Predictions of Environmental Doom

Discussion in 'Earth Science' started by madanthonywayne, Apr 21, 2011.

  1. Trippy ALEA IACTA EST Staff Member

    See though, here's the thing - you don't have to take my word for it.

    Here's a graph I prepared earlier for a similar discussion:

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    Here's where I got the information from: Source.
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  3. universaldistress Extravagantly Introverted ... Valued Senior Member

    Even if your graph is correct the total is still going up. For the net growth to tail off completely as well there would need to be a new or increasing pressure (lack of water, lack of food). What do you believe is the main factor that is tailing off the rate of growth? Once Africa develops better methods of water acquisition and irrigation through increased wealth (China is pumping in money and seeking to build factories) then we could see another population explosion. They would still foster attitudes of having large families, and with increased wealth (increased rainfall too) there is a big chance that any data at present has no way of factoring in such possibilities.
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  5. Odin'Izm Procrastinator Registered Senior Member

    There is a global trend of economic and social development to bring smaller families and longer life. There wont be a population boom in developing economies as many are already having 5-8 children. Once they develop the need for large families will drop.

    Animated Graph:

    "In the 1950s, most countries in Latin America, Asia and Africa had low life expectancy and high birth rates; in most cases, more than 5 children per women.

    Only five decades later, most of those countries have less than three children per woman, and much longer lives."- H.Rosling

    TED talk on the subject:
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  7. Trippy ALEA IACTA EST Staff Member

    The graph is correct - I provided you with the raw data so that you could open excell, or open office calc, or whatever your prefered spreadsheeting program is and verify it for yoursel.

    And the claim I made wasn't about the total, was it? The only thing I said about the model was that in most cases it was expected to plateu by 2050.

    What I said was that the second derivative was negative. The first sign of a declining population.

    The first derivative is the rate of population growth.
    The second derivative is the way the population growth rate is changing.

    The fact that the second derivative is negative means that the rate at which population growth is increasing is itself decreasing.

    Or, to put it another way (using arbitrary figures) in the last 12 months the population increased by 600 million people, but in the 12 months before that it increased by 700 million people.

    The only thing that would be required is for current trends to continue.

    As far as food and water goes - we're already under pressure.

    As someone else is fond of saying - prosperity is the ultimate contraceptive.

    History suggests otherwise.
  8. universaldistress Extravagantly Introverted ... Valued Senior Member

    Believe me, I get everything you are both saying; I suppose we will have to wait and see

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  9. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    A necessary but not sufficient condition.

    The second derivative can remain negative while the population continues to increase, indefinitely.

    Which will not happen, of course, but probably in consequence of factors omitted from such models. The question is not whether that will be prevented, but how; because this:
    is only half true. The worst case scenarios also have the population plateauing and then decreasing in the visible future.

    What we would like to avoid, or if the pessimists are correct have avoided, is the overshoot common to such population booms in ecological generality. Not only because the bust of such booms is so ugly and horrible, but because boom and bust patterns lower overall carrying capacity in the short (millenia) term - the recovery time is measured in many generations.
  10. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    No, not indefinitely. The closest you can come to that is to start with:
    • A positive first derivative
    • A second derivative that is slightly negative but rising toward zero asymptotically.
    With the right initial values you could have a population that is increasing but at a slowing rate. It will rise indefinitely but only toward a maximum value it will never quite reach--the asymptote.

    It may be correct linguistically to say that it is increasing indefinitely, but I don't think that is proper mathematical terminology. Besides, population is discrete. Eventually it will reach a value that is only one organism less than the asymptote and it will either remain there or rise to the maximum, but in either case it has halted its "indefinite" rise.
  11. Trippy ALEA IACTA EST Staff Member

    Aside from the fact that population is a discrete variable, I have one other objection to this scenario. That is that eventually it has to reach a point where, because of the natural variation in the total human population, and the growth from year to year, the population growth becomes indistinguishable from zero growth. If it's not zero growth at that point, what, precisely, are you supposed to call it?
  12. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    As far as I can tell, we are in agreement. So I don't understand the question.

    If the second derivative of population remains negative, as Ice postulates, the first derivative (if it starts out positive) must eventually reach zero, after which it will, except in special cases, become negative and population will begin to shrink. Particularly with a discrete variable, since a continuous variable could reach a special case of asymptotic attenuation.

    His assertion, that population can continue to increase indefinitely when its second derivative is negative, is, therefore, falsified.
  13. Trippy ALEA IACTA EST Staff Member

    Yeah, I thought I made the question a seperate paragraph - oh well.

    It wasn't neccessarily directed at you, and perhaps should have had a percontation point.

    The only additional point I made was that because of it's nature as a random variable - some years more people are born than others, other years more people die than 'average' so at some point this interannual variability (combined with autocorrelation) must mask the population growth of say, 1 person per decade, or 1 person per century.

    Or, to put it another way, if the growth rate is close to zero, and the variability is sufficient, then there is no way to distinguish an underlying growth trend from zero growth.
  14. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    You seem to be thinking of the logistic, the common curve used by ecologists to model population dynamics. It is not necessarily the right one to model human population growth, because humans continually change their ecological niche via technological innovation.

    It is possible to have the population curve approaching an asymptotic line with a positive slope - not necessarily a horizontal line. In that case it approaches a certain rate of increase - the slope of the asymptote - but not a maximum value. Think of a "sideways" hyperbola.

    It is also possible for it to avoid even that, and increase significantly forever with no asymptote - think the curve of the square root function: negative second derivative, no maximum value or asymptotic line. This is common in situations involving self-damping exponential growth, btw - exactly the situation we are considering.

    But that was just a technical quibble, of little bearing on the reality - no one presumes an indefinitely increasing population. The question we face is the what exactly will curb it, and when. The notion that some mysterious effect of prosperity will bring us to a plateau short of a disastrous overshoot of the ecological capacity of the planet

    - at whatever level of technology has produced that prosperity, also somewhat mysteriously attained -

    is not safe. We have no visible mechanism, or adequate understanding. We cannot, for example, extrapolate to everyone duplicating the means and support of the prosperity of the current industrial states with (allegedly) plateauing populations: that would overshoot the carrying capacity immediately, seriously damage the ecological systems involved, and create a bust to a population level considerably below the current one.
    Last edited: May 5, 2011
  15. wellwisher Banned Banned

    Doom and gloom science makes use of the subjectivity of risk and therefore the subjectivity of fear. The subjectivity of fear, in turn, allows science to use the most watered down standard within science, called risk analysis.

    For example, say I came up with a correlation for cloud shapes, that only works 1 in 100 clouds. People would laugh at me, since 1 in 100 is not a very good correlation. It would not be called very scientific until I get closer to 100.

    Let me change the correlation, so I can use the buzz word "risk" to generate fear. My second correlation is also exactly 1 in 100. In this case 1 in 100 animals in the woods will have rabies (hypothetical). Because of the fear of rabies, nobody will laugh at this correlation. The two correlations have the very same data weight, but the subjectively of fear will cause the fear science to appear to have more weight.

    Gloom and doom sciences of the earth gets to enjoy the highly watered down standard of fear science.. If I try to say all is well with the earth, the standard may be 99 out 100. But the fear standard gets to use 1 to 100 since the fear will make people irrational and not able to see how watered down this really is.

    Science needs to rate different platforms of science on an objective scale, with the subjective standards of fear science being stated as being at the bottom. This way people don't assume 99/100 and 1/100 are both carry the same weight, since both are called science. But since there is a lot of money at stake, don't expect an objective standard any time soon.

    Rational relationships have the strictest standard. One bad data point can be enough for a revision. Newtonian equations for gravity needed to be revise when relativity appeared.

    Statistical models get to enjoy a slightly more watered down standard. The math makes provisions to deal with bad data so the correlation can stand even with bad data. If Newtonian gravity had used statistics, relativity might be within the margin of error. This would allow it to linger even though rationally it needed to upgrade.

    The special case of fear/risk science is watered down even further with 1 in a million often good enough. The other 999,999 data points we are able to ignore due to the subjectivity of fear and presentation.

    Maybe this can help the objective science rating standard so when we can compare science methods side by side, we can give each the proper weight and thereby avoid so many bad fear calls about the earth.
  16. adoucette Caca Occurs Valued Senior Member

    So what do you suggest be done?
  17. kurros Registered Senior Member

    Do you actually know anything about statistics? The above post suggests the answer is no.
  18. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    What we're seeing is consistent. In Third World countries where the average family size one generation ago was twelve children, it's now eight. In places where it was eight, it's now five. Five, three (e.g., India), etc.
    Balderdash. Prosperity has proven to be the most effective contraceptive. People in premodern cultures had large numbers of children for several reasons.
    • Most of them would die. Vaccines and antibiotics have solved that.
    • They needed help running the farm. Until the Industrial Revolution, 99.9% of the human race was doomed to "careers" in the food production and distribution "industry." In the developed world that figure is now about 3%.
    • They needed someone to take care of them when (and if) they became old. In the developed world there is enough surplus wealth for people to invest so that they will be able to simply pay other people to take care of them in shifts, as a choice of occupation. And today's quasi-socialist governments try, with varying degrees of success, to care for those whose investments didn't work out.
    • They didn't have good contraceptives. That factor has been thoroughly taken care of.
    • There wasn't much else to do. Today people have many choices of recreation, intellectual and cultural enrichment, community-oriented activities, or simple debauchery as alternatives to serial procreation, many of which are attractive enough to compete with the instinct to seed the world with one's own DNA.
    None of this is particularly controversial.
    Since I'm one of the oldest people here I'm always amazed that you young whippersnappers don't understand the concept of the Paradigm Shift, especially when you trip over the latest one every time you get out of bed and check your e-mail. Just as the Industrial Revolution completely rewrote the rules of business, government, recreation, social relations, morality and economics that were developed during the Iron Age, so too is the Electronic Revolution (Information Age, Post-Industrial Era, Computer Age, whatever you want to call it) turning the industrial world upside-down and shaking it.
    • The massive concentrations of surplus wealth or "capital" required to build the Industrial Era's infrastructure are no longer needed, nor are the environmental depradations. China has given nearly every citizen a telephone without turning its forests into telephone poles.
    • As a result, the entire construct of the corporation--whose only advantage is the ability to raise large amounts of capital--is becoming obsolete. Look at the American corporations changing from producers to scavengers, dismantling the carcasses of their fallen competitors until they too fall over dead.
    • The constant travel that centralized work mandated is no longer necessary. The only reason corporations continue to make their staff "go to work" every day even though they all have telephones and computers at home is that their management style is as obsolete as their business model, and they can't figure out how to manage people they can't spy on. I.e., don't consider your Toyota stock a solid bequest to your children.
    • As the production of necessities, from food to housing, becomes almost fully automated, human labor turns to the new primary commodity: information. Unlike physical commodities, once a virtual commodity is created, its cost of duplication and distribution is almost too cheap to meter.
    • Every economic model from Adam Smith onward has been based on two unspoken assumptions: A) Production and consumption will continue to increase because there will always be more people; B) People will always be primarily employed in building tangible stuff. This Paradigm Shift will turn economics on its head.
    • In summary, the evils of the industrial world are obsolescent. This doesn't mean that there won't be new evils in the digital world. But we won't see them coming and won't be prepared for them if we continue to focus on the evils of a world that is rapidly fading away.
    This is what went wrong with the American South. They were so busy building the greatest, most beautiful, most noble medieval storybook fantasy, complete with mansions, fancy-dress balls, an aristocrat class and a yeoman class (comprised of slaves because there was no other way to attract people to that role), that they completely missed the Paradigm Shift of the Industrial Revolution. Even if they hadn't been defeated militarily, their economy would have collapsed like the Soviet Union in another generation and Queen Victoria would have happily welcomed them (and their cotton) back into the Empire.
  19. quinnsong Valued Senior Member

    Fraggle, everything you wrote in this post rings true to me, you make it sound like good old common sense!

    Couple of questions though!
    Can u give examples of how corporations have gone from producing to scavenging? How should we prepare for this shift? Lastly, will you be the worlds next modern day Adam Smith?
  20. cosmictraveler Be kind to yourself always. Valued Senior Member

    It is better to err on the side of caution rather than reap the harvest of an environmental nightmare.
    Last edited: May 12, 2011
  21. John99 Banned Banned

    Except only one or two softballs is entirely accurate.
  22. quinnsong Valued Senior Member

    Can u tell me which ones are not and why?
  23. John99 Banned Banned

    All of them.

    Especially in the last part but i will discuss any of them.

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