Feb 15

It’s the Population and Human Nature, Stupid!

In Brief—An examination of the impacts of our planet’s human population and of their inherent nature. You may not agree with the author’s conclusion and are invited to tell him why you disagree with him.


The Ugly Truth About Human Nature—

Cancer cells keep reproducing until they kill the host. Humans will keep reproducing until our home is destroyed. It’s human nature to have and even enjoy sexual intercourse. In case you don’t get my point, I see humans as a cancer on planet Earth, the only home we have. The time in which we live isn’t called the Anthropocene for nothing. Humans have shaped Earth and humans will destroy it and themselves along with it.

Many of you may recognize the Clinton administration’s motto, “It’s the economy, Stupid! Well, it isn’t the economy I will focus on today, but the subject that virtually all the Important People refuse to mention even though it contributes to almost all of the environmental problems we face today: EARTH’S POPULATION.

The current population of Earth is reported to be well over 7 billion humans on the way to 8 or 9 billion or more by mid-century. Our planet’s carrying capacity is estimated to range from 2 billion humans to a wildly unrealistic 40 billion. In fact, nobody really knows how many humans can live a decent life. It’s a fool’s errand to attempt to predict the future. However, given what we know, we can make a reasonable guess…and the guess not only isn’t reassuring, it’s downright depressing.

I’ve been accused of being pessimistic or a Casandra, but the facts I present paint a realistic and shocking picture. Reality trumps optimism here.

Population and Human Nature—

Damon Runyon is alleged to have said that the reason sex is so popular is that it is centrally located. Research shows that many humans produce slightly more than two children (the replacement level). Some have as many as five or more. Humanity adds about 140 new hungry mouths every minute or roughly 70 million humans per year. Some parts of the world such as Japan and Europe are relatively stable with births and deaths about equal, but about four times as many humans live in parts of the world where the growth rate is quite rapid, well above the replacement level.

Thus, the population level coupled with the power of the sexual urge indicates that Earth will have more humans in a world that is already experiencing difficulties feeding the existing population. What’s of even more concern is that these have-nots want more of the luxuries most of us enjoy.

“I Want More of What They Have”—

It’s human nature to want more than you have, particularly if you don’t have enough to assure security. Even the Judeo-Christian Ten Commandments warn against covetousness. People in China, India and throughout Africa want a car. Corporations are responding to that desire. Cars cost money, require gas and oil and create pollution. Expanding airline travel is available to more people and causes pollution. Refrigerators require energy to run. Communications and infrastructure are expensive. Think of the goods and services that are needed to fill the demands of the have-nots.

Profit-Seeking is Destroying the Planet—

I have mentioned the demand for goods and services. Where does all this come from? Some humans invest in products and services in the expectation of earning a profit. It’s normal and the world is based on this capitalistic model. Even Communism must invest in producing what its adherents demand. Put clearly, the profit motive is universal. It also drives planetary destruction. Can you think of how to avoid this destructiveness?

Is There a Solution?—

What are the possibilities for humanity to survive? The areas are subject only to the limits of imagination. You might want to pick one or more areas and examine the possibilities from several angles. Mind Mapping, a helpful tool for organizing thoughts, can assist you.

A few areas of many can provide you with a selection from which to choose. Here are some areas for exploration that I ripped off the top of my head.

Science. Technology. Cosmology (other planets). Food. Disease. War and Peace. Conservation. Education. Equality. Climate Change. Sexual Attraction. Communication. Economics. Infrastructure.

The Inescapable Conclusion—

I have given considerable thought to a number of areas and have come to the conclusion that the population and human nature lead inexorably to the end of humanity. Consider just one factor: Earth’s resources are finite, that is, they are limited. That’s an essential element for you to factor into your thinking about possible alternatives to my conclusion.

I suggest that you set aside an hour and a half to watch the documentary “Surviving Progress.” Many of the conclusions raised in this piece are discussed in this fascinating documentary, but I believe that the final minutes are unduly optimistic. Best guess is that the producers—and maybe some of the participants—don’t want us to go away feeling the situation is hopeless.

I close with my take on the biblical admonition: “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” Your thoughts?


Skip to comment form

    • Donna on February 16, 2015 at 05:15

    One partial solution to the population explosion is education for women, good health care, and rights for women In developing countries,
    Statistics have shown that once families are assured that their children will survive, they have fewer children.
    Eliminate child marriages and you reduce the number of years a female might bear children.
    Women with education are more likely to limit the number of children because they value education for their children also and don’t have the resources to send many children to school.
    These are only a few ways in which the population could reduce the rate of growth, but it is probably not enough to radically change the explosion taking place now.

      • Don Bay on February 16, 2015 at 17:58

      Good advice, Donna. Education is critical. The problem I see is that it’s a long-term project that won’t pay off for a generation. While it is important, what of all those who are denied education by reason of religion or poverty?

      I am currently writing a blog piece on Islam that among other enormous problems is male-focused to the exclusion of females. The Taliban extremists are just one example of the belief that females are not to receive an education but must devote themselves to their husbands and their deity. It’s ignorance like that that poses just one hindrance to better lives for all humanity. Education is necessary, but it’s not enough.

  1. I will take a pessimistic view in this case and explain what I not only think will happen to humanity, but pronounce that what I think will happen is the NORMAL course of events.

    How many times has this planet reinvented itself physically?….many, many times. How many species have come and gone on this earth?….very many. How many civilizations have appeared and disappeared from the face of our planet?…..many, as well.
    As you point out Don, everything (most things) that we (man) are doing is natural. We don’t intend, as a community, to harm ourselves as we acquire, use, and waste. But, our actions surely do, and I propose that those actions are following a natural plan.
    We are the most knowledgeable and enlightened human population on this earth to date. We can SEE what we are doing to ourselves and identify it as bad and likely to lead to our demise. But here’s the thing (as I see it)……So what?……Now doesn’t that sound flip?

    The ancient Romans built, acquired, used, and wasted, until they failed. They, and many civilizations before and after them have done exactly the same thing. It’s what we do. This is part of the reinvention cycle, as I see it, and I doubt it can be stopped. Could we stop it? Maybe. But, I doubt we will. Not only is it not in our nature.

    Over the next 5 billion years the Sun will burn the last of its hydrogen, bloat up as a red giant and consume the Earth as it vanishes. This is widely believed and if true we will never be thought of again. My guess is that there are hundreds and hundreds of planets similar to ours inhabited by life forms in various states of development and advancement and they too will form, build, advance, and die. It’s one of the cycles of the universe. The same cycle that can be witnessed in even the smallest life form.

    As I say, we are advanced enough to be able to project into the future. We have enough knowledge to see what is happening….and it scares us. But I doubt that there is a solution. People will propagate, use, waste, and fail.
    Modern technology may hold out some hope of neutralizing mans propensity to destroy himself, but I doubt that it will ever be implemented in a way that will change what I see as the natural course of events.

    So I will take your advise Sir and, “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” ….and surly we will.

      • Don Bay on February 17, 2015 at 10:07

      Wow! Somebody who agrees with my assessment. I have taken the position for many years that humans stand about a 5% chance of surviving THIS century…and that’s just my optimistic view. Since I won’t be around to see if my view comes to pass, I won’t be put in the position of having to admit I was overly pessimistic. I genuinely admire the men and women of science, but I think they’ll be a day late and a dollar short. Then there’s the Law of Unintended Consequences. Your points are on the mark even if you are a bit more optimistic than I am.

      I’ve since looked more closely at what I see everywhere in the world and the result is what readers can read in this posting. My pessimism knows no bounds.

      1. As many years as I have known you, Don, I would not have described you as a pessimist. But it seems that, like me, your sharp edges have been worn down over the decades. Which further proves my theory,….that everything wears down and fades away. From the smallest cell to the largest civilization….they all reach their end….whether by natural evolution or by their own hand.
        I think your time-line is a little short, but your conclusion will come to pass….no doubt. And, who knows, the Earth may get down to a few hearty survivors and it’ll all start again. The new order will have a chance to make it right. But, they’ll most likely blow it too.

          • Don Bay on February 19, 2015 at 16:05

          Well, maybe I’m a bit pessimistic (at least in my old age) but I prefer to call it “realistic.” In several respects I have mellowed, but in important ways, I have grown more radical in that I now look at it realistically and openly call them as I see them.

          The beauty of my short time-line is that I won’t be around to see if I was reasonably accurate or grossly short-sighted. In any case, human nature is to continue doing the same things day after day until it is panic time at which time it’s too late. Neither a deity nor science will bail humanity out of this one.

          Earth has only a limited number of resources and those are dwindling fast as more humans want the same sort of stuff you and I have. Those hardy survivors will have to learn that their predecessors used up much of Earth’s resources. They’ll have to make do with what’s left. Good luck with starting over with less. Limitations!

  2. Okay Dave and Don, I happen to agree that we’re doomed, but let’s go back to Donna, who is more interested in what we can do in the meantime. To her comments about poverty I will add the requirement of the IMF and the World Bank that countries receiving aid have to charge school fees. That is keeping many children who are living in poverty out of school. Parents just can’t manage the fees. And if education helps to slow reproductive rates, then this ridiculous requirement is getting in the way. Africa, which has the highest continental birth rate in the world and the highest level of poverty, also has the culture that says a family needs lots of children to support the old folks, among other things. Education helps to deal with all of that.

    What’s my point? The patient is dying but let’s try to keep her comfortable as long as we can.

      • Don Bay on February 19, 2015 at 16:31

      You and Donna are right that humans have to address the problems without thinking about the disaster that lies just around the corner. It’s the old story of Where there’s hope, there’s the possibility of prevailing. That’s good as far as motivation goes, but that disaster still lies just around the corner.

      Do you think that the politicians and technocrats in charge are going to change their policies to deal with this problem? Possible, but we shouldn’t count on it. I referred to “panic time” in my response to Dave. The World Bank and IMF must panic and realize that their policy is self-defeating and back away from the budget-balancing. It’s either that or the people in the countries affected have to develop the ability to pay those fees. How long will that take? The clock is ticking and disaster is approaching.

      Fingers crossed that the patient will survive if we start working on getting over the hurdles that lie in our path. Human nature and limitations are major hurdles. I wouldn’t bet the farm on the comfort stuff.

Comments have been disabled.