Help - Search - Members - Calendar
Full Version: Global decline
America's Debate > Archive > Assorted Issues Archive > [A] Science and Technology > [A] Environmental Debate
Google
moif
A report has been published by 1,300 researchers into the effects the human population is having on the planet. The conclusion is pretty bleak.

Unless the international community does something soon, the human race is facing the threat of eco system failure in the very near future.

Full report (pdf)

possible questions for debate:

Why is the human race apparently destroying the eco system that sustains it?

Can anything be done to mend the damage being caused?

...if so, what?

Who bears the responsibility for the environment?

Should the international community seriously consider population reduction?
Google
SWM28WDC
Why is the human race apparently destroying the eco system that sustains it? Because they've largely externalized the costs of pollution and extraction, allowing them to receive the economic benefit from, say, burning coal, while burdening everyone with it's economicological costs.

Can anything be done to mend the damage being caused?
Yes, I am optimistic.
...if so, what?
Read Progress and Poverty and Libertarian Party at Sea on Land

Who bears the responsibility for the environment?
Well, of course, we all do.

Should the international community seriously consider population reduction?
No, Malthus was wrong. We are nowhere near the carrying capacity of the planet. If democracy and sustainable economics spread throughout the world, the population will stabilize without resorting to limits on reproduction.

Green Mind
Why is the human race apparently destroying the eco system that sustains it?
A number of reasons, the most obvious being:
1.) Some crazy people out there think that commerce would cease if we stop cutting down forests, distributing gas-guzzling cars, developing extremely spread-out cities, dumping our trash instead of recycling it, letting our sewage run into habitable waters, and hell the list goes on.
2.) Lack of awareness. Plaing and simple.

Can anything be done to mend the damage being caused?
Yes, slowly but surely.

...if so, what?
This is the problem I have with our system today--
Many people save their disgust for homosexuals, abortion and euthanasia, yet they embrace the real problems this planet is facing, SUV's, increasing consumption and waste, deforestation, pollution, the overwheling carelessness of the population, etc.
A smoker can reverse his/her addiction taking it slow, step by step; addressing the many issues they have in regards to their addiction. I think people should treat the desruction of our planet as an unwanted addiction, which can be SO SIMPLE, but this is conflicted by the public's lack of awareness and the officials' refusal to do anything about it.

Who bears the responsibility for the environment?
Every person on the planet. ESPECIALLY Americans.

Should the international community seriously consider population reduction?
Personally, I advocate population reducation, but in this day and age, it isn't much of a possibility.
Nemo
We are living in a Malthusian nightmare; but there seems little that the world can or will do about it. Darwin held out hope that man would evolve into a more perfect species, but feared that he was already doomed to self-destruction before getting there. Man may be master on this planet; but we are rapidly laying waste to the land and the sea on which we depend for life's subsistence; for when this goes, as surely as the earth turns, so shall we go also.
Amlord
Why is the human race apparently destroying the eco system that sustains it?

This is a very difficult question and as such can have some very difficult and disturbing answers. The bottom line is that the human population of the Earth has expanded to the breaking point. Through various means, the controls on the population have been relaxed. There are rarely large scale conflicts that result in the loss of any real percentage of a population. Disease, even disease as deadly as AIDS, do not kill sizable populations as they once did (the Black Plague killed an estimated 1/3 of the population of Europe).

The good news is that people are healthier today than at any other point in history. Healthy people multiply and thus the population of the Earth is rising in huge numbers, especially in the less developed portions of the planet. Population in the first world is stagnant, but the Third World has boomed. Overpopulation
QUOTE
Overpopulation has been disastrous for the planet.  Greater populations have polluted and consumed more, ruining the environment and creating or intensifying a variety of problems.  Also, with the food supply limited, increases in population make shortages in many parts of the world even worse.


It is predicted that the population of the Earth will increase by 40% over the next fifty years.

Population Boom

QUOTE
But scientists say conventional agriculture currently causes significant environmental damage, too. There’s erosion; release of CO2 (a greenhouse gas) from the soil to the atmosphere from plowing; run-off of agrochemicals like fertilizer, pesticides, and herbicides that pollute rivers, lakes and the ocean; and harm to farm workers from pesticides.

Some experts say genetically modified (GM) crops could bring a "Doubly Green Revolution:" Green in the sense of growing food to feed the world, but also "green" in the sense of reducing agriculture's negative impact on the environment. Genetic engineering could go beyond conventional engineering to produce higher-yield crops. Some GM crops already in use require less pesticide than conventional crops and some seem to be reducing soil erosion and greenhouse gas emissions.


With current technologies, even if 100% of the Earth's surface is farmed, we cannot feed that many people according to that article.

As the saying goes: something's gotta give.

One interesting observation is that the eco-system of the world's most developed country (the United States) is on the rebound. The US is more forested today than it was 100 years ago. In most respects, the natural environment in the United States is better than is was 100 years ago.

Can anything be done to mend the damage being caused?
There are several things we can do, each more controversial than the last. Genetically modified foods are one thing. These crops require less fertilizer and less insecticides to grow. This leads to less environmental impact.

Population growth must also be addressed, but who is in a position to do so? Only each individual country can address what the optimum population is and the leaders of these countries are woefully ill-prepared to make such determinations.

Who bears the responsibility for the environment?
It is a collective responsibility, but one that is hard to "pin" on anyone in particular. There is no one person (or group) to blame. There is enough blame to spread around. However, the fragmented governance of the world does not lend itself to easy answers. It is difficult to blame those who are born into abject poverty, but these people are as much to blame as the evil industrialized citizens of the planet.

Should the international community seriously consider population reduction?

A very difficult question. Certainly, the world cannot support the population growth that is projected. We all know who will get first dibs on the increasingly scarce resources of the planet: those with money. Eventually, there will be mass starvation in parts of the planet if this trend continues. However, there is no mechanism in place to limit population growth.
SWM28WDC
I still think Malthus was wrong. I also do not think we've reached the carrying capacity of the planet, not yet.

Current commercial agriculture is hugely efficient at producing a large yield with minimum labor. However, it requires quite a bit of petrochemicals to continuously use land for the same crops, over and over. The need to minimise labor inputs has required us to use machines, which has required us to use monocrop production.

Using labor intensive methods can actually increase overall yields per acre, even without the use of chemicals. And we're not running out of people to feed, ergo, where not running out of people to work on the farm, at least not in the worldwide sense.

I believe that the single best thing we can do, in the long run, is to remove our agricultural subsidies and trade barriers. Folks in third world countries could then benefit economically from agriculture, which is probably their strongest comparative advantage. Once they get their agriculture in order, they can begin to industrialize, learning from all the mistakes we've made. As they progress through economic development, their populations will become more educated, and their population growth will stabilize, as it has in the first world countries.

None of this absolves the US from it's responsibility to reduce it's ecological 'footprint' to the physical size of the United States.
turnea
QUOTE(Amlord @ Apr 12 2005, 02:03 PM)
The good news is that people are healthier today than at any other point in history.  Healthy people multiply and thus the population of the Earth is rising in huge numbers, especially in the less developed portions of the planet.  Population in the first world is stagnant, but the Third World has boomed. 
*


Ah, but did you notice the slight contradiction inherent in these statements?

Healthy people supposedly multiply and yet we see the most multiplication going on in the unhealthy third world.

In fact in comparatively well off Europe there are worries people aren't having enough children.
QUOTE
With more than 1,000 beds and a team of doctors and midwives, but only a few births a day, the Frankfurt-Höchst hospital has an abundance of everything except babies.
.
Germany's falling birthrate, like that in much of Western Europe, is entering its second generation. This means not only that mothers continue to have one child or at most two, too few to reproduce the population, but also that the supply of potential mothers has dwindled


Check out the birth rate charts.

Africa comes out on top, the US isn't even close. NationMaster notes an inverse correlation with health spending and birth rate.

I suspect that before modern medicine birth rates were high all around. Certainly this syncs with the larger family size we used to see.

The problem all due is not increased prosperity,a larger part is the lack thereof. Families sure in the knowledge that their children won't die of preventable disease ten to have fewer.

More prosperous families have access to birth control. Better educated people are more inclined to use it.

People with educations and governments with secure funds are less likely to be persuaded to chop down rainforests. ermm.gif

One of the biggest helps to slowing environmental degradation is sustainable development in the third world.

Secondly, never before has the human race had the scientific knowledge to restore so much of what we destroy.

GM foods could be useful in this regard as well.
Amlord
QUOTE(turnea @ Apr 12 2005, 03:47 PM)
QUOTE(Amlord @ Apr 12 2005, 02:03 PM)
The good news is that people are healthier today than at any other point in history.  Healthy people multiply and thus the population of the Earth is rising in huge numbers, especially in the less developed portions of the planet.  Population in the first world is stagnant, but the Third World has boomed. 
*


Ah, but did you notice the slight contradiction inherent in these statements?

Healthy people supposedly multiply and yet we see the most multiplication going on in the unhealthy third world.


My point was that, in a historical sense, the health of Africa and other developing nations has never been higher. Population does not boom during periods of extreme hunger.

In the first world, we have other priorities than having more children. From a purely economic point of view, we do not need the added labor force that comes from more children while the third world still benefits from additional "laborers" that additional children bring.

As standard of living increases, birth rates decrease. However, populations do not increase unless those populations are relatively healthy.
Nemo
You have all expressed very cogent reasons for your positions; but the bottom line is that we don't know what efect the world's action (or inaction) will have on the next generation; and we don't even know how much time we have to make our decisions. In this, if there is some guiding principle, let me give you one from more than a century ago:

"The benevolent regards and purposes of men in masses seldom can be supposed to extend beyond their own generation. They may look to posterity as an audience, may hope for its attention, and labor for its praise: they may trust to its recognition of unacknowledged merit, and demand its justice for contemporary wrong. But all this is mere selfishness, and does not involve the slightest regard to, or consideration of, the interest of those by whose numbers we would fain swell the circle of our flatterers, and by whose authority we would gladly support our presently disputed claims. The idea of self-denial for the sake of posterity, of practicing present economy for the sake of debtors yet unborn, of planting forests that our descendants may live under their shade, or of raising cities for future nations to inhabit, never, I suppose, efficiently takes place among publicly recognized motives of exertion. Yet these are not the less our duties; nor is our part fitly sustained upon the earth, unless the range of our intended and deliberate usefulness include, not only the companions but the successors of our pilgrimage. God has lent us the earth for our life; it is a great entail. It belongs as much to those who are to come after us, and by whose names are already written in the book of creation, as to us; and we have no right, by anything that we do or neglect, to involve them in unnecessary penalties, or deprive them of benefits which it was in our power to bequeath. And this the more, because it is one of the appointed conditions of the labour of men that, in proportion to the time between the seed-sowing and the harvest, it is the fulness of the fruit; and that generally, therefore, the farther off we place our aim, and the less we desire to be ourselves the witnesses of what we have laboured for, the more wide and rich will be the measure of our success. Men cannot benefit those that are with them as they can those who come after them; and of all the pulpits from which human voice is ever sent forth, there is none from which it reaches so far as from the grave."

- John Ruskin, The Lamp of Memory (1849)


Horyok
Why is the human race apparently destroying the eco system that sustains it?

... because we need to survive. And without any "superior" help to guide us, we are as good as a blind man walking in a porcelaine store.

Can anything be done to mend the damage being caused? ...if so, what?

Depollution, reforestation, (re)creation of habitats for wildlife, save on water, release less environmentally damaging chemicals, educate people and find alternate ways of making money without ruining the planet.

Who bears the responsibility for the environment?

You do. And I do too.

Should the international community seriously consider population reduction?

Does the reduction of population signify the end of our problems? I don't think so. If it were that simple, China would have witnessed a significant decrease of its environmental impact with the control of births. Well, it didn't happen... it's actually getting worse.
Google
turnea
QUOTE(Amlord @ Apr 12 2005, 04:07 PM)
My point was that, in a historical sense, the health of Africa and other developing nations has never been higher.  Population does not boom during periods of extreme hunger.

In the first world, we have other priorities than having more children.  From a purely economic point of view, we do not need the added labor force that comes from more children while the third world still benefits from additional "laborers" that additional children bring.

As standard of living increases, birth rates decrease.  However, populations do not increase unless those populations are relatively healthy.
*


I know it seems counterintuitive, but the facts don't lie. Let's look over the population growth stats.
Population growth rate (Top 50 Countries)

Once again we see the poor countries growing at the fastest rate. Poor Asian states, much of Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Not the healthy, but the unhealthy.

If we look at the correlation again population growth and GDP (as well as health spending) are inversely proportional to growth rates.

Whatever the cause, it is the poor and sick that multiply.
Ptarmigan
QUOTE
Whatever the cause, it is the poor and sick that multiply.


Well, poorer countries generally have higher birth rates for several reasons, but mainly because life expectancy is shorter and the societies are agrarian - and farmers generally need large families if they can't afford machinery.

There is an additional effect in Latin American and some African countries that are devoutly catholic and so people tend not to use birth control as much.

However, I doubt it is the sick that multiply. Poverty does not necessarily equate will ill-health per se.

The root causes of the differences in birth rates between rich and poor are unclear at best, however I would suspect that in rich countries a higher percentage of the population have the option NOT to have children and so do not.
turnea
QUOTE(Ptarmigan @ Apr 13 2005, 10:24 AM)

However, I doubt it is the sick that multiply. Poverty does not necessarily equate will ill-health per se.
*


They are almost always found together. There is also a inverse correlation between health spending and population growth that I noted.

Even you referenced the short life expectancy, again a function of poor health care.

Either way it has been shown that wealthier healthier nations cause less overpopulation both in raw numbers and by land area.

Wealthier nations tend to be more urbanized. Cities are polluted yes, but concentrated pollution. It is the rural poor that put pressure on the forests and plains of the world, to earn a living they are often employed to exploit precious environmental resources.

Development is key to sustaining the environment for a number of reasons.
giftzahn
QUOTE(turnea @ Apr 12 2005, 07:47 PM)
QUOTE(Amlord @ Apr 12 2005, 02:03 PM)
The good news is that people are healthier today than at any other point in history.  Healthy people multiply and thus the population of the Earth is rising in huge numbers, especially in the less developed portions of the planet.  Population in the first world is stagnant, but the Third World has boomed. 
*


Ah, but did you notice the slight contradiction inherent in these statements?

Healthy people supposedly multiply and yet we see the most multiplication going on in the unhealthy third world.




QUOTE(turnea @ Apr 12 2005, 07:47 PM)
Once again we see the poor countries growing at the fastest rate. Poor Asian states, much of Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Not the healthy, but the unhealthy



Hello There!

Not because Latin America Countries (which is less economically developed in comparison to other industrialized countries, but a lot more developed than, say, Africa) is poorer, doesn't mean that we are not healhty! dry.gif

Yes our growth rates are bigger due to diverse factors, going from tradition (the religion and family thing) to even lack of education (in the Countries' poorest social strata) but I tell you....people in our continent are healthier than most of you think.

On the other side, considering that the latin population in the US grows much faster than the population as a whole and assuming them to be as healthy as the rest, tends to confirm that there is a culture thing going on.


In relation to the growth in the population and the eco-system, We have to consider that in Latin America one of the areas of the World where the population growth is faster is also one of the greenest continents. Whenever we hear that woods are being devastated and rivers being polluted more often than not it is the responsibility of so called "first world" Companies.

P.S. Normally I prefer not to divide the World in first, second and third worlds since I consider the terms to be outdated......I certainly don`t consider latin America to be as underdeveloped as many in the US and Europe think. (Sorry for the rant!....I couldn't stop myself! innocent.gif )
turnea
QUOTE(giftzahn @ Apr 14 2005, 06:13 AM)

Not because Latin America Countries (which is less economically developed in comparison to other industrialized countries, but a lot more developed than, say, Africa) is poorer, doesn't mean that we are not healhty!  dry.gif 
*


Sorry, I wasn't trying to make a generalization about the region simply pointing out the regions of the first few countries on my list of statistics.

The point remains that countries with less health care spending and less money tend to expand the fastest.

If this were mostly cultural we would see swiftly rising population growth across regions that share that culture or religion.

Instead we don't see this growth explosion in Chile or Brazil but in countries like Honduras and Paraguay.

I am well aware that Latin America is much more developed than Africa, I also believe that is why Africa is seeing population growth a a higher rate.
TedN5
QUOTE(moif @ Mar 30 2005, 03:16 PM)
A report has been published by 1,300 researchers into the effects the human population is having on the planet. The conclusion is pretty bleak.

Unless the international community does something soon, the human race is facing the threat of eco system failure in the very near future.

Full report (pdf)

possible questions for debate:

Why is the human race apparently destroying the eco system that sustains it?

Can anything be done to mend the damage being caused?

...if so, what?

Who bears the responsibility for the environment?

Should the international community seriously consider population reduction?

*



I thought the situation was grim before GWB focussed this country's attention on an endless war on terrorism (oil grab) and used the distraction to undermine what little we were doing to attack fundamental problems of environmental degradation and population control. Now the prospect of any solutions short of massive starvation of the poor seems exceedingly unlikely. Lester Brown points out that 3 of the last 4 years the world produced less food than it consumed and that the 4th year it only produced as much as it consumed. Food stocks are almost entirely depleted! Water aquifer are being depleted in China, India, the U.S. and elsewhere. Deserts are expanding in north China and sub-sahara Africa. Farmed acreage is decreasing not increasing. The green revolution has reached it full capacity. Many fisheries have collapsed and others are threatened from over fishing. We won't be able to feed the current population let alone the 3 billion more people that the UN says will be added before world population would stabilize naturally.

And if that is not enough, we have to consider the impact of global warming and decreasing energy reserves as well. Even if the lower projections of temperature increases are the best predictors of the future the impact will be drastic. Already glaciers around the world are in wholesale retreat. In areas like Peru that rely on glacial melt for water storage, their loss will have tremendous impacts on agriculture and urban water supplies. Some projections suggest that just a 1 degree Celsius increase in average temperature will decrease world grain harvests by 10%.

Peak oil is just around the corner if not here now. There is going to be less and less oil for a greater and greater demand. This will have tremendous impact on food production and transportation. The green revolution was heavily dependent upon the heavy application of chemical fertilizers largely produced with oil and natural gas. Just the doubling of the price of oil in the past few years is probably having incredible impacts on poorer areas of the world.

We could also talk about ozone holes, acid rain, mercury release and other degradations but these are minor by comparison to the the threats to our ability to feed ourselves.

Who is responsible? We all are, but the rich societies are the most responsible since we have consumed a disproportional share of the worlds resources and energy.

What can be done? Our leaders could focus our attention on these issues as critical to the survival of a heathy world order and we could seek solutions with all available resources. Several partial solutions have been suggested including the RMI study "Winning the Oil Endgame." Given our leadership, however, I am very pessimistic.

Should the international community consider population reductions? The international community doesn't any power other than persuasive. They couldn't even keep the U.S. from invading Iraq. Populations could be quickly stabilized, however, given the will of the leadership of the countries involved. As Lester Brown points out both Thailand and Iran drastically slowed their population growth rates in a short period of time without the draconican pressures that China used. To promote efforts like this the U.S. needs to get out of the road and support the rapid education of women and subsidized distribution of birth control devices and information.
Hobbes
Why is the human race apparently destroying the eco system that sustains it?

We're not. Even the cited report basically shows the free market in action. Resources are simply being distributed to those who can afford them. While this certainly creates an issue for those in poverty, it does not point to an issue for the 'human race'. For example, the human race doesn't really have a problem until most people are hungry.

Can anything be done to mend the damage being caused?

...if so, what?


It is a self-correcting problem. As resources become more and more expensive, conservation and alternatives become increasingly attractive. Essentially, technology solves the problem. I had a roommate back in college that spent most of a year trying to disprove that statement, and he couldn't do it. He eventually accepted it as truth (although he still didn't like it). Basically, it is necessity being the mother of invention in action. What causes the problem is that it is economics that determine necessity...those in poverty are essentially left out of the equation, as they have don't have the resources to enact change themselves, or to encourage others to do it for them (who serves a market with no money?).

Who bears the responsibility for the environment?

We all do. But most of us disregard that responsibility. Case in point...nearly everyone will say they are in favor of clean air and alternative fuels. But almost none of us are willing to pay more for cleaner, more fuel-efficient cars. How many people drive away from Sierra club meetings in their SUV's? We could all be living a much more environmentally conscious life...but, for most of us, it just isn't that important. Nothing substantial will be done until that changes.

Should the international community seriously consider population reduction?

Hey, isn't that what wars are for? w00t.gif.

I have to wonder what is really being asked here. On the surface, this sentence could be reworded to 'Should the international community consider mass, selective extermination?' and read exactly the same (how else would population reduction be achieved?). I don't think any of us would be in favor of that. If the point of the question is more related to control of birth rates, this again is an economic issue. Most well-off countries have already slowed their birth rates, to where their population is basically steady. It is the poorer countries that have the problem. It cannot be argued that this is a self-correcting problem...their population cannot grow beyond what can be supported. This is also true for the entire planet....the population limit for what earth can support cannot be exceeded. The problem is more with the potential conditions that occur before that point is reached. This is also self-correcting. As enough people become affected by these conditions, they will devote resources to alleviating the problem. Which is were reports such as these come into play. Their main purpose is to try to create the impetus in enough people to devote some resources into these types of issues. Essentially, they are marketing efforts. If you doubt this..ask yourself how many of the people involved in this project were environmentalists. Naturally, all of them would be...why else would you be involved. This creates a 'cry wolf' scenario...the public sees yet another gloom and doom scenario being painted, which creates little stir. What the environmental constituents need to realize, IMHO, is that they need to work this through the business community. If you want to affect environmental change, you need to make it in people's own interests to do so. Once that happens, there will be money to be made in addressing it, businesses will spring up to serve that market, and the issue will be addressed. Until then, it won't be. The simple fact is that it's not important enough for most people to spend money on.
SWM28WDC
QUOTE
Why is the human race apparently destroying the eco system that sustains it?

We're not. Even the cited report basically shows the free market in action. Resources are simply being distributed to those who can afford them. While this certainly creates an issue for those in poverty, it does not point to an issue for the 'human race'. For example, the human race doesn't really have a problem until most people are hungry.


What happens when the stress on the ecosystem is too great to be compensated for by the free market? I'm thinking specifically of global warming here: We, the industrialized world, gather the economic benefits of burning coal & oil for energy, while we, the entire world, pay the economic & environmental costs. Seems like a subsidy to me. I pay, you benefit.
Erasmussimo
Why is the human race apparently destroying the eco system that sustains it?

This is a poorly-worded question, because the term "destroy" is so value-laden. If we replace desert land with a parking lot, have we "destroyed" it or "improved" it? I would simply say that we have "altered" it, and then move on to discuss the many implications of those alterations.

Can anything be done to mend the damage being caused?

I think that our task is not to mend the damage but to figure out how we can minimize the undesirable effects of the changes we do make.

Who bears the responsibility for the environment?

Again, this strikes me as a poorly-worded question. We all do. So what?

Should the international community seriously consider population reduction?

This is a dead issue, in my mind. Population studies show that population growth diminishes with education and with advancement of women's rights. We're looking at a population peaking at around 10 - 12 billion.

I'd like to specifically address two points that have been made here: confidence that the economy can address the problem, and confidence that technology can address the problem. I think that, in both matters, confidence is misplaced.

The economic solution suffers from a fundamental failure: the market is intrinsically unfair; it excludes some of the buyers and so the price is artificially low. The buyers to whom I refer are future generations. Natural resources belong to them just as much as they belong to us, but they don't get to bid.

Technological optimism has some basis; after all, technology has come up with lots of wonderful solutions to many economic problems. However, some of the most fervently sought technologies defy our efforts. Fusion power remains out of reach. Solar photovoltaics have been hovering just out of economic reach for 30 years now. Sure, there will be lots of technological improvements that help, but we can't assume that technology will save us.
This is a simplified version of our main content. To view the full version with more information, formatting and images, please click here.
Invision Power Board © 2001-2014 Invision Power Services, Inc.