The Scariest Graph That I’ve Ever Seen

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It appears as if the prospect of Global Warming isn’t scary enough for some people.

It used to be popular to talk about gloom and doom scenarios of overpopulation, but I haven’t heard a lot of that lately. Global Warming has pushed Global Standing on Each Others’ Heads out of the picture in recent years.

Possibly that’s about to change. Maybe scientists and governments don’t have enough on their plates already.

Here’s a snippet that I picked up from Science, the journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (of which I’m a card-carrying member):

RETURN OF THE POPULATION BOMB

At a time when some developed nations are paying citizens to bolster flagging birth-rates (Science, 30 June 2006, p. 1894), a grass-roots group of scientists and environmentalists is calling for a new push to limit human numbers.

Overpopulation is threatening life as we know it on the planet, say members of a movement called Global Population Speak Out (http://gpso.wordpress.com/), which aims to persuade at least 50 “respected voices” to “speak out in some way” about the problem for a month next year.

SUSTAINABLESCALE.ORG

CREDITS: CHERYL RAVELO/REUTERS; SOURCE: SUSTAINABLESCALE.ORG

“The hope is to concentrate these informed researchers’ messages about population during the month of February so we can make a bit of a dent in this taboo” surrounding the subject, says the movement’s organizer John Feeney, an environmental writer in Boulder, Colorado. Global population, now at about 6.7 billion, is expected to reach 9.1 billion by 2050, says Feeney, and that’s the United Nations’ “medium” projection.

So far, Feeney says 46 people have pledged to speak out or endorse the movement, including botanist Peter Raven, director of the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis; Cornell University entomologist David Pimentel; and entomologist Paul Ehrlich of Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, author of the 1968 book The Population Bomb. Although some of Ehrlich’s most dire predictions haven’t come to pass, others–namely, mass extinctions, as well as horrors he didn’t mention, such as destruction of rainforests and coral reefs from climate change–appear to be well under way.

That is one scary graph. Look at the line in recent times. It’s going up like a rocket!

I admit to a certain detachment from all this. It’s egocentric, I know. I simply don’t have to worry, as an individual, about any of this. I’m almost certainly not going to live long enough to see any major changes. All of the scary stuff seems to be at least fifty years in the future. I can’t honestly say that I want to live that much longer, yet alone that I have much of a chance of doing so.

Nevertheless, what kind of a world are my granddaughters and their children going to live in?

I am curious to see what the numbers might be, so I made up this graph:

My funky population prediction graph.

On the left, we have world population in billions. The squiggly blue line is numbers from the first graph (adding a final data point of 6.7 billion for today’s world population). Then I extended it out to the year 2108. I chose this number (100 years from now) because it’s plausible that my grandchildren’s children (and certainly their children) would be alive a hundred years from now. Any time beyond that . . . well, I’m just too disconnected to think about it in any relevant way.

Then I added a trendline based on a fourth-order polynomial (DISCLAIMER: I’m not nearly as smart as I’m trying to appear – it’s a button that I pushed in Microsoft Excel. I haven’t seen a polynomial equation for over thirty years. I have only a vague recollection of what they are). I chose that projection because the eyeball fit was best for the existing data.

The projected line ends up at about 27 BILLION a hundred years from now!

Well . . . Obviously, that’s not going to happen.

So, if we accept the premise that anybody with a brain could state with confidence that Earth could not possibly support four times its present population without massive changes to every conceivable facet of life, then the question is what are those changes going to be?

I can’t imagine anything good coming of it.

Can you?

I tried to find a photo that gave me the willies as much as the numbers. No luck. I did come up with this one of a one of those weird 360° sunsets that we sometimes see here. Looking north at Kar Kar Island at sunset, it seems as if the sky is on fire and maybe the clouds are rolling back. I’m not much on apocalyptic visions, but I wonder if any hell’s fire and damnation that might be in a metaphysical future could be worse than the hell that we might create for ourselves here on Earth.

Another time . . . another life

Somebody had better do something . . . fast!

Or not.

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2 Responses to “The Scariest Graph That I’ve Ever Seen”

  1. Bakakarasu Says:

    Nicely done, but I suggest your detachment is perhaps a bit inappropriate. Keep talking about this, and of course don’t have any (or any more) kids and encourage one and all to do the same.

    More scary charts and info here:

    Approaching the Limits http://www.paulchefurka.ca

    Bruce Sundquist on environmental impact of overpopulation http://home.alltel.net/bsundquist1/

    The Oil Drum Peak Oil Overview – June 2007 (www.theoildrum.com/node/2693) (oil allowed us to overshoot this far)

    …and of course the classic “Overshoot” by Catton

  2. mymadang Says:

    Thanks Bakakarasu, for your informative comment.

    The links that you provided are excellent.

    The detachment I mentioned is not altogether voluntary. My wife and I produced one child. A couple of years later, I went for the snip. I’ve encouraged many others over the years to do likewise.

    I live in a place where reproduction is running rampant. I do what I can to encourage those who have ears to hear to have fewer babies.

    I don’t know what else I can do except keep on preaching to the deaf.

    Thus my detachment grows as my years pile up. I’m sixty-five and sterile by choice. I suppose detachment grows from a cynical, self-centered attitude of, “I’ve done my bit, now you do yours.”

    A lot of people are considerably more detached than I am concerning overpopulation. Unfortunately, many of those are the same ones who are multiplying (excuse the pun) the problem exponentially.

    Your first paragraph is a little pushy, but entirely appropriate. I agree completely. Solving gargantuan problems that are only now seeping slowly into the awareness of the masses is going to require a LOT of pushing!

    Something that hasn’t even been discussed yet is just how much pushing back is going to happen. People are not going to like the solutions. I predict big trouble.

    War is an excellent (temporary) population control method. Too bad they’re so messy.

    Later,
    MadDog