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Population Counts – It Has to Drink

October 13, 2011

You have read me on this blog and perhaps heard me on television and radio, arguing the primacy of population. The explosion of human numbers. A lot of what is happening in the world can be explained by the disproportionate increase in human numbers: the degradation of the oceans, the spread of desert in Africa, the purging of the tropical rainforests, the elimination of species like the African great apes, and tribal warfare and civil war.

The world population has doubled since 1970. Doubled in 40 years, and it is going to go on increasing before it stabilises. Perhaps around 2050.

To put it crudely, you don’t have global warming without global swarming.

Just came across a statistic that clinches the case. According to James Famiglietti, a professor of earth-system science and civil engineering at the University of California in Irvine:

We have the same amount of water…

The laws of supply and demand might make new resources of oil and coal feasible, but economic laws don’t work magic with water.

So we have the same amount of water, but we have – wait for it – 250 percent more people than a century ago. And climate change means “water moving around to different places, even as populations are growing.”

The result is not only a shortage, but a mismatch between where water is and where it’s needed. At the core of the problem: human numbers have doubled since 1970.

5 Comments
  1. Robert Doherty permalink
    October 13, 2011 3:02 pm

    Supply and demand apply just as much to water. Haven’t you heard of desalination? There are Middle Eastern countries that rely solely on the more expensive desalinated water due to very little rainfall.

    • Tom permalink
      October 13, 2011 8:30 pm

      Not sure if Sudan has a desalination plant in the works…

  2. Philip permalink
    October 13, 2011 3:44 pm

    Population has doubled, sure; but so what?
    Does that prove that we’re at the limit of the earth’s carrying capacity?

    • Tom permalink
      October 13, 2011 8:28 pm

      But so what?- Well, now there’s twice as many people competing for the same amount of resources. And with an exponentially increasing population, it will double again in less time than the last, with fewer resources per person again.
      I’m a bit unsure about the second question. Are you saying that we should let the population continue to increase exponentially until there’s proof that we’ve reached the limit? What would that proof be? World war? Famine? Mass extinction? Plagues?
      If you’re implying that we’re not at capacity now, then why not aim to start slowing growth now with the aim of stabilisation BEFORE reaching capacity. What’s the need to fill the world until bursting point and await for limits to be imposed on us.
      In what way is 7 billion better than 3.5? What is the advantage of hitting 14 billion in the next few decades? Surely limiting sooner rather than later would be advantageous. Less is more- more resources for each individual.
      Perhaps I’ve misunderstood your post, but I think there is great significance in the world population doubling .

  3. Tom permalink
    October 13, 2011 8:35 pm

    Bob, how do you expect the world population will stabilise? I often hear of a point in the future where this will happen, but the exact mechanism seems to be glossed over. I’ve often heard numbers around 13-15 billion, but why will it stop here? I mean, there would have to be a great and sudden drop in birth rate, and a sudden increase in death rate to reach stabilisation. What will lead to the drop in birth rate?- I know increased education and wealth, etc, decreases birth rate, but I can’t see the areas of the world currently in poverty suddenly attaining these things to a sufficient degree by 2050. The other options are imposed restrictions on procreation, increased child mortality, war…

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