Predictions of Environmental Doom

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

  1. universaldistress Extravagantly Introverted ... Valued Senior Member

    Have you spoken to Billy T about your idea? He could probably better flesh out the process to follow in bringing an idea like this to the fore?
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  3. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    The second derivative means no such thing. A negative second derivative, in itself, does not mean the population will plateau, approach a plateau, or even slow down it's growth very much.

    The assertion about "current trends" is meaningless - the prophets of doom make exactly the same assertion, with exactly the same degree of validity, by projecting their choice of "current trends" into the future. Current trends cannot continue - the erosion rate of topsoil in the upper Mississippi River valley will slow down, for example. The drawdown on the Oglalla Aquifer will come to an end.

    The question is not whether the population, or any subpopulations, will achieve zero growth - the answer is yes, and everybody agrees on that. The question is what will make that happen, and whether or not we are facing a bust as the time-honored, ecologically standard (in other animals), and rapidly more plausible means of curbing the current boom.
    Last edited: May 14, 2011
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  5. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    Allow me to rephrase: most people cannot be trained to do "information work" at a professional level. Partly this is a sort of built in property of "information work" - it assumes either sequestered knowledge or superior ability to handle it. There's not enough room at the top of the information pile for most people.
    That's all going to be automated. The stuff that isn't will be very expensive.

    As an interesting and possibly relevant observation, information work is easier to automate than manual labor. We don't, for example, have to import Mexicans to handle arithmetic calculations.
    Last edited: May 14, 2011
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  7. Trippy ALEA IACTA EST Staff Member

    It is precisely what the second derivative means.

    The second derivative is the rate of change of the rate of change. To use an analogy, the second derivative of displacement and time is acceleration. If an object has a constant, negative acceleration, then the velocity must eventually reach zero, and the dsplacement plateu. In this analogy, displacement is the total population, velocity is the rate of population growth, and acceleration is the second derivative. The primary weakness of the analogy is that it requires consideration of an object moving in one dmension only, and there is a further point, which I will address below.

    You seem to be confused about what I mean when I say "Current trends".

    When I say 'current trends' I am referring exclusvely to the world population curve. When I say 'current trends' in the context of the world population curve that means 'If nothing more happens than the second derivative staying at its current level'. Considerations of Topsoil in the upper Mississippi and drawdown of the Oglalla Aquifer are irrelevant and meaningless.

    Then you're wasting my time with this discussion, as that is the only thing I have commented on (aside from suggesting that with some new ideas that are technically within our grasp today, 10 billion people - the projected population (ish) in 2050 may well be sustainable).

    It was precisely what was being questioned here: and discussed in the subsequent three posts, and in the post (of mine) which you chose to comment on (which admittedly I chose initially to ignore).
    Last edited: May 14, 2011
  8. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    If the object has a constant, negative acceleration, the velocity passes through zero and becomes increasingly negative itself. It does not plateau - all derivatives of a horizontal line are zero, none are negative constants.

    But if the velocity merely has a negative acceleration, as first proposed here and defended subsequently, but not necessarily a constant one, the conclusion (Fraggle's) does not follow.

    Are you suggesting that we simply take for granted the negative second derivative of human population growth is constant? That would be most unusual, for a population curve. Again, as I pointed out, you really need a mechanism for this stuff - and there is none visible. You would also need a mechanism to shut off the first mechanism when the growth hits 0, or you are predicting crash.

    For that matter, you need a reason to fix it at any particular number - there is no "current" number, because it's changing all the time. The people who are projecting a plateau around 2050 vary in their assumptions here, but as most presume a changing number - approaching a horizontal asymptote, second derivative 0 - they aren't much help.
    How was anyone supposed to guess that?

    There is no current trend of the second derivative of human population growth sticking and remaining at one, constant number, for the whole or any subpopulation. That has never happened before, and shows no sign of happening now.

    In some sort of abstract sense or theory, even without any such technological improvements that is possible.

    All you need are some favorable assumptions about the influence of unstudied factors, the notion that nothing will go wrong if it hasn't been thought of, and the projection of some current patterns into a future in which their current basis has vanished.
    The South started the Civil War, responding to the threat of gradually losing their slaves in your hypothetical "humane" fashion by seceding from the Union and opening fire on the United States military base, Fort Sumter.

    The South did not know it was working on a transition out of slavery - the South was attempting to expand slavery, into new States, and when blocked in that attempt went to war to protect its "way of life".
    Last edited: May 14, 2011
  9. adoucette Caca Occurs Valued Senior Member

    Actually they were working on a transition out.
    Everyone could see the writing on the wall as machines were rapidly replacing manual labor. Though it actually didn't happen, it was presumed that a cotton picking machine would soon be developed that would make slaves in the south rapidly obsolete. The South wanted to be compensated for freeing their slaves, the North objected. In the end, when the North had won, they still had no desire to help the newly freed slaves, marking the period right after emancipation as one of the darkest in African American history. They had nothing, no home, no food, no money and few willing to employ them. They frequently stole just to live and when caught were severely punished.

    As to starting the war, not true. Indeed the reason we moved the Inaguration to January was because of what Lincoln did behind Buchanan's back prior to his inauguration on March 4th.

    South Carolina had already succeeded from the Union, and as such there was no legal authority for a US Fort in a independent country. Since SC had received $3 million from the treasury to buy Sumpter Island they said the existing troops could stay at Ft Moultrie until they paid back the Treasury as long as they adhered to a few simple rules.

    1) no more additional reinforcements
    2) no hostile actions

    The Union violated both of those and thus was asked to leave.

    To start with, on December 26, six days after South Carolina's secession, Major Anderson abandoned Fort Moultrie in the middle of the night and had its guns spiked and the gun carriages burned, and illegally relocated his men in Sumter (up till then it only had someone to man the lighthouse).

    This was most definately a hostile action.

    On January 9th, 1861, Again the North violated the agreement when the Star of the West, with 200 marines hidden in it's hold attempted to reinforce Ft Sumpter. It was fired upon by a battery on Morris Island, The South fired warning shots through the rigging, forcing the ship to turn around, but again, no one from the North was hurt.

    As to firing on the fort, it was just to keep them from using their big guns on Charleston (Sumter had guns big enough to reach Charleston but unknown to Beauregard they didn't have cannon shot for their big guns yet), and indeed not a single person was hurt by the Confederate fire throughout the entire battle.

    Indeed Gen Beauregard never stepped foot on Ft Sumpter and with Anderson's surrender allowed all the men to leave unharmed.

    Clearly, the aggressors were the North.

  10. Trippy ALEA IACTA EST Staff Member

    1. This is irrelevant to anything I have said.
    2. This has already been discussed that even in your artificially contrived scenario it must eventually reach a point where it is indistinguishable from zero - I even asked at the time what we might call it instead of 'Zero population growth'.

    No, that's not what I'm suggesting at all, and to assert that it is is to misrepresent what I have actually said. And there is a mechanism that has been mentioned, you have simply refused to acknowledge or accept it. Prosperity leads to zero population growth, even in Catholic countries.

    Strawman hypothesis - this paragraph is predicated that I was suggesting that it should be fixed at any particular number, which is a misrepresentation of what I actually said, and so I will not be addressing it beyond this.

    From the context of the discussion.
    From the context of my original comments on the matter.
    From understanding of what a trend is when discussing statistical measures and trends analysis in the context of demographics. It seemed pretty obvious to me, and so far, you seem to have been the only person in this thread that was unable to correctly infer the meaning.

    Once again, this isn't the claim I made. And staying at a single number isn't the way the trend can be continued. The only requirement specified by that condition is that it continues to average at its current value, it can vary all it wants.
    Last edited: May 14, 2011
  11. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    No. The requirement of the plateau is that it decrease in absolute magnitude - on average or any other way - to zero. If it continues to average a current negative constant value, the population passes through zero growth and crashes.
    ? No scenario of mine requires a plateau. I'm worried that we seem to be risking a crash.
    OK, what is your meaning for the term "constant"?
    Please name the country whose population has stopped growing due to its becoming prosperous.

    Please describe how the majority of the planet is expected to become prosperous in the same manner as the countries whose rate of population growth is leveling off (perhaps to zero some day, who knows?) without ecological and economic collapse in the attempt. A mechanism.
    OK, what do you mean by this:
    You appeared to be describing the effects of the second derivative of human population growth (the second derivative under discussion) being negative in the future as now. You objected to my pointing out that simply negative wouldn't do for plateau, and included the word "constant". I assumed you meant "constant". If my assumption was in error, if by "constant" you meant not "constant" but something else entirely, I apologize for once again becoming confused.
    They seceded - an act of treason - to forestall the loss of slavery. They went to war to enforce their secession and keep their slaves. They had no more intention of freeing what they regarded as subhuman livestock (we know that, because they said so) than they had of "freeing" their horses and dogs. There was no "transition" in sight - not even the Union had a transition plan for ending slavery in the existing slave States.
    Last edited: May 14, 2011
  12. adoucette Caca Occurs Valued Senior Member

  13. Trippy ALEA IACTA EST Staff Member

    You're aware that the birth rate in many western countries has fallen below replacement level, right?

    A crash because the average birth rate slips below the replacement rate? Or a crash because we run out of resources?

    Oh please. Again. Context.

    First off, it's an analogy. Secondly, I've told you that I was referring to the average.

    But if it makes you feel better:
    "If an object has a[n on average] constant, negative acceleration, then the velocity must eventually reach zero, and the dsplacement plateu."
    And yes, this scenario would also see the velocity change sign, and the displacement begin to decrease.

    Sub-replacement Fertility
    The article even goes as far as espousing on some of the mechanisms leading to the observed phenomenom. I've read elsewhere that the population of the US is expected to grow by another 46% before it begins to show signs of plateau and/or decline, and that's due primarily to the momentum mentioned in that exceprt (which in turn is, as I am given to understand, is primarily because of the baby boomers).

    Well, first off it requires Americans to get over themselves, and get over the boogeyman that they invented during the cold war, and it requires those countries that are already developed to help those that are developing to do so in a sustainable way, which will probably involve a redistribution of wealth at some level. It also requires those countries to actually show some form of leadership, and demonstrate that it's possible to transition from unsustainability to sustainability, which requires an almost universal attitude change.

    I'm too used to dealing with people that understand that the phrase 'Constant anything' usually means 'Constant on average'- even if the variation of what is constant is below the error margin of the measuring instrument. So I inadvertantly left that portion out of the sentence, assuming that it was a reasonable inference (of the fact that I was using as an anaogy of a statistical measure). Apparently I was wrong to do so.

    On the analogy, thinking about it, I'm 99% certain that my orignal intention was to type "If an object has a constant average, negative acceleration, then the velocity must eventually reach zero..."

    But I had to go and deal with a screaming 12 month old child before I was able to finish typing the sentence. Some things just take higher priority, and I don't always notice mistakes such as missing words when the sentence is itself still grammaticaly correct (even if it's not neccessarily accurate to what I want to say).
    Last edited: May 15, 2011
  14. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    No. You were wrong to overlook the fact that it makes no difference to my objections. The quibble over "average constant" vs "constant" is irrelevant. You cannot get a plateau with an "average constant" either, for exactly the same reason.
    That statement is false. The displacement will not plateau. The velocity will pass through zero and continue into negative numbers, the displacement will follow. You are describing a crash - the doom sayer's postulation.

    A horizontal line has a second derivative of 0, on average or by any other determination.
    A crash because our population overshoots our carrying capacity, and the scramble to keep it supplied degrades the relevant environment - so that the eventual, stable population regime is lower than it could have been.
    That's nice, but all the prosperity-driven fertility decreases are in countries that still have growing populations. None of them have actually stopped growing. The question of overshoot is not answered by pointing to future lack of growth, some day. Neither is the problem of fertility in the rest of the world answered by pointing to the effects of the unduplicatable prosperity of the industrial West.
    So you can't think of a suitable mechanism either? Join the club.
  15. Trippy ALEA IACTA EST Staff Member

    You're the one that bought the quibble up, not me - I was just clarifying precisely what I meant..

    Only if you insist on extending the Analogy beyond the point it was being an analogy for (In other words, what, precisely, the meaning of the second derivative is) which could be interpreted as dishonesty on your part. You're engaging an absurd triviality by attempting to extend the analogy beyond it's original scope, which I have since explained to you more precisely, and bringing up some triviality which I have no intention of defending because it's outside the stated scope of the analogy which was to illustrate the point that "If the second derivative is zero, then at some point, sooner or later, the population growth must reach zero" to which you repeatedly replied "A negative second derivative, in itself, does not mean the population will plateau, approach a plateau, or even slow down it's growth very much."

    Actually, any straight line has a derivative of zero, it doesn't have to be horizontal.

    A doom scenario you have thus far been unable to substaniate beyond speculation.

    Apparently you missed the sentence that reads: "Only a few countries have severe enough or sustained sub-replacement fertility (combined with other population factors like emigration) to have population decline, such as Japan, Lithuania, and Ukraine." And didn't take in the passages that describe the causes of continued population growth in some countries that have sub replacement fertility but continue growing anyway. In the case of the US - once the population bulge that is the Baby boomers passes, the main driver for growth will be immigration, but how much immigration do you think there would be if all countries were equally prosperous?

    Total BS.
    I think that at this point the Chinese are going to do more to control population growth than Europe or the US, because they're actually active in the area (invasions don't count). I think the Chinese investment in Africa is going to do more to encourage prosperity (and drive population growth in Africa down), and rather than regarding it as a burden, and making noises about communism in disguise because it smells like a redistribution of wealth, the Chinese, in the future are going to reap the benefits of their investments and the conditions attached to them, leaving the Americans wondering "Why didn't we think of that".

    But your assertion quite adequately demonstrates that you haven't understood what my point in that paragraph actually was.

    One of the ironies I see in the world today is that because of the American phobia of communism, and obsession with personal wealth and profiteering, they've set the worlds largest communist state up to gain the loyalty of one of the worlds largest emerging populations, that appears to control some of the richest mineral resources, and you didn't even see it coming.
  16. Trippy ALEA IACTA EST Staff Member

    The long and the short of it is, Iceaura, with regards to this:
    "That statement is false. The displacement will not plateau. The velocity will pass through zero and continue into negative numbers, the displacement will follow. You are describing a crash - the doom sayer's postulation."
    I have precisely zero interest in defending a point that's derived from an extension of an analogy beyond the point which it was contrived to illustrate - that is, that a negative second derivative must eventualy lead to a plateued or declining population, which has been my assertion, right from the start, and an assertion you have consistently claimed to be in error.
  17. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Welcome to the Paradigm Shift. All of these things will be possible in the Post-Industrial Era, and some of them will be forced. Don't forget that the term "wealth' will be redefined when the production of food and other staples is almost fully automated and information--which can be reproduced and distributed for almost zero cost--becomes the key "commodity" in the economy.
  18. Trippy ALEA IACTA EST Staff Member

    You, at least seem to get it

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    "Wealth" and "Propserity" aren't neccessarily going to mean the same things in say 20 years that they do now. And therein lies one of the points that I am bemoaning, and one of the crunches that I see coming, that people who object to what they see as a redistribution of wealth are going to find themselves holding worthless dust, while those they refused to help end up holding their purse strings. And I'm probably going to have a chuckle about it.

    I mean - look at what's happening with Wheat (or is it corn?) more and more of it gets diverted into producing biofuel, and there's less and less of it available for food... All it would take is for the Federal Government, for example, to pass a law mandating that no more than X% of a crop may be sold for the production of biofuel to bring some sanity back into the market, but can you imagine the hubub doing so would cause? No candidate is going to have the testicular fortitude to do that, and if they did, it'd never make it through as a law, and if by some miracle it did, the candidate wouldn't see a second term, and it'd probably be repealed by the next dude.

    It'd be like... Passing a law to prevent futures trading on commodities like crude oil...

    You can't do that.

    It's not the place of the federal government to limit personal wealth.

    That's not the American way.
  19. madanthonywayne Morning in America Staff Member

    it wouldn't even require that. Just stop subsidizing corn ethanol . It's not a very practical fuel. Some estimates suggest that producing ethanol actually uses more energy than you get when you use it
  20. Trippy ALEA IACTA EST Staff Member

  21. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    It is in error, as stated. You are leaving out the "constant" part (or "average constant", or more reasonably "average magnitude big enough"), again - you have to assume much more constraint on the second derivative than mere negativity. When I asked whether you really wanted to assume them, since they are obviously unrealistic, you got huffy - but without something much more restricted than mere "negative", your claim is false.

    But beyond false, it's irrelevant. It doesn't matter whether the population would, left to its current trends, eventually stop growing on its own, by some mysterious mechanism. The question is whether it will have, by then, overshot and set us up for a bust of the boom.

    Again: no one presumes a forever increasing human population. The question is whether it is or will be overshooting, or will it somehow curb and plateau below disaster levels.
    They have all been possible for a thousand years.
    One of those things that has been going to happen in the next twenty years for fifty years now, and will be for the next hundred and fifty.

    The mechanization of agriculture we have now depends entirely on cheap crude oil - we are as likely to end up using horses again as we are to fully automate even row crop production. They are already more efficient, in terms of input and output.
    And so assuming they are going to have the same effects they do now in the West (say, fertility damping) is reasonably questionable - right?
    Last edited: May 15, 2011
  22. Trippy ALEA IACTA EST Staff Member

    It is not in error, and once again, you have failed to demonstrate that it is in error. The only assumption I have made is that current trends will continue.

    No, it isn't, and you have failed to demonstrate that it is. Even if we throw momentum in to the analogy, and I use the term 'braking force' instead of 'force', I'm still correct - and the only way I'm not is if you want to assume some sort of Zeno-esque physics at play.

    No. It is precisely the question that was asked, and addressed.

    No, I don't think so.
  23. madanthonywayne Morning in America Staff Member


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