Saturday, August 26, 2006

British scientist: Utopia unachievable


A British scientist is claiming that utopia on Earth is unattainable without a decreasae in the planet's population. He brings out some interesting ideas. While I don't necessarily agree with his final conclusions, his theories do hold water.

If one believes that there is a finite number of people that can sustain on Earth without causing a net negative, and this is reasonable, one must conclude that we must do something about population growth.

There are two important questions to answer:

1. What is this number?
2. How is this number affected by technology (i.e., progress)?

In the 50s, for example, the number might have been, purely for argument's sake and not a verifiable number, 5 billion. But with progress in finding cleaner ways to harness energy, as well as discovering ways to minimize human effects upon the planet, that number might well be 7 billion now.

His point is well-taken, however. That is to say that, at some point, the only way to reduce to zero the human effect on the planet is to stop producing humans (or that the net population increase shall be zero -- 1 person dies, another is born). Every human contributes a very tiny bit to the degradation of the planet. However, the planet has unique restorative powers in that it can assimilate waste, process it, and be no worse off.

But somewhere there comes a tipping point, where that last incremental human causes more harm than the planet can process. It's at that point where population should be limited. The question then becomes, what is this figure? Is it 2-3 billion, as the subject of the article below suggests, or is it higher or lower?

Nobody knows and it's probably unanswerable. There is no doubt in my mind, however, that there is a finite number.