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Importantly both sites impacted by the disturbance and control sites are surveyed on both occasions. Using this method allows researchers to disentangle the effects of disturbances and any differences between sites prior to disturbance — a key advantage over space-for-time methods.

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To do this they surveyed 34 locations in a logging concession, 29 of which were subsequently logged at a variety of intensities. They then went back and re-surveyed these locations one year later. From the data collected, they calculated changes in species richness, community composition and total biomass of dung beetles. When comparing space-for-time and BACI the paper found that BACI characterised changes in biodiversity significantly better than space-for-time methods. Critically, space-for-time methods underestimated the relationship between logging intensity and biodiversity losses, with changes in species richness twice as severe as estimated by space-for-time see Figure 1.

BACI methods also consistently provided higher explanatory power and steeper slopes between logging intensity and biodiversity loss. So what does this mean for how we do applied ecology? I think it is clear that we need to employ BACI methods more often in the future. However, BACI comes with logistical and financial constraints. Firstly, it is virtually impossible to predict where disturbances are going to happen before they occur. As a result, Franca and colleagues think that if we want to carry out more BACI research in the future, we need to develop closer ties with practitioners.

This will involve building relationships with logging and oil palm companies, as well as agricultural businesses and property developers. This may make some researchers uncomfortable, but we need to do this if we are to provide robust evidence for decision makers. Secondly, BACI studies take longer to carry out, so we need to convince those that hold the purse strings that they are worth investing in. Should we even be using space-for-time methods at all? After momentarily going into a bit a crisis about this when I read some papers on succession last year, I have come to a slightly different conclusion.

Reviews have highlighted that as ecosystems increase in complexity space-for-time methods become less useful for monitoring changes in biodiversity. Every additional layer of complexity makes post-disturbance dynamics more and more difficult to predict. Ultimately, the best way to address this problem is through some kind of synthesis. Working out when space-for-time approaches are useful and when they are not is not something we are going solve overnight. Before we can review the evidence, we need some evidence in the first place.

The results might just take you by surprise. I strongly recommend you give it a look. Recently two papers seemed to turn what we thought we knew about changes in biodiversity on their head. These papers by Vellend et al. This was counter-intuitive because we all know that species are going extinct at unprecedented rates. However, it is possible that the introduction of non-native species and recovery of previously cultivated areas may offset extinctions leading to relatively little net change in local species richness.

This week a paper has been published that calls these findings into question. The paper by Andy Gonzalez and colleagues published in the journal Ecology , suggests that there are three major flaws with the analyses. The papers of Vellend et al. One issue with meta-analysis is that it is very prone to bias.

Like any study if the samples in this case ecological studies are not representative of the population in this case locations around the globe then any results will be flawed. To test the representativeness of the datasets used by Vellend and Dornelas Gonzalez et al.


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This analysis see below showed that the papers were not representative of biodiversity or the threats faced by biodiversity though curiously, the analysis of Dornelas et al. The paper also suggests that using short time series can underestimate losses.

By analysing the effect of study duration and changes in species richness see below Gonzalez et al. Thirdly, Gonzalez et al. The paper by Vellend et al. Gonzalez et al. The biases prevalent in the Vellend and Dornelas papers lead to Gonzalez et al. However, they note that the results of Dornelas and Vellend are in sharp contrast to other syntheses of biodiversity changes which used reference undisturbed such as those by Newbold et al.

In their conclusion Gonzalez et al. Or to put it another way, with great power comes great responsibility. As someone who regularly uses meta-analysis to form generalisations about how nature works I completely agree with this statement. Traditionally scientists have used funnel plots graphs with study sample size on the y-axis and effect size on the x-axis to identify biases in their analyses.

In the future syntheses would do well to follow the advice of Gonzalez et al. If we want to monitor biodivesity we need to increase efforts in biodiverse tropical regions, as well as boreal forests, tundra and deserts. We need to identify where these gaps need filling most and then relevant organisations need to prioritise efforts to carry out monitoring. Even with this effort some of the gaps in biodiverse regions, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, will be extremely difficult to fill due to ongoing armed conflict. My take-home message from this paper is that we need to be more careful about how we do synthesis.

Studies have shown that measures of the traits of species present in a community are generally more useful for predicting changes in ecosystem function than just using species richness. She has inspired at least one forest ecologist, me, that forests recovering from major disturbances are a subject worthy of study. And then I moved house to Spain, where the book sat untouched and unloved in a box for the next year. After I came back to the UK last year, I found the book again and decided I should stop putting off reading it. I read it on trains, buses, on my sofa and occasionally in bed.

The first thing to say is that this book is extremely comprehensive. The last section concentrates on reforestation and restoration of degraded forests, making a passionate plea for degraded forests to not be considered as wasteland. There's so much that we can learn from that. There's one example that I talk about a lot in lectures, which is in Caracas, Venezuela.

Urban Think Tank, an architecture firm, developed a vertical gym based on what they saw happening in the informal settlement, which is very dense. The kids had this soccer field which was unsafe, in a violent area. So they created this vertical gym on a small plot of land, and they went tall. It was four stories high, and each floor was programmed differently. They took clues from the local settlement to create this new kind of building.

They designed it as a kit of parts. What I mean by that is it can be programmed in different ways for different activities, and they can then transfer that. They're starting to build them in four other locations in Caracas. If one needs a music hall, there can be a music hall, or a market, if another needs that. Now they're beginning to talk to a city in Jordan, a location in the Netherlands, programmed differently but designed very similarly with this kit of parts. So that kind of thinking is coming out of these locations.

Another example out of Caracas [image above]: the Integral Urban Project was a team of architects, engineers, road designers, and a geologist working directly with San Rafael, one of the many vertical informal settlements in Caracas. In Caracas, the formal city is at the center, and then on the periphery, on these steep mountain slopes, these informal settlements are built. This creates a very interesting dilemma.

You have these very steep hills, and people are going up and down them all the time. They have to travel this day in and day out. So how do you create a better pathway, a better way for people to get to and from their homes and the rest of the city? They devised a road that circled it, so that public transportation could get near to it, and then they created a whole network of stairs and open space, because it's very, very dense. Then within the stairs, they incorporated the infrastructure—the sanitation, water, and electricity.

What was most important about this was, again, instead of removing the people while they did the work, they kept everybody in place. So while improving their conditions, they kept the social cohesion. These are real communities, where people have lived, brought up families, so that's an important criterion. Many of these successful projects answer the question: How do you keep social cohesion? Sometimes it's: How do you create social cohesion? JO : How have cities evolved over time? How is their role changing in the world? CES : Global cities are becoming more and more important.

They're becoming almost as important as the nation-state, from an economic point of view. When people talk about places, they talk about London, Mumbai, Beijing. Because so many people are migrating into these places and they're so large, they have a lot of influence. And cities are talking to each other.

There are large organizations of cities that are trying to work together to come up with some joint solutions. That's even true here in the United States, where the most innovative developments are taking place at a city level, not at a state level or a federal level. It's because of how cities work. There's a mayor, and often the mayor has a lot of power.

I'll use New York as an example. Structurally, our mayor has a lot of ability to make a lot of changes.

It nearly doubled the food supply. At a certain point, it expands beyond its resource base, and then it crashes. They know that they can either relax controls on natural predators, or issue more permits to hunters — that is, human predators. Alan: Yes, there was a time when we got knocked off rather frequently by wild animals that had as much or more power in the landscape as we did.

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As our technology grew, starting with stone hammers and then slings and spears, we started getting the upper hand. Once we rose to the top, the limiting factors on us were basically mortality, disease, and hardship. Andrew: What does it mean for the earth to be full? For example, parts per million has been identified as the concentration of carbon in the atmosphere beyond which we set in motion changes that will threaten the future of life as we know it. Is there a comparable figure for global population numbers? However, if we are force-feeding our crops through chemistry, we can produce a lot more food, and a lot more of us, too.

At a certain point, a downside kicks in to that. What if the population problem is self-correcting? Alan: Some argue that population is in fact self-correcting, and that the correction is already underway. Unfortunately the damage is done. One way or another, when a species exceeds its resource base, the population will come down.

Nature does that in percent of the cases in the history of biology. The question that I keep coming back to is how soon is that going to happen? Alan: Exactly. The whole reason for writing this book was to ask the question, should we take the responsibility to try to manage population decline gracefully, and possibly speed it up? We can do it humanely if we decide to manage it rather than let nature take its course. Andrew: Is it the sheer number of people or is it the amount that we consume that matters, particularly in the so-called developed nations.

Or is it simply that we live too long? Alan: The answer to all of that is yes. All of those things are involved. The more consumers there are, consuming too much, the more consumption. Alan: I think, in the twentieth century, when our population quadrupled, we got to the point where we kind of redefined original sin.

We may not be as numerous as China or as India, but our total impact is huge. I was in Niger, which has the highest fertility rate on the planet now. Its average is around eight children per fertile female. You graze too many animals, and things really change. In every village, hundreds of children had died. Education seems to be the key. Any time you start to educate people, they start to put these things together, particularly if you educate women. Education is the best contraceptive of all.

Alan: It was one of the wonderful things about doing this book, which could otherwise have been very grim and sobering. I went to so many countries, twenty-one including all my travels around the United States.

Our crowded planet

I saw human beings confronting some of the most difficult questions in our history. How are we going to survive? What are we doing to ourselves? Yet one of the easiest things that we can do that can make such a huge difference is one of these blessed win-win situations. The more women decision makers we have, the better our chances.

All we have to do is offer fair, equal opportunity to half the human race, the female half. This problem will start taking care of itself really, really quickly. Humans seem to adapt to having large families, and they seem to adapt just as easily to having very small families, even single children. Their parents or grandparents had been denied education in the Cultural Revolution and led limited lives. But these Chinese kids believe the twenty-first century is theirs.

Something occurred to me out of the blue. We all are. I asked these kids whether they missed having siblings. They admitted that yes, they did. Sometimes our best friends have. That, to me, was yet another example of the great flexibility of the human race, that we can make adjustments when we need to. Alan: In one sense, the one-child policy has been successful — there would be million more Chinese otherwise.

We live in it, and we have to manage it ourselves. Sure, maybe we can learn to consume less. But frankly, if we try to attack consumption to solve all of our problems, by the time we change human nature enough so that people consume a lot less, I think the earth will be trashed in the meantime. So I think there are other things we have to do. Even better, there are several male contraceptives that are becoming available that involve much simpler chemistry.

After all, for many, children represent hope, the future incarnate, and reproduction a fundamental human right, even a biological imperative. But can we really tackle global population without resorting to this sort of intervention? What we need to do is make it very attractive to people, and let them manage their own population. There are a couple of Muslim nations that I refer to that have brought their populations down to replacement levels without draconian controls from above, without any edicts. Alan: Like Iran, yes. Iran is the place that has had the most successful family-planning program in the history of the planet.

They got down to replacement rate a year faster than China, and it was completely voluntary. Everything from condoms through pills, injections, tubal ligations, vasectomies, IUDs — everything was free, and everything was available in the farthest reaches of the country. She was going on horseback into these little villages to help perform vasectomies and tubal ligations.

Our crowded planet

As the country grew more prosperous, her transportation changed to four-wheel-drive trucks and even helicopters. Everyone was guaranteed contraception if they wanted it. The only thing that was obligatory in Iran was premarital counseling, which is actually a very nice idea.

The Quakers do it in our country, and, for six months before a couple gets married, they attend classes. In Iran, you could go to a mosque, or you could just go to a health center. They would talk about things to get you prepared for getting married, including what it costs to have a child, to raise a child, to educate a child. People got the message really well. Andrew: Is that something that is easily scalable, or replicable, assuming a culture is receptive to it? Alan: The Catholic Church is somewhat unique in its adamant opposition to birth control.

I went to the Vatican for my book. Italy and Spain, for example, have two of the lowest birth rates on the planet. Other religions argue within themselves on these issues. I interviewed two imams in Niger. And these two imams are brothers. You find these conflicting opinions in all three of the major monotheistic religions. Yet I interviewed an Evangelical leader who absolutely supports contraception and campaigns hard for it.

Andrew: Is there such a thing as an optimum population? If so, is calculating such a thing a matter of figuring out how many people the planet can safely feed, or are there other variables? Alan: One of the ways that I like to think of this is looking back to my own boyhood. There was a lot more space. An awful lot of us can still remember when the traffic was not as bad, when you could get out of a city much faster, when there was a whole lot more wildlife around. We could go back to that. At the beginning of the twentieth century, there were only 1. But still, any of us who love nature, we would give a lot to go back to a time when that much of the world was still wild and still producing a lot of the things that we count on nature for — trees that hold our watersheds in place, insects to pollinate or to serve as a food source for all the birds that also pollinate or spread seeds.

There are many things that nature does for us. The corollary to the question of how many people could the world hold is: How much nature do we have to preserve in order to keep our species viable? How much of the habitat do we need? What other species on this planet are absolutely essential to our livelihood? Andrew: When it comes to protecting species, how many can we save? We know that the extinction rate is accelerating very fast as our presence on this planet pushes other species off the edge. There is a terrible dilemma for ecologists, particularly conservation biologists, who are trying to conserve enough biology to keep ecosystems viable, and that includes viable for Homo sapiens.

How do we decide? Could we even control it if we knew which ones? Everything we eat is the sum total of everything that it ate, and all the things that these things ate before they were eaten. Pretty much every animal species on land has to consume ten times its weight of other terrestrial species, including plant life, because only about 10 percent of what we consume converts to body mass. That means that everything that we eat has eaten ten times its weight.

When you lose a species, or more than one, the whole pyramid starts to crumble. Andrew: When you get to the top of an apex, it should be much smaller up there, like it is with tigers — they have very few offspring. And yet, with so many of us at the top, the pyramid is somehow way off kilter. Alan: Correct. But we humans have skewed this natural scheme by claiming far more than our proportional share of the planet to feed ourselves.

For this book, I wanted to see how we might establish a more harmonious relationship with our species and the rest of nature, as opposed to the mortal combat that we find ourselves in. When I started to look at what we are doing — the numbers were so boggling. I did some long division to make it more understandable. Interestingly, some wildlife ecologists have started taking family planning into their own hands.

The ecologists began to realize that in order to preserve the wildlife, as well as the tourist-related income for the people who live in these areas, they needed to convince residents to have fewer children. Same thing is true in the Philippines. Although much of the population there is fortunate to live beside some of the most biologically rich seas on earth, they could start running out of fish really quickly unless they start having fewer children, which is what, again, ecologists are helping them do.

Andrew: What about the other side of the population coin? How are economies such as theirs going to cope with shrinking populations? It seems like calibrating or recalibrating such a thing — trying to mesh just the right amount of people with just the right amount of economy — is a tough thing to do. China kept expanding by just knocking down more and more forests, and then suddenly, they lost all their flood control.

Bill Clinton even turned economic growth into a transitive verb — We have to grow the economy — as if we were planting seeds and watering them. It turns out that population growth and economic growth are inextricable. For an economy to keep growing, you have to have growing populations, because you need more laborers to produce more products, and then you need more consumers for those products. Andrew: How will countries with declining populations care for all of their elderly? Yes, some countries have shrinking populations.

How do they economically get through those bubble years? Andrew: I was really surprised by the fact that the future of the planet, in many ways, rests on whether women on average have a half child more or a half child less. Alan: Those are pretty shocking numbers, and I got them from a couple of different demographers. By the middle of the century, our population will be nearly 10 billion. But that assumes that all the family planning programs we have in place will remain in place.

Had the last presidential election gone differently, the United States may well have withdrawn a great deal of its support for family planning programs all over the world. Then we can decide at that point if we want to bring it down further. But the difference is, on average, half a child either way. Andrew: As a species, we seem somehow hard-wired to have difficulty seeing beyond our immediate surroundings or thinking beyond the short term. What do you think is going to work in this instance? How do you convince a species to rein itself in? It turns out that virtually every family is helped by having fewer kids.

Everybody looks healthy. People get that message pretty quickly. Look at a country like Singapore. They also have one of the higher per capita incomes of any country on earth. Similarly, China adopted the one-child policy in the hopes of finally shrinking its population for economic reasons. They knew that too many people meant an economic burden on the country. That goes for any religion. Any place where you run into women who are empowered, things improve.

Everybody lives better, males and females. Women who are educated are going to have fewer children, and that gives me a great deal of hope. That also gives me a lot of hope. Best of all, none of this involves high technology. This is technology that we already have. In fact, the education part of it employs the best of human technology — our own brains — to convey information and wisdom to our children. Those young brains can absorb it all, and get very creative with it, and do amazing things, as human beings are capable of doing. On October 22, , Alan joined Orion for a live discussion of population—listen to the recording here.

After reading so much hocus pocus nonsense to the effect that spirituality will save us, it is so refreshing to see someone speak the truth, even though somehow that truth has become offensive to so many people. This was brilliant! This information will be most helpful! Great interview. I identified with the fact that Wildlife Biologists are addressing population control as a means to protect species and ecological diversity.

Hard to manage a species or ecosystem when so few remain because of pressure from human development. The problem has always been — and still is — getting it off the docks past war lords, corrupt officials, civil wars, etc. Money all around except for the farmers who were feeding the country. Once done, food grown on their land is exported; hence the shortages. In other words, we urgently need a replacement for capitalism, which is entirely dependent on perpetual growth.

What the writer and the comments so far tend to ignore is the psychological need for children. Babies and the needs of growing up children are a major reason that people have for justifying their lives and making their lives feel fruitful. We are, like so many others, a finite species. Why not go down in dignity? Why clutch to some fallacy of our enduring beyond the means of the planet to sustain us? The human experiment is a mere blip on the geologic timeline, and it may as well end sooner— and with forethought— than later— and with disaster.

I believe the tendency is for people to detachedly answer questions of propagation in a logical way. However, in most cases I believe if you looked at the actual actions of these same responders you would find they did not follow their logic at all. Most somehow placed themselves outside of and not subject to their own logic. If you look at the global human population curve, you will find that growth was at a slow and steady rate up to around , when there was a sudden uptick to a much higher rate of increase, which has been maintained since.

If you then look at all the other curves, particularly fuel use and atmospheric CO2 concentration, you will find a direct correspondence. This is why I always tell people I believe that was the last time when the human population was truly sustainable, as there was still not much use of artificial fertilizers.

Birth control is the only antidote to excessive death control; and empowering women is an essential adjunct to that. Best discussion on our crowded planet I have ever read. Somerville is not in need of more coffee consumers. Why do the lines of people become longer when the coffee price goes up? You can look at what is happening to cetaceans now to see what will become of us. Energy production to keep the lights on for 7 billion also has a steep cost.

Humans have built hundreds of nuclear reactors at sea level while they have also been busy burning fossil fuels, ensuring that sea levels will rise to swallow these nuclear reactor sites up. Fukushima is just a beginning disaster of what is inevitable — the incremental poisoning of the entire planetary food chain, with humans at the apex having the highest concentrations of the deadliest man-made poisons known. How do you convince an irrational animal of how destructive he is?

Humans are the most destructive organism on earth, a parasitic and psychopathic species that devours every living being and dominates rather than living in harmony. The process is fully dependent on non-renewable fossil fuels. We are actually running out of economically viable sources of fossil fuels not to mention the climate change consequence and environmental pollution linked to the production and use of this type of nitrogen. FR, of course you are right as to present practice. Sure we would have to adjust our strategy and technology. Here is one guy working on the adjustment.

Presumably there are or will be many others. If we want to use more nitrogen to grow more food for our ever-increasing numbers, we have to steal more land from the other creatures that inhabit our planet. The result? We multiply and they go extinct. It then goes into streams, lakes, rivers and eventually the oceans, in all of which it produces nasty effects like algal blooms, which remove oxygen, making it difficult or impossible for fish to survive.

I have the feeling we will poison the world with our nitrogenous waste long before we run out of fossil fuel to power the Haber-Bosch process! Population increase eats up and spits out every other solution. In response to the person who wrote that Europe has grown economically without population growth: not so.

Immense immigration and use of guest-workers. How you gonna make the rich share? For instance, the claim is made that prior to the industrial revolution humanity existed pretty much at a replacement rate. I question this claim. It goes against the increasingly well-documented trajectory of unsustainable growth inherent to agricultural societies.

And what is one of the most pronounced symptoms of this extreme anthropocentrism? Material consumption. Yet, not two paragraphs later, he clearly states the significance of consumption as it relates to population. Why the oversight? The reason becomes clear when the discussion turns to Iran and their undeniably commendable success at curbing population growth through voluntary means. This is all well and good, until we consider the indicator of their success: increased consumption, i.

Our Crowded Planet, Essays on the Pressures of Population

This has to include both population and consumption as factors of each other, and the above example of rewarding population control through increased accessibility to more energy intensive, consumptive transportation and, no doubt, many other unsustainable technologies is firmly rooted in the present definition of prosperity.

Perpetual growth. The malignancy runs deeper than we think, perhaps deeper than we can think, which is why, in the end, not just education, but re-education questioning the answers we already take for granted , is the key. Only then, will we be able to see examples of the so-called demographic transition like the one playing out in Iran for what they really are: trade-offs of one form of unsustainable growth population for another consumption. Until we understand this, the genuine redefinition of prosperity that we and all the other lives with whom we share this Earth so desperately need will continue to elude us.

And thus, we will see the imperative to redefine our role in relation to the gift of life from master, manager, engineer and even steward to gift-tender. Otherwise, our time here will end. Is it not possible for the re-greening, re-wilding world to be a world with us? I believe so. And the time has come to learn how. We might start by imagining ways for human cultures to function more like mycorrhizae in a forest than yeast cultures in a petri dish. In other words, we might start by giving our attention to the trees and, like Kimmerer, recognize them as our teachers.

Of course, that recognition may be, in itself, the most important lesson for us to learn. And if our present relationship with trees, and our treatment of forests, is any indication, we have a long, long way to go.

Overpopulation remains the elephant in the room that sinks any other attempt at a solution. Putting aside whether that is true, lets actually perform that act in theory. What would happen? Yes we have to deal with consumption but lowering population is the key. Focusing mainly on consumption, on the other hand, has been a way of avoiding addressing the overpopulation problem. Commonly folks play the class card, the rich elite with their over consumption making the poor multitudes carry the burden.

Clearly population and consumption both need to be dealt with, but a principal focus on population is how you get there as far as I can see, with the associated matters inevitably joining the party. I would prefer a voluntary turn around rather than the genocide that Mother Nature or a desperate deranged society would pretty much guarantee should the voluntary approach not work. TimF thank you for your contribution. An enlightening way to present the combined issues of consumption and overpopulation, followed by an equally bright indication on the path forward. As to my voluntary approach, you could look at Japan as at least going in the right direction but hardly a great model, having farmed out much of their industrial production which itself is a population inflater.

Some sort of economic support would need to be included. Beyond that I would like to see a community of international experts formed to give advice on achieving a lowered population and what would constitute a sustainable population goal. Do I think something like this will happen?

Probably not but at least it offers some direction. Given a bit more time, I think these tireless medical workers will achieve marked success. Bring on da plague! The anthrax solution. Kinder folks usually go more for adding a sterilizing component to the drinking water. I know. Voluntary is what will work. The nasty germs are volunteering to prune us back, and the scientists seem to be playing on their team.

Consumption can grow in a population that is numerically stable. It can grow in a shrinking population. As soon as the pressure eased, the now-immune population would start to rise again for the simple reason that there would still be something left to consume: whatever our present populace had not yet devoured before the microorganism came in and had its field day.

In other words, a plague is not going to solve anything. Questioning the cultural story we enact every day, the story that compels us to seek out and engage in any and all forms of postponement of cultural maturation at any cost is where our attention would be best directed. The key is a voluntary population turn around. The rationale for it would subsume the consumption increase problem. And yes we have to question our cultural assumptions top to bottom. A central test as to whether we have achieved intellectual adulthood will be a steady winding down of population world wide.

A problem with getting stuck in a cultural discussion is all sorts of arguments break out while the world goes sliding into hell. Well, yes, the pop and the consume goes together. But from that to assume that a drastic population decline would not make a difference is not borne out by the history of Easter Island. Out of the wreckage, there emerged another culture, where competition was relegated to a ritualized event once a year, and cooperation took up the place where it should have been — primary.

They would have had a good chance at living differently if slavery did not devastate them further. In other words, the crisis prompted them to change their cultural story. People, after all, are capable of learning from adversity. David M, the people who are having kids today, their genes will be populating the world of tomorrow. Not the genes of those who abstain. How do you square that circle? They have biology on their side. If those genes get a chance to grow in a world shaped by the motivations of those that abstain be sure they will do good too. Do you see any way of avoiding them?

If any group is determined to have children beyond replacement their progeny will eventually dominate. Part of the problem is we discuss world difficulties without including population growth as a central stressor. For instance water shortages due to greater demand and diminishing supply are a major problem in the ME and are undoubtedly a contributing factor to the conflicts over there. But how much is that included in the analysis of what is happening in say Syria?

The drive for domination and riches, Ron, are not universal. They are the drives of people some anthropologists call triple-A personalities or aggrandizers. Not unsolvable, though, IMO. David M, I think the only solutions that can work are those emerging from the grassroots. There will be no worldwide effort by the powers that be. I think the solutions if they are going to come are going to require influence from the top and bottom. After all they influence each other. One problem with explaining the compelling nature of Malthusian mathematics is some dumb predictions that were made in the past — think Ehrlich for one.

If one species is able to appropriate the entire biosphere and exploit it for its almost exclusive benefit at the expense of a host of other species then obviously the King Exploiter is going to be able to extend its limits quite a ways. But that limit will come unless you seriously believe we will expand by the millions into space colonies.

More than population, ours is a problem of responsible stewardship. We need to get it together, everyone. Begetting gets stewardship. Out of the Garden of Eden and into the real world of interwoven ecosystems. Not just for oneself but for others. But without significant developments within the grassroots, the elites will cling to the status quo with all their might, even if it means running things into the ground. As they did in other collapsing cultures prior to this one.

The elites are the first to call for less population and blame the number of people for water shortages and generally threatening their generous slice of the proverbial pie. While never addressing that perhaps their swimming pools and watered lawns in arid environments are more to blame than whether one has two or four children. Rob, community ordinances only work as long as the community is willing to heed them. Which implies that it all begins in the grassroots. It seems to me it will take a truly massive effort to turn human civilization into a responsible and sustainable enterprise.

While there are multiple ideas on how this might be done, there is almost no agreed upon structure for deciding on the best way to save ourselves and implement an effective plan.

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It seems to me that self destruction is an inherent quality and unstoppable under these circumstances. Yes we have other species, certain rats etc. Population growth plus other things is leading to self-annihilation. David M, if you make everything fair, what need is there to crank out extra kids?

That is part of what kept the egalitarian foragers more or less stable, population wise…. Still though, I think predation is part of what makes a species healthy. When there are once again highly effective predators against sapiens, it will benefit us long term. An intimate relation with your surroundings associated with hunter-gatherer-fishermen resulting in responsible birth control plus some predation, include diseases and environmental variations and wild animals and accidents, would have and did keep the population pretty stable.

Some anthropology I have read tends to back that up. My fairness point assumes a more complex command society. As far as I know we have no record of the world population doing anything but growing since the plagues of the Middle Ages. That suggests a pretty awesome challenge ahead of us.

Bangladesh is moving towards food self-sufficiency. If they achieve such sustainability, who are we to say Bangladesh is over-populated or suffers from a population problem? Do you think quality of ecosystem or quality of life is tied to the quantity of one population? Sole family of foxes or communal pack of wolves? Generally yes although I guess intensive gmo treated modern rice production can push the survival limits back a ways.

I doubt Bangladesh has a big problem with illegal immigrants. And their overpopulated neighbor, India, is about to dam a critical river that is going to make their life even more impossible. We are watching a King Rat dispute. Consumption levels and techno-fixes just move the over-the-cliff goal posts around. Except unlike other creatures we have the power to bring the whole house down so to speak. I understand we are eating up more than an earth and a half right now which means depleting of our bio-capital.

How long do you think we can keep killing the goose that lays the golden eggs? I guess no area would be considered overpopulated if people living on it are not overshooting the area bio-capacity assuming it has reached the aimed lifestyle standards. This calculation might be somehow difficult but some estimates have been made.

In western countries we are living at a standard that would require more than 4 planets worth of resources to support it. The global average is 1. The global average is expected to reach 2. The more we are willing to go back to low energy, low material goods hunter-gatherer? So we, living comfortably in the Western countries, can start working on this experiment. It will surely imply a enormous change of habits but the outcome would be very interesting. I would be interested in reading more about Bangladesh self-sufficiency that you have mentioned. Can you please provide some source?

My gut sense is that we need to go back to We could easily take those levels of comfort and improve on them with some of the stuff we now have or understand. Embracing a lifestyle that would provide a way to nicely fit in and maybe even enhance our planet biocapacity, coupled with the intellectual awareness, knowledge and understaning gained during our history is the most evolved status I can think for humans. Going back is not the right phrase, I just did not know how to get around it at that moment, and get my meaning across. Have you ever lived as a forager?

Even for a week?


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