Global climate change. Sustainability. Erosion of the natural ecosystem. A strain on global natural resources. These are all vital concerns to those who would work as shepherds of the biosphere. And what is the biggest threat to all of these things? You can try to blame it on certain niche factors such as the use of fossil fuels, industrialization, deforestation and the like, but in the end it all comes down to one overarching problem. There are just too many darned people.
So what to do? Well, the National Academy of Sciences recently concluded a study which, in part, examined precisely this problem. Sadly, they have concluded that we won’t be able to trim the herd sufficiently during this century even if we mandate a one child policy similar to China’s all across the world.
Restricting population growth will not solve global issues of sustainability in the short term, new research says.
A worldwide one-child policy would mean the number of people in 2100 remained around current levels, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences…
There may be 12 billion humans on Earth by 2100, latest projections suggest.
Concerns about the impact of people on the planet’s resources have been growing, especially if the population continues to increase.
Looking at the abstract from the actual study, other scenarios were examined along with reducing female fertility. One of the other top contenders wouldn’t cut the mustard either. (Read this part carefully. Emphasis added.)
Assuming a continuation of current trends in mortality reduction, even a rapid transition to a worldwide one-child policy leads to a population similar to today’s by 2100. Even a catastrophic mass mortality event of 2 billion deaths over a hypothetical 5-y window in the mid-21st century would still yield around 8.5 billion people by 2100. In the absence of catastrophe or large fertility reductions (to fewer than two children per female worldwide), the greatest threats to ecosystems—as measured by regional projections within the 35 global Biodiversity Hotspots—indicate that Africa and South Asia will experience the greatest human pressures on future ecosystems. Humanity’s large demographic momentum means that there are no easy policy levers to change the size of the human population substantially over coming decades, short of extreme and rapid reductions in female fertility;
Wait… you mean that even a globally devastating slaughter of two billion people won’t save us? Damn the bad luck.
I’m fairly sure that we are all aware that there is some theoretical limit to how many people can be supported by the planet. Of course, that number has risen exponentially as mankind’s technological capabilities have advanced and we’ve learned to produce more food and materials from smaller areas. But a “cure” for a max population scenario is a rather dubious area of research at this point, without even going into the.. shall we say… tricky question of exactly how you were going to limit these births and how you would enforce the mandate. There should be enough frightening phrases in just that one paragraph above to give anyone pause. But as I’ve noted in a few previous excursions into the work of this organization, you should be reminded yet again… you are paying for almost all of the funding for the NAS.
Now we can all go binge watch a few dozen episodes of Life After People. Enjoy!