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GliderGuider Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-15-06 12:10 PM
Original message
A compendium of gloom
It may not be polite to post this kind of downbeat musing, but I think that understanding the scope of the situation we face is important.

When I say "we" below, I mean all of us - global humanity, not just the USA.
  • There are 6.5 billion of us.
  • The excess birth rate is 75 million people per year. That's the number of extra deaths you'd need every year to stabilize the world population. WWII killed only 10 million per year.
  • The fertility rate of the developed world is at or below 2. The rate in most of the the rest of the world is over 3. The high fertility populations are getting younger, the low fertility populations are aging.
  • Humanity is in a 25% overshoot condition - we need 1.25 planets to keep going at this population and rate of consumption.
  • Humanity's ecological niche has expanded to become the entire planet.
  • This is possible because of cheap transportation.
  • Cheap transportation is possible because of cheap oil.
  • 75% of all oil is used for transportation, and 95% of all transportation is driven by oil.
  • There are no substitutes for oil in its global role as a transportation fuel.
  • We have used half the oil there is, and the rate of oil production is about to start declining.
  • A calorie of food requires about 10 calories of fossil fuel to produce and transport to the consumer.
  • During six of the last seven years the world has consumed more grain than it has produced.
  • World per-capita grain production peaked in 1984, and is now down about 8% from its peak.
  • Developing nations will pay very high energy prices to achieve a Western standard of living.
  • Any oil the OECD nations do not use due to conservation, substitution or demand destruction will find ready buyers in other nations.
  • Technological developments like electric cars will not reduce the global use of oil, they will merely displace that use to other economic sectors or countries.
  • Because oil is the master resource of our civilization, we will consume all the oil we can produce, no matter what the price.
  • If oil gets to be too expensive or scarce, we will turn increasingly to coal.
  • China will in a new coal-fired power plant every week for the next ten years.
  • Alternative energy sources will be added to our fossil fuel use, they will not replace it.
  • We will use more nuclear power as time goes on.
  • Only 20% of the original global forest cover remains.
  • Large fish stocks are collapsing, and as a result the cost of fish protein is climbing.
  • Water tables are dropping rapidly as we deplete the deep aquifers in places like the Australia, India and the midwestern USA.
  • Species are going extinct at 1000 times the historic rate.
  • We all know what's happening to the Arctic ice caps.
  • When the Siberian permafrost starts to melt it will release enormous quantities of methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times as bad as CO2, potentially triggering a runaway positive feedback loop of global warming.
  • There is nothing humane we can to to stop world population growth.
  • There is nothing we can do to increase food production.
  • There is no substitute for oil as our civilization's driving force.
  • The people of the developing world will not agree to halt their development.
  • The people of the developed world will not vote to make themselves voluntarily poorer.
  • Even if the people of the developed world did vote to make themselves voluntarily poorer, it woiuld not change the final outcome. Humanity appears to have a built-in growth imperative, we have no predators, and we have filled our finite ecological niche to overflowing.

Folks, we are in enormous trouble.
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CrispyQ Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-15-06 12:17 PM
Response to Original message
1. bumper sticker: Six billion miracles is enough.
;)
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demnan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-15-06 12:21 PM
Response to Original message
2. I'm glad I never had children
I'd hate to see what will be left here in a hundred years.
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bloom Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-15-06 12:27 PM
Response to Original message
3. a couple points
RE:

Any oil the OECD nations do not use due to conservation, substitution or demand destruction will find ready buyers in other nations.

Technological developments like electric cars will not reduce the global use of oil, they will merely displace that use to other economic sectors or countries.
etc.

That is no reason for us not to conserve. That seems to be the reason that some give - if I don't use it - someone else will. That sort of thinking is not helpful. Actually places like India and China are thinking about global warming and looking at our failures at conservation as a model NOT to follow.


As far as:

There is nothing we can do to increase food production.

Actually - that isn't true. The more people who eat a vegetarian (or mostly vegetarian) diet - the more food there will be. It takes much more (wasted) food and energy for us to maintain a meat-eating diet.

As far as:

There is nothing humane we can to to stop world population growth.

Birth control could be much more widely available than it is.



So there are things that could be done - if people only would.
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GliderGuider Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-15-06 12:56 PM
Response to Reply #3
4. There are things that we can, should and will do
Conservation is helpful, but we need to understand it is only helpful at the local level, to the person or group that is conserving. When you look at the outer boundaries of the problem, I don't believe it helps overall. It will make it more likely that those who conserve will have a softer landing.

Outside the OECD the diets are already primarily vegetarian. Global per capita annual meat consumption is about 40 kg, compared to grain consumption of 300 kg. There is room to improve, but given that the developed world is the primary meat consumer, and we have the money to pay for it, I think it's unlikely we will reduce our consumption by much. Given that prognosis, the arable land we can devote to grain production is pretty much all in use. Combine that with declining water tables and the rising cost of fossil fuels for fertilizer, production and transportation, I maintain it is unlikely we will see a rise in the world food supply to match the population increase.

Birth control will do nothing to alleviate the population problem. We can not attack the problem by reducing the birth rate alone. In the places where that will work it's already working. In the places it's needed it won't be adopted. It's uncomfortable to say it, but we need to address the death rate, which at this moment is far too low.

My underlying point is in complete agreement with your last sentence: So there are things that could be done - if people only would. Of course the problem is that people won't. It's not a moral failing or a simple failure of reason, either. The hardest fact is that our genetics simply won't let us do the things that our reason tells us would need to be done.
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bloom Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-15-06 03:22 PM
Response to Reply #4
5. ....
Edited on Fri Dec-15-06 03:23 PM by bloom
On the birth control thing - it's been my impression that BushCO and the Republicans/& the Catholic church have been stopping /inhibiting programs in developing countries. Where there would be programs - they put up roadblocks.

As far as countries acting - I think that with the right leadership - if/when enough people recognize the problem - some pretty drastic steps could be taken. I think that it needs to be thought of like WWII - with rationing and whatever mobilization of the right resources. (ie. meat could be one of the things rationed).
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GliderGuider Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-15-06 03:44 PM
Response to Reply #5
6. The key is "if/when enough people recognize the problem".
Edited on Fri Dec-15-06 03:52 PM by GliderGuider
I think many people are becoming aware that there is some sort of problem out there, that might have something to do with the climate, and maybe energy. Very few are aware of the true scale of the interlocking set of problems we're looking at, how many there are and how far along we toward the point of no return.

We will start to do things, but only once we've had problems impact us personally. Even then, without a true understanding of the scale of the problem, how do you get people to buy into the scale of the response required? How do you get people to accept that they: may no longer fly on airplanes; must become vegetarians; may no longer have more than one child; must limit their personal driving to 3000 miles a year; may not buy food that has traveled more than 500 miles to their location; must pay a $3.00 a gallon-equivalent tax on all fossil fuels including natural gas - and all restrictions must come into force at the same time, right now. Furthermore, it applies to every human being on the face of the Earth, whether they like it or not. Every European, every African, every Asian, every North and South American.

IMO that's what it will take to give us even a hope of a soft landing. The scale of the problem is monstrous, and while we must do what we can right now (on the off chance that guys like me are actually insane rather than simply realistic) we will need a lot more education and a few really calamitous events to get peoples' attention. Will it be in time? Will both the leadership and the citizens be up to the task? God I hope so.
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Boomer Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-17-06 09:57 AM
Response to Reply #5
9. China tried to forcibly control population
Only the Chinese have taken the issue of population control seriously enough to mandate -- not just advocate -- change.

The result? The Chinese government was roundly criticized by the West, but even with the force of criminal penalties, they had difficulty maintaining the one-child restriction. The unintended consequences were a rise in female infanticide and a resultant (duh!) shortage of females for all those surviving males to marry upon adulthood.

The West does NOT have the stomach for that kind of solution, and frankly, anything short of a gun pointed at people's heads is unlikely to stem the flow of babies.

I have no children, but that was more the result of my lack of maternal instincts than it was a philosophical decision made when I was young and fertile. My neighbors, family, co-workers are all happily spawning as fast as they can. The good of the planet is a nebulous concept, far too nebulous for them to sacrifice parenthood.

Claiming that people "could" change their ways and save the planet sounds so much like a fact. But human behavior is deeply rooted in instinctual behavior and cultural patterns that make change of that order unlikely. The fact that certain individuals can react to a far seen danger does not make it possible for all people and their established institutions to react equally rationally.

Cassandra is a metaphor that holds all too true for the present.
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kestrel91316 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-15-06 04:04 PM
Response to Original message
7. I've done my fair share to avoid making things worse............
no kids, living simply, minimal driving in the past 15 years, very little meat consumption.

I'd like to see the WASTERS step up to the plate and make some serious lifestyle changes, but something tells me this will NOT happen.

I am laying the groundwork for a move closer to family when I semi-retire. Buy a tiny fixer-upper and upgrade insulation/windows, install a geothermal heat pump w/ water-heating hookup, property big enough to put in a windmill and a few solar panels, raise sheep and chickens and have a dwarf orchard and huge garden. Oh, and a ROOT CELLAR. And get a Prius or by then maybe they will have pluggable hybrids.

I consider it my civic DUTY to strive toward a sustainable lifestyle. What is wrong with people who DON'T CARE to even try this????
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Kolesar Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-17-06 07:11 AM
Response to Reply #7
8. Need a roommate?
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