So, how many human beings can this small blue planet actually support in a sustainable manner?
Before we think hard about that question we have to review the population pattern of homo industrialus. Here is a graph from the Temperate Forest Foundation. As you can see there were about 1 billion of us around 1860 and now there are over 6 billion of us and the trend continues up.
A short review of the population work of Thomas Robert Malthus may be in order. Malthus thought that conflict, war, pestilence, famine were natural consequences and controls on population. I don’t think Malthus could foresee huge leaps in human productivity, health, longevity that developed with the petro-industrial age and the advances in the sciences, but I think it is an open question whether these advances enable us to avoid the devastating controls on population that Malthus saw as natural processes. I hope that an advance, a new paradigm, the birth of post-petro human culture may produce new ways of being that defy imagination and that such an advance might seek a way to establish a sustainable and relatively peaceful human presence on the planet. I think the transition is likely to be tough. I don’t know how we get from the current dominant paradigm of capitalistic individualism to a more natural, sustainable, indigenous way of being a component of the diversity of life on this small blue planet. I write here in the hope that by posing questions, by sharing advances, knowledge, wisdom, data that we may somehow collectively bring something new into the world. Perhaps a view of the place of our species as a component of a diverse biosphere instead of a view of human as pinnacle of creation? I suspect that the pride that comes with seeing oneself as the pinnacle of creation precedes a fall.
Enough back ground, in 150 years we went from 1 billion people to over 6 billion people and we may be headed for 9 billion by 2100. How many people can the planet support in a sustainable manner? And let’s define sustainable as a life of relative comfort and safety, but not an affluent life. Let me do some research and we will then review that question.