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Re: Population: Systems Perspective 2

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  • Les U. Knight
    Population: Systems Perspective 2 Andrew, thanks for bringing out those important points. Food for humanity represents just one of the many challenges of our
    Message 1 of 1 , May 2, 2001
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      Population: Systems Perspective 2

      Andrew, thanks for bringing out those important points.

      Food for humanity represents just one of the many challenges of our
      increasing population density. Malthus said that we would always
      increase until the food runs out, similar to what you are saying. He
      favored "moral restraint" in reproduction, but didn't think the
      common
      folk would do that. He had around a dozen offspring who lived.

      Food production has peaked, and despite Monsanto's aspirations for a
      second Green Revolution, I think we're up against the limits. Fish
      stocks are depleted, 26 billion tons of topsoil are lost each year,
      potable water is becoming more scarce, and so on. Perhaps you and
      Malthus are correct that this is what it takes to get us to stop
      increasing. I'd like to believe we are capable of a sort of moral
      restraint -- not giving up sex, but giving up reproduction. I sure
      wouldn't want to promote starvation as "population control," though
      maybe that's what will finally be what does it. We may soon find out
      empirically.

      >The point is, if food production were to level off now, we'd
      certainly see continued extinctions...ripple effect and all
      that...but our population would find its balance and with
      fluctuations up and down that would be that.<

      Looking at Earth's biosphere from an eco-centered perspective, our
      ability to feed ourselves is only one small factor. For us to live
      without continuing to cause an adverse impact, our density would have
      to improve significantly: way below the level at which we're able to
      stay fed.

      >. . . (we are nature too by the way...if we're not, what are we?), .
      . . <

      We are exotic invaders disrupting ecosystems. Exotics are a part of
      Nature, but not a part of the ecosystems they invade. We are exotics
      in every continent except Africa, and have evolved into virtual
      exotics there.

      >nature doesn't care one way or another whether people
      are around or not. The world will recover after we've left. Nature is
      ever-changing and always adapting.<

      True, but does this excuse everything we do? Nature doesn't care if
      Stalin kills 20 million people, but does that make it alright? We
      eliminate an ancient forest ecosystem, plant a tree farm, and say
      it'll recover. Well, perhaps it will in a million years, but not as
      long as we're running the show.

      >As for the likelihood of another species coming along that causes as
      much harm as us...pretty high. Ray Kurzweil hits this nail on the
      head: technology and electronics are the next stage of evolution. <

      Maybe it's natural for us to assume that what we've become is the
      result of a natural progression of evolution. We make weapons, adapt
      some of them into tools, and the next thing you know we've got an
      industrial revolution going. We can easily envision apes following
      this pattern after we've gone extinct -- unless we take the top of
      the
      food chain with us when we go.

      However, in the vast eons of life on Earth, no other species has
      taken
      this abberent path. True, if it happened once it could happen again,
      but tool wielding apes wouldn't necessarily have to become
      detrimental
      to the ecosystems they inhabit. We could have developed to the point
      we have today without the massive destruction if we were of a
      different nature and weren't so plentiful.

      >Those can't occur without a species to create them. Point being: if
      it's happened here then it's happened, is happening, or will happen
      someplace else or in Earth's future. <

      Mixing quantum theory and philosophy gains us many new perspectives.
      In theory, everything is happening, or has happened, or will happen,
      including voluntary human extinction. Fun to think about.

      In reality, however, several major changes in a species' evolution
      must occur for them to follow our path. These changes must be the
      same
      ones we took or they won't end up as we have. I think the odds are
      slim that this will happen again. Evolution selects these abberations
      out, and we will likely be selected out due to our inability to fit
      within any ecosystem. Our 100,000 year existence doesn't indicate
      we've passed the test of time on Earth's scale.

      >Since we've at least reached a point where we can be aware
      of what we've caused, we might as well stick around because at least
      we can rectify it.<

      Yes, I think we should stick around until we die, and undo what we've
      done as much as possible. We have reached a point where awareness is
      possible, and I think it's growing -- not as fast as our numbers, nor
      as fast as ecosystems are being destroyed though.

      >Fact of the matter is. VHEMT proposes a 2-step process of human
      extinction (give or take) if I've read correctly. First VHEMT wants
      population growth to slow and recede. <

      Right.

      >Second step (concurrent so I've been led to believe) is
      to change how we go about living so that we eliminate the blots on
      the
      planet that we've created. Well, if we manage to get to that second
      step (which probably should be #1...otherwise population won't slow
      in
      the first place) then it seems to me that we will have changed how we
      view the world and will be able to limit our effects on the planet.
      Since that step (a perspective change) seems to be a prerequisite for
      the population change, I think it's fairly safe to assume that
      there's
      no reason for us to go extinct: we will have stopped destroying the
      planet. With that in mind, once we realize the error of our ways and
      change our path of destruction, why would we ever go back to a path
      that sends us back along that downward spiral?<

      It's hard to say why we did it this time, but we did. As long as one
      breeding couple exists, the danger to Earth's biosphere is too great
      to risk. Captain Cook let breeding pairs of pigs loose in Pacific
      Islands, and they're still displacing wildlife there.

      >Human extinction isn't really an answer. It just gets rid of a
      symptom: human population growth. <

      Zero population growth through increased awareness would merely get
      rid of the symptom, our extinction would eliminate the cause.

      >The real root cause is food production. Human
      population growth creates a positive feedback in which people think
      they need to create more food because more people are growing (right
      about here you comment: that's why we should stop having more
      people).
      The thing is, people are animals. Animals only breed with surplus
      food. Kill the surplus (or stop producing surpluses) and breeding
      stops. It's more unlikely that people will rationally decide to stop
      having kids than it is for another harmful species to evolve.<

      It's difficult to say which is more likely, however, we have the
      ability to stop breeding and we don't have the ability to prevent a
      species from evolving into another of us after we've gone extinct
      through voluntary or involuntary means.

      This has been given as a reason for us to stick around: to make sure
      no one worse comes along. An existing detriment continuing to prevent
      a potentially worse detriment seems a weak justification to me.

      >Oh, and I got a laugh out of your statistical manipulation about sex
      not causing kids.<

      Glad to hear it. It often gets taken literally, and the points are
      missed.

      >Oh, and why breed? if it hasn't been clarified: because we have
      awareness (or the ability to be aware) of how we're hurting the
      planet. Logic says we should be able to find a way to prevent that
      harm. Therefore, it will be unnecessary for human
      extinction...especially since we need to be around to undo what we've
      done and to prevent that from happening again.<

      That would be the challenge: prevent it from happening again.

      We have found many ways to avoid harming ecosystems, but our demand
      is
      so great that these ways are rarely and barely implemented. The
      people
      with the most money/power seem to be intent on continuing in the
      direction we've been going for hundreds of years.

      Yes, we have the ability to be aware. How about a moratorium on
      breeding until we actually use it?

      Paradoxically, our continued existence depends on our ceasing to
      reproduce as we are. If you want us to stick around and do good
      stuff,
      that's a good reason to not breed.

      Les
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