Population is a Fundamental Question

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.   Courtesy Temperate Forest FoundationHere 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.