Overpopulation 1: How Many People Can the Earth Support?

Illustration of a tiger. from: PWCD ENVIRONMENTAL topic - pollution.

Review of the Quartz Aug 18′ article “We are exceeding Earth’s carrying capacity. Denying it is suicidal,” by Richard Heinberg — (author and senior fellow with the Post Carbon Institute).

Environmental: Read @ Medium

Written by: m.wilson

Societies Pollute their Environment to the Point of Collapse

According to Heinberg, the earth has a biological “carrying capacity,” which is defined as “the number of organisms an environment can support without becoming degraded.” The existence of this capacity he wrote, holds the consensus among the majority of ecologists. However, despite a likely causal relationship, overpopulation is not discussed in the media as much as climate change for example, as corporations utilize cheap energy like nuclear, gas, oil, and wood to churn out massive amounts of pesticides, antibiotics, and fertilizers for the 7+ billion people occupying the planet.

Relatedly, it may be reasonable to surmise that mass migration is a symptom of a failing society. And while Societies have fallen for various reasons, including over-extension of empire, invasion, and natural climate change (Heinberg, 2018), archaeologists have consistently reported the ‘consumption of resources and the pollution of the environment — to the point of collapse.’ What is now happening in comparison? Farmlands are expanding exponentially to answer food demand; renewables are harvested before they can regrow; forests are chain-sawed; fisheries are exploited; minerals are mined; mountains are flattened for coal; and the persistent dredging of oil from our oceans, all due to the profits derived from the existing population demand.

The “Nine Planetary Boundaries”

According to the Stockholm Resilience Center and Australian National University, there are nine planetary boundaries humanity will transgress at their peril, which include “climate change; ocean acidification; biosphere integrity; biochemical flows; land-system change; freshwater use; stratospheric ozone depletion; atmospheric aerosol loading; and the introduction of novel entities into environments,” (Heinberg, 2018). Four of these spheres: biochemical flows; biosphere integrity; land systems; and climate change, currently exceed the safety zone. These nine boundaries, the environmental scientists have indicated, represent the human ecological footprint, which must be reduced by 60% to get back on par with sustainability and ensure sufficient resources for future generations.

No Vacancy

The earth’s population of wild terrestrial animals could become a new kind of 1% class. As it stands today, wild animals represent only 4.2% of earth’s terrestrial mammalian biomass, while humans and livestock have commandeered the remaining 95.8% (Heinberg, 2018). Unfortunately, and at the same time, “Earth’s long-term carrying capacity for humans is actually declining, (Heinberg, 2018).”

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