[b] See also bmmayer1's comment: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=27836077
Let me explain: the sum total of all human economic activity is limited by the available energy we have to put toward it. We only have a finite amount of energy resources available on earth, and we only receive a finite amount more per unit time from the Sun.
Earth's pitiful reserves of energy (fossil fuel and nuclear) essentially don't count in terms of measuring sustainability. In the long run, we either use them up or not, and it's just a blip on the energy meter. Thus, the maximum, long-term sustainable pace of energy consumption is equal to what we can extract from the Sun. And, yet, we consume that much every year by August 1! While the trend has flattened out in recent years, it shows no sign of declining .
In short, we can't continue to consume the resources of 1.7 earths per year for very long, and that is what makes Malthus right.
Now, given the time frames of these "dire predictions," this all implies we need to cut our total energy usage as a species in half in much less than 20 years. Considering how the trend so far has been to increase energy consumption by 50% every 20 years, now you see why these predictions are so dire. 
It's really simple math. We need to dial back to 1970s levels of consumption even to make things sustainable. But, it took us nearly 50 years to get here from there, and now we have at most 10-20 years to get back. Those don't sound like really good odds to me.
This is misleading and not what they link supports. The linked calculation is not tied to the possible power extraction from the sun. This estimate is based on CO2 currently produced per person and the earth's ability to sequester the CO2.
Global electricity consumption is is about 2.6 Terrawatts 
Global total potential for technically feasible PV solar has been estimated at ~ 613
389 PWh/y or 70 Terawatts 
Put another way: you can't use fossil fuels to sequester carbon, and nuclear is a drop in the bucket. So, guess where the energy necessary to do it comes from?
You can use solar to reduce or eliminate the carbon emitted. You can use solar electricity to sequester carbon if you want. You could even make oil and pump it back into the ground.
Oh no he wasn't in his main hypothesis, roughly what wikipedia has as
>Populations had a tendency to grow until the lower class suffered hardship, want and greater susceptibility to famine and disease, a view that is sometimes referred to as a Malthusian catastrophe.
It ignores that people can think and fix things. Re the current situation, world population is predicted to peak shortly and solar is cracking along.
Have you been awake for any part of the last 50 years? Two of those things are happening right in front of you, with the third on the horizon.
One single, average human weighs somewhere around 65kg. So, not counting the mass of the fuel and vehicle necessary to do so, evacuating one human costs the energy equivalent of around 1820kWh of electricity. The average American household uses just over 10000kWh per year , just for comparison.
Now, let's get to the bad news. Remember the weight of the vehicle and fuel that we just conveniently forgot about? Let's not forget about it anymore.
Falcon 9 weighs around 550,000 kg . So, just to put it in orbit, empty, costs the equivalent of over 1.5x10^6 kWh of electricity, or, roughly the yearly consumption of 1500 years worth of the average American household's energy consumption. That energy has to come from somewhere.
Tell me, how is space going to save us again?
On the other end, in less than 20 years, we need to not only offset the trend of 50% increase in global energy consumption, but also cut back an additional 50% from where we are today. In other words, in 20 years, in order to simply break even in terms of sustainability, we need to become 3x more efficient than we ever have over any 20 year period, if we want to maintain current levels of economic growth.
And you don't find that hard to imagine?
Edit: Alternatively, do you see us supporting 2 billion more people on this planet in 2050 with lower levels of economic growth than we've had the past few decades?
See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Projections_of_population_grow... for population growth estimates.
Wouldn't the general idea be to put things like solar cells into space, to increase the amount of harvestable energy we can use, not humans?
Very long-term projects like space elevators, mass drivers etc. can help reduce the amount of energy (from Earth) that is required to efficiently launch something.
But, what I think you're saying is that if we can increase efficiency by X%, then we can still sustain current economic output, yes? Well, considering we're 70% over the sustainable level, that means we'd need to get 58% more efficient, with no increase in consumption, in less than 20 years.
How likely do you think that is?
Our current energy needs could be harvested from the sun exclusively. Cover sahara in solar collection and you satisfying energy requirements of all of humanity, several times over.
There was always a solution, or at least a mitigation, that was stop spending or limit how much you do. It will hurt, be harmful, will affect your life, but not as much as the consequences of becoming poor and with a gigantic debt.
Predicting when unstable complex systems will fall is not easy, even more when those systems are very complex. You can perceive the instability, that some sections seems to be falling apart, but maybe you can't put an exact moment of when it will happen. But that it doesn't happen the next cycle doesn't mean that it never will.
I'm generally pretty tired of the argument that tech will save us. It's even arguable that tech is part of the problem since tech allows humanity to scale and thus consume more resources well beyond what it could before.
OR, people are going to wise up. Start to contribute wasting less resources, improve environment, support efforts of mitigation, taking out excess CO2, stop destruction of natural habitats, etc.
OR we may be lucky, have an unexpected spell twarting the models and cooling off the land again. Just so that humanity can continue destruction of their own lands and wildlife that have stabilized the climate for 10K years.
Nobody knows for sure, but the models are supposedly pretty accurate overall and there are not that many unknowns left.
I want to be optimistic, but a couple of things are worth noting.
First, is that civilization has fallen back before. It's definitely possible for systems, knowledge and progress built over the centuries to fall apart and it has happened before. There's the bronze-age collapse: ancient cities were destroyed, trade routes were lost, literacy declined and in general there was a big cultural decline— not in one civilization but thought all the "known world" at the time.
Fast-forward to the end of the Hellenistic/Roman periods— there was a decline there too leading up to, during and after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire. Huge advances were made during that era in astronomy, mathematics, philosophy, architecture, art, etc. Alexandrian engineers were designing steam-powered automata in the centuries BCE , but like a lot of other classical knowledge this was lost sometime before the Dark Ages. The Renaissance was about new developments, but also largely about re-discovering what was developed in the Hellenistic/Roman periods.
We can assume modern times are different because we have more advanced technology, better political systems, different ideologies and more experience, but our challenges are also bigger. We've made it past challenges that would've destroyed civilizations in the past: droughts, wars, turmoil, etc. But we've never faced global climate change, for example.
Second— the fact that we've been able to invent our way out of possible crisis before doesn't mean this will keep being the case. The number of things that are possible in this universe is large, but not limitless— the universe still has its laws.
For example: Moores law. We know there's a limit there because of how small atoms are. We will have to figure out other ways to make processing faster and more efficient, because once we reach the physical limit, there's little we can do. We've been able to figure out ways to scale agriculture, reduce our dependence in one resource by switching to another, etc. but there's no certainty that this will always be the case. It's very much possible that at some point either the physical limits to technological development will catch up to us, or we won't be able to figure out the next big breakthrough in time.
Most of us know better, and we keep our mouth shut.
This faith people have in engineering just boggles my mind. Look to Venus. That is where our atmosphere is headed.
We can grow almonds in deserts beside golf courses, yes. But should we have been doing it in the first place?
All of our terraforming for the present world we live in today is at the expense of future generations prosperity.
Then, in March 2009, a bunch of billionaires got together and decided that the world probably would not end. They put their money back into markets. And they enjoyed an insane period of recovery over the next year, even though the average person didn’t see their own income start to rise for many years.
Here’s the thing about investing when you’re 30: if you think the world is going to end, just give up now and live in the moment. Why save if you believe the world won’t make it beyond 2040? But if you think there is a chance humanity will figure things out and avoid calamity, then index fund investing is the most efficient way for you to participate in the economic system as a part owner of it.
as far as safe investment, you kind of just answered it when talking about the billionaires. property/land with a possible dooms day bunker.
Either way, fear mongering about what could’ve happened ignores what did happen and how it was predictable by those in power.
Examples would be Jews in Israel and tribes of American natives. If you can assert membership in these groups, it would be a good investment to go through the process before hand.
If you don't have ethnic ties that are useful in that way, you could join a religious sect. The main example would be Mormons. They cluster in communities, have a persecution mentality, and encourage their members to store food and other emergency supplies. You'd have to at least pretend to believe their stuff though. I have trouble thinking of other examples. Perhaps Scientologists? Jahovah's Witnesses? I assume one doesn't just "join" the Amish. Mennonites?
If there are some survivalist groups that are already off-the-grid, that could be an option. Intentional communities, particularly of the survivalist strain, often care about ethnicity too though, particularly the ones in the US.
If you can't join a group, some countries might handle collapse better than others. One might invest in immigrating to a country that could tough out a collapse. Switzerland's canton-based political system seems pretty robust. Iceland has geothermal energy. The way the Japanese came together as a country during Fukushima was impressive (but you'd probably need to be ethnically Japanese to cash in on this). Rich folks seem to think New Zealand is a smart place to bug out.
New Zealand brings up another point. If a place, country or no, is a remote island has the ability to support itself without imports, it could also be a good option.
- Land near a water source
- Learning how to cultivate land and food
- Learning how to be a good neighbor
Could be, uh, interesting given the personalities of some individuals who are 'holing up' in locales conducive to that sort of lifestyle.
Diversity is key though. I have a farm, rental property, stock, bonds, crypto, gold/silver, etc.
Regarding the sentiment, It feels like there is a cult of self-destruction (note, these may be true, but sensationalized):
- global warming is going to kill us all
- covid19 will kill is all
- inflation is soaring, better learn to eat bugs
- normalizing abortions
- mass shootings regularly on TV (though rare)
- highly addictive opioids prescribed wildly and having FDA approval (claiming they aren’t addictive)
- Castration of children without parental consent
- etc etc
I wrote this back in 2015 and it seems relevant: https://austingwalters.com/an-essay-on-wealth-and-freedom/
Freedom is only obtained through owning land. Without owning the means of production, you’re nothing more than a slave. To your point, owning land you can live off of is a protection against all form of “dooms-day” scenarios.
In doomsday scenarios I doubt people will respect ownership rights very much. In that scenario, "ownership" isn't as much of a protection as your ability to defend and maintain control over whatever valuable resources you have on the land.
In terms of protection, I guess it’s possible people will come to try and take your land, but that really depends on the scenario. In either case, if you live more rurally you’re going to probably need a gun. If you have roaming bands of criminals you’re still going to want to own your own land as opposed to a massive complex or something.
Regardless, this person was asking about financial advice. You’re still better off owning land in most cases as opposed to stocks or gold if it hits the fan. If you’re really worried about it hitting the fan, invest in guns and ammo.
I'm really fine with being prepared for disasters, human-made or natural, but in a complete upheaval of global civilization you need more than property and a castle loaded with ammo to thrive. Looking at foreign countries ravaged by civil war, can you really imagine riding that out because you bought a farm?
The real concern are the pesticides that have reduced insect populations. They build up in the ecosystem and can take many years to flush out.
I imagine that global warming, if it hits some threshold/tipping point that changes the climate enough to wreck the land, might be the one counter-example here. Though I don't know enough about farming to know if it could sustain through a wide range of climates and potential consequences of severe temperature/climate change.
If you're in a hot climate now, move.
Wait, what? This isn't a view I'm familiar with in England
That goes to the next rational action: spend like there is no tomorrow, adjusted for risk of society not-collapsing? Pick your poison, I guess.
Take a few lessons from people who live in 2nd- and 3rd-world countries. They used to not rely on government or expect financial stability for decades ahead. Yet, they survive pretty well and some even thrive.
People didn't always have stable currencies, pension funds, and unemployment benefits over their history.
edit: I should say I lack faith in traditional retirement advice/planning, not that I have no idea how to do it.
Live in or plan to move to a lower cost location during retirement.
Don’t be too stingy and enjoy life!
My concern is that none of those things will matter in 30 years. Dumping money into 401ks/markets/property used to be sound investment advice. Today they feel more like speculation. Even holding USD/bonds is a gamble. I'm not talking about traditional risk tolerance like large/small cap or foreign markets.
Besides that, they can and have been replaced by a few calculators and the reddit personalfinance wiki.
If you see a [dead] post that shouldn't be dead, you can vouch for it by clicking on its timestamp, then clicking 'vouch' at the top of its page. There's a small karma threshold (> 30) before vouch links appear.
Economic decline that hurts standard of living is very far from a societal collapse, if the analysis is even accurate. It seems like the best selling book that put this out in the 70's traded on fear mongering, and now this article is just repeating it.
This depends on the base standard we're talking about. If someone's standard goes from not having to think about energy consumption, to not being able to afford running the dishwasher or dryer, then sure, no big deal.
If someone's standard goes from getting by to starving, they are going to fight. I imagine there's a lot of places around the world where a sharp decline in standard of living could lead to civil war.
It would definitely depend on how evenly spread the decline is. 10% (or whatever) evenly spread out would be bad, because a developed country can tighten its belt and not buy new things as much and focus on less waste, change eating habits to be a little more based on most productive crops instead if taste preference, etc.
10% for a a less developed country would, in terms of the relative utility of money, mean a lot more loss. And that's hoping they didn't decline more than a developed country. (By relative utility of money I mean that the more money a person has, the less that a single unit if money impacts you. $10k increase for a person who makes $35k is a noticeable step up in quality if life. For someone making $500,000k it changes practically nothing)
I've been predicting a market crash since ~2010, and I'll admit that I've been wrong again and again. Being wrong has reinforced two things for me: the old adage that the market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent, and that governments and other major interests will go to almost any lengths possible to keep distorted markets propped up.
This here is pretty key. Those on top will do just about anything to stay on top.
As such I try to make sure my own interests align with them. For example, most wealthy people keep very little of their wealth in cash. Meaning inflation doesn't hurt them, in fact in most cases it helps them. So I try to keep little of my money in cash.
Diversification of course is always the golden rule.
If I had to predict, there will be no collapse and the bull market and economic expansion will continue even in spite of all the things that are going wrong. At any point in history, there will always be things that are going wrong somewhere.
These experts tend to have a terrible track record at this sort of stuff, whether it's incorrect calls of a housing market crash, stock market crash, recession, hyperinflation, etc.
Experts are so often wrong on their economic predictions that there's very little value in listening to them.
They are oriented towards how we got here and solutions to get us out of it.
But your source says that the median family (aka household, so it factors in both earners) income for non-seniors is only $93k, and with kids it's only $105k? Where are you getting $120k-140k from? Households where both earners are high income professionals?
Investment in commons is something rich societies do. If we're predicated on a collapse hypothesis, the rich will focus on survival and power. That returns us to a zero-growth, zero-sum environment, which almost linearly leads to militarization. (If I have a choice between investing in research or buying munitions, and I believe society is about to collapse, I do the latter.) Between an army and a law defining XYZ as a common good, the army wins.
The thread below walks through some of the basic errors he makes.
We'll do this by preserving the knowledge of our current society. We'll do that by archiving all human knowledge, a task carried out by a hand-picked group of archivists.
We'll also need a second group, whose task it too important to make widely known. They'll be sent to the other side of the planet, and will work on their (extremely instrumental) thing.
We'll shorten the collapse from thousands to tens of years.
Who's with me?
- The Mule
But you need a certain emotion sensing robot too.
"the world’s ecological footprint will continue to grow between 2000 and 2050 from a level 20 per cent above the Earth’s biological capacity to a level between 80 and 120 percent above it (Figure 30). In these scenarios, 9 billion people in 2050 would require between 1.8 and 2.2 Earth-sized planets in order to sustain their consumption of crops, meat, fish, and wood, and to hold CO2 levels constant in the atmosphere....
Two World3 scenarios were chosen: a standard scenario, which assumes no policy changes over the next 50 years; and an accelerated technology scenario, which assumes significant improvements in resource efficiency. In the standard scenario, the HEF grows and peaks around 2040 at about 150 per cent above the Earth’s biological capacity, while the HWI climbs to around 20 per cent above the 2000 level in 2030 but then falls away rapidly, as the Earth’s productive ecosystems are no longer able to sustain high levels of human consumption. In the accelerated technology scenario the HEF reaches a maximum of 60 per cent above biological capacity in 2020 and then declines back to the 2000 level by 2050, as more resource-efficient technologies reduce the footprint, while the HWI climbs and remains at almost 20 per cent above 2000 levels"
Not to worry guys! KPMG is on the case and can help your company do a risk assessment to prepare for collapse. Based on their finding they will implement a solution for you!
The simplistic "resources" shown in the graphs does little to explain the methodology of the research, but seems incredibly questionable. For instance, we certainly passed peak oil production in the U.S. in the early 1970s, but thanks to innovations around tar, shale and deep sea extraction the U.S. surpassed this in 2018.
This isn't new; in the 19th century Malthus' ghost was apparent as it was predicted that the earth couldn't feed more than a billion people, but thanks to the Haber–Bosch process we can fix nitrogen for fertilizers and feed nearly 8x that number.
Certain resources will be completely extracted, but economic incentives will strongly encourage people to devise substitutes. Given how little of the Earth's mantle human activity has touched and the increasing likelihood that we will have technology solutions to manage externalities like excess C02, I'm super encouraged for our future prospects.
For sure, pollution, habitat destruction / deforestation, soil depletion, are all problems. But these aren't inevitable problems. They all have technological solutions - which the report dismisses as futile for some reason...
We might've delayed it, but I think we can all agree there will be a peak oil at some point. We all know oil is finite.
Shale and oil sands are in a sense ‘unfair’ to the original notion of peak oil which was focused entirely on cheap to produce crude that literally bubbled out of the ground in some places. But then peak oil is semantic; yes, it happened for some flavors of crude in the U.S. but we did and will find ways to produce more (if needed).
Pending some fantastically cost effective way to mitigate all the externalities of burning oil, I certainly hope we reduce our use of it.
There are 1.65 trillion barrels of proven oil reserves remaining, which is more than humanity has used throughout history, and the known reserves are going up over time, not down. There are another 3 trillion barrels of unconventional oil reserves (e.g. oil sands)
Any predictions aim to provide nontrivial insights
I'm sorry, but - No shit!
Of course there are growth and population limits, and we are close to them. Everyone talks about global warming, but few talk about population and consumption as the main driver for that. We like the narrative that we have the technology to face climate issues and future resource scarcity because it means we're not doomed.
We will either need unpalatable or forced lifestyle/societal changes or we will inevitably face these unwanted changes when consumption outpaces resources.
Oh and China is now suggesting 3 kids per couple will be to tolerated...
The reason why people keep outpacing our own resource constraints decade after decade is that humans, unlike bacteria or any other species you can model population growth after, can modify our own environment, along with the degree of our own resource usage.
Which is all to say, that this statement has been proven demonstrably false more often in the past than it has been proven true: "We will either need unpalatable or forced lifestyle/societal changes or we will inevitably face these unwanted changes when consumption outpaces resources."
For example, theoretically there could be a way to harness the energy of the Sun with a Dyson Sphere, but there's a minimum amount of time that will take:
- Our neurons fire at "X" speed, and there's a minimum "Y" amount of things we need to think of before we can build one.
- Light travels at 299,792 km/s, but there's a minimum "Z" amount of things to be seen, or computed and/or moved before one can be built.
- We can harness "N" amount of energy per unit time right now, but there's a minimum "M" amount of total energy that will need to be invested into building one.
I think we can all agree a Dyson Sphere won't appear around the sun tomorrow, or next year. There's a theoretical minimum amount of time, dictated by the laws of physics, for one to be built: and this will be the minimum amount of time it takes to make one even if we achieve maximum efficiency.
This applies to all human development, so IMO the question really isn't "can we figure out how to build X" but rather "how long would it take to build X". Things like fracking do sound like low-hanging fruit compared to the things we'd have to invent in the future to keep the status-quo. I'm sure theoretically we could invent a lot of things, but as we run out of the low-hanging fruit, can we invent them in time?
You are claiming that because one man was wrong that all men are wrong. That is dangerously absurd.
You're just saying "it's worked before, it should work again" as an argument. This is complete garbage.
China is a great example of this if you want to look into their demographic information
That means that an order-of-magnitude increase in consumption, which would trivially happen is all of the earth's existing population were to have first-world consumption standards, would completely wipe away a sustainable society.
As far as I know, order-of-magnitude reductions in consumption of basic resources while keeping living standards is not something we are anywhere remotely close to achieving.
A good example of this is the technology cycle of the oil industry. In the 20th century, the primary extraction method for oil was tapping shallow, high pressure oil reservoirs. Oil riggers would drill down less than 1000 feet and oil would come gushing out. As the shallow pockets ran out, the oil industry lamented because they approached a perceived resource constraint. Shortly thereafter, it was found that there was an order of magnitude more proven oil reserves deeper down.
I think society is at a similar nexus today. We're at an inflection point between the end of a lot of steep growth curves (oil and gas production, population growth, [possibly] economic development in the West) and the beginning of a lot of new ones (replacing oil with sustainable energy sources, material science, bioengineering, nanotechnology, space exploration). In all of those realms, it's painfully clear that we're a far ways away from the extent of available resources.
Let's consider artificial energy consumption by humans today. In total, humanity consumed ~500 PWh in 2019 . Power flux of the earth is 173 PW; annualized, earth's energy flux is ~15 million PWh. That means that we consume 0.003% of the energy that is incident the earth. Clearly we're not getting close to the fixed resources of the earth.
In this view, global warming and resource consumption are still
existential concerns, but we are working against perceived limits rather than today's physical limits. Humans are really good at making technology that increases the exploitable resources at our disposal. I'm relatively confident that we'll build technology to save us from extinction, but perhaps not from societal collapse.
 I summed the consumption from 2019 in the spreadsheet available here: https://ourworldindata.org/explorers/energy?country=USA~GBR~...
And in the context of resource extraction, it comes at the cost of a reduction in biomass and biodiversity. It is a laughable claim that we are anywhere remotely close to working towards, let alone reverse, the damage we've done to the biosphere.
Human population is definitely not growing exponentially either.
Right now it does. GDP growth and resource use have been demonstrated to be pretty tightly coupled, so if economic growth is exponential so is resource use, afaik. It's worth noting that energy is also a resource; it is really hard to de-couple productivity from energy usage.
Check out this article, and Figure 1 specifically: https://www.eea.europa.eu/publications/growth-without-econom...
Total non-renewable energy use seems set to peak soon. Even ignoring tech improvements, economic growth comes from services, which means trading imaginary things between each other.
turn it around. there is a clearly a level of population and resource consumption where starvation sets in and consumption drops.
you may personally believe that there is a lot of road left, but you seem to be asserting that it just never ends.
"Which is all to say, that this statement has been proven demonstrably false more often in the past than it has been proven true"
This is a very complex system, and like the saying goes for another well-known complex system "past performance is not a guarantee of future performance".
I wouldn't discredit Malthus too soon.
1 - Birth rates are falling. We’re getting pretty damned close to the peak of human population. There are some very easy steps we can do to expedite this, such as helping reduce infant mortality rate among the global poor, a move that is known to reduce fertility rates too.
2 - Consumption is wildly uneven among the world’s population. Focusing on population implies that those areas with high fertility rates are the issue, when in fact the primary limiting factor is and will remain the high consumption rate of the world’s richest nations.
Consider we're already on the path to exceed our carbon budget , and billions of people are trying to climb out of poverty (which requires fossil fuels, resources, and food production, which we are already managing....poorly and unsustainably). Many countries still offer funds to people to have children and have pro-natalist policies (to goose economic policy and pay for elderly entitlements and stave off the economic contraction). We're not just headed off the cliff; we're pushing our foot on the gas.
TLDR Those who consume the most will need to consume less, and even then there is likely not enough to go around for first world standards for all.
1) It places the onus and blame on the people that are currently not the problem.
2) It implies that we must force people to have fewer kids, when evidence shows that women universally want to have fewer kids given the choice. We don’t need to coerce them, we need to help them.
Rich countries burned fossil fuels for 100+ years to develop. Does anyone think those countries are going to revert to much lower standards (somewhere between European and developing country standards) to give that same advantage to developing countries? Absolutely not.
EDIT: I want to be very clear before my edit window expires; I do not believe anyone should be forced not to have kids (although I would be onboard paying folks who choose not to have kids a direct transfer payment, just as it's not taboo to pay people to have kids and many governments do it). But I also believe no one should have one or many kids if their socioeconomic circumstances don't allow for it. We should absolutely strive to empower and educate women, as you mention this causes a natural decline in fertility rates .
I’ll put it simpler: you are completely wrong about what needs to be done and by whom.
Accidentally or not, you are repeating the narrative of eugenicists who are obsessed with over population in the global south, rather than the actual facts on the ground. We need to focus on de-carbonizing our industry, rather than the reproduction rate of those who currently consume the fewest resources per capita.
The problem is, and always has been our dependence on fossil fuels to increase our standard of living. Solve that, and the difference between 7-10billion humans is moot
I've seen far more of that here than just about anywhere else on the Web where news is discussed. I appreciate it greatly, and the world needs more of it for sure.
In EU area you can have as many children you like and the social safety nets will generally carry you trough caring for your child.
I suggest you use some other means of argumentation than wealth of parents, as that is a non-issue here (mostly).
This isn't necessarily true. There are many families in developed countries that have more than 2 kids. If you limit families to 2 kids then you could see the fertility rate drop lower (ideally fertility and immigration growth together would be under the replacement rate in developed countries).
"It implies that we must force people to have fewer kids, when evidence shows that women universally want to have fewer kids given the choice. We don’t need to coerce them, we need to help them."
This is generally true, but ignores outliers and the association with other factors. You generally only see the decline in fertility rate in areas that have lower infant mortality, which is also usually associated with a more modern lifestyle and economic conditions. You still have a subset of women in developed countries having a ton of kids for other reasons, like they want a big family, or religious things like the Hassidic community.
> Researchers combined a global dataset of field warming experiments conducted at 48 sites to estimate decreased yields of 7.1 percent for maize, 5.6 percent for rice, 10.6 percent for soybean and 2.9 percent for wheat. Their estimates were 95 percent probable for the first three staples and 89 percent for wheat.
> In response, “technological and adaptive measures, such as northern expansion of the croplands, will thus have to increase yield by 1.8–2.0 percent per year to meet the conservative estimates of a 70 percent increase in food demand,” the researchers wrote.
> However, that required rate is higher than the historical yield increases in the late 20th century, “which is both challenging and alarming, considering the stagnating yield increases widely observed for the past decade,” they concluded.
 https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/29/climate/climate-change-oc... (Warming Waters, Moving Fish: How Climate Change Is Reshaping Iceland)
 https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/28/climate/fish-climate-chan... (The World Is Losing Fish to Eat as Oceans Warm, Study Finds)
> If current population trends continue at the same rate, the world will need to double its food production by 2050. To compensate, world leaders are consistently looking toward fisheries to be a critical source of protein for millions of people.
> In 2016, 171 million tons of fish were taken from the sea, and that number is expected to rise to 201 million over the next 10 years.
(my note: I have serious doubts this is sustainable)
 https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/article/clima... (Climate change is depleting our essential fisheries)
Phosphorus, biodiversity, stuff like that? Still a concern.
Depending on the country, 1/3rd to 1/2 of all produced food goes to waste - and a lot of that is due to customers expecting that every supermarket has to have their particular brand of generic, short shelf-life goods (e.g. yogurt, salads and other vegetables, baked goods) on stock 24/7 and similar absurdities. And any suggestion to curb that shit, either by limiting the amount of different brands available in stores or to limit the time slots in which customers can expect fresh goods, gets quickly shot down by outrage mobs fearing the advent of socialism (which is associated with empty shelves).
As for the "can't afford" part: we need to get global wealth disparity under control, and especially us Europeans and Americans have to stop killing African textile and food industry by "donating" our excesses.
> Many countries still offer funds to people to have children and have pro-natalist policies
Anti-natalist politics are by definition always walking on the cliff of eugenics. Any attempt of restricting who is allowed to reproduce or how much will always lead into selection questions - China for example now suffers from a vast lack of women, as parents aborted or murdered female newborns, and I don't want to get started with the horrors that the Nazi regime committed.
The best and especially humane solution to curb overpopulation is to reduce poverty and increase healthcare - it has been shown that once people from a population get lifted in wealth so they don't need to have ten kids to have three survive to adulthood and one to take over their care in old age, child birth rate automatically drops!
... and per capita consumption of resources increase, usually creating a large net increase in resource consumption based in the modern lifestyle.
Exactly why such a complex issue cannot be solved with one or two simple solutions as so many seem to think. We need to reduce consumption and abuse of limited resources and normalize such behavior in the minds of human society as a whole. Especially among those most actively doing said abusing and (wasteful) consuming. We also need to be more open to the idea of change, because change is coming whether we like it or not. There's a terrifyingly large portion of humans in decision-making positions on this planet who are fighting tooth-and-nail to maintain an unsustainable "growth oriented" status-quo.
That's because our economies would collapse. Most of the population don't want the restrictions that would be necessary. So how do we change societal and individual views to give up the freedoms and resources that we have been enjoying?
It seems most likely that either these areas will develop economically and thus consumption will rise, or their skyrocketing populations and lack of development will cause rising internal tensions/crises and pressure to emigrate to the higher-consumption parts of the world. Most likely some of both.
"Adding 2.5 billion poor people to the planet in 80 years won't be a problem because we'll ensure they stay impoverished and in their home countries" isn't really as palatable a solution to overpopulation as you make it sound.
The only way to save our species is to find a way to decouple standards of living from carbon production. Anything else is insufficient and can only delay the inevitable at best.
There are other concerns like food production, soil erosion, fish stocks, loss of biodiversity, etc. Its not just about CO2.
We are expected to peak well beyond our current level. Estimates are about 10-11 billion - a 25%+ increase.
A major problem with your infant mortality comment and consumption comment is that reducing infant mortality is also associated with modern lifestyles and an increase in consumption. Consumption patterns change as the mortality and fertility rates drop and economic opportunities increase. Our economies are built on consumerism and spending. We see this trend in developing nations today (you have to compare for various demographics, not just the country level).
It is literally impossible to make a society sustainable via birth rate alone, which is why I object to the argument vigorously. The only solution is to find a way to make our society and technology sustainable, rather than just hoping that birth control will fix it.
And who is making that argument? This isn't what I'm saying at all.
"The only solution is to find a way to make our society and technology sustainable, rather than just hoping that birth control will fix it."
I'm asking is our current global population level sustainable? It sounds like that's a no. There is at least point-in-time population limits to what our "sustainable" system can handle based on advances in technology and societal restrictions. I use quotes here because we do not have a sustainable system, and the number of people who can be sustainably supported is at least billions lower than we are at today given today's technology.
It has to be a combinations of available sustainable tech/lifestyle and having a population that doesn't exceed the limits of sustainability.
At the current levels, it is not. If we shifted over to renewables then it would be.
I find focusing on the population extremely weird, given that the vast majority of emissions are coming from a relatively small portion of rich nations. We could eliminate the entire global south and still tip this planet into disastrous global warming purely based on the emissions of small, rich countries in the north.
Put more blatantly, I find that a lot of the discussion about overpopulation is an attempt to put the blame of global warming and our sustainability problems on those who emit the least per capita. There is very little merit to discussions about controlling population size while rich nations continue to depend on fossil fuels to maintain their standards of living.
How would that help soil erosion, food production/waste? How would that help with other resource use like metals, timber, fish stocks, etc? There is a lot more to sustainability than just CO2. Even looking just at that, where can we get that much lithium, copper, concrete/asphalt substitute, silicon for solar, etc? There are restrictions to the resources we use and process.
"Put more blatantly, I find that a lot of the discussion about overpopulation is an attempt to put the blame of global warming and our sustainability problems on those who emit the least per capita."
Where was that said? That's not what I'm saying. You still seem to be focused solely on fossil fuels here ("emit"). As nations develop, they will also adopt a more modern and higher consumption lifestyle. This is a global trend that also applies to developed nations continuing to get richer and indulge in having an even better life (eg parents always want more for their kids than they had for themselves, substantial numbers of people want the newest iPhone, look at house size over time, etc).
For example, it would be better if Nigeria hit a European standard of living and stabilizes population sooner at say 400 million people. The alternative is they grow per capita consumption more slowly and hit an EU standard and stabilize later at 1 billion people.
Generally the accelerations coincide with one another. The only reason the population is increasing now is because some developments are being taken advantage of like food supply and medical care.
It depends if sooner is better. Many times it's easier to implement new technologies from scratch rather than revamp old infrastructure. If we rush implementation, then it can just be a waste of resources (look at sewage treatment in many parts of Africa that modeled it after the US).
No science agrees with this. All the models suggest there is a huge amount of land and resources available for a massive rise in population, but population models suggest humans will tap out at about 9 billion due to declining fertility just about everywhere except Nigeria.
Because there is no alignment between resource production and population growth rates local effects continue to impose the greatest limitations just like with other animals. For example humans are really good at finding food. An efficient international network to distribute food further solves that problem, but if a population in a given locale exceeds the capacity of that local to distribute food people will starve despite food availability and human capabilities.
If, as an economic aside, wolves hunt all the rabbits in a given location wolves will starve even if there are other food options and wolves can travel hundreds of miles. That is because a population density in a single location is invariably tied to the food capabilities of that location and changes take additional effort at expenses otherwise not necessary. When those wolves starve in the given locale that has no bearing on the world total wolf population, which is likely regular and stable. Humans have the same limitations due to population densities.
"No science agrees with this"
Using your wolves example, people can move to locations that are more developed and have the infrastructure for more food distribution. The main problem is that most people are so far removed from their food sources that they don't really think about whether there will be enough for their kids. You could have people starving to death, or something wolves dont have - global conflict.
The world population is projected to reach 8.5 billion in 2030, and to increase further to 9.7 billion in 2050 and 11.2 billion by 2100. As with any type of projection, there is a degree of uncertainty surrounding these latest population projections. These figures are based on the medium projection variant, which assumes a decline of fertility for countries where large families are still prevalent, as well as a slight increase of fertility in several countries with fewer than two children per woman on average. Survival prospects are also projected to improve in all countries.
The quote you give says this is the medium estimate. We would have to know the low and high to know if your estimate is "safe".
This assumes that people can move to such locations. We live in a society where most "developed" nations will on one day happily accept and try to help refugees from terrible situations, and on another day will shoot those same refugees at the border and call them "invaders".
And then there's the simple issue of many such people in dire need of leaving their current home simply being unable to at all. Undertaking the travel necessary to attempt to reach a "more developed" nation would be a death sentence in and of itself for some (for varying reasons).
To rephrase it a bit. China is now suggesting 27h for optimal Earth rotation.
It's never going to happen. Their population is going downhill fast.
My definite impression is that most new couples in China are worrying about how they'll afford one child, not debating whether or not to have a third.
This seems like the elephant in the room to me. It's almost never discussed, at least in the US, but as you say, it's the driver for global warming, ecological devastation, and resource constraints of all kinds. Us humans love to talk about our ability to adapt to new environments, but our lack of willingness to plan long-term is highlighting that our adaptability is not universal.
Edit: in before 'but what about the economic growth?': that's the point. Growth is not sustainable, at least when growth is related to resource utilization.
Focusing on population reduction in other countries is politically toxic. It is too conceptually close to eugenics, genocide, and racial conflict. That said, the idea of reducing population growth still underpins efforts to improve the standard of living the third world, it just isn't branded as such.
This has been true for nearly all of human history. The thing about technology is that it changes what the limits are.
This phrasing, specifically "tolerated," implies a misunderstanding of the motivation behind the change in policy.
The CCP is not "tolerating" up to three children per family; it is doing its usual ham-handed best to encourage it. China has blasted right through stage 3 (thanks to one-child) into stage 4 of the Demographic Transition Model, and is staring down the precipice of stage 5, where the likes of Japan already find themselves.
If you're not familiar with the DTM: https://populationeducation.org/what-demographic-transition-...
China came up with the same problem that all developed economies have come up against - low birthrate, and the all the economic baggage that comes with it.
I find it unlikely the party could pump up birth rate just by dictate though.
> Although both the business-as-usual and comprehensive technology scenarios point to the coming end of economic growth in around 10 years, only the BAU2 scenario “shows a clear collapse pattern, whereas CT suggests the possibility of future declines being relatively soft landings, at least for humanity in general.”
> Both scenarios currently “seem to align quite closely not just with observed data,” Herrington concludes in her study, indicating that the future is open.
What this is saying is that while one model predicts a more catastrophic scenario, the other predicts a slow drag (and even the catastrophic one doesn't necessarily mean the end of the world so to speak). But I don't think we need to go as far trying to predict things: you can just look at how resource-constrained economies are doing today: various places around the world are already forced to do water rationing, for example.
If there's anything the whole global warming doom and gloom got wrong is the idea that it would affect the whole world more or less the same way everywhere. But now, studies and news articles both show that these events are going to deviate from averages (e.g. pockets of extreme forest fires in specific locations due to local weather conditions, predictions of ocean tides raising by nearly a foot in specific locations depending on specific astronomic conditions). It doesn't seem like a stretch to postulate that the effects of a collapse are already here for some places in the world, in one form or another, such as what we already see with water shortages or flood seasons due to pollution or forest fire seasons.
Rather than some scenario where the entire world breaks out in civil war, it seems more logical to think that society will continue to live in a business-as-usual sort of way for a long time, except with ever increasing rates of location-specific annoyances/inconveniences/inequalities (e.g. no water tuesday or $70/lb salmon or terrible air quality for two months per year or what have you).
When upstream dams a river, does downstream shrug and walk away? What about collecting rainfall on your own property? Ecology? Agriculture? Industry (hello Nestle)? Droughts affect power: Hoover dam is below capacity because Lake Meade is about 100 feet low and falling, plus Oroville dam is expected to shut down power this summer. Does this mean spinning up more carbon generators to fill in the hydro gaps? Desalination and pumping both take power. So many issues.
Imagine a person driving a car towards a concrete wall at 100 kph. If they keep driving 100 kph, they hit the wall in 2040. So do we predict that they hit the wall in 2040? NO. Any person in their right mind will hit the breaks, swerve, turn the car, etc. Not to mention, some clever entities may devise a way to destroy the wall or move it further down the road.
Many comments here talk about "at the current rate of consumption, XYZ will happen." The current rate will not be constant. As we approach the wall, the wall will push back on us with a force that is inversely proportional to our distance from it.
People, stop predicting the future with so much confidence. The smartest people have shown time and time again that they can't even predict trivial things. The balance of probabilities says that they'll be wrong again. Face it: in the grand scheme of things, we're not that smart.
Humanity as a whole is clearly not "in their right mind". :(
It posited that most business models were based on growth: sell more widgets to the population. Build more and more things. But the world markets are saturated, so there emerged a new approach of full-market business models, for example focused on repair, maintenance, and recycling.
(this was a key conflict in the book, with the old actors trying to expand into Mars, which wanted none of it, and Mars finding new allies in the proponents of sustainable/renewable business)
If you consider involuntary depopulation as a form of societal collapse, I wonder how much of this will be a self fulfilling prophecy.
The thing that jumps out from what are otherwise very different graphs is that we are now in a place where there is high sensitivity to inputs: IF population growth stops, IF we transition to renewables, etc. outcomes are much less bad than if we crash through all the guardrails.
Conventional economic metrics are like watching the tachometer when the engine is overheating.
The problem is that this skews the curve that would normally slowly taper supply down, which would increase prices and lower demand.
Now, instead, because of this blessed technology, we'll march quickly on full demand to the end and have nothing left. We'll empty the oceans of all the cheap fish and won't know until it's all gone.
>The 2019 forecast from the United Nation's Population Division (made before the COVID-19 pandemic) shows that world population growth peaked at 2.1% per year in 1968, has since dropped to 1.1%, and could drop even further to 0.1% by 2100
That is still exponential.
It is titled "Update to limits to growth: Comparing the World3 model with empirical data".