The Great Multiplier

At the end of 2022, the Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Human Capital held a conference titled Population and Climate Change: The Defining Relationship of the 21st Century. Yet as one participant noted, in this presentation from the conference, the desire to downplay population’s importance is hard to avoid, even among those who should know better.

by Jan van Weeren

In the first paragraph of the call for papers for this conference there was a remarkable statement. It reads as follows:

Population size nevertheless matters less for human impacts on the climate and other earth systems as compared to affluence and consumption, which vary widely across the planet.

I’d like you to scrutinise this statement. The first part poses that population size matters less for human impacts on the climate and other earth systems than affluence and consumption. This is a hotly contested assertion, especially regarding ‘other earth systems’, but even if it were so, consider that without people there is no affluence or consumption. Population growth leads to increased economic activity, and as more and more people escape from poverty, they will consume more.

In the well-known IPAT equation, P (population) and affluence (A) are two of the three factors that are equally important in determining the human impact on the environment. If we define A (affluence) as the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) per capita, then a 10% increase in A and a 10% increase in P have exactly the same effect in increasing environmental impact (I). That makes intuitive sense, since more people and greater affluence both normally lead to more economic activity—the fundamental driver of our environmental impacts.

The second part of the statement asserts that affluence and consumption vary widely across the planet. That’s undeniably true. The number of relatively poor people on this planet is much larger than the number of wealthier people. The latter can be especially found in North America, Western Europe, Australia, and in countries such as Japan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia, all countries for which the GDP per capita exceeds 30K dollars.

Approximately the number of well-to-do people will hardly exceed 1 billion. Let’s consider all the others as the poorer people of the world. Their number will add to 7 billion. No one of them will be willing to stay poor. People traveling by bike, would like to have a moped, those with a moped would like to have a car, a refrigerator, a television set, or even air conditioning.

Now let’s assume that the richer part of the world would consume less in order to make consumption growth elsewhere possible without further burdening the Earth. Let the richest billion world citizens halve their consumption from let’s say 100 units to 50 units and let the other 7 billion double their consumption, from let’s say 10 units to 20 units by 2050, as their number increases to 9 billion people. Then total consumption would increase from (1 x 100) + (7 x 10) = 170 billion units to (1 x 50) + (9 x 20) = 230 billion units.

This simple calculation shows that consumption and population numbers are not separate issues. Both impact the Earth’s resources. Consuming less in rich countries, by itself, isn’t very effective on a world scale. A fairer distribution, as illustrated by the calculation, would lead to more than 35% increase of consumption in an already overburdened world.

Of course, this is merely a thought experiment and the values chosen are arbitrary. Nevertheless, it shows that as long as emerging countries such as China and India are working towards the consumption pattern of rich countries this will exacerbate the global situation. In a nutshell: the less people living here as we do, the better. And also: the less people living elsewhere as “we” do, the better, too.

It would be naïve to suppose that there is support in the developed world for cutting our consumption in half. Only a small group of self-identified environmentalists would want to do this. It is also naïve to suppose that most poor people around the world are willing to stay poor for the sake of the climate or the planet. Nevertheless, it would be a good thing if a modest lifestyle for everybody on Earth could solve the present overshoot problem.

Let’s investigate if science has an answer to this question. According to ecological footprint analysis, present day humanity exceeds the carrying capacity of planet Earth. To date, the world population overuses its renewable natural resources by a factor of 1.7. But is it our numbers or our behaviour that causes this overshoot? Should we reduce our population size or diminish our consumption? Or both?

New research has given an answer to this question. Given the universal right of a person to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, such a standard must be set. Lucia Tamburino and Giangiacomo Bravo used the Human Development Index (HDI) of the United Nations to define such a standard.

The Human Development Index (HDI) is a summary measure of average achievement in human development. The health dimension is assessed by life expectancy at birth, the education dimension is measured by mean years of schooling for adults aged 25 years and more and expected years of schooling for children of school entering age. The standard of living dimension is measured by gross national income per capita. The scores for the three HDI dimension indices are then aggregated into a composite index ranging from 1 to 0. It is important to note that the HDI is a measure of general welfare and not just an index of material prosperity.

The HDI is calculated for 189 countries around the world. Norway has the highest HDI (0.957), Niger the lowest (0.349). Tamburino and Bravo took an HDI measure of 0.7 as a minimum level of acceptable welfare. Almost two thirds of all countries have a higher HDI value, and one third a lower one. Near the cut-off score of 0.7 we find countries such as Egypt, Indonesia and Vietnam. An HDI of 0.7 can be seen as quite a modest standard of living, at least in our Western eyes.

In order to make this HDI possible for everybody, the average person must be allowed a certain ecological footprint. According to Tamburino and Bravo, the correlated footprint is 2.14 global hectares per person. Inhabitants of rich countries consume much more than this 2.14 gha; e.g., the Austrians consume 6.1, almost 3 times more. An important component of the actual footprint of developed countries is the carbon footprint. Their greenhouse gas emissions require a lot of biocapacity to be sequestered.

Countries above the maximum per capita footprint of 2.14 gha should try to make this footprint smaller by consumption reduction, use of green energy and new technologies, in order to enable other countries to have a footprint that allows a decent standard of living.

However, the bad news is that even in a world where it is possible for everybody to have an adequate standard of living, the actual population would still exceed the carrying capacity of the planet. There are countries that could offer all their current inhabitants an adequate HDI with the associated footprint without falling into ecological overshoot, such as Canada, almost all countries in South America, Scandinavia, Russia and Australia but also Congo, Namibia and Madagascar. These are the green regions on the map below. They have an EB+, a positive ecobalance. Note that this does not mean these countries do well in other important respects, such as protecting threatened species within their borders. One example is clear-cutting old growth forests in northern forests.

Figure 1. The countries currently in positive eco-balance (the country’s biocapacity exceeds its ecological footprint) are in green. In light blue are countries with a biocapacity sufficient to provide greater than 2.14 global hectares per person (considered the threshold for an acceptable level of welfare) but requiring a reduction in consumption to achieve sustainable eco-balance. Orange countries do not have sufficient biocapacity to provide adequate consumption levels to their current population, and would need to reduce population to sustainably achieve adequate welfare per person. After Tamburino and Bravo (2021).

Then there are countries that could achieve an HDI of 0.7 within their ecological boundaries, at their current population levels, by reducing their per capita footprint. Examples are the USA, France, Ireland and Austria. These are the light blue regions on the map. They have a Potential EB+, a potential positive eco-balance.

A third category of countries, however, would not be able to do this at their current population sizes. Even if they adjusted to an HDI of 0.7 and the associated footprint, they still would exceed their ecological boundaries with their present population. These are the orange regions on the map. Examples include most countries in Africa, the entire Middle East, Pakistan, India, China and the Caribbean. But also the UK, Spain, Portugal, The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Poland, Switzerland, Italy and Greece.

Even if the wealthier countries in this group tried to return to ecological sustainability by reducing their per capita footprints to the size associated with a minimally acceptable HDI, they simply have too many people to achieve that goal. To create ecological balance in these countries requires both a strong reduction of production, consumption and pollution, and a substantial population decline.

What can we do to restore the eco-balance in different countries? First of all, we should try to reach an international agreement (supported by the UN) requiring each sovereign nation – that’s where the power is – to eliminate its ecological deficit, making its own trade-off between consumption and population size. No country would be permitted to “live beyond its means” by emigration or by exporting pollution. It is likely that, faced with a choice between population reduction or dramatic reductions in consumption (or other constraints), most people would choose the former, or a combination of both. Each nation could choose its favoured method of achieving sustainability.

Secondly, we should acknowledge and accept that countries with a high GDP and a high per capita footprint as well as a high ecological overshoot are not fit for immigration if they want to restore their ecological balance in the long term. More people and larger labour forces will aggravate the environmental impact of these countries (GHG, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter emissions, resource depletion, fresh water consumption, soil degradation, living at the cost of other countries by huge imports of resources). Immigrants will try to adopt the way of living in these countries and reinforce economic growth, whereas economic degrowth is required to achieve sustainability.

Thirdly, given our global addiction to fossil fuels – think of the Ukrainian War – and the worldwide inability to reduce carbon emissions, it might be better to go for adaptation to the consequences of climate change instead of investing in prevention and mitigation. Until now, energy transition and GHG reductions haven’t been very effective in developed countries. I personally believe that this ”transition” is mainly industry driven and that it functions as a corporate revenue model with numerous drawbacks (use of fossil fuels and resources to produce new e-cars, wind turbines, solar panels, dependency on rare earth metals, necessity to reinforce the grid) without any significant progress toward sustainability.

What works, instead, is economic degrowth. This can be concluded from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, which postponed World Overshoot Day by a month in 2020. With billions of people striving for more wealth and just one billion people in richer countries not really willing to consume less, the whole IPCC circus seems revealed as a fake.

To give an example: the map below presents the worst-case scenario for my country in the coming centuries as a consequence of sea level rising. It will be impossible to save large parts of The Netherlands lying below or slightly above sea level. Arable land will salinize, rivers won’t be able to drain down to the sea. It might be wise for The Netherlands to start negotiations with the Federal Republic of Germany in order to become the seventeenth federal state, thus creating a broader hinterland for our inhabitants.

Figure 2. “The nation formerly known as the Netherlands” in The Collapse of Western Civilisation: A View from the Future, by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway. A worse-case scenario if global temperature rises by 3 degrees or more.
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

45 thoughts on “The Great Multiplier

  1. Generally agree with all. Population size should not be ignored in a climate crisis. Even George Monbiot admits (in 2022) that population growth currently contributes to about 25% of total consumption. We can argue about the %, but even if it was 25%, this doesn’t warrant 100% ignoring of the issue. Worse still, it doesn’t justify name-calling of those promoting women’s equality and criticising of organisations (eg Population Matters) spreading awareness of smaller families.

  2. The sad reality–that no one seems to want to address–is that population is being “downplayed” as a direct result of the unthinking left unquestionably accepting media’s depiction that to do other than condemn concern about population as racist and wrong. That as they refuse to look at media–ALL MEDIA IN THE FREE INDUSTRIALIZED WORLD–for what it is: one vast, now-deregulated propaganda machine OWNED by Big 6 Media: Comcast, News Corp, National Amusements, Sony, Time-Warner, and DISNEY, most particularly Disney, with a welcome mat into every home in the world.) In short, we now have an oligarchy-CONTROLLED MEDIA and can, thus, expect only the “message” they feel serves their agenda.

    Until we recognize that media–once highly diverse, highly competitive and thus, by its very structuring, HIGHLY HONEST–no longer serves as any but a single agenda and as a propaganda machine for the pro-growth, MAKE ENDLESS FORTUNES crowd, and until we recognize that that has happened due to media DEREGULATION IN THE 1980s AND 1990s (that spread globally) POPULATION WILL REMAIN EITHER A NON-ISSUE or one wrought with accusations of “racism” because a liberal crowd is out there every bit as INDOCTRINATED as their counterparts in China or North Korea, with them unwilling to even consider the I=PAT concept or that the reason Sen. Gaylord Nelson founded Earth Day was to put focus on population.

    1. Media coverage of population is a crucial part of the problem. We are going to be holding a seminar on this matter in late spring at a California university to highlight how journalists can and should cover the effect population has on the environment and not automatically adhere to the notion that it’s consumption that is the “only” problem. Our goal is to change the narrative through journalism. Stay tuned.

  3. Thank you, Dr. van Weeren. Although what you write is true, I think that it is peripheral to the real issue–and solution–for overpopulation. There are over 120 million unintended pregnancies conceived every year, about 73 million of which end up being aborted and the other almost 50 million add to the the global population. The problem is, in large part, unplanned pregnancies! The solution is allowing women to have what they want–the ability to control their fertility.

    1. So good, to have the UN on the case. Suppressing active birth control for all they are worth. Playing up the futile north-south issue as a look-over-there. Inventing the ridiculous rabbit hole of net-zero emissions.

      With a friend like that, environment and species sure don’t need enemies.

  4. Lots of great info in this piece. I had not heard of the Human Development Index and really appreciate that this data exists as it helps me explain to others the confluence of population and consumption.

    One of the main reasons that developed nations don’t fare better is because of fossil fuel use, as everyone knows, however, what most folks don’t yet grasp is that we are within sight of ending all manufacture of internal combustion engines (ICE). Because countries representing most of the world’s market for ICE vehicles have stated that no new ICE may be sold after 2035, all legacy auto manufacturers are quickly developing electric vehicle programs. Net result will be that no more ICE will be offered in about 12 more years. The existing ~2 billion ICE vehicles will age out over the following 10-15 years and at that point, 100% of all ground transport will be powered by an ever-greening grid.

    While you cannot mandate that everyone become a vegan, we can, and will, mandate that everyone who drives does so in an EV. Your MAGA uncle might say he’ll never drive an EV, but at some point in the not-too-distant future, he won’t have a choice.

    This is happening regardless of what anyone says, the only thing that can be done is to slow it down, which is exactly what Toyota, Honda, and the oil companies want. The action for our side is easy. Never buy a new gas car again, and to the extent you have influence, don’t let your friends, family, co-workers, or neighbors buy one either. Over 15 million new vehicles were purchased last year in the U.S., over 90% of them were ICE. Every time you buy a new gas car, the factory makes another. They will keep making them until forced to stop, or until the market no longer wants them. Let’s do what we can to end this industry for good.

    1. Electric cars are not the solution. They are just rich people’s delusion. They don’t solve *any* of the problems caused by ICE cars – consumption of raw materials to build them, space taken up by infrastructure and parking lots, traffic, accidents, urban sprawl, they even pollute locally through tire and brakes.
      Also we don’t have enough renewable energy for current energy consumption, image powering the whole current car fleet with electricity. Not to mention all renewable energy requires fossil fuels to be built and is bad for the environment in some way – hydro destroys ecosystems and requires concrete, wind turbines require concrete and plastic and apparently can kill birds, batteries and the grid require minerals to be mined, etc etc
      The private cars was always a stupid and destructive technology – time to retire it entirely.

      1. Again, dear, you and I can say “just retire” them, but are you naive enough to believe that is happening? Let me add, I’m not inclined to give up my low-mileage carbon-powered car as long as Biden is EXPLODING THE CARBON-INTENSIVE U.S. POPULATION by upwards of 4 MILLION a year, likely more if Title 42 isn’t upheld and he continues to ignore Title 8! Anyone who believes Joe Biden cares hairy rat’s butt about climate change isn’t paying attention.

      2. “Electric cars are not the solution. They don’t solve *any* of the problems caused by ICE cars – consumption of raw materials to build them, space taken up by infrastructure and parking lots, traffic, accidents, urban sprawl, they even pollute locally through tire and brakes.”

        Interesting that you left out the single biggest benefit, that there are no tailpipe pollutants. And if renewable energy is used, there are no pollutants from EV operation at all. Manufacturing pollution is on par with ICE vehicles, but operational pollution is essentially zero. That you would neglect to offer this crucial information suggests a strong bias against the truth.

        “Also we don’t have enough renewable energy for current energy consumption, image powering the whole current car fleet with electricity. ”

        Vastly more renewable energy (RE) is being added to the grid every year than oil, coal, and gas put together. The grid is moving toward RE and will eventually get to ~99% renewable. You suggest we “imagine” powering the whole current fleet with electricity. Well, given that we are imagining things, we can also “imagine” the grid as being 100% renewable. We don’t live in an imaginary world, here in the real world, it will take another 30-35 years to replace all ICE vehicles with electric. By the time we get there, the grid will be almost 100% renewable.

        “The private cars was always a stupid and destructive technology – time to retire it entirely.”

        That easy to say, but not so easy to effect. Please tell us how many people you’ve convinced to give up their car. Start with your friends and family, have you convinced any of them to stop driving? I suspect not. Taking the high road by making an inane comment such as that does not make you better than us, it merely shows you have no clue how big the problem is nor how to solve the problem. Please get back to us when you’ve convinced a mere 10% of your friends and family to give up their cars.

      1. And, we’re overdue for acknowledgement of the STUPIDITY of California trying to mandate E.V.s when it’s power grid (1.) is at maximum capacity without them and (2.) will FURTHER DECLINE in power availability, perhaps as early as July, if lakes Powell and Mead lose their ability to step in, via hydropower, to reduce the frequency of brownouts. (After all, folks, both iconic reservoirs are APPROACHING DEAD POOL!) In fact, this situation is emblematic of the level of NON-LEADERSHIP and DENIAL about many things, including population, as we confront megadrought and other issues that, quite literally, challenge the very survival of civilizations in much of the world, including the United States!

      2. That study is clearly flawed. It assumes coal energy is used to power the vehicles and also used in their manufacture. For most Americans, coal energy is barely part of their grid mix, and here in CA, it has been eliminated altogether. Most importantly, you have the choice to use 100% renewable energy to power your home, so if you are using dirty electricity, that is YOUR choice. I’ve been powering my home, cars, and motorcycles on clean solar energy for over 20 years. Many of my friends have been doing the same thing, some for even longer. You don’t even need to install solar, you can buy clean energy from your utility or from third party generators and have your utility deliver it.

        As for the manufacturing of batteries, this study does not mention that the elements are being recycled from depleted batteries for use in new batteries. Redwood Materials in Nevada recycles EV batteries and they report recovery of up to 98% of the elements to be used in new batteries. It’s been estimated that, after another 30-40 years of mining elements, all future batteries will be from 100% recycled elements.

        The study talked about the environmental damage from mining these elements, but neglected to compare that damage with the damage from the oil industry. When you do that, it’s very clear that oil production causes vastly more damage to the environment, and when it’s burned, it causes even more harm. You cannot recycle gasoline like you can batteries.

      3. Kathleen Parker wrote, “we’re overdue for acknowledgement of the STUPIDITY of California trying to mandate E.V.s when it’s power grid (1.) is at maximum capacity without them”.

        Energy supply is not a problem. Vastly more solar and wind energy are being added to the grid every year than all the EVs sold that year will use. I ran the numbers to see and found that, in 2019 all the EVs sold that year would only need 0.0018% of the kWh generated by all the new solar and wind added to the grid that year. For 2020, the number was 0.0019%, and for 2021, it was 0.0033%, well under one percent!

        It’s clear that the grid will continue to get cleaner in spite of the added demand from EVs. This will be the case until all ground transport is electric and the grid is essentially ~99% renewable.

      4. Thanks for the link to this blog, which I had not noticed on the excellent Global Footprint Network website (which I often visit).

  5. Could be some useful figures here, but I am surprised to see the whole Caribbean dismissed, when I have been quoting the WWF saying that Cuba was world #1 for sustainability, for several years?

    I might also note that some of the ‘green’ countries are already destroying themselves at ever increasing rates in order to keep supplying the orange states with food, and that these also tend to be low lying countries, or countries where all the farming and habitable land is low lying and set to be under water by the end of the century (that map of Netherlands for ‘2300’ looks like extreme wishful thinking!). Conversely, the largely orange, African continent, is, perhaps, the least floodable one, as it is largely ancient craton, with a high profile presented to the seas: it’s a shame that most of it will be too hot for humans to live on without space suits. :/
    That kind of leaves Siberia and Canada as possible places to retreat to, but Canada is nearly all lakes already, and, even if it gets warmer, how much of our current food needs could be grown in one short season when the light was strong enough?

    It’s a bit of a relief that I may be old enough not to need to worry about the massed human numbers and civilisation collapse that is almost certainly not far off. 🙁

  6. Thank you for the statistics. Common sense has always seen what your statistics shoe, but the cliche is true, common sense is.not very common.

    The statistics make it possible to present a de-population argument, not by the Russian invasion method, but by free contraception across the world. But that is another problem altogether.

    1. A quick reminder about the “effectiveness” of war to control population. The conflagrations of World War II produced roughly 45 MILLION KILLED, or from the standpoint of human tragedy, staggering numbers. Yet, today, that number WILL BE REPLACED IN JUST 6 MONTHS on a planet ADDING (last year) 83 MILLION PEOPLE A YEAR.

  7. The willful discount of population’s effect on all aspects of human economy and ecology is how we reached this juncture in the sixth (that we know of) mass extinction cycle. Humans are collectively incapable of regulating either their procreative pace or rates of consumption, except as inflicted by environmental conditions.

    These conditions are now accelerating, as we can see, and so the net agricultural product output of humanity will decline in response. This in turn will impose food scarcity which in turn will impose population decline. The coincident emergence of infectious diseases in humans, livestock and crops is a reflection of the degraded ecology, and will ultimately impose population decline on all species, except those that thrive in destabilized ecologies.

    I think we need to forget about the likelihood of any political embrace of voluntary population modulation policy. It’s demonstrably unrealistic given the prevalence of laissez-faire economic policy as the core mantra of capitalism in our modern age. As a living organism upon which mankind has devolved from symbiotic to parasitic member, Earth has its own immune response to the infectious human outbreak in store. Reducing human population will be/is its objective.

    Does that sound excessively fatalistic?

    1. It sounds horrible.
      Making peace with the idea of enormous human and environmental suffering that might hypothetically but not certainly lead to the reduction human numbers while we have tested means at our disposal to do otherwise is just wrong to me.

      1. And that’s the point, as Norman Borlaug said decades ago, (roughly), “We either reduce growth ourselves or Mother Nature will do it for us, and her way is never very kind.” At let me add, that could well start happening in MEGADROUGHT in the American Southwest as we continue to explode the population of one of the driest places on Earth as though water doesn’t matter!

    2. No – not to me and many of the Post-Doom ecologists now on youtube. It is also far the fairest way of reducing population – it would be not be a choice made by humans for humans (including for embryos) but one imposed by a “blindfold outside agency – blindfold like many statues representing Justice.

  8. The author called it the “Ukrainian War”, but it’s the Russo-Ukrainian War:
    Try this on for size:
    Invading your neighboring country’s space is a selfish decision at the expense of
    your neighbors and the environment. Jailing or killing your political opponents is
    a selfish decision at the expense of your opponents and their constituents. Making
    promises you can’t keep just to get votes is a selfish decision at the expense of your
    constituents. Printing up as much money as you please, or stealing from the Treasury,
    so you can spend as you please, is a selfish decision at the expense of others.
    Extending life spans more and more by artificial means is a selfish decision at the
    expense of other critters, future generations and the environment.

    That’s what we talk about at our spiritual recovery meetings (A.A, G.A., N.A., O.A.,
    S.A., etc.); we stop playing the blame game, recall our past, and tell on ourselves,
    how we made selfish decisions at the expense of our families, our employers, the
    authorities, and our health; Why? Because we don’t want to do “deja vu all over again”!

  9. It isn’t about the blame game, but it is about the stark reality that when a nation has a president–in violation of Title 8, Section 212 F of an immigration law his own party worked to pass–is exploding the population of the highest per-capita carbon nation (3 times that of China), it is the moral responsibility AS CITIZENS OF A DEMOCRATIC NATION to speak out in outrage about what he’s doing–including harming all those critters, including the THOUSANDS of antelopes being found slaughtered in the Southwest by illegal border crossers for an evening meal of antelope steak.

    1. The pronghorn (Antilocapra americana) is a species of artiodactyl (even-toed, hoofed) mammal indigenous to interior western and central North America. Though not an antelope, it is known colloquially in North America as the American antelope, prong buck, pronghorn antelope and prairie antelope, because it closely resembles the antelopes of the Old World and fills a similar ecological niche due to parallel evolution. It is the only surviving member of the family Antilocapridae.

      During the Pleistocene epoch, about 11 other antilocaprid species existed in North America. Three other genera (Capromeryx, Stockoceros and Tetrameryx) existed when humans entered North America but are now extinct.

      As a member of the superfamily Giraffoidea, the pronghorn’s closest living relatives are the giraffe and okapi. The Giraffoidea are in turn members of the infraorder Pecora, making pronghorns more distant relatives of the Cervidae (deer) and Bovidae (cattle, goats, sheep, antelopes, and gazelles), among others.

      The pronghorn is the fastest land mammal in the Western Hemisphere, with running speeds of up to 55 mph. It is the symbol of the American Society of Mammalogists.

  10. Population and consumption, according to the “rectangle” analogy, both matter equally. The only difference, which never gets mentioned, is that it’s relatively easy to drastically cut your consumption if you have to, but you cannot do the same with population.
    Both require urgent, coordinated and radical action, but since you can get rid of people once they’re born unless you kill them, overpopulation has a greater urgency to me personally.
    (Perhaps also because I’m already trying to live the “degrowth” lifestyle”

  11. I dispute your assertion absolutely. In fact, it’s nonsense!

    The environmental community, “Gaia,” dear, has been trying to get people to reduce consumption for 50 years, and look what it’s gotten us. NOWHERE! In fact, consumption has actually increased, partly because our calls to use less are shouted down by calls POWERED BY WALL STREET-OWNED BIG 6 MEDIA to consumer ever more. And, consumption is why we the U.S. has a per-capita carbon footprint THREE TIMES that of China!

    And, so, you think we can’t stop growing population. Wrong!

    Are you even remotely aware that Roman Catholic ITALY HAS THE LOWEST BIRTH RATE IN THE WORLD (FAR BELOW REPLACEMENT), with Roman Catholic Ireland, Spain, etc. not far behind? Europe would not be growing but for in-migration!

    Meanwhile, though it sends Wall Street into fits (as they pressure to counter it via ILLEGAL immigration), U.S. women have a birth rate down DRAMATICALLY FROM JUST 50 YEARS AGO because, duh, we have easy access to that which much of the Third World (Sorry, I do not use WOKE euphemisms like Developing World, because those nation’s aren’t developing!)does not have as we the easy, AFFORDABLE ACCESS TO CONTRACEPTIVES that every adult in the planet deserves. That as liberals sit sipping our Starbucks blathering on about empowering women.

    Women WILL NOT BE EMPOWERED until they have the same right to a “low birth rate” that women in Europe, the United States, Mexico (another example of how EASY population is, down from 5 children per woman to nearly replacement levels!), China, etc. also have.

  12. A great article – suitably pessimistic i.e. realistic. The map is out of date, however (though it says 2021). Nearly all of the world’s Nations are orange now.
    And even if the map were correct, nothing is going to make any difference now. When a species undergoes a population explosion it falls back down again as steeply as it rose – there is no period of plateau-ing, it is a bell-curve. This is because once the natural resources sustaining that species have been drained, it takes centuries or millennia for them to regenerate. Meantime the species (plant or animal) has nothing to live on, unless it goes back to its original numbers and maybe not even then because the resources will still be depleted.
    There are exceptions – for instance locusts do not have to wait very long for crops to re-grow, usually (but now there is drought everywhere, so even they might have to wait longer than usual to burst forth once more). But many other insect species are going extinct very fast.
    Many desert plants (e.g. in Australia) kind of hibernate for years, until the rain comes – then they burst forth briefly, though they soon have to hibernate again. On the whole, though, this is the age of mass extinctions of plants too – hence the Seed Bank at Svalbard. That Seed Bank tells you all you need to know, about what is going to happen, in broad brush terms. No-one knows EXACTLY what is going to happen, but scientists who study these things have a pretty good idea in general. Everyone knows it is the age of Mass Extinctions, surely? The sixth one, caused by mankind this time (for the first time).
    If people want to rebel against all the Extinctions (including our own), or try to stop them with international conferences or whatever – fine, if they are enjoying themselves, but it won’t change anything. Rebelling against Extinction is useless. In Iran there are mass demonstrations about the water running out – but you can’t stop the water running out through civil unrest. You will just die sooner – several demonstrators have been shot by police because they got violent (thinking the water running out is a government plot, and it is true that the government has been taking some water from the south-west (Khuzestan) in a desperate attempt to save livelihoods and lives in other parts of Iran). And it hardly needs saying that there is no point having a conference about the water running out, either. Though you might not get shot – so, enjoy conferences etc. while you can.

  13. Eastern gray squirrels can breed twice a year, but younger and less experienced mothers normally have a single litter per year in the spring. Depending on forage availability, older and more experienced females may breed again in summer. In a year of abundant food, 36% of females bear two litters, but none will do so in a year of poor food. Their breeding seasons are Dec. to Feb. and May to June, though this is slightly delayed in more northern latitudes. The first litter is born in Feb. or March, the second in June or July, though, again, bearing may be advanced or delayed by a few weeks depending on climate, temperature, and forage availability. In any given breeding season, an average of 61 – 66% of females bear young. If a female fails to conceive or loses her young to unusually cold weather or predation, she re-enters estrus and has a later litter. Five days before a female enters estrus, she may attract up to 34 males from up to 500 meters away. Eastern gray squirrels exhibit a form of polygyny, in which the competing males will form a hierarchy of dominance, and the female will mate with multiple males depending on the hierarchy established.

    Normally, 1-4 young are born in each litter, but the largest possible litter size is eight. The gestation period is about 44 days. The young are weaned around 10 weeks, though some may wean up to six weeks later in the wild. They begin to leave the nest after 12 weeks, with autumn born young often wintering with their mother. Only one in four squirrel kits survives to one year of age, with mortality around 55% for the following year. Mortality rates then decrease to around 30% for following years until they increase sharply at 8 years of age.

    Rarely, eastern gray females can enter estrus as early as 5.5 months old, but females are not normally fertile until at least one year of age. Their mean age of first estrus is 1.25 years. The presence of a fertile male will induce ovulation in a female going through estrus. Male eastern grays are sexually mature between 1-2 years of age. Reproductive longevity for females appears to be over 8 years, with 12.5 years documented in North Carolina. These squirrels can live to be 20 years old in captivity, but in the wild live much shorter lives due to predation and the challenges of their habitat. At birth, their life expectancy is 1–2 years, an adult typically can live to be six, with exceptional individuals making it to 12 years.

    1. Thanks – paradoxically some “invasive species” and those classed as vermin are thriving in this ecological debacle. In England red deer have become invasive and far too numerous – no predators, and lots to feed on. So have muntjac deer. Foxes and crows are doing well too. Meantime, many other species (plant and animal) are disappearing, whether they are on an “endangered” list or not. There are far too many to put on a “red” list actually, it would go on for pages. I did wonder if the “antelopes” you mentioned earlier have become a bit invasive since their recovery – the wiki article says they outnumber humans in Wyoming!

    2. I am interested (at least in a serious way) about only ONE INVASIVE SPECIES, the one that has caused the biggest species extinction since the die off of the dinosaurs: Humans!

      1. I posted the entire squirrel article on Facebook, but just took the parts about
        breeding, mortality rates and life spans for posting here, because I’m the one
        calling for turning back the clock on some immunization in order to increase
        the human mortality rate and thus shorten the average life span, regardless of
        whether others tell me to “go first” or not. Extending life spans artificially
        is a selfish decision at the expense of others, and that’s the cause of the conflict!

  14. They are NOT invasive in the American Southwest, though there are a lot of problems with elk in the higher elevations, basically plains animals introduced into the mountains for hunters to hunt. In fact, they are a major concern, for example, in New Mexico, where ‘mega-fires’ have burned vast acreages at high temperatures and the elk are inhibiting the recovery of the forests as they nip off aspen faster than they can come up.

    But let me point out, that in the rapidly growing–at this point, MOSTLY TRASHED AMERICAN SOUTHWEST (where my family settled in 1862)–ALL wildlife are taking it in the shorts, especially considering mega-drought and the exploding populations in cities like Phoenix, Salt Lake, Denver, Albuquerque, Tucson–with exploding to mean THEY SPRAWL FOR MILES IN EVERY DIRECTION and hog all the water!

    1. Yes – well of course I agree with you that the main problem on the invasive species front is homo sapiens sapiens – a sub-species, technically, but the name doesn’t matter really.

    1. Cute – thanks. Catching these common illnesses provides life-long immunity (provided you survive) – unlike vaccination. However one smallpox vaccination does seem to confer lifelong immunity – though we cannot be sure, because it has been completely wiped out now. I see that poor Annabel caught absolutely everything, Gertrude and May only typhoid, and Edith only typhoid and mumps (one side only!). I hope Annabel survived to adulthood. The others may have caught all the illnesses but not been very sick, this often happens if people have powerful immune systems, so sometimes they are not aware they have acquired a pathogen because they have swiftly knocked it on the head. If they have not got rid of the bug completely they may be carriers, like Typhoid Mary – but this is rare. And in fact it is antibiotics that are most at fault when it comes to not doing a complete job and creating superbugs.
      I don’t think abstaining from vaccination is going to make any difference to human population, any more than wars do. It is hard for us to imagine what a complete species collapse looks like – but rationally, we do know that it will be due to multiple factors EACH of which are completely outside human control or agency, or at least ALL of which are outside our control when woven together and occurring simultaneously.
      Something outside human control is now such an alien concept to Homo Deus, that we can only imagine it in the form of a robot or machine like the computer Hal in 2001 or the Terminator. The robot is often sinister, but they could be benign according to scientists working on Artificial Intelligence. But either way, robots will only be one factor in human population collapse, if they play any role at all in it. Robots are just as dependent as humans on natural resources for their existence, so if these are depleted and exhausted, the robots will disappear as fast as they sprang up.

  15. Paul, electric vehicles still pollute with tire, brake and road wear. It’s not clear exactly how much, but they definitely DO pollute in urban environments. You can do the research if you’d like; there’s many contrasting claims but it’s certainly significant. So it’s not that I don’t mention things, but that you don’t seem to know that EV pollution is NOT zero.
    Renewable energies are by no means clean, as I had already say. I’ll repeat: hydro completely destroys aquatic ecosystems and requires concrete in enormous quantities for the building of dams, not to mention fossil fuels for construction and maintenance. Wind turbines are made of concrete and plastic and need to be disposed of eventually. Solar panels are covering agricultural land and wild ecosystems. Etc. Renewable energy is not damage-free, it’s only a different kind of damage compared to fossil fuels, with a lot of overlap still.
    More broadly, the minerals and raw materials required to power a massive EV fleet, and electric everything else, are so staggering we’re now proceeding to destroy the least known and one of the most delicate ecosystems left, the seabed, to mine for them:
    We need raw materials for cars, batteries, grids, motors…
    As for how many people I personally have convinced, well, some, but that’s nowhere near the point. People in this comment section seem to believe it’s all about “convincing” people to give things up. But it’s not. Once laws are passed, people are forced to change their behaviour whether they want to or not. But even more importantly: if something is not sustainable, the saying goes, it will not be sustained. Getting 8 billion, but even a couple billion people to ride around in EV is never going to happen; should it happen, it will destroy the planet even more than fossil fuels, not less.
    And that’s all I am willing to say in response to a person who prefers to insult me than to engage with my comment in detail.

    1. Gaia, you said, “electric vehicles still pollute with tire, brake and road wear. It’s not clear exactly how much, but they definitely DO pollute in urban environments.”

      There are no studies showing human deaths from tire, brake and road wear. There are hundreds of studies that show pollution from internal combustion causes millions of deaths every year. If you are looking for perfection in transportation, it does not exist. EVs are vastly cleaner and safer than ICE.

      “Renewable energy is not damage-free, it’s only a different kind of damage compared to fossil fuels,”

      You make it sound like the harm from solar, wind, and hydro is the same as fossil fuels, but 100% of the scientists who study this matter will strongly disagree with you on that. Fossil fuel generates vastly more pollution than anything associated with renewable energy or EVs. Also, we fought two wars in Iraq over oil spending several trillion and murdering over 100,000 people. We’ve never fought a war over renewable energy and we never will.

      Your comment about needing elements for batteries is true, but you neglect to mention that batteries are easily recycled. Redwood Materials of Nevada reports recovery of up to 98% of the elements in EV batteries. It’s been estimated that, after another 30-40 years of mining, all subsequent batteries will be made from recycled elements. This is a true circular economy. You cannot recycle gasoline.

      “Getting 8 billion, but even a couple billion people to ride around in EV is never going to happen; should it happen, it will destroy the planet even more than fossil fuels, not less.”

      We are within 12 years of the end of manufacturing internal combustion engines. After that point, all future vehicles will be electric. The existing ~2 billion ICE vehicles will age out over the following 10-15 years, after which 100% of ground transport will be electric and powered by an ever-greening grid. Once we kill the ICE industry completely, even MAGA idiots will have to drive EVs because we will remove their choice to drive ICE vehicles.

      The last line of your comment, ” (EVs) will destroy the planet even more than fossil fuels”, is nonsensical and not supported by any evidence.

      1. “Tire, brake and road wear” ARE pollution. The kind that kills you.
        (The scientific literature in this is vast, by the way, just look it up)

        I see two big problems with your arguments.
        One is the typical contemporary fallacy that “pollution” (narrowly defined) is the only environmental problem we’re dealing with. Everything is measured in CO2 emissions. But if I dam a river and cause the extinction or mass death of fish; if I scrape the bottom of the sea, blow away a mountain for mining, cover a desert with solar panels, etc, I might not have emitted much CO2 (though I have, through construction), but I’ve wrecked the environment just the same. I’ve killed species, unleashed irreversible changes, caused erosion, lost fertile soil, changed the climate locally, etc.
        Cars are terrible for the environment and for people way beyond their pipes. They require an enormous infrastructure. They kill and maim people. They make cities expand unreasonably and take up all the land around them. They’ve kicked people – children, adults, businesses – off the streets, which are now solely for them.
        America has a lot of space so this might not seem as much of a deal. But before Europeans got there it was a paradise of wilderness and natural abundance. Even the first towns were more European in style, smaller and pretty; then, car-led urban expansion caused the suburbian nightmare and mass traffic the US is famous for, not to mention the outsized per capita consumption of resources. Without cars this would not have happened. ALL of this is environment, not just the tailpipes.

        The other problem with your argument is that you fail to consider that it is neither fair nor likely that the rest of the world will be content with us having cars while they don’t. When you think of the future EV fleet, you cannot take current numbers, you have to explain how we extend the same technology to the whole world, and not just Europe too, but Latin America, Africa, the immense human masses of Asia… either they get their higher living standards in their own countries, or they’ll knock at the door of yours. It’s not about “MAGA idiots” (which by the way says a lot about your mindset), this is typical US self-centeredness. There’s a whole world out there waiting to have their magical electric cars.

        As for batteries, in any field I know anything about, recycling in practice is not what it is in theory. Recycling takes up a lot of energy and usually ends up with an inferior product. I’ve spoken with a couple people working in factories or using “recycled” products (specifically steel, wood and concrete), and they say they are always inferior and if they can they use virgin materials. This is corroborated by a quick search on line, if you don’t believe me, and definitely true for paper and plastic, too, as any consumer can observe (eg. recycled plastic has different and more limited uses from virgin plastic). If you say that somehow this will not be true for batteries, it could be, I personally do not know, but it would be a first. In the meanwhile, we still have to make those infinitely recyclable batteries, and rare earth mining is so environmentally devastating that even China is stopping it on its own soil and trying to do it in neighbouring countries (Myanmar, possibly Afghanistan) instead. Check out what that looks like, and you’ll be horrified.
        And that’s just batteries. Like I said, you’re not considering a whole world wanting cars and needing glass, plastic, metals to manufacture them.

        I think the problem here is that people cannot see their future without a car. So they deliberately ignore the massive impacts of cars and of energy production of ANY KIND.
        We will need to have renewable energy. We and the planet cannot afford as much as will be necessary for the whole of humanity to drive around in electric cars. If you’re not willfully blind, you’ll start seeing that all around you already.

  16. There is much validity in what Gaia says. Interesting to see how huge transport vehicles, planes, cargo ships giant trucks will function on renewable.
    Interesting to see how metals anufacturing will function on renewables, or space or deepsea vessels, and the most awful of all war machinery. (Peace depends on no madmen being around on the planet).

    Interesting to see how environment destroying, giant solar farms (like mines)
    Will dispose of the glass panels after 20 years.

    No. Renewable are not the holy grail nor environmentally

    It is good that you and scientists have rose coloured glasses and are working on solving humankind’s problems. But problems will never go away and Nirvana is unachievable.

    1. Nirvana means blowing out or extinguishing life like a candle, thus releasing the soul from the body. This is the only way to attain Bliss – liberation from the cycle of bodily death and re-birth. Christianity has the same concept – the concept of another world or kingdom where the pains and pleasures of the flesh do not exist, but instead spiritual Bliss for ever and ever. It will only come when the Almighty has smashed the present world to bits. Obviously. I am afraid Jehovah can get pretty mad and violent at times, like Mother Nature.
      Nirvana is less violent I think – it does not depend on someone or something destroying the material world. [? – this is not very logical, in my opinion – however it seems that Nirvana might be attainable GENTLY in this world on a personal level only, and there is also a more logical theory that the flame of life might go out all over the world QUITE GENTLY due to a simple lack of fuel, which certainly accords with the view of Ecologists vis a vis natural resources and the way all life depends on them,]
      Both concepts have been distorted in our materialist era and it is supposed that Nirvana or the Kingdom of God can be created in THIS world, if only humans would follow a certain path. Of course things might be improved if everyone lived as simply and as spiritually as possible, in communion with the natural world. But this is never going to happen – it never has since humans arrived on Earth, we have consistently destroyed region after region until now there is almost nothing left anywhere. Those living simply and spiritually have always been a tiny minority, a happy few who can do without material comforts, analgesics, and basic mod cons.
      I am not one of them, though of course I admire those who are living entirely sustainably, and some of those who have done this in the past have left a legacy of wonderful writings and paintings which continue to soothe the pain of living for generations after they have died.

  17. Again, I take issue with, what, a total lack of logic. We had Nirvana, also known as a species-rich Planet Earth, now in death throes because media have convinced many of us that population doesn’t matter or is, gosh, hard to deal with, when all REASONABLE DATA available absolutely refutes that. Even Ireland’s high birthrate is a thing of the past, and Taiwan taught us how to use INCENTIVES AND REWARDS, rather than punitive actions to cause one’s birthrate to plummet. How sad that Americans, as Dr. Al Bartlett often said, are totally “innumerate” when it comes to population, or totally IGNORANT of what things like exponential growth mean to us–and to our once-Nirvana!

  18. An illustrated history of the world’s deadliest epidemics, from ancient Rome to Covid-19
    Jan. 16, 2023, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
    NOTE: The list below is a deep dive into the known historic epidemics and
    pandemics that resulted in more than one million deaths. Some epidemics are not
    included because of data uncertainty or availability.
    165 | The Antonine Plague
    541 | The Plague of Justinian
    735 | Japanese smallpox epidemic
    1346 | The Black Death
    1520 | Mexico smallpox epidemic
    1545 | Cocoliztli epidemic
    1576 | Cocoliztli epidemic
    1629 | Italian plague
    1656 | Naples Plague
    1772 | Persian Plague
    1846 | Cholera pandemic
    1855 | Third plague pandemic
    1889 | Flu pandemic
    1918 | Influenza pandemic
    1918 | Russia typhus epidemic
    1957 | Influenza pandemic
    1968 | Influenza pandemic
    1981 | HIV/AIDS pandemic
    2019 | COVID-19 pandemic

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.