Constant development is
the law of life,
and a man who always tries to maintain his
dogmas in order to appear consistent
drives himself into a false position.
At this stage, no substantative work has been done on this section, although some initial 'perspective' is provided in the discussion entitled the 'Evolution of Economics' that touches on some of the related issues earmarked for further study. However, see 'Growing Storm' and 'Concluding Commentary' for more specific details concerning planetary resources and population. While no formal review has been carried out, it may be useful to initially consider the arguments forwarded in a video lecture by Dr. Albert Bartlett, entitled 'Arithmetic, Population and Energy'. While Dr. Bartlett cites the following quote at the end of his lecture, the implications are well worth considering from the start:
Facts do not cease to
exist because they are ignored.
So, as indicated, the scope of this section hopes to address some of the current developments, which may affect human society in the next few generations rather than the longer timeframes normally associated with Darwinian evolution. As a consequence, one of the biggest developments, when measured as a relative change and impact, is the growth in the world's population. Of course, the 'exponential growth' of the global population cannot continue indefinitively as planetary resources are not infinite and enviromental impacts linked to polluation and global warming may one day take a terrible toll - see 'Limits to Growth' for initial details.
However, the graph above only really reflects past growth without making any prediction about the future. If we were to accept the fact that the global population cannot keep growing indefinitely, then we need to face up to the next question:
What is the probability that the issue of population will be addressed rationally?
China's one-child policy was introduced in 1978 and might be described as one possible approach to a reduction in population, albeit somewhat authoritarian in its initial implementation. As a result, the Chinese government now claims this policy has resulted in 400 million fewer births during the past 30 years. However, others like Hans Rosling have argued for a very different approach:
"I meet so many that think population growth is a major problem in regard to climate change. But the number of children born per year in the world has stopped growing since 1990. The total number of children below 15 years of age in the world are now relatively stable around 2 billion. The populations with an increasing amount of children born are fully compensated by other populations with a decreasing number of children born. A final increase of 2 billion people is expected until the world population peaks at about 9 billion in 2050. But the increase with 2 billion is comprised by already existing persons growing up to become adults, and old people like me (+60 years). So when I hear people saying that population growth has to be stopped before reaching 9 billion, I get really scared, because the only way to achieve that is by killing."
While Hans Rosling's work appears to be a factual, and very entertaining, presentation of statistics, it is not clear it necessarily represents the full impact of a global population reaching 9 billion by 2050, and possibly peaking at 15 billion by the end of century according to some predictions. For the issue is not just with the size of the global population but the quality of life demanded by all, not just the top 1%. See 'Concluding Commentary' for an initial perspective on the issues surrounding this debate.
So what, if any, potential solutions need to be considered?
Clearly, it seems that some may refute that population growth has already become a major problem in terms of a sustainable ecology or, alternatively, simply assume that future developments will always offer up a solution. However, others contest the reality of such a position, not only in terms of the technical realities, but possibly in terms of any higher goals we might wish to attribute to human existence. See 'Limits to Growth - A 40 year Update' for details behind the following chart:
Note: In the absence of further study of all the issues involved, this is possibly a good point to leave this introduction.