Sustainable Human Population.

How many people can the earth support and is this even the right question?

Wesley Bruce

http://www.vacoyecology.com/index.html

 

Many Environmentalists argue that human population is in excess and should be reduced to less than 1 billion.[1] Human activity, they argue damages ecosystems, despoils the land and exhausts finite resources. This is sometime sadly true, but it is not always the size of the population itself that is the problem. In some cases, whole landscapes with their flora and fauna have been destroyed by a relatively few primitive people. Some argue for drastic measures to curtail human population growth, including punitive baby taxes and forced sterilisation through bioengineered organismss[2]. However, there is strong evidence that it is ignorance, greed, false beliefs, and various socialistic follies, that drive environmental destruction and poverty. I argue that it is knowledge, good governance[3], stewardship, and an entrepreneurial mindset that will solve these problems.

There are books and papers written by well informed people such as Julian Simon[4],Herman Kahn[5], and others in what is called the Cornucopian[6] argument in the resource and population debate. While there is much in what these authors say that I concur with, I differ with some of these ‘Boomsters’, in that I am strongly for pro organic agriculture. I also firmly believe that a Christian World View[7] underlies much of the success of the west.

This paper is intended to be comprehensive citing a number of solutions. While there is much written on this subject, there is a clear need for a wide ranging paper, putting forward practical and viable answers. Some of these solutions in this paper will become the seed or basis of better solutions that will supersede them. This paper is technology heavy because technology enables choice. It must be understood that technology is not knowledge, wisdom or science. Ignorance or poor governance, combined with technology, can be very destructive. The best application of technology is the product of science and good governance combined; it allows people to do more with less resources and therefore allows a population to safely grow without destroying, or adversely impacting the environment.

The history of the population debate goes back to Thomas Malthus[8] (1766 - 1834) with his claim that population growth would out-strip our capacity to grow food. Malthus was wrong then, and his followers are wrong today. Application of technology, innovation, capital accumulation, otherwise called capitalism, all worked to push world food production to levels of production, and often overproduction, that far exceeds even the wildest dreams of Malthus’s 18th Century critics.

Garrett Harden in the Tragedy of the commons[9] (1968), is essentially a Malthusian document. Harden accurately described the problem on commonly owned land and resources where there is no communal agency of ownership and management. He then applied it to population advocating the dictatorial regulation of reproduction. He misunderstood how the resources of a community, whether private or under community control could be effectively managed to ensure the aspirations of that community were met.

Before Malthus, high fertility was regarded as an economic advantage, because it increased the number of workers available to the economy. Malthus, however, looked at fertility from a new perspective and convinced most economists of the day that even though high fertility might increase the gross output, it tended to reduce output per capita through poverty.

Both Malthus and Harden failed to realise that the most basic unit of ownership in a child rearing is the family and Harden effectively ignored the factors that make the family, religious and economic reasons for having large families. Some of the reasons are:

·        The love of children,

·        The belief that children need siblings,

·        National pride and identity,

·        The need for a viable working population to support welfare systems (now very apparent in Italy, Japan and Australia. China hits this problem big time in about 2035),

·        Responsibility to fill the earth found in some religions,

·        The desire to see a family name go on to posterity.

 

And in the developing world:

·        The real need in third world farms for many of children to work the field, fetch fuel and water etc.

·        The hope that children will provide protection to you in your old age (a lack of pension security),

·        With high infant mortality a larger family increased the odds of some surviving to meet these needs.

·        As infant mortality rates drop, family size drops but there’s a lag of one generation; families are caught off guard by the (unbelievably) sudden drop in infant mortality.

 

Paul and Anne Ehrlich, , carried the Malthusian idea through to mineral resources in their book The Population Bomb 1971[10]. The Fallacy of their ideas was demonstrated by the fall in mineral resource prices that Julian Lincoln Simon pointed out in the now famous bet with Paul Ehrlich. Ehrlich provided a list of metals that he and other Doomersayers thought would go up; Simon would win the bet if the selected metal prices went down[11]. Ehrlich was honest enough to pay up when Simon Won. Simon paid early on a forestry bet when changes in Canadian law drove the prices up creating, in Simon’s opinion, the illusion of scarcity.

Simon’s argument is simple: If education is available each new child is a resource, a creative mind, equipped to solve the world’s problems. I also consider that without education no population at any number should be considered sustainable. Simons argument hinges on resource switching and the development of ever newer and cheaper ways of extraction of resources. The principle of resource switching is simple; when the availability of whale oil diminished they were superseded by mineral oils, fossil fuels, hydroelectricity. These fuel sources are being replaced by solar and wind with battery storage, biomass, and hopefully other renewables and eventually fusion.

We have barely touched the theoretical limits of most minerals. There are huge deposits on the sea beds, untouched and even greater resources on the other planets, moons and asteroids. They remain too expensive to develop because they are commons and because they are not really needed. When ownership and need converge the research is financed to develop the resource. If we want sustainable extraction we need mining companies who are conscious of the environmental footprint to get there first and manage the actual mining of the mineral rather than just posting stop signs.

The current panic.

Today when issues of climate change, peak oil and the extinction of various (often obscure) species are raised, they have been an excuse for yet another round of calls for population control. In most cases the solutions are obvious to Julian Simon’s heirs and successors.

 

The cure for Climate change.

Since writing the first draft of this paper in the late 1990's satellite data has come in that has indicated that the greenhouse forcing ratio is 1.6 not the IPCC's 3. If this is true it is impossible for greenhouse effect to produce any adverse results. However many will disbelieve this interpretation of the results so the arguments below stand. The urgency is however gone.

The cure for climate change is not solved by population limits; carbon taxes; reducing per capta energy consumption (it will help) , or by lopping the heads off unborn babies.

The answer lies in the fifty kinds of wind power, twenty kinds of wave power, a hundred kinds of Solar power, combined with a little energy storage, biomas fuels, and the shift to organic agriculture. With these technologies we are well on the way to meeting the challenge[12]. As they say: “Those who can, Do. Those who can’t, Teach.” I.e. Those who are most fearful about the greenhouse problems the world is facing are often academics. Yes, they are genuinely afraid. These same academics are often socialists and lack the business acuity to appreciate the correct nature of the problem or adopt true free market solutions or create sustainable companies to meet energy demand. They have pushed for heavy subsidies on technology with the promise that a few years of subsidy will result in the industry maturing, the technology that needs no subsidies coming along and their companies eventually not needing the subsidies. However these companies never quite develop to the point where they can survive subsidy free. They also fail to buy the newer technology when it does come along because while on the subsidies get the company going, cash flow is often tight after the early boom and there is a stronger temptation to stick with old and tested than new and risky. This in turn blocks any technology that is actually ready because it make the imperfect solution the same price as the cheaper newer solution. Investors shy away from a new company competing with subsidised companies and it takes time for newer companies to convince government it needs subsidies or an equal footing with the subsidized companies.
It is ludicrous to think that world wide, biofuels will power a quarter billion SUV’s. However, combined with good public transport systems, current technologies would allow biofuels to power many millions of multi-fueled plug-in hybrids, using of peak renewable power to charge most of the cars by night. The intermittent nature of wind, wave and solar power can be overcome by storing the energy underground using compressed air. The technology has already proven to be profitable[13]. New technologies are now making it economically viable to extract and store hydrogen; electricity can be stored in over thirty different battery technologies and ultra-capaciters; energy can be stored as momentum in flywheels; also, water pumped up hill in hydroelectric systems.

In all cases the most efficient way to make and store energy is to use renewable energy to directly charge the energy banks. Wind and wave power driving compressers directly[14]. DC from solar cells charging batteries before being fed to a transformer or power grid. Heating water, salt or sand using Solar thermal energy in insulated tanks boiling a working fluid for a heat engine. Using compressed air from a wind farm passed through broiling sand can be very effective.

We are not talking here about a science fiction pipe-dream. The technology exists today. We have the technology. We are already seeing factories being built using some of these new technologies.[15] The process takes time; as it progresses the use of the new technologies will gather momentum. When critics complain of the unacceptable timeframe, they are often unaware how far we have come in just the last decade. Many major projects using these technologies are on schedule and in a few cases are well ahead of schedule and underbudget. There are some companies or corporations who will miss the boat. Some are missing out on good business opportunities either through poor business plans, poor technology or simply bad PR.

There are people who are trying to block change and its not the big oil companies or a conspiracy. In some cases the critics are simply rivals in the new energy game; each with their pet technology and the natural belief that they have the solution and money spent elsewhere is money wasted. Don’t ask a hydrogen fan about biofuels, or a nuclear fission power advocate about wind or Fusion; each will naturally know most of the problems in the rival field, and have little appreciation of the solutions outside their own field. Very few of those pushing various technologies take a wider view. We can expect a vast energy buffet in our future not a narrow minded “meat and two veg” ‘meal’.

The Biofuel Boom.

Many fear that biofuels, as they develop, will compete with food production and use up arable land[16]. This is possible if we are foolish, but for this to happen we would need to be very foolish indeed. Few know that the production of most biofuels does not destroy the protein component of the feed stock. The byproducts of ethanol are Dry Distillers Grains with Soluables [DDGS[17]]. Textured protein, high protein bread and stock feed can be made from DDGS. This is how vegemite, the Australian national spread down under, is made. An ethanol plant would produce about 17 pounds of DDGS per bushel of corn.[18] For each kilo of ethanol we make a little more than a kilo of DDGS. Ethanol from an inedible feedstock such as switch grass will produce DDGS which is an edible food. Okay, you my not want it on your table, but at least it will feed the cattle.

Biodiesel produces a co-product called press cake. Press cake is a very useful stock feed and is a common protein source in industrial cooking. Biofuel production often compliments crop and livestock systems; allowing the best land to be used for food and the rest turned to biofuels. Systems of rotation of crops will emerge allowing food crops, fuel crops and livestock to be used to interrupt disease cycles, restore the soil after a particularly intensive food crop or manage price fluctuations in unstable markets providing sustainable wealth for farmers.

A huge boost in agricultural production and profitability is likely to come from the Algae oil research[19]. Algae is grown in sealed photo-bioreactors: clear plastic bags; boxes; covered ponds and tubes. CO2 from power stations or the compost heap boosts production much more than air but it is not essential. An essential component is that wild micro-organisms be kept out. The technology needs no arable land at all, though some will be used early on. Photo-bioreactors can be sealed water tight with no evaporative or transpiration losses. A properly designed system could work in a devastating drought providing fuel and stockfeed. The farmers income need not stop when the rain stops. While this technology has received a great deal of press lately, even its advocates have not fully grasped what these cheap photo-bioreactors will mean to the future of dry land farming and the farming of rocky landscapes. The key factors of a new technology’s long term viability and sustainability is easy to identify. The farm wastes or manure must be converted into sterile fertilizer for the algae. Non-renewable energy inputs must be minimized. In the long term, plastics must be made from non oil hydrocarbons, and ideally we must ensure that the algae press cake, or what’s left over when the oil extracted, is edible and safe for livestock and if possible, for humans. All of these task’s are relatively easy.

The sun in a bottle.

Our energy future is not limited to solar and the hundred or so derived renewable energy technologies. There are also many fusion programs underway. Most environmentalists are ignorant or pessimistic with respect to fusion power. The most commonly understood fusion program is the magnetic confinement plasma fusion work of Tokomak[20], which promised so much but delivered so little. This is not the only fusion technology out there. The plasma fusion people have been the bane of the development of fusion power. They have systematically opposed grants to any other fusion program while fruitlessly consuming the available funds. It is recognised by many that plasma fusion does not produce clean energy[21]. The plasma irradiates large tonnages of material producing radioactive waste. If plasma fusion ever succeeds the very big centralised multi-gigawatt powerplant will be something only a few countries could afford. All your eggs are in one big basket.

Who are the alternatives we could turn to: Farnsworth–Hirsch Fusor[22], Migma fusion[23], Cold fusion[24], Muon fusion[25] and Focus fusion[26]. Their biggest problems are a lack of funds, laboratory access and/or, an end to the damaging competition. In most cases, they are very close to a solution. In my opinion Focus Fusion is the best hope.[27] It only a matter of time before someone or some country takes advantage of these newer technologies and race ahead with a working solution. At that point we will enter an age of truly abundant energy. There is enough deuterium out in the ocean; lithium and boron in soils to power the world a dozen times over at a level of consumption or wastage beyond what anyone could desire.

Even in such a world of abundant energy, market forces will favour energy efficiency over waste. Even Fusion won’t be ‘too cheap to meter’. There are good technologies that will converge in new housing developments to make them and the new cities of China, India, the Middle east and the third world much more efficient and sustainable that the old cities of the first world. We have the opportunity to skip a generation going straight to 21st century technology. By skipping the 20th century technology base of coal, oil and power grids we skip its limits. The third world is already doing that with telecommunications. No-ones laying copper cables across Africa as was done across the western world, eastern europe and our oceans in the last century and a half. Converting the older houses and cities of the west to sustainability will be a great challenge; one that is as much an art as a science and one that will engage architects for decades.

 

What about the extinctions?

Interestingly all three men Malthus, Harden and Ehrlich can be defined as evolutionary biologists or in the case of Malthus an early evolutionary theorist. Their fear of extinction is strange given that it is at the very heart of evolution. It is almost perverse that they greet extinction with such a mix of love and fear. The love of our demise and the fear of the demise of other species. If polar bears are not fit for our greenhouse world then it is just normal evolution that kills them off and opens the arctic to some other species. ‘Humongous Minus’ perhaps. I am not an evolutionist; genes that are lost will not be replaced. Every extinction is an insult to God and a massive waste to man.

In most cases the extinctions we observe are of sub-species not entire species, but any extinction is a loss. [Though I suspect few will mourn the passing of the TB mycobacterium, polio and Aids] Extinction is a form of Garrett Hardens ‘tragedy of the commons’. It should be noted that our domestic livestock are not threatened with extinction. To preserve a species we need to profit from it. Someone needs to own it and have the rights to sell products derived from it. Those products do not have to be meat, fur or rhino horn. There are many ways ownership of a species or habitat[28]. Consider a few examples: tourism; show prizes[29]; co-operative forest harvest of bush foods and co-operative ownership of fisheries. Many of these system of management have been successfully tried and tested. None are easy or simple, and currently there is a limited market for eco-tourism. This is area that will grow as it moves down market and it has great potential.

However, farming for meat, fur and horn in some cases will work. Consider the market for turtle meat[30], polar bear skins[31] and yes, Rhino horn; the current price would make farming them profitable and thus save the species[32]. Yes, we need ways to ensure that poachers can’t enter the legal market. The challenge is not to ban the hunting of these species or the allow the destruction of their habitat. In the past it simply has not worked. To protect biodiversity it must become property. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) has failed in many cases because it tries to use unenforceable bans. Greater success was found by creating a legal trade regulated by properly enforced green trademarks. This method was successfully implemented with tropical woods[33], wild harvested fungi, truffles, some fish and furs. It could be applied to many other species if CITES will allow it to be set up with the proper regulatory framework.

Many endangered species are quite good eating: Dugong, Turtle, Potoroo and Shark. The farming of them should be profitable. Farming wild species is a challenge in the sense that they often can’t be fenced in easily or at all. But technology is being developed to overcome this[34]. In the case of Potoroos; cats must be fenced out. Farming the seas is a greater challenge, but some the most creative oceanographers and inventors are looking at.[35]

Farming without oil.

Our industrial farming system is dependant on oil[36]. Ton for ton, some foods require 5 tons of oil per ton of crops on the shelves in your kitchen. Nitrogen fertilisers are made from natural gas. Phosphate and other bulk mineral fertilizers require energy to mine and ship. Phosphate is also a fossil resource, access to fossil bird droppings on a large scale has peaked.[37] As oil peaks[38] in the next few years, demand will exceed supply and the price will be locked in well above the $100 a barrel mark. This is good news for biofuels, but bad news for most other farmers. Simon and Khan’s only fault was that they failed to see organic agriculture as a resource shift, taking us from a WW2 based high energy farming system (fertilizer and pesticide), to an ecosystem science based system. Crop waste, sewerage and garbage are the cheapest fertilizers. Knowledge and attention is the cheapest pesticide.

Organic agriculture[39] consumes less fossil fuel; some systems consume none and at the same time produce energy. A switch to organic farming would also reduce species loss; reduce erosion and farm runoff pollution. Many, including the FAO, believe a global switch to organic agriculture will not work[40] because of its complexity and the skills it requires and the common claim that organic farms are less productive. As someone trained twice in the field[41] I (the author of this document) can testify that this claim is false. In the transition period a farm is less productive. The soil has been starved of sugars that maintain that soil structure and recycle phosphates etc so plants must divert some of the photosynthetic energy away from crop yield and into the soil in the rebuilding of the farm from the ground down. Arable land is not a fossil resource that took tens of thousands of years to make, as many people claim. Arable land can be created; it requires capital and a few years time, but it can be done even on bedrock and concrete. The bible required the Israelites leave the land fallow every seven years and on the jubilee year. [42] This resulted in an enhanced viability of Israel’s farms; the blessing in the Bibles book of Deuteronomy, chapter 28 are not miracles, they are mostly just sound ecology and good governance.

Once the soil is restored the farm should return to full productivity with fewer input costs[43]. In some cases there is a steep learning curve for the farmer. The mechanics of the tractor and its countless expensive attachments, or the challenge of calculating fertiliser and pesticide schedules become less important. Biology, ecology and local geography matter much more. The farmer becomes a keeper of soil, runoff, plants and animals not a machinist tied down with debt and equipment that languishes in big sheds during a drought. Yes, organic agriculture is a little harder to fathom, but even our illiterate iron age ancestors mastered it.

While some individual crops might be a little less productive, most organic farms are mixed crop systems not monocultures. Even if there are only a few cattle on the wheat stubble or pine nuts planted as a wind break, such systems have more than one crop per field and, more than one crop per year. The best systems have hundreds of species, yielding crops over the year and abundant livestock fodder even in a season of drought[44].

So what’s the top number.

Assuming we stop clearing pristine forest, savannah, etc and use only already farmed land, damaged land and bare eroded bed rock for farming and development, I believe we could feed about 30 billion. Even the pessimists believe we will not go beyond 9 to 12 billion people by 2050[45]. My estimation is based on the assumption that we will use organic agriculture world wide. One assumption is that there will be a small decrease in crop yield in the west, but a much greater diversity of product and more species per ‘field’ across the world. Organic agriculture would produce a large increase in arable land and yield in the third world. The yield should be greater than modern industrial agriculture with the implementation of various systems of permaculture[46], agroforestry. Fish farming systems would be established wherever possible. Livestock systems would be based on stock crop rotations, cell grazing, supplemental feeding using crop residue, algae crops and biofuel by-products.

It also assumes large algae oil developments on waste land and dry land farms [without elevated CO2] yielding a mix of biofuel, livestock feed, human food -- mainly Spiralina[47] -- and fish food for fish farming. Yields would be consistent with an intensive grain crop; tons per hectare per year but because there are no transpiration losses, cropping will work on very dry landscapes. We could also make the deserts bloom using Professor Emeritus Dan Zaslavsky’s Downdraft Energy Towers on desert coasts and both Niger and Nile rivers[48]. Low coastal communities such as Bangladesh should use an expanded range of crops including salt water crops[49] and mangrove agroforestry with raised or floating houses with sealed or buoyant biodigesters to handle their sewerage.

It also assumes that part of many farm incomes include rentals from wind farms and solar collector arrays that double as livestock shade or dam shade. In the steep wet tropics we could add Micro hydro farms[50].

Some high technology urban farming could feed the cities those crops that are most seasonally dependant: tomatoes; fresh salad greens and strawberries. Heat and light for intensive cultivation can be biogas powered[51]. The biogas residue, a high technology organic fertilizer feeds the crops. Both are made from city sewerage, garden refuse and the crop residue in anaerobic digesters. China is looking at roof top farming in an attempt to biuld a city while retaining the arible land used [52]. People in New York and Las Vagus is looking at a vertical farm[53].

We must make third world agriculture as productive as pre-war America or Australia, or ideally, the modern west. Missionary agronomists have argued that several countries in Africa, if developed like the west with education, capital and infrastructure, could feed the whole of Africa. While development only occurs where most of the production sells locally; it could mean that with some products, Africa becomes a net food exporting continent as it was in the Roman era.

To make it all work we need to develop rail and riverine transport in Africa, Southeast Asia and Central and South America and some parts of Russia and North Asia. These railways need to be all interlinked, standardised and powered by sustainable energy or biofuels. The same applies to the boats and canals. A way needs to be found to finance the development of the third world without resorting to subsidy or an export only economy. Subsidies tend to result in systems in the wrong place and be unconcerned with making a profit. Africa can’t afford the subsidies anyway. If Africa (etc) is to develop, it needs to both buy and sell resources. The traffic on these lines must be profitable in both directions so that Africans have money to spend on local produce, imports and capital.

The profits must be spread widely across the population, not concentrated in a few hands. This is the greatest challenge. It means village capitalism on a huge scale. While socialism claims to achieve egalitarianism, it fails in several ways. The Soviets and unions are risk averse when they are in charge, being unable to make the hard decisions, or fall prey to infighting, that ends with a dictatorship; socialism can’t direct resources to the most productive project because it bans profit. Socialism wastes resources on the party which becomes the new ‘exploiting class’ (propaganda shows and luxury country houses) and socialism attacks religion and minorities in a manner that provokes others to wage war against it.

To build up the third world we must consider America, Australia and a few other countries and see why they went from poor colonies to the equal of their respective empires. What went, or is still going, wrong in India, Africa and South America. Is it racism, malaria, corruption, the weather, the wrong religion or tribal conflict?[54] Or is it simply that they indulged in socialism at some time before or after they became a nation state? Why did Kenya have to fight a revolution (and now a civil war), but Australia never had to fire a shot? Why did Argentina and Australia, economic equals in the 1900’s, wind up so different in terms of wealth?

With the development of Asia we are seeing a huge shift from rural to urban. Can we, with what we have seen work and not work in Asia, make it happen again in Africa? This happened in Australia in the 1940’s, America in the 1930’s and much of Northern Europe in the 1920’s. The World Wars both accelerated and confused the process. Millions of soldiers and refugees never made it back to the farming village. Urbanisation means better eduction, opportunities and productivity, even among slum dwellers. The challenge we face, the challenge some in Asia seem to be meeting is to urbanise but skip the slums. To turn unskilled villages into skilled factory hands and then later into factory owners[55]. I am also assuming that some of this urban drift will be transnational, and that we need to streamline our screening, language training and other immigrant services.

Thus I come to a figure of about 30 billion; four times the current level.

If cheap fusion can be developed or we can safely develop sane genetically manipulated crops,[56] these numbers could double again. If we have global population mobility, then the areas that are least viable can be sources of population for those that have population decline. This only works if the immigrants accept the laws, morals and culture of the receiving country and those laws, morals and culture are acceptable; and anchored in a Biblical Christian world view.

But is it the right question?

Many state that we must look after this planet because it’s the only one we have. I agree with the sentiment and objective but it may simply not be true. We have put probes on the Moon, Mars and even for a few minutes on Venus. A pair of nearly indestructible robots are wandering around on Mars as I write. Many of us have dreams of going beyond a few foot prints and wheel tracks and actually living there[57]. Expanding this biosphere out from this small world into others; learning to use the near infinite resources of the inner solar system to create new homes for our children is not beyond the realms of possibility.[58]

Yes, the space program and a Mars base would be expensive but we waste more money on lesser things: gambling, wars and cell phone ring tones. I am inclined towards opening space up to private development. Today it is a mess of red tape and endless obsolete design studies. A would be colonist can’t even stake a legal claim on a patch of Martian dust or a rich asteroid. Without ownership there is no management. Unable to sell space real-estate to willing buyers, banned from even putting advertising in the Apollo broadcasts or on the launch tower, Nasa is forced to grovel and con politicians for grants. If advertising was allowed on Apollo missions the moon missions would have made a profit, and Nasa would be a large private company today. We know how to get payloads into space but we continue launching interesting but often inadequate science pay loads when we should be launching the ‘bricks and mortar’ of a substantial program: the Construction Shack space station[59], an in orbit solar sail factory and the high dock (a dry-dock in space). Then we could build big by recycling spent launch vehicles in orbit. We could then build cities in the sky and make ships that dash around the solar system like clipper ships.

We could build orbiting solar power stations and beam the power down to the earth as microwaves. However I suspect that nimby (not in my back yard) will prevent such stations from beaming power down to earth. Terrestrial solar power systems with storage are approaching the power density and cost of such a system anyway. Powersats may be built but mainly for Moon and Mars power. The moon and mars can be made habitable through Terraforming or para-terraforming. I prefer the latter[60].

We need space for space itself. Room to move; room for growth; room to have as many kids as you might desire. To quote Gerard O'Neill, "Is the surface of a planet really the right place for an expanding technological civilization?"[61]. The answer is “No”, There are enough resources in one or two asteroids to build space stations that dwarf Manhattan.[62] Habitats with 60 square miles of living and farming land have been designed. Indeed these designs are over 30 years old[63]. And, there are millions of asteroids out there.

So is the question whether the planet is over populated or when it will be overpopulated? Or is it how many new planets can we colonize and how many new habitats we can build for ourselves and our biosphere to expand out into. I believe the carrying capacity of the solar system in excess of 100 billion. Yet it will take several millennia to fill it. Yes, our colonies on Mars will be different from an organic farm in Wales or Bangladesh, but the same principles of sustainability, diversity and care will apply in all three. The ecology of a Mars farm will differ little from the ones on earth[64]. In space, even today, the best designs recycle everything.

When consulted on the subject of space colonisation, E. F. Schumacher, the author of the “Small is beautiful”, promised a long list of names: politicians, industrialists, etc who he would like to send (i.e. get rid of)[65]. Schumacher as usual had hit the nail on the head. We need space not for those who are happy with the simple life and small families but those who want live high, get rich or build big. Space is not for the greedy, out there greed kills quickly. It’s for the ambitious. Space is challenge. It will not save humanity from our current crisis. It may also create new ones but it will, above all, take us beyond our limits to growth.

Do we face a population bomb?

No, we can safely say that human population growth is not limited by the resources of this crowded rock or the technology of the oil era. We are the keepers of seed bed, the garden of a thousand glass houses awaits us and our children. We can feed the worlds population and respond to peak oil and greenhouse at the same time. We can farm in ways the save the flora and fauna that share the world with us. In some cases, we can save endangered animals by farming them or through eco-tourism. Whether we will or not has nothing to do with our numbers and everything we do with how we vote and what businesses we invest in.

If you are not suffering information overload I have failed. We have abundant solutions. I have listed some of the many solutions I know of. They don’t substitute for law and order, good governance or sound economics, but neither does having fewer babies or forcing others to have only one child. Forced population control is a poor solution in the face of such opportunity. It is a conflict generating solution that is doomed to fail. Garrett Hardin was correct: Those who prefer large families will always grow to become the majority, and those that choose to limit their family or have no family, will become a diminishing minority. Some hope that the heirs of Malthus choose to live up to their fear driven desire and leave the gene pool or simply die without leaving any heirs. Some do[66]. Although one might wonder what that unborn child of Malthus’ followers might have been: a doctor, a park ranger, or an astronaut building a permaculture dome for herself and a hundred thousand species on distant Mars? What could the parent have achieved if they looked to the future in hope, used their God given intelligence and creativity to seek real solutions instead of calling humans the problem?

 

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[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overpopulation

[2] See http://www.breakpoint.org/listingarticle.asp?ID=7298 and http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,21985,22945744-5000117,00.html and http://www.billmuehlenberg.com/2007/12/19/human-hating-humanitarians/ The bio-warfare idea came from Dr John Reid. http://www.abc.net.au/rn/ockhamsrazor/stories/2006/1807002.htm I’ve heard it form others privately. Watchout for Earth First supporter with a biochemistry degree they could be dangerous. Global ecotarge is not an impossibility. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth_first , http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecotage It is the hidden premise in the book The Children of Men.

 

[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Governance

 

[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julian_Lincoln_Simon

[5] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herman_Kahn

 

[6] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cornucopian

 

[7] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_views and http://www.summit.org/ and http://www.summit.org/resource/worldview_chart/

 

[8] I recommend the wiki page on him its excellent: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Malthus

for the time being. 26. 12. 2008.

[9] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tragedy_of_the_commons and http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/reprint/162/3859/1243.pdf

 

[10] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_R._Ehrlich. The book http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Population_Bomb

[11] The wager is mentioned in the wiki text on Simon in note 3.

[12] See http://www.principalvoices.com/2007/alternative.energy/ even the media is catching on I saw this on CNN. See also http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=a-solar-grand-plan&page=1 A US plan

Scientific American Magazine - January, 2008 and http://www.desertec.org/concept.html the European plan.

 

[13] See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compressed_air_energy_storage however these have some fossil fuel inputs. We have some way to go but it is profitable as currently deployed.

[14]General compression is working on such a system of wind power http://www.generalcompression.com/index.html There are several in the case of wave power.

 

[15] See the reports on nanosolars new factory, http://www.nanosolar.com/

[16] See http://www.foodfirst.org/

[17] See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DDGS

 

[18] See http://sustainableethanol.blogspot.com/search/label/Chapter%20excerpts

[19] See http://www.oilgae.com/

 

[20] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tokamak

 

[21] The Fusion Alternative- How clean? Phillip Hart pp. 153-155 in “Energy and People Social implications of different energy futures”. Ed. Diesendorf, Mark pub Society for Social responsibly in Science (A.C.T.) 1979 An amazingly prophetic volume.

[22] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Farnsworth-Hirsch_Fusor

 

[23] http://www.rexresearch.com/maglich/maglich.htm

 

[24] http://www.lenr-canr.org/

 

[25] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muon-catalyzed_fusion I have a muon fusion reactor design that needs trying. There are natural muon fluxes at 10 km up in the atmosphere. I need an airship, some magnets and a deuterium filled Farnsworth fusor.

 

[26] http://focusfusion.org/log/index.php

 

[27] The list is chronological.

[28] See http://www.perc.org/ Property and Environment Research Center good data on what works and why.

[29] Where prizes are given for the best example of the species, be it animal, plant or ecosystem.

[30] http://www.turtle.ky/ It works! If only CITES could get it.

[31] $6000-8000 a pelt; enough to buy polar bear fodder; lard and offal for hundreds of bears.

[32] The real problem is that some people mixing Hindu and animist beliefs object to all animal husbandry no matter how humane. These people are very active behind the scenes pushing embargoes on all animal products while eating lentils and spinach burgers. If they had their way there would be no sheep, beef and chicken farmed anywhere and butchering an animal would be a criminal offence.

[33] http://www.sharedspaces.nl/pagina.html?id=10848 and http://www.woodforgood.com/building-sustainably/specifying-and-buying-timber/

[34] http://www.csiro.au/multimedia/VirtualFencingVideo.html

[35] See my small contribution. http://www.geocities.com/vacoyecology/Bubble_ponds_fluke_boats.html

I have a page on fish farming in the works.

 

[36] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Industrial_agriculture

[37] See http://www.energybulletin.net/35851.html

[38] http://www.energybulletin.net/primer.php

 

[39] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organic_farming_methods

[40] See http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2007/1000726/index.html but even the UN staff cried foul when this statement came out.

[41] Bachelor of Science, 1999, ANU; Permaculture Certificate, 1984.

[42] Exodus 23:10-11 and Leviticus 25:1-7 and Leviticus 25:20-22 While Christians are not bound by Jewish law: any law of God is good advice. See also Jeremiah 34:13-14. Not harvesting the edge of the field has beneficial ecological consequences. See Lev 19:9. Leaving the corners/ sides unploughed and unharvested creates a grass-hedge that harbours pest predators and reduces runoff.

See http://soil.scijournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/68/4/1386

[43]See http://www.ns.umich.edu/htdocs/releases/story.php?id=5936 and http://www.cnr.berkeley.edu/~christos/articles/cv_organic_farming.html

 

[44] See any work on permaculture http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Permaculture and http://www.permaculture.org.au/ or http://www.holmgren.com.au/. See also anything on cell grazing, agroforestry and perennial polyculture farming at http://www.landinstitute.org/vnews/display.v/ART/2007/03/15/45facffb6ccd6

 

 

[45] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overpopulation#Population_projections_from_the_1900.27s_to_2050 The UN population projection level off at 9 billion even without forced population control.

[46] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Permaculture

[47] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spirulina_%28dietary_supplement%29

[48] http://physicaplus.org.il/zope/home/en/1124811264/1137833043_en and http://www.iset.uni-kassel.de/abt/w3-w/folien/magdeb030901/076.jpg and http://www.iset.uni-kassel.de/abt/w3-w/folien/magdeb030901/folie_29.html check out the rest of the power point slides on the last reference. The two red dots in Africa appear to be Chad and Southern Sudan.

[49] NyPa grain and Nypa forage; Distichlis palmeri and Distichlis spicata. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distichlis_palmeri and Gol Pata http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nypa_fruticans

Mangrove apple: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sonneratia

[50] Think 10 streams per square kilometre of forest, with a weir or micro dam every 10 meters down the stream and a cheap mass produced Pelton wheel below each dam but just above the next. All linked to the nearest energy demand.

[51] http://verticalfarm.com/index.php radical, high technology and very intensive yet basically organic farming in a tower.

[52] See http://www.mcdonoughpartners.com/projects/liuzhou/default.asp?projID=liuzhou

[53] See http://www.nextenergynews.com/news1/next-energy-news-las-vegas-vertical-farm-1.2b.html

[54] All have been cited as the cause or causes. My moneys on ‘all of the above’ option.

[55] Either directly or indirectly through saving, shares, or pension funds.

[56] The GM crops produced today are flawed because we do not know what the function of the so called junk DNA. Its not genetic junk but the vital operating system of the genome. We tamper with it at great risk. Companies like Monsanto are also optimising the plants for industrial agriculture not sustainable agriculture. Hopefully a new generation of geneticists will figure out the genomes operating system, master the art of genetic engineering and turn its power onto optimising some crops for sustainable agriculture or biofuels plus food production. However organic agriculture specialists will point out that they can’t think of a genetic modification that would be useful to organic agriculture. Their doing just fine with the breeding tools that are thousands of years old.

[57] See http://www.nss.org/ and http://www.marssociety.org.au/

 

[58] If the second coming is soon we don’t need them but if the lord tarries for another hundred years we will need them. Some of us see the need to stay in touch lest we by inaction hand it over to atheism.

[59] http://www.nss.org/settlement/ColoniesInSpace/colonies_chap07.html I favour a newer smaller design that can be launched with the Ares launcher, I’m working on a paper.

 

 

[60] See http://www.vacoyecology.com/valleyhouse.html my preliminary work on my future Mars homestead. ;-) It’s not exactly a get rich quick scheme.

 

 

[61] See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerard_K._O%27Neill and http://www.islandone.org/

 

[62] See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O%27Neill_cylinder

[63] See http://www.nss.org/settlement/L5news/index.html

 

[64] We might avoid burrowing animals in a dome. Species that might become pests would be avoided. Our domes and roofed valleys may be too low to allow certain species of trees and bird. Generally the ecologies will resemble a normal farm under a glass or plastic sky and interrupted only by scattered roofing support towers.

[65] Space Colonies. Ed Stewart Brand. Penguin Book, 1977. page 38. I recommend it. Includes criticisms of space colonisation by Wendell Berry, Garrett Harden, etc as well as positive comments by Simons and many others. Today’s Critics are saying nothing new.

[66] However their writings live on to contaminate the world. See http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/femail/article.html?in_article_id=495495&in_page_id=1879