People worry about overpopulation because they have not looked into how food, family size, and money work. They have no basic understanding of numbers. I have researched this stuff a LOT but I think I can it make it fairly simple.
The doomers use “the people numbers are big – we can’t feed them”. People seem to have an intuitive urge to believe this lie. It is a quick elevator pitch and it drives the wrong decisions. Doomers say there will not be enough water, energy etc.. The not enough argument reaches lingering caveman psychology that there will not be enough. We do not have a cavemen world society.
The “I will not have enough” is part of the thinking which results in overeating.
This article will address “we will not have enough food and we will have too many people”. We are good on the people and food aspect for at least 150 years. Proof of solutions beyond that goes to technology that people do not believe now and do not need to believe.
My case here is with technologies that are proven and have been used for 200 years or more.
This will not have links to all kinds of science. I have done that elsewhere. Specific requests for proof will be provided in comment responses. I could create a background article with links.
What Matters for the Question of World Overpopulation
I see several parts to the problem where many people believe the doomer overpopulation myths.
The fear story resonates with deep caveman fears of starvation. Any individual person can experience hunger. This reinforces and validates the fear of potential starvation.
The small scale and valid fears and issues for individuals and small groups do not match up to real global risk. There are counter-intuitive aspects.
Is an objection – technical or some other subject relevant? I disregarded areas that I do not impact the core question of whether overpopulation is a true risk.
Scale of overpopulation issue for the world. 30% increase by 2050, 60%-200% increase by 2100. 100%-400% by 2150.
Nations and the world have far more margin for keeping people fed than people realize. We are NOT barely getting by. The avg person in the US eats 222 lbs of meat. USDA recommends that adults eat 5-6 ounces of protein daily, avg person will eat 10 ounces of meat and poultry each day in 2018. 30-40% of food is wasted in the US.
UK rationing during WW2 was 4-8 ounces of meat per week.
This means 20-30% underproduction would barely be noticed. Prices would go up on certain items which would shave demand. Eventually, this would trigger simple policies to reduce food waste. 10-20% gains from food waste reductions are relatively easy. This is so unimportant that most places do not bother. With a bit more time, an adaptation to 50-60% less food could be handled without people feeling like they are sacrificing. 90% reductions would be more like UK rationing.
Food production is increasing by a lot. The productivity of agricultural land will triple by 2030-2040. This not magic. Dozens of hectares with higher productivity are being grown now. China and other nations will scale them up.
This is all before going to building a lot of greenhouses which can boost productivity by 10-30 times. This is before the possible success of factory grown meat. Factory grown meat is now sold in restaurants. People pay more for the meat at high-end restaurants. It can be made to taste better. What if did not taste as good? Is it unnatural? People did not ask those questions about chicken nuggets. People love those things.
Factory grown meat can boost food productivity by 10X in terms of energy and water.
So we already have 2 to 3 times the food than we really need. The world can drop by 10 times and get by. Food production will go up 3 times within 20 years using business as usual agriculture. There is an option to use greenhouses on a larger scale for 30 times more food. Dedicated skyscrapers for greenhouses can boost food produced in a spot by 100X beyond greenhouses.
Factory produced meat can increase food production efficiency in terms of energy and water by 10X or even 100X.
Overpopulation was at most 3X by 2100 and 5X by 2150.
Wind versus Hurricane – have Ten Times (10X) Difference
There several large 10X are errors that doomers make. Regular people are often not aware of these errors, which causes them to be worried about overpopulation. You cannot get to the right conclusions if one 10X error is made. You will definitely get the wrong result if you make several 10X errors. A simple example of something being off by 10 times is wind. A ten mile an hour wind is a breeze but a hundred mile an hour wind is a hurricane.
People freak out about the population numbers. People have been freaking out about the population numbers for over a hundred years.
People ignore several things that have ten times the impact simply counting people.
Possessions versus People
The developed countries use ten times more stuff than the global poor people. Driving around in SUVs versus walking. Having far bigger houses and flying in airplanes.
The world population could double by 2100. However, 90% of the population will move up from very poor to develop. This will increase resource usage by five to ten times.
Eating at all you can eat buffets and fast food is actually only a tripling in calories versus the calories a poor person eats.
A ten times factor is that it takes ten tons of grain to get one ton of beef. Wealthier people eat more meat.
If we consider trying to feed 10 billion people in 2050 instead of 7.7 billion now. The doomer might say if we could not grow more food then 2.3 billion people would starve and die. However, another option is we can ration and eat half as much meat.
France is the country that does the best on reducing food waste by using public policy. They also have some of the best-tasting food in the world.
We will be able to grow more food. In the next section, I will discuss growing more food. We could just reduce food waste and feed another 2 billion.
How simple are the policies on food waste? France requires that supermarkets heavily discount the price of food that is nearing expiration. The supermarkets have to sell the food or donate before it goes bad.
India is one of the most wasteful places for food. You think but India has trouble growing food. Yes, India has 40% stunted population which means they do not have enough micronutrients. Even India can grow enough food for itself or afford to import what they need. India allows massive warehouses of food to rot. There is corruption and incompetence still allows $14 billion per year worth of grain and food to go bad. Millions of tons is stored in the open which allows about 2 million tons to rot in India alone.
Food rot is only part of the problem. Corruption leakages are where subsidized grain intended for the poor is actually diverted for sale on the open market. This causes the loss of an estimated 25 million tons of rice and wheat alone, according to a study by the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations.
We could also shift away from ethanol and biofuel production in the USA and Brazil. Ethanol and biofuel use crops and agricultural capacity to generate fuel for cars. Cars can be powered in far better ways that do not involve taking away food for people. This is a huge amount of agriculture which should stay agriculture.
Broadly applying France and Japan like policies, shifting from open storage and stopping the corruption of ethanol are things that I think could help feed 2 billion more people.
There have been no mass starvations in decades except for ones that are war or civil war based. The main starvation events have been the result of extreme incompetence in government. I am looking at Mao’s China and some smaller scale but terrible events in India.
So we are successfully feeding the 7.7 billion now. The world will have about 10 billion people by 2050 because of continued population growth in Africa.
Getting more food from farms.
Farm productivity is about 6 tons per hectare. There are large research farms growing 17 tons per hectare.
China’s Yuan Longping has set a goal of reaching a rice yield of 18 tons per hectare by 2020 and is in a race with other researchers.
Deployment of the newer generation of seeds and we can double food production. Seeds that are at a reasonable scale.
In less than 15 years, we can globally deploy new rice and other crops to triple agricultural production. This alone deals with feed any population we could have by 2100.
Greenhouses are over 200 years old. Even the old greenhouses are ten times more productive than open land. Even if the land has irrigation and fertilization. Greenhouses keep out the bugs and provide optimal growing conditions. The Netherlands, Denmark, and China have a lot of greenhouses.
China builds urban area every year like a city the size of Los Angeles every year or two. Construction could be redirected to greenhouses and scaled up towards 1% of farmland every year. If there was a priority for it. 1% of farmland with greenhouses would be a 10% increase in land. I have run more detailed costing and scaling numbers.
Going to the Less People Solution is Wrong
The doomers answer to everything is get rid of the people. Having the answer of getting rid of people is stupid, sad and useless.
The other guy you try to get rid of will not say ok sure. The other guy will not say… ok I have no kids..you convinced me.
Most of the Population Increase is in Africa
Africa is still unfortunately filled with poor people. They use fewer resources overall. There is the problem of them burning too much forest for cooking and heating.
Asia currently has 4.5 billion people and this will go to 5 billion. This will be almost flat. However, Asia is going from lower end South America per person wealth to high-end South America and even average European level of wealth. This could double certain resource usage.
Africa will double 1.3 billion by 2050 and then will double again by 2100.
Family Size and Immortality
People freak out about the possibility of Extreme longevity.
140 million babies per year and 60 million deaths. How many age-related deaths about 30 million. How many age-related deaths in non-super poor countries? Maybe 10 million per year?
Is that fair? Does an extreme life extension scenario have immortality magic at insanely low cost? Places that have trouble with good vaccination and clean baby birthing kits get even some kind of genetic injection longevity?
I am being optimistic with even people in the USA on Medi-CAL get access.
Ten million per year out to 2050 is another 300 million. Thirty million per year from 2050 to 2100 is 1.5 billion.
Those seem like big numbers. However, Africa staying at four child families versus 3 child families would be a bigger numbers impact.
Also, the scenario is that extreme longevity happens and people still marry and have kids at the same ages and still have the same sized families?
People start having kids at 18 in Angola and start having kids in the USA at 26. Go back to 1900 and most Americans are having kids at 19 or 20. More wealth and more longevity do move the age when a woman has her first child higher. This is when the mothers are only fertile from 14 to 35. 36 to 45 is possible now but with low odds and a lot of costly medical help.
With extreme longevity, fertility ages can go way higher. But it will not be used as much.
Do not fear 200-year-old people having a lot of kids and big families. Fear the 140-year-olds still living in the basement with their 200-year-old parents because the 140-year-old does not know what to do with his life.
Summing up the Food Aspect of Overpopulation
Moving the most wasteful countries toward the least wasteful in terms of food waste and storage could save large amounts of food. Crops are already being grown outdoors in multiple test farms which can triple food production. Those will be broadly deployed over the next ten years or so. Reaching 80% of farms and production over ten to fifteen years is a typical distribution level.
China has a systematic national policy for deployment of the better seeds.
Other Aspects in Other Articles
By 2100, almost everyone will have European levels of income or higher. Everyone will still be fed. The planet will be able to handle supporting 15 billion people with higher income.
The move off fossil fuels will have mostly happened but it will not have been done in a panic. This is a separate article. I will write a new article or articles on this. I have written about it before but I would like to simplify it. It also takes time to proof-read things. I had to re-write and proof-read this article.
There will also be an article about the connections between food, water, and energy. At a high level, tons of crops or meat can be expressed as the gallons of water needed to create them. Relatively simple new technology or methods will make water efficiency a lot better.
I have discussed energy many times in hundreds of articles. You can search for them. I will re-write and simplify some food and energy articles. It will take more time for me to form a clear communication.
There will be offsetting planet cooling technology. It will not be complicated or super-technology. I have discussed this before and I will write try to simplify it.
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.
69 thoughts on “Overpopulation Fears Come From Simple Mistakes in What is Happening”
Not here in the Great State of California. We’re building lots of solar power and electric cars. 🙂
Who says you can’t construct things in a green manner? All your construction vehicles, process heat etc should be green. Nuclear or renewable for all of it.
I’m BlueBeer…I don’t know why it didn’t change my username above. BlueBeer was the default username provided by the site debate system but I changed it to regular username which I use all around the internet. Neutrino78x is known throughout the world lol.
The microbiome consists of a about a hundred different species of bacteria. Instead of having a specialized organ to digest fiber we have outsourced the job to these bacteria. As our diets have changed to eating less fiber this has become a problem. It would be safer to get rid of these bacteria but we are stuck in this symbiotic relationship. Things are moving very fast on different ways of food production so the best way forward is uncertain at the moment. It would depend on how radically we would be willing to change.
Yeah, that’s exactly what the rest of the universe needs; a hairless primate virus (<= Sarcasm).
Sounds very reasonable and totally not like stringing buzzwords together to create/sustain a new religion (<= Sarcasm)
Considering the fact that the population is still growing, your statement about feminist pressure is clearly nonsense. But by all means, keep your belief in future technologies and developments, my non-existing kids won’t have to deal with any of it.
We need less than replacement, we need reduction (combined with sustainability efforts).
People in rich countries are clearly not responsible enough either so what’s your point?
Do you think building and maintaining all those power plants, solar panels and electric cars has no environmental impact?
How about the inverse question; “would we have resource challenges and environmental problems if we were with, let’s say, 1 million people globally (everything else beeing equal)?”. The answer is obviously “No”. Therefore, claiming the total number of people is not a problem is complete nonsense.
Please provide some reasonable evidence for this claim. But let’s assume you are correct; how long do you think it will take to manipulate ALL the genes of the ENTIRE population?
Here in the US, we lack the political courage to define what must be done and then set incentives in place to make it happen. I despair.
Peak oil already happened. It happened in the US. And it has already happen globally. People forgot the important adjective and that was “cheap”. The phrase was “peak cheap oil”. You can made oil out of air and water so if you are willing to pay enough then yes, there is no peak, otherwise we have already reached it.
Malthus can’t be wrong because math is never wrong. Eventually exponential growth will always overwhelm a limited resource. For some reason some people now a days take it as a political statement. I can guarantee that Malthus did not belong to today’s Democratic Party.
The reason why technology can’t win is that exponential growth is capable of overwhelming the speed of light.
Ed Hart, the combination of nuclear power along with renewables (a solar panel on every roof) and replacing all internal combustion engines with electric motors powered by batteries or hydrogen fuel cells (fuel cells for larger vehicles or ones that require more range, generated by green power) makes it sustainable. 🙂
That is because scaryjello is an engineer and deals with math and facts instead of allegory.
because the concept is obtuse.
As if this should be any discussion at all. Large families in 1-2 room houses or apartments was standard.
Even if rural you wanted to hurdle together simply as heating the house was an major issue, making firewood without chainsaws and other modern stuff is lots of work.
the earth is a seed. some of the stuff will die (anthropogenic extinction) but the tree that grows is worth it. ( space faring civilization). Poor scaryjello cant even understand allegory.
Within five years sequencing our genome will cost less than one dollar. If we manipulate our genes to do what our bacteria does now then our food requirements would be dramatically reduced.
Well, I don’t think anyone’s keeping your attention here against your will – are they?
Too many people look at the idea of irradiation and go “OMG! IT MAKES THE FOOD RADIOACTIVE!”
No, they don’t understand the concept, having been raised in a milieu where ‘nuclear’=Hiroshima/ThreeMileIsland/Chernobyl=BAD=OMGWe’reGonnaDie. It takes a lot to get people to unlearn their cherished preconceptions…
Of course people lived in far more crowded conditions 200 years ago.
I see several parts to the problem where many people believe the doomer overpopulation myths.
And you nailed it population growth is dependent on high birth rates.
Birth rates are falling all over, not only first world and China but in rest of Asia, middle east and latin america only large area left with high birth rates is Africa
Note that population in China keeps growing even if birth rate is below 2. This is simply as kids get born while the large generation groups back 70-30 years ago is still alive. If you have an high population growth for 2-3 generation and then low growth you get lots of old people and few workers.
This is why China has reversed it one child policy.
AI wont let us die when it is born. It will solve all the problems. In fact we may be in a simulator in the end of the universe Seldons law gone too far. What is the statistical probability you were born when humans create exponential intelligence. …We will have trillions of humans soon. Most will be born via artifical wombs. The AI cannot let us die or it will kill us. Only two options here.
Crisper modification of humans and food will allow us to get nutrients in ways unimagined. Most human tissue will be parralell processors for biological computers that run scipts of old rich people like bezos their cyborgs will live forever.
This process will culminate in a sentience the size of a solar system. Then we shall begin the epoc of the overman. Food is not an issue. The only threat to man is intelligence. Rising education and cuture reduces birth rate. Longevity will bring increased suicide. The only solution is to design the AI force us to live.
An expanding universe allows a larger and larger delta T and thus potential energy avail to processing reality via quantum reality. Gravity collects and aggrigates potential fuels for future use. High probablity that machine intelligence is already operating on kardashian levels just looking at physics and computation math. Occams razor may have also failed me some where in this chain of thought.
then go read some articles somewhere else. still the best news on the planet
basically we needt a space program as big as military and social programs combined.
when a tree sprouts from a seed it often consumes the organisms directly around it.
most the world is empty fly around on a plane and youll see. if we made everyone live at singapore standard and industry was mostly robotic we could easily get to 100 bil
Dont forget crisper modification of seed stock and vertical agriculutre in greenhouses. the size of skyscrapers. with sufficient technology the earth can sustain 100 billion or more. The real issue is that no one wants to have kids due to femenist pressure on mothers.
use a fiver,com proofer.
So much of these kinds of ideas are based on “We can change and…”. Eg. “We can reduce our food waste and feed 2 billion more people.” I constantly hear people say things like, “If we took half of the military budget and put it towards climate change technology (or world hunger or any number of other problems)” we could solve everything and live in Utopia. Of course, “we” is every individual in the developed world. Well, it’s obvious that every individual is never going to do any of these things unless they’re forced to. And no democratic government will ever force them to. (And no dictatorial government would ever bother.) Individuals do what they want given their little situations, and democratic governments only do what the individuals want them to do. The best you can hope for in any area is, for example, the Paris climate agreement, which is simply a statement of acknowledgement of the problem, not a solution.
With centuries and even millennia trying various systems, none has ever resulted in sufficiency for all. In all that time, one might think it should have come about at least once if it was at all feasible.
I’m afraid as long as money exists there will those with an insufficient amount for a basic existence.
“Even before we do that just reducing food waste would enable feeding another 2 billion.”
A major source of that waste is spoilage. We need to use radiation far more to preserve food. Much better than all the chemicals. We can can food without heating it. Just irradiate the cans. We are talking gamma radiation. It is just energy no particles, so no residual radiation. As long as you irradiate in sealed containers, no bacteria, or insects can damage the food. Grain can be preserved in large barrels and irradiated to last years and years. Store the barrels in caves or refrigerators, and if you have a bad year bring the stuff out. Rotate it a bit in between.
It is a proven technology used for decades: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_irradiation
Commerce requires ever increasing demand, this requires an ever increasing population. The interest of money goes before all other concerns.
I honestly think a trillion people would not be a problem if done brilliantly. We need effectively closed material systems or at least effectively closed in relation with the biosphere. We can continue to extract minerals from below the biosphere and from space. Energy we can also do with trivial effects on the biosphere using nuclear, and some other sources.
Recycling needs big research dollars. We need to recycle everything.
We need to manufacture food chemically synthesizing it and using tissue cultures and bacteria can also make ingredients.
We can also engineer people to require 1/10 of the food they currently need, make their own vitamins, and require less energy in other ways.
Its an interesting proposition … that we CAN produce sufficient food to adequately feed over 10,000,000,000 people in as little as +30 years. I think the thesis fundamentally “holds water”, and is accurate: technology itself will provide the abundance; it will not come for free, it requires substantial and pervasive investment. Yet, that investment will happen.
Others here have cited the strong correlation betweeen population growth and ecological resource exhaustion though, and I also think that that is not an unfounded concern. The world — not that long ago (1959) — only had 3,000,000,000 people. Then, and soon thereafter, came quite a bit of environmental regulatory activism in The First World countries, as they looked about and found unmoderated and unmitigated toxic pollution building, near-everywhere. It was clear that as population had blossomed, along with technology itself, that the multiplicative correlation was real, and the results decreasingly sustainable.
This is my take-away of life as a “Boomer”. Not a Doomer.
That we really do need to be good stewards of the remarkable resource wealth our planet holds. And to remember that resource demand definitely correlates to population growth.
I wear a mask because Ming is a spitter.
Yes, I grew up in Canada and English is a first language.
What I have is typing and proof-reading issues. I need multiple passes on proof-reading. I sometimes get slammed for time and just hit POST anyway. I think that it looks good enough. Yesterday, It was the wife and kids saying they wanted to go shopping all day. Now I have to go out again but only 1-2 hours.
I have hundreds of articles with links that breaks things down with links to the deeper data. Each of those articles will have like ten links that show that a statement I made was right. However, I was shooting for just walking through at a higher level.
I can see that some read it differently. I will have to try again on the writing.
The technology is clear though.
Simplification of argument is reductive. How do you tell someone where their eyes do not glaze over. I have been trying to talk to people and eyes glaze over with barely any numbers. If they want the articles and proof then they first have to have more belief in the case.
I need to pre-amble that I am mainly addressing feeding a lot of people and that is clearly not that tough.
Is there no belief on food waste? That this can be made 50% less of a problem fairly easily. If I go into the numbers I lose 90% of the readers. You don’t have to believe the 90% thing but if I want to counter the belief in the doomer story.
The doomers use “the people numbers are big – we can’t feed them”. People seem to have an intuitive urge to believe this lie. It is a quick elevator pitch and it drives the wrong decisions. Doomers also add not enough water, energy etc.. Not enough which goes to the caveman psych of we don’t have enough. But we are not cavemen.
“or how many Americans go hungry.”
39.9% of Americans are obese so hunger can’t really be that bad. I mean 40% are eating far too much food.
I have linked and summarized all of the studies in other articles. I will work on the links for the articles. I got caught on time. Xmas shopping with the wife and kids. Hit the linking and the proof-reading. I went back and did a proof read. I think it is better. Plus If I go to the networked impacted model then it is no longer remotely simple.
There are fundamental assumptions Brian is making, the climate being one. How about employment? Foxconn reduced its workforce by 700,000 in a few years by using robots. There is an automated warehouse in China that ships 200,000 packages daily and has a handful of workers. While the planet can produce enough food, transportation and wars can prevent its distribution as it has in the recent past.
If the human race continues to expand and take more and more of the natural environment we are heading in only one direction-to oblivion.
American women voluntarily achieved replacement level fertility (2.1 children per woman) in 1972. Yet Congress-mandated mass immigration is causing United States population to double this century. We are well on our way to joining India and China in the one billion club.
Do we really want to bequeath such a country to our children?
To clarify, I wasn’t claiming any of them were 100% vegetarian, only mostly-vegetarian – as in low-meat diets. That’s based on their religious views discouraging meat consumption.
However, there’s more than one religion in India, as well as other factors in play. I admit that I don’t know the exact statistics and may have been over-generalizing.
could you please stop spreading the lie that Indians are largely vegetarian. 71% population in India is non-vegetarian. the only reason Indian consume less meat is because of the cost. 1 kg of chicken is Rs 170-200
Hmm, another interesting point is that Indian diet is largely vegetarian, so probably won’t be much increase in meat demand from there.
Africans largely eat whatever they can get at the moment, I guess? Not enough income to have a lot of choice. I can see a big increase in meat demand coming from there as their income levels increase, with American culture’s McDonnald’s and KFCs etc moving in. But on the other hand, they could be influenced by Chinese culture, which is more seafood-oriented. Maybe they can be taught to stick to more resource-efficient diets (low meat?), same way as they’re skipping from no tech straight to mobile phones…
According to Brian, we won’t even need ocean farming for that. But fish and other ocean farms certainly would help.
If we’re talking 2050, much of the car, truck, and bus fleet is likely to be electrified by then. That means lower demand for biofuels, so that land can be freed up for food crops. Looks like that’ll happen automatically by market forces – lower demand for biofuels, higher demand for food. I also agree with Brian that greenhouses are pretty easy to construct, and we can have other productivity improvements for land farms like better seed variants.
The trouble with greenhouses is that they make harvesting more complicated. Doesn’t work well for large wheat fields, for example. But that may be not too hard to solve. Maybe some sort of movable foldable frame similar to what’s used for large-scale irrigation. Flexible transparent polymer sheet on top. Move these into position, then fold out the walls on the edges. Come harvest time, fold up the walls, move the frames, then bring in the harvest machinery.
For rice fields it’s even easier, since the machinery is much smaller. It can operate inside the greenhouse.
I’m not seeing any blue links to studies about water shortages, desertification, soil fertility, sustainable agriculture, or how many people die every day of starvation, or how many Americans go hungry. I’m not seeing anything about reduction of arable land due to unsustainable agriculture and the increasing desertification due to climate change, or the need to uproot all arable land and move it further north, or the net loss of 20% of this arable land. There’s no calculation of the numbers for mass migration due to the flooding of coastal cities or countries literally becoming too hot to live. It would be neat to see how much global agriculture is negatively impacted by blocking sunlight, a geoengineering idea posted earlier in this space.
I am seeing a lot of patronizing, being reductive, and glib answers. In full this post shows a complete disregard for the science of how biology and ecology work, as well as a genuine ignorance for the problems of economic distribution we face today and in the future. But that’s not all! Instead of being content to have stooped to the level of “racist uncle everyone must endure at thanksgiving” the author has gone lower, and with a constant tone of arrogance, reached the depths of “obnoxious boy genius who doesn’t know how to tie his shoe.”
And yet the narrative is even worse: “Don’t worry, things are fine, smart people are solving all these problems, the system works, nothing will ever go wrong, go back to sleep.”
People in rich countries should not share their resource usage with poor countries because poor countries are not responsible enough to reduce their fertility rate (especially in Africa).
I have much trouble with the basic premise of the author. Most of the world believes that human activity is the source of the global warming/climate change we fear so strongly. The world cannot possibly sustain a growing population if that population also wants to increase its quality of life by consuming more energy. Full stop!
In order to support middle-tier incomes for the next billion, and support an increase in population to 11 billion (mostly India and sub-Saharan Africa), we need to double agricultural output. I think that’s doable.
Meat production is a large contributor to increased demand, and lab-grown meat and sea farming may reduce that contribution.
Africa is a good example – inputs (not labor) are expensive, and labor productivity is low. Use of low-intensity low-labor agricultural practices may expand amount of land viable for production.
We need to back down from intense monoculture practices. IMO, the greatest threats we face are side effects from overly-intensive practices that don’t allow land time to recover or make our crops highly-susceptible to pests and diseases. Look at the Panama Disease now wiping out the Cavendish banana, for the second time!
If food costs do increase to the point where moderate and high income countries begin to see a real impact, expect to see currently marginal ideas gain traction. Vertical or urban farming (extremely high-density) may become competitive for certain high-margin products.
PS – @Brian we really need to get rid of the 1500-character limit. This is just annoying for long-format comments, which is where a lot of the value of NBF comes from, IMO.
Agricultural yields in Africa are woefully low. There is great opportunity there to double or treble yields. Due to disease, lack of irrigation, agricultural inputs, etc. African agriculture has yet to be fully utilized.
China has shown that it is possible to recover semi-arid/arid lands. Apply that expertise to the Sahel and northern Africa is still screwed.
Arctic tundra is not productive, but Pleicostene grasslands were far more productive in a colder climate. Is it possible to restore the ancient Arctic grasslands in Siberia and Canada? This would be a new source of meat for China, India, and Africa that wouldn’t impact agricultural productivity one bit since the steppe is too cold to grow food crops.
Ocean iron fertilization holds the potential to restore vast swathes of ocean to productivity.
Food inputs for meat and fish compete with food crops, but it’s likely that cultured algae will begin to make inroads as animal feed. Incredibly high-density, water use is limited, love sunny conditions.
This also means we have to take care of what we have. Fishery regulations and policies need to make sense, and need to be enforced.
No-till and permaculture practices may reduce labor inputs with only marginal decreases in productivity. Perhaps not effective in countries where cost of land is high, but in countries where cost of land is low, and inputs expensive, low-input practices may make sense, even if productivity/ha is decreased.
This article is a decent attempt to find something to talk about during an extremely sloooow news season.
Yeah I guess I agree people aren’t going to starve. I see what appears to be enough grain and soy grown in Delaware to feed the eastern seaboard.
The author has university degrees and grew up in English-speaking Canada (Saskatchewan?).
That is what Malthus said. He was proven to be so wrong the term Malthusian lives on with us today when talking about people who are equally as wrong. Peak OIltards are classic examples.
Had to go do xmas shopping. I will clean it up tonight.
Did we have people living in wardrobe size appartment 200 years ago?
What is important is 2X versus 1. If we are frugal and if we reduce pollution then we can support 10, maybe even 20 billion people. But the idea that we can continuously double our population every 30 yrs forever. That is a ridiculous idea. It isn’t politics, its arithmetic.
One problem is that we are dependent on the global eco system. Everything is connected. It’s also a fact that we are in the middle of a mass extinction event caused by rapid human expansion. Human beings are notoriously bad at reacting on things happening over time scales exceeding decades.
I don’t agree with what a lot of the author writes but I have not discounted what he says based on his grammar or spelling, that would be both dumb and snobbish.
If the writing problem were simply one caused by dyslexia, with words misplaced and misspelled, no problem. But the grammar is so bad that some sentences (?) are simply meaningless, which screws up the whole argument to the point where I gave up. I did get to the end of it, but was able to comprehend only chunks of it.
”Did I make it simple enough? Can it be boiled down to two paragraphs?”
Please do one more round of proofreading! Every second sentence needs a correction or some elaboration.
The problem is real pollution. No matter how clean things get there will be an impact per head. Most of the world is striving towards a much larger footprint at the moment. It might be good if we stopped exponentially reproducing.
“…Almost everyone will have European levels of income or higher…”
The current pop(7.7 billion) does not have European level income, when will they? Perhaps, when the pop reaches 14B, or maybe we just need to redefine “European level” and it could be true already.
Which particular European income level?
(Eurostat 2017- Median Income – Euro)
Family size will fall on it’s own when incomes get to a certain level and kids are seen a more of a lovable expense than free labor or a retirement plan. Check out China … But technically we can handle 10 Billion easily … we just need large scale ocean farming.
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