Friday, 23 August 2013

Population - again

The issue has come again in my conversation, and I'd like to expatiate again.

The planet has a carrying capacity that cannot be exceeded. This is an undisputable point. The biosphere is a finite system, whether we like / ignore the fact or not.

We can only find out what that carrying capacity is, I suggest, empirically, by increasing the population. But we still have the problem of quantifying that carrying capacity. It has to be sustainable over time; if we sustained x billion for a month but then people started to die, would that have achieved our target?

Given that we know there is an upper limit, even if we can't quantify it, do we put the brakes on now? My opponent says it is better never to exist than to be born into starvation and curable disease, and that living on another planet is purely fantasy. But this involves speculation that the human population can't be sustained by technology as yet undiscovered and uncovers profound questions about the unborn which are perhaps the epitome of speculation.

If we should put the brakes on now, the problem I still have is with targetting those social groups that currently have the most children per woman. The idea that they can't afford them, or that someone else shouldn't have to bear the expense of them is really abhorrent to me. Is there another species that goes in for this kind of social engineering? Survival of the fittest may seem cruel intellectually, but it is unavoidable in practice.

Social engineering is aan abstraction. It is us imposing our will/morals on others when there are other options.

Friday, 9 August 2013


On the TV news (BBC I expect) recently, an economist was wheeled out to comment on whether the increase in population in the UK and especially London is good for the economy.

Yes, of course there is a need to match resource locations to population locations - a planning and logistical challenge, but what does being 'good for the economy' entail, exactly? How do we know if our ecnomy is doing what we want from it.

"The economy" is an abstract thing, yet it is so oftem mentioned it seems real. Something  good for the economy, is something good full-stop.

A good economy is a growing economy, you might say. Usually, economic growth is used to mean an increase in GDP. I have challenged this approach on this blog and elsewhere, as have others far more qualified and able than me to do so. GDP is - very roughly - how much money is spent on things. But money must be spent on things for a reason. What is that reason? What are we trying to get our economy to do?

Have people live longer? That increases  population, everything else being equal, yet it does seem to be what we are trying to do. Why do we want more people alive? I would say every species tries to increase its population, so why shouldn't we?

Quantifying the population that the planet can sustain can only really be done for definite by increasing population towards that limit. Te big questin for me is do we aim to have a sustainable population over time, or at any one time.