No population bomb

From the op-ed pages of the New York Times, Erle C. Ellis explains, “Overpopulation Is Not the Problem“:

MANY scientists believe that by transforming the earth’s natural landscapes, we are undermining the very life support systems that sustain us. Like bacteria in a petri dish, our exploding numbers are reaching the limits of a finite planet, with dire consequences. Disaster looms as humans exceed the earth’s natural carrying capacity. Clearly, this could not be sustainable.

This is nonsense. Even today, I hear some of my scientific colleagues repeat these and similar claims — often unchallenged. And once, I too believed them. Yet these claims demonstrate a profound misunderstanding of the ecology of human systems. The conditions that sustain humanity are not natural and never have been. Since prehistory, human populations have used technologies and engineered ecosystems to sustain populations well beyond the capabilities of unaltered “natural” ecosystems.

All in all it seems a little better grounded than Paul Ehrlich’s approach in 1968, flatly declaring, “The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon….” Unfortunately for Professor Ehrlich, hundreds of millions of people did not starve to death in the 1970s. His neo-Malthusian pessimism was popular in the Carter administration, but even Carter’s policies at the end tilted a bit more toward markets and optimism and away from bureaucracy and pessimism.

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2 thoughts on “No population bomb

  1. The global effort to avoid catastrophic anthropogenic global warming (CAGW) can be described as a “four-legged stool”:
    Leg 1 – zero global GHG emissions;
    Leg 2 – elimination of animal husbandry;
    Leg 3 – population control;
    Leg 4 – wealth and income redistribution; and,
    Seat – global governance, by some subset of the tinpot despots represented in the UN General Assembly.

    Since land use changes are accused of contributing to climate change, population control is seen as an essential element of the effort to avoid CAGW. Animal husbandry, which is a major contributor to land use change and the source of ~18% of GHG emissions, must also be dealt with if CAGW is to be avoided.

    I wonder what existence in a global vegan commune would be like.

  2. The afterglow from TFA just isn’t lasting more than 10 seconds for me; Ehrlich was wrong somehow because starving violent partisans aren’t famine victims?
    Erle Ellis is right that for a given redefined survivor population, the volume of precursors was not the problem; his conclusion that technology and social something are the only human problems is some kind of Jared Diamond denial overdrive that underbowls fandom of just making cachets of kids that can live on Venus. The Planet.

    We’re not in a global kibbutz punctuated by compliance, wildcrafted cheeses and revisions of _Limits To Growth_ capable at least of doing the math on ‘When their primary prey species became rare…?’

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