Are we heading for an unavoidable collapse in human population levels on Earth? When a guy smart enough to come up with the Falcon Heavy suggests something, I’m willing to at least listen, if not totally buy in. We’re referring to the latest claim from Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk, who got into a bit of a Twitter scrap this weekend over where global population levels are heading. The United Nations is warning that we could have another 1.6 billion people taking up space on the planet in the next thirty years. But Musk is repeating alarms he previously sounded, warning of the opposite. According to this theory, there will be far too few people left in the next fifty years or so. (Business Insider)

Elon Musk is still worried about the human population.

In a tweet on Friday, the Tesla and SpaceX CEO doubled down on a theory he has backed in the past — the human population is headed for implosion.

Responding to a tweet, which projected the global population would grow by roughly 1.6 billion by 2050, Musk said the real problem facing humanity is an “aging and declining world population.”

Musk cited Jørgen Randers, a Norwegian academic who in his 2012 book “2052: A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years” said the human population would start dwindling around 2040.

This isn’t really a debate over “Population Bomb” theories, such as Ed wrote about last year. Those discussions generally center on worries of a scarcity of resources and the resulting drive to forcibly reduce the population via government oversight. (Just ask the Chinese how well that worked out for them.)

What Musk is referring to is a totally different scenario. Rather than forced population reduction, one theory holds that humanity is shutting down baby production all on its own, and if that trend continues, there is going to be a major collapse on the way as smaller and smaller numbers of young, working-age people are unable to support the burgeoning armies of the elderly. After the ensuing die-off, global population levels could be a fraction of what they are now.

Does that theory hold water? Well… if you look at the current trends in Japan you might suspect so. Their average age is rising steadily and their total population is falling because fewer women are having children. If your country doesn’t maintain an average of 2.2 children per woman (or close to that), your native population is going to shrink. The study I linked above claims that the same thing is happening in other western nations already, with the glaring exception being on the continent of Africa. Their fertility continues to climb.

That sort of science is a bit out of my league, though it’s worth keeping an eye on. But allow me to circle back to the Population Bomb question for a moment. The predicted disasters arising from our massively growing human population haven’t happened. But that’s only because our technology has kept up with the challenges. I believe it’s already been well established that there are currently far, far more people on the planet than we could ever feed if we suddenly lost most of our technological advantages.

And that’s not impossible. We’d be talking about something like massive EMP exchanges between the superpowers, a terror attack knocking out the American power grid for years, or just a huge solar flare coming our way at the worst possible angle. If (or when) the lights go out around most of the world and we lose the ability to not only grow but transport massive amounts of food, people will begin starving in a matter of weeks. And starving people reach the desperation stage rapidly.

It would turn into Mad Max territory out there pretty quickly. And if that happens, you will indeed see a population collapse.