Peak All

Population - Before Legislation Comes Education
We need a crash course in Education - for Sustainability, for Survival, for Transition to Sustainability, and for exploring afresh the meaning of Life and Humankind on Earth, so that we can all help in the Great Transition in as civilized a way as possible.

"Overpopulation" is a word many people don't like to hear.

But the longer we delay taking population control on board, to rebuild sustainability, the more our children will suffer as "overshoot" of population causes dramatic environmental degradation, where the environment can no longer support the population which then dies off through wars, disease, and starvation. This has happened many times before in human history, but only to limited areas - our ability to wreak damage is now a lot bigger.

We need to go through a huge paradigm shift - and nobody wants to do that until they are really desperate. But this is War Effort time now.

Science can provide temporary help - regarding population, the help can never be anything but temporary. It is still up to us all to envision, agree, and legislate sensible behaviour conducive to sustainability. And if we do not face the full facts, Science will be less than helpful. The Green Revolution of the seventies allowed the population to grow far larger than seemed possible earlier - but this has NOT taken away the fact of overpopulation, it has only postponed the day of reckoning and ultimately made the reckoning even harder. Nothing like the Green Revolution has emerged since then or is likely to emerge. We have got to grasp the issue ourselves.

For many women, childbearing feels like their only fulfilling purpose in life, and for many, children seem so sacred, and sex so private, that people dare not consider legislating limits. However, the world's population now seriously exceeds its current carrying capacity. We have been celebrating a party, having a binge, suffering an addiction, and this is seriously robbing vital resources from future generations, our children's children. Overpopulation happens through many things in addition to expanding population size: cutting down or burning more trees than are planted, overfishing, denaturing the soil, exhausting non-renewable resources like oil, and putting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.


It is urgent beyond all belief that we work now to lessen the level of catastrophe in a few years' time. Why do people not want to face the real truth? Why do they go into denial and make the problem so much worse thereby for their own children? Why do they think "it doesn't matter - I can't make a real difference - it's just me"? Some of my family and my best friends have big families. We could afford it, they say. Yes, but only on the back of cheap oil, and at the terrible price of leaving little for their children, and doing little to actually rebuild global sustainability.

We have to crack the big challenge - how to work globally. We've got to crack it. If we don't, it's goodbye humankind. We are already wasting unspeakable resources in warfare that could be used to feed, clothe, house and educate the world population, stabilize population, and rebuild the soil, the ecosphere, the seas, that are all being ruined so fast and so extensively.

First comes education. This needs to be education for sustainability. Before that comes education for survival and for transition to true sustainability. The situation is degrading rapidly. And before education for survival comes education for empowerment, to encourage people to rethink all the basics of life, meaning and purpose, to think for themselves, to gather evidence for themselves, to distance themselves from the current paradigms which are stuck in selfish materialism which can only lead to destruction for everyone. People need to become aware of the lies and distractions that get propagated by big business, that have taken over most of the media (not all), that have lulled most (not all) people into a false security or into thinking there is nothing that lone individuals can do. Before people can build confidence to think for themselves, they need to rediscover the feel and nature of truth. Nature can teach us and so can our con-science, our in-tuition. Before finding help comes the harsh awakening. We need to see that we have become like the alcoholic in the gutter, the Prodigal Son. Like these, we need to ask for a higher Power to help us find the strength again to stand upright, be upright, become more fully human, and help each other.

from Zero Population Growth May Occur By 2020 Or Sooner
by Mark Elsis

The human population of Earth reached 1 billion in 1804, 2 billion in 1927, 3 billion in 1959, 4 billion in 1974 and 5 billion in late 1986. In 1999 we reached 6 billion. The population doubled from 3 billion in 1959 to 6 billion in 1999. This doubling of population in 40 years will never happen again.

The exponential rate of population growth peaked in 1987. That year 87 million more people were added to the Earth. But since then, the rate of growth has slowed down by an average of 2.1 million each year. In 2000 the population increased by 60 million people. But this rate of population growth has lessened further in recent years. In 1994 we added 78.5 million more people, 2000 added 60 million. This is 3 million less people added each year. If we maintain this 6 year average, we will peak in population reaching zero population growth in 2020 with 6.64 billion people. If the rate of increase drops even more quickly, we will reach zero growth even sooner.

When demographers from the United Nation's did their biennial update of world population numbers in October of 1998 they reduced their projected average population for 2050 from 9.4 billion to 8.9 billion. They also reduced their low number, saying we will reach zero population growth in 2038 @ 7.47 billion. Yet no one seems to be looking at the way the rate of increase has been consistently falling: we have passed our sustainable limits for both of our major food energy sources, grains and fish, and we are very quickly reaching our fresh water limits. But this awareness is not what the economic growth powers want to know. So we have yet to recognize the probability that we have passed the sustainable food limits that Earth can produce relative to population. Already 4 billion people are barely getting enough to eat with more than 1 billion of them in total abject poverty.

Sustainability Of Soil Energy:
The rise in grain yield per hectare is slowing in all major grain-producing regions. Since 1984, grain output per person has fallen on average by .6 percent per year. In 1998, the per capita grain output further declined to 695 pounds, this is an 8 percent decline from the peak in 1984 when the per capita grain output was 755 pounds. The slower growth in world grain harvest is due to the lack of new land and slower growth in irrigation and fertilizer use. Irrigated area per person, after expanding by 30 percent from 1950 until 1978, has declined by 4 percent. Since then the growth in the irrigated area has fallen behind that of population. With biotechnology neither providing nor promising any dramatic breakthrough in raising yields, there is little hope for restoring growth in food output.


Sustainability Of Fisheries Energy:
The worldwide Fish Catch peaked in 1989 at 100 million metric tons. Since 1989, the seafood catch per person has fallen by 2 percent per year. Marine biologists at the Food and Agriculture Organization report that all 17 of the major oceanic fisheries are being fished at or beyond capacity. Nine are in a state of collapse.

Fresh Water Limits:
Since the amount of fresh water available for human consumption is constant, as population grows, the supply of fresh water per person declines. As a result, the amount of water available per person is expected to decline by 74 percent between 1950 and 2050. Nearly half a billion people around the world face water shortages today. By 2025, the number is expected to grow to 2.8 billion people. Of these, at least 1 billion people will be living in countries facing absolute water scarcity. Most overpopulated, fast-urbanizing countries of Asia, Latin America and Africa have to survive on largely polluted rivers and wells. Water is a major carrier of disease bearing germs. As many as 2.3 billion people in the world today suffer from diseases linked to water, such as dysentery, cholera and typhoid. Less than 1 percent of the Earth's water is fit and available for human consumption.

Family Planning For Women / Literacy Rates:
Successful family planning programs have led to many positive developments. Women's literacy rates have gone up and they are now given a much greater role in the society of many countries. This has increased their knowledge of their reproduction cycles and bodies. As a result, 75 countries from all regions of the world now have achieved replacement level fertility rates of 2.1 children per woman or less.

HIV Infection Rates:
All industrial countries have held HIV infection rates of their adult populations under 1 percent but in some countries of sub-Saharan Africa, they have climbed above 20 percent. Aside from raising mortality, the virus also reduces fertility. Many young women will die before they complete their childbearing years. In addition, as the infection progresses toward full-blown AIDS, ovulation often ceases. In 1981, there were 200,000 new infections; in 1998, there were 5.8 million new infections.

from The Population Explosion
by Paul and Anne Ehrlich

When people think of crowded countries, they usually contemplate places like the Netherlands (1,031 per square mile), Taiwan (1,604), or Hong Kong (14,218). Yet the Dutch seem to be thriving, and doesn't Hong Kong have a booming economy and fancy hotels? The key to understanding overpopulation is not population density but the area's carrying capacity. When is an area overpopulated? When its population can't be maintained without rapidly depleting nonrenewable resources and without degrading the capacity of the environment to support the population.

By this standard, the entire planet and virtually every nation is already vastly overpopulated. Africa is overpopulated now because, among other indications, its soils and forests are rapidly being depleted—and that implies that its carrying capacity for human beings will be lower in the future than it is now. The United States is overpopulated because it is depleting its soil and water resources and contributing mightily to the destruction of global environmental systems. Europe, Japan, the Soviet Union, and other rich nations are overpopulated because of their massive contributions to the carbon dioxide buildup in the atmosphere, among many other reasons.

Almost all the rich nations are overpopulated because they are rapidly drawing down stocks of resources around the world. They don't live solely on the land in their own nations. Like the profligate son, they are spending their capital with no thought for the future.


It is especially ironic that many consider the Netherlands not to be overpopulated. This has been called the "Netherlands Fallacy." The Netherlands can support 1,031 people per square mile only because the rest of the world does not. In 1984-86, the Netherlands imported almost 4 million tons of cereals, 130,000 tons of oils, and 480,000 tons of pulses (peas, beans, lentils). It took some of these relatively inexpensive imports and used them to boost their production of expensive exports—330,000 tons of milk and 1.2 million tons of meat. The-Netherlands also extracted about a half-million tons of fishes from the sea during this period, and imported more in the form of fish meal.

The Netherlands is also a major importer of minerals, bringing in virtually all the iron, antimony, bauxite, copper, tin, etc., that it requires. Most of its fresh water is "imported" from upstream nations via the Rhine River. The Dutch built their wealth using imported energy. Then, in the 1970s, the discovery of a large gas field in the northern part of the nation allowed the Netherlands temporarily to export as gas roughly the equivalent in energy of the petroleum it continued to import. But when the gas fields are exhausted, Holland will once again depend heavily on the rest of the world for fossil fuels or uranium.

The Netherlands didn't build their prosperity on the bounty of the Netherlands, and are not living on it now. Before World War II, they drew raw materials from their colonies; today they still depend on the resources of much of the world. Saying that the Netherlands is thriving with a density of 1,031 people per square mile simply ignores that those 1,031 Dutch people far exceed the carrying capacity of that square mile.



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