A baby born today: The climate and their future

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Item Link: Access the Resource

Media Type: News / Op - Ed

Date of Publication: May 11, 2019

Year of Publication: 2019

Author(s): Kevin O'Sullivan

Newspaper: Irish Times

Categories: ,

A new report depicts an ever-depleting natural world, with huge implications for the coming generation. What will their lives be like? 

Life-support systems that nature provides – an intertwined web that sustains humans, plants and animals – are at risk of unravelling in a matter of decades.

Deforestation, intensive agriculture, overfishing, development and other human activities are breaking the bonds that combine to make a healthy planet. Their destruction, fuelled by rampant consumption and obsession with economic growth, is accelerating.

“The evidence is crystal clear: nature is in trouble. Therefore we are in trouble,” declared Sandra Díaz, who co-chaired the completion of a global assessment of biodiversity published this week.

Read the complete article here. 

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The views and opinions expressed through the MAHB Website are those of the contributing authors and do not necessarily reflect an official position of the MAHB. The MAHB aims to share a range of perspectives and welcomes the discussions that they prompt.
  • Steven Earl Salmony

    What is being discussed is an effective redistribution of food resources that, if implemented correctly, would feed the human population and simultaneously stabilize absolute human population numbers. That is to say, limiting increases only in the total production of food for human consumption, when coupled with a sensible food redistribution program, will lead to population stabilization and starvation reduction.

  • Steven Earl Salmony

    Dear Arnold Byron,

    Your presentation offers all of us an example of the kind of global perspective that is required to address and overcome the converging global challenges which threaten future human well being and environmental health. Please do keep going.

  • Steven Earl Salmony

    H. sapiens is a creature of the earth. Understand that food is the tap root of life for the human species. There may be other factors that help sustain human life, but food is the ‘tap-root’ for the growth of absolute human population numbers, just as is the case with other species of earth.
    Our problem is a biological one. A positive feedback loop has been established in the food-population relationship because natural limiting factors to the unbridled growth of absolute human population numbers have been eliminated by human ingenuity. Human beings are unique creatures of earth. We are exceptional in many wondrous ways, but not in terms of population dynamics. Hence the recent ‘bloom’ of absolute global human population numbers that are primarily caused by spectacular increases in the food supply which is derived from greatly enhanced production and distribution capabilities.
    The conundrum: increasing food production annually to meet the needs of growing population is fueling a human population explosion. With every passing year more people are being fed and more people are going hungry.

    Perhaps we can agree to a desperate need for an adequate-enough explanation for ‘why’ we have ended up where are, in this global predicament. A growing body of unfalsified research has been ubiquitously denied and consequently not widely shared much less consensually validated by population experts of science as well as those professionals with appropriate expertise in the fields of demography and economics. Uncontested science makes it possible for us to answer the question posed now, here. Perhaps a new biological understanding is emerging from ongoing research. It is simply this: as is the case with other species, human population numbers appear or not as a function of food availability; food is the independent, not the dependent, variable in the relationship between food and population numbers; and human population dynamics is essentially similar to, not different from, the population dynamics of other species.
    Sound scientific research provides straightforward empirical data of a non-recursive biological problem that is independent of economic, political, ethical, social, legal, religious, and cultural considerations. This means human population dynamics is like the population dynamics of other species. It also means that global human population growth is a viciously cycling positive feedback loop, a relationship between food and population in which food availability drives population growth, and population growth fuels the false perception, the mistaken impression, the fatally flawed misconception that food production needs to be increased to meet the needs of a growing population.
    With every passing year, as food production is increased leading to a population increase, millions go hungry. Why are those hungry millions not getting fed year after year after year… and future generations of poor people may not ever be fed? Every year the human population grows. All segments of it grow. More people with blue eyes and more with brown ones. More tall people and more short ones. All segments of the population grows. Every year there are also more people growing up well fed and more people growing up hungry. The hungry segment of the global population goes up just like all the other segments of the population. We are unexpectedly increasing the number of hungry people in the course of feeding more people. We are not bringing hunger to an end by increasing food production.
    The skyrocketing increase of the human population in our time on a planet with the size, composition and ecology of Earth has caused a growing number of apparently unforeseen and exceedingly deleterious ecological occurrences. Among these potentially catastrophic, human-driven consequences is climate destabilization. What is fortunately becoming clearer to naked eyes, as we observe what is happening, is the manifold ways overproduction, overconsumption and overpopulation activities of the human species are occurring synergistically and simultaneously threatening life as we know it, environmental health, and future human well-being. The spectacular increase of these distinctly human, overgrowth activities is causing the mass extirpation of earth’s biodiversity, the relentless dissipation of its limited natural resources, the unbridled degradation of its environs and the reckless threat to a good enough future for children everywhere.
    For a moment let us carefully consider the remote possibility that the human community writ large pulls itself together on a war footing to fight climate change and wins that battle by reducing carbon emissions of all kinds to net zero in 2020, while the tap-root cause of anthropogenic climate change continues to be denied. We may win a major Pyrrhic victory. That is certainly a good thing. And yet, if we do not accurately enough locate the foremost cause of the biological problem that is ailing humankind, the problem that is precipitating climate change, we could lose the prospects of a good enough future for life as we know it.
    We have run out of time for population experts to remain reticent. They have to assume their responsibilities by examining data and reporting findings regarding the question, “Why are human population numbers exploding?” The time has come to disclose all of what we know — the whole truth — with regard to human creatureliness and human population growth, according to the best available science and ‘lights’ we possess.

    • Arnold Byron

      You ask, “Why are human population numbers exploding?” You say, “We have run out of time for population experts to remain reticent”. I think that the population experts are reticent because they are being shortsighted and unwilling to look at the elephant in the room. The elephant in the room is all of the fossil fuel that was sequestered a billion, more or less, years ago. At that time there was an over-abundance of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The miracle of life began and photosynthesis changed the carbon dioxide into oxygen and carbon.

      The population experts are being shortsighted because they are not talking about nor teaching about the simple truth that if the carbon dioxide had not been removed there would not have been enough oxygen for mammalian life to exist. Therefore, human life would not exist. The prognosis for the future is that human life will likely cease to exist because we are putting the carbon dioxide back in to the atmosphere. Why should we want to do this? Who has given us the rights to do this?

      You and I both agree that the human race has grown too large. Humanity has overpopulated the world. The only reason why we are able to sustain the overpopulation is because we are using fossil fuel to sustain life. We are able to have enough food only because we are using natural gas as nitrogen fertilizer and petroleum oil (diesel fuel and gasoline) to power farm tractors, trucks and other engines. The food we eat is so dependent on fossil fuel that we may as well breath the natural gas and drink the petroleum oil. Our population experts must teach us that we will all die from starvation when the fossil fuel has been used up.

      Were I to delve into dark humor I would say, “When the last clump of coal, the last drop of petroleum oil and the last wisp of methane are emitted into the atmosphere, the atmosphere will finally become toxic enough to kill the last mammal on Earth?”

      Please tell me why we the people living today think we have the right to use up the fossil fuel. The population experts need to start teaching publicly that every single person living today is complicit in killing our families, our friends, ourselves and the rest of humanity because we are unwilling to reduce the population to make it easier to stop using fossil fuel. The message the population experts must begin carrying to every public venue is: we must reduce the human race in order to prevent our extinction.

      If you want to see a plan for reducing the population please look at the following link.


      • Steven Earl Salmony

        Dear Arnold Byron,

        If we can agree on the root cause of the population explosion, perhaps we can begin to think sensibly about remedies. First we have to see that “growing more food annually to meet the needs of a growing population” is not the answer to the problems posed by hunger and starvation. We do not have a food production problem. Bountiful harvests are sufficient to meet the needs of those alive today plus anticipated newcomers. As a way to begin, the problem we face is how to provide every human being on earth with substantial subsistence. Whatsoever else is required in the way of behavior change, this is where we begin. Food has to be much more fairly and equitably shared so that people have enough nutriment. Imagine a global food distribution program that worked like one of many national health care delivery systems where coverage for medically necessary illnesses are provided to all.

        • Arnold Byron

          Dear Mr. Salmony,

          You and I have the same goal. We want humanity to begin a process that will end with a population properly sized to be sustainable. I am not being silly when I say that humanity has to plan (in our generations) how we will go about feeding a properly sized population (which may be much smaller than it is today) for up to one billion years (when the sun goes nova) unless extinction occurs because the planet is hit by an enormous asteroid or massive volcanoes. One billion years is a long time. We must be willing to plan to regulate the population to a much smaller size if we intend to use the energy from the sun as our main source of energy to produce food for one billion years.

          I am sorry but I must disagree with one of your statements in the above comment. You say, “We do not have a food production problem. Bountiful harvests are sufficient to meet the needs of those alive today plus anticipated newcomers”. What you have said is true for this moment in time.The problem is that the food grown today is being grown using the energy that has been sequestered as fossil fuel. The fertilizer and fuel we are dependent on to grow food today will disappear when we have used up the fossil fuel.

          Our one billion year plan must begin today. I think I have figured out the radical steps that are needed to safely and prudently begin regulating the population to the proper size to be in sync with reasonable food production. Please check out the link at the end of my above comment.

          • Steven Earl Salmony

            Dear Arnold Byron,

            I believe you are on the right track. But allow me to add something to your perspective.

            You report,

            “The fertilizer and fuel that we are dependent on, in order to grow food today, will disappear when we have used up the fossil fuel. Then what will we do to grow enough food.” ???

            Your question is a seminal one. What are we to do? You are also correct to report that we must begin now, on this very day, somehow. Or perhaps tomorrow, if human interventions are to make a difference that makes a difference.

            We possess unfalsified scientific research that indicates with remarkable simplicity and clarity that humans need to begin immediately to limit increases only in production of the total food supply for human consumption. Increasing food production to meet the needs of a growing is causing the human population explosion. Annual increases in the amount of food must be thoughtfully and systematically limited as the available food supply is redistributed. That every one receives substantial subsistence is the goal.

            Somehow I hope we can find a way to discuss openly what looks to me like “the last of the last taboos” regarding the human population. My abiding concern grows out of the realization that some humans could emerge out of “the bottleneck” which E.O. Wilson forecasts in the “Future of Life“, only to begin once again doing the very same things we are doing now, the things that have evidently precipitated the Global Predicament. There is a choice. Our descendants could choose either to grow food to meet the needs of a growing population or limit the unrestricted annual growth of the food supply for human consumption: thereby setting in place a regime for stabilizing the growth of absolute human population numbers. If we cannot accurately discern what is causing the recent human population explosion and act accordingly, I cannot see how our descendants are to avoid the same fate — extinction — that the general biological evolutionary process appears to hold in store for all species in the web of life. Can we find and then choose to follow a path forward that makes possible a viable and foreseeable, open ended future for H. sapiens?