Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login


You may be correct. However, human population will peak in the next couple of decades or so. Combine that with modest future technological advancements and we may easily reach an equilibrium.

And even if not, absent humans ever existing, the destruction of all life on earth is still a statistical certainty due to the fragility of earth.

So, thinking long term again, we're the only shot life as we know it has at outliving this place.

We may destroy earth ourselves before then, but I think the will-they-or-won't-they technological race against time will be more entertaining than if we went back to hunter-gatherer society and waited a few million years for the next asteroid to inevitably end us, no?


> our current population level is already unsustainable.

[Citation needed].

People have been saying this since the 18th Century, and yet we continue to find ways to support our growing population. There’s enormous swathes of the Earth that remain untouched and unused—the carrying capacity of the planet is much higher than our current population level.

You can get argumentative about what the carrying capacity of Earth is. To me, it's the point in which resources are consumed faster than they're produced or replenished.

What resources? Pick any resource... fossil water, topsoil, fish, oil, etc. It's the same situation no matter what resource you pick. Plus, we have built a dependency on many non-renewable resources.

By that definition, we are already beyond carrying capacity.

Every population that grows exponentially will double over a period of time. The last doubling that starves everyone off has 50% of available resources left.

How fast does humanity double?

    1950: 2.5 billion
    1986: 5.0 billion
    2017: 7.5 billion
    2050: 10 billion
You think you have a lot of resources left, the truth is you are about to starve in a few decades. Personally, I don't have to prove you wrong. You will prove yourself wrong when in a few decades as you look for food, or become the food of another human looking for food.

This kind of scaremongering isn't helping anyone. As others have pointed out, we're on track to flatten the curve when t comes to human population.

Spreading shit like "you are about to starve in a few decades" is dangerous, as it also gives the wrong idea of some very real resource concerns.

Someone has to do it.

The real danger is preserving and defending the irrationality behind the status quo.

While rational people care about the environment, irrational self-centered people celebrate Burning Man, travel around the world for conferences that could be done online and buy thousands of single use plastic items for Halloween only to throw them away the next day.

Reduce, reuse, recycle. In that order. Take the environment into consideration when making decisions.

Everyone knows what they have to do. Fucking do it.

No more fucking unjustified air travel (is your family dying? no? then don't fucking travel), excessive packaging, single use plastics for non medical reasons, stupid events that can be done online, no more snail mail spam. No more bullshit.

Did you travel to an exotic destination this year? I don't fucking care. I do care about the environment though.

Send polluters to jail, ruin them economically, shame the fuck out of them. Your value as perceived by society should not be how much you pollute or help destroy the environment.

Fuck marketing, fuck buying shit you do not need, fuck the narcissism and vanity. Live within fucking environmental budgets.

Somewhat ironically, the consumption you decry here is what powers the economy that, in turn, funds advancements that make our living more sustainable.

What the fuck are you talking about?

Are you aware that there were cultures here in the Americas that were able to preserve the environment intact for 10,000 years?

Ironically, the new arrivals here claim that Native Americans were somehow unproductive and mismanaged their territory with inefficient farming practices. Well, those claims will not age very gracefully once all the aquifers are pumped dry and soil finally becomes sterile in a few decades. All of it, in about 500 years. Good job.

None of the "advancements" you mention are actually necessary, or can actually be called advancements. For something to be called an advancement it would need to be better that what preceded it. How is precisely a global clusterfuck/extinction event better than what existed before? How can being decades away from total ecological collapse be better than living in a fucking paradise full of biodiversity in perfect ecological balance?

The only advancement necessary to achieve sustainability is keeping your ego in check and have a reciprocal relationship with nature.

Go to an Indian reservation and listen to the people who managed to survive here for 10,000 years without causing a cascading ecological disaster. Try to understand the philosophical differences between your culture and theirs, and understand which of those differences cause you to destroy the environment instead of preserving it for future generations.


Don't just throw those numbers out, look at the curves. The exponential part has flattened out, we're in a classical logistical curve now.

Your extrapolation is a bit like https://xkcd.com/605/

The planet cannot sustain 7.5 billion people over long periods of time let alone more than that.

Believe whatever you want, really. You seem to be in denial about all this because your lifestyle requires everyone to believe shit is OK. It is not OK.

And because it is not OK everyone will eventually pay the price of not working together to avoid a cascading environmental catastrophe. Namely war and famine.

The unpopularity of my responses here really reflects how abstracted from reality people are these days.

> Every population that grows exponentially will double over a period of time.

And ~10 billion is where humans will stop growing (at least, will stop growing exponentially/explosively). IIRC this is mentioned in this talk by Hans Rosling: https://www.ted.com/talks/hans_rosling_the_best_stats_you_ve...

Trouble is, that peak number keeps going up. I remember learning in school that it was 8 billion, now it's 10. You have to look over time, in 10 years it might 11, but yeah we're definitely going to peak any time now. An-ny time now. And even if/when we do, having more old people than young will cause a load of other problems which we don't seem to be preparing for. Most economies seem to be built (to my inexpert eye) on having more net producers (workers) than net consumers (pensioners, kids, sick people, unemployed). It needs to change.

You need to dig deeper. More and more countries are slowing down. That growth left is in a smaller and smaller number of countries.

Which makes it, cynically, sustainable. When every country is growing out of a control, that's a worldwide disaster. When a bunch of countries are growing out of control... that's a local disaster. There's a reason we have countries/states/defense mechanisms.

It doesn't matter.

1. The net world population is going up. Any non-zero growth rate will eventually saturate the planet.

2. We are already beyond capacity. Even if we kept the current population level for 100 years, we would still run out of resources.

3. The countries that slow down their growth tend to get more economically developed, causing each person to boost their resource consumption.

In 4-2-1 families (Chinese one child policy), the one remaining person consumes far more resources than the 6 ancestors combined.

> The net world population is going up. Any non-zero growth rate will eventually saturate the planet.

There's a huge difference between "saturating" 10 years from now or 1000 years from now.

And population growth has slowed down to a crawl. It's enough to bring just a dozen, or less, countries out of poverty to achieve basically zero growth.

> We are already beyond capacity.

We are not.

> causing each person to boost their resource consumption.

Overconsumption is a problem, and should definitely be solved.

I don't have to prove you wrong, reality will.

> Trouble is, that peak number keeps going up.

It might. But it's nowhere exponential, or even linear.

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact