take place each week between Monday and Friday. . .Q: Some books and articles claim that there is a birth-dearth.271 - . Nor. do they bother to inform their readers that 36. Both Japan and China are examples of this group. or 908. Is this true? A1: Some authors. .8 or fewer children per woman today. and will continue to grow for another decade. A3: Nor do most such books and articles enunciate the true size of a billion extra people or enumerate the costs and ramifications of adding an extra billion people to our planet every twelve to fifteen years. A2: Most authors making “birth-dearth” claims do not bother to mention that there are 681. If an article does not share such data with its readers. A4: As we point out elsewhere. to our knowledge. some of whom analyze life from an economic or financial perspective. the article is. In China. 1970’s fertility rates of 5. Despite this clear improvement.5 billion around 2019.000 extra births that take place each weekend. . for example. replacement or sub-replacement level fertility. approximately half of the world has achieved. but as this is written.000 extra births each day are not enough. the populations of both nations are still growing. .320 additional classrooms must be completed every four days just to keep pace with the rate of extra births that are occurring today. with some projections of a peak of about 1. however. apparently would like us to suppose that 227. misleading or disingenuous. at the very least. that falling fertility does not necessarily mean that a population immediately stops growing. or is on track to achieve.8 children per woman have fallen to 1. China’s already gigantic population is still growing as this is written. Notice therefore.

Its current rapid economic development promises to sharply increase its demand for oil. . and food. Mexico’s high fertility rates of the 1980s were not matched by its production of jobs. A7: Traveling at 100 km/h on a smooth and empty highway is one thing. its population will not stop growing for several decades. more than 40% of the population is under fifteen years of age” so that “the crowds give the feel of a gigantic school just let out” (Wilson. For example. Manaus. so that after fifty years of progress in fertility rates. 1998). we cannot maintain reckless demographic speeds in the crowded.Suppose however. we still have a base population of three billion that is growing exponentially. In addition. but such speeds become unsafe in the more crowded and chaotic conditions of city and suburban streets and neighborhoods. chaotic world that we have become. all of us (not just the indus- . and other cities in the developing world “are a sea of children. is still growing exponentially. And at the same time. that China’s population does manage to peak around 2019 and manages to decline over subsequent decades.” while “in at least 68 countries. A6: As noted. so that millions of the infants born in those years have now turned to the United States for employment. Other countries face the same sorts of crises recently experienced by Mexico. despite this. of course. so that China’s net impacts on earth’s environment are quite likely to worsen even if its population stabilizes or begins to retreat from its currently excessive levels. In a similar way. timber.272 - . The other half. its contributions of pollutants and greenhouse gases are likely to multiply. but. In short. Karachi. the streets of Lagos. however. energy. fish. approximately half the world has achieved or is on-track to achieve more rational fertility levels. A5: Mexico’s fertility rates have also fallen.

as we raise living standards. Such transformations are roughly like tmultiplying the size of the affected population ten or twenty times or more. is repeatedly advanced by apologists who do not wish to acknowledge that there are limits to the ability of earth's natural systems to support endless billions of industrialized humans and still maintain the life. and environmental impacts involved in supporting an average person living in a developed nation is routinely tens. then to offset our greatly-increased extravagance our populations must be smaller. . Thus. and whole-system functions that we know. and we should. even as we work to raise nations out of poverty. And although withdrawal symptoms may be uncomfortable. Secondly. for every person whom we raise from subsistence-level (SSL) conditions to an industrialized standard of living (ISL). A1: This hypothesis. . physical damage. Q. some financial and corporate interests are addicted to a Ponzi scheme of perpetual population growth. . we multiply that individual's environmental impacts by one or more orders of magnitude. Unfortunately. though flawed. of times greater than that of a person trying to survive on fifty cents a day in a least-developed nation. Although it is commonly true. in the end. in a delayed-response sort of way. that birth rates tend to fall with rising GDP. climate. I've heard economists say that we don't have to worry about problems of overpopulation and the environment since birth rates tend to decline with rising GDP. those who advance this hypothesis often do not wish to acknowledge the trade-offs that the transformation involves: The pollution. the transition is dangerously slow. Thus.trialized nations) must slow down in order to transition ethically from runaway growth to a civilized stability.273 - . failure to break an addiction can be lethal. if not hundreds. like an addict hooked on drugs.

meeting these needs has been largely shifted to other regions and other countries. for example. emphasis added) (See also our pages 171-172). wood products.Q: I sometimes see articles that suggest that things are getting better. while supplies of paper. but recent studies also show that what seems to be an apparent gain is actually being "offset by worldwide deforestation losses. much of the food for today’s New York City and the lower Hudson now comes from places like Nebraska and Iowa. In the developed and industrialized nations. Doesn't such data show that earth's environment is improving even if our population is still growing? A: It is conceivable that forest cover in. 1999. Q: How can we avoid misunderstanding such data or avoid being misled? . One article. boreal and temperate forests are gradually returning. today's impacts still exist and have been amplified many times by population growth. points out that the lower Hudson River valley today has three times as much forest as it had in 1875. the Hudson River valley acts as a microcosm of the world at large. for example. but meeting these needs has been shifted to other countries and other places. for example.274 - . and are less visible to local residents as a result. 1993). the lower Hudson valley could increase though populations in nearby New York City and in the Hudson valley itself have substantially multiplied (Mann.. We must thus exercise caution so that statistics like these are not misused or misunderstood. In other words. In this example. even though its population has tripled. This is possible because in order to meet the region’s greatly-increased demands for food and wood products today. of approximately five to one" (Potter. and timber now arrive from the rainforests of Brazil and South America. As an example..

but if you divide it by the total tax base of city XYZ. Suppose. When this is done. it is possible to report to one's reader that the amount of pollution per dollar of gross domestic product is some tiny fractional amount. or the . The earth's environment cannot.. the amount of pollution under discussion is still the same and still presents the same problems to the environment. for example. of course. the amount of garbage per dollar is minimal. the total national debt of the western hemisphere.275 - . some writers will divide it by some very-large number such as the gross domestic product. Character 1: You've still got a pile of garbage in your yard. Character 1: You've got a pile of garbage in your yard. . . in any sentient way. One could divide by the number of dollars in deposit accounts in all the banks of New York. or obscure such data. wish to hide a troublesome number from us by using manipulations to make it seem smaller than it really is. disguise.A1: We have to closely watch the use of statistics. The problem is. To mislead in this way. Imagine. that whether one divides by the GDP (or anything else). whether we divide our total pollution by the gross domestic product or not. Character 2: Yes. An ecosystem must deal with exactly the same amount of pollution whether we subject it to statistical manipulations or not.. know nor care. A special-interest lobbyist or a talk-show guest might. that there exists a problem with pollution. for example.. for example. an exchange between two cartoon characters: . One trick employed to accomplish this is to divide the problematic number by some other number that is far larger. one need not divide by the gross domestic product – almost any really large number could be used. One example that comes to mind is a statistical technique that might be called "divide and conquer" because it employs simple division. . . To hide.

and thousands of teachers will lose their jobs. recent articles and symposia.number of liters of molecular nitrogen in earth's atmosphere in the third week of September in 1487.” and even suggests that a new pack of wolves “might” form in eastern Germany and “could” end up “heading for Berlin." The article uses selective data from a civilized population reduction that is underway in much of Europe to insinuate that this decline is a worldwide phenomenon. We are not told that the world must complete 36. We are told that the human species is under threat. information like that presented in this book is not to be found. The population of Japan. Suppose that we are never told that today births greatly exceed deaths. Your author has attended real presentations exactly along these lines. A: Imagine a symposium sponsored by a civic group and one of its invited speakers addresses population matters for more than an hour. Schools will close. He warns his audience against slowing birth rates. Q: What about guest speakers. we are told. the technique can be employed to mislead or deceive an audience. On the other hand. One such article tells us that wolves are “replacing people.320 new classrooms every four days to accommodate the current pace of population growth. could drop to zero in several hundred years. the speaker tells us.276 - . . and .000 extra persons to our planet every four days. As long as the number chosen is really large and the writer is able to invent a fabricated linkage that sounds plausible. Suppose that the speaker fails to mention that we add 908. . Recently published articles attempt to convince us that a population decline and depopulation are underway. And we are not told that we add a billion additional people to our planet every 12-15 years. as though we are all about to depopulate ourselves out of existence. and wolves heading for Berlin? .

water and sewage treatment. . Shrinking. human numbers are still increasing explosively. an old adage reminds us that “if we torture numbers long enough. They can help clarify. With an additional billion joining our population every twelve to fifteen years. schools. Unfortunately. we can get them to say anything. so that “too few people are flushing” to maintain proper flow. concepts. underscore. that any of the animals manage to make it safely across the autobahn). humanity and civilization might be better off addressing the 36. that explosive population growth entails far costlier expenditures for such things as additional roads. the article then intones. power plants.277 - .” When we are offered unabashed pro-growth advocacy by articles and presentations like those cited above. we should read between the lines to discern the economic and financial motives of those who stand to profit from continued runaway rates of population growth. and a host of other social and infrastructure needs.320 new classrooms that are needed every four days instead of too much worry about a “possible” pack of wolves that “may” form and “could” end up heading for Berlin (as though the authorities in Berlin couldn’t deal with 10-20 lost and disoriented wolves in about 12 minutes) – (assuming. Numbers can act as an asset to an honest presentation. of course. from a worldwide perspective.the article does not inform its readers that. The same article tells us of a European town that must refit its sewers because its population has declined. and illustrate important trends. of course. “can be an expensive proposition indeed. and principles." Readers are not told. These examples are an amalgamation of actual articles and presentations in recent years.

it is difficult to find the slightest mention. aside from the emergency-room conservation measures introduced earlier. film producers. much less news coverage.all within a time certain. . data..22 What We Can Do We are now very late in the fourth quarter of a ballgame and far behind. .278 - . of three years or less. Dahl. and understandings that we have collated here . Then. policymakers. and implications that we have assembled here. today there remain many influential leaders within journalism.. and private citizens to the essential cause of demographic and biospheric literacy. we must acknowledge the presence of "the population elephant in the room" (e. educators. and even some specialization silos within academia who seem afflicted with a non-cogjnition or mass-denial of the population trainwreck that is currently underway. and then proceed to disseminate the population and biospheric concepts. we must enlist the entirety of the world public with a full-scale dissemination of the concepts. So. Yet. journalists. for example. data. with problems that should have been responsibly addressed three decades ago. coordinated. and heroic effort (think of Roosevelt and Churchill. academics. of overpopulation and carrying capacity issues. In a planned. what else must we do? First. principles. even as the societies in which we live continue sleepwalking toward calamity. financial sectors. with an emergency degree of urgency. And. students. 2010).g. for example) we must set about enlisting the world's top leaders..

but critical. writing recently in the Washington Post reminds us that “Paul Revere didn’t race through the streets of Middlesex County hawking a book on ‘The Lazy Revolutionary’ [and] Franklin Roosevelt didn’t mobilize the country’s energies by listing 10 easy ways to oppose fascism. Notice. So what must be done. film producers. 2007). and by use of digital and internet platforms. world leaders. foreign-language press. librarians. however. Rather. humanitarian. consumer-centered actions” (Maniates. there is a critical need for working understandings of carrying capacities. it intentionally avoids a role in policy advocacy in order to act instead as a disseminating agent for a concise. . environmental. And it is unlikely that Martin Luther King. and civilizational disasters that our current trajectories portend.’s drafts of his ‘I have a dream’ speech imagined a practical politics of change rooted in individualistic. Not only must we internalize the numerics of our demographics. that Wecskaop does not suggest policy advocacy here. we must be far more wary of the powerful and counterintuitive nature of exponential progressions and able to adeptly avoid the errors that they invite. and civilizational implications of our current numbers and trajectories. a broadly-shared informational and conceptual base is required. and what can we do? Michael Maniates.Some things that might be speedily achieved include nightly news coverage of nightmarish conditions in the world's highest-fertility nations. past. and an appreciation for the enormous size of a billion. . . In addition. but we must also universalize an appreciation of the biospheric. In order to prevent or minimize the humanitarian. and pending. Jr. delayed feedbacks. present. limiting factors. Finally.279 - . and overshoot – including limiting factors other than food. along with short workshops and symposia for broadcast journalists. educators. informational repertoire.

that we have not transitioned to . our population. however.280 - .1 – Transitioning to Stability Imagine waking up one day next week to a world whose human population is the same as it is today. money. like the nation of Spain. must no longer rocket upward but must instead display a horizontal equilibrium as depicted in section "c" below. poverty. How different this would be than today's conditions in which we try frantically to catch up. hunger. . and taxes we expend today simply attempting to keep up with our rapid rates of population growth. What if our populations simply remained constant from day to day and from year to year? Think of the great luxury such stability would bring about by allowing us to direct our efforts and expenditures to existing urgencies such as education. To accomplish this. It is sobering to consider how much effort. . c b a Our problem is. and protecting earth's environment. even as. we fall further and further behind. . when graphed. This would be a world. with a stable population that is not growing by the avalanche of numbers that are inundating us today. on a planet-wide basis. health care.

pattern "c" – we are still rocketing upward in a classic case of overshoot. There are three possible ways that the equilibrium depicted by pattern "c” can be achieved: . Finally. and our world population will mimic the equilibrium conditions portrayed in the graph's section “c” by becoming no larger and no smaller. We have. already far exceeded level “c” . . but we have been slow in lowering our birth rates accordingly. so that the natural processes of annual births and annual deaths no longer match. in effect.281 - . our worldwide average of births each day and deaths each day must be equal. continued to rocket upward – far past their island’s carrying capacity for their species. then when one is subtracted from the other. and only the first of the three can be achieved ethically. It appears that seven decades of antibiotics have freed us (at least temporarily) from the pathogenic microbes that once held our numbers in check. If our worldwide births and deaths are equal.just as happened in both reindeer herds that we have seen. on average. it is only necessary that each year. Our own graph is NOT s-shaped like the one depicted on the previous page. the reindeer herds. In order to achieve such stability. allowing us to soar well beyond our own equilibrium "c. bears. instead of leveling off. then world population will not grow larger and will not decline. If annual births and deaths are equal. no population gain or decline occurs. a sudden and precipitous collapse occurred. and agricultural advances that have allowed us to lower our death rates. and competition. Freed from wolves. For us to achieve a level "c" stability as shown in the graph. when the overpopulated herds could no longer be supported. our numbers of births and deaths remain approximately equal. antibiotics." We have quite reasonably accepted and embraced the medicines.

000 each day (which is clearly unethical). although stability is crucial. parts of sub-Saharan Africa and in other undeveloped regions are still rocketing world trajectories upward at rates of 908. the high fertility rates that currently predominate in the Middle East. We have already far exceeded earth's planetary carrying capacity for our industrialized billions and the beginning stages of collapse may already be underway. from a planetary perspective. Although this transition has already occurred in most developed nations. a voluntary and educated pattern of temporary . Unfortunately. births would have to fall to 154. or. So how do we ethically correct our overshoot? How do we gradually lower our worldwide population by voluntary and ethical behaviors until we achieve stability at a level that both protects earth’s biological machinery and natural systems and simultaneously allows the whole of humanity to enjoy something like a Western European standard of living? . long-term basis may quite likely require a stable. Consequently.with the result that we now live in a time of calamitous and worsening overshoot. To achieve these objectives on a sustainable. we are already far above the equilibrium represented by section “c” in a sigmoid curve. The reader will agree that stability can only be ethically achieved by the first of these options. long-term world population of somewhat less than two billion (recalling pages 181-182).000 / day.(a) Either the worldwide number of births per day must decline (in today's world.000 extra persons every four days. or. to achieve stability. We failed to slow down when we should have done so . today’s average births per day must decline dramatically.282 - . (c) Some unethical mixture of numbers one and two above would have to occur. .000 each day to 380. (b) The average number of deaths each day would have to increase from 154. Thus.

including film. (c) Because books are slow and restricted as a means of dissemination.283 - . . we must first set. 2 .fertility reduction. concepts. the following goals: (a) Explicitly list and enumerate the core data.A Call to Action There thus exists a specific repertoire of information that every citizen should know about our planet . To achieve quick universalization.some portion of which this book has attempted to introduce and consolidate in its sets of data. a first goal must be to rapidly universalize these understandings by every available means and venue. educators. within three years or less. and journalism. and finally. ethically implemented.and especially world leaders. may constitute our best chance to both protect our planet and its natural systems and to bequeath to the children and grandchildren of all societies the quality of life and amenities offered by modern civilization. educators. journalists. examples and core understandings (see appendices one and two for summary listings). Consequently. radio. . concepts. television. magazines. and understandings that every citizen should know about our planet . . and podcasts as well as digital presentations. radio. One immediate problem is that this information is not being. along with nightly television. and then achieve. and opinion leaders. universally communicated today.for example. and digital distribution throughout all regions of the world and in every language. we must employ civilization’s speediest technologies such as films (theatre). foreign-language press. and international internet partnerships. emergency workshops. and has not been. online digital formats. (b) Specify precise time-line targets to accomplishing universalization .

But each of us as individuals. delayed feedbacks and unintended consequences. workshops. and overshoot. every citizen. in every city and nation. foreign language press. as well as every student. And what exactly comprises this informational repertoire? What exactly is it that our future presidents. distribute. and do so in an awareness or informational context rather than advocacy. We and our leaders cannot even begin to successfully address the damage that we are inflicting until we are universallycognizant of core biospheric and demographic data and understandings that have been missing from entire generations of curricula. policymakers. biodiversity hotspots and conservation biology. films and workshops. scientist. and NGOs can do this: Arrange to sponsor and conduct at least one or more short workshops (workshops. universities. and all the rest of us need to know? This repertoire must surely include: Thresholds. schools. beginning this year. past. talk-show hosts. and tipping points. workshops) on college and university campuses everywhere.284 - . world leaders. beginning this year. . present. activists or volunteers can help dispel the calamitous misperceptions that currently impede our progress. writers. and future (for summaries see appendices one and two). and examples (including the humanitarian nightmares in today's highest-fertility nations). producers. a call for nightly news coverage. nightly coverage that introduces Wecskaop-like sets of core demographics. In this way. worldwide. and policymaker. film-makers. and journalists. and international partnerships. for foreignlanguage translations. limiting factors. the power and deceptively counterintuitive behavior of exponential and non-linear mathematics. Scholars.This then is a call for volunteers and individual actions. and/or air. journalists. principles. ecosystem services. government officials. . worldwide. journalist. can do this: Pledge to produce. producer. and world population levels and demographics. data. television documentaries. and web- . carrying capacities. educator. Similarly. digital presentations. webmasters.

Governments that routinely fund free-trade initiatives. it requires the U. fund. and the international Olympic games. ensure that all the portions of a worldwide conservation strategy are enacted and put into place. are encouraged to refrain from advocating or recommending any particular policy except to say that any policies pursued must be entirely ethical. while facilitating a quick diffusion of its data. for example. prudent. The magnitude of this task is. climate. concepts. . must. 2007).savvy techie has a role to play. 3 – A New One-percent Doctrine? During the next three years. however. bailout financial and corporate entities. . however. and underwrite wars. .S. Advocates of Wecskaop. and judicious planetary policy. and understandings. taking these steps now will be far less expensive than trying to pick up the pieces and salvage the remnants afterwards. . defense projects. and the environment might constitute a wise. for the next three decades.285 - . simply too large and too important to be shouldered by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) alone as has been so much of the case so far. Furthermore. Applying such a standard to broad biospheric and humanitarian issues involving population. and humane. we were to extend former vice-president Dick Cheney’s famous “one-percent doctrine” to issues involving demographics and the earth’s environment? “If there is a one-percent chance that something is a threat. government and international entities must immediately and aggressively plan. voluntary. and implement a conservation roadmap designed to conserve both species and ecological processes. What if. to respond as if the threat is a 100% certainty” (as reported by Klein.

Too often.4 – Non-Governmental Organizations We and our descendants owe a debt of gratitude to a relatively small group of non-governmental organizations whose private funding.6 million additional acres for Bolivia’s Neil Kempff Mercado National Park for one dollar an acre (Wilson.000 acre tract of nearly pristine tropical forest in Guyana was proposed for a logging concession. One example of a new and ingenious conservation strategy was enacted and tested by Conservation International. however. Other important conservation NGOs include the World Wildlife Fund. the National Audubon Society. Thus was born a new “warp speed” conservation strategy that can provide a temporary holding action in critical habitats around the world (after Wilson. And earlier. the Sierra Club. a 200. the conservancy acquired 1. governments can act quickly to subsidize corporate interests and their projects and their bailouts while ignoring our worsening demographic crises that will eventually prove far more decisive. Conservation International purchased the concession themselves for an initial payment of $20. . It is not fair that they have had to shoulder so much of this critical work on their own.000 and a lease of fifteen cents per acre per year. In 2000. and the Nature Conservancy. 2002). 2002). for example. and private efforts have accomplished.286 - . In recent decades. . In a quick move. NGOs have had to adopt emergency-room conservation strategies to offset funding deficiencies left by governments around the world. substantial portions of the most significant conservation achievements of the past half-century. leadership. In November of 2000. the Nature Conservancy acquired 15. at least temporarily.000 acres of pristine coral reefs and 680 small islets that comprise Palmyra atoll in the tropical Pacific Ocean. the National Wildlife Federation.

or by early lectures and supplementary readings. In courses such as sociology or journalism. and please keep up your good work! . human population growth represents the . journalism.University Students and Faculty All college students. And even when such courses are required. As an example. for example. This might be achieved by one-semester courses. In science courses. education. sociology. political science. it is an easy bet that somewhere this precious time is being wasted on inconsequential topics such as paramecia and coenocytic fungi. In 1997. demographics.287 - .” To these private donors. NGOs. however.O. and economics should all be demographically literate by the close of their first college semester.Private donors have also accomplished significant conservation achievements. should master numerics. One introductory college biology text recently offered this comment: "Today. pre-law. students majoring in biology. for example. for instance. In 1998 in Dutch-speaking Suriname. . of every major. and their members. 5 . business. and biospherics (including characteristics of exponential progressions) in their first semester. E. Wecskaop-like topics may represent information not already present in current curricula. a one million dollar private gift helped establish and enlarge the four million acre Central Suriname Nature Reserve which has been hailed as probably “…the most pristine tropical forest in the world that is under protection. the world owes a great thank you. such topics might simply be moved to earlier units in an existing course and/or to earlier pages in existing texts. Wilson noted that just one-third of American universities and colleges require all of their students to take at least one course in the natural sciences in order to earn their degree.

we might mention our planet’s “most significant biological phenomenon” somewhat earlier in the book – (perhaps. tipping points. information suited to upper division courses for biology majors may be less important in an introductory context that targets freshmen and non-majors. e. or omitted altogether. Meadows. manuscript deadlines. delayed feedbacks. Given the serious implications of today's population growth. climb-and-collapse. .288 - . and real-world events impose themselves on our teaching. .. and our worldwide impacts and trajectories. In real-world classrooms. human demographics. chapter-by-chapter. limiting factors. It might be argued. in chapter one or two). Do non-majors and first-year students really need to be introduced to dispersion patterns. carrying capacities. appears in chapter 54 on p. and future (see. et al. unintended consequences.. that a BIOSPHERICS 101 curriculum is more appropriate to the lives of our students (and to civiliza- . competitive exclusion. Faculty who teach introductory biology might also consider which aspects of population biology should comprise a unit that must necessarily be short. 1093 near the end of the text. however. when symposia. thresholds. and the mark-recapture method? Or might we first ensure their competence involving exponential progressions. present. past. 1991)? Which set of ideas is more important to our planet and to this century? If we choose to omit some population concepts and information from BIOLOGY 101. instructors often lead their students through their textbooks systematically. for instance." This statement. births minus deaths. these are the chapters that are inevitably hurried. J-curves. When ecology and population chapters are placed at the end of the text.g. for example. overshoot. boom-and-bust.most significant biological phenomenon on our planet. which should we delete? In academia today. self-amplifying positive feedbacks.

In addition. and of humanitarian importance. Consider the interest and importance if these early lessons were to target Wecskaop-like understandings instead. after all. limiting factors. engaging. . . First. and broadcast journalism might address the topics listed in this book's appendices and addressed individually throughout its pages.289 - . but also for math. social studies.tion) than are concepts such as “semelparity” and “iteroparity.. tipping-points. today’s publishers and K-12 educators must introduce Wecskaop-like data. climb-and-collapse. concepts.. thought-provoking. demographic. .) In their place. For example.. publishers might look again at the terms and concepts in the glossaries and indices of their introductory texts and then discard all references to sclerenchyma cells and the metanephridia of an earthworm. . math. but are also timely. and principles in the opening pages of course texts and in the opening lectures of their courses. we can ensure that course materials introduce carrying capacities. relevant. 6 – Publishers and Educators Our recommendations continue to center on education. unintended con- . overshoot. and numeric understandings are not just important. thresholds. (Almost everyone. Planetary biospheric. limits. can succeed in life without hearing such terms even once.” which might be harmlessly reserved for second-year or upper division courses for biology majors. the introductory lectures of beginning classes in biology.. Too many of today’s K-12 science texts allot their opening chapters to a review of the metric system and/or the scientific method.. This is not just true for science courses. and history curricula. history. under the premise that we are more likely to pursue the right course if we are informed and behave in the interest of our own families and civilization.

genomics. 7 – Scientists and Academia Today’s top scientists are characterized by high intelligence. worsening. and future). . Scientists today. . however. chemistry.. educational achievement. and the biosphere itself. along with demographic data (past. but the substantive base of their wisdom is fragmented and lopsided” (ibid. includ- .the vast majority of our political leaders are trained exclusively in the social sciences and humanities and have little or no knowledge of the natural sciences. he went on to observe that one result of this minimal emphasis is that “. civilization. because for humanity. . and counterintuitive behavior of exponential progressions. When E. and. must break out of the academic "silos" that arise from the demands of specialization. they help generate society’s advances in agriculture. emphases added). intellectual curiosity. Given these conditions.O. and thoughtful work in their research. Wilson noted that only “a third of universities and colleges require students to take at least one course in the natural sciences” (1997). engineering. The same is true of our public intellectuals. the powerful. teaching. and publishing endeavors. of course. and think-tank gurus. physics. and sometimes correct. we must all direct levels of emergency attention to the multiple unfolding crises at hand. Together. the columnists. the enormous difference between a million and a billion.290 - . present.. medicine. and dozens of other technical fields. space exploration. if not sooner. we find ourselves engulfed by a maelstrom of continuing. the media interrogators. The best of their analyses are careful and responsible. and rapidly-unfolding crises that portend one calamity after another by mid-century.sequences. deceptive.

And while an entire semester of outstanding course presentations to dozens of science majors in one's department may be both important and personally fulfilling. and (d) journalists. (c) film. in a classic example of delays and lag-times that court calamity.ing our demographic trajectories. for instance.000 or 10. as we teach our courses and publish our papers.000 colleagues in academia who are already well-informed. so that even. or uninformed. an emergency committee to pursue the urgent dissemination of popu- . opportunity. for example. might reach 1. And within each tidal-wave of new arrivals. In effect. and most urgent understandings to the world outside of academia. all of whom might otherwise devote the bulk of their time. who have the misfortune to be born into poverty and/or failed states may end up as illiterate. policymakers. In some cases. and schooling will not read one's peer-reviewed papers for at least two decades (if ever). earth’s biosphere needs emergency attention right now. demographic. our most heroic personal and academic efforts to advance the causes of civilization and knowledge are obliterated by a nearly-unstoppable demographic countercurrent that is carrying us toward a civilizational precipice. and biospherics issues. or ilnumerate. of geologicallydistant times. top scholars among the highest echelons of science and population biology might implement an emergency dissemination of their key data. perhaps. have a colossal stake in today's demographics. . Because today. and expertise to the biota. at current rates of population growth. nor our papers. and the general public at large. scholarship. (c) foreign language platforms and venues. paleontologists. The scientific community might empanel. And even those few lucky enough to be born into societies with quality jobs. for example. for example: (a) the third world. too many. A peer-reviewed paper. perhaps. . including. we nevertheless lose ground as the world is swamped by 908. It would be wrong. educators. nor our lectures.000 extra births that take place over the four-days that pass between each Monday and Friday. In other words. concepts. for instance.291 - .000 new arrivals every four days who know nothing of planetary crises. to mentally assign responsibility for today’s cascade of global crises to someone else’s field of specialization. the effects of some of our best achievements are swamped and obliterated by repeated tidal-waves of 908. or misinformed involving population.

. pursuit of such schemes tempts journalists. educational partnerships and outreach efforts in high-fertility nations might disperse teams of trained presenters armed with laptop computers and digital presentations. Secondly. Films.292 - . something approximating the strategic and coordinated levels of response initiated by Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill in response to the crises of World War II). production of or extension of vast dead-zones of deep-sea anoxia with potentially unimaginable extinctions induced by depletion of supplies of dissolved oxygen. or first-semester BIOSPHERICS 101 courses for every college freshman. including. shops. For instance. of course. is it a slow day in August? Then show us the homes. for instance. some risky geoengineering schemes (such as “fertilization” of the oceans with dustings of iron and/or similar mechanisms. schools. documentarians. . 8 . for instance. markets. and producers can and should also contribute.Documentaries. out of caution.* * First. we might distrust those temptations that lead us to contemplate risky geoengineering ventures that most scientists. There are potentially dozens of Pulitzer-prize stories to be found in these understandings. Or imagine short emergency workshops for educators and top policymakers (grant-funded and conducted. would have rejected in the past. and hospitals of Lagos. Nigeria for a . Finally. for example) pose a possibility of serious unintended consequences.lation/biospheric understandings on a worldwide basis (imagine. and policymakers to continue imagining that some sorts of short-cuts and/or short-term technical fixes can somehow allow us to escape the demographic corner into which we have painted ourselves and thereby permit financial entities to persist in their: (a) fallacious denial of biosystem limits and. along with ancillary foreign-language film and television resources. (b) their desire to continue to conduct business-as-usual for just a little while longer. economic entities. Similarly. streets. and Broadcast Journalists Journalists. by post-docs and top graduate students). for instance.

per-capita incomes.I. along with the U. And show us those whose diets include bushmeat. Embed a correspondent in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro or in the refugee camps of Rwanda. and concepts that are collated here. on its World FactBook site at www. Are you a member of the Washington press corps? Why not ask questions involving overpopulation. *In 2009.prb. adults and schoolchildren help stave off the pangs of hunger by consuming cookies made of mud that are dried ("baked") on concrete floors and sold in the markets of Port-au-Prince or consumed in school (Schmidt and Ayer.S. 2010). fried insects.un. or cookies made of mud. in the 21st century. For every foreign country story. or the Congo.N. hunger. In addition. the U. data. Finally. and the population futures of the countries that are the subjects of the coverage. and fertility rates at a news conference or a presidential debate? Ask questions that will force congressmen and other officials to familiarize themselves with the principles.gov offering country-by-country data.state. Darfur. demographics. With just three added sentences or so. employment statistics.org/unpp.loc.'s website at esa. Similarly. demographic information is posted by the C. World Focus correspondent Benno Schmidt and producer Ara Ayer traveled to the nation of Haiti and filmed footage depicting the ravages of poverty. state department website (www. and assessments. Ask ques- .A.293 - . steamed rat's heads.cia. other demographic snapshots can be found at www.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn) offers encapsulated profiles for each country in the world. if only to avoid embarrassment. 2009).* . statistics. population trajectories.gov/frd/cs which is the country studies page hosted by the Library of Congress. fertility rates. a reporter can include a word-portrait of the literacy rates.week. carrying capacity. journalists might routinely visit http://lcweb2. and environmental degradation in that nation where today.org or via web search entries that specify a nation of interest + demographics (see also FSI. overshoot.

Are you a serious journalist? Why do yourself. science. and journalism (among others) can help by in- . terrorism. and the only planetary life-support machinery so far known to exist anywhere in the universe deserve enormous attention on a daily basis in a manner similar to the weather. crises that involve nuclear proliferation. social studies.tions that will test an elected official’s knowledge of demographics and numerics. your readers and viewers. mathematics. and Y. your profession. the latest scandalous allegations involving a Hollywood celebrity or the possible misdeeds of a sports star are not just unimportant diversions – they are a disservice to civilization. your planet. and your own families a disservice in order to accommodate entertainment and gossip? How can there be any merit in a fluff piece on sport utility vehicles or celebrity gossip? (Some of us recall weeks of endless coverage on the possible contents of Senator XYZ's diaries. X.) Considering the problems that civilization faces today in nations W. If your video footage from a distant part of the world shows a juvenile carrying an AK-47 or throwing rocks. our planet. demographics. 9 – First Semester College Curricula Faculty and educators in the fields of history. global warming. In contrast. and our species. population growth. these have more significance than discussions of a basketball player’s lawyer.294 - . why not ask the obvious questions: Why isn't that child in school? Where are his parents? What is it that he has learned and is learning? What is the literacy rate in this place? The per capita income? The unemployment rate? What is said and taught in newspapers and schools in this place? What are the birth rates and fertility rates here? What is the region’s rate of population growth? In the great scheme of things.

there will be no planetary "do-overs" if we do not get things right for ourselves and our students this first time around .right now . or the fall of Rome. this moment in time promises to be far more decisive and of far more importance than James Madison. we may be closer in time to biospheric calamity than we are to LBJ. are going to have to live their lives in the futures that today's decisions and trajectories are about to produce.* . when humanity has embarked upon the greatest single risk that it has ever undertaken. today's students must adeptly avoid the counterintuitive pitfalls that are quintessential characteristics of exponential and non-linear systems. . Similarly. deaths. grandeur. we might first ensure that all students internalize the enormous size of a billion and can cite daily births. and impressive achievements that characterize the wisdom. And lastly.. the Napoleonic wars. and average net increase. Thus. of course. Lastly. given our current population impacts and rates of growth. for example. * After addressing the alternative futures in which today’s students will live their lives.corporating Wecskaop-like topics as emergency inclusions in their first-year college curricula. developments. and mistakes that our species has traced through the long march of time. .. First also..295 - . doubling times. foibles. in our math curricula. and the value of pi. and in a practical sense as well.. before we teach metrics. so that historians might teach the most important unit they ever have to offer by addressing FUTURE things first. At least three propositions support this approach: First. Watergate. the Apollo moon missions. And both in the broad sweep of history.between now and mid-century. polynomial expansions. and Vietnam. we might then turn attention to the past hinge points. . . Secondly.. our current collision with the natural world quite arguably qualifies as what may be the single greatest hinge-point in history. Students in our courses. stochastic events. we live at a hinge-point in history. cosines.

"At present. There are. but these problems can be solved because most people are intelligent. AND CROWDED writes that "the hour is late and the scale of the problems practically overwhelming.and caring" (2008). "our planet has serious problems. 11 . Australian author Graeme Taylor worries that "there is a real danger that the majority of political and business leaders in the world will fail to act quickly enough. economists. We submit that world leaders. on the closing page of his book notes that "this is not about whales anymore. furthermore. As Graeme Taylor recently notes. to prevent disaster" (Taylor. and others have both a professional and a civic obligation to become familiar with the data and fundamental understandings required to preserve our planet and the functioning natural systems that permit life as we know it to exist. in his book HOT. FLAT. government officials.As Individuals Even if a government does nothing. It's about us" (Friedman. Thomas Friedman.. seemingly small differences that can dramatically change the alternate futures that await us. 10 . Ac- .. talk-show hosts. hardworking . news-anchors. educators. editors.. journalists. 2008)." and. it is still possible for each of us as individuals to help.296 - ." and "only a few currently realize the need for immediate action to avert disaster" (ibid).. 2008). "global leaders are responding far too slowly.World Leaders In his book EVOLUTION'S EDGE. corporate executives. foreign policy analysts. sociologists." Taylor says.all math students should be able to think in terms of J-CURVES and their implications with as much alacrity as the more intuitive behaviors of linear progressions.

" . and careers that enable them to be better parents when .” On the other hand. Notice in the illustration above that the final column is posi lumn positioned at shifting locations "a." "b.1.5 billion in 2050 [and] 20. As individuals we can make decisions that can push that column a little further to the right – a little fur further into the future. for instance. by simply reducing teenage pregnancy we help our pla planet (and also allow young people to pursue training.5 billion in 2150. educa education." or "c.297 - .1 children per woman “If woman." Although all three positions are meant to denote an identical number of people. then world population would increase to “12. the number were 2. women must bear an average of 2.7 billion on earth in 2050. on average.8 billion in 2150” (emphasis added). What decisions might . these be? We might.cording to Wilson (1998). leveling off at 8. there would be 7. thereby buying a little more time for our societies and our planet to adjust. Suppose that position "a" indicates the future to which we are currently headed. Thus.2 children. decide to delay the birth of a first child. until we reach age twenty or later. if that average is even slightly higher. such as an average of 2. in order to stabilize our population. notice that the column at location "a" has reached that peak more quickly than it would if that peak could be deferred and displaced slightly to position "b" or position "c.

and ensure Wecskaoplike literacy in our families. we must all work together to help dramatically reduce our use of coal. of course. *In addition. Two other strategies can also help buy time for civilization and our planet. Similarly. each of us really can help if we drive far less. as shown by positions "b" and "c" in the illustration. .Y. and classrooms. 12 . and in every journalist and elected official. reduce our use of electricity. might have one or two children. and smaller family sizes* can also help push these curves further into the future. they might be spaced to arrive two or three years apart. gasoline. and Z. but. instead of six . for instance. plant trees. In the mid-twentieth century. and similar development agencies must ensure that development projects incorporate a vast system of wilderness and roadless areas that can act as inviolate sanctuaries. and our production of greenhouse gases. Such individual decisions may not halt population growth entirely. instead of the children arriving one right after the other. for example. Finally.their children do arrive).or eleven. And in addition. couples in countries X. First.298 - . We might also give back something by providing for conservation programs and organizations in our charitable giving and estate planning. such as World War II. and energy. but they can help push that rocketing curve a little further into the future. . International Monetary Fund. as illustrated by positions "b" and "c" in the diagram.International Development Agencies The World Bank. families might have the same number of children. communities. for example. * In a true emergency. for example. adoptions. to help reduce our climate impacts. oil. gasoline was a rationed commodity. two hunters in South America estimated .

. we might have spent one billion dollars to acquire critical habitat and to expand the acreage in our planet’s national parks.that together. . In our discussions of conservation biology. growing numbers of crises exist that necessitate and compete for both emergency funding and emergency attention.. protected areas. for example. we might have spent one of these billions on health care and medical research. and logging concessions that facilitate easy travel into onceroadless wilderness areas? . the U. During a second week. . James. for example. railroads.. . and such initiatives must be immediately implemented. deficit grew to more than 1.299 - . delay means collapse" (2004). et. and a portion of these are of planetary and biospheric scale. logging roads.S. al. In addition. a portion of this was attributable to the Iraq war and to worldwide expenditures of billions of dollars to prop up mismanaged banks and corporations. Finally. In mid-2009. set-asides. as the U. have recently noted "at some point. During one week. Similarly.7 trillion dollars. as Meadows et al. expenditures were directed differently. During a third week. we examined funding strategies. and a conservation roadmap (e. one billion dollars might have been used to upgrade our schools and improve education. and biosphere reserves. 1999).g. In other words.’s international system of Biosphere Reserves must continue to expand. What might we expect if we ease their access (and that of tens of thousands like them) via highways. Suppose that during some months. . they alone had killed about 600 manatees. And.N. we know that the United States has recently allocated more than two billion dollars per week to support its post-war occupation and reconstruction in Iraq. international aid agencies must ensure that recipient workshops include presentations addressing the demographic implications that particular programs might engender.

Similarly. For example. Buddhist.. if predominant. increases the disproportion between the rich and the poor and leads to a ruinous exploitation of the planet" (Benedict XVI.Religious Leaders and Institutions A call to protect both earth and its natural systems is also emerging in theological quarters. by stripping the earth of its natural forests. the Vatican has set an example for the rest of the world by recently becoming the world’s first “carbon-neutral” state. the late Patriarch Bartholomew I of the Orthodox Christian Church noted that “for humans to cause species to become extinct and to destroy the biological diversity of God’s creation. the magazine's editors invoke the words of Genesis 2:15 which reminds readers that “The Lord God took… man and put him in the Garden of Eden… to work it and take care of it.. while former Pope John Paul II both categorized “the ecological crisis” as a moral issue and pointedly posed with endangered African rhinos in one of his many papal visits. 2007). whether one's theology is Jewish. "demonstrate with growing clarity that the logic of profit. these are sins” (as quoted by Wilson.14 . its land.300 - . its air. and its life with poisonous substances. for humans to degrade the integrity of the earth by causing changes in its climate. 2002). there exists an ethical imperative to protect our planet and other species. "The emergencies of famine and the environment. . Hindu. under Pope Benedict XVI." counsels Benedict XVI.” Thus. In emphasizing its mission. or destroying its wetlands. and to respect the beauty and integrity of the natural systems that allow this planet's life to exist. Muslim. As another example. for humans to contaminate the earth’s water. . a quarterly Creation Care magazine is now published by the EEN (Evangelical Environment Network). or non-religious. Christian.

What role might religious peoples play to protect this "Garden of Eden" planet from complete devastation by the decades-long assault that we are currently conducting? First. . et al. Recall that the greater part of the conservation costs envisioned by James. celebrate. consists of one-time expenditures to survey and acquire critical biodiversity hotspots ($164 bill- . a nature reserve for spiritual retreat and/or an ever-expanding ring of woodlands and natural areas cared for by each center of worship? Special contributions and donations might be solicited for such acquisitions. devotionals. Such ever-growing forests and reserves. and as such acquisitions grow larger with each passing year. Finally.On Financing Conservation Finally. and protect the natural world and its life-support machinery which constitutes humankind's worldwide inheritance. by additional small bits each year. can constitute increasingly important islands of refuge and serenity in a sea of humanity. suppose that every synagogue. as they grow and expand.301 - . . we reprise the financing data that we saw in chapter nineteen. they might form important protected pockets and corridors for plant and animal species – and quiet contemplation. would also express the profound stewardship ethic that is found in religious peoples everywhere. religious leaders might ensure that each year. while nurturing us with their natural beauty and tranquility. perhaps. or masses that they conduct remind us to appreciate.. families might honor their loved ones by planting "trees of remembrance" or by making donations for conservation of land or habitat. Secondly. accompanied by commemorative plaques. at least two or three of the services. 15. church and mosque were to acquire. sermons. Such protected areas.

Report on Global Poverty points out that the richest nations of the world (2005).000. education. must be borne by the earth’s developed nations. insurance companies. and health care for their citizens. leading quickly to the founding of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. the annual outlay would amount to just $10. electricity. treasury departments. and corporations in an effort to rescue . .000). for example. . Because today's poorest nations find it hard to provide jobs. 16 . Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University.S. Nobelist Harold Urey and three other Chicago scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project formed an “emergency” committee of atomic scientists. acted with historic speed to bailout mismanaged banks. however. Recently.ion). for now. the interstate highway system when first planned required significant efforts and financial commitments to bring to fruition. have an aggregate annual economy of $30 trillion ($30. The scope and immediacy of the problems that we face today cry out for similar urgency.000. If we were to amortize this cost like a mortgage for the purchase of a home for thirty years. among others. sanitation. and the U. we cannot envision our nation without them and the foresight and wisdom of its advocates are apparent to us all. Federal Reserve. a time-limited allocation of just 3½ cents out of $100 (1/3 of 1/10th of one percent) by the world's richest nations would generate $10½ billion a year to finance the immediate conservation of vast portions of earth’s biodiversity.000. Thus. In retrospect.302 - .9 billion over the thirty year period.Mobilizing Alarmed by the atomic detonations that ended World War II. governments. In the United States. the cost of conservation. lead author of a recent U.N.

most of those whom we look to in journalistic venues. and they are looking directly at it. 2010) “Astonishingly.economic interests from potential catastrophe. Moreover. humanitarian. at a time when we are already engulfed in an unfolding maelstrom of demographic. biospheric.* *What if Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill had greeted the events of 1940 and 1941 with denial. even as it is facing them. Scientists. scholars. and the halls of government seem to be sleepwalking through the greatest crisis in the history of civilization. and walks off. citizens.303 - . In the middle of the video a woman wearing a gorilla costume walks into the scene. . We should have mobilized two decades ago. the experiment seems applicable to entire sectors of modern society that apparently never notice the gorilla in the room.” As one reviewer notes (Davis.Will we do what needs to be done? In a recent book (THE INVISIBLE GORILLA. Chabris and Simons. when asked afterward. stops. inaction. corporate boardrooms. 2010) an experiment is described in which human subjects were asked “to watch a one-minute video of a basketball game and to count the number of passes made by the team wearing white. thumps her chest. Yet. for we are now already close to being too late." If we appraise the original classical experiment by Simons and Chabris (1999) in light of the population topics addressed in this book. and a yawn? 17 . pointedly thumping its chest. and they were astonished when they watched the video a second time and saw it. half the subjects watching the video did not see the gorilla. faces the camera. ‘Did you notice the gorilla?. and civilizational calamity.’ they were unable to believe that they had missed it.

and there is no doubt that "the interests and inertia opposing change are enormous." and "if the abolitionists could end slavery two hundred years ago. . 2008). when most people were illiterate. a group of British Quakers initiated a movement to abolish slavery . as Taylor points out. Then. a small band of abolitionists had "changed the views. in three years or less. values. and the time we have left to avoid disaster is fast disappearing" (Taylor. . we can save our planet now" (Taylor. . and by 1834 all slaves in Britain were emancipated.at a time when only wealthy white men could vote. Yet. with the twin goals of emergency-room conservation accompanied by an urgent universalization. 2008. Yet. "we don't have much time. of key demographic and biospheric understandings that are needed to survive the decades just ahead.and world leaders must initiate this mobilization NOW. Clearly the task before us is daunting. In just fifty years. emphasis added). in 18th-century Britain. . As Taylor notes. and when cultural tradition and the economic interests of slave owners and slave traders were all powerfully entrenched (ibid). by 1807 the slave trade was banned in Britain. in the face of economic interests and inertia.. the business of slavery was considered normal and had existed for thousands of years. and laws of Britain" and simultaneously set in motion a movement that soon "spread throughout the world" (ibid). in 1783.304 - . but we have the internet.

305 - . 1981. knowledge of biology whatsoever (e. or free markets.. there are more poor.23 "Floorspace" and the Cornucopians In their 2004 book LIMITS TO GROWTH ... however. an assortment of social and economic theorists who have little. Randers. sleight of hand. Simon. the average ". if any. At the same time. Meadows. perhaps. their out-of-field assertions involving planetary biospherics with a considerable dose of skepticism.g. In this chapter we must inoculate ourselves against the assorted tricks.. the world has watched as assorted mainstream economic theorists have managed to fail to prevent debacles in their own fields of expertise (e. That is more poor people than there were in 1990 . for example.. errors. From biologists and other scientists in the natural science community we hear urgent warnings about overpopulation and our environmental impacts.g.household consumed 20 percent less in 1997 than it did in 1972" (ibid). so that the rest of us might want to treat. 2008-2010).. In 1998 more than 45 percent of the globe's people had to live on incomes averaging $2 a day or less. As this is written. and their conditions are worsening. . .The 30-Year Update. distortions. or "ingenuity" somehow exempt our own species from limits that apply to other forms of life living in finite systems.. of course. In Africa. And in nations with runaway population growth. and Meadows point out that "current modes of growth perpetuate poverty and increase the gap between the rich and the poor. 1995) urge us to imagine that technology. and spin that sometimes characterize modern policy debates." (2004). . 1984.

government study entitled The Global 2000 Report (hereafter G2R) edited by Gerald O.S. because business entities and economic interests are under the pressures of financial conflicts that can influence their policies and decisions (what is best. for instance. Among other things. 1998. or for our planet). Barney. A Classic Debate During the 1980s an assortment of books. and increased profits. for example.306 - . that “the single greatest intellectual obstacle to environmental realism… is the myopia of most professional economists” (Wilson. environmental deterioration. emphasis added). carrying capacity. for example. and limiting factors are biological phenomena – not economic phenomena. the G2R projected a more crowded world. and an accelerating pace of extinctions. more people may amount to more consumers. On one side of this exchange was a 1980 U. For others. large numbers of poor people may constitute a profitable pool of cheap labor that can drive down wages. and government reports advanced two very different views of population/environment issues. Firstly. some economic apologists. for economic reasons. customers. would prefer. or society. Articles and books on the other side of the topic began to appear shortly thereafter as economist Julian Simon emerged as a leading critic of the .Simple caution suggests that we heed the warnings that are being voiced by the world’s scientific community. And secondly. because population growth. for a company's officers or investors may not be best for one's nation. And finally. increased pollution. faced with the fact of finite planetary and biologically-imposed limits to populations. to ignore or suppress such information. articles. For some business entities. One biologist recently noted. tropical deforestation.

In addition. for example.000" at present (Kean. they purchase better housing and mobility. The Resourceful Earth (1984). and in vast regions." In one response to this projection.G2R and soon wrote or edited The Ultimate Resource (1981). Instead... And even in wealthy Saudi Arabia ". We note that billions of people today have per capita incomes or less than $2 or $3 a day. TRE) offered its readers the following: "." First notice the sweeping assertion that people would have increasingly higher incomes.. The homes of the world's people will have. et al.. Here. were written by economists or political scientists..a growing population does not imply that human living on the globe will be more 'crowded' in any meaningful fashion. ecologists... A More Crowded World In the G2R. As..per capita income has dropped from $28. then. we sample portions of that classic debate as set forth in the government's report and the responses that appeared in Simon's books and elsewhere. The Resourceful Earth (hereafter. Let us consider. or other scientists. providing a contrast of the two opposing views.000 at its height to… about $8. 2004). Most of the writing challenging G2R was not authored by biologists. [allowing] people to dwell in less-crowded space with more privacy. income is less than fifty cents per person per day. a sampling from these debates. government analysts expressed concern about rapid population growth. and The State of Humanity (1995) that offered a rosy or "cornucopian" view of the earth. many of Simon's chapters. therefore. predicting that by the year 2000. the earth would be "more crowded. ..307 - . more floorspace.people have increasingly-higher incomes. notice the standard that TRE erects as its measure of crowding: floorspace (not .

whether floorspace is an appropriate standard against which to measure world crowding or if Simon is simply desperately grasping at straws. our planet. and our species have ever faced? . pages 241-242). and not acres of asphalt parking lots. physics).7 billion. better housing? More privacy. national parks. clothe. . University of Colorado physicist Albert Bartlett demonstrated the absurdity of Simon's statement: Beginning with 1995's world population of 5.S. Higher income. After 30 years. Each of us must decide for ourselves.308 - . that "We have in our hands now. Read Simon's statement on the previous page again. less crowded space? . for example. . nor schools.. we would be able to go on increasing our population forever" (an assertion that flies in the face of. Haiti or Karachi. . Pakistan or in the slums of Mumbai. National Academy of Sciences who have warned against "spiraling" population growth are not using floorspace as their criterion. Within a year. While similar tactics and/or errors are common in television talk-show venues.highways or traffic jams. airports. apply it now to Mumbai and other urban slums everywhere and to Kaplan's reports from Africa (e. the technology to feed. among other things. they are unworthy of a scholarly exchange.. beaches. is the goal of a population discussion to score some sort of debating points in a high school or college debating tournament. In his The State of Humanity (1995) Simon made other unsubstantiated assertions that do not stand up well to mathematical or scientific scrutiny. He wrote.. or are we attempting to honestly explore the ramifications of what may be one of the most serious crises that civilization.. but we can be sure that the Nobel laureates in science and the members of the U." and "even if no new knowledge were ever gained. nor twice as many people in Cairo or Calcutta or Mexico City or Port-au-Prince. but floorspace. of course. After all. Ivory Coast. or in homes made of cardboard in Abidjan. . of course. We thus see a certain sleight-of-hand as TRE both changes the subject and at the same time erects an alternative standard (in this case shifting the topic from crowding to floorspace).g. and supply energy to an ever-growing population for the next 7 billion years..

And even if the assertion were amended to read seven million years. plastic garbage bags. and Nuclear Wastes In G2R. the resulting population would end up as something on the order of "30 kilo-orders of magnitude larger than the number of atoms estimated to be in the known universe" (Bartlett. toxic chemicals. heavy metals. or accelerating emissions of greenhouse gases." . In its introduction. the response changes the subject from pollution to litter such as junked cars. Notice here that the topic of discussion seems to once again subtly change.000 years. of course. 2005. toxic chemicals. the number of human beings in the universe would approach something on the order of 2. however. Pesticides. persistent pesticides. chlorofluorocarbons.3 x 10 to the 30. radioactive wastes.400. but were the government’s G2R analysts addressing the problems of litter? Or were they addressing chemical threats to the functioning of earth's ecosystems? Has an error occurred here? Would an honest and reasonably intelligent scholar mistakenly equate “beverage can pop-tops” . But it is misleading to suggest that there are data showing such pollution to be major problems. .000 power. is unsightly. TRE offers the following response: "It is certainly reasonable to assume that man-made industrial pollutions increase as the most backward countries begin to industrialize. plastic bags. Litter. Acid Rain. Bartlett further showed that if the same starting population and growth rate were to take place for Simon's asserted seven billion years. and pop-tops of beverage cans. radioactive wastes. The same is true of consumer pollution – junked cars. government analysts projected increasing pollution problems such as greenhouse gases. Instead.309 - . and beverage can pop-tops.and assuming that that population were to grow at a rate of 1% a year. Bartlett showed that the human population would approximately equal the total number of atoms estimated to exist in the known universe in just 17. get somewhat less poor. and acid rain. persistent pesticides. 1996). and purchase pollution-creating industrial plants. In this case notice that the response in TRE makes no mention of acid rain.

pop-tops. the G2R scientific team estimated that "by 2000. Perhaps The Resourceful Earth imagines that busy readers might skim over such arguments and fail to notice that the subject has subtly changed from pollution (e.. CFCs. if not disingenuous. including trees in national parks."* .to other countries. the total quantity of trees has been increasing. and Australia) have already reached or are on the road to catastrophic deforestation" (Diamond. this is nonsense. nuclear wastes. And at the same time.." .310 - . But perhaps we are being too harsh. into fuelwood and bags of charcoal.and junked cars with pollution of the earth's atmosphere and groundwater? This TRE passage seems to be. for example. and wood production has been increasing rapidly. some 40% of the remaining forest cover in the [less developed countries] will be gone. paper. In the U.g. and plastic bags). several of which (including Malaysia. cardboard.g.S. acid rain.. In their analysis. at least insulting to the intellect of its readers. Papua. and wood products at the expense of third-world forests. reports that China. and nuclear wastes) to litter (e. and industrial pollutants. greenhouse gases. And how did The Resourceful Earth react? "If nonsense is a statement utterly without factual support. third world charcoal merchants now illegally convert tropical and third world forests. New Guinea.. junked cars. We must all decide for ourselves whether attention to pop-tops and plastic bags is a fair representation of scientific concerns about persistent pesticides.How Societies choose to Fail or Succeed.. CO2. Deforestation in the Tropics The G2R also included an assessment of tropical deforestation rates projected two decades (1980-2000) into the future. 2005). *Jared Diamond. Today we can see that the temperate and industrialized world has begun to satisfy its needs for timber. Japan. and other nations are now exporting their own deforestation ". Forests are not declining at all in the temperate regions. writing in his book COLLAPSE .

it magically diverts the discussion of "forests" to a discussion of "trees" and "wood production. In this instance. planted in rows. In the same way. Species Extinctions In their Global 2000 forecasts. TRE once again appears to change the subject. however. it is biologically incorrect to imagine that a tree farm is a forest. It could be that the TRE authors (as opposed to biologists). so that firstly. TRE ignores the forests of the LDCs and the tropics (and thus the government's stated concern) entirely. notice that the G2R study addressed deforestation in LDCs (less developed countries) almost all of which are tropical (and centers of biodiversity). . TRE manages to confuse. A forest consists of dozens of intermixed species." In a biological sense. and instead cites conditions in the United States and temperate latitudes. that we seem to see repetition of a pattern that seems to be so misleading.Notice that in the three short sentences just cited. And in the next two sentences. encompassing a diversity of organisms interacting in a myriad of ways. do not know this. muddy and/or misrepresent the issue of tropical deforestation in several ways. It would be biologically incorrect to imagine that a field of wheat is a prairie. forty km2 planted in trees of a single species. It is disturbing. it is simply a tree farm." For example.311 - . trees and wood production are not synonymous with the term "forests. the G2R analysts projected rising levels of extinction as habitats disappear in the face of expanding human settlements." But such acreage is not a forest or an old-growth forest. First. as tropical forests are converted into fuelwood or become fragmented in the face of logging . however. and all planted at the same time and of the same age may represent a lot of "trees" and a sizable addition to a nation's annual "wood production. In its reply as indicated above. TRE does it again.

and tigers are gone from India's Sariska National Park..000 species of plants… and 2000 species of birds (ibid). and pandas.. 1999). while China’s white-handed gibbon. Hylobates lar.. . Since so many species are still unknown to science. tigers.the most serious and rapidly accelerating of all global environmental problems is the loss of biodiversity" (Raven and Johnson. Because of continuing such losses today. The Resourceful Earth includes a chapter devoted to the subject of extinctions and endangered species. it is quite possible that we could see the extinction of 20-30% of all species on earth in the lifetimes of many of us who are alive today. top biologists observe that ". Far more species are in danger of extinction within our lifetimes that the total number that became extinct at the end of the Cretaceous period. as roads expand into wilderness. 2008). .” More recently. elephants.concessions. These losses could include up to 50. The G2R projections suggested that by the year 2000 "up to 20% of all life on earth could become extinct as a result of mankind's impacts. And what was the nature of the TRE response? Julian Simon ended up writing the book's extinctions chapter himself.312 - . has disappeared already (GCA. a wider mass extinction appears to be underway as most of earth's accessible wilderness and wildlife populations seem to be melting away like snow on a warm spring day.” . 8th. and as poachers decimate wildlife populations. As its response to extinction concerns. Raven and Johnson (ibid) warn that extinction rates today are rivaling rates ". and 9th billions over the decades just ahead. Aside from well-known flagship species such as gorillas. As we add our 7th. coauthored by his political science colleague . orangutans. it is hard to precisely quantify the number of species that have disappeared or that will disappear in our lifetimes.not approached for the past 65 million years.. rhinos.

TRE thus features a chapter on endangered species and extinctions authored by an economist and a political scientist. If every species that exists at one moment must be maintained. Assorted passages in the chapter (two of which we quote below) make one wonder how many biology classes the two coauthors ever took. there will be less room for new ones to emerge... even at the undergraduate level. if the authors of the passage really contemplate leaving all those vacant niches for use by biota other than humans.. One also wonders why the TRE extinctions chapter was not written by a Ph. Simon and Wildavsky because no university biologist would ruin his or her reputation (and career) by affixing his or her name to the piece that was eventually published? Two Excerpts Here are two excerpts from the extinctions chapter offered by The Resourceful Earth: "The extinction of some species is an essential precondition of newer and better versions. Could it be that the chapter was written by Messrs. [for] such a policy protects existing species against generations of species that will therefore not have the opportunity to emerge. Somehow.." With this novel line of argument. however.313 - .." ".. One wonders.Aaron Wildavsky. biologist. one suspects that all those new generations of species will just have to wait as economic interests file for first rights to those habitats for subdivisions..prohibiting all extinction cannot be sound. Implied in their argument is the idea that all of the vacated habitat arising from a mass extinction will be left empty so that newer forms of life may evolve to occupy them.D. logging . Simon and Wildavsky manage to make an explosion of extinctions sound almost altruistic..

like a movie script. non-responses. without education. technology. and similar human encroachments. or illiterate. or illegal charcoal merchants. Instead. blunders. ingenuity. tipping points.concessions. they offer us the sweet supposition that each of our additional billions will simply result in more Einsteins to help save us. they urge us to imagine that. most of us comprising that billion will not end up as Einsteins. or as pirates. . malls. one of which is the presumption that “newer” and “better” are synonymous terms. the two billion additional persons that have been added to world population since 1987. such apologists fail to factor the effect of thresholds. We respond partially as follows: When we add one billion additional people to our planet every twelve to fifteen years. In doing so. science. inaction. Let us consider. For many of us. instead of Einsteins. demographically speaking. We must remind ourselves that with each of our added billions. while we may add an Einstein or two. for instance. The 'Einsteins and Ingenuity will save us' Hypothesis Some pro-growth apologists urge us to suppose that. and lag-times into their calculations.314 - . leaders of marauding militias. terrorists. Notice that the above passages also contain implied assumptions. and greed. we also multiply our problems and the speed with which those problems confront us. all will be well due to the ability of the human mind to surmount obstacles. and additional Einsteins can always ride in at the last minute to save us from the consequences of blindness. however. a host of each new billion will instead end up as hungry. in order to seduce us into complacency. Routinely. desperately poor. and it is good bet that. there exist significant values in life other than quarterly earnings and maximized profits. Whatever Einsteins those two billions may have in- .

cluded, the more obvious results can be seen in examples such as residents and schoolchildren in Haiti eating cookies made out of mud to fight the hunger pangs in their stomachs.

And simultaneously, the chaos, poverty, and crowding in the urban slums of third-world cities and megacities continues to expand; China's severely-polluted rivers are now running dry for almost two-thirds of each year; greenhouse gas concentrations in earth's atmosphere are continuing their steady climb; ever-increasing numbers of Al Qaeda and Taliban are blowing up girls schools and secular schools in Pakistan and attempting to destabilize governments; while catastrophic levels of deforestation increasingly threaten the tropics. .
Notice that brilliance, Einsteins, and ingenuity have so far failed to outpace the spread, exacerbation, and proliferation of such problems.

In addition, there are still other problems with the "additional Einsteins" hypothesis. The first of these is the existence of at least a one-generation-long lag-time before any of those envisioned Einsteins will have reached an age (in their 20s at best) and acquired an educational level (if they are fortunate enough to be born into a nation with a quality educational infrastructure) capable of exerting any political, academic, or planet-wide influence whatsoever. Thus those who offer us the sweetly alluring "additional Einsteins" suppositions show no cognition of whole-system collapse outcomes that can result from non-responses, lag-times and delayed feedbacks. . Finally, the world's press, economists, and governing elites seem to pay insufficient attention to the Einsteins that we already have. Nearly two decades ago, for example, the world's top scientific bodies warned humanity that "...if current predictions of population growth prove accurate and the pattern of human activity on the planet remains unchanged, science and technology may not be able to prevent... irreversible de-

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gradation of the environment" (Atiyah, Press, et al., 1992). The outcomes, however, suggest that even when urgent warnings are issued, responses tend to be slow or non-existent. The 'Technology will save us' hypothesis There are also fallacies that underlie the "technology will save us" and "human exceptionality" hypotheses that are advanced by pro-growth theorists. Many apologists, for instance, ask us imagine that, no matter what sorts of population or environmental troubles may arise, mankind's ingenuity, cleverness, or technologies constitute wonderfully infallible trump cards that somehow exempt us from the rules of nature and can always be counted on to save us from ourselves. In reality, however, we have a decided tendency to employ our cleverness in ways that hasten, deepen or exacerbate our race toward collapse (or facilitate the greed of some) and the resulting damage that we cause.

Apologists might be asked to explain, for example, why no combination of ingenuity, cleverness, and technology managed to save the Titanic.

For instance, isn't it just as likely that we might often use our technologies, cleverness, and ingenuity in ways that amplify our adverse impacts (or that serve private greed as opposed to the public good), thereby enabling us to make things worse at even faster rates? We have already seen, for example, how satellite tracking, human ingenuity, and technology can combine to make our fishing fleets more efficient at finding and catching fish than the fish are at reproducing and maturing. Thus, instead of sustaining a critical resource, we employ ingenuity in an effort "to find and catch every last fish" (Meadows, et al., 1992). Notice then that in effect, we routinely employ our ingenuity as a tool in service of greed or to ampli-

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fy the ability of an individual, a nation, or a company to eradicate forests, fish stocks, ecosystems, and species more quickly and efficiently than would otherwise be possible.

It is common for economic interests, for example, to advance arguments such as technology will save us, or additional Einsteins per billion will save us, or human cleverness or ingenuity will save us, and/or that free market ideologies will allow us to think up something. Note, however, that no amount of technology, additional Einsteins, or free-markets, cleverness, inventiveness, or ingenuity managed to save the Titanic from a decision-maker-in-chief who (a) ignored six specific and repeated warnings, (b) was incautious and made wrong assessments and decisions, (c) proceeded as though things such as icebergs (“limits”) did not exist, and (d) mistakenly imagined that his vessel (which, after all, had never sunk in the past) was unsinkable. . We might further note that our planet does not have a lone individual who acts as earth’s planetary decision-maker-inchief who can make mistaken and incautious decisions – we have at least hundreds of them. (And even if they might decide something correctly, there is a lengthy delay or lag-time between each year’s annual meeting, and then, even if the necessary votes to adopt a a watered-down compromise (or a meaningful and effective resolution) happen to be present, there remain further delays in following through with sufficient funding and implementation.) . So we need to include in our list an appreciation of a capacity for lag-times and/or delayed feedbacks to carry realworld systems past dangerous or unknown thresholds and/or tipping points, resulting in a whole-system collapse. Thus, even if a response is attempted or made, real-world dynamics permit things such as non-responses, inadequate responses,

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" . . . Similarly. For example. Dr. Other cross-disciplinary convergences are also emerging. . and other public facilities to accommodate a population that doubles each generation.. and State of the Union addresses combined. while a natural science perspective of the same crisis would attribute years of runaway population growth as a critical and ongoing first cause that makes development and political reforms more difficult. speaking in television interviews about his book COMMON WEALTH: Economics for a Crowded Planet sometimes uses the term "population" more often in seven or eight minutes than it has been used in presidential news conferences. to achieve. if not impossible. Is a Convergence Emerging? Recently economists and biologists have begun to show some heartening signs of convergence. inauguration speeches. society will not need to invest in major infrastructure (roads. and only secondly as failures of politics. or police their borders” and would perhaps agree that such goals are essentially impossible to achieve in a society whose population is doubling with each generation or quadrupling in fifty years.318 - . This marks an enormous social saving. Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University. and the like) merely to keep up with population growth. For example. the crises seen in Darfur and Somalia might be assessed as failures of development first and foremost. experts within both the economic and natural science communities would agree that impoverished governments "cannot keep order. from an economic perspective. maintain the rule of law.and/or slow responses that occur too late to avert or prevent calamity. As one example of his observations (2008). clinics." He also observes that “…a poor country cannot afford to equip its communities with schools.. “. power.with slower population growth or even outright decline. new roads. in three decades.

and ignore or actively deny the existence of real-world icebergs known as limits. let alone address. transient political and sports stories of the day. and updates on celebrity scandal and gossip. tend to instinctively . refuse to acknowledge such forbidden thoughts as overpopulation. political and economic leaders dispense a never-ending mantra of business-as-usual. Meanwhile. for these denials or non-cognition? Is it only the greed and avarice of some? How can a species that imagines itself to be so clever fail to even mention. What is the reason. even as our media offer us weather outlooks for city XYZ. It seems likely that we have permitted our intuitions to deceive us. what may constitute the greatest single risk that it has ever undertaken? The invisible gorilla thumping his chest. population growth. thereby allowing ourselves to subscribe to seemingly-instinctive suppositions and unexamined assumptions that tend to induce complacency. may not be the first limiting factors that restrict us. and limits. certainly comes to mind. orther than economics. Most of us.24 Nine Assumptions That Invite Calamity As we begin this chapter. for example (page 303).319 - . a powerful demographic current is carrying us quickly toward limits that should not be transgressed. and we may be distracting ourselves if we imagine that they are. for example. while important. What might be these assumptions or unwarranted suppositions? Let us consider several: ASSUMPTION 1: Running out of food or particular resources.

our futures. damage. there seems to be an increasing possibility that "major ecosystems will begin to fail long before we consume every last renewable resource” (Taylor. It now appears that our growing industrial and societal wastes. Rees. and climatic machinery is simply a given. (2) No other animals on earth supplement their biological wastes with additional societal and industrial wastes the way that we do (pages 8283). 2008). and abuse that we may heap upon it. In today's world. however. we sail merrily along. Thomas. 1996 and K. or that. no matter how much pollution.view population matters through various "running-out-of" lenses that were common one or two decades ago. this is urged upon us at a moment in history that is colossally different than any conditions that our species and our planet have ever faced. (Item (1) after W.) ASSUMPTION 2: We dangerouslyASSUME that the continued functioning of earth’s environmental. taking the continued functioning of earth’s life-support infrastructure entirely for granted under nothing more than an assumption that this machinery must be somehow infallible and invulnerable. together with the enormous degrees of sheer physical eradication and damage that we inflict upon earth’s life-support machinery increasingly constitute more immediate dangers. (3) No other animals on earth have ever supplemented their wastes in this way. biotic. As a result. and that.E. (5) Our levels of sheer physical eradication of earth's critical biotic and life-support machinery is unprecedented. and. or that it must constitute some sort of ongoing constant that we can always count on.320 - . . Ironically. regardless of how many billions of us try to inhabit our planet. and that. 2010. Consider that: (1) Our "ecological footprints" might also be described as ecological damage trails. (4) No population of red-tide dinoflagellates in history has ever supplemented its cellular and metabolic wastes with ongoing avalanches of societal and industrial wastes as our own species does today on a planet-wide scale. and earth’s life support machinery on an assumption that we can continue forever with unending growth. ASSUMPTION 3: Some economic apologists would seem to have us gamble civilization.

. they may have something instructive to tell us about ourselves. impacts. . . Recall.321 - . to imagine that the simple existence of “open space” somehow nullifies the existence or effects of other limiting factors is a colossal mistake. a trajectory that most emphatically does not qualify as ordinary.. and in this respect. In this way. outbreaks of dinoflagellate red-tide are quintessential examples of population explosions that result in calamity by the release of wastes into their surroundings. As chapters four and eleven have shown. for example. and relationships with our planet and its environment. populations of yeast poison their environment by their production of ethanol even as the yeast cells themselves occupy a volumetrically insignificant portion of the “open-space” that remains seemingly available. we have seen that the biota of a eutrophic pond can routinely drive the entire pond in which they reside to anoxia (depletion of dissolved O2) . Similarly. in a vat of wine.Consider again the skyrocketing trajectory of our population between 1930 and 2050. the "open-space delusion" discussion in which outbreaks of dinoflagellate redtide routinely poison the environment in which they reside even as the dinoflagellate cells themselves physically-occupy less than 2/1000ths of one percent of “vast open-spaces” that appear to remain theoretically available. (See also open-space and 'Easter Island' in appendix four). it is impossible to depict a more radical departure from our past numbers.. routine. Additionally. And finally. ASSUMPTION 4: We also invite calamity if we allow ourselves to suppose that "vast amounts of open space” have any bearing whatsoever on our current levels of overpopulation and population growth. we have seen examples of catastrophic die-offs in reindeer herds that underwent collapse even as the reindeer themselves physically occupied less than 2/1000ths of 1% of the “open space” in environments that visually appeared to be almost entirely empty. . In actuality. or “business-as-usual” conditions.

even as the organisms themselves occupy only a fraction of the volume that appears to remain theoretically available. These numbers may well worsen. . We most emphatically do not have all the time in the world. and then contemplate the arrival of our eighth and ninth billions by2041 with still more to follow. ASSUMPTION 7: For most of us. . and possibly more. In contrast. Instead we must remind ourselves of the 38. ASSUMPTION 6: Some writers ask us to believe that humanity somehow has all the time in the world to deal with our problems. Our discussions in chapters seven through ten show that “grocery-store” analyses of numbers that are behaving exponentially not only do not work. we mistakenly assume that the consumer mathematics that we are taught in elementary school somehow enables us to correctly interpret numbers that are growing exponentially. if we assess the costs. . their clear impossibility becomes immediately obvious.8. As a result. and implications of such suppositions. even though our billons numbers 10 to 15. the many crises that we already face. and most assuredly will not solve.322 - . our schooling has targeted proficiency in the “arithmetic” mathematics or grocery-store arithmetic of the 1930s. and the counterintuitive and deceptive nature of exponential mathematics. Recalling pages 123-124 however. we generally have too little training in the applications of. ASSUMPTION 5: Another assumption invites us to imagine that we can dismiss population concerns by supposing that we can use other planets as a population safety valve of last resort as our numbers continue to skyrocket upward in the decades ahead. but actually blind us to both the degree and the proximity of impending danger.461 years needed for an imaginary student to complete one billion homework questions. are all on-track to arrive by the end of this century. logistics.

we ourselves and our leaders have all been magically endowed with demographic invulnerability. Los Angeles. again and again and again. Moscow.ASSUMPTION 8: There are some who ask us to suppose that technology. postal delivery. that our own species and its politicians. London. or cleverness or ingenuity can be counted on to save us from ourselves. Karachi. as human beings. The fallacious nature of such suggestions becomes clear. We are the only animals on earth that do this. however.323 - . and ingenuity did not manage to save the Titanic when its decision-maker-inchief made incorrect assessments and decisions. grocery run. New York City. that the earth’s ability to accommodate more and more billions of human beings is somehow infinite. (And this is before we note the ever-increasing degrees of sheer physical damage that we inflict. many economic apologists ask us to imagine that nature’s rules must mysteriously not apply to humans. in Beijing. that his vessel was unsinkable. and leaders are so collectively clever that we are immune to such outcomes and that. Tokyo. Sydney. additonal Einsteins. and Cairo. Rio de Janeiro. however. Jakarta. for example. of course. that delayed feedbacks will not cause us to overshoot earth’s carrying capacity for our rapacious and industrialized species. when we note that cleverness. pages 81-84). our discussion of billions of us with our automobiles backed up in crowded traffic on a busy five-lane highway with hundreds of other cars and trucks and buses spewing noxious exhausts into earth’s atmosphere during each and every rush hour.) . (He was certain. and long-distance trip (recall. and we repeat this behavior every single day.) ASSUMPTION 9 (and MORE): Finally. that even though herds of reindeer and populations of red-tide dinoflagellates may undergo ecological release and climband-collapse crashes. Recall. Einsteins. technology.

for without them.This underscores the unprecedented degree to which each of us are contributing far more than our body wastes to our surroundings. they reflect our daily behaviors – billions of repeated assaults each and every day. officialdom re- . or commit mistakes and blunders. And these behaviors do not represent occasional or once-in-a-lifetime indulgent excesses. And we keep learning that this occurs with ruinous results and tragic regularity. we are nevertheless on-track to reach ten to fifteen billion by 2100. supposi-tions. No other animals do this (or have ever done this) – how can we imagine that endless billions of us can endlessly behave in this way without consequence? If world population did not grow at all. wager incorrectly. Warnings. Inaction. examples. Knowing that earth’s atmosphere is not responding to our assaults very well right now. Instead. is instructive: Despite scholarly warnings and engineering reports detailing the inadequacies of the city's levees system. that we (and our leaders) routinely ignore problems. consumption. data sets. releasing more and more daily tons of waste relentlessly into the onion-skin-thin layer of air that makes up earth’s atmosphere. some of which are immense. These realities demonstrate why the concepts. we have little hope of avoiding the calamities that our existing habits. these many impacts would likely double as the world’s poorest nations industrialize and seek to emulate our own standard of living. defer action.. .. Instead. for example. and Delayed Responses We know that even in the world's richest and most advanced societies. Recalling the effects of 2005’s hurricane Katrina on New Orleans. and mindsets promise to bring about.324 - . and information collated here must urgently become universal understandings. government officials and politicians endlessly failed to remedy the matter..

acted too slowly or not at all, leaving only luck and inaction to stand against catastrophe, so that the city was demolished upon the arrival of category four hurricane Katrina. And we know that the history of every society, of course, is replete with similar examples of ignored warnings, inaction, and delayed and/or inadequate responses. In the case of New Orleans, at least, the price to be paid when scholarly assessments were greeted with inaction, inattention, or inadequate responses was relatively localized in extent. As a result, the Katrina disaster, as serious as it was, was at least not global in its ramifications. The point to be made then is this: For decades, top scientists have warned us again and again, with urgency, of the potentially calamitous implications of our combined population, consumption, and industrialization trajectories and the collective impacts they may portend for the integrity of earth's life-support machinery. Yet, numerous journalists, mainstream economists, and policymakers still seem fully prepared to count on nothing more than denial, luck, faulty assumptions, and inaction to save us from the collision that is unfolding before our eyes. The effects of our demographic tidal wave, however, do not threaten only a single bridge or a single city. Instead we are putting at risk vast portions of earth’s natural and biospheric machinery that allow civilization and life as we know it to exist. Whatever efforts and progress we can cite, fifty years of neglect, specious arguments, and inaction have brought us to this: As these words are written, we continue to add approximately 908,000 additional people to our planet every four days. And we continue to add one billion additional persons to our population every twelve to fifteen years. . .
And all of those homework questions over a span of 38,461 years remind us of the actual enormity of each such billion.

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As a result, we have addressed carrying capacities, overshoot, limiting factors, delayed feedbacks, inadequate responses, and classical examples of climb-and-collapse population calamities that ended with 99% mortality. . Our survey has also addressed J-curves, feedback loops, and biospheric machinery, as well as thresholds, tipping points, and unintended consequences. We have seen that bridges, elevators, aircraft, environmental systems, and the earth itself have thresholds, limits, and carrying capacities that cannot be transgressed without inviting calamity. Finally, we have encountered examples of ecological services and ecological release and sampled the implications of our ongoing population-environment impacts upon other species, natural systems, human needs, and civilization itself. Default Settings Let us therefore consider several closing thoughts: There are certain decisions that we should have made three decades ago about our demographics. If we make no decisions, or if we make the wrong decisions, then our planet has default settings that will be applied. And while we are aware that Wecskaop, like any book, could be in error, it is far more likely that the growth-forever mindsets, rosy scenarios, faulty assumptions, specious arguments, denials, and sweet suppositions that are urged upon us by economic apologists are, in the manner of a Ponzi scheme or an economic bubble, propelling us toward collapse. What if, for example, Wall Street's prevailing assumptions, ideologies, arguments, and assurances (which ask us to gamble virtually everything, including the earth's biosphere and its life-support machinery) turn out to be as flawed as its performance, policies, and behavior in the economic debacle that it has just given us as this is written in 2009-2010?

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What might be the biospheric and demographic outcomes if the carrying capacitybiology-ecology-demographic policies that are urged upon us by Wall Street's financial, economic, and corporate elites turn out to be as erroneous as the mistakes that they have just exhibited in their own areas of claimed expertise? .

Wecskaop suggests that a continuation of today’s demographic tidal wave may constitute the greatest single risk that our species has ever undertaken and proposes that our species must ensure that we err on the side of demographic caution. If we choose the path of caution and should Wecskaop then turn out to be wrong, the consequences would not be so terribly bad, for the world might then, for instance, simply end up with a stable population like that seen in Spain as this is written. What are the consequences for humanity and earth’s natural systems if this book’s assessments should happen to be in error? If we heed its concerns, we will stabilize our populations, educate all citizens about our planet, ensure that vast regions of earth's biosphere are set aside and protected from roads and human intrusion, and we will direct our monies and our efforts toward making life, education, health care, cities, and opportunities better for populations existing today – instead of attempting to frantically keep up with an avalanche of infrastructure and social needs generated by one additional billion followed by another and another in the decades ahead. On the other hand, if humanity should decide to rely upon Roger Revelle's or similar sky-high estimates, or to follow the pedal-to-the-metal, the-more-the-merrier, and the rosy scenarios directions that are urged upon us by assorted corporate, Wall Street, and economic interests, and should it then turn out that their rosy (and specious) suppositions are in error, the results may include biospheric, humanitarian, and civilizational nightmares on an unimagined scale.

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A half-century ago, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke of “the modern plague of overpopulation. What is lacking,” he said, "is universal consciousness of the gravity of the problem and the education of billions of people who are its victims” (see King, 1966; Bartlett, 2000; Wooldridge, 2007; Ehrlich and Ehrlich, 2004). Today, Dr. King’s insights are more applicable than ever. If we continue to proceed complacently, as we have already done for far too long, it may be that civilization’s prevailing philosophy will also become its last words and its epitaph: business-as-usual, or perhaps, in Eric Pianka’s words (2008), “we waited too long.” . Thomas Friedman recently noted that “there is a line between can-do optimism and a keen awareness that the hour is late and the scale of the problems practically overwhelming” (2008). To quickly achieve the universal levels of demographic and biospheric literacy envisioned in this book will necessitate a Roosevelt /Churchillian degree of mobilization and response that should have begun two decades ago. As it is, we close by offering two questions that will carry us toward one or another of two very different destinies: . . (1) Unlike dinoflagellates, we all understand limits and limiting factors, the enormous size of a billion, carrying capacities, thresholds, tipping points, and delayed feedbacks, along with the powerful, deceptive, and counterintuitive behavior of exponential mathematics - don't we? (2) In addition, we can be sure that our own species will manage to avoid demographic catastrophe because, after all is said and done, we are smarter than a herd of reindeer or a population of mindless, one-celled dinoflagellates, aren't we?

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past. and overshoot. . limiting factors. carrying capacities. exponential mathematics and J edbacks. present. among other things. and unintended consequences. as well as. and future. delayed feedbacks. Jcurves. demographics and world population levels.329 - . tipping points.Medium projections to 2100 High projections to 2100 Human Population in billions We submit that there exists a specific and fundamental repertoire of scientific infor information that every citizen should know about our planet and that this information in includes thresholds.

Wilson noted that only one-third of U. Do any introductory biology curricula still include coenocytic fungi. and that this information includes thresholds. after all. Carrying capacities (environmental and planetary). Harvard's E. and future. exponential mathematics and J-curves. Demographics: Fertility rates (births per woman per lifetime) and mortality rates (including various ways in which desirable. and our planet. and understandings assembled here quite literally comprise What Every Citizen Should Know About Our Planet. 5. in the final analysis. Wecskaop has tackled this same objective. the metanephridia of an earthworm or the physiology of a frog (none of which. he suggested that “every college student” and “every public intellectual and political leader” should be able to answer a general question linking modern science and the humanities. limiting factors. colleges and universities require all students to take at least one natural science course in order to earn their degree. Ecological services and multiple examples thereof. delayed feedbacks. is of particular importance)? If so. and projected.330 - . as well as current trajectories and alternate futures. carrying capacities. 1. such content needs a deep and expeditious overhaul. examples. mortality reductions can derail demographic prognostications). tipping points. demographics. and identify the ways in which this linkage is important to human welfare. and overshoot. and daily net increase. data. present. World population levels. and unintended consequences. deaths.APPENDIX 1 – We submit that there exists a specific and fundamental repertoire of information that literally every citizen should know about our planet. past. Virtually all students.S. biospheric machinery. but unexpectedly-rapid. sclerenchyma cells. 3. 2. but in an expanded and more specific way. 4. Demographics: Births. as well as demographics and world population levels past. As a result. Writing in 1998. can succeed in life without ever having heard of such topics On the other hand. ecology. . O. the concepts. present. We submit that there is a precise and fundamental repertoire of information that every citizen should know about natural systems.

cleanse. 11. limiting factor. and/or recycle wastes. 13.6. together with the human propensity to error. and a deep appreciation of the enormous size of each such billion. That historically. to dramatic and unanticipated successes in reducing mortality).331 - . and self-intensifying nature of positive feedback loops. because other limiting factors routinely exert their influences long before organisms exhaust even a fraction of available "open-space. and multiple examples thereof. Negative feedback loops and their stabilizing and self-correcting effects. 12. population growth in Africa. and real-world examples thereof. That we presently add approximately one billion extra persons to earth's population every 12-15 years. (Note that frequently food is not the only. competition." 7. or even the most immediate. 8. hunger. Lag-times and delayed feedbacks. Earth's oceans and atmosphere as "thin films. recalling our chapter addressing "the open-space delusion. 8. . for example. 9. epidemic disease. along with multiple examples thereof." note that "running out of space" is not listed as a typical limiting factor. and aggression). self-amplifying. and multiple examples thereof. the Middle East." 10. 14. The self-fueling. and many less developed countries (LDCs) still exhibits dangerous exponential patterns. Thresholds and tipping points and multiple examples thereof.) Secondly. together with examples thereof. Unintended and unexpected consequences. population projections often underestimate actual population levels that eventually develop (due. That despite declining birth rates in Europe and most developed nations. Limiting factors and examples thereof (such as a limited capacity to accept.

including causes. Exponential mathematics: Especially the misleading.15. unexpected causes. 19. and powerful nature of an exponential progression.” 20.332 - . examples thereof. biogeography. unexpected consequences. 17. knowing that exponential progressions can convert one cent into twenty million dollars in thirty-one days or destroy a city like Hiroshima in a matter of seconds. and the notoriously slow and unwieldy response times of most human institutions. deceptive.. understanding that most of the growth in an exponential progression occurs at the end of the sequence. Overshoot and climb-and-collapse population curves like those produced in two classical studies of reindeer herds (Scheffer.C. and examples thereof. 1951. 18. 23. medicine. recognition of an exponential progression. for example. Klein.D. . 16. The fragility of natural systems and multiple examples thereof. 22. and conservation biology as components of K-12 and first-semester college curricula. and the implications thereof. emergency room conservation. That current complacency concerning population growth over the coming decades may be unjustified due to likely advances in genomics. in the reindeer herd studies cited in our chapters. to 2000 A. Ecological release. 21. compare this graph to the climb-and-collapse patterns seen. 1968). and life extension. Numerics: With examples that underscore the enormous difference between a million and a billion. counterintuitive. and challenge the misimpression that our particular moment represents (demographically speaking) a condition of “business-as-usual. Earth's biodiversity hotspots. and correctly solve counterintuitive riddles involving exponential and similar non-linearities. The potentially calamitous dangers that can arise from lag-times and delayed feedbacks. Depict humanity’s “hyperexponential” graph from 8000 B. including the "vast open-space" conditions in each.

humanitarian conditions. and civil disorder. and Meadows (2004) point out that (emphasis added): "." . poverty. Meadows. Eight or more unwarranted assumptions that invite calamity. no dinoflagellate cells have ever supplemented their biological and metabolic wastes with industrial.. Inaction. (b) no other animals have ever supplemented their biological and metabolic wastes the way that we do.” 28.333 - . including assumptions of “business as usual.' and slow response times.. and social discipline alone do not guarantee sustainability when they are implemented too late. the 'Invisible Gorilla. The fallacy of the agricultural maximum and the open-space delusion." 26. climate. 25. Easter Island.THE 30-YEAR UPDATE. The "open-space" delusion. Randers. after the system has already overshot its limits. Worldwide population projections and trajectories for the halfcentury just ahead and their potentially calamitous implications for the biosphere. 27. dinoflagellate red-tides.limited consumption. terrorism. and societal wastes the way that we do. and that. failed states. food. Writing in their book LIMITS TO GROWTH . taxes. (c) even in the worst red-tide outbreaks in the history of the world. jobs. including a cognition that: (a) no other animals supplement their biological and metabolic wastes the way that we do. limited family size.24. technological. hunger. and the Scheffer and Klein reindeer studies.

Blunders. and minimum viable populations 16. unanticipated. Numeric literacy. Negative feedback loops and their self-correcting and stabilizing roles in natural systems 08. Carrying capacities. Examples. inaction. Thresholds. and cascades 09. unknown. and overshoot (including thresholds and limits that may be known. Earth’s atmosphere as an onion-skin-thin film 20. contrasting a million and a billion 17. self-intensifying.. Conservation biology.APPENDIX 2 – An itemized checklist of one hundred core concepts and informatics that every citizen should know about our planet. deceptive. Lag-times. Climb and collapse population patterns in two reindeer herds 18. mechanisms and implications of ecological release 14. Daily deaths 05. and unintended consequences 13. 01. and self-amplifying properties of positive feedback loops. delayed feedbacks.334 - .The misleading. and counterintuitive aspects of exponential progressions and non-linear systems . chain reactions. Daily births 04. Tipping points 11. Density-dependent factors (increasing impacts that arise from and with increasing densities) 19. Projections of alternate demographic futures 25. or unmarked) 10. and inadequate responses 12. Daily net increase 06. A graph of world population over the past ten millennia 24. Fertility rates (children per woman per lifetime) 07. and behaviors thereof 02. The self-fueling. The Fallacy of the Agricultural Maximum 22. limits. Earth’s oceans as a thin film 21. minimum size of ecosystems. The Open-space Supposition or Open-Space Delusion 23. Biodiversity hotspots and “emergency-room” conservation 15. linear versus non-linear systems. Demographic projections as underestimates 26. and thresholds and examples thereof 03. Contrasting exponential progressions versus arithmetic progressions. limits.

Ecological interactions: Living things can affect entire planets 35. the roles they play. Ecological services 10 – Transpiration and rainfall 47. rarely. Island biogeography and a minimum critical size of ecosystems 37. Limiting factors – Adreno-cortico-pituitary-hormonal roles . Ecological services0. Limiting factors 4 – Competition between species. Ecological interactions: Living things affect their environments 34. Ecological services0.9 – Colonization.335 - . Limiting factors 6 – Epidemics.8 – Genetic and agricultural 45. competition. succession. self-repair has limits (Wackernagel & Rees) 57. and recovery 46. Limiting factors 9 – Nature’s capacity for self-renewal and 56. Limiting factors 8 – Resources such as food. Ecological services0. Minimum viable populations and genetic bottlenecks 36. intra and inter 51. industrial.1 – Production of oxygen 38. and pharmaceutical 41. Ecological services0.3 – Pollination of flowering plants 40. sanitation. Correctly interpreting counterintuitive exponential riddles 31. if ever. Ecological services 11 – Control and suppression of pests 48. and examples thereof 60. The characteristic J-curve of an exponential progression 28. Limiting factors 3 – Aggression. Limiting factors 1 – Production and accumulation of wastes 49. Ecological services0.6 – Biogeochemical cycling 43. Limiting factors 5 – Density-dependent feedbacks 53.4 – Medical. a limiting factor 58. nutrients 56.27. Limiting factors 2 – Physical damage to the environment 50. Ecological services0. Limiting factors 7 – Destruction or disruption of natural pro59. water. Ecological interactions: The environment affects living things 32. Rarely limiting – The over-all amount of “open-space” is 57.2 – Production of food 39. Ecological services0. Dinoflagellate red-tides as population explosions with wastes 59.5 – Cleansing and recycling wastes 42. Keystone species. Ecological interactions: Living things affect each other 33. exotics 52. When most of the growth in an exponential progression occurs 30. The power and deceptive nature of exponential progressions 29. Ecological services0.7 – Moderation of climate 44. Limiting factors 7 – processes and their functions 55. and disease 54. Ecological services0.

unrest. Global human impacts past 64. The lessons of Sri Lanka (declining death rates often offset declining birth rates. processes. etc. and security 78. The lessons of genomics. 68. albedo. genic effects. international instability. Climate change . and civil disorder 80. mechanisms. stability.How ecosystems work (interactions. tipping points. equilibria. 67. Mitigation by individuals. Biogeography and biodiversity hotspots 63. Carrying capacity (earth as a global vehicle. 68. physical systems. pollution. Competition between species and competition within a species 62. and symposia 85. and mitigation of 82. Population growth and its implications for energy consumption 77. Biological magnification and bioaccumulation of wastes 71. degradation. Sample tipping points (methane. and planetary 67. and similar 74. Population growth and its implications for poverty 76. chemical systems. bio-68. Population growth and its implications for costs. effects of damage. Population growth and its implications for education 75. govern79. and similar nonsustainable practices 83. How our planet works (buffering. medical. governance. Gaia hypothesis mechanisms. immigration. workshops. etc.feedbacks. Global human impacts present and intensification thereof 65. collapsing fisheries. resulting in faster growth than expected) 72. Vulnerabilities of biological. Global human impacts future and demographic futures 66. . anarchy. Population growth and its implications for emigration and 72.mechanisms.) 69. buffering. and failed states 81. etc. . Caenorhabditis. implications.) 67.) 68. delays. Population growth and its implications for terrorism. feedbacks. including passengers other than humans) 84. or eradication 70. infrastructure. Population growth and its implications for political stability. thresholds. Mitigation by governments . amplifications.61. ecological. ocean acidification. . meetings. and life extension advances 73. Possible consequences of genomic.336 - . poverty. and damage to natural systems 79. humanitarian crises. ance. Non-sustainable forestry. 68.machinery.

prints') 99. and implications Negative feedbacks. and implications . and documentarians 90. Wecskaop topics as early chapters in course texts 95. Why 10. editors. and digital venues 88. Mitigation by NGOs (non-governmental organizations) 87. 30. disingenuities.86. their behavior. Overshoot and delayed feedbacks A sample application of this checklist is illustrated by a quick examination of two current college level ecology texts that happened to be conveniently available. and department chairs 89. Lifetime ecological damage trails (previously 'ecological foot98.337 - . and misrepresentations 96. Flawed and unwarranted assumptions that invite calamity 97. the following additional terms were also missing in one or the other of the two glossaries examined (in other words. Mitigation by government officials 92. journalists. the glossary failed to list or define any of the following key terms and concepts:        Climb and collapse (boom and bust) population cycles Thresholds Tipping points Delayed feedbacks (lag-times) The million – billion dichotomy Earth’s atmosphere and seas as thin films Ecological release Moreover. Mitigation by web and digital presentations and initiatives 94. their behavior. 20. Examples of obfuscation. and world leaders 93. Mitigation by publishers. Mitigation by policymakers. faculty. 50%):    Exponential and/or non-linear Positive feedbacks. Mitigation by religious leaders and organizations 91. In both texts. elected officials. Biomes and biogeography 100. Mitigation by educators. or 40% conservation goals may not be enough 98. Mitigation by producers.

. teachers. which were in other ways quite excellent.338 - .. DBH (diameter at breast height) field measurements. and faculty can help us avoid oversights that obscure truly high-priority (what every citizen should know) concepts due to a mistaken overemphasis on lesser concepts (such as “mark-recapture” methods.greater understanding of whole systems as an essential part of each person's education" (emphasis added). Use of Wecskaop-like compilations by authors. Randers.according to our computer model.. publishers. failed to accord multiple key topics the conceptual priority that the concepts would seem to deserve: (a) Considering the times in which we live. ".. and (b) As college-level texts devoted specifically to ecology..Note that both texts.. our knowledge of the data. When Meadows. . journalists." while elsewhere they advocate. and Meadows wrote their "Thirty-year update" to Limits to Growth (2004). producers.' there is no time to waste. and our experiperience of the 'real world. their summations included assessments such as the following: ". our mental models.... and optimal foraging strategies. editors.

we will begin with the approximate dimensions of a typical K.000 000 000 840 cubic inches.000 84) or approxi- .0012) x (. personal communication.APPENDIX 3 – THE OPEN-SPACE DELUSION.024) – (00. 15 um = . And thirdly. brevis = (L) x (W) x (D) = (.000) x (. the following data constitute a starting point for the mathematical portrait which we will derive below: First. so average = ~ . 2008 The above values permit the following calculations: Volume of a typical cell of K. Secondly.000 84 cubic inches occupied leaves (61. Since marine biologists routinely sample one-liter samples of red-tide outbreaks. brevis cell as set forth immediately below. (1) A volume of 1 liter = 61.org.0014) x (.03 mm) = ~ 0.024 cubic inches (2) The approximate dimensions of a single cell of K.339 - .0005) = ~ .000 84 cubic inches. Background values: .000 000 000 840). one-liter samples of water equal approximately 61.0005 inches ** Nierenberg.000. severe and deadly red-tide conditions are common when Karenia brevis populations reach concentrations ranging between 100. one million Karenia brevis cells occupy approximately (1. subtracting 00.000 to 1.02 cubic inches. Since one liter equals 61. 2008 ** Floridamarine. Therefore.0012 inches ** W: ~ 0.000 or more cells per liter. supporting mathematics This item outlines the supporting mathematics for chapter eleven’s critique of the “open-space” hypothesis.024 cubic inches. or an actual physical volume of approximately 0. brevis are: L: ~30 um (= 0.0006).000.0004.0014 inches (“a little wider than it is long") * D: ~ 10 – 15 um deep (10 um = .

catastrophically-altered and damaged the aqueous surroundings in which they live. Percentage Unoccupied The percentage unoccupied therefore equals (61.999 987 2 or ~ 99. This demonstrates that. despite an apparently enormous amount of "open space. even when the K. In other words. Note that the dot in the image denotes two one-thousandths of one percent of the colorless rectangle." and despite the fact that the K. brevis cells themselves physically-occupy less than two one-thousandths of one percent of the total volume that appears to remain seemingly-available to them. The illustration on the next page depicts the physical amount of space that constitutes two one-thousandths of one percent. by their combined overpopulation and each cell's production of invisible and calamitous wastes.023 16 cubic inches still unoccupied.340 - . the dinoflagellate cells in this one-liter sample still have approximately 61.mately 61.023 16) divided by (61. . brevis population manages to routinely visit calamity upon itself and the aqueous environment in which it resides. brevis cells themselves occupy a volumetrically-insignificant portion of the "open-space" that visually appears to remain available. PART TWO . This means that the above K.998 72%) equals . (100%) – (99.998 72 % unoccupied volume remaining. or less than two one-thousandths of one percent of the volume that seems to remain theoretically-available. In other words. they have.023 16 cubic inches of unoccupied volume (or of apparently“ empty space”) that would still visually appear to remain theoretically-available to them.001 28 % .024 00) = ~ .

.) . brevis red-tides occur at much smaller concentrations of as little as 50.Background Red-tides produced by algal blooms of dinoflagellates such as Karenia brevis occur even as the dinoflagellate cells themselves physically occupy less than 2/1000ths of 1% of the total volume of the water sample in which they reside. (And the above 2/1000th calculation assumes K. .000 cells per liter.. brevis concentrations of one million or more cells per liter.341 - ..000 to 100. . Some K.

so that a square of (1. It is at least interesting and perhaps worth noting that the original human population of Easter Island (see appendix four) underwent collapse following one estimated peak population of ~15.5 square pixels Thus given a starting rectangle of 500 x 350 pixels.000 square pixels (2) One percent of this area = (175. In that case. (1) Use imaging software to open a rectangle 500 pixels high by 350 pixels wide = 175. the collapse of that population.87 pixels by 1.87 pixels.87 pixels (length x width) would visually depict a physical region of two one-thousandths of one percent. This example underscores quite clearly that sheer physical amounts of “open space” available to a population constitute a fallacious criterion by which to judge overpopulation.5 square pixels = 1.87 pixels) = 3.87 pixels) x (1. .The step-by-step mathematics outlined below allows one to prepare a two-dimensional illustration like the one shown on the previous page that visually depicts the proportional amount of area occupied by two one-thousandths of one percent.01) = 1750 square pixels (3) 1/1000ths of one percent = (1750) x (.000) x (.a number that is in provocative agreement with the 2/1000ths of one percent that characterized calamity in both cited examples of reindeer herds and is likwewise typical of outbreaks of red-tide.001) = (4) 2/1000ths of one percent = (1750) x (.000. a small square of 1. Note also that dinoflagellates do not supplement their biological and metabolic wastes with daily avalanches of societal and industrial wastes. as the calculations outlined in appendix four (which follows) show. and its society occurred even as the humans themselves physically occupied less than 3/1000ths of one percent of the "open-space" that appeared to remain theoretically available to them .002) = 1.750 square pixels 3. its environment.5 square pixels (5) Calculate the square root of 3.342 - .

miles and an estimated peak population (depending on the study surveyed) of between 6. so that each individual physically occupies (2) x (1. 1.839.400 = 183.839. Since a total of approximately 45.5 feet front to back.744 .000 01 x 1.000 1 x 1.5) = ~ 3 sq.974. feet of "unoccupied" open space. approximately 45.400 sq. on average.400 minus 45. Easter Island's human population. and its society underwent catastrophic collapse even as 99.000 sq. while standing.400 sq. Thus.997% of the island as still unoccupied open-space.400 = 18.839.400 sq.839.000 = 1. feet sq.APPENDIX 4 – Open-space remaining at the time of the collapse of Easter Island's original human population A recent survey of ancient and contemporary societies (Diamond.000.974. the total "empty space" on the island amounts to 66 square miles times 27.878.000 sq.974.839.839.000 and 30.400 unoccupied "open space" by 1.974. feet.839.001 x 1.343 - .400 sq.974. 15. feet sq.878. dividing 1.400 = 55.974.000 residents. Thus. feet sq.399. of a total area of ~ 1. Taking a mid-range estimate of ~ 15. feet Thus. 45.400 sq. 2005) whose original ascendancy was followed by collapse includes a chapter devoted to Easter Island with its land area of 66 sq. at its peak. the following mathematics obtains: Assume that each person.400 1/10th of 1%: 1/100th of 1%: 1/1000th of 1%: 3/1000ths of 1%: = .974.974 .44568 x 10 -5 = .399 .929. feet.400 = 1.929. Since one square mile = 27. feet sq.000 03 x 1. feet each would occupy approximately ~ 45.839. feet (the total existing area) equals: 2.000 people.400 for a total island area of ~ 1.839.. Thus.974.839. feet of space.2. feet. Then.997 % of the isl- .9999755 or 99.839.400 (the island's total area) = .839.997 .45 / 1000ths of 1%. Easter Island's human population may have occupied a little less than 3/1000ths of 1% of the island's available area.839.974.974. approximately two feet width at shoulders and 1. (a) (b) (c) (d) (e) 1% of 1. is. Calculated another way.199 sq.000 sq.000 02446 = . feet is physically occupied by the 15. feet.839. feet was physically-occupied by individual humans.01 x 1.000 sq feet divided by 1. its environment.974.400 = 18.000 people x 3 sq.

and mechanized fishing fleets with which to assault the entire atmosphere. In addition. Additionally. We thus see still another natural experiment that ended in collapse. In other words. the pre-industrial human society of Easter Island was a localized society that could not generate billions of tons of CO2 and industrial wastes. collapse occurred even as "vast amounts of open-space" remained seemingly available in an environment that visually appeared to be ALMOST ENTIRELY EMPTY. investment portfolios. oxidation of fossil fuels. this time involving a human society confined to an island with limited resources. however. and most of its seabirds. however. logging concessions. Footnote 2: The similarity of our situation and that of the peak population of Easter Island is not perfect.344 - . and natural world. after all. biosphere. The humans on Easter Island constituted a pre-industrial society that could deforest their environment.and remained unoccupied. they had no automobile exhausts. chlorofluorocarbons. and though earth is many times larger in size than Easter Island. kill all of its birds. and overexploit its resources. . Unlike us. degrade and eradicate natural systems and plunder resources from all parts of the planet. earth itself is. Footnote 1: Just like Easter Island. the above collapse occurred even as "vast amounts of open-space" visually appeared to remain theoretically-available to the island's human occupants. nuclear wastes. also an island (in space). so is the size of our population. industrial wastes. oceans.

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