Bare Bones Biology 181 – The Question

Steven Earl Salmony. Dear Friends, Why is the population of the world exploding? Take the example of human population dynamics/overpopulation. The ‘science of the anthropocene’ appears to be ignoring the colossal elephant in our planetary home. After all, human beings are a part of, not apart from, Earth systems, are we not? The way this matter is ‘overlooked’ is incredible. Extraordinary claims call out for extraordinary evidence. I get that. Let’s discuss the research and acquire the extant knowledge. Thank you. Always, Steve

• Lynn Lamoreux’s Answer. This exploding population is, of course the root cause of the major changes in all our cultures, and it doesn’t take a scientist to realize that — IF everything is connected — THEN everything we do as individuals has an impact on everything else. One person has more impact in her own back yard than on the arctic ocean, of course, but the more people there are the more the impact people have on the whole world. If there are twice as many adults this generation, then there will be twice as many children this generation.

Why don’t we discuss this? Because our culture prevents us from talking about it and this blog has been trying to figure out WHY for several years. The bottom line answer is that we are afraid. We are afraid of each other and we are afraid of not being in control. WHAT happens to humans when they are afraid? They tend to attack whatever they are afraid of instead of trying to understand it and (even though we DO have the power as a group to control human issues) we are too busy attacking each other to get together and solve the problem. It is human nature to work together to solve problems – working together is what generated our power – technology, war, and even the power to win relative peace, as in South Africa for example. That kind of power grows out of our cultures.

However, we have grown a new kind of cultural system that is based on the corporate model, rather than the human, natural, biological model. The values of this corposystem are based in profit and growth – not in communal welfare. The corposystem is even using the church to “divide and conquer” our natural communal instincts. If we are taught that we are equal to God, and that we must be all-powerful heroes in order to be OK, the result is an everlasting struggle to be better than each other, to dominate each other. On the other hand, if we realize that we are actually one with God’s Creation (which is true no matter your religion and is supported by a lot of evidence), that requires us to find ways to BE that, for the benefit of all. But it doesn’t grow profits.

If we were to solve the problem of overpopulation, which is indeed the root problem that prevents us solving starvation, war, etc., then that would reduce the profits to the corpsystem that grow exponentially with the population. Therefore, using the media, the corposystem culture teaches us that we MUST NOT effectively discuss population because this sort of discussion would harm the corposystem. Of course, if we do NOT positively discuss the population problem, then the corposystem will blow up in a bigger and more violent crash later on, but we are more afraid to face the problem now than we are to let our children deal with it tomorrow. Even those of us who are doing heroic work, for the most part, are afraid to face the real problem, because we have been brainwashed to fear doing harm to the corposystem that is causing the real problem.

HOW does the corposystem prevent us from talking about population? If ever you hear me discussing a “list of excuses” those are the rituals, in our culture, that prevent us from talking (or listening) to the problems that we face, and their root cause. Why we aren’t doing much research on the issue? Who would fund it? The corposystem is actively fighting against such research in many more little and big ways than I have outlined above.

I don’t know of any solution until the crash (which is obviously in progress) becomes so deep that people are more afraid of what is happening than they are of effectively talking about it. So yes, what we must do right now is get together and positively discuss this kind of question. Or let all our fine human accomplishments just slip away because we are far mor focused on having fun.

This is Bare Bones Biology, a production of FactFictionFancy and KEOS FM radio, 89.1, Bryan, Texas. A copy of the podcast can be downloaded at:

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5 Responses

  1. “Why is the population of the world exploding?” This is not a difficult question to answer.

    Humans and all species are always breeding to excess. That excess means that we are always attempting to drive our numbers up at an exponential rate. Humans have inhabited all geographical regions for long enough that our numbers long ago reached the limit. This means our numbers are always at the limit of how many can be kept alive at one time. When we manage to increase the limit, which has generally been happening at an exponential rate for the past 150 years, we enable the population to grow. We increase the limit by figuring out more efficient ways to extract sustenance. For example, farming is more efficient than hunting/gathering.

    Every species must breed to excess. Without this, the theory of evolution would make no sense. There wouldn’t be any individuals that could die young to prevent their genes from being passed on. This allows members of the species to be killed without causing the population to go extinct.

    Why do people actually think this is a difficult question to answer? It seems to me that everyone, including the author of this article, has some strange belief that somehow we magically control our fertility and figure that lately that “control” has gone out of whack. There was never any control. If you look at any period in history where the population was stable, you are seeing a period when humans did not figure out how to increase the limits. Technology was stable. The population limit was stable. The humans alive at that time were breeding too many, thus attempting to drive the population higher, but the environment stopped that growth via premature death.

    There is no doubt that humans recognize that their community has too many people for the resources available and in order to minimize the suffering, we have invented taboos, like infidelity, to limit the excess births. These do reduce the fertility from what it would otherwise have been, but it is ludicrous to believe that we magically limited the fertility to just the right amount to maintain a steady population number.

    • Thank you for your thoughtful response. I recommend that readers go to your web page for for information on this problem from your perspective. The term for what you describe (the biological limits to population growth that we have tried to overcome with technologies) — that term is “limiting factors” and you are correct that there are ALWAYS bological limiting factors to any population. The natural Law of Evolution WILL control human populations, and it will be more dreadful according to however many limiting factors we manage to temporarily overcome with our technologies. This is why it is so important that we can find a way (now that we do have the technologies) to control ourselves. Climate change is one of the first symptoms of the Biosystem trying to rebalance itself. Your insights regarding biological control over the Biosystem will be important to human welfare if we can use this information to change our attitudes, because, as you say, we cannot change the natural Law of Evolution. I have written about limiting factors several times https://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com/2010/12/19/
      https://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com/2010/05/28/

      • I don’t think you are quite comprehending my meaning. I see several examples of your writing that indicate you are seeing these limits as some value we will hit in the future.

        For example you wrote the following on another page on this site: “Whatever happens, our populations will not grow beyond this final limiting factor because no technology can change the second law of thermodynamics. ” Also your comment has “The natural Law of Evolution WILL control human populations”. “WILL” is future tense.

        Both of these refer to some future problem. I am not referring to a future problem. I am saying that today our numbers are at the limit, and throughout human history our numbers have been at the limit. At the limit, means that our numbers are not able to grow as high as our birth rate demands. This means that excess births are causing child mortality. Excess births are killing children. If we simplify the situation, an example will illustrate.

        Imagine that the limiting factors are all constant, thus the population cannot grow past some limit. Also our numbers are at that limit. If we average 3 children, then 33% of the children must die. If we average 4 children, then 50% of the children must die. Notice what this is saying. How many children we choose to average, above some minimum, determines the child mortality rate.

        Notice that the amount of child mortality that is caused by births decreases when we manage to raise the limits (holding the birth rate constant), but we almost never raise the limits fast enough. In other words we must not assume that when we raise the limits, we actually raise them fast enough to escape the situation where our births are cramming us into the rising limits and causing death. Your point is that we cannot expect to raise them forever, and I agree with that, but my point is that we have never raised them fast enough to escape this death.

        The point is that we must control our fertility. Uncontrolled fertility kills.

      • Probably we are both talking about the same thing. My career has been in genetics and my primary interests in ecology and evolution, so I do know what you are talking about. After retirement, I began writing my blog and my radio program specifically about population, because of course the prospect is horrendous. My approach (which doesn’t work very well) is to explain to people how the biosystem evolves. When I began, I assumed people would understand. They do not, although people seem now to be listening. When I began they were not. So please do not nit-pick my specific manner of expressing myself. I write for the people I know (in Texas, where we have been making laws against teaching evolution) in hopes that people will listen rather than fight about the details. If I say it one way and you say it slightly differently, and we are both saying the same thing (which seems to me to be true), then perhaps we can generate a positive discussion that is much broader than either of us by ourselves. That, I think, must be the goal.

        Lynn

      • Sorry, the email cut me off. I was going to add that I and you both know it is not a future problem. It’s been serious for at least 200 years, and to me 50 years and there is nothing we can do about the past. So what remains is to do the best we can today and tomorrow.

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