Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Public Brainstorm: Human Overpopulation

December 6, 2012 will be the 10 Years Anniversary event of the Club of Amsterdam. We are going to promote and discuss ideas, statements, observations and solutions for five areas that are considered key challenges by Schloer Consulting Group. The main characteristics are exponential changes - the primary cause for critical societal and economic crisis. You find an overview of the Public Brainstorm here.

You are invited to contribute here to our public brainstorming session: Public Brainstorm: Human Overpopulation


Blogger Khannea Suntzu said...

The topic of population restraints can not be argued in polite company. Aside from the insipid idiots (..) that claim we have more than enough space on the planet for 15 billion humans, and "economic growth can easily outpace demand", if only "we'd become more sincerely capitalist and free marketacious", there is no debating this issue.

So the debate is left to opinion statements.

Here's my opinion.

We have overshot the carrying capacity of the planet by several orders of magnitude. It is a complete and utter catastrophe, and we are destined for nightmarish conditions, somewhere this century. We could live comfortably and sustainably with two billion, and even then only if we had sharply reduced expectations of consumerism.

Sadly everyone in the world is now fully anticipating welfare state, pensions, a fridge, two cars, a big screen TV, a vacation once a year, several children and gods know what else. Add a well groomed trillion dollar military apparatus for the Amaericans and we have a recipe for a franchise of Hell on this planet, somewhere this century.

Yes, population levels are decreasing in Europe. However that more or less means a Europe (and an America, China, Japan, Ausralia) with mostly doddering and panicstricken and generally right wing voting old people, and a steady stream of tens of millions of people from regions where the population is still well on the exponential growth curse track.

Have look at Parisian Banlieues where this bright little optimist paradigm is headed. I'll tell you where it is headed - introduce mechanized and automated labour in to the mix (where we lose half the existing jobs in a few decades, and we gain only a very few extremely highly educated jobs in the same period) and you see billions of people structurally unable to make a living, eat, house themselves, get children, consume, have vacations, get a near adequate education or have the least bit of fun.

There is absolutely no way to do anything about this (other than some Neocon racists covertly spreading an infection that makes non-caucasian people infertile, and kills half. It could happen.) I see no resolution other than a range of catastrophic outcomes.

But take heed - at some point the lightning will hit and people will become antsy about overpopulation. Oh sure, we'll all go through the highly predictable racist cycles of blaming the foreigners (or even the friesians or tukkers if that's what it takes) but eventually every voter will have a deeply instinctive and ingrained reflex to WANT LESS PEOPLE.

And beware, since the population on the planet is doubling at once every one, two decades, that moment is somewhere in the middle of this century. And beware, because the popular policies enacted once we are there will be pale shadows of the Chinese one child policy - world wide.

Just wait.

October 17, 2012 6:23 PM  
Blogger Felix Bopp said...

Hardy F. Schloer: “The world will be tested between 2012 and 2025 by more challenges, than it has possibly in its entire existence of human development.

Clearly, I am not discounting here the challenges of the past centuries, as for example the outbreak of the black pest in the dark ages, where there was no medicine or sufficient understanding in how to deal with such far reaching epidemic; or perhaps the two world wars of the last century, that caused more then 80 million death by senseless violence. Neither should one discount the emergence of nuclear technologies or weapons, which posed for the first time in history real and omnipresent danger of destroying the entire planet in a timeframe of only few minutes.

Nevertheless, many real dangerous and catastrophic events are less violent and much less visible. For example, the human discovery of cereals or potatoes enabled human population to grow in exponential pace, and in only the past two centuries of exponential growth to overpopulate the planet in such way, that it is now near impossible to keep vital dynamics of this planet in a sustainable balance. The real problem is ‘us’.

The fact however is, that we do not experience separately a crisis of overpopulation. With it came the systemic faults of money and its creation, which lead to economic breakdown. Exponential overpopulation also caused vastly emerging food, water and farmland shortages, and a predatory and now often violent battle to use the resulting energy shortage in the most profitable ways. Then there is the exponential environmental decay, which poses also accelerating effects on the food, water and farmland problems. Accelerating global warming and its effects come here to mind.

The fact is, that we experience all these climactic disasters concurrently, coming together in one dynamic model, like the proverbial ‘perfect storm’. We are living in the next 20 years in the ‘Age of Final Exponential Change’ where relatively flat growth curves have all begun concurrently to transform into fast and vertical growth that is unsustainable and also complimentary to produce disastrous magnifications to all other here identified problem domains.

To manage this ‘perfect storm’ of complimentary disasters, we must begin to analyze our problems in much more complex and more inclusive models. Unless we begin to think in inclusive and interdisciplinary models, we will not even begin to understand; much less solve these problems.

Understanding is the first step, and it is vitally important. The world, and mostly its politicians and economic leaders are in deep denial about these problems. Misinformation, driven mostly by self-serving dogma, or greed for profit, cement this denial as necessity, to defend specific and selfish goals. However, just as we must look at all our challenges in the context of all concurrent problem domains, we also need the entire human population to come together, and participate in the understanding of this complex situation and also in the definition of solutions.

Ultimately, we will need to do two separate things to solve these problems. First we need to analyze data in an all-inclusive way, using modern supercomputers and cloud computing infrastructures to analyze all available global data and so manage the scientific understanding of the ‘interrelated problem fabric’. Secondly, we must decide on a global level, how we furthermore instruct intelligent supercomputers to search for possible solutions to these problems.

We do not have time anymore, for politicians to ‘play the omni-intelligent rulers’ of our world. We must hurry to find globally acceptable solutions to this perfect storm of apocalyptic problems, because it is the fear in society, that we don’t know where we are going next, that causes global fear, aggression and finally global conflict. To prevent this we must come together, and solve our pretext of sustainability. This will be the first step to begin living together as one human race, in peace, freedom and sustainability.”

October 19, 2012 2:04 PM  
Blogger Felix Bopp said...

Hardy F. Schloer: "I did read all your comments. Interesting! Those of you, that think, that these problems are all just go away, if we do nothing, because 50% of them are not true (not scientific) and the other 50% will solve themselves before they become too critical. Well, all of you, that believe this may be in for a very big surprise… and soon.

I don't know how to put this any simpler, or any more polite….

The problem is not the 100s of predictions prophesying the end of the world, coming from all kinds of crazy paranoia groups, or pseudo scientists that could not even understand the plunder they wrote themselves. The problem is also not churches that tell us, that the Revelations in the Bible are about to tell us from the end the world. We know, what to think about them.


The real danger of exponential change is, where a timeline/data correlation is located in the near vertical curve segment of the observed exponential change.
We are living in a world, where more then 74% of our vital indexes (SCG Analysis 2011) have crossed over into the dangerous exponential acceleration point of the curve, as opposed to only about 8% in the 1950s. In only 10 more years we will see likely over 90% of our vital indexes operate in a near vertical rise or decline, depending on what you observe, or what the focal point of your research is.

If this this was just all to complicated for you, then here is a very simple exercise I ask you to do:

Please watch the following lesson by Prof. Dr. Albert A. Bartlett from the University of Colorado:

Watch all of it. Watch it twice, if you have to! Then we can open the discussions again about what exponential changes we want to observe, how they influence each other, and what the mathematical outcome they MUST produce!

Do your homework. Start, what we have started decades ago. So far the predictive analysis of our group has been exactly on target for these decades. We use holistic models, and we strip all the soft data, and assumptive elements (and other nonsense) as much as possible, and only use, what is left: very hard data; hard change-over-time observations (Stochastic Time-Series Data); and continuous error corrective optimization methods and offsetting factors, as new data and facts becomes available. We need such error correction method, since we live in a dynamic world after all, and new information becomes available continuously.

After you done all of this, and use a very complex and inclusive investigation model of the planet (as inclusive as modern supercomputers and cloud computing infrastructures allow you to be) and include as a minimum global and regional models and data of Population, Energy, Environment, Economy, Finance, Logistic, Food and Water into the overall model. Furthermore, lay over all this a sociological probability model of expected human behavior. Now you begin to do useful science!

When you begin to trace all the exponential changes and compile the potential effect corridors in the data, then you will be confronted with a most uncomforting reality: 2012 to 2025 will be very hard to manage, unless we start looking NOW at the real facts and expected futures, and not wishful thinking, or masking such facts by the needs of special interest groups. There is no more time for minority rule of the planet. We need to arrive at consensus of the global community NOW, to prevent a meltdown.

Our politicians are not equipped to deal with these problems. Al they know is, how to get elected. We need to begin to vote for problem-solving strategies, rather then presidents, because this is all that matters from now on."

Hardy F. Schloer, President and CEO, Schloer Consulting Group - SCG

October 22, 2012 2:16 PM  
Anonymous Arjen Kamphuis said...

I think energy is our most acute problem. However: all of the problems in thise series are, of course, all interlinked. I agree with Khannea's and Hardy's analysis that there are no easy fixes for these and the time for painless 'solutions' is a long time past.

Energy (especially liquid fossil fuel) shortages are one of the main triggers for the current economic/financial crisis. Economies cannot grow when oilprices hover above $120/barrel. Above $145 they implode. This is especially true for economies that are heavily leveraged financially as most western economies are today. Lot's of loans based on future industrial production that may very well never exist because there are not enough cheaply exploitable natural resources.

Food production is directly impacted by fossilfuel shortages because it is the primary energy input for modern agriculture. The 'green revolution' that allows the world to produce enough food for 7 billion people should be called the black revolution because of all the oil and natural gas that goes into running tractors and making artificial fertilizer. Without these energy inputs the natural ability of the earth to make food will only sustain about 1 billion people (the situation before 1880 and before we started using large scale mechanized agriculture).

Turning the problem on its head one could also argue that we don't have to few natural resources but too many people consuming those resources at an unsustainable rate. The problem with this viewpoint is that it implies the solution is to lower the global polulation by 6 billion people within a generation. That way we preseve enough resources for the remaining 1 billion to live in balance with the natural carrying capacity of the planet. But who want to contemplate ways of getting rid of 6 billion people within 20 years without resorting to measures that will make Stalin and Ghengis Kahn look like amateurs? It would require the equivalent of WW2 in deaths every 2-3 months for 20 years to make those numbers work.

The one thing we all need to do in thinking about the future is to be willing to significantly lower our expectations of wealth, comforfort and healty life-expectancy. Any plans we make with regard to the future must work within limits set by physical reality and thus are limited by things like the laws of thermo-dynamics. Everyting requires energy and generating that energy requires machinery and systems that require more energy to build and maintain.

Not having acces to unlimited amounts of fossil fuel enery will mean a much lower standard of living for fewer people. There are no easy or quick techno-fixes that will completely solve this proble (the numbers for 'green' energy sources just don't work withing economic limits). Any acceleration in switching to more sustainable energy sources and less energy-intensive methods for food production/distribution will lessen the impact of these problems somewhat. When discussing these methods we need to make sure the numbers af actual saving are significant as as not to lose ourselves in merely symbolic actions (such as driving a Prius 25 Km's to a market to buy organic kiwi's from New Zealand).

October 27, 2012 5:08 PM  
Anonymous Mathijs van Zutphen said...

I am not an optimist, and some of what Khannea Suntzu resonates with me. The future is not bright, and that is a somewhat ironic conclusion for someone who grew up in the nineteen eighties; the “no future” decade. I see denial going on all around me, and certainly in our political leadership. Denial, we all know, is a sure way to get into trouble… and so we will.

Still, it is possible to view this rampant denial with a sense of compassion, because for many the alternative to denial is an uncontrollable panic.

So I anticipate more problems rather then less in our immediate future, and in that sense I fully agree with most of what has been said here. And allthough I cannot muster up any optimism about anytghing, I do know what is an effective mindset in dealing with crisis. And that is by lying to yourself a little… deliberately so. The lie is the belief that what you yourself do is making a difference, that you can actually contribute to change yourself.

We really don’t know what the future will bring. Our computer models can extrapolate from previous and current trends, but those are still approximations. Most of the parameters we can measure and we feed into our smart systems are not really as independent as we treat them. From systems theory we have learned that things cohere, and systems are interdependent. Change of a parameter in one system can invoke change in parameters of other systems… and some of this influence may have catastrophic consequences. Sometimes we call this the butterfly effect. But even this is still relative. Catastrophic for whom? If you are a banker in the world today none of what has recently happened is catastrophic, in fact much of what has happened, certainly in terms of government response, has been nothing short of an encouragement to ‘keep up the good work’. So bankers, even though they continue with their business as usual -- sucking cash out of the economy by transfering risk to future generations – have just won.and keep winning. And we ourselves mortgaged the last of our future.

As Dr. Schloer mentioned, many parameters are moving towards extreme values. This is a sign of systems going away from their equilibrium, and in far-outside-of-equilibrium situations spontaneous order arises Ilya Prigogine taught us. But this happens by means of bifurcation, determined but unpredictable events. All that can be said about bifurcations is in the language of probability… the only really advice is: be ready for surprising transformational events, without any possible knowledge on the nature of such events to come.

So then it’s just a question of being in the now. Worrying about what you are doing right now, and this focus is a good remedy against some of dismal and inescapable facts about the world today. I salute all contributors!

November 01, 2012 7:29 PM  
Blogger trox said...

Ever since I have heard Hans Rosling's inspiring presentation at this year's Open Knowledge Festival I am not so worried about overpopulation: chances are that growth will stop at around 10bn. The problem we will be facing, however, is that the Western world will account for 10 % of it, so it is not a question how the rest of the world will catch up with us, but how we adapt to being a minority.

November 02, 2012 12:25 PM  
Anonymous Franz Nahrada said...

I would like to oppose Khannea Suntzus point, but not completely. No, we can not sustain even the present population level with capitalist and free marketacious methods.

But if we leave our imagination free for just one moment and ask the question: how can woMan really live light on the surface of the earth, without compromising the best in technology and wisdom, there is one clear answer for me: humans must by all means reconcile with the natural support system of the planet, and must adopt paradigms that are in line with the very nature of these support systems.

For me this means we have a great chance to master the current crisis if we adopt the "paradigm of the plant". If we manage to use all our knowledge to re-engineer our local habitats into assimilating, digesting, breathing systems, if we understand also that the proximity of man and natural resources, food, forests, is equally important as the completion and engineeriung of closed material cycles, if we turn our unsustainable cities into veritable magaplants that work with the abundant energy of the sun, we will master the challenge.

I have seen too many parts to solve the puzzle to be entirely pessimistc about this: I have seen trees that grow fast in hot climates and not just allow reforestation, but also pioneer dedesertification. I like the bold approach of DESERTEC and similar projects because there is a big mutual synergetic effect between energy, water desalination, new ways to make desert land reusable, communication and media.

If we finally understood that the global cooperative effort of mankind to create liveable habitat and tap into the only unlimited resource this planet has, into human creativity, we might have an option beyond deploring the bad nature of humans.

I advocate "Global Villages", which means settlements which use global communication to raise their level of autonomy by sharing the best in technology and knowledge. That is radically opposed to a restrictive econoimy of information, that so many people seem to advocate.

If you look at the successes of movements like Open Source Ecology you see that we can decentralize almost everything, even the production of the tools we need to create a sustainable civilisation.

There can be an EXPONENTIAL upward spiral of ingenuity of adopting the "paradigm of the plant" and realizing a vision of the planet of a federation of millions of decentralized villages, hundreds of thousands of local central towns, thousands of independent regions.

You think its impossible? Think Twice! The real power of the net is to connect us, to work together across the borders of nations and cultures as one enlightened planetary civilisation.

If we would focus on technologies that help us harvest our local abundance, be it sun or biomass, water or wind, and share the task to spread the paradigm of the plant, like the Transition Movement has begun to do, we would not have to be affraid of overpopulation. Of course, we would have to spend the same amount of passion, energy, ingenuity and endurance that we spend for war and destruction or warfare economy nowadays.

There are more and more people gathering atround this paradigm and it is time it makes itself heard.

November 02, 2012 4:22 PM  
Anonymous Peter van Gorsel said...

What do we talk about when we talk about overpopulation ? Do we mean there are to many people of the kind we don't like ? Or do we mean that there will not be enough left for us in the end ? More people means more brains or does it mean more mouths to feed.The pitfalls for unsavoury solutions and political backstabbing are everywhere in this discussion. Let's start by giving everybody the same rights.

December 02, 2012 12:55 PM  

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