Twenty-eight Quotes Relevant to Overpopulation
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December 17, 2012 at 1:42 pm #3975
Some members of MAHB might be interested in “Twenty-eight Quotes Relevant to Overpopulation” in “L.A. Times Population Report: Beyond 7 Billion – Fighting the Last War?” [Hake (2012b)] at http://bit.ly/TeOpJj (scroll down).
Richard Hake, Emeritus Professor of Physics, Indiana University
January 10, 2013 at 4:17 am #4115
Thanks for the link, Prof. Hake. Who was it again who said that “the biggest shortcoming of man is his inability to comprehend exponential equations.” I originally studied Geo systems sciences and astrophysics but venture (at my old age of 45) into economics now. Currently I am working on developing a scenario of 100% renewable energy supply for the Philippines, but it already feels like a futile effort. Population there rose from 16 something million in the early 20th century to over 100 million now. Doubling time is in the range of 35 years. The country already turned from a major rice exporter to the world’s largest rice importer, and more people live in absolute poverty now than have been around 50 years ago in the first place. It is clear that there isn’t much room for growth anymore, and yet grow the population does. The situation is rather unstable – it only takes a moderate shock to world food markets to throw the country into famine. And, I’m afraid, this is only the beginning – a canary in the mine. In the end the Earth itself, too, also is merely an island and nobody out there to send us extra supplies. A few years ago had the pleasure to interview Michio Kaku in Switzerland for an article revolving around energy, evolution, growth and the great filter, and he, too, predicted that we will only begin to move when we experience major shocks… Sad. But history suggests the same. So does psychology.
January 10, 2013 at 4:33 am #4117
My experience is that whenever I talk to numerate academics (including economists) I can quickly reach common grounds with them where it becomes clear that perpetual economic and population growth cannot be sustained. But it becomes a “sigh, sigh” situation where nobody acknowledges that this is an issue we somehow have to address NOW. Also everyone seems to believe that much of the Limits to Growth report in the meantime was outdated or debunked. Most never bothered to read it. in any case for the “general population” the situation is different – similar to climate change discussions. People leave the house in the morning, thinking “global warming? so why does it snow? All nonsense!”. Humans cannot easily abstract from their own personal experience and sensory perceptions. For scientists it is normal to cope with the very big, very small, very new, very old, very fast and very slow. We are used to think in deep abstractions and complex long term scenarios. Non-scientists are not. And even among scientists few are able or willing to think and look broadly across disciplines. As Freeman Dyson noted at least two decades ago: we need less analysis and more synthesis. I myself adore Schrödinger for his introduction to his Dublin lecture on “What is Life” in 1943. Perhaps you know it, but I will post it anyway, because I consider it very important:
“… We have inherited from our forefathers the keen longing for unified, all-embracing knowledge. The very name given to the highest institutions of learning reminds us that from antiquity throughout many centuries the universal aspect has been the only one to be given full credit. But the spread, both in width and depth, of the multifarious branches of knowledge during the last hundred odd years has confronted us with a queer dilemma. We feel clearly that we are only now beginning to acquire reliable material for welding together the sum-total of what is known into a whole; but, on the other hand, it has come next to impossible for a single mind fully to command more than a small specialized portion of it. I can see no other escape from this dilemma (lest our true aim to be lost forever) than that some of us should venture to embark on a synthesis of facts and theories, albeit with second-hand and incomplete knowledge of some of them, and at the risk of making fools of themselves. So much for my apology.”
January 28, 2013 at 10:49 pm #4255
Thanks Prof. Hake for sharing this link. We couldn’t agree more that it’s definitely not a time to relax on the issue of population!
January 31, 2013 at 7:10 pm #4281
From my post on the forum titled, “The Homestead Earth Model,” on why there seems to be so much cognitive resistance to a recognition of the physical realities of overpopulation, global warming, ecosystem degradation, etc:
“When we begin to think relationally, we recognize that the health of our community is just as important as the health of our ecosystem. Relational systems of human social organization are not new to the human experience, but the dominant paradigm that most of us are immersed in alienates us from relationship with place and community and reinforces its pattern logic with every iteration of transactional exchange. We are caught in a Catch-22 where the way we live shapes the way we think, feel and perceive, which shapes the way we live, all of which is constantly and pervasively reinforced by the experiential network of our modern way of life. Transactional systems thinking focuses on surface phenomena, on immediate consequences because in a transactional exchange it is the proximate effects, not the underlying causes and relationships that matter. “