Ideas that add up #105

It is important to understand that many wild cultures had customs that encouraged population stability. Their ongoing survival depended entirely on food from the surrounding wild ecosystem, and too many mouths led to painful problems.  Their utmost concern was the health and stability of the community, not the whims of individuals.  They shared and cooperated.  It was obvious to them that the carrying capacity of their ecosystem had genuine limits. 

Richard Reese What is Sustainable blog 29th September, 2014

Wild cultures…carrying capacity…

On a small island, a notional island with no commerce beyond its shores, the inhabitants accommodate themselves to available resources. Culture-enforced population stability is part of that, if the community is to survive beyond a few generations. That’s the way it’s been done for all but a sliver of human history.

It’s not easy to address the issue on the scale of a modern nation state. In the richer nations, mostly, we’ve shaken off the straitjacket of traditional culture and rejected state-imposed population control, so we’re left with enlightened self-restraint and/or personal economic concerns as the main constraints on bringing new people to the party. This phenomenon is said to be spreading around the world along with economic prosperity. We passed peak baby in 1990 (more babies born that year than in any year since) and the gradient of world population growth is due to level off over the rest of this century, plateau-ing at around 11 million people according to the UN. 

The UN’s no doubt bright and brilliant demographers must be basing their calculations on a non-Earth-crisis scenario, ignoring the evidence of ecological overshoot. Seven billion-plus people, living the way we do, is already way beyond the carrying capacity of our habitat. But as Reese points out, overpopulation is an explosive taboo: “an 800-volt issue…which incinerates every dreamer who blunders into it, foolishly preaching common sense.”

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