Ronin of the Spirit

Because reality is beautiful.

Environmentalism and Overpopulation: The Solution, Part II

The introduction to the solution:

Now, I am attempting to list a solution for a truly enormous problem.  My solution is also truly enormous.  I also struggle to make sure it is as ethical as I can possibly manage.   Before I explain my solution, let me explain why I think the solution is so hard to reach: rate of change.  In all of the things you need to know about to figure out a good overpopulation policy, you will find that rate of change rears it’s ugly head.

We tend to visualize data in graphs with plain curves either going up, or going down, reducing all the data to single binary option: increasing or decreasing.  The reality is different.  A graph represents rate of change.  A bell shaped line, for instance,  represents little change at first building into a faster and faster rate of change till it peaks out.  Then the rate of change decreases, and decreases until, at the other end of the bell, it peters out completely.  We must remember that almost everything someone says about overpopulation and pollution, either for or against, will be true at some part of the curve.

Something which improves the situation may experience decreasing improvement the more it is implemented, and may at a critical point begin to actively degrade the situation it was improving.  Remember, “Diminishing Returns” isn’t just a good idea, it’s the Law.

In Part I, I made the point that two questions must be answered. First, How much environmental impact is acceptable?  All creatures, great and small impact the environment in some way.  Elephants tear up shrubs.  Wasps lay their eggs in caterpillars, which must impact the caterpillars quit a bit.  We can’t delude ourselves into believing that we can not impact the environment.  Nor is it healthy to believe that we should impact the environment as much as possible.  To impact the environment as little as possible we would need to have the smallest sustainable population possible, perhaps a 1000 people.   No other species does that.  Why should we set our numbers so low? At the same time, when one looks at the level of environmental damage currently being wrought by 6 billion, the ideal number is probably much lower than 6 billion.

Once we have determined the level of impact acceptable, the second question is, What is the ideal population level.  This is not a simple question, because the answer depends on the efficiency of resource utilization.  Beef steak and algae are both protein sources, but algae makes about 32 times more protein with the same caloric feed input.  If everyone got their protein exclusively from beef, the planet will sustain 1/32 the population it would if they got their protein from algae, by measure of human dietary protein production requirement. Diet is much more complicated than a single protein source, and is but one piece of data needed to determine the maximum ideal population number.

So, the two questions of How much environmental impact is acceptable? and What is the population level will cause that, or less impact, are difficult to answer precisely.  Yet we must have a precise answer.  The answer of “no impact by many less people” is too easy to abuse, and the question of dismantling economies and mass genocide (species die off by birth control is still species die off.) is far to important to simply throw some legislation together.

Yet, it seems unethical to use the lack of a perfect response as an excuse to make no response at all and if a response is to be made in the lack of precise data, ethics are of the utmost importance.  The interim response must respect human dignity, human rights, and human freedom.  This is my response: Perfect market, strong property rights, fairly shared property, and global government to reduce pollution and population while improving the quality of life.

To be continued…

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December 7, 2008 - Posted by | atheism, Ecology, Government, skepticism, Transportation, Uncategorized | , , , , , , ,

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