There were some emails about my article about being able to feed 40 billion people with today’s agricultural productivity. Food, energy, water, and ecosystems are connected. The complexity of those systems is secondary. Why do people have large families? What is happening within countries that go from poor and breeding to wealthy and stabilized? Very big events in history show the uselessness of some of the arguments that are made about the topic of overpopulation.
Family Size, Public Health and Pensions
People in Africa are still having 5-8 kid families. Why? They have no pensions. The kids are the pension plan.
They have the reasonable expectation they will lose 2-3 kids before they grow up as a pension plan. The extra kids are spares to cover expected losses.
This is why Africa’s population will double from 1.3 billion to 2.6 billion around 2050 and then double again by 2100.
The result in 2100 will be about 12 billion in 2100 and still going up. The world we have now is about 8 billion and then Africa adds 4 billion. The world population becomes 12 billion by 2100.
Fix Africa and Asia for Family Size, Public Health, and Pensions
Asia is already becoming developed and its population growth is slowing. Asia is projected to go from 4.5 billion to about 5.2 billion and stabilize. We add about an additional half of China’s population and maybe Asia is stabilized. How is this happening? They have healthcare where they know if they one kids or two kids then with 99% certainty they have that many adult kids.
Why can they have just one kid sometimes? They have pensions in Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan. China is also ramping up pensions to higher amounts.
Pensions and public health happens in an effective way can happen as per capita income gets to $15,000 to 30,000 per person per year.
This means the people are using 10 to 20 times the resources than poor people in Africa. You do not have consistent population stability when people are poorer. I am happy to be shown data on large samples where this is wrong and where the people want to stay at that poor, stable level forever.
Make Africa fully developed and the population growth slows down in a sustainable way. So instead of 5 billion poor Africans with a growing population, you have 3 billion fairly wealthy Africans. The 3 billion fairly wealthy Africans are using the resources of 15 to 30 billion poor Africans.
Where has the sacrifice and reduce message worked?
Affluent Americans and rich Americans are pushing the sacrifice and sustain message. However, they are not pushing their own consumption to the level of true sacrifice. Al Gore flies on private jets and has multiple large homes. Reducing personal waste and recycling does not prevent 40% of the expired food to be tossed at supermarkets.
Being a religious recycler does not mean your ecofootprint is smaller when your family drives two SUVs and vacations in Europe and Mexico. Driving on fifty road trips in a used Volkswagen van is not offset by separating out the recycling.
China One Child and China Wealth
The big “win” for the population control message was China’s one-child policy. China used the One-child policy for about 40 years. Although, two children were allowed in the countryside. I think they should not have used the forced abortions and other coercion. A marketing or propaganda campaign could be somewhat justifiable.
China used the one-child policy to get to only one double of its population and stabilize. Stabilization probably would have happened at about 1.7 billion without the policy.
China now uses about 10 times the resources on a per capita basis as in the 1960s. China will go up another 4 times on a per person basis in wealth and income.
Sacrifices to Get Rich But Not to Stay Poor
Every nation knows that China is climbing the path to developed wealth. They see India on the path. Pakistan ate said they would eat dirt to make a nuclear bomb and now they have about 90. The people of Pakistan will do anything to keep up with India. Families will make the sacrifices so that the next generations do better. This is the pattern and belief in the undeveloped world.
The “have less” and “do without” messages will not play in Asia or in Africa. Africa could stay poor because they fail in development. They will not stay poor because someone hops out of an SUV or from Boeing 787 and tells them to stay poor and sustainable.
I suppose “Hollywood Environmentalists” can support leaders like Chavez and Maduro to take global middle-income countries back to poverty.
12 Billion Forced to 6 Billion is Actually 1000 Holocausts
World War 2 killed 100 million people and did not deflect the population growth curve. It suppressed population growth a little and then there was the baby boom.
The developed world population is flat and in a few cases is falling. That is 1.2 billion of the 7.7 billion.
The developed world people use 10 to 20 times more resources on a per person basis.
If the current developed world population disappears by 2100, then the world population is 11 billion in 2100 and still growing. By 2120, the world population will still be 12 billion.
The 5 billion in Asia are becoming developed world countries from 2030 to 2070.
So we can slow down the growth and stabilize but it means ramping up resource usage on a per person level for everyone in Asia and Africa.
Talk about reduction and sacrifice all you want, I believe you end up not getting significant or meaningful adoption. That marketing message will not play in most places. Unless you are talking to someone already at high resource usage and has it so good that they have time to think hey let me guilty about this.
I ignore the 12 billion forced to 6 billion talk, because Stalin and Hitler were monsters. Stalin and Hitler were monsters with some of the most powerful military forces of the mid-20th century. The 12 billion forced to 6 billion talkers are sending emails and are better dressed people with signboards. The signboards say – the World is Doomed – Repent.
War and Forcing Africa to Stay Poor Will Not Work – So How Do We Get to Sustainable?
War does not get you to sustainable unless it is complete annihilation. Beyond nuclear war to kill everyone. Obviously, that is horrific and stupid. Although there are some anti-humanist pushing it.
The plan has to accept that we have to get everyone to fully developed status ($30K+ per person). The undeveloped will not willingly accept the alternative.
The world does convert to non-fossil fuels. However, it will not be through demanding it with sacrifice. It has to make more profit than fossil fuels and be compelling economically.
We make all trucks and cars electric. This is not just the 100 million per year that we have now but the 2 billion in installed base later.
If the sustained level is at 12 billion fully developed, then the installed base of cars and trucks probably is not 2 billion. It will likely be 5 billion. A lot of robotic cars and self-driving could change this.
However, more wealth does mean more stuff. More income involves more transactions. More things bought and sold means more stuff moves. More things moving means more trucks, trains, ships, and planes. The more stuff is measured in container units. The world has around a billion container units in global shipping. 10 billion tons. This is with 80% of world being quite poor.
The realistic technological solution for energy involves mass produced nuclear, high-voltage grids, massive energy storage and integrated cities. It will involve management of ten to twenty percent of the oceans.
Animals and Plants Get What is Left
We currently manage over twenty percent of world land for agriculture and forests. We are currently using driftnet fishing for the oceans and half the fish is farmed. These are like wasteful buffalo hunting. You drive a herd over a cliff.
The details on what are some options that could work involve many more articles.
The harsh but obvious truth is that the animals and plants get what is left. Humans take what we need and what is left is for animals and plants.
Planet of Apes and Avatar are fictional stories. However, 2 to 5 billion humans rising up have a lot of guns, bombs and other weapons.
We must do a better job of managing the world. But believing in unrealistic and unworkable plans are just a distraction and a waste of time.
The World is going to 80-90% urban with more wealth. Any real plan must sustain this.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
A frequent speaker at corporations, he has been a TEDx speaker, a Singularity University speaker and guest at numerous interviews for radio and podcasts. He is open to public speaking and advising engagements.