Overpopulation is a myth

Discussion in 'Members' Club Room' started by Player 0, Dec 31, 2012.

  1. Player 0
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    Player 0 Junior Member

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    [video=youtube;HsAracLBCxI]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HsAracLBCxI[/video]
     
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  2. Maggern
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    Maggern Junior Member

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    I guess the point that it is trying to make is OK, but it oversimplifies the problem. Overpopulation is not related to merely food or space. Those are the two things this planet has enough of (we have yet to colonize the high seas! plus food replenishes itself unless one depletes the soil).

    However, as the video cleverly pointed out, we're moving into more and more advanced standards of living. Where we before only required clean water, food, a place to settle and perhaps some hides to keep warm, we today need fuel, construction material etc. These resources are limited. This is not even mentioning how increasing use of these resources have devastating effects on the environment we depend on to collect food, water, living space etc. It's all about balance. Overpopulation is a complex equation of living standards, technology, climate. in addition to food and space as mentioned in the movie.

    Not to mention that according to the rules of diminishing returns, the space we first use is the most suitable. As we use more and more space each square meter beomes less suitable for habitation, thus more resource consuming (problems of exposure to extreme environment, longer supply routes etc). Not to mention how our living space and the connected infrastructure increases with standard of living, and it usually grows at the expense of farmland, meaning it becomes harder to feed these people.

    There might be much more, but I don't have more time. It's a nice video, but one cannot solve such huge questions in a two minute video or whatever, and should be treated as such
     
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  3. Geographer
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    Geographer Junior Member

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    Player0, you should add your own words to the initial post. I don't like threads that start as a single link or link to a video with no original input.

    I agree overpopulation is a myth. Can anyone say the world would be better off without some segment of the population? Even if you cut out all the slum residents around the world, that would still harm the local economy because slum resident contribute immensely to the urban economy as street sweepers, rickshaw pullers, house cleaners, cooks, etc.

    Notice how overpopulation alarmists always say someone else is overpopulation. They never point to themselves and say they are the overpopulation problem. If the world is so overpopulated, why don't the alarmists just commit suicide? Because in the alarmists' minds, their life is meaningful while the lives of slum dwellers is not. And that gets to the heart of the elitism that predominates the overpopulation alarmist movement.

    Overpopulation alarmists also don't understand global economics. They don't understand economies of scale or specialization of labor. They think if Earth's population were reduced 80% to 400 million, then it would be the richest, most prosperous people. But by the logic that fewer people=richer people, if you cut the population down to two, would you have two trillionares? No, you'd have two hunter-gatherers, dirt poor, struggling to survive.

    What about the finite resources fear? First of all, energy is unlimited and replenishable when considering the Sun's radiation. Then there is the future of fusion energy which will utilize hydrogen and helium, the two most common elements in the universe.

    Infinite energy is important because it makes recycling economically feasible and extends the life of existing materials.

    Second, global food production has outpaced global population growth for the last 150 years. Famines around the world such as China's Great Leap Forward in 1958-1961 were due to bad human management or distribution, not an absolute lack of food.
     
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  4. blacklist
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    blacklist New Member

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    @geographer
    sure everything on earth can be used as energy source... just cut wood and you can burn it, you can use modern technology and drill the earth for geothermal energy or create ultra efficient solar powergrid. but at what price ? what consequences ?

    so I say its logical to say that there is a limit on how many people that the earth can sustain human being, but i'm not sure how many. maybe 7 billion is max, maybe 70 billion, maybe 700 billion.
    but saying that the earth is capable of sustaining unlimited number of human just wrong.
    and oversimplifying problem doesn't make it more simple.

    surely overpopulation don't have anything to do with problem of wealth distribution... 2000 years ago everyone is poor by today's standard...

    but

    just look at how the climate changes and problem of pollution... btw which doesn't even mentioned in the video... i still think that we are a little bit too overpopulated...

    EDIT:
    but looking at how demographic around the globe is declining... i think we are safe for now... (psst... dont ask me to suicide, ok)

    about food...
    yes there is many food source that we wastes... thing like rat, cocroach, and whole other plant and insect that we dont eat today... which our anchestor did...

    i agree that food is never been a problem... but it will when temperature rises 2 deg. celcius... many will have to try new menu of fore mentioned delicacies.

    which back to the problem... do you believe that overpopulation affect earth climate changes ?
    or is it just a myth ?
     
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  5. solarz
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    solarz Senior Member

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    I think you are oversimplifying the problem yourself. It's true that simply cutting down population size would not solve any problems. However, you ignore the fact that there is a definite upper limit to Earth population. We might not have reached that limit yet, but we have definitely reached the point of diminishing returns.
     
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  6. SampanViking
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    SampanViking The Capitalist
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    I cannot agree that Overpopulation is a myth, but I certainly agree with those that say that is usually defined in an incorrect manner.

    Overpopulation is a relative not an absolute condition and is simply a measure of the ability of a society to support itself. Early 14th Century England/Europe was certainly over populated and that over population was undoubtedly a main driver of the 100 year war, only resolved with the onset of the Black Death. The population levels of these times were however only about 10% of the populations supported by today's society.
    What this means is that a Feudal Subsistence Society with limited technology is highly restricted by the availability of inefficiently used fertile land. Land and Farming Improvements may well raise the ceiling, but not enough to significantly raise the population the land can support. It required Urbanisation, Industrialisation and Intensive Agriculture to change the dynamic and it has done so by at least an order of magnitude.

    I personally have confidence that the technologies we see making breakthroughs today will allow for similar magnitude order increases over the coming centuries. I think that I can have further confidence in that those countries which embrace these technologies will be the nations that thrive, while those that resist or hesitate will be the ones that do not.
     
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  7. vesicles
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    vesicles Senior Member

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    I don't think anyone proposed to cut down any particular segment of population. It's a general observation that you will run into problems if you have too many people. No one ever says anything about eliminating "street sweepers".

    I think you are the one who is ignoring the general principles of economics. It's all about supply and demand. When you have more people and supply cannot keep up, demand will be up. price will be high. This is especially true with important stuff like food and energy. This leads to inflation and so on and so forth... What happens when people cannot get what they want? They start wars...

    The macroeconomics dictates that the supply-demand curve will simply shift together while the entire economy will maintain its balance and equilibrium when the population shifts since both supply and demand drop together with a population shift. Yes, you have fewer demands, but you also have less capability to produce with lower population. So both supply and demand go together. So the fraction of wealthy vs. poor will not change when you change the population. This is, of course, under the assumption that we still have a decent population base. If we run into a problem of having only 2 people left on the planet, the last thing one worries about would be who is wealthy and who is poor...

    Infinite energy is, of course, the goal. However, one cannot simply plan/strategize based on a hope that no one knows when/if it can be realized. In the mean time, we have to form plans and make predictions based on what we have at hands.

    Unlimited resource is a myth. How can you say that when it is clear that available land for food and other resources is inversely correlated with population increase? More people, less land, less trees, less water. Just look at the Shaanxi and Shanxi, you will know what I'm talking about. A mere 5-6 centuries ago, that area of China was covered with forests. People cut down trees to build palaces and now it's nothing but yellow dirt. The Mayans had to abandon their homes because of lack of resources. The people on the Easter island went almost extinct because they lost all their resources. If it could happen on a smaller scale, it could happen to the entire planet.

    This is wishful thinking at best. Human mistakes get magnified when there is a natural disaster. There was a massive drought in China between 1958-1961 in central China. It was magnified through human mistakes. You cannot rule out natural disasters and same goes with human mistakes. So if our food production is only barely enough to feed the people on this planet, any large scale natural disaster will push it over the limit and push the entire planet into a disaster.

    IMHO, there is a population limit. And it is impossible to pass that limit. Either we correct it ourselves, or mother nature will take care of it for us in the form of famine, plague, war, etc.
     
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  8. Maggern
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    Maggern Junior Member

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    I agree overpopulation is relative considering certain factors. However the planet is finite, and as such there is an absolute limit to our development, unless we dramatically change the rules by colonizing other planets or artificially creating another earth. No amount of technology can overcome this fact in the foreseeable future. Technology will surely help pushing boundaries, but at some point every new person will demand an infinite increase in resource allocation, at which time it will be practically impossible to increase population or sustain reasonable standards of living. At which point there is overpopulation.

    Personally, I'd say overpopulation is a fact as long as resources are not able to replenish or recycle properly (despite all efforts are focused on alleviating the problem)
     
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  9. SampanViking
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    SampanViking The Capitalist
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    Hi Maggern

    Before I wrote my initial entry on this subject I had not been able to watch Players Video. I have of course done so now. Yes it can be described as providing a simplistic response, but given it is responding to a very simplistic argument, I think that is fully forgiveable.

    The video largely shared my own opinion that "overpopulation" was a local and conditional phenomenon, most likely to be economic in nature ie that a social system is unable to provide sufficient wealth for all its citizens to be able to afford to eat, rather than there being no food or scope to produce further food for them.
    Likewise, while I accept that the resources of the "planet" are finite, I would challenge anyone to define what these finite limits actually are. I would argue that any limit is still orders of magnitude in advance of our current population and still too far over the horizon in terms of quantity or time-scale to be taken as a realistic factor of limitation in human development.
    Development beyond the planet are another set of very major factors which I think we will see increasingly active this century, contrary to the current state of stagnation which we have had for nearly the past 40 years.

    The critical difference I see in all this is the difference between a billion poor people and a billion affluent people (another point of agreement with the video). You only have to look at the last 30 years in China to appreciate this point. The one Child policy has not been exercised in respect of simple food security, but as a lever to help implement major social and economic change as China transits from an agrarian peasant society to a middle class urban one. The point of the policy has been to dry up the supply of poor rural residents with little or no capital, in favour of a cash rich urbanised ones. Once significant progress has been made do not be surprised to see the policy dropped (no later than 2020) and a post policy population surge, rapidly taking the Chinese population well beyond previous or currently projected figures, without any appreciable impact on notions of food security.
     
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  10. solarz
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    solarz Senior Member

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    I strongly disagree with this assessment.

    First, virtually all of modern China's challenges, from the education system to tainted food scandals to the deteriorating environment, stems from overpopulation. Teenagers spend their entire 3 years of high school preparing for the university entrance exams, simply because there are way more students looking to enter universities than there are universities capable of accepting them. Similarly, huge numbers of university graduates end up with menial jobs because there are way more graduates than there are positions open.

    Milk producers lace their milk with melamine because of demand far outstrips supply, and thus there is huge profit to be made from producing "fake food".

    The 30 years of economic reforms have taken a tremendous toll on the environment. The Yang-tze river porpoise, the Northern Chinese tiger, and countless other species, are all but extinct. Entire villages have been poisoned by industrial waste flow. When I was young, Shanghai regularly snowed during the winter. Now, it has snowed maybe 2-3 times in the last 20 years. A near permanent smog covers the sky over the city.

    You argue that we have not yet reached the limits of the planet's finite resources, yet the inevitability of Climate Change contradicts this view.

    Sure, if we manage to discover cold fusion, or a cheap way to create anti-matter, we could enjoy near limitless energy. However, those we don't have those things right now, and there is no telling when we will make these kinds of breakthroughs, if they are even possible. The current crop of renewable energies all have limitations that makes them unable to support our current population and living standards.
     
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