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The great red herring of overpopulation

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M. Spector
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Joined: Feb 19 2005
Ghislaine, at #81 above, wrote:

As long as you agree that it should be the woman and/or the man's choice whether to sterilize themselves or abort, etc.

That looks to me like a defence of women's right to choose abortion, regardless of what positions you may have taken in the past.

Remind's remarks seem solely calculated to pursue a personal vendetta, even at the risk of undermining your defence of women's reproductive choice in this thread. Ignore her.


Fidel
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M. Spector wrote:
Merowe wrote:

In earlier subsistence cultures women CHOSE to limit the number of children they had in response to the resource base upon which their cultures depended. In this way they demonstrated simultaneously a responsibility to the greater society AND autonomy over their biology.

And in present-day subsistence cultures many women choose not to limit the number of children, for reasons enumerated above, and many have no means to limit the number of children, even if they want to. That doesn't mean they have no social conscience.

Your theory suggests that back in the good old days, poor people had the good sense not to have too many children. I'd like to see your evidence for that. 

I'm leaning toward MS's view here, Merowe. I think that fertility and preganacy is determined biologically and especially so in piss poor thirdworld capitalist countries. Women in those countries tend to become pregnant in times when food is available. Overall mortality increases in times of drought, famine, "market diktats" for cash crop capitalism etc. Below a certain percentage body fat, a woman is infertile and-or infant mortality is more likely. But I think personal choice plays less of a role in those countries where giving life is the ultimate gift to one another. For desperately poor people, procreating is all the power they possess in their world and a miracle when the kid lives past the age of one. For them, having children is what life is all about. There is no higher purpose.


George Victor
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"Women's rights" used to deal with social conditions and the law. Here,  rights are discussed in a vacuum, without context, social, geographic, cultural or temporal.

Reduced to the stuff of  soap opera, morality plays and gothic novels.

 

 

 

And Fidel, just curious. What in hell is a "third world capitalist country?"

Merowe
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Joined: Apr 16 2003

er, evidence...I was thinking of hunter-gatherers like the pygmies, who consciously maintain small populations appropriate to their lifestyle.

But also, re: evidence: well, back in the good old days (which makes the unnerving acronym GOD, eh?) the human population...was A LOT SMALLER! Like, for thousands of years. there's yer proof right there. 

present day subsistence cultures have large families because of historically high infant mortality rates and the higher need for human labor in pre-industrial contexts. And patriarchal definition of women's roles, preventing their self-expression in media other than children. And a number of other factors which decline in relevance as cultures  'modernize'...a lagtime there, a subjective factor. 

Re: German gov. policy, I suppose its a provincial issue and, arguably, the motives aren't altruistic, nor thought through. Policies are different in west Germany where populations are not declining so significantly.

Your next point is unnecessarily facetious. Their environment/resource management reveals Canada's for the embarrassment that it is. Greenhouse gas emissions: c'mon, big boy, you can google too:

http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/1210/p25s01-wogi.html

Saudi Arabia and the United States are the world's worst greenhouse gas emitters, while Sweden and Germany are the best among major economies, said a report by a German environmental group Friday.

Re: persistent capitalism: different economic models utilize resources differently. Small populations with high material throughputs will trash a resource base as quickly as large populations of lower material intensity.

Certainly capitalism is the culprit here. But I see no need for a 'pernicious oppositional formation' here re: population, we're talking apples and oranges I think. I'm not beating the drum for population control in developing nations. Their population issues are a symptom of their relatively recent interactions with western capitalist culture...higher survival rates due to modern medicine, all the old arguments...

I have similar discussions with some ortho-Trot chums: they keep insisting on the pre-eminence of capitalist economics as the causative agent of all the world's ills; I'm not arguing with that. I just don't see why it can't preclude rational discussion of other issues.


M. Spector
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George Victor wrote:

"And Fidel, just curious. What in hell is a "third world capitalist country?"

Are you frakkin' kidding me? You think Nigeria is not capitalist? You think Peru is not capitalist? You think Burma is not capitalist?


Merowe
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sorry, that last to M.Spector..the 'reply' function seems a bit off...

 


M. Spector
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Merowe wrote:

present day subsistence cultures have large families because of historically high infant mortality rates and the higher need for human labor in pre-industrial contexts. And patriarchal definition of women's roles, preventing their self-expression in media other than children. And a number of other factors which decline in relevance as cultures  'modernize'...a lagtime there, a subjective factor.

Hmm... high infant mortality rates, need for human labour, oppression of women...I guess none of those apply to the subsistence cultures of the past, eh? 

Quote:
Their environment/resource management reveals Canada's for the embarrassment that it is. Greenhouse gas emissions...

Yes, and we have our fertility rates under control, too. That's precisely my point. Runaway overpopulation is not the cause of Canada's terrible environmental status, any more than Germany's. Germany didn't improve its greenhouse gas emissions simply by having fewer CO2-exhaling babies!

Quote:
Small populations with high material throughputs will trash a resource base as quickly as large populations of lower material intensity.

Exactly!

Quote:
Certainly capitalism is the culprit here.

Agreed.

Quote:
I have similar discussions with some ortho-Trot chums: they keep insisting on the pre-eminence of capitalist economics as the causative agent of all the world's ills; I'm not arguing with that.

Good. Listen to them. Smile 

 

Merowe wrote:
sorry, that last to M.Spector..the 'reply' function seems a bit off...

Ignore the Reply function. Always use the Quote function.


George Victor
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Joined: Oct 28 2007

"Are you frakkin' kidding me? You think Nigeria is not capitalist? You think Peru is not capitalist? You think Burma is not capitalist?"

------------------------------------------------------

Of course they are not. Not in any Marxist sense.

But since feminism is "evolving", I suppose Marxist thought can as wellSmile 

 


M. Spector
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Evidently "Marxist" thought has evolved into something totally unrecognizable.


George Victor
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When you can put capitalists and workers, the creation of advanced industrial growth, into Nigeria, Peru and Burma it has clearly  become unrecognizable.

remind
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M. Spector wrote:
Ghislaine, at #81 above, wrote:

As long as you agree that it should be the woman and/or the man's choice whether to sterilize themselves or abort, etc.

That looks to me like a defence of women's right to choose abortion, regardless of what positions you may have taken in the past.

Remind's remarks seem solely calculated to pursue a personal vendetta, even at the risk of undermining your defence of women's reproductive choice in this thread. Ignore her.

Pot kettle mspector?

Also, I took that quoted comment of ghislaines very differently than you did, given her historical and repeatedly stated positions.

 


Jerry West
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Joined: Oct 9 2001

For what it is worth:

Quote:

Dual demographic trends in the developed and developing worlds point to increased future conflict and instability, Peter A Buxbaum writes for ISN Security Watch.

By Peter Buxbaum in Washington, DC for ISN Security Watch

“The world is entering a demographic transformation of historic and unprecedented dimensions.”

That was the essential message of a recently released monograph from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a bipartisan Washington think tank. The coming demographic dislocations are beginning to attract the attention of geopolitical and military thinkers and planners....

Link to full article

 


Frustrated Mess
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Quote:

I'm sad that you think so. It's one thing to throw up your hands and say we are headed for a mass extinction, just like the dinosaurs, and it's another thing to refuse to accept that, and resolve to fight the forces that are driving us there.

It is "us" who is driving us there.  And we don't have a choice, and I will come back to this in a moment.

Quote:

If fossil fuels are, as you say, responsible, let's get rid of them.

Fossil fuels unleashed an energy at a rate unprecendented in human history and humans did not take that discovery, that find, and think rationally how and in what manner it could best serve humanity forever. No, they consumed it as rapidly as possible and in ways that were, with few exceptions, entirely wasteful and very often entirley frivolous. But I'll come back to that too ...

Quote:
 

The capitalist system has been living on fossil fuels like an addict on crack cocaine for the last 200 years. It will never voluntarily give them up: "Hey, it's 'free' concentrated energy we can take out of the ground and sell to people for a profit! We can use it to power our factories and increase productivity, thereby postponing the day of reckoning with our built-in, inevitable decline in the rate of profit. What's not to like?"

I agree, but you described humanity not capitalism. Capitlalism is merely a construct by humans to exploit the planet's resources for short-term, personal gain. But socialism, the industrial socialism of Marx, wasn't about not exploiting the planet's resources through industrialization, but more equitably distributing the booty of the Earth plunder. Both of these systems are consumption systems and neither are really relevant to the discussion. If you read Jarred's Collapse, human civilizations have been achieving overshoot and collapse before even Smith or Marx existed.

Quote:

 But imagine if fossil fuels had never existed. Do you think that if the capitalists had instead discovered how to use nuclear energy to power their factories, their war machines, their transportation systems, etc. that the world would be in a better place today, population-wise and environment-wise? Of course not, and it's not because of the particular form of energy, but because of the whole apparatus of exploitation, alienation, and oppression that characterizes the capitalist mode of production.

Yes and no. Of course not, yes. And no, not because of capitalism but because of humanity. Humans deforested Europe before there was capitalism. They turned the vast green and rich fields of Northern Africa and the Middle-East into desert before there was capitalism. They hunted to extinction most of the largest mammals before there was capitalism. In fact, one could argue that industrial consumer capitalism was a predictable social evolutionary development given the vast potential of fossil energy. It provided the political and social vehicle that enabled humans to consume in the shortest period of time the vast reserves of readily available fossil fuels.

 

Quote:

So we disagree on the causes of the population boom and the destruction of the environment. You think it's driven primarily by technology and I think it's driven primarily by economics.

 I think it is driven primarily by biology.

Quote:

Personally, I don't think there's much hope for the human race without technology; our entire evolutionary history for the past 50,000 years has been driven by the quest to improve it in order better to survive. We could go back to living in caves, but I like to think there are better options available.

You see, there is the problem, M. It is not really about changing our socio-economic system as changing that is inherent in changing the one thing that must truly change if we are to survive as a species and that is our very own behavior as a species. And we are wholly unprepaed to do that. We aren't even prepared to think about it as evidenced by this thread.

But here's a thought experiement: what are you prepared to sacrifice to maintain your current standard of living? 

I don't know math very well but the equation works something like this:

Renewable and non-renewable resources are in constant decline and fixed resources (such as water and  atmosphere) are constantly being degraded and their natural processes disrupted, human population and consumption is growing exponentially.  In order to avert catatastrophe, we must share a greater amount of the planets resources among the growing, nearing 7 billion humans, while simutaneously all of us within that 7 billion reducing consumption.

So you have to start giving up parts of that technology driven lifestyle for which you see there is no hope for the human race without. What will it be?

 




George Victor
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We haven't been able to get past gender freedom yet, FM.

What's all this biology stuff? You are coming to sound like Lovelock.Smile


Fidel
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George Victor wrote:
And Fidel, just curious. What in hell is a "third world capitalist country?"

All of those tragic nation states which were prevented from falling to domino effect during the cold war and under economic tutelage of the west for decades at a time. India is an example of a nominally democratic, struggling capitalist country. Additional thirdworld countries still in search of the capitalist economic long run include:  Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Turkey, Thailand, Laos, Philippines, Guatemala, Belize,  El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Angola, Congo, Uganda, Chad, Kenya, South Africa, Egypt, Iran, and now Afghanistan with the Yanks intervening there since 1979, and so on.


George Victor
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Belize too? Is there no justice?

Fidel
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George Victor wrote:
Belize too? Is there no justice?

Yes, and some of them arent too happy with the results. Amandala Editorial


Frustrated Mess
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Quote:
What in hell is a "third world capitalist country?

Terminally confused. 


Frustrated Mess
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Quote:
You are coming to sound like Lovelock.

Not really. Lovelock wants to save the technology too. The people can all go to hell, but the technology ...


M. Spector
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Frustrated Mess wrote:

M. Spector wrote:

The capitalist system has been living on fossil fuels like an addict on crack cocaine for the last 200 years. It will never voluntarily give them up: "Hey, it's 'free' concentrated energy we can take out of the ground and sell to people for a profit! We can use it to power our factories and increase productivity, thereby postponing the day of reckoning with our built-in, inevitable decline in the rate of profit. What's not to like?"

I agree, but you descrinbed humanity not capitalism. Capitlalism is merely a construct by humans to exploit the planet's resources for short-term, personal gain. But socialism, the industrial socialism of Marx, wasn't about not exploiting the planet's resources through industrialization, but on more equitably distributing the booty of the Earth plunder. Both of these systems are consumption systems and neither are really relevant to the discussion. If you read Jarred's Collapse, human civilizations have been achieving overshoot and collapse before even Smith or Marx existed.

You seem to think capitalism is just an expression of human nature, which doesn't explain why humans lived for millennia without it. Yours is an ahistorical view. Capitalism is no mere "construct"; and it certainly wasn't dreamed up and put into operation by the mass of humanity, which has no stake in its continuation. Rather, it was driven by a relatively small class of entrepreneurs who had capital and wanted to use it to make more capital, by employing wage-labourers. There's actually no reason why ordinary humans should think it was a good idea to plunder the earth's resources in order to enrich a few at the expense of the many.

You don't understand Marx. You should read Marx's Ecology by John Bellamy Foster.

It is the social democrats, not the Marxists, who are focused on "equitably distributing the booty", without much concern for ending the destructive system by which that booty is produced. Marxist economics is all about production, not distribution.

Back at the beginning of the previous thread-chunk, my very first post was a reference to an article by Daniel Tanuro. That article really answers most of your points. For instance, Tanuro makes reference, in the passage I quoted, to Jared Diamond, for whom you evidently have a great deal of respect:

Quote:
The second consequence is that knowledge of homo sapiens's biological characteristics doesn't help us to understand any particular problem in the relationship between humanity and nature. On the contrary, the decisive role is played by socially and historically conditioned forms of development. To seek an explanation or solutions for modern environmental crises by studying the history of Easter Island, or the Mayan collapse, as Jared Diamond does in his bestseller Collapse, is pure nonsense. The Neolithic civilisation on Easter Island had no nuclear power, didn't use pesticides and didn't burn fossil fuels.

Ignoring history and the concrete mode of production in a discussion of humanity and nature can only lead to a seemingly trite but very dangerous conclusion: that, other things being equal, the more human beings there are on Earth, the more ecological problems we create.

In another article, Tanuro takes on Diamond's theory of the "photosynthetic ceiling".

And in a review of Diamond's "Collapse" book, socialist Richard Smith observes:

Quote:
In sum, Diamond's own telling of history shows that society's fate was not "in society's hands" but in the hands of a small elite of kings, chiefs and priests who shut the rest of society out of decision-making and systematically made the "wrong," "shortsighted" decisions that doomed their societies. Furthermore, Diamond's narratives reveal that very often even society's rulers were not really free to choose, because these ruling classes were often "locked in a competitive spiral," one that compelled them to make environmental decisions that benefited their immediate needs but were irrational from the standpoint of society's long-term survival.

In drawing attention to the important role of social (class) structure and elite-mass (class) conflict, Diamond has opened a fruitful approach to understanding the dynamics of eco-social collapse. Indeed, it's the most important history lesson in his book. But the problem is that when he turns to our modern predicament, he completely forgets his own lesson.

FM wrote:
You see, there is the problem, M. It is not really about changing our socio-economic system as changing that is inherent in changing the one thing that must truly change if we are to survive as a species, and that is our very own behavior as a species.

There is no such thing as "our behaviour as a species". People generally behave in their own interests. In a society of clashing interests, people behave differently. People who have a vested interest in destroying Alberta's ecology to extract bitumen think that such behaviour is quite acceptable, whereas the rest of us who have no material interest to be advanced by such destruction stand appalled by such behaviour.

And what is a socio-economic system if not a system of human behaviour - one that can be changed by instituting a different socio-economic system?

FM wrote:
So you have to start giving up parts of that technology driven lifestyle for which you see there is no hope for the human race without.

You misunderstand what I mean by technology. The development of flint arrowheads was technology. The ox-driven plough was technology. Chopsticks are technology. Windmills are technology. These are all things we have developed to improve our lives. Without them, and a million other examples, we would be living like apes.

Technology can be used for good or evil - it is neither good nor bad in itself. The way a society uses technology depends on who rules the society and what their objectives are. There is no reason in principle why a collectivized, democratic, post-capitalist society could not use existing and new technologies - ones we haven't yet discovered - to remediate some of the damage we have done to the earth, and to give us the ability to live in harmony with nature.


Fidel
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Frustrated Mess wrote:
  If you read Jarred's Collapse, human civilizations have been achieving overshoot and collapse before even Smith or Marx existed.

Not all. Some cultures are tens of thousands of years old and probably would have continued had it not been for imperialism through predatory capitalism of the last 300 years or so.


Jerry West
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MS wrote:

Technology can be used for good or evil - it is neither good nor bad in itself. The way a society uses technology depends on who rules the society and what their objectives are. There is no reason in principle why a collectivized, democratic, post-capitalist society could not use existing and new technologies - ones we haven't yet discovered - to remediate some of the damage we have done to the earth, and to give us the ability to live in harmony with nature.

I agree, and once we have tamed the socio-economic beast and brought in a collectivised, sustainable society, then the only issue remaining is at what level of consumption we want society to exist with the equation to consider being resources/population=consumption level.

With six billion people our consumption level would be about like that currently enjoyed in Jordan or Uzbekistan.

As an aside, it may be that we have reached such an advanced technical state in the time that we have because of our competitive and destructive system.  That, however, would not be a good reason to continue it like lemmings heading for a cliff. 

 

 


Frustrated Mess
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Quote:

You seem to think capitalism is just an expression of human nature, which doesn't explain why humans lived for millennia without it. Yours is an ahistorical view. Capitalism is no mere "construct"; and it certainly wasn't dreamed up and put into operation by the mass of humanity, which has no stake in its continuation. Rather, it was driven by a relatively small class of entrepreneurs who had capital and wanted to use it to make more capital, by employing wage-labourers. There's actually no reason why ordinary humans should think it was a good idea to plunder the earth's resources in order to enrich a few at the expense of the many.

You don't understand Marx. You should read Marx's Ecology by John Bellamy Foster.

It is the social democrats, not the Marxists, who are focused on "equitably distributing the booty", without much concern for ending the destructive system by which that booty is produced. Marxist economics is all about production, not distribution.

But you make my point. Humans did live for millennia without capitalism and still managed to war, oppress, exploit, drive other species to extinction and destroy their land bases.

As for the tar sands. Canadians will choose "jobs" over environment every single time.  The electoral record speaks for itself.

I agree Marx is all about production but he is all about indsutrial production. 

 

Quote:
Back at the beginning of the previous thread-chunk, my very first post was a reference to an article by Daniel Tanuro. That article really answers most of your points. For instance, Tanuro makes reference, in the passage I quoted, to Jared Diamond, for whom you evidently have a great deal of respect.

I just read Jarred, but I must say the section you quoted by Tanuro sure does make my point:

Quote:
e. The Neolithic civilisation on Easter Island had no nuclear power, didn't use pesticides and didn't burn fossil fuels.

Yes, without modern techmology and processes. nor capitalism, they still managed to overshoot and collapse. And to Tanuro that says nothing at all?

Quote:
There is no such thing as "our behaviour as a species".

Of course there is. All species exhibit behavioural characteristics. Make your argument to an anthropologist.

Quote:
And what is a socio-economic system if not a system of human behaviour - one that can be changed by instituting a different socio-economic system?

Precisely. We develop economic systems to compliment our behaviour as a society or civilization and we are today, for now, a global civilization. And yes, we can adopt a different socio-economic system, one adapted to a new behavior. 

Quote:
The development of flint arrowheads was technology. The ox-driven plough was technology. Chopsticks are technology. Windmills are technology. These are all things we have developed to improve our lives. Without them, and a million other examples, we would be living like apes.

If that is what you mean then there will always be technology so long as there are humans. And have you ever thought the lives of apes are as worthwhile living for the apes as ours are for us?

 

Quote:

There is no reason in principle why a collectivized, democratic, post-capitalist society could not use existing and new technologies - ones we haven't yet discovered - to remediate some of the damage we have done to the earth, and to give us the ability to live in harmony with nature.

To begin, we would have to remediate our opinions of the creatures with which we share this planet, such as apes. And then we would have to change, drastically, our own behavior and attitudes with regard to our life systems. Can it happen. Sure. But let's see if we can shut down the tar sands first.

 

________________

I've gotten rid of my tagline.

 

 


M. Spector
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Joined: Feb 19 2005

The tagline was the best part of your posts in this thread!


Fidel
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Very many more of FM's posts and I'll begin to think capitalism isnt the problem - it's a large minority of people electing a series of phony majority governments around the western world with the CIA and SAS  neutral election observers since the 1950's.

Quote:
In terms of the organization of the executive branch, we need to rewrite the National Security Act of 1947, taking away from the CIA all functions that involve sabotage, torture, subversion, overseas election rigging, rendition, and other forms of clandestine activity. The president should be deprived of his power to order these types of operations except with the explicit advice and consent of the Senate. The CIA should basically devote itself to the collection and analysis of foreign intelligence. We should eliminate as much secrecy as possible so that neither the CIA, nor any other comparable organization ever again becomes the president's private army. - Chalmers Johnson


George Victor
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Quote:You are coming to sound like Lovelock.

 

FM: 

Not really. Lovelock wants to save the technology too. The people can all go to hell, but the technology ..

----------------------------------------------------------------------

You are still reading things into his work, FM.

A fella who wants the world population to retreat to a sustainable 1 billion and who turned around mainstream biology (even though he's not a biologist but began as an MD specializing in tropical diseases - what a monster) cannot be portrayed as a Dr. Strangelove. I believe you confuse the two. "Love" being the only linkage.

He very carefully explains that nuclear power generation is only to get us over the transition to a smaller, sustainable population - "keep the lights of civilization burning" as he puts it. And when you look around, do you really think our fellow Homo sapiens are really up for a more precipitous transition?

Using your (I must say impressive) background reading - and experience on this blessed threadSmile

Miss the pediculated fish. Can't you fashion a smaller version?

 

 


Policywonk
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Joined: Feb 6 2005
Fidel wrote:
Frustrated Mess wrote:

Well, you are wrong.

The reason we have almost 7 billion people on the planet is because of the harnessing of fossil fuels. Per capita energy production has been in decline. It will continue to decline. The inevitable result will be global famine and we will war over water and arable land -- in fact, we already do.

I dont see any real corelation between fossil fuel use and population explosion. It might be a contributing factor. But if it was the largest contributing factor, then North America should have at least a billion people by now having consumed more oil and total energy than most countries, including China, have ever consumed. The USA contributes 22% of CO2 emissions, and Canada is the USA's largest supplier of fossil fuels among several energy exporting countries

Quote:
The economic model of industrialization whether it be industrial/consumer capitalism. industrial socialism, democratic socialism (an offshoot of consumer capitalism), fascism, or Soviet style communism, the cause - overpopulation due to harnessing the vast energy resources of fossil fuels, and the effect - collapse as fossil fuels are exhausted, remain the same.

The Soviet Union's population growth was somewhere less than one percent in 1991 and certainly not what it is in Africa, Latin America and South Asia today where poverty and thirdworld capitalism is the rule. 

Obviously there are social and economic reasons for population growth. But explosive population growth would have been impossible without fossil fuels for mechanized agriculture and fishing, fertilizers, pesticides, transportation, etc. The correlation between fossil fuel use and population by country or region is complicated by the use of fossil fuels for transportation, resource extraction, manufacturing and electrical production, in addition to food production. 


George Victor
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"Impossible without fossil fuels" sort of wraps it.

 


Jerry West
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Abundant energy (fossil fuels in this case) + System predicated on growth = overpopulation

Said equation does not necessarily equate to exploitation and gross inequalities, but human nature being what it is, that was probably unavoidable.  But, it can be changed.

 


Fidel
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Joined: Apr 29 2004

Even more than fossil fuels, I think sex has to rate fairly high on the list of contributing factors. Nooky does it


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