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Over population derail from "Humans as non-animals"

T.G.G. Moogly

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Nature always seem to pull things into balance. Washout a vaccine COVID might have led to large scale population reduction.
That depends on whether you think 8 billion humans is actually environmentally "balanced" for the planet. I have a friend who maintains that climate and nature is "self-correcting" for humans, that nothing we do can threaten us. I too am a trillionaire in my dreams.
 

Swammerdami

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Nature always seem to pull things into balance. Washout a vaccine COVID might have led to large scale population reduction.
That depends on whether you think 8 billion humans is actually environmentally "balanced" for the planet. I have a friend who maintains that climate and nature is "self-correcting" for humans, that nothing we do can threaten us. I too am a trillionaire in my dreams.

The high population is unsustainable. Levels of water tables are plummeting in India and elsewhere. Feeding the many billions relies on huge consumption of phosphate fertilizer; but easily recoverable phosphate is fast being exhausted. An increasing portion of the Earth's fertile surface is now used to grow food for humans (or the beef they like to eat); this impacts biodiversity — in fact scientists are already calling out time The Sixth Great Extinction.

The ocean is being degraded horribly; there are giant piles of plastic in the middle of oceans; coral reefs are being destroyed. Parts of the ocean once dominated by fish are now dominated by jellyfish.

IMO, climate change is just one of several problems that can be directly attributed to human over-population.
 

T.G.G. Moogly

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Nature always seem to pull things into balance. Washout a vaccine COVID might have led to large scale population reduction.
That depends on whether you think 8 billion humans is actually environmentally "balanced" for the planet. I have a friend who maintains that climate and nature is "self-correcting" for humans, that nothing we do can threaten us. I too am a trillionaire in my dreams.

The high population is unsustainable. Levels of water tables are plummeting in India and elsewhere. Feeding the many billions relies on huge consumption of phosphate fertilizer; but easily recoverable phosphate is fast being exhausted. An increasing portion of the Earth's fertile surface is now used to grow food for humans (or the beef they like to eat); this impacts biodiversity — in fact scientists are already calling out time The Sixth Great Extinction.

The ocean is being degraded horribly; there are giant piles of plastic in the middle of oceans; coral reefs are being destroyed. Parts of the ocean once dominated by fish are now dominated by jellyfish.

IMO, climate change is just one of several problems that can be directly attributed to human over-population.

People have different aspirations. There are posters on this board that honestly think 30 billion humans is perfectly okay. Maybe it is okay if all you want are humans, air conditioners and sidewalks and roads and nothing else. I can't imagine being content in such a vast wasteland. It would be like everyone living in a nursing home.
 

rousseau

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At the broadest level the adaptations we've had have allowed us to extract energy from the environment with increasing intensity. I came across a term in the past few months that I can't remember, but it basically denoted ability to extract energy via tools. Unlike other species, we're very good at using tools to extract energy from the environment.

If you completely forget any ideas about us as special, and instead look at us as very effective converters of energy, then what we see today is about the consequence you'd get. A degrading environment, and a biosphere wide reaction (climate change) to our history and growth.

And yet culturally we're still stuck in the perspective of reason being the defining feature of our species. Some of us have just emerged from chaos just a few centuries ago due to the enlightenment, and this is generally regarded as a good thing, but most of the long-term damage we've done has happened since then.
 

bilby

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The high population is unsustainable. Levels of water tables are plummeting in India and elsewhere. Feeding the many billions relies on huge consumption of phosphate fertilizer; but easily recoverable phosphate is fast being exhausted. An increasing portion of the Earth's fertile surface is now used to grow food for humans (or the beef they like to eat); this impacts biodiversity — in fact scientists are already calling out time The Sixth Great Extinction.

The ocean is being degraded horribly; there are giant piles of plastic in the middle of oceans; coral reefs are being destroyed. Parts of the ocean once dominated by fish are now dominated by jellyfish.

IMO, climate change is just one of several problems that can be directly attributed to human over-population.

People have different aspirations. There are posters on this board that honestly think 30 billion humans is perfectly okay. Maybe it is okay if all you want are humans, air conditioners and sidewalks and roads and nothing else. I can't imagine being content in such a vast wasteland. It would be like everyone living in a nursing home.

30 billion humans is about three times the plausible maximum number that will ever simultaneously inhabit the planet, so it's completely irrelevant to reality whether or not that population is OK.

Overpopulation is a stupid idea. It was a reasonable fear in the mid to late twentieth century, but it's long since been resolved.

There are no resource issues we cannot solve that would prevent us sustaining the ~10 billion humans that represent our likely peak population. Of course, we might not be smart enough to actually implement those solutions - look at the reluctance we have to completely replace the burning of fossil fuels with nuclear fission - but the problems are political and ideological, they're not resource, technology, or population driven.

Population is just people. "Overpopulation" is a fundamentally anti-human concept, and belongs in the same ideological dustbin as other anti-humanitarian ideas such as apartheid, slavery, and fascism.
 

T.G.G. Moogly

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At the broadest level the adaptations we've had have allowed us to extract energy from the environment with increasing intensity. I came across a term in the past few months that I can't remember, but it basically denoted ability to extract energy via tools. Unlike other species, we're very good at using tools to extract energy from the environment.

If you completely forget any ideas about us as special, and instead look at us as very effective converters of energy, then what we see today is about the consequence you'd get. A degrading environment, and a biosphere wide reaction (climate change) to our history and growth.

And yet culturally we're still stuck in the perspective of reason being the defining feature of our species. Some of us have just emerged from chaos just a few centuries ago due to the enlightenment, and this is generally regarded as a good thing, but most of the long-term damage we've done has happened since then.

That damage has always occurred, it's only become more apparent with the rise in population. That rise in population can be attributed to natural selection and our propensity to want to devour resources that belong to the smaller population down the river or up the river. The clan that had the most bodies generally won the contests.

When people do unite, as we have in the U.S., it's typically in mutual hatred or fear of an outside threat. It's ironic that we can unite to carry out our collective hatred and fear. So maybe the current problem is there is nothing out there to unite us and so we have to manufacture enemies from within.

But I still think it's a population thing, there are just too many people crowded together in competition for resources and it's affecting behavior, just as it does in other primates.
 

bilby

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At the broadest level the adaptations we've had have allowed us to extract energy from the environment with increasing intensity. I came across a term in the past few months that I can't remember, but it basically denoted ability to extract energy via tools. Unlike other species, we're very good at using tools to extract energy from the environment.

If you completely forget any ideas about us as special, and instead look at us as very effective converters of energy, then what we see today is about the consequence you'd get. A degrading environment, and a biosphere wide reaction (climate change) to our history and growth.

And yet culturally we're still stuck in the perspective of reason being the defining feature of our species. Some of us have just emerged from chaos just a few centuries ago due to the enlightenment, and this is generally regarded as a good thing, but most of the long-term damage we've done has happened since then.

Extracting energy from the environment is a good thing. Burning fossil fuels isn't. The two are not the same.

Extracting energy from the environment isn't a defining feature of humans; It's a defining feature of life.
 

rousseau

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At the broadest level the adaptations we've had have allowed us to extract energy from the environment with increasing intensity. I came across a term in the past few months that I can't remember, but it basically denoted ability to extract energy via tools. Unlike other species, we're very good at using tools to extract energy from the environment.

If you completely forget any ideas about us as special, and instead look at us as very effective converters of energy, then what we see today is about the consequence you'd get. A degrading environment, and a biosphere wide reaction (climate change) to our history and growth.

And yet culturally we're still stuck in the perspective of reason being the defining feature of our species. Some of us have just emerged from chaos just a few centuries ago due to the enlightenment, and this is generally regarded as a good thing, but most of the long-term damage we've done has happened since then.

Extracting energy from the environment is a good thing. Burning fossil fuels isn't. The two are not the same.

Extracting energy from the environment isn't a defining feature of humans; It's a defining feature of life.

Extracting energy from the environment with increasing intensity.
 

bilby

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At the broadest level the adaptations we've had have allowed us to extract energy from the environment with increasing intensity. I came across a term in the past few months that I can't remember, but it basically denoted ability to extract energy via tools. Unlike other species, we're very good at using tools to extract energy from the environment.

If you completely forget any ideas about us as special, and instead look at us as very effective converters of energy, then what we see today is about the consequence you'd get. A degrading environment, and a biosphere wide reaction (climate change) to our history and growth.

And yet culturally we're still stuck in the perspective of reason being the defining feature of our species. Some of us have just emerged from chaos just a few centuries ago due to the enlightenment, and this is generally regarded as a good thing, but most of the long-term damage we've done has happened since then.

That damage has always occurred, it's only become more apparent with the rise in population. That rise in population can be attributed to natural selection and our propensity to want to devour resources that belong to the smaller population down the river or up the river. The clan that had the most bodies generally won the contests.

When people do unite, as we have in the U.S., it's typically in mutual hatred or fear of an outside threat. It's ironic that we can unite to carry out our collective hatred and fear. So maybe the current problem is there is nothing out there to unite us and so we have to manufacture enemies from within.

But I still think it's a population thing, there are just too many people crowded together in competition for resources and it's affecting behavior, just as it does in other primates.

Crowding and population are totally different things. There's a lot of empty space on the planet, but people don't want to live there. Humans like cities. The number of people who don't live in cities has plummeted since the Industrial revolution, and in the developed world the rural areas have lower population densities than at any time in recorded history.

Overpopulation is one of those things that everyone knows. Just like everyone knows that airliners and nuclear power are dangerous; That an object in motion requires a continuous application of force or it will come to a stop; And that there are gods who guide the forces of nature.

These things are obvious, popular, undoubted, and wrong.
 

rousseau

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Can we not do this conversation about over-population again? It's been done over and over again every time someone mentions the term. I don't mind, but if it continues I'll likely request a split.
 

bilby

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At the broadest level the adaptations we've had have allowed us to extract energy from the environment with increasing intensity. I came across a term in the past few months that I can't remember, but it basically denoted ability to extract energy via tools. Unlike other species, we're very good at using tools to extract energy from the environment.

If you completely forget any ideas about us as special, and instead look at us as very effective converters of energy, then what we see today is about the consequence you'd get. A degrading environment, and a biosphere wide reaction (climate change) to our history and growth.

And yet culturally we're still stuck in the perspective of reason being the defining feature of our species. Some of us have just emerged from chaos just a few centuries ago due to the enlightenment, and this is generally regarded as a good thing, but most of the long-term damage we've done has happened since then.

Extracting energy from the environment is a good thing. Burning fossil fuels isn't. The two are not the same.

Extracting energy from the environment isn't a defining feature of humans; It's a defining feature of life.

Extracting energy from the environment with increasing intensity.

Which is a very good thing. If you want to rank standard of living, at almost any level of granularity, the intensity of energy use is in almost perfect lockstep with that ranking.

Intensity of energy use is inseparable from quality of life.
 

bilby

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Can we not do this conversation about over-population again? It's been done over and over again every time someone mentions the term. I don't mind, but if it continues I'll likely request a split.

I agree, it shouldn't be necessary. But apparently, it is. Because people who should know better still espouse this dead and deadly ideology.

Fortunately, like the racism from which it sprouted, and the religion which it emulates intellectually, the overpopulation idea seems to be mostly a feature of older people, so there's some hope that it might become less virulent over time.

But (just like those other bad ideas) it won't go away if it's allowed to stand unchallenged when raised as though it were a self-evident truth.
 

rousseau

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Extracting energy from the environment with increasing intensity.

Which is a very good thing. If you want to rank standard of living, at almost any level of granularity, the intensity of energy use is in almost perfect lockstep with that ranking.

Intensity of energy use is inseparable from quality of life.

bilby you're clearly a smart guy, but oft-times these perspectives can come across like the same blinding faith in reason that Europeans had at the turn of the twentieth century, while completely blind to the unintended consequences of their own actions at the time.

You promote nuclear energy which is fair, it seems to be the main avenue out of our current predicament, but have you ever looked at potential and unforeseen long-term consequences of nuclear, exactly like we didn't see when we started seeing fossil fuels? I'm not saying they're there, but that's the point, if they are there they may be unforeseen. We don't always know the long-term consequences of decisions we're making now.

Given that, you seem to be of the opinion that we can just keep extracting from the environment with no upper limit. But the problem is that our biosphere is a closed system. And the truth is none of us really know what the world is going to look like in 1000 years, but what we do know is that we're already doing pretty serious damage to pretty much every global ecosystem.
 

bilby

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Extracting energy from the environment with increasing intensity.

Which is a very good thing. If you want to rank standard of living, at almost any level of granularity, the intensity of energy use is in almost perfect lockstep with that ranking.

Intensity of energy use is inseparable from quality of life.

bilby you're clearly a smart guy, but oft-times these perspectives can come across like the same blinding faith in reason that Europeans had at the turn of the twentieth century, while completely blind to the unintended consequences of their own actions at the time.

You promote nuclear energy which is fair, it seems to be the main avenue out of our current predicament, but have you ever looked at potential and unforeseen long-term consequences of nuclear, exactly like we didn't see when we started seeing fossil fuels? I'm not saying they're there, but that's the point, if they are there they may be unforeseen. We don't always know the long-term consequences of decisions we're making now.

Given that, you seem to be of the opinion that we can just keep extracting from the environment with no upper limit. But the problem is that our biosphere is a closed system. And the truth is none of us really know what the world is going to look like in 1000 years, but what we do know is that we're already doing pretty serious damage to pretty much every global ecosystem.

Given that this entire sub-discussion is me arguing that there IS a limit, that's a bit rich.

Human population will peak. If ten billion people have an excellent standard of living, the demand for further energy use will plateau.

Invoking unknown and unforeseen risks is the hallmark of a person with no rational objection. It's pascal's wager for anti-nuclear campaigners, anti-population campaigners, and other neo-luddites who have no reason for their fears, but are damned if they'll let that stop them from being afraid of the unnatural.

Unnatural is all that stands between us and life expectancy at birth of ~40 years, with those years spent mostly hungry, cold, and tired.
 

rousseau

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bilby you're clearly a smart guy, but oft-times these perspectives can come across like the same blinding faith in reason that Europeans had at the turn of the twentieth century, while completely blind to the unintended consequences of their own actions at the time.

You promote nuclear energy which is fair, it seems to be the main avenue out of our current predicament, but have you ever looked at potential and unforeseen long-term consequences of nuclear, exactly like we didn't see when we started seeing fossil fuels? I'm not saying they're there, but that's the point, if they are there they may be unforeseen. We don't always know the long-term consequences of decisions we're making now.

Given that, you seem to be of the opinion that we can just keep extracting from the environment with no upper limit. But the problem is that our biosphere is a closed system. And the truth is none of us really know what the world is going to look like in 1000 years, but what we do know is that we're already doing pretty serious damage to pretty much every global ecosystem.

Given that this entire sub-discussion is me arguing that there IS a limit, that's a bit rich.

Human population will peak. If ten billion people have an excellent standard of living, the demand for further energy use will plateau.

Invoking unknown and unforeseen risks is the hallmark of a person with no rational objection. It's pascal's wager for anti-nuclear campaigners, anti-population campaigners, and other neo-luddites who have no reason for their fears, but are damned if they'll let that stop them from being afraid of the unnatural.

Unnatural is all that stands between us and life expectancy at birth of ~40 years, with those years spent mostly hungry, cold, and tired.

The proper response to unforeseen risks wouldn't be mockery, it would be trying to understand those unforeseen risks and adapting to them. But as we're still trying to convince most people that Trump isn't an appropriate leader for a major country, and that heaven doesn't exist, we've got a problem when it comes to serious strategy about our future.
 

bilby

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bilby you're clearly a smart guy, but oft-times these perspectives can come across like the same blinding faith in reason that Europeans had at the turn of the twentieth century, while completely blind to the unintended consequences of their own actions at the time.

You promote nuclear energy which is fair, it seems to be the main avenue out of our current predicament, but have you ever looked at potential and unforeseen long-term consequences of nuclear, exactly like we didn't see when we started seeing fossil fuels? I'm not saying they're there, but that's the point, if they are there they may be unforeseen. We don't always know the long-term consequences of decisions we're making now.

Given that, you seem to be of the opinion that we can just keep extracting from the environment with no upper limit. But the problem is that our biosphere is a closed system. And the truth is none of us really know what the world is going to look like in 1000 years, but what we do know is that we're already doing pretty serious damage to pretty much every global ecosystem.

Given that this entire sub-discussion is me arguing that there IS a limit, that's a bit rich.

Human population will peak. If ten billion people have an excellent standard of living, the demand for further energy use will plateau.

Invoking unknown and unforeseen risks is the hallmark of a person with no rational objection. It's pascal's wager for anti-nuclear campaigners, anti-population campaigners, and other neo-luddites who have no reason for their fears, but are damned if they'll let that stop them from being afraid of the unnatural.

Unnatural is all that stands between us and life expectancy at birth of ~40 years, with those years spent mostly hungry, cold, and tired.

The proper response to unforeseen risks wouldn't be mockery, it would be trying to understand those unforeseen risks and adapting to them. But as we're still trying to convince most people that Trump isn't an appropriate leader for a major country, and that heaven doesn't exist, we've got a problem when it comes to serious strategy about our future.

By definition, unforeseen risks cannot be identified and planned for.

If you're invoking them as a reason for caution, then that's fine; Caution in all things is a good idea.

But invoking them as a reason for action or inaction is soundly deserving of mockery. As I said, it's Pascal's wager.
 

rousseau

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The proper response to unforeseen risks wouldn't be mockery, it would be trying to understand those unforeseen risks and adapting to them. But as we're still trying to convince most people that Trump isn't an appropriate leader for a major country, and that heaven doesn't exist, we've got a problem when it comes to serious strategy about our future.

By definition, unforeseen risks cannot be identified and planned for.

This is untrue. They're unforeseen because we're not looking for them, we're in an endless game of whack-a-mole where we come up with an ad-hoc solution to yesterday's problem before we get trampled by a herd of elephants.

When cars were invented nobody was thinking - maybe in 100 years the entire world's infrastructure will be locked into this invention. They just wanted to get their groceries faster. And this is the essential problem, we develop solutions to immediate problems without adequately addressing potential consequences. We can barely convince people to address problems we already know about, and oftentimes when we do address problems our solutions aren't even helpful.

I absolutely am not invoking this as a reason for inaction, I'm highlighting the fact that you seem to have faith in our progress via immediate solutions, but possibly aren't considering how today's solution becomes tomorrow's problem. To me this is a reason for pessimism over the fact that our species extracts energy with increasing intensity. The fundamental thing that we are good at is exploiting our own environment, and I'm not convinced that there's any great path out of it. This is just the arc of our species' history on our planet.
 

Swammerdami

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Nobody has a plan to sharply reduce human population in the short term, so the following comments are purely hypothetical — a thought experiment.

Question: If the choice is between a world of 10 billion happy humans and a world with 5 billion happy humans, is it fair to say the former has a humanity that's twice as happy? This is a philosophical question with, perhaps, no easy answer. I would answer No, but perhaps many would say Yes. The Yes-sayers may stop reading after the next paragraph; my comments aren't addressed at them.

A world with fewer happy humans will have more happy squirrels, happy dolphins, happy birds, happy insects and happy fish but some will find this suggestion silly. However, many would agree that humans would be happier in a world where other creatures thrive. Why do some promote a 10-gigahuman world? In what sense is it better than a 5-gigahuman world? Or is it just about accepting the inevitable: There will be a high population so let's hope it's for the best.

Some say that with ten billion instead of five billion, we'll have twice as many geniuses like Mozart and twice as many like Archimedes. This fails the sniff test! There were less than a billion humans alive in Mozart's time, and perhaps just 100 million in Archimedes' time. Yet both these great geniuses are still spoken of in superlative terms.

The problems of overpopulation are not hypothetical: We can see them now.. Precious resources are being depleted: groundwater, phosphates and petroleum are among the most obvious examples. About fifty species of life already go extinct every week during this Great Man-made Extinction and this number is increasing. Even without extinctions, there are profound changes to the ecology: I've already mentioned the widespread replacement of fish with jellyfish.

I'm sure that the supporters of overpopulation have glib answers to these concerns. Fusion power will provide the huge energy needed to replenish phosphates and groundwater. Extinctions are not a concern: only H. sapiens matters. And clever chefs will find ways to prepare varieties of jellyfish as delicious as fish. I find these answers overly glib. Groundwater depletion is already a serious concern in many parts of the world; a huge portion of arable land is already dedicated to humans and their food; pollution of various sorts is already a big problem. And extinctions are irreversible.


Overpopulation is a stupid idea. It was a reasonable fear in the mid to late twentieth century, but it's long since been resolved.

There are no resource issues we cannot solve that would prevent us sustaining the ~10 billion humans that represent our likely peak population. Of course, we might not be smart enough to actually implement those solutions - look at the reluctance we have to completely replace the burning of fossil fuels with nuclear fission - but the problems are political and ideological, they're not resource, technology, or population driven.

Population is just people. "Overpopulation" is a fundamentally anti-human concept, and belongs in the same ideological dustbin as other anti-humanitarian ideas such as apartheid, slavery, and fascism.

:confused: You acknowledge that 30 billion would be too much; that leaves me confused about your strong support for 10 billion. Especially since you admit that there may be obstacles to the dramatic changes needed to sustain such a population. Are you especially fond of jellyfish as a food? :)
 

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The problems of overpopulation are not hypothetical: We can see them now.. Precious resources are being depleted: groundwater, phosphates and petroleum are among the most obvious examples. About fifty species of life already go extinct every week during this Great Man-made Extinction and this number is increasing. Even without extinctions, there are profound changes to the ecology: I've already mentioned the widespread replacement of fish with jellyfish.

Nobody has ever denied that over-exploitation of natural resources is a problem. The accusation is that the true perpetrators of the crimes are using "overpopulation" as a smoke-screen. It blames the urban poor of third-world nations (who don't actually benefit much from the destruction of wide swaths of the environment in search of oil) for the decisions made by global elites for their own selfish reasons. We aren't obliged to destroy our planet because that's the only way to feed all the people on it, we choose to destroy the planet because doing do is profitable in the short term. The populations that make those decisions aren't the same ones whose family size is growing at present. Those who personally consume the most resources are, in fact, the least likely to have large families. It is a fact well-established that wealth and family size are negatively correlated, and vice versa. So killing or sterilizing a bunch of disadvantaged people is not going to do anything to solve the ecological crisis. They are the excuse for, not the cause of, ecological destruction.
 

bilby

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Nobody has a plan to sharply reduce human population in the short term, so the following comments are purely hypothetical — a thought experiment.

Question: If the choice is between a world of 10 billion happy humans and a world with 5 billion happy humans, is it fair to say the former has a humanity that's twice as happy? This is a philosophical question with, perhaps, no easy answer. I would answer No, but perhaps many would say Yes. The Yes-sayers may stop reading after the next paragraph; my comments aren't addressed at them.

A world with fewer happy humans will have more happy squirrels, happy dolphins, happy birds, happy insects and happy fish but some will find this suggestion silly. However, many would agree that humans would be happier in a world where other creatures thrive. Why do some promote a 10-gigahuman world? In what sense is it better than a 5-gigahuman world? Or is it just about accepting the inevitable: There will be a high population so let's hope it's for the best.

Some say that with ten billion instead of five billion, we'll have twice as many geniuses like Mozart and twice as many like Archimedes. This fails the sniff test! There were less than a billion humans alive in Mozart's time, and perhaps just 100 million in Archimedes' time. Yet both these great geniuses are still spoken of in superlative terms.

The problems of overpopulation are not hypothetical: We can see them now.. Precious resources are being depleted: groundwater, phosphates and petroleum are among the most obvious examples. About fifty species of life already go extinct every week during this Great Man-made Extinction and this number is increasing. Even without extinctions, there are profound changes to the ecology: I've already mentioned the widespread replacement of fish with jellyfish.

I'm sure that the supporters of overpopulation have glib answers to these concerns. Fusion power will provide the huge energy needed to replenish phosphates and groundwater. Extinctions are not a concern: only H. sapiens matters. And clever chefs will find ways to prepare varieties of jellyfish as delicious as fish. I find these answers overly glib. Groundwater depletion is already a serious concern in many parts of the world; a huge portion of arable land is already dedicated to humans and their food; pollution of various sorts is already a big problem. And extinctions are irreversible.


Overpopulation is a stupid idea. It was a reasonable fear in the mid to late twentieth century, but it's long since been resolved.

There are no resource issues we cannot solve that would prevent us sustaining the ~10 billion humans that represent our likely peak population. Of course, we might not be smart enough to actually implement those solutions - look at the reluctance we have to completely replace the burning of fossil fuels with nuclear fission - but the problems are political and ideological, they're not resource, technology, or population driven.

Population is just people. "Overpopulation" is a fundamentally anti-human concept, and belongs in the same ideological dustbin as other anti-humanitarian ideas such as apartheid, slavery, and fascism.

:confused: You acknowledge that 30 billion would be too much; that leaves me confused about your strong support for 10 billion. Especially since you admit that there may be obstacles to the dramatic changes needed to sustain such a population. Are you especially fond of jellyfish as a food? :)

I acknowledged no such thing.

I merely pointed out that 30 billion will never happen, so it's futile to worry about whether or not that would be too many.

I neither know nor care whether 30 billion is able to be supported on Earth, because it's clear that 15 billion can, and that we are highly unlikely ever to reach that number.

Nothing is being depleted, except biodiversity; And biodiversity depletion is not due to sheer numbers of humans - we did more of it when there were fewer of us.

Every resource except Helium and the components of deep space probes that was on Earth before humans is still here today. We can, with sufficient cheap energy, recycle any and all of it - we don't, because it's cheaper to just dig up fresh stuff.

There's enough cheap, clean energy to meet our needs in seawater uranium alone; And obviously there's also terrestrial uranium, thorium, and other actinides out there, all of which can be burned by fast reactors. We don't need fusion (which is good, because it may never be practical). We don't need to worry about stuff running out; We just need to do something about it - if, as, and when it becomes an issue.

Most people have trouble believing this. But it remains true nevertheless.
 

bilby

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The problems of overpopulation are not hypothetical: We can see them now.. Precious resources are being depleted: groundwater, phosphates and petroleum are among the most obvious examples. About fifty species of life already go extinct every week during this Great Man-made Extinction and this number is increasing. Even without extinctions, there are profound changes to the ecology: I've already mentioned the widespread replacement of fish with jellyfish.

Nobody has ever denied that over-exploitation of natural resources is a problem.
I have, and do. :D
The accusation is that the true perpetrators of the crimes are using "overpopulation" as a smoke-screen. It blames the urban poor of third-world nations (who don't actually benefit much from the destruction of wide swaths of the environment in search of oil) for the decisions made by global elites for their own selfish reasons. We aren't obliged to destroy our planet because that's the only way to feed all the people on it, we choose to destroy the planet because doing do is profitable in the short term. The populations that make those decisions aren't the same ones whose family size is growing at present. Those who personally consume the most resources are, in fact, the least likely to have large families. It is a fact well-established that wealth and family size are negatively correlated, and vice versa. So killing or sterilizing a bunch of disadvantaged people is not going to do anything to solve the ecological crisis. They are the excuse for, not the cause of, ecological destruction.
This is true too. If resource use is your concern, you need to get rid of a few hundred billionaires, not a few billion poor people.
 

Swammerdami

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It's true that rich countries and rich people use more resources than poor countries and poor people, but isn't it an implicit goal to increase general prosperity? Ten billion people living the good life will consume a lot more resources than ten billion people most of whom lack access to plentiful meat, electric conveniences and high-speed transport.

Nothing is being depleted, except biodiversity; And biodiversity depletion is not due to sheer numbers of humans - we did more of it when there were fewer of us.
I realize that humans have been making big changes to the ecology for thousands of years. But I'll need a cite for "more of it." Whether measured by acreage of land transformed by man or number of species driven extinct, man's negative influence on ecology is bigger than ever now, and getting worse.

Anyway, I'd still like the proponents of overpopulation to answer my Hypothetical Question: If the choice is between a world of 10 billion happy humans and a world with 5 billion happy humans, is it fair to say the former has a humanity that's twice as happy?
 

bilby

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It's true that rich countries and rich people use more resources than poor countries and poor people, but isn't it an implicit goal to increase general prosperity? Ten billion people living the good life will consume a lot more resources than ten billion people most of whom lack access to plentiful meat, electric conveniences and high-speed transport.

Nothing is being depleted, except biodiversity; And biodiversity depletion is not due to sheer numbers of humans - we did more of it when there were fewer of us.
I realize that humans have been making big changes to the ecology for thousands of years. But I'll need a cite for "more of it." Whether measured by acreage of land transformed by man or number of species driven extinct, man's negative influence on ecology is bigger than ever now, and getting worse.

Anyway, I'd still like the proponents of overpopulation to answer my Hypothetical Question: If the choice is between a world of 10 billion happy humans and a world with 5 billion happy humans, is it fair to say the former has a humanity that's twice as happy?
All else being equal, no.

But all else isn't equal. How was the choice enforced? Who made it? Five billion people who wanted big families but were unable to have them because the government added contraceptives to the water supply are probably not happy. Nor are ten billion people who wanted small families, but were denied contraception by the government.

Right now, with little coercion, population is settling at around ten billion. Any intervention to reduce (or indeed, increase) that number is unlikely to be 'happiness neutral'. On the whole, individual freedom seems to be one of the things people require in order to be happy. But of course, one person's freedom may impact on another. A man whose wife wants fewer children than he does may be unhappy that she has access to contraception without his input; But as she has to do the actual child-bearing, with all the pain and risk that entails, I am inclined to value her happiness on this subject over his.

Regardless, the only way to obtain a population around five billion without massive genocide or coercion would be to hop in your DeLorean, and invent the contraceptive pill some time in the late 19th or early 20th century. Inventing it in the 1960s inevitably created a fairly inflexible ten billion peak about 80-100 years later. And it is pretty inflexible; Not many other things in history have had significant long term impacts on population. Wars, famines, pandemics, genocides - all caused visible blips in the curve, but none had much impact in the long term, until women were given the ability to choose how large their families would be. People have generally responded to low life expectancy by having an over-compensating number of children. They respond to high life expectancy, low infant mortality (which is the flip side of that coin), wealth, education, and access to effective contraception that is controlled by those who actually get pregnant, by having fewer than replacement levels of children. No coercion necessary.
 

T.G.G. Moogly

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I realize that humans have been making big changes to the ecology for thousands of years. But I'll need a cite for "more of it." Whether measured by acreage of land transformed by man or number of species driven extinct, man's negative influence on ecology is bigger than ever now, and getting worse.
Don't have a cite but my best guess would be loss of habitat. Human animals, as their population expands, destroy the habitats of other organisms. Some species can coexist, some even experience population increases and are better off, but generally the cost of loss of habitat is loss of species.
 

bilby

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I realize that humans have been making big changes to the ecology for thousands of years. But I'll need a cite for "more of it." Whether measured by acreage of land transformed by man or number of species driven extinct, man's negative influence on ecology is bigger than ever now, and getting worse.
Don't have a cite but my best guess would be loss of habitat. Human animals, as their population expands, destroy the habitats of other organisms. Some species can coexist, some even experience population increases and are better off, but generally the cost of loss of habitat is loss of species.

No.

Human animals, as their range expands, do this.

It mostly happened back in the distant past, when total population of humans was minuscule compared to today.

Adding another million people to Shanghai or Mumbai makes very little difference. Adding a billionaire to California makes more, but not much more. A handful of people crossing the Timor Sea with their dogs 40,000 years ago wiped out vast numbers of species. The same happened in the Americas a few thousand years later.

Human impact on our environment has very little to do with raw population numbers.
 

T.G.G. Moogly

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I realize that humans have been making big changes to the ecology for thousands of years. But I'll need a cite for "more of it." Whether measured by acreage of land transformed by man or number of species driven extinct, man's negative influence on ecology is bigger than ever now, and getting worse.
Don't have a cite but my best guess would be loss of habitat. Human animals, as their population expands, destroy the habitats of other organisms. Some species can coexist, some even experience population increases and are better off, but generally the cost of loss of habitat is loss of species.

No.

Human animals, as their range expands, do this.

It mostly happened back in the distant past, when total population of humans was minuscule compared to today.

Adding another million people to Shanghai or Mumbai makes very little difference. Adding a billionaire to California makes more, but not much more. A handful of people crossing the Timor Sea with their dogs 40,000 years ago wiped out vast numbers of species. The same happened in the Americas a few thousand years later.

Human impact on our environment has very little to do with raw population numbers.

Just have to disagree with you there, I think. Lots of contradictory claims in that short post. Can you find anything that supports your position, a credible source? I'd love to read an argument that agrees with you based on numbers and documentation but I don't think it's out there. Plus it only makes common sense that as people build homes and strip malls they destroy habitat for other organisms. You're peddling a weak argument but if you have documentation that supports it I'd be curious to see it.
 

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Forested area in the U.S. reached its lowest area (~735 million acres) in about 1920 when the U.S. population was ~106 million. In 2000 the U.S. population was ~282 million (close to three times the 1920 population) and forested area had increased to ~749 million acres.
https://www.thoughtco.com/us-forest-facts-on-forestland-1343034#:~:text=Since%201900%2C%20forest%20area%20in,was%20about%20749%20million%20acres.

But I think Bilby was probably referring to the extinction of the mega-fauna around the world as small bands of hunter-gatherers would move into an area.
 

steve_bank

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Nobody has a plan to sharply reduce human population in the short term, so the following comments are purely hypothetical — a thought experiment.

Question: If the choice is between a world of 10 billion happy humans and a world with 5 billion happy humans, is it fair to say the former has a humanity that's twice as happy? This is a philosophical question with, perhaps, no easy answer. I would answer No, but perhaps many would say Yes. The Yes-sayers may stop reading after the next paragraph; my comments aren't addressed at them.

A world with fewer happy humans will have more happy squirrels, happy dolphins, happy birds, happy insects and happy fish but some will find this suggestion silly. However, many would agree that humans would be happier in a world where other creatures thrive. Why do some promote a 10-gigahuman world? In what sense is it better than a 5-gigahuman world? Or is it just about accepting the inevitable: There will be a high population so let's hope it's for the best.

Some say that with ten billion instead of five billion, we'll have twice as many geniuses like Mozart and twice as many like Archimedes. This fails the sniff test! There were less than a billion humans alive in Mozart's time, and perhaps just 100 million in Archimedes' time. Yet both these great geniuses are still spoken of in superlative terms.

The problems of overpopulation are not hypothetical: We can see them now.. Precious resources are being depleted: groundwater, phosphates and petroleum are among the most obvious examples. About fifty species of life already go extinct every week during this Great Man-made Extinction and this number is increasing. Even without extinctions, there are profound changes to the ecology: I've already mentioned the widespread replacement of fish with jellyfish.

I'm sure that the supporters of overpopulation have glib answers to these concerns. Fusion power will provide the huge energy needed to replenish phosphates and groundwater. Extinctions are not a concern: only H. sapiens matters. And clever chefs will find ways to prepare varieties of jellyfish as delicious as fish. I find these answers overly glib. Groundwater depletion is already a serious concern in many parts of the world; a huge portion of arable land is already dedicated to humans and their food; pollution of various sorts is already a big problem. And extinctions are irreversible.


Overpopulation is a stupid idea. It was a reasonable fear in the mid to late twentieth century, but it's long since been resolved.

There are no resource issues we cannot solve that would prevent us sustaining the ~10 billion humans that represent our likely peak population. Of course, we might not be smart enough to actually implement those solutions - look at the reluctance we have to completely replace the burning of fossil fuels with nuclear fission - but the problems are political and ideological, they're not resource, technology, or population driven.

Population is just people. "Overpopulation" is a fundamentally anti-human concept, and belongs in the same ideological dustbin as other anti-humanitarian ideas such as apartheid, slavery, and fascism.

:confused: You acknowledge that 30 billion would be too much; that leaves me confused about your strong support for 10 billion. Especially since you admit that there may be obstacles to the dramatic changes needed to sustain such a population. Are you especially fond of jellyfish as a food? :)

Our unrestrained economic and population growth will eventually collapse.

We are seeing indication with COVID. COVID is relatively harmless, but we see what happens when w crowd 9n cities like LA and NYC. Another pathogen could decimate population.

Something has to give. The economy as is does not really support a large part of the population. Mny live paycheck to paycheck. Any interruption in the system and people go hungry and homeless.
 

T.G.G. Moogly

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^ ^ ^

Forested area in the U.S. reached its lowest area (~735 million acres) in about 1920 when the U.S. population was ~106 million. In 2000 the U.S. population was ~282 million (close to three times the 1920 population) and forested area had increased to ~749 million acres.
https://www.thoughtco.com/us-forest-facts-on-forestland-1343034#:~:text=Since%201900%2C%20forest%20area%20in,was%20about%20749%20million%20acres.

But I think Bilby was probably referring to the extinction of the mega-fauna around the world as small bands of hunter-gatherers would move into an area.

And in that same period bird populations dropped by 3 billion, just as an example. Why didn't they increase if forested areas increased?

Just because forested areas increased does not automatically mean that species were benefitted. It is the quality of those forested regions and other regions that matters. Lots of those forested areas are not native forest which support native populations of biomass. For example we planted lots of ginko trees by the millions and they support zilch in terms of insects that feed birds and other wildlife. And there are hundreds of these invasives.

We literally planted exotic species precisely because native bugs and critters would avoid them. Seems kinda stupid but that's what we did.
 

T.G.G. Moogly

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Our unrestrained economic and population growth will eventually collapse.

We are seeing indication with COVID. COVID is relatively harmless, but we see what happens when w crowd 9n cities like LA and NYC. Another pathogen could decimate population.

Something has to give. The economy as is does not really support a large part of the population. Mny live paycheck to paycheck. Any interruption in the system and people go hungry and homeless.
What happens when an animal loses all of its food and habitat? What happens to an animal population when it loses 95 percent of its food and habitat? The Ivory Bill is extinct because we cut down all the trees that it required for survival and cleared the land that provided it with the grubs and larvae that was its food supply. The Pileated Woodpecker, on the other hand, because its diet was largely carpenter ants survived.

What happens if Homo bilbyens loses 95 percent of its house and 95 percent of its food supply? What happens to Homo bilbyens if we give it plenty of food in the form of hay and grasshoppers instead of its preferred diet? We just let other species use his food and habitat and expect him to thrive on 100 calories a day and live in a 20 square foot house? And btw, we also get rid of 95% of his roads and reduce his energy demands by 95% so he has to get by with 5% of what he used to, and fill his water supply with bird and buffalo droppings. And we also scatter those meager resources out into little patches everywhere.

According to Homo bilbyens there isn't any problem. Of course, Homo bilbyens isn't on the short end of that stick so it doesn't matter that that is precisely what Homo bilbyens has done to most of the other species on the planet.
 

Swammerdami

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Here is a webpage that isn't so sanguine about the on-going Sixth Great Extinction. Excerpts:
Scientists detect mass extinctions using carbon dating of ancient rock layers. It's only happened five times in the earth's history. In May 2019, the United Nations reported that 1 million species face extinction, many within decades. Most scientists agree that the earth is in the process of the sixth mass extinction.

The common culprit in all the past five mass extinctions was a change in the level of greenhouse gases. Rising levels caused global warming while falling levels cooled the planet.

The Ordovician extinction occurred 440 million years ago ending the Age of Invertebrates.

The Devonian extinction occurred 365 million years ago, ending the Age of Fishes.

The Permian extinction was the largest extinction event in history. It occurred 250 million years ago and lasted only 200,000 years. It ended the Age of Amphibians.

The Triassic extinction occurred 200 million years ago. The landmass Pangea broke apart. The resultant widespread volcanic eruptions lasted for 40,000 years. They spewed greenhouse gases that caused global warming and ocean acidification. Over 75% of species went extinct. The extinction of other vertebrate species on land allowed dinosaurs to flourish.

The Cretaceous extinction occurred 65.5 million years ago. A nine-mile wide asteroid hit the Gulf of Mexico. The heat wave burned most of the forests and created a dust cover that blocked the sun. It ended the Age of Dinosaurs. Only animals smaller than a dog survived. Ground-dwelling dinosaurs survived the deforestation to evolve into modern birds. It ushered in the Age of Mammals.

Over the past 100 years, species have been going extinct 100 times faster than the natural rate. The usual rate of extinction is a healthy result of evolution by natural selection.

The U.N. report said that 500,000 species no longer have enough land area to support their survival. More than 85% of wetland areas are gone. More than 79 million acres of forest disappeared between 2010 and 2015 alone.

[Four species of great ape, three species of rhino, three species of big cat, two species of porpoise, the Sumatran elephant, and several other species of large mammals are expected to go extinct in a few years. Other animals at very high risk include Chimpanzee, the blue whale, and two species of tuna.]

.... The biggest cause of insect decline is habitat destruction due to farming and deforestation. Contributing factors also include pesticide pollution, invasive species, and climate change.

Amphibians. At least one-third of the 6,300 known species of frogs, toads, and salamanders are at risk of extinction.... The current extinction rate [of amphibians] is at least 25,000 times the background rate. The chytrid fungus is decimating those that have survived habitat destruction, pollution, and commercial exploitation. [and is said to be] s "the most destructive pathogen ever described by science."

... BirdLife International estimates that 12% of the world's 9,865 bird species are now considered threatened.... Globally, one out of five species [of fish] faces extinction. This includes more than a third of sharks and rays. Also at risk are bluefin tuna, the Atlantic white marlin, and wild Atlantic salmon.

The six major causes of this catastrophe are loss of habitat, the introduction of foreign species, pandemic diseases, hunting and fishing, pollution, and climate change. All of these are man-made. This impact is so prevalent that some scientists are calling this the Anthropocene extinction.

A 2004 study found that human population density was the biggest cause of local higher extinction rates. When people moved into an area, animal species died off. They were hunted, their habitat was cleared for farming, and they were polluted by waste. Humans also brought along foreign species, such as rats, and pandemic diseases that killed off other species.

According to a 2019 United Nations study, the increase in the extinction rate has hurt agriculture. Since 2000, 20% of the earth's vegetated surface has become less productive. In the oceans, a third of fishing areas are being overharvested. Birds that eat crop pests are down by 11%.

Bats and birds that pollinate plants are down 17%....

Farming practices are themselves to blame. Most farmland is used for one of only nine crops: sugar cane, corn, rice, wheat, potatoes, soybeans, palm oil, sugar beet, and cassava. These crops rely on pesticides that also kill useful insects. Although organic farming is on the rise, it only accounts for 1% of farmland.

"Around the world, the library of life that has evolved over billions of years our biodiversity is being destroyed, poisoned, polluted, invaded, fragmented, plundered, drained, and burned at a rate not seen in human history," Ireland's president, Michael Higgins, said at a biodiversity conference in Dublin on Thursday. "If we were coal miners we'd be up to our waists in dead canaries."

ee colony collapse disorder has reduced the U.S. honeybee population by over 40%. This affects the 100 crop species that make up one-third of the average diet....

As coral reefs die, flood damage from storms will double to $4 billion a year. These reefs protect the shoreline from hurricanes by slowing them down.

Other animals play an important role in keeping the earth's ecosystems functioning. If apes go extinct, the jungles they lived in could disappear. Many plants depend on them to propagate their larger seeds. Whales play a similar role in the ocean by recycling nutrients from the bottom to the top layers.

The sentence I've reddened surprised me so I clicked to see the source article in Scientific American.

Exaggerated? Probably. But the real concerns that the page points to, of which I've excerpted only a few and which anyway are dwarfed by many problems the page does NOT touch on, make the view that a human population of 10 billion — or perhaps even 30 billion — is sustainable seem ... overly optimistic.
 

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Forested area in the U.S. reached its lowest area (~735 million acres) in about 1920 when the U.S. population was ~106 million. In 2000 the U.S. population was ~282 million (close to three times the 1920 population) and forested area had increased to ~749 million acres.
https://www.thoughtco.com/us-forest-facts-on-forestland-1343034#:~:text=Since%201900%2C%20forest%20area%20in,was%20about%20749%20million%20acres.

But I think Bilby was probably referring to the extinction of the mega-fauna around the world as small bands of hunter-gatherers would move into an area.

And in that same period bird populations dropped by 3 billion, just as an example. Why didn't they increase if forested areas increased?
That sounds like the loss of passenger pigeons once estimated to be about 4 billion. Their disappearance wasn't due to loss of habitat but because of commercial hunting. Meanwhile populations of street pigeons and starlings are soaring.
Just because forested areas increased does not automatically mean that species were benefitted. It is the quality of those forested regions and other regions that matters. Lots of those forested areas are not native forest which support native populations of biomass. For example we planted lots of ginko trees by the millions and they support zilch in terms of insects that feed birds and other wildlife. And there are hundreds of these invasives.
What forest is planted with gingkoes? I see gingkoes but the ones I see are decorative trees in cities and suburban landscaping. National forests I visit are native trees.
 

T.G.G. Moogly

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That sounds like the loss of passenger pigeons once estimated to be about 4 billion. Their disappearance wasn't due to loss of habitat but because of commercial hunting. Meanwhile populations of street pigeons and starlings are soaring.
Just because forested areas increased does not automatically mean that species were benefitted. It is the quality of those forested regions and other regions that matters. Lots of those forested areas are not native forest which support native populations of biomass. For example we planted lots of ginko trees by the millions and they support zilch in terms of insects that feed birds and other wildlife. And there are hundreds of these invasives.
What forest is planted with gingkoes? I see gingkoes but the ones I see are decorative trees in cities and suburban landscaping. National forests I visit are native trees.

Is your point that the only decline in bird populations has been the passenger pigeon, and that was due entirely to hunting? The billions I am referring to has ocurred long since the passenger pigeon went extinct, along with the auk, dodo, eskimo curlew, imperial, ivory, etc. These numbers are recent.

Do your realize that starlings are an invasive that compete with native birds in North America?
 

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I'm not familiar with the auk or eskimo curlew but the demise of the dodo was definitely due to over hunting and in the 1600s, long before passenger pigeons were killed off. As was the moa and elephant bird a lot earlier than the dodo.
 

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Staggering decline of bird populations

Because birds are conspicuous and easy to identify and count, reliable records of their occurrence have been gathered over many decades in many parts of the world. Drawing on such data for North America, Rosenberg et al. report wide-spread population declines of birds over the past half-century, resulting in the cumulative loss of billions of breeding individuals across a wide range of species and habitats. They show that declines are not restricted to rare and threatened species—those once considered common and wide-spread are also diminished. These results have major implications for ecosystem integrity, the conservation of wildlife more broadly, and policies associated with the protection of birds and native ecosystems on which they depend.

https://science.sciencemag.org/content/366/6461/120
 

bilby

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Here is a webpage that isn't so sanguine about the on-going Sixth Great Extinction. Excerpts:
Scientists detect mass extinctions using carbon dating of ancient rock layers. It's only happened five times in the earth's history. In May 2019, the United Nations reported that 1 million species face extinction, many within decades. Most scientists agree that the earth is in the process of the sixth mass extinction.

The common culprit in all the past five mass extinctions was a change in the level of greenhouse gases. Rising levels caused global warming while falling levels cooled the planet.

The Ordovician extinction occurred 440 million years ago ending the Age of Invertebrates.

The Devonian extinction occurred 365 million years ago, ending the Age of Fishes.

The Permian extinction was the largest extinction event in history. It occurred 250 million years ago and lasted only 200,000 years. It ended the Age of Amphibians.

The Triassic extinction occurred 200 million years ago. The landmass Pangea broke apart. The resultant widespread volcanic eruptions lasted for 40,000 years. They spewed greenhouse gases that caused global warming and ocean acidification. Over 75% of species went extinct. The extinction of other vertebrate species on land allowed dinosaurs to flourish.

The Cretaceous extinction occurred 65.5 million years ago. A nine-mile wide asteroid hit the Gulf of Mexico. The heat wave burned most of the forests and created a dust cover that blocked the sun. It ended the Age of Dinosaurs. Only animals smaller than a dog survived. Ground-dwelling dinosaurs survived the deforestation to evolve into modern birds. It ushered in the Age of Mammals.

Over the past 100 years, species have been going extinct 100 times faster than the natural rate. The usual rate of extinction is a healthy result of evolution by natural selection.

The U.N. report said that 500,000 species no longer have enough land area to support their survival. More than 85% of wetland areas are gone. More than 79 million acres of forest disappeared between 2010 and 2015 alone.

[Four species of great ape, three species of rhino, three species of big cat, two species of porpoise, the Sumatran elephant, and several other species of large mammals are expected to go extinct in a few years. Other animals at very high risk include Chimpanzee, the blue whale, and two species of tuna.]

.... The biggest cause of insect decline is habitat destruction due to farming and deforestation. Contributing factors also include pesticide pollution, invasive species, and climate change.

Amphibians. At least one-third of the 6,300 known species of frogs, toads, and salamanders are at risk of extinction.... The current extinction rate [of amphibians] is at least 25,000 times the background rate. The chytrid fungus is decimating those that have survived habitat destruction, pollution, and commercial exploitation. [and is said to be] s "the most destructive pathogen ever described by science."

... BirdLife International estimates that 12% of the world's 9,865 bird species are now considered threatened.... Globally, one out of five species [of fish] faces extinction. This includes more than a third of sharks and rays. Also at risk are bluefin tuna, the Atlantic white marlin, and wild Atlantic salmon.

The six major causes of this catastrophe are loss of habitat, the introduction of foreign species, pandemic diseases, hunting and fishing, pollution, and climate change. All of these are man-made. This impact is so prevalent that some scientists are calling this the Anthropocene extinction.

A 2004 study found that human population density was the biggest cause of local higher extinction rates. When people moved into an area, animal species died off. They were hunted, their habitat was cleared for farming, and they were polluted by waste. Humans also brought along foreign species, such as rats, and pandemic diseases that killed off other species.

According to a 2019 United Nations study, the increase in the extinction rate has hurt agriculture. Since 2000, 20% of the earth's vegetated surface has become less productive. In the oceans, a third of fishing areas are being overharvested. Birds that eat crop pests are down by 11%.

Bats and birds that pollinate plants are down 17%....

Farming practices are themselves to blame. Most farmland is used for one of only nine crops: sugar cane, corn, rice, wheat, potatoes, soybeans, palm oil, sugar beet, and cassava. These crops rely on pesticides that also kill useful insects. Although organic farming is on the rise, it only accounts for 1% of farmland.

"Around the world, the library of life that has evolved over billions of years our biodiversity is being destroyed, poisoned, polluted, invaded, fragmented, plundered, drained, and burned at a rate not seen in human history," Ireland's president, Michael Higgins, said at a biodiversity conference in Dublin on Thursday. "If we were coal miners we'd be up to our waists in dead canaries."

ee colony collapse disorder has reduced the U.S. honeybee population by over 40%. This affects the 100 crop species that make up one-third of the average diet....

As coral reefs die, flood damage from storms will double to $4 billion a year. These reefs protect the shoreline from hurricanes by slowing them down.

Other animals play an important role in keeping the earth's ecosystems functioning. If apes go extinct, the jungles they lived in could disappear. Many plants depend on them to propagate their larger seeds. Whales play a similar role in the ocean by recycling nutrients from the bottom to the top layers.

The sentence I've reddened surprised me so I clicked to see the source article in Scientific American.

Exaggerated? Probably. But the real concerns that the page points to, of which I've excerpted only a few and which anyway are dwarfed by many problems the page does NOT touch on, make the view that a human population of 10 billion — or perhaps even 30 billion — is sustainable seem ... overly optimistic.


I am fully aware that lots of people are very worried about "overpopulation". The existence of articles bemoaning our terrible future is not evidence for a problem, they are just evidence of a belief in that problem.

And any article that claims that rocks are carbon dated; Or that implies that carbon dating works for anything in the order of tens or hundreds of millions of years, is very clearly not written by someone with a solid grasp of the subject and a strong commitment to accuracy.
 

bilby

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Our unrestrained economic and population growth will eventually collapse.

We are seeing indication with COVID. COVID is relatively harmless, but we see what happens when w crowd 9n cities like LA and NYC. Another pathogen could decimate population.

Something has to give. The economy as is does not really support a large part of the population. Mny live paycheck to paycheck. Any interruption in the system and people go hungry and homeless.
What happens when an animal loses all of its food and habitat? What happens to an animal population when it loses 95 percent of its food and habitat? The Ivory Bill is extinct because we cut down all the trees that it required for survival and cleared the land that provided it with the grubs and larvae that was its food supply. The Pileated Woodpecker, on the other hand, because its diet was largely carpenter ants survived.

What happens if Homo bilbyens loses 95 percent of its house and 95 percent of its food supply? What happens to Homo bilbyens if we give it plenty of food in the form of hay and grasshoppers instead of its preferred diet? We just let other species use his food and habitat and expect him to thrive on 100 calories a day and live in a 20 square foot house? And btw, we also get rid of 95% of his roads and reduce his energy demands by 95% so he has to get by with 5% of what he used to, and fill his water supply with bird and buffalo droppings. And we also scatter those meager resources out into little patches everywhere.

According to Homo bilbyens there isn't any problem. Of course, Homo bilbyens isn't on the short end of that stick so it doesn't matter that that is precisely what Homo bilbyens has done to most of the other species on the planet.

There are lots of problems. There's little evidence that simple population numbers are particularly important as a cause of any of those problems.

Economic growth isn't constrained, because it doesn't depend on growth in materials use, but rather on growth in value. Which is just numbers. We can't run out of dollars, ever.

And population growth is stopping, so any discussion of whether unconstrained population growth is or is not sustainable is simply not based in our reality. It's of exactly zero importance whether the Earth could sustain thirty billion humans, because it will never be asked to do so.

And population density isn't the same as population. If local population density is high in our cities, that implies that it's low in rural areas. People did a lot more harm to the environment when they were mostly rural. Habitat loss in cities is massive and total for lots of species; But in the rest of the world, it's less and less severe, as people abandon rural districts to move to cities.
 

bilby

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Because birds are conspicuous and easy to identify and count, reliable records of their occurrence have been gathered over many decades in many parts of the world. Drawing on such data for North America, Rosenberg et al. report wide-spread population declines of birds over the past half-century, resulting in the cumulative loss of billions of breeding individuals across a wide range of species and habitats. They show that declines are not restricted to rare and threatened species—those once considered common and wide-spread are also diminished. These results have major implications for ecosystem integrity, the conservation of wildlife more broadly, and policies associated with the protection of birds and native ecosystems on which they depend.

https://science.sciencemag.org/content/366/6461/120

So it's a big problem.

Is it a population problem though?

What evidence is there that this wouldn't have occurred if population were half what it is? Given that much of the problem actually occurred when population was half or less of what it is, it seems likely that it would.

If these problems are caused by the actions of a small subset of humans (and that does seem to be the case - burgeoning population in Asia didn't have any impact on the Passenger Pigeon, which was wiped out by a very small population in North America), then what help would it be to massively reduce the number of humans? If the problems are cumulative, then having fewer humans would do nothing to prevent them - it would just slow them down a little.

Take carbon emissions for example. We're putting more carbon dioxide into the air than the natural processes can remove. And we have been doing so since the 1850s.

If population had been frozen in 1900, we would still need to find ways to get energy without burning fossil fuels. For any given concentration of carbon dioxide that we want to consider as the threshold of disaster, we would still reach that threshold with one fifth of our current population (ceteris paribus), it would just take a bit longer. If we are looking at a disaster in ten years with our eight billion population, then we would be looking at the same disaster in fifty years with the 1900 population of about 1.6 billion.

The only human population level that would have no impact on the environment would be zero.

The actual population doesn't matter much. What matters is how we behave. Regardless of whether there's one billion of us, or eight, or ten.

And if there are serious additional problems that would arise with indefinite growth in population without limit, then who cares? We are NOT going to grow without limit. We are going to stop within the lifetime of most people currently alive.
 

abaddon

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The actual population doesn't matter much. What matters is how we behave. Regardless of whether there's one billion of us, or eight, or ten.
I'm not one of the persons going on about overpopulation. I think I mentioned "overshoot" earlier, but I never sided with people going on about overpopulation. Why I posted was this: skepticalbip was talking about bird extinctions like they're something in the past. So I posted to say they're a current problem.

I see the overpopulation thing as misdirection whether it's argued for or against. When people focus on population numbers as sustainable or unsustainable, we don't talk about changing how we live - which is the dialogue that needs to happen. Instead, we just talk about how we can sustain our excesses if only there were fewer people. Or sustain them if only people used energy differently.

If we're like deer and can't help how we behave, then the numbers can matter (relative to resources) just as they do with deer. But I think humans are not as fixed in their natures and don't have to settle for the middle-class American lifestyle as the horror for everyone to aspire to.
 

bilby

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The actual population doesn't matter much. What matters is how we behave. Regardless of whether there's one billion of us, or eight, or ten.
I'm not one of the persons going on about overpopulation. I think I mentioned "overshoot" earlier, but I never sided with people going on about overpopulation. Why I posted was this: skepticalbip was talking about bird extinctions like they're something in the past. So I posted to say they're a current problem.

I see the overpopulation thing as misdirection whether it's argued for or against. When people focus on population numbers as sustainable or unsustainable, we don't talk about changing how we live - which is the dialogue that needs to happen. Instead, we just talk about how we can sustain our excesses if only there were fewer people. Or sustain them if only people used energy differently.

If we're like deer and can't help how we behave, then the numbers matter just as they do with deer. But I think humans are not so limited and don't have to settle for the middle-class American lifestyle as the horror for everyone to aspire to.

Indeed.

Discussion of overpopulation invariably blocks any discussion of ethical or reasonable solutions, in favour of providing justification for totalitarianism, genocide, and racism.

There are always too many of "them", but just the right number of me.

Belief in overpopulation falls into the same conversational grooves as all the other irrational beliefs people love so much. Facts and rebuttals just bounce off; No matter how many times I point out that we are almost at peak human population, the same people will come back with the same argument that I am wrong because unrestrained growth isn't sustainable.

It's analogous to a house on fire. Running around waving your arms and shouting "Call the fire department!" was a good idea back in the 1960s; But when the firefighters are on site hosing down the remaining embers, running around waving your arms and shouting "Call the fire department!" is not only unhelpful, it's making it difficult for the sane people to start working on the next steps to fix the damage.
 

T.G.G. Moogly

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Our unrestrained economic and population growth will eventually collapse.

We are seeing indication with COVID. COVID is relatively harmless, but we see what happens when w crowd 9n cities like LA and NYC. Another pathogen could decimate population.

Something has to give. The economy as is does not really support a large part of the population. Mny live paycheck to paycheck. Any interruption in the system and people go hungry and homeless.
What happens when an animal loses all of its food and habitat? What happens to an animal population when it loses 95 percent of its food and habitat? The Ivory Bill is extinct because we cut down all the trees that it required for survival and cleared the land that provided it with the grubs and larvae that was its food supply. The Pileated Woodpecker, on the other hand, because its diet was largely carpenter ants survived.

What happens if Homo bilbyens loses 95 percent of its house and 95 percent of its food supply? What happens to Homo bilbyens if we give it plenty of food in the form of hay and grasshoppers instead of its preferred diet? We just let other species use his food and habitat and expect him to thrive on 100 calories a day and live in a 20 square foot house? And btw, we also get rid of 95% of his roads and reduce his energy demands by 95% so he has to get by with 5% of what he used to, and fill his water supply with bird and buffalo droppings. And we also scatter those meager resources out into little patches everywhere.

According to Homo bilbyens there isn't any problem. Of course, Homo bilbyens isn't on the short end of that stick so it doesn't matter that that is precisely what Homo bilbyens has done to most of the other species on the planet.

There are lots of problems. There's little evidence that simple population numbers are particularly important as a cause of any of those problems.
If I was as uninterested and dismissive and uninformed as you I would think the same thing.
 

skepticalbip

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I'm not one of the persons going on about overpopulation. I think I mentioned "overshoot" earlier, but I never sided with people going on about overpopulation. Why I posted was this: skepticalbip was talking about bird extinctions like they're something in the past. So I posted to say they're a current problem.
Talking of extinctions is talking of the past. What I was pointing out was that the assumption that it was always caused by human made habitat loss was an error. Many of them were caused by human activity but that activity was human predation, and I listed several of them.

Now the matter of declining populations is another matter. First it has to be determined if it is really a 'problem' or natural variation as one species displaces another species as has happened as long as there has been critters. If it isn't natural variation then the question becomes what the cause is.

In the case of the bald eagle when it was endangered, it was determined that the cause was people killing them thinking of them as threatening their chickens, lambs, etc. not loss of habitat. The solution was then to outlaw killing bald eagles and the population rebounded.

When someone who had apparently never been in a southern swamp decided to put alligators on the threatened list, the population exploded and a culling program had to be started to protect both the alligators and those living near those swamps.

When the ivory billed woodpecker was put on the endangered list, they decided to go much further than outlawing killing one as was done with the bald eagle. They made a draconian decision to not allow anyone to use any land where a sighting was reported (to protect the habitat). This led people who would otherwise enjoy sharing their land with an ivory billed woodpecker to resort to a "kill and bury" strategy to insure that no one reported seeing the woodpecker on their land.

In effect, many people start with the answer of human caused habitat loss then any thing they see that they want to be otherwise is seen as a problem caused by the answer they begin with.
 

bilby

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There are lots of problems. There's little evidence that simple population numbers are particularly important as a cause of any of those problems.
If I was as uninterested and dismissive and uninformed as you I would think the same thing.

I am both interested and informed. That I am dismissive is a consequence of my understanding that population growth is a solved problem, and that raw population numbers are a trivial part of the remaining problems - and a part that is particularly difficult to address without extremely ugly and immoral actions.

We should concentrate on mimimising the impact of people on the environment, and should stop worrying about how many of them there are, because we cannot ethically do anything more about it than has already been done, and we don't need to do any more anyway.
 

T.G.G. Moogly

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Talking of extinctions is talking of the past. What I was pointing out was that the assumption that it was always caused by human made habitat loss was an error. Many of them were caused by human activity but that activity was human predation, and I listed several of them.
Perhaps it's a semantic issue. If a predator enters my habitat that wasn't there before and I succumb to the predation, it seems my habitat has been compromised. Obviously the Dodo, like other animals was hunted to extinction. How did it come to be hunted to extinction, but that another animal, us, began to populate its habitat. It's really an academic discussion as to whether it was hunted to extinction or suffered from loss of habitat.

Rats and feral cats are exotic predators, just like humans, in many environments in which they are not native. Interestingly enough, the return of native coyote in my area has put a serious hit on feral cat populations, but is negatively affecting deer populations because the fawn are easily preyed upon by the coyote. The only predator above the coyote is us, no mountain lion or wolf to keep their populations in check anymore. So hunting coyote is allowed 365/24/7.

But all that imbalance is caused by another animal, us, invading the habitat and living there, making it unlivable for some of those natives. Are those native species suffering from loss of habitat or from human predation?
 

bilby

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Talking of extinctions is talking of the past. What I was pointing out was that the assumption that it was always caused by human made habitat loss was an error. Many of them were caused by human activity but that activity was human predation, and I listed several of them.
Perhaps it's a semantic issue. If a predator enters my habitat that wasn't there before and I succumb to the predation, it seems my habitat has been compromised. Obviously the Dodo, like other animals was hunted to extinction. How did it come to be hunted to extinction, but that another animal, us, began to populate its habitat. It's really an academic discussion as to whether it was hunted to extinction or suffered from loss of habitat.

Rats and feral cats are exotic predators, just like humans, in many environments in which they are not native. Interestingly enough, the return of native coyote in my area has put a serious hit on feral cat populations, but is negatively affecting deer populations because the fawn are easily preyed upon by the coyote. The only predator above the coyote is us, no mountain lion or wolf to keep their populations in check anymore. So hunting coyote is allowed 365/24/7.

But all that imbalance is caused by another animal, us, invading the habitat and living there, making it unlivable for some of those natives. Are those native species suffering from loss of habitat or from human predation?

There were about 600 million humans when the Dodo was hunted to extinction. At the time, little concern was given to the impact of humans on other species.

A rare species discovered today would immediately be granted a stack of legal protections intended to prevent its extinction, deliberate or accidental. Had such protections been a feature of the seventeenth century, we might well still have Dodos today.

That humans are responsible for this and many other extinctions is not in question. But it's clear that despite a population figure around the 8.5 billion mark today, humanity is less likely to cause such events than the ~600 million at the end of the C17th were, so this data is pretty solid evidence AGAINST the claim that having a larger total human population is a cause of extinctions.

If we are to accept the principle that the extinction of the Dodo is a symptom of "overpopulation", then we can see that the maximum possible human population conversant with avoiding this is fewer than 600 million. What means could we possibly employ to reduce population numbers below that level? Genocide on a hitherto unimagined scale strikes me as undesirable, as does the forced sterilisation of the vast majority of people; But no other means to achieve such population numbers is going to work.

And that 600 million is an upper bound (if we accept that sheer population numbers are the only, or even a major, factor).

Of course, the success of CITES and other national and international laws and treaties strongly suggests that "overpopulation" is not a cause of the problem, nor population reductions a solution to it.

We can and should ignore the total population number; Give people the freedom to make their own choices about family size; and take appropriate steps to protect our environment, rather than wasting time and energy worrying about an unsolvable non-problem.
 

T.G.G. Moogly

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If we equate habitat with an area of land then there is never loss of habitat, which seems to be what a lot of persons are arguing. The fact is that when we as humans significantly impact that area of land so that it becomes unfit for native populations and ecosystems to survive then for all intents and purposes the habitat has been lost. It doesn't matter if it is a riparian zone polluted with our effluent or an airport runway. In survival terms those areas have been compromised by the arrival of another animal. Now it's that other animal's area of land.

Similarly, if I manicure the area around my house and plant it with exotic species that have no biomass value for native populations, despite the fact that it is green and flowery and growing, that area has been lost as habitat for the caterpillars, birds, turtles and other native species because their food supply is gone. It's a green desert.

To connect this to the questions posed in the OP, then yes, humans that do this see themselves as distinct from the environment upon which they depend.
 

southernhybrid

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I am not knowledgable enough to know much about the claims of the scientist in the article that I am about to link, but according to her, human infertility has been rising drastically and due to our usage of certain chemicals we may well be heading for our own demise as a species. So, maybe all these fears of over population are unwarranted.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/05/books/review/shanna-swan-count-down.html?action=click&module=Editors%20Picks&pgtype=Homepage


If you’ve smugly enjoyed the dystopian worlds of “The Handmaid’s Tale” (where infertility is triggered in part by environmental pollutants) or “Children of Men” (where humanity is on the precipice of extinction) — and believed that these stories were rooted firmly in fantasy — Shanna Swan’s “Count Down” will serve as an awakening.

“Count Down,” which Swan wrote with the health and science journalist Stacey Colino, chronicles rising human infertility and warns of dire consequences for our species if this trend doesn’t slow. The reason, Swan explains, may be growing exposure to “endocrine disrupting chemicals” that are found in everything from plastics, flame retardants, electronics, food packaging and pesticides to personal care products and cosmetics.

She outlines the danger. These substances interfere with normal hormonal function, including testosterone and estrogen. Even in small doses, they pose particular danger to unborn babies and young children whose bodies are growing rapidly. These hormone-warping chemicals, which can enter even the placenta, have the ability to alter the anatomical development of girls and boys, change brain function and impair the immune system.


A study Swan cites in “Count Down” found that just over a quarter of men experiencing erectile dysfunction were under 40. That may be, in part, because testosterone levels have been dropping at 1 percent per year since 1982. The outlook for women isn’t good either. The miscarriage rate has risen by 1 percent per year over the last two decades. If these trajectories continue, in vitro fertilization and other artificial reproductive technologies may become a widely needed tool for conceiving children.

Swan distills information harvested from hundreds of published studies and while some ring familiar, the conclusion she reaches hits hard. These chemicals are limiting the ability of current and future generations to have children. They could, ultimately, snuff out the human species altogether.


I thought this was an interesting contrast to some of the fears and claims posted in this thread. Perhaps some are worrying about the wrong thing. Then again, perhaps nature would benefit from the demise of the human species. It's not like we've added anything positive to the natural world in recent generations.
 

Worldtraveller

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Overpopulation is a stupid idea. It was a reasonable fear in the mid to late twentieth century, but it's long since been resolved.
I have some questions:
1) Does this apply to other species, or only humans? Can wolves be overpopulated? What about elephants? Malaria?

2) How was this 'resolved' and when? Please be specific.
 

fromderinside

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I think bilby is aware of the deer population boom and subsequent starvation result in Arizona after harvesting wolves there. What I don't know about his assertion is whether he accepts the idea that there are limits to the supportability of niches or whether he is speaking re: working within a range of conditions of supply and population over a specific interval.
 

bilby

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Overpopulation is a stupid idea. It was a reasonable fear in the mid to late twentieth century, but it's long since been resolved.
I have some questions:
1) Does this apply to other species, or only humans? Can wolves be overpopulated? What about elephants? Malaria?
Only humans*, and only since the middle of the C20th, for reasons that will be obvious from my next answer.
2) How was this 'resolved' and when? Please be specific.

The invention of the oral contraceptive pill in the 1950s, and its introduction from 1960 onwards.

Prior to the availability of the pill, contraception was often ineffective (and it only needs to fail on average three times per woman for birthrates to necessarily exceed replacement levels). Having a contraceptive that is in the control of women, is applied daily (and not 'in the heat of the moment '), and can be used in confidence, so that the woman who has to bear the child is not unduly influenced by her partner's wishes, leads inevitably to below replacement level birthrates.

Even more so if those women have at least some education, and some wealth above the subsistence farmer level.

This isn't hypothetical; It's observed to have occurred worldwide wherever the contraceptive pill is available.

It's not hyperbole, given the growth rate of population in the early C20th, to say that the oral contraceptive is the invention that saved the world.





*Well, almost. Oral contraceptives are sometimes used in baits as a humane alternative to culling for non-human mammals.
 
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