The following LTE was written by Randolph Femmer, Senior Advisor at the Wecskaop Project: What Every Citizen Should Know About Our Planet. Randolph’s LTE is directed towards the editor of Discover Magazine, which has apparently just published some content on population in its latest issue (e.g. “”growing populations are associated with progress” and “shrinkage has often correlated with decline.”).
Randolph Femmer writes:
Dear Editor Powel –
Your one-sided articles on population do not reflect any contemplation or even cognition of planetary population realities, such as, just for starters:
– CLASSICAL, real-world, and quintessential population climb-and-collapse
population-environment outcomes with 99%-plus die-offs and/or even
worse mass mortalities commonly occur in surrounding environments
that appear to remain 99.998% unoccupied.
– A graph of human population growth from 8000 BC to 2100 exhibits an
extreme and quite-pronounced J-curve – (presumably humankind, though
perhaps not Discover magazine, learned that J-curves have a decided
tendency to utterly flatten and obliterate everything around them in every
direction, as unfortunately witnessed at Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the
end of World War II).
– Wipe a wet paper towel across the surface of an office globe, and the
thin film of water that it leaves behind will be TOO-DEEP proportionally-
speaking to reflect the average depth of the earth’s oceans (and our
thin film of atmosphere is of a similar scale).
– Humankind’s worldwide population explosion from 1930 to 2100 is
completely unprecedented in all of human history (1930 – 2 billion;
1960 – 3 billion; 1975 – 4 billion; 1987 – 5 billion; 1999 – 6 billion;
and 2011 – 7 billion). And current U.N. medium and high population
projections show us to be on trajectories toward 10, 11, 12, 13, 14,
or 15.8 billion by century’s end – on a planet whose carrying capacity
for a modern industrialized humanity is on the order of 2 billion or
– It is also too easy to skim over all of those “billions” unless we have
a crystal-clear appreciation of exactly how ENORMOUS each of those
real-world billions actually is.
(Since you are already publishers, however, imagine, that you are hired
for a well-remunerated position as editors of a one-billion-page Encyclopedia
of Theoretical Physics, but which requires that you publish the materials at
a rate of 500 peer-reviewed, edited, proofread, and published pages per
week, 52 weeks a year. – Given such a rate, how long will be required
for you to complete the entire one-billion-page project?)
(To save you time, the answer is 38,461 years, which means that it you
began the above project 20,000 years ago when ice was still one-mile
thick over Ohio, Wisconsin, and Michigan, when wooly mammoths and
saber-toothed tigers still roamed the earth, and when humans still
lived in caves – and you worked diligently from then until now for all
20,000 years, you would still have 18,461 MORE years to go in order
to finish your encyclopedia.)
Now convert every one of those pages from all 38,461 years into a
human being and add them to our planet – and now repeat that
over and over and over and over again EVERY TWELVE YEARS and
you may begin to appreciate
why the only planetary life-support machinery so far
known to exist anywhere in the universe is breaking.
[12, 13, 14, or 15.8 billion?]
Any of the above numbers constitute the demographic equivalent of
a planetary collision trajectory with a near-earth asteroid.
– Based on the issue’s editorial, it appears that Discover, which purports
to be scientific, assumes that population limits center on various
“running-out-of” suppositions – such as “running-out-of” food or
water (or resources etc.) // Real-world ecological limits, however, are
also defined by ecological services rendered by earth’s biopsheric
life-support machinery (such as pollination, DAILY production of the
oxygen that we inhale ever few seconds, etc.) // As well as limits to
the self-maintenance, self-repair, and self-perpetuation capabilities of
such life-support machinery.
– Also in extraordinaty danger are carrying capacity and planetary
thresholds, tipping points, and limits to the sheer levels of damage,
wastes, and sheet eradication imposed upon complex interacting
systems. For instance:
Try to imagine, for example, a team of astronauts in a space
vehicle if they were to cannibalize 95% of their guidance
and propulsion systems, annihilate 93% of their heat shields,
destroy 87% of their CO2 scrubbers degrade 77% of their
oxygen production systems and eviscerate the computers
and life-support systems of their spacecraft.
In a similar way, try to imagine the owner of a new and pristine automobile who
begins to systematically degrade its multiple operating systems, degrading 50%
of its steering system, 75% of its tires, and then destroying its carburetor, most
of its spark plugs, half of its axles and brake shoes, and 93% of its ignition and
electrical systems, while simultaneously pouring additional contaminants each day
into its gasoline, oil, radiator, battery, transmission fluid, and brake fluid.
And then suppose that this individual can’t understand why his automobile, which
“has always worked in the past,” doesn’t function anymore. Not so bright, is he?
Do we know anyone who seems to treat the only planetary life-support
machinery so far known to exist anywhere in the universe in a similar way?
No rational astronauts would ever dream of inflicting such damage upon the vehicle
that sustains their lives in space, and the rest of us would never dream of inflicting
such damage upon our automobiles.
Amazingly, however, we seem to suppose that we can systematically destroy,
eradicate and dismantle the only planetary life-support machinery so far known
to exist anywhere in the universe
and to presume that it will nevertheless continue
to function as it has always done in the past.
Notice that the above has nothing to do with “running-out-of” food or resources or
anything else but instead counsels the urgency of caution when it comes to the sheer
degrees of physical damage, wastes, and eradication that we inflict.