Time of Great Dying: Population Bomb Bursts, the End of Old-Growth Forests, and the Great Awakening

GR: Like an empty deck chair bumping in the wind, I’ve repeated this warning over and over. I’ve tried to find new ways to phrase it, new associations to tie it to, and more reasons that we must search for a solution. I’ve tried to stir anger at inequities, greed, and the corruption of public servants. Great writers, speakers, and leaders have tried as well. And yet the river carrying our little canoe continues on toward the growing rumble of a great falls. The rumble is beyond the blaring horns and sussurating tires on pavement that surrounds us, but if you listen for the calls of birds and crickets you may hear it in the empty spaces they no longer fill.

In the article below, Dr. Glen Barry mixes resignation and hope and suggests that we can still stop before the falls–we just need to “believe in a better world and make it so.”

An aerial view of housing development, Photo by IDuke, Wikimedia | CC BY-SA 2.5

“The living biosphere, is infested with humans. Not just any humans, but the type that grow fat and reproduce exponentially by liquidating natural ecosystems. The population bomb has burst and we are seeing daily the predicted consequences of collapse and death in the climate, water, oceans, and on the land. Having spent much of my life working to protect Earth’s last naturally evolved primary forests from logging for inequitable over-consumption, I am today ready to declare defeat. Preserving Earth’s last large old-growth forests is a lost cause as there are simply too many people. This Time of Great Dying is unlikely to end well unless a global ecology ethic – including a sense of ENOUGHNESS, just population reductions, ending fossil fuels, and massive ecological restoration – is widely embraced with all haste in an unprecedented and overdue Great Awakening.

Over-Populated, Inequitable Over-Consumption

“In 90 years – a blink of an eye in ecological and geological time – the human population has gone from two billion to over seven billion. Another one billion people are added every 12-15 years, such exponential growth in human population can only end in collapse. Of these, a billion extravagantly over-consume (including a few hundred individuals who have amassed half of Earth’s wealth) as another billion live in abject poverty on less than $1.50 a day.

“Concurrently capitalism has manufactured all types of artificial needs for consumption to which the vast majority aspire, and which can never be universalized at current population densities. Thus globally devastating inequity is assured. Each of these manufactured desires is fulfilled through apocalyptic polluting of the atmosphere and liquidating of natural ecosystems that have evolved over eons and make Earth habitable.

“Over-populated, inequitable over-consumption literally dismembers Gaia – the living Earth – to gorge upon her ill-gotten limbs.

“The idea that we can just keep growing forever on a finite planet is totally imbecilic…”          – Paul Ehrlich, Author of The Population Bomb

“As long anticipated, the population bomb has burst, and we are witnessing the impact upon the natural world. The result of such democratic consumption has been our current Time of Great Dying – an epic cataclysm of death and destruction rained down by humanity upon all non-human life and their assemblages into natural wildlife populations, plant communities, ecosystems, and landscapes. Humans, after all, are animals too. It is not normal for populations of an organism to grow so rapidly, or for an organism to so quickly destroy its own habitat. When this does occur in nature, the result is always mass death and system collapse.

“Everywhere a trained eye looks, one can see the tawdry, traumatized remains of much diminished organic biological life upon an immense ecocidal battlefield. Oceans are plagued by overfishing and dead-zones, the climate is failing before our very eyes, wetlands and soils are much diminished, natural sources of water are increasingly scarce, wildlife has been decimated in a reign of terror, and natural terrestrial ecosystems have virtually disappeared. And the murder of remnant bits of nature that still exist continues unabated.

“Over the past century throughout much of the world naturally evolved millions of year old old-growth forests have in short order simply been mowed to be replaced by farms, homes, and strip malls for the ever burgeoning bourgeois population of over-consumers. We poorly measure human advancement by the speed whereby this growth machine dismembers our ecological habitat.” –Glen Barry (Time of Great Dying: Population Bomb Bursts, the End of Old-Growth Forests, and the Great Awakening | MAHB.)

Here’s an interesting post about ending our population growth.

World Population Will Grow 30% To 9.8 Billion by 2050

GR: By 2050, our global population will increase by more than 2 billion people. That’s if nothing gets in the way. The projected growth comes at a time when the Earth’s capacity to support us is in decline. Add the increasingly fierce storms of an unbalanced climate system to the problems of dwindling resources, and calamity becomes unavoidable. It’s too late to rebuild Earth’s food-producing ecosystems, prevent climate upheaval, or control our reproductive urges in time to avoid disaster, but we can prepare for the inevitable crash. Those of us who can’t stuff our pockets with oil money can use our minds instead and begin studying the options.

“The global population will reach 9.8 billion in 2050, up from 7.5 billion now, according to the 2017 World Population Data Sheet. This year’s edition includes a special focus on the world’s youth (ages 15-24), with indicators and analytical graphics that assess whether youth are poised to become productive adults.” –2017 World Population Data Sheet (Population Reference Bureau)

GR:  I just ran across another good discussion by Richard Heinberg (http://www.postcarbon.org/why-climate-change-isnt-our-biggest-environmental-problem-and-why-technology-wont-save-us). It’s certainly worth a read.

The World Has Too Many Young People

World population dominated by youth

Numerous problems arise when populations are made up of young people.  Young people are more likely than middle-aged people to protest, migrate, and have children. As world population continues to grow and global resources decline, human conflicts will inevitably grow stronger. Climate scientists just declared a global climate emergency, and many people understand that we must make drastic cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. However,unemployed youth few people are declaring population growth an emergency, but they should be.

Some scientists believe that it is too late to achieve a sustainable future by controlling population growth.  The numbers are so large, and the need for fuel, food, and fiber is so great, that our forests and soils have become too wasted to supply needs of our current population.  There is some hope.  Learn more.

Here’s an excerpt from a discussion of the age-distribution problem published by the New York Times.

By Somini Sengupta

The World Has a Problem: Too Many Young People

“AT no point in recorded history has our world been so demographically lopsided, with old people concentrated in rich countries and the young in not-so-rich countries.

“Much has been made of the challenges of aging societies. But it’s the youth bulge that stands to put greater pressure on the global economy, sow political unrest, spur mass migration and have profound consequences for everything from marriage to Internet access to the growth of cities.”–Somini Sengupta


Human Population Most Destructive Force on Earth

Population Growth Devastates Ecosystems

TrantorOne of Issac Asimov’s best known stories includes Trantor, a planet totally encased in steel and concrete. In Asimov’s story, people could freely move between Trantor and other, nicer, planets.  They could send back food and water.  In our story, we have only one planet, Earth, and not a glimmer of hope for reaching others.  And yet, we are destroying the land, sea, and air of our planet as if we had options.  We do not.  For me, this raises two concerns.  First, I care about and wish to preserve the wild species of animals and plants that still survive outside our homes.  Second, I want my descendents to have good air, water, and food amidst abundant wildlife and natural ecosystems.  To alleviate my concerns, I belive that conservation efforts to preserve nature must include leadership and incentives for human population reduction.

This following article by Stephan Wells, Executive Director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund is about leadership. 

“In the past 50 years, my own lifetime, the human population has more than doubled from about 3.2 billion to more than 7 billion. There will likely be more than 10 billion by mid-century. This raises some pressing questions. How many people can our small planet sustain? How many can it sustain while leaving room for the other species that call Earth home? These questions are at the heart of a new speaking tour, which began this week, by the Animal Legal Defense Fund and the Center for Biological Diversity, entitled “Breaking the Taboo: Leading Animal and Environmental Groups to Discuss Population, Human, and Animal Rights”  Read more.

Behind on biodiversity targets, govts pledge to increase funding for conservation

“On the heels of a report showing that the world is far behind on targets to halve habitat loss, cut pollution, and reduce overfishing, delegates meeting at a United Nations conference in Pyeongchang, South Korea have agreed to increase efforts to conserve biodiversity in developing nations.

“After nearly two weeks of discussions, governments pledged to double average annual biodiversity funding relative to the level spent between 2006-2010. “Small island developing states” and “least developed countries” are the primary targets for funding.”

Source: news.mongabay.com

GR:  The UN appears to have the correct sentiment, but the increased funding for conservation is too small.  The fundamental fuel for environmental decline, human population growth, remains uncontrolled.  Scientists are telling us that the growing human population has exceeded the Earth’s carrying capacity.  What motivates our leaders to continue with development and “progress” when they surely know what is happening?  Governments should budget an amount equal to the increased funding for conservation to reversing population growth.

As the Population of Humans Doubles, the Number of Animals Halves

Human Population Growth Wipes Out Wildlife

It’s unbelievable to me that in the year 2014—going on ’15—the media still does hyperbolic backflips every time some celebrity gets pregnant or decides it might be fun to become a daddy, as if human reproduction is some mysterious miracle we should all be awed by. Well, there’s only so much awe I can take before something becomes truly awful–especially in light of the fact that every new human born equates to less biodiversity for everyone.

Read more at: exposingthebiggame.wordpress.com

GR:  I have to repeat the author’s closing statement:  “Across the land you can hear the battle cry: Out of the way, animals, we’ve got diapers and baby carriages to buy.”

World population to hit 11bn in 2100 – with 70% chance of continuous rise

The 1970’s efforts to deal with population were abandoned. Now, population growth, like global warming, cannot be stopped in time to save Earth’s species and ecosystems.

Exposing the Big Game

New study overturns 20 years of consensus on peak projection of 9bn and gradual decline

by Damian Carrington

World population increase most in Africa: Crowded Oshodi Market in Lagos, Nigeria.
A crowded Oshodi market in Lagos, Nigeria – the country’s population is expected to soar from 200m today to 900m by 2100. Photograph: James Marshall/Corbis

The world’s population is now odds-on to swell ever-higher for the rest of the century, posing grave challenges for food supplies, healthcare and social cohesion. A ground-breaking analysis released on Thursday shows there is a 70% chance that the number of people on the planet will rise continuously from 7bn today to 11bn in 2100.

The work overturns 20 years of consensus that global population, and the stresses it brings, will peak by 2050 at about 9bn people. “The previous projections said this problem was going to go away so it took the focus…

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Limits to Growth was right. Research shows pending collapse as human population rises and resources decline

Four decades after publication, Limit to Growth’s forecasts have been vindicated by new Australian research. Expect the early stages of global collapse to start appearing soon.by Graham Turner and Cathy Alexander, The Guardian, September 2, 2014

Piles of crushed cars at a metal recycling site in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Piles of crushed cars at a metal recycling site in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Photograph: Alamy
Critics called the 1972 book Limits to Growth, which predicted our civilisation would probably collapse some time this century, a doomsday fantasy. Back in 2002, self-styled environmental expert Bjorn Lomborg consigned it to the “dustbin of history.”
It doesn’t belong there. Research from the University of Melbourne has found the book’s forecasts are accurate, 40 years on. If we continue to track in line with the book’s scenario, expect the early stages of global collapse to start appearing soon.
A think tank called the Club of Rome commissioned the Limits to Growth. Researchers working out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, including husband-and-wife team Donella and Dennis Meadows, built a computer model to track the world’s economy and environment. Called World3, this computer model was cutting edge.
The task was very ambitious. The team tracked industrialisation, population, food, use of resources, and pollution. They modeled data up to 1970, then developed a range of scenarios out to 2100, depending on whether humanity took serious action on environmental and resource issues. If that didn’t happen, the model predicted “overshoot and collapse” – in the economy, environment and population – before 2070. This was called the “business-as-usual” scenario.
The book’s central point, much criticised since, is that “the earth is finite” and the quest for unlimited growth in population, material goods etc would eventually lead to a crash.
So were they right? We decided to check in with those scenarios after 40 years. Dr Graham Turner gathered data from the UN (its department of economic and social affairs, Unesco, the food and agriculture organisation, and the UN statistics yearbook). He also checked in with the US national oceanic and atmospheric administration, the BP statistical review, and elsewhere. That data was plotted alongside the Limits to Growth scenarios.
The results show that the world is tracking pretty closely to the Limits to Growth “business-as-usual” scenario. The data doesn’t match up with other scenarios.
These graphs show real-world data (first from the MIT work, then from our research), plotted in a solid line. The dotted line shows the Limits to Growth “business-as-usual” scenario out to 2100. Up to 2010, the data is strikingly similar to the book’s forecasts.
limits to growth
Solid line: MIT, with new research in bold. Dotted line: Limits to Growth ‘business-as-usual’ scenario.
limits to growth
Solid line: MIT, with new research in bold. Dotted line: Limits to Growth ‘business-as-usual’ scenario. Photograph: Supplied
limits to growth
Solid line: MIT, and research in bold. Dotted line: Limits to Growth ‘business-as-usual’ scenario. Photograph: Supplied
As the MIT researchers explained in 1972, under the scenario, growing population and demands for material wealth would lead to more industrial output and pollution. The graphs show this is indeed happening. Resources are declining at a rapid rate, pollution is rising, industrial output and food per capita is rising. The population is rising quickly.
So far, Limits to Growth checks out with reality. So what happens next?
According to the book, to feed the continued growth in industrial output there must be ever-increasing use of resources. But resources become more expensive to obtain as they are used up. As more and more capital goes towards resource extraction, industrial output per capita starts to fall – in the book, from about 2015.
As pollution mounts and industrial input into agriculture falls, food production per capita falls. Health and education services are cut back, and that combines to bring about a rise in the death rate from about 2020. Global population begins to fall from about 2030, by about half a billion people per decade. Living conditions fall to levels similar to the early 1900s.
It’s essentially resource constraints that bring about global collapse in the book. However, Limits to Growth does factor in the fallout from increasing pollution, including climate change. The book warned carbon dioxide emissions would have a “climatological effect” via “warming the atmosphere.”
As the graphs show, the University of Melbourne research has not found proof of collapse as of 2010 (although growth has already stalled in some areas). But in Limits to Growth those effects only start to bite around 2015-2030.
The first stages of decline may already have started. The Global Financial Crisis of 2007-08 and ongoing economic malaise may be a harbinger of the fallout from resource constraints. The pursuit of material wealth contributed to unsustainable levels of debt, with suddenly higher prices for food and oil contributing to defaults – and the GFC.
The issue of peak oil is critical. Many independent researchers conclude that “easy” conventional oil production has already peaked. Even the conservative International Energy Agency has warned about peak oil.
Peak oil could be the catalyst for global collapse. Some see new fossil fuel sources like shale oil, tar sands and coal seam gas as saviours, but the issue is how fast these resources can be extracted, for how long, and at what cost. If they soak up too much capital to extract the fallout would be widespread.
Our research does not indicate that collapse of the world economy, environment and population is a certainty. Nor do we claim the future will unfold exactly as the MIT researchers predicted back in 1972. Wars could break out; so could genuine global environmental leadership. Either could dramatically affect the trajectory.
But our findings should sound an alarm bell. It seems unlikely that the quest for ever-increasing growth can continue unchecked to 2100 without causing serious negative effects – and those effects might come sooner than we think.
It may be too late to convince the world’s politicians and wealthy elites to chart a different course. So to the rest of us, maybe it’s time to think about how we protect ourselves as we head into an uncertain future.
As Limits to Growth concluded in 1972:
If the present growth trends in world population, industrialisation, pollution, food production, and resource depletion continue unchanged, the limits to growth on this planet will be reached sometime within the next one hundred years. The most probable result will be a rather sudden and uncontrollable decline in both population and industrial capacity.
So far, there’s little to indicate they got that wrong.

What to do about human population and resource decline?

Help with the endangered species condom program. The massive human population and its resource use are responsible in our time for a great extinction of plants and animals. In all our endeavors for wildlife protection, we must never forget that the problems we see are often just symptoms of human overpopulation.
Sign the Animal Bill of Rights. The ABR is a good first step on the way to essential respect for nature. We must not treat soils, vegetation, wildlife, air, and water carelessly if our planetary system is to fulfill its potential. The stars beckon, but first we must achieve sapience; we have to adopt something like Immediacy, the fictional philosophy of consequences.
Follow environmental issues.  There are many conservation and news organizations.  The NatCon News is an online source for current headlines and articles.