Paul Ehrlich Was Right After All

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Looking back through some old copies of the National Wildlife Magazine, I came across an article from April/May, 1990, by John Nielsen entitled, “Whatever Happened to the Population Bomb? Two decades after Paul Ehrlich’s doomsday predictions, the biologist answers his critics with a new book.” The article came out at the time of Ehrlich’s then new book, Population Explosion, 22 years after his best-selling book (more than 20 million copies), Population Bomb. Ehrlich told National Wildlife, “What we were seeing on a global scale, was the rise to total dominance of a single species, man. This phenomenon was absolutely new and it threatened to wreck the planet.”

The article states, What about the population bomb? What happened to the notion that exponential population growth is the cause of almost all environmental woes? If to Ehrlich his 1968 message was clear, to his more extreme critics it has proved inaccurate and wrong-headed.

Like other ‘doomsayers,’ economist Julian Simon says, ‘Ehrlich underestimates the human ability to respond to change.’

But what about the rest of nature’s ability to respond to change wrought by humans?

Other critics point to Ehrlich’s erroneous predictions of traffic riots in Los Angeles, cataclysmic famines and dead oceans…

We may not be hearing a lot about traffic riots in LA—aside from road rage and regular drive-by shootings, but over-exploited fisheries and massive dead zones are cropping up in oceans across the globe.

Meanwhile, Right- to-Life activists attack him for favoring abortion. His notions of coercive population control in countries such as India and China have been called inhuman.

The problem with these charges, he says, is that they miss the point. Ehrlich admits that some of the scenarios that he made did not unfold [yet]. But he maintains, scenarios are not predictions and being out of date is not the same as being wrong.

Though a new environmental awareness is sweeping the United States [again, this was 1990], population control doesn’t seem to be generating as much concern in the press…The very notion, charges Ehrlich, is becoming ‘taboo’. “Politically, the pressure has been on to stay away from this issue,” he says.

“Each hour,” Ehrlich writes, “there are 11,000 more mouths to feed.”

Nowadays that number is roughly 16,000 per hour. (But of course that’s not taking into account people’s ability to respond to change.)

About his then new book, The Population Explosion, Ehrlich concedes that readers might ignore him this time around. They do so, he says, at the peril of their children’s world. Either way, this will be the last written warning.

“About the only thing I can guarantee is that this will be the last book on population by Paul Ehrlich,” he says. “You can only spend so much time alerting people to a problem. After that, they do their own thing.”

From Bad to More Bad

Demonstrators depart after morning protesting Shell oil rig

And, more bad:
Climate change meets population shift: More people will be hotterworld-population-through-history-to-2025
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — The combination of global warming and shifting population means that by mid-century, there will be a huge increase in the number of Americans sweating through days that are extremely hot, a new study says.

More:

http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/science/future-for-warming-us-not-just-the-heat-but-the-humanity/

Nature Climate Change: http://www.nature.com/nclimate

The demand for oil is growing exponentially

addict2 Crude oil Clock: http://www.oildecline.com/
The time to kick the habit is now…safe_image

It has taken between 50-300 million years to form, and yet we have managed to burn roughly half of all global oil reserves in merely 125 years or so.

The world now consumes 85 million barrels of oil per day, or 40,000 gallons per second, and demand is growing exponentially.

Oil production in 33 out of 48 out countries has now peaked, including Kuwait, Russia and Mexico. Global oil production is now also approaching an all time peak and can potentially end our Industrial Civilization. The most distinguished and prominent geologists, oil industry experts, energy analysts and organizations all agree that big trouble is brewing.

The world is not running out of oil itself, but rather its ability to produce high-quality cheap and economically extractable oil on demand. After more than fifty years of research and analysis on the subject by the most widely respected & rational scientists, it is now clear that the rate at which world oil producers can extract oil is reaching the maximum level possible. This is what is meant by Peak Oil. With great effort and expenditure, the current level of oil production can possibly be maintained for a few more years, but beyond that oil production must begin a permanent & irreversible decline. The Stone Age did not end because of the lack of stones, and the Oil Age won’t end because of lack of oil. The issue is lack of further growth, followed by gradual, then steep decline. Dr King Hubbert correctly predicted peaking of USA oil production in the 1970’s on this basis.

It is now widely acknowledged by the world’s leading petroleum geologists that more than 95 percent of all recoverable oil has now been found. We therefore know, within a reasonable degree of certainty, the total amount of oil available to us. Any oil well has roughly the same life cycle where the production rate peaks before it goes into terminal decline. This happens when about half of the oil has been recovered from the well. We have consumed approximately half of the world’s total reserve of about 2.5 trillion barrels of conventional oil in the ground when we started drilling the first well at a current rate of over 30 billion a year, meaning the world is nearing its production plateau.

Worldwide discovery of oil peaked in 1964 and has followed a steady decline since. According to industry consultants IHS Energy, 90% of all known reserves are now in production, suggesting that few major discoveries remain to be made. There have been no significant discoveries of new oil since 2002. In 2001 there were 8 large scale discoveries, and in 2002 there were 3 such discoveries. In 2003 there were no large scale discoveries of oil. Given geologists’ sophisticated understanding of the characteristics that would indicate a major oil find, is is highly unlikely that any area large enough to be significant has eluded attention and no amount or kind of technology will alter that. Since 1981 we have consumed oil faster than we have found it, and the gap continues to widen. Developing an area such as the Artic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska has a ten year lead time and would ultimately produce well under 1% of what the world currently consumes (IEA).

Oil is now being consumed four times faster than it is being discovered, and the situation is becoming critical.

“The consumption of a finite resource is simply a finite venture and the faster we use the quicker it peaks”  (M. Simmons)

Global oil production is rapidly approaching its peak, even if natural gas liquids and expensive, destructive, risky deepwater and polar oil are included.

Recent Warnings:

“Peak oil is now.” German Energy Watch Group –2008

“By 2012, surplus oil production capacity could entirely disappear..…” U.S. Department of Defense –2008 & 2010.

“A global peak is inevitable. The timing is uncertain, but the window is rapidly narrowing.” UK Energy Research Centre -2009

“The next five years will see us face … the oil crunch.” UK Industry Taskforce on Peak Oil and Energy Security –2009

 

The Saudi Arabia Case

With more than fifty oil-producing countries now in decline, focus on the oil-rich Middle East has sharpened dramatically. Countries of the Middle East have traditionally been able to relieve tight oil markets by increasing production, but, as the this region nears its own oil peak, any relief it can provide is limited and temporary.

Saudi Arabia is a major oil producer with 73% of all incremental world demand being met by this country. The worrying fact is that 90% of their production comes from only 5 mega fields (one is the Ghawar field which is the biggest ever discovered), and are all at risk of unplanned production collapse. In 2004 there were warning signs of production falling into depletion. For years, Aramco, the Saudi national company, use secondary recovery techniques by injecting enormous amounts of seawater (7 million  barrels daily) into their biggest field to boost production. These methods have only temporary effects, and lead to accelerated rates of depletion in the future.

Matt Simmons, long time energy analyst who studied energy for 34 years, in his book “Twilight in the Desert” effectively confronts the complacent belief that there are ample oil reserves in Saudi Arabia and has created a compelling case that Saudi Arabia production will soon reach a peak, after which its production will decline and the world will be confronted with a catastrophic oil shortage. The factual basis of the book is over 200 technical papers published over the last 20 years which individually detail problems with particular wells or particular fields, but which collectively demonstrate that the entire Saudi oil system is “old and fraying” with reserves deliberately vastly overestimated.

Geologist Dr Colin Campbell in a 1998 article in Scientific American also details numerous discrepancies about estimates in Middle East reserves. The extent of reserves reported remained amazingly constant from year to year and then jumped dramatically. A similar unexplainable jump occurred in other countries in the Middle East, sometimes even in the total absence of exploration, strongly suggesting that OPEC’s reserves are overstated.

 

Peak Oil Imminent

The only uncertainty about peak oil is the time scale, which is difficult to predict accurately. Over the years, accurate prediction of oil production was confronted by fluctuating ecological, economical, and political factors, which imposed many restrictions on its exploration, transportation, and supply and demand. At the end of 2009, the Kuwait university and the Kuwait Oil company collaborated in a study to predict the peak date using multicylic models, depending on the historical 2 oil production trend and known oil reserves of 47 major oil production countries, to overcome the limitations and restrictions associated with other previous models. Based on this model, world production is estimated to peak in 2014. Other experts, oil companies and analyst firm estimate the peak date between now and around 2020. What’s certain is that the global production will go into a permanent decline within our generation.

“One of nature’s biggest forces is exponential growth” 

(Albert Einstein)

At a current average global consumption growth rate of 2% annually (1995-2005), by 2025 the world will need 50% more oil (120 mbd), and the International Energy Agency (IEA) admits that Saudi will have to double oil production to achieve this, which is not feasible in even the most optimistic scenario. And that’s not even taking into account that 80% of the world is only just starting to use oil & gas. In recent years, energy demands from mostly emerging economies have increased dramatically in populous countries as their oil consumption per capita grows. The International Energy Agency estimates that 93% of all incremental demand comes from non-OECD countries. Therefore, in time oil prices will continue to rise.

Based on Simmon’s analysis, sudden and sharp oil production declines could happen at any time. Even under the most optimistic scenario, Saudi Arabia may be able to maintain current rates of production for several years, but will not be able to increase production enough to meet the expected increase in world demand. There is no likely scenario that some new frontier can replace Middle East oil declines.

From Wiki leaks it has emerged that Senior Saudi energy officials have privately warned US and European counterparts that Opec would have an “extremely difficult time” meeting demand and that the reserves of Saudi have been overstated by as much as 40%.

“Even an attempt to get up to 12 mbd would wreak havoc within a decade by causing damage to the oil fields. 
-Saudi Aramco official

Exxon Mobil Corporation, one of the world’s largest publicly owned petroleum companies, is the most forthright of the major oil companies having had the courage and honesty to quietly publish the declining discovery trend, based on sound industry data with reserve revisions properly backdated. Furthermore, the company is running page-size advertisements in European papers stressing the immense challenges to be faced in meeting future energy demand, hinting that the challenges might not be met despite its considerable expertise. Chevron recently joined their campaign publishing an advertisement in national newspapers stating that the ‘Era of Easy Oil is Over’ (see here to view full ad).

“Initially it will be denied. There will be much lying and obfuscation. Then prices will rise and demand will fall. The rich will outbid the poor for available supplies.” 

 

The fallacy of Alternatives

The public, business leaders and politicians are all under the false assumption that oil depletion is a straightforward engineering problem of exactly the kind that technology and human ingenuity have so successfully solved before. Technology itself has become a kind of supernatural force, although in reality it is just the hardware and programming for running that fuel, and governed by the basic laws of physics and thermodynamics. Much of our existing technology simply won’t work without an abundant underlying fossil fuel base. In addition, physicist Jonathan Huebner has concluded in The History of Science and Technology that the rate of innovation in the US peaked in 1873, and the current rate of innovation is about the same as it was in 1600. According to Huebner, by 2024 it will have slumped to the same level as it was in the Dark Ages. Hence, without sufficient innovation and a comfortable surplus of fossil fuels, we may simply lack the tools to move forward.

With this energy base dwindling, there is simply not enough time to replace a fluid so cheap, abundant and versatile. It is rich in energy, easy to use, store, and transport. Nothing has the bang for the buck of oil, and nothing can replace it in time – either separately or in combination. Wind, waves and other renewables are all pretty marginal and also take a lot of energy to construct and require a petroleum platform to work off.

Natural gas is a diminishing resource as well and cannot satisfy the growing demand for energy. US Gas supplies were so low in 2003 after a harsh winter that to preserve life and property supplies were close to being cut off to manufacturers, electric plants and lastly homes.

Ethanol has a net energy value of zero (not accounting for soil and water damage and other costs due to unsustainable agricultural practices) – it is subsidized as a boon to agribusiness and would have a negligible effect (Prindle, ACEEE).

Solar energy produces marginal net energy, but are still decades away at best from being a viable substitute given the recent rate of progress in efficiency and costs (averaging about five percent a year) and is nowhere ready to meet the world’s energy needs. More importantly, solar photovoltaic cells (PVC) are built from hydrocarbon feed stocks and therefore require excess resources. It is estimated that a global solar energy system would take a century to build and would consume a major portion of world iron production (Foreign Affairs, Rhodes).

The widespread belief that hydrogen is going to save the day is a good example of how delusional people have become. Hydrogen fuel cells are not an energy source at all, but are more properly termed a form of energy storage. Free hydrogen does not exist on this planet. It requires more energy to break a hydrogen bond than will ever be garnered from that free hydrogen. The current source of hydrogen is natural gas – that is, a hydrocarbon. In the envisioned system of solar PVC & hydrogen fuel cells, every major component of the system, from the PVC to the fuel cells themselves will require hydrocarbon energy and feedstocks. The oil age will never be replaced by a hydrogen fuel-cell economy.

Coal is abundant, but its net energy profile is poor compared to oil and its conversion process to synthetic fuels is very inefficient. Coal would have to be mined at much higher rates to replace declining oil field. In addition, coal production is extremely harmful to the environment. One large coal burning electric plant releases enough radioactive material in a year to build two atomic bombs, apart from emitting more greenhouse gases than any other fuels.  Coal is implicated in mercury pollution that causes 60.000 cases of brain damage in newborn children every year in the USA. Resorting to coal would be a very big step backwards and what we may face then may be more like the Dim Ages. More importantly,  coal is distributed very unevenly with the top three countries (China, USA, USSR) possessing almost 70% of total. Much of the current oil and gas supply is in low-population countries, such as Saudi Arabia, that cannot possibly use all of the production for themselves. They are hence quite willing, indeed eager, to sell it to other countries. When oil and gas are gone, and only coal remains, and the few (large-population) countries that possess it need all of it for their own populations, it will be interesting to see how much is offered for sale to other countries.

Obtaining usable oil from tar sands requires huge amounts of energy, as it has to be mined and washed with super hot water. From an energy balance, it takes the equivalence of two barrels of oil to produce three, which is still positive but poor in terms of energy economics. In the early days of conventional oil, this ratio used to be one to thirty.

Nuclear power plants are simply too expensive and take ten years to build, relying on a fossil fuel platform for all stages of construction, maintenance, and extracting & processing nuclear fuels. Additionally, uranium is also a rare and finite source with its own production peak. Since 2006, the uranium price has already more than doubled.

Nuclear fusion is the kind of energy that the world needs. However, mastering it has been 25 years away for the past 50 years, and still is…

Fossil fuels allowed us to operate highly complex systems at gigantic scales. Renewables are simply incompatible in this context and the new fuels and technologies required would simply take a lot more time to develop than available and require access to abundant supplies of cheap fossil fuels, putting the industrial adventure out of business.

In an interview with The Times, former Shell CEO Jeroen van der Veer calls for a “reality check” and warns that the world’s energy crisis cannot be solved by renewables. “Contrary to public perceptions, renewable energy is not the silver bullet that will soon solve all our problems. Just when energy demand is surging, many of the world’s conventional oilfields are going into decline. The world is blinding itself to the reality of its energy problems, ignoring the scale of growth in demand from developing countries and placing too much faith in renewable sources of power”.

Alternative energies will never replace fossil fuels at the scale, rate and manner at which the world currently consumes them, and humankind’s ingenuity will simply not overcome the upper limits of geology & physics.  

Current Global Energy Production: No substitutes can replace fossil fuels at the same scale & rate at which the world currently use them

 

Just FYI: Fox calls it ‘The worst bird flu outbreak on record’

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From: http://www.foxnews.com/health/2015/05/15/nebraska-declares-state-emergency-in-bird-flu-outbreak/

Government officials were working closely with the nation’s poultry industry Friday to contain the worst outbreak of bird flu on record, one that already has prompted the governors of four states to declare emergencies and led to the culling of 33 million birds in 16 states.

Nebraska became the latest state to declare an emergency amid the outbreak, which has seen three deadly strains of avian influenza have hit North America since December. That action by Gov. Pete Ricketts followed similar moves in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa. With the spread of infection picking up speed in recent weeks, the battle to stem the crisis has become an all-hands-on-deck situation.

_____________________________________

Also see, from:   http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/15/business/bird-flu-outbreak-chicken-farmers.html?emc=eta1&_r=1

By  MAY 14, 2015

Deadly avian flu viruses have affected more than 33 million turkeys, chickens and ducks in more than a dozen states since December. The toll at Center Fresh farms alone accounts for nearly 17 percent of the nation’s poultry that has either been killed by bird flu or is being euthanized to prevent its spread.

While farmers in Asia and elsewhere have had to grapple with avian flu epidemics, no farmers in the United States have ever confronted a health crisis among livestock like this one, which seemed to travel along migratory bird pathways from the Pacific Northwest to the Midwestern states. Almost every day brings confirmation by the Agriculture Department that at least another hundred thousand or so birds must be destroyed; some days, the number exceeds several million.

On Thursday, South Dakota reported its first possible infection on a chicken farm with 1.3 million birds in the eastern part of the state.

Mounds and mounds of carcasses have piled up in vast barns here in the northwestern corner of Iowa, where farmers and officials have been appealing for help to deal with disposal of such a vast number of flocks. Workers wearing masks and protective gear have scrambled to clear the barns, but it is a painstaking process. In these close-knit towns that include many descendants of the area’s original Dutch settlers, some farmers have resorted to burying dead birds in hurriedly dug trenches on their own land, while officials weighed using landfills and mobile incinerators.

Iowa, where one in every five eggs consumed in the country is laid, has been the hardest hit: More than 40 percent of its egg-laying hens are dead or dying. Many are in this region, where barns house up to half a million birds in cages stacked to the rafters. The high density of these egg farms helps to explain why the flu, which can kill 90 percent or more of a flock within 48 hours, is decimating more birds in Iowa than in other states.

Continue reading the main story

The Limits to Human Carrying-Capacity

Harvard archeologist Steven Le Blanc writes in “War or Peace for the Future,” the final chapter of his book, Constant Battles; Why We Fight (pg. 224), “…let’s examine the myths of a peaceful past and of humans living in ecological balance and contrast them with a careful assessment of reality that turns the more traditional view on its head. These myths assume that for long periods of time the earliest humans were simple foragers [hunter-gatherers] who lived in harmony with nature, had few wants, and were able to control their populations. When agriculture was developed, populations grew, but farmers managed to remain inherent environmentalist and continued to avoid the environment. Then finally, but not until the rise of complex societies, we humans lost our ability to live in ecological balance. At that point, the appealing story of millions of years of peaceful coexistence with nature turns ugly, and violent, environmentally threatened societies—in particular Western European society—command a starring role. As Western societies spread or affected much of the planet, the myth continues, warfare and environmental degradation spread like an infectious disease, engulfing most of the world—except where vestigial remains of this peaceful, ecologically balanced existence survived among such groups as the !Kung [bushmen], Australian aborigines, Eskimos, Siriono, and the like. In other words, noble Cro-Magnon humans were replaced by warlike, modern imperialists.

“Reality paints a different picture, one with many opportunities for peace and ecological harmony, but it is a portrait of opportunities lost. Looking back through history, several radical changes in human societies occurred, and each change provided, in theory, an opportunity to improve the population-ecological balance and usher in a new era of peace. Each time one of these dramatic changes took place, peace and ecological balance remained elusive.

“The first of these transformations was becoming human. As proto-humans became fully human beings and gained superior intelligence, language, and cultural norms, these initial human foragers were hardly peaceful. Greater intelligence did not result in greater peacefulness. Although some ecologically benign behaviors did develop, they were never effective enough to regulate population growth and to establish a peaceful, stable system. Except in the harshest environments, forager populations grew, reaching the carrying-capacity limit, and then competed for resources. For more than a million years, humans lived in a precarious balance between population growth and the limitations and variability of the environment. Periodic population increases that could not be sustained by an ever-changing resource base lead to chronic starvation, infanticide, and warfare. These early people modified the environment by such means as fire and were no more ‘environmentalists’ than their short-term goals dictated. Since their numbers, by necessity, low, and their technology limited, the impact of the first foragers was relatively minor.

“Beginning around ten thousand to twelve thousand years ago, people began to farm in the Middle East, China, and later in Africa and Central and South America. This new situation might have resulted in a peaceful world. Farmers were able to get far more food from an acre of land than had ever before been possible, and there was potential for plenty for all—but the balance was not maintained. Farmers could reproduce at rates far beyond those of foragers, and they spread quickly over much of Earth. In spite of its potential, farming itself solved no problems. The benefits of every new plant domesticated, every new animal tamed, and every new technology invented were quickly consumed by the growing number of people such advances could additionally support. Horticulture and domestic animals caused environmental degradation that went way beyond the effects of just the higher population numbers. More people translated into more degradation. In any given region, in spite of efforts to control growth or to develop new foods and technologies, the population soon grew to stress the resources once again. Malnutrition, if not starvation, and even more intense and chronic warfare were common among the early farmers.

“Once again, a major social transformation occurred. Complex societies developed. The leadership in these societies had the mechanisms and potential ability to control population growth and to force people to be more ecologically sensitive. Along with more complex societies came complex technologies. The chiefdoms and early states had developed enough technology to harm the world’s environment at levels and rates not seen before. The result was even more degradation of the environment. Although some efforts were made to control population growth, such mechanisms were always far from fully successful, and resource stress was as common as ever.”      etc…

graph

The Gravest Problem Animals Face: Man’s Self-Appointed Supremacy Over Them

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“Time is running out” (A final message from John A. Livingston)

The following thoughts appear in the last chapter of the late John A. Livingston’s 1973 book, One Cosmic Instant; Man’s Fleeting Supremacy (a book I can especially relate to in that it dissects and begins to dismantle the entrenched, arrogant attitude that humans are apart from, and even superior to, the rest of life here on Earth). Livingston begins by comparing this complex, arrogant, human attitude to an ecosystem:

“In their natural environment, living beings face an infinity of survival problems—food shortages, predators, diseases, competitors, population stresses, and so on. The gravest problem they now face, however—man’s self-appointed supremacy over them—is strangely like an ecosystem. It has a vast and complicated array of interlocking components…

“As any naturalist knows, the quickest and neatest way to destroy an eco-system is to simplify it, to reduce its complexity and thus short-circuit the equilibrium maintained by the mutual interdependence of its component parts. Perhaps the traditional, cultural, institutional, conceptual eco-construct can be decomplexified by our deliberate manipulation—by the exercise of our conscious choice. Intervention in its workings will require degrees of courage, sacrifice, imagination and generosity which have not frequently been displayed in the course of man’s relationship with his environment. One hesitates to predict whether we will be willing to undertake it. The destruction of the power hierarchy over nature will require a shift in attitudes more profound than we can presently imagine.

“The process of simplification or decomplexification will be drastic. Suppose one were to elect to have an initial go at the “rights of man”—the God-given rights of man the individual and man the species. Suppose it were feasible to actually remove some of those rights, one after the other. The consequences might be astonishing… Environmental forces are already ‘eroding’ traditional rights.

“Then there is the right to have children. Suppose people were no longer permitted to reproduce beyond the replacement level. Replacement level means one adult, one child—zero population growth…The environmentalist must look hard at traditional human freedoms.

“There are other ‘rights’ such as the imagined right of man to kill non-human animals for amusement. Clearly the environment itself will deal with this tradition, simply as the effect of men having joyfully massacred so many ducks, geese, rhinos, elephants and Cape buffaloes that there will not be enough of them to go round. A similar end will come to the fashion industry’s apparent determination to exploit to the bitter end the final stocks of leopard, tiger, jaguar, and the rest.

“What of the more fundamental, unquestioned rights of man the species? The right to populate at will must certainly be removed, either by our own conscious choice or by a natural backlash on the part of the biosphere itself. The right to dominate animals of other species, and to dominate landscapes, will not be subverted as readily. Other beings, as species and as landscapes, do not have the ‘clout’ of the combined forces of the biosphere. But that right, too, will disappear. It will be a sad process, for we will not give up the right to dominate without a struggle—a struggle which will cost both human and non-human nature exorbitantly.

“It will not be in our best interests to allow the environment to dismantle our conceptual power structure for us. In such an eventuality, cosmic forces would make life devastating. We should not expect the environmental counter attack to be nearly so dramatic or spectacular as the ancient vision of the Apocalypse, but it would be equally disastrous. Because it would not be sudden, it would be even more agonizing…

“Time is running out for the dismantling of the institutions which have kept us so grimly locked in step with ‘progress.’ There is even less time for reflection on the merits of the traditional components of our culture which have brought us—and all of nature—to the present point of departure. A point of departure it is, either from the narrow and egocentric culture course we have adopted, or premature departure from the blue planet itself. If we are not capable of identifying the specific threads in the fabric of our beliefs which have sustained the entire tapestry upon which the myth of human dominance is emblazoned, then it may be too late already.

“The hope for survival of non-human nature is dim. There is a familiar scenario. As conditions worsen for human populations—as they will, initially, in underprivileged parts of the world—every ounce and erg of our most refined technological skills and energies will be brought into play to extract from Earth and its non-human inhabitants the basic ingredients for human survival. We will first destroy all of the larger animals, either for meat or because they compete with us for space, together with those which may be intolerant of our activities because of their specific natural specializations. Extinctions of non-human species, without replacement, will continue at an accelerating rate, until the only non-human beings remaining will be those who are willing to share their squalor with us—rats, gutter curs, and parasites and micro-organisms which thrive in time environmental dislocation.

“Our capacity for seeing into the future—and we do not want to know about futures of that kind. We withdraw behind the opaqueness of closed imaginations and familiar fancies. We acknowledge that, yes, the situation is bad, but human ingenuity, creativity, enterprise and good will overcome all difficulties.

“While we should be unravelling the threads of tradition, we are weaving ever more elaborate curtains of rationalization. Every avenue of questioning closed off is another route to intellectual and spiritual freedom barricaded forever.

“There is no engineering answer to a problem created by culture. The worst in humanistic ways of thinking opened and kept open the conceptual man/nature dichotomy, and only mature wisdom and insight that categorize the best in natural philosophic tradition can mend it.”

Breeding Ourselves To Extinction

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http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/11/19/breeding-ourselves-to-extinction/

November 19, 2014

Overpopulation Fuels Climate Change

Breeding Ourselves To Extinction

by DADY CHERY & GILBERT MERCIER

The United Nations has held countless major meetings on climate change, at great consumption of fuel, that have amounted to nothing but reports and promises of more talk. After many of these alarming reports, the G20 leaders, in November 2014, decided to throw several billions of dollars at the problem. Despite climate-change denial becoming incorrect, as long as a discussion of overpopulation, in the context of climate-change mitigation, remains a taboo, we may be sure that nothing will be achieved. If we are serious about reducing our carbon footprint, we must rethink the flawed capitalist concept of unending economic growth and consider reducing the number of human feet in the world. Overpopulation must be discussed in the context of climate change. A major impediment to this discussion has been the assumption that Africa and Asia would be the main targets for depopulation, with eugenics intent towards “black and brown babies.” In reality, there are too many human babies of all kinds: especially in industrialized countries with high rates of consumption.

A Time Bomb on a Short Fuse

Earth’s current human population is 7.27 billion and it is increasing at a rate of more than one per second: so fast that this will make you dizzy. By the middle of any given day, for example, there are about 205,000 thousand births, compared to 84,000 thousand deaths. Superficially, Asia and Africa are the most populous continents in the world, with the 10 most populated countries being China, India, the United States, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Russia and Japan. On the other hand, if we consider the human impact on greenhouse-gas emissions, the most heavily industrialized countries contribute more per capita to the burden of overpopulation on climate change. Specifically, in 2012, China, the United States, and the European Union alone contributed about 56 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fuels: 29 percent from China, 16 percent from the US, and 11 percent from the EU. India and Russia were a distant fourth and fifth, at respectively, six and five percent. The rest of the entire world only contributed 33 percent of the total carbon emission! This includes all of Africa, South and Central America, Australia, and all the less industrialized countries of Asia.

According to Paul and Ann Ehrlich, who sounded the alarm about overpopulation several decades ago and have analyzed it for many years, “our species’ negative impact on our own life-support systems can be approximated by the equation: I = P x A x T.” In this equation, I, the impact of a population is equal to its size (P),  multiplied by the per-capita consumption (A), and finally also multiplied by the energy use (T) for the technologies to drive that consumption. By this analysis, the US is by far the most overpopulated country on the planet. The rapid growth in consumption by China and India, and the global aspiration to follow the US’ footsteps are terrifying and should have dire consequences within 25 years.

The Catastrophic Scenario of Eating Oil

The human population should have crashed from famine in the 1970s but was rescued by modern science. In particular, Norman Borlaug’s green revolution allowed our consumption of food to rely more and more on fossil fuels than on solar energy. We have come to depend on industrial fertilizers that require vast amounts of oil for their production, plus a heavily mechanized agricultural industry that also consumes large quantities of hydrocarbons. Indeed, for many years, the patterns of food, fertilizer, and oil prices over time have been superimposable. Today we can say with confidence, for example, that it takes three quarters of a gallon of oil to produce a pound of beef. Consequently, the idea of cheap oil has become regarded as a guarantee of affordable food. There are three problems with this notion: for one, oil is a finite resource; secondly, in a vicious cycle, cheap and abundant oil will, at best, postpone the inevitable human population crash to a much higher population; and finally, all the oil will eventually wind up in the atmosphere as CO2.

According to a November 2014 report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) that projects the state of the planet and its energy resources to 2040, humans will not have to face a shortage of energy. The IEA projects, that by 2040, the world will consume greenhouse-contributing energy like oil, gas and coal, compared with so-called green energy like wind, solar, and nuclear, in a 1:1 ratio. A world-wide expansion of fracking is expected to keep carbon energy cheap and plentiful. This fact plus a projected two-billion-people increase on Earth mean that energy consumption would increase by 37 percent by 2040. This rate of growth and consumption implies a rapid increase of greenhouse-gas emissions, which in turn translates into a 3.6-degree Celsius global warming by the year 2100. This, according to the IEA report, is a “catastrophic scenario.”

Breeding Ourselves to Extinction

About 20 years ago, when the human population was 5.7 billion, our species was already consuming 40 percent of the Earth’s primary productivity. In other words, 40 percent of the total solar energy converted to organic matter was being consumed by a single species. We are quickly approaching a tipping point in the planet’s sixth mass-extinction event, attributable to human folly. The planet simply cannot accommodate another human doubling. Whether or not there is sufficient hydrocarbon to permit such a doubling, it will be prevented by the ravages of climate-change events, such as floods, hurricanes and droughts due to global warming, by famines due to the disappearance of key members of our ecology like the bats and honeybees, and by infectious diseases, like Ebola, from human infringement on the habitats of other animals. Our runaway overpopulation, overconsumption, and our obsession with economic growth are carving a sure path to collective suicide.

Procreation is still viewed as a being blessing and accomplishment, although this is an obsolete notion from an era when many hands were needed on a farm, and life expectancy was short, especially for women (many of whom died in childbirth) and young children. In an overpopulated world, parenthood is an act of self indulgence: the ultimate act of selfishness against the society at large and even toward the children themselves, who are being delivered to a world in crisis. So far, the only country that has seriously tried to control its population has been China. For the 35 years from 1979 to 2014, China’s unpopular one-child policy helped to avert a population growth of more than 400 million. More recently, China’s capitalist ambitions to grow a domestic market for its goods have led it to relax this policy to allow two children per couple if either parent is an only child.

Population control policy is needed globally and can be achieved without coercion. In most industrialized countries, parenthood currently comes with substantial tax breaks and an assortment of benefits. This must end. Instead, parenthood should be heavily taxed in proportion to the number of children, and adults without children should be those to receive tax breaks. The notion that children are a burden to the community at large — and not a blessing — must become part of the discourse. Ultimately, this should become incorporated in the culture to such a degree that the sight of a mother or father with three or four children will become obscene. To have any future as a species, our population needs to drop, as does our consumption. We must challenge capitalism and adopt a degrowth model. If we are to make any progress on mitigation of climate change, we must urgently address the problem of overpopulation.

…and the Grasshoppers Inherit the Earth

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Those who are still harboring fantasies about a time of peace and harmony, sustainability, or inherent respect for nature in human kind’s pre-Columbian past should read, Constant Battles, by Steven A. LeBlanc, which explodes the myths about the peaceful, noble savage and the notion of early conservation ethics.

Here’s an excerpt from that book’s chapter, “Enter Conflict:”

“What sets humans apart from almost all other animals is their ability to take resources from other groups, by group action. A large male bear can chase other bears from the best fishing spot along the river, and a male lion can defend its pride’s territory from other lions, but humans developed this process much further. They can cooperatively take over the territory or resources of another group—either by killing them off or driving them from the resources. Such aggression is not without risk, but it is achievable. The ability to engage in social cooperation sets up a dynamic among population growth, carrying capacity, and the potential for conflict.

“Not only are human societies never alone, but regardless of how well they control their own population or act ecologically, they cannot control their neighbors’ behavior. Each society must confront the real possibility that its neighbors will not live in ecological balance but will grow its numbers and attempt to take the resources from nearby groups. Not only have societies always lived in a changing environment, but they always have neighbors. The best way to survive in such a milieu is not to live in ecological balance with slow growth, but to grow rapidly and be able to fend off competitors as well as to take resources from others.

“To see how this most human dynamic works, imagine an extremely simple world with only two societies and no unoccupied land. Under normal conditions, neither group would have much motivation to take resources from the other. People may be somewhat hungry, but not hungry enough to risk getting killed to eat a little better. A few members of either group may die indirectly from food shortages—via disease or infant mortality for example—but from an individual’s perspective, he or she is much more likely to be killed trying to take food from the neighbors than from the usual provisioning shortfalls. Such a constant world would never last for long. Populations would grow and human activity would degrade the land or resources, reducing their abundance. Even if, by sheer luck, all things remained equal, it must be remembered that the climate would never be constant: times of food stress occur because of changes in the weather, especially over the course of several generations. When a very bad year or series of years occurs, the willingness to risk a fight increases because the likelihood of starving goes up.      …

“Now comes the most important part of this overly simplified story: The group with the larger population always has the advantage in any competition over resources, whatever those resources may be. Over the course of human history, one side has rarely had better weapons or tactics for any length of time, and most such warfare between smaller societies is attritional. With equal skills and weapons, each side would be expected to kill an equal number of its opponents. Over time, the larger group will finally overwhelm the smaller one. This advantage of size is well recognized by humans all over the world, and they go to great lengths to keep their numbers comparable to their potential enemies. This is observed anthropologically by the universal desire to have many allies, and the common tactic of smaller groups inviting other societies to join them, even in times of food stress.

“Assume for a moment that by some miracle one of our two groups is full of farsighted, ecological geniuses. They are able to keep their population in check and, moreover, keep it far enough below the carrying capacity that minor changes in the weather, or even longer term changes in the climate, do not resort in food stress. If they need to consume only half of what is available each year, even if there is a terrible year, this group will probably come through the hardship just fine. More important, when a few good years come along, these masterfully ecological people will not grow rapidly, because to do so would mean that they would have trouble when the good times end. Think of them as the ecological equivalent of the industrious ants.

“The second group, on the other hand, is just the opposite—it consists of ecological dimwits. They have no wonderful process available to control their population. They are forever on the edge of carrying capacity, they reproduce with abandon, and they frequently suffer food shortages and the inevitable consequences. Think of this bunch as the ecological equivalent of the care-free grasshoppers. When the good years come, they have more children and grow their population rapidly. Twenty years later, they have doubled their numbers and quickly run out of food at the first minor change in the weather. Of course, had this been a group of “noble savages” who eschewed warfare, they would have starved to death and only a much smaller and more sustainable group survived. This is not a bunch of noble savages; these are ecological dimwits and they attack their good neighbors in order to save their own skins. Since they now outnumber their good neighbors two to one, the dimwits prevail after heavy attrition on both sides. The “good” ants turn out to be dead ants, and the “bad” grasshoppers inherit the earth.

“The moral of this fable is that if any group can get itself into ecological balance and stabilize its population even in the face of environmental change, it will be tremendously disadvantaged against societies that do not behave that way.” The long-term successful society, in a world with many different societies, will be the one that grows when it can and fights when it runs out of resources. It is useless to live an ecologically sustainable existence in the “Garden of Eden” unless the neighbors do so as well.”