Overshoot and Collapse of global populations

Discussion in 'General Science & Technology' started by Donald Gordon Graham, Aug 29, 2017.

  1. Donald Gordon Graham Registered Member

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    1972's Limits To Growth speculated that some time after 2030, global population overshoot and collapse, from starvation caused by our pollutants poisoning our planet's food resources, from the microorganisms at the base of all our food chains clear up to us Apex Consumers, would become obvious if no effective detoxification response was invented. None have been.

    In 2012, that research was updated. "Overshoot and Collapse," aka "the Sixth Mass Extinction," was then expected NLT 2024. Fukushima's continuing contributions to our biosphere's pollutants was not included in the update.

    Global warming and climate change are due to only a few of the 90,000+ manmade chemicals floating about in our biosphere, yet little to nothing seems to have been written about what Claude Levi-Strauss called "the poisoning of the planet."

    Who's following and reporting on this existential threat from that perspective?
     
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  3. spidergoat Valued Senior Member

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    From the point of view of extinction, industrial chemicals and radiation are not the biggest factor, it's deforestation. Climate change is almost entirely due to CO2.
     
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  5. sculptor Valued Senior Member

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    <---planted 1458 trees on my land
    I seriously doubt that overpopulation is possible,
     
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  7. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    It is. Like extinction, it is first and most easily observed on islands.

    It's all relevant to a given technology, of course, and socially mediated - war, famine, and plague, hit long before the theoretical carrying capacity is actually breached.
     
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  8. Donald Gordon Graham Registered Member

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    However, we've never been forced to adapt to or die from our own chemicals poisoning our food chains from the microorganisms at their base clear up to us apex consumers. I don't know how to post the graph from LTG that got me interested in this existential threat to all life forms on this planet. Once any of the links breaks, how many more will it take before species begin to starve, including us homo sap's?

     
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2017
  9. river Valued Senior Member

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    We have alot to consider .

    We are though what we eat . The quality of our food matters .
     
  10. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    I must admit that, while I have seen many Malthusian predictions of doom from overpopulation (none of which seem to be valid), the only prediction of dooms I have seen related to pollution are those from destruction of the ozone layer (now seemingly under control) and climate change from CO2 increase (which is of course not under control, yet).

    If you have examples of doomsday predictions due to other pollutants, I'd be interested to read about them - so long as they are from reputable sources, of course.
     
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  11. origin Trump is the best argument against a democracy. Valued Senior Member

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    The collapse and near extinction of man in 7 years or less? Bet you a dollar we are still here in 2025. Now if Trump is still president in 7 years then the USA at least would deserve extinction....
     
  12. superstring01 Moderator

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    Every generation judges the future by the abilities contemporary to their judgment. Back in 1967, Star Trek imagined a future where women were still subservient to men and paper was still used to sign reports. While --yes-- that's science fiction, this fits nicely within the predictive models people had. Back in the 1800's predictions were made about over-population "solving itself" by way of starvation based on their estimates of what the land could produce. Consequently, we have a knack of focusing our creative enterprises in solving just the current problem we're facing.

    Crops can't be grown in dry soils? No problem. We can genetically engineer strains of wheat and corn that can do that.
    Problem with low rice yields? No problem. We can engineer a solution to that.

    We have just no way of predicting the complex reality of a world where we can design life as needed to suit our environment and/or computing technology that quite literally rewrites how we make economics (everything is data and data modeling now and once we get into super-forecasting, we aren't quite sure what will become of it).

    How much life can the Earth support? Using a variety of automated farming and genetically tailored crops? Unknowable but probably into the 20 billion mark. Will it be a great place to live? In the US, for sure. Western Europe too. We won't be absorbing those populations. Where it will hurt is in the places where people are clustered together and that may be a hellish place, but it's not necessarily an existential threat to people living in Argentina.
     
  13. sculptor Valued Senior Member

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    "Overpopulation" implies exceeding the carrying capacity of the land.
    true?
    Then as we near the carrying capacity there then is less food from the primary and secondary producers.
    The first to go will most likely be the herbivores as we compete with them for the nutrition from the primary producers. And then, we shrink so we need less while fertility drops so there are less of us.

    The poisons spread on our crops concern me, as does the draw-down of the ogallala aquifer, and non sustainable food exports to growing populations.

    We have had quantum leaps in increasing the carrying capacity of this earth. Using greenhouses, the Netherlands have introduced us to another potential leap.
     
  14. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    The other side to the population question (as distinct from the entirely separate one about pollution that the OP also raises) is what level of human population we expect to reach, eventually. The UN expects the most likely scenario is that is stabilises quite naturally, as the birth rate falls with increasing affluence. If so, then we may not have to rely on as yet unpredicted technical advances to solve the problem of how to feed them all. But it is true that their modelling is quite sensitive to birthrate assumptions.
     
  15. superstring01 Moderator

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    Global population isn't a concern per se (the numbers) but in terms of the unforeseen and previously un-predicted cascading consequences of our lives becoming more and more "consumption based". We've always been consumers, but predictions back in the 70's about how much a person could consume were under-estimated by a large margin. The consequences of not being able to feed those billions was OVER-estimated. In other words, the people aren't the problem any more -- we can feed them. The problem is that as those populations become wealthier, they too want all the creature comforts we get in the West (I'm an American). They want the iPhones, the tablets, the cars, the lawns, the clothing the nice homes. The spike in consumption means that we never quite assessed the cascading consequences of dumping huge, gargantuan amounts of pollution into the ocean while depleting them of life.

    We (I'm 42), barring something extreme, will see the die-off of most large oceanic life by the end of the century. My only hope is that we'll also take genetic samples, stumble on some ability to clean those oceans and re-populate them down the road (or take them with us as we build vessels in space). Either way, I hold no hope of the oceans having whales or large fish by the time I pass from this earth. We'll survive, because we will just keep engineering special crops and animals on land to make us survive, but it will be a goddamned shame when 60% of the biodiversity on land and the oceans are gone.
     
  16. sideshowbob Sorry, wrong number. Valued Senior Member

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    Amen. The problem isn't two billion Chinese; it's two billion Chinese cars.
     
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  17. Donald Gordon Graham Registered Member

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    I am unable to discern what image actually accompanies this response. My intention was to present some MIT research from 1972 that was included in "Limits To Growth." Their research was updated in 2012. What they called "Overshoot and Collapse" has evolved into "the 6th mass extinction event," which they expected would become obvious no later than 2024. In their graph, that would be the point where "deaths" intersects with "population."

    The original research expected that population would begin a globally significant decline ... from starvation caused by our man-made chemical pollutants poisoning our planet's food chains from the microorganisms at their base to us apex consumers. Everything that we eat, drink and inhale. Nothing about global warming, climate change, or extreme weather events, like Katrina 12 years ago and Harvey now.

    Similar extreme events have been happening all over the planet. We've just never been forced to recognize that they are what global warming looks like, until now.

    So what ... can WE Do now to prevent the next mass extinction of us and most, if not all other life forms from dying? Nothing, imho.

    What we can do is embrace our transition, our "Transformation," and find a "Black Mariah" to use when the pain of surviving is no longer "heroic" but pointless.
     
  18. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    I think the first thing is for you to do what I invited you to do earlier, which is to present, via extracts or links to web pages we can read, this theory that we are heading for a mass extinction due to pollution.

    This does not seem to me to be a well-recognised threat, so far as the general public is concerned and certainly I, as someone with a chemistry background and working in industry for 35 years, have never come across it.

    So, please, just for us ignoramuses, make the case first, before assuming its conclusions.

    P.S. For us Brits, a "Black Maria" is a police van in which miscreants are taken to the cells. I do not know what a "Black Mariah"[sic] is.
     
  19. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    By "we" is meant Monsanto et al? Or are the Chinese going to bail us out?

    Maybe. So far, we haven't had much luck along those lines - the GMOs actually created are slightly lower, not higher, yielding (exactly as one would expect from burdening plants with extra code to express, and setting things up so that the incentives lean toward maximizing profit rather than yield per se). There are obvious possibilities, such as engineering symbiosis with N-fixing bacteria, that could reverse this trend, but they haven't made it into the field - and in addition to being "uphill" ideas in the sense that they reduce corporate control and leverage, they might not actually work.

    They might even implode - agricultural innovations have a history of creating disasters in their early adoptions, before sufficient experience has been acquired, and we already have a half dozen potential GMO Chernobyls of global scope overhanging our situation ( genetic bottlenecking in everything from rubber trees to maize, insect population collapse, transportation system troubles, loss of local food security, etc).

    The time frame is suggesting urgency, meanwhile: the current highest-yielding rice fields are vulnerable to exactly those aspects of climate change that seem to be accelerating and coming in faster than was hoped, for example.
     
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2017
  20. origin Trump is the best argument against a democracy. Valued Senior Member

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    Here is the wiki on this book that Don was apparently referring to.
    Limit to Growth
     
  21. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    Yes I remember it from when it came out, the year I went to university. But it seemed to be based on exponential extrapolations and was widely discredited. I see from the link there are still some who see value in it, but I'd have thought if there was a looming pollution catastrophe we'd be hearing about it from more modern sources. As we do every day for climate change, for instance.
     
  22. origin Trump is the best argument against a democracy. Valued Senior Member

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    That was my thought on this whole matter too.
    There are enough real problems, no need to make any up...
     
  23. superstring01 Moderator

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    "We" as in the hundreds of universities, dozens of government institutions and a collection of companies like --but not limited to-- Monsanto.

    Can you support that assertion with --like-- an actual peer reviewed scientific study? Or am I to take you at your word? PLOS published a peer reviewed study that found that GMO crops resulted in a 22% increase, and a decrease of about a third in chemical pesticides. This doesn't even address the fact that significant portions of India can now grow maize that is drought resistant, something never before possible.

    The NAP published the largest peer-reviewed scientific study, all of its independent studies and results and found just the opposite of what you said.

    This says nothing about the increase in herbicides which, I do agree, is a huge problem but even that isn't entirely odd since without GM crops, herbicides would still be used because the modern application of those has little to do with the GM crops but more to do with how farmers apply them. That is: to reduce the need for tilling, herbicide producers (which aren't Monsanto), rolled out new products in the 90's on the promise that farmers could reduce erosion by simply not tilling, using their seeders to plant in fields, and spraying herbicides between the rows.

    They "might" do anything. What might happen is irrelevant and baseless speculation when it isn't supported with, well, something approaching the scientific method.

    Probably. I don't think China and India are going to tell their people, "Sorry. We're done industrializing. Too much pollution."
     

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