Bare Bones Biology 260 – Two Conundrums

Last week blog featured Steven’s editorial, so you already know, he is seriously concerned about food, about our growing population, and about human welfare. And he is especially concerned about the balance among those three parameters. The relationships among food, population and human welfare are puzzling, confusing and mysterious, which is exactly the definition of a conundrum. Here are two conundrums for you to find the answers.

 

Here is the Steven’s question: “Most people can see that more food equals more people, like it does with all of nature.   Most people can also see the most obvious and most undeniable fact that no food equals no people. That one is a slam dunk. Is there anyone who would argue with the statement, “No food equals no people. Period. End of story. If so, let’s hear it. No.

“Now that leaves us with a remaining statement. “Less food equals less people.” Almost everyone I know says that claim cannot be admitted BECAUSE people will begin starving. Even those who see how less food equals less people dare not acknowledge such a thing because they believe to a certainty that people will starve. The question for me and for all of us is this. IF less food equal less people, will limiting INCREASE ONLY in ( NOT stopping) total food production CAUSE people to starve? Yea or Nay? THAT IS THE QUESTION. Comments from one and all are welcome.”

 

ASC_1642sThat’s the end of Steve’s conundrum. Now here is mine:

 

Consider the cow. She is a beautiful creature: peaceful, humane, friendly and she has an admirable social system. For just one example, cows usually have one baby every year. Cows in a herd will organize themselves every morning in such a way that one female stays behind in a safe place with all the babies, each belonging to a different mother, while all the mothers and fathers go out to eat. You can see this yourself in nearly any pasture as you drive through Texas. The next morning, someone else stays with all the babies. The eating cows watch for danger and will rush back to help if necessary. (I should tell you, in Texas, the word cows may refer only to females, or to males and females). The babies nurse their own mothers in the mornings and evenings and in the meantime they sleep or practice eating grass.

 

Now consider what will happen if we put a few cows of both sexes on one thousand acres of lush pastureland, fence them in, make sure there is plenty of water, kill off the predators, and go away for a few years. When we come back, there will be a lot more cows, right? Well, it depends how many years we are gone.

 

The normal cycle of overpopulation in all species including all mammals, which includes us – in rapid growth of population until the food is gone, then rapid die-off to below the carrying capacity of the environment. After which the population may or may not recover. (ref – overshoot)

 

First there are many babies, next there are very many cows and the fighting begins because crowding and competition upsets their social systems. When the population doubles that one last time, and all the grass is completely gone before the next following year, then most or all of the cows, bulls and calves die. Not only have they all starved this year, but also they have nearly destroyed the pastureland and the soil in their voracious need. It will be very slow coming back, if ever it can.

 

Now the question is: What is to blame for all this suffering?

This is Bare Bones Biology a production of FactFictionFancy.Wordpress.com and KEOS FM, 89.1, in Bryan, Texas.

A copy of the podcast can be downloaded at:

 

“If you wnt to get rid of painful effects, you need to get rid of their causes.”

His Holiness The Dalai Lama

 

References:

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Bare Bones Biology 259 – Food and Population Growth

Guest editorial contributed by Steven Salmoney, Chapel Hill, NC.  Sentences in green have been edited out of the audio to fit the audio time frame. Thank you, Steven.

 

Recent scientific evidence (Hopfenberg R and Pimentel D. 2001. Human Population Numbers as a Function of Food Supply. EnvironDevSustain, 3, pp. 1-15) suggests that the governing dynamics of absolute global human population numbers is a remarkably straightforward and simple natural phenomenon. Despite all the misleading, intellectually dishonest and deceptively contrived ‘scientific research’ to the contrary, Homo sapiens can be seen as a species that is a part of and definitely not separate from the natural world we inhabit.

 

Experts in politics, economics and demography have willfully fostered and continue obdurately to countenance a perilous disconnect between ecological science and political economy. Their dogmatic adherence to misconceptions are broadcast everywhere and range from politically correct, so-called experts, to unscientific theories regarding fallacious ideas such as the automatic population stabilization around the midpoint of Century XXI and a benign demographic transition to a good life for the human community at large. These false assurances can no longer be accepted by responsible professionals in science. They are  directly contradicted by the best available evidence.

 

Texas060722_DSC0797F.sPerhaps politics, economics and demography are themselves disciplines that are fundamentally disconnected from science. They appear to have more in common with ideology than with science. To suggest, as many too many politicians, economists and demographers have been doing, that understanding the dynamics of human population numbers does not matter — or that the human population problem is not about numbers — or that human population dynamics has so dizzying an array of variables as not to be suitable for scientific investigation — is wrongheaded and dangerous. The skyrocketing growth of absolute global human population is recognizable and the cause of it  is knowable.

 

According to emerging scientific research, the size of the human population on Earth is a function of food availability. More food for human consumption equals more people; less food for human existence equals less people; and no food, no people. This is to say, the population dynamics of the human species is essentially common to, not different from, the population dynamics of all living things.

 

Global population growth of the human species is a rapidly cycling positive feedback loop in which food availability drives population growth and the recent, skyrocketing growth in absolute global human numbers gives rise to the ruinous misperception or mistaken impression that food production needs to be increased even more.

 

Data indicate that the world’s human population grows by approximately 2% per year. All segments of it grow by about two percent. Every year there are more people with brown eyes and more people with blue ones; more people who are tall as well as more short people. It also means that there are more people growing up well fed and more people growing up hungry. The hungry segment of the global population goes up just like the well-fed segment of the population. We may or may not be reducing hunger by increasing food production; however, we are most certainly producing more and more hungry people.

 

Please examine the probability that humans are producing too much, not too little food; it is the super-abundance of stupendous agribusiness harvests that are driving population numbers of the human species to overshoot, or explode beyond, the natural limitations imposed by a relatively small, evidently finite, noticeably frangible planet with the size, composition and ecology of Earth.

 

The spectacularly successful efforts of humankind to increase food production annually in order to feed a growing population, has resulted and continues to result in even greater human population numbers worldwide. If people are starving at a given moment of time, increasing food production and then distributing it cannot help them. Are these starving people supposed to be waiting for sowing, growing and reaping to be completed? Are they supposed to wait for surpluses to reach them? Without food they would die. In such circumstances, increasing food production for people who are starving is like tossing parachutes to people who have already fallen out of the airplane. The produced food arrives too late.

 
The idea that food production must be increased to meet the needs of growing human population is a prime example upside down thinking.

I think, this is Lynn, that it would be far more humane, and also less expensive, to make birth control available to all who want it so that we can prevent the massive starvation that we are creating and begin the process of helping the Earth to rebalance that she gave us — a system that provides our basic needs — earth, air, fire and water — to all its inhabitants.

Steve Salmony
Chapel Hill, NC

This is Bare Bones Biology, a production of FactFictionFancy and KEOS radio, 89.1 in Bryan, Texas.

A copy of the podcast may be downloaded at:

 

 

physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2012/04/economist-meets-physicist/

Bare Bones Biology 258 – Oroboros

© 2015, M. Lynn Lamoreux, PhD

To quote Dr. Sean Carroll: “Really, the reason why we devote our lives and our money to . . (basic scientific research) . . is because we want to know the answer. . . We want to discover the way the world works. . . We want to know what this nature is that we live in, what are the rules, what are the ingredients.”

He is not talking about the kind of technology that is used by our failed corporate-political-system, to generate human growth for profit.

And growth-for-profit is not the only choice that we could have made – could still make. We have all the facts/answers that we need to save ourselves from our own failed corposystem world view. We have everything necessary to grow a new social paradigm that could result in a sustainable, reasonably comfortable human presence on this earth. It is still a possible choice. It is in fact what we want and what most of us believe we are working for, but, in fact, we are not. We are not, because, while we are working very hard to help/save/support each other, we still believe in the corposystem world view, growth for profit, and we cannot change the corposystem by living it. The reason that we cannot change the corposystem from inside is because of the nature of systems (Capra and Luisi, 2014).

Evolved systems, including social systems, function to perpetuate themselves. Each system is uniquely evolved around some strategy that is successful in the world of its time. Our corposystem paradigm was successful so long as there was room to grow without harming the environment. But the environment was harmed and has changed (Butler, 2015)

Therefore, the corposystem must either stop growing or crash, and the trouble is – it’s a system and systems function to perpetuate themselves. You yourself are contributing to the maintenance of the corposystem. The only way out is to use our one unique trait among all the animals, our enormous human brain, to overcome both our instincts and our growth-for-profit corposystem.

The reality is that nothing can grow forever, and our time has come to reckon with the results of our parents’ recklessness. Growth for power or any other purpose is not sustainable on Earth and cannot150506-Witting-ASC_6732RLSs copy be perpetuated, and yet the paradigm – the toxic world view within which we have been raised and to which we are faithful – the corposystem paradigm lives on in our hearts and minds. Because it is a system, and systems have fail-safes, feedback loops, all sorts of big and small ways to maintain themselves. Otherwise they would not exist.

The corposystem exists because we support it by our behaviors. We cannot stop ourselves because we – together – or rather our behaviors, integrated, result in the emergent properties of the social entity that IS the corposystem and perpetuates the corposystem.

To grow a sustainable, reasonably comfortable human social paradigm on the living Earth, we must abandon the failed paradigm, or it will swallow us whole, like the dragon that eats itself, beginning with the tail and ending with the smile.

Above all, our new human social paradigm must conform to the requirements of nature. Why else our curiosity, our research, but to make a better life for ourselves, and how can we make a better life without understanding how LIFE functions to stay alive? All the basic sciences: physics and physiology, biochemistry and biology; all of that knowledge and indeed knowledge IS power. That power could be used (and that was my dream as a scientist) to grow a sustainable, reasonably comfortable home for human kind on a nourished and fruitful Earth.

But that is not what we are doing now. What we are doing now is using our power to try to change how LIFE functions. We can’t change how LIFE functions. LIFE is essentially an interacting web/net/being consisting of interconnected systems. Rather as you and I are composed of interconnecting systems, only more, immense and complex beyond anything that we can comprehend. And instead of trying to understand the mechanisms of the system, “the way the world works” so that we can fit ourselves suitably and sustainably into the miracle of God’s Creation – we are trying to “fix” it. We are “intervenors.”

An Intervenor, according to Jacke & Toensmeier, 2005, page 20, is a person who “stands outside an existing system and does not respect or understand how the system works. The intervenor therefore interferes in the system’s healthy functioning, sometimes unknowingly or for fun or profit, but often in an attempt to ‘fix’ perceived problems.”

Well, we can’t fix it, because it ain’t broke.” And because humans cannot change the basic laws of physics, chemistry, biology and LIFE itself.

The solution is NOT to “take charge.” The only viable solution, the only possible sustainable world view, is to find our place within the miracle of the Creation — and keep it.

We must learn to understand how the system of LIFE functions, and abandon the technological fairy tales that were taught to us by the failed human corposystem. If we want to survive within the LIFE of earth, we must grow a new communal world view based in the skills, aspirations, our inborn instincts, and the human values that are necessary to survival – not the unsustainable world view the corposystem teaches.

This is Bare Bones Biology, a production of FactFictionFancy.Wordpress.com and KEOS radio 89.1 FM in Bryan, Texas.

Sections in green have been edited out of the audio podcast because of time constraints.
A copy of the podcast is available at:

 

References

Dave Jacke and Eric Toensmeier. 2005. Edible Forest Gardens,Volume I: Ecological Vision and Theory for Temperate Climate Permaculture. http://WWW.Chelseagreen.com

Fritjof Capra and Luigi Luisi. 2014. The Systems View of Life. Cambridge University Press.

Tom Butler (ed) 2015. Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot. Goff Books

Sean Carroll. 2015. The Higgs Boson and Beyond, The Great Courses

Bare Bones Biology 257 – Getting From Here to There

Getting from Here to There is a new book by Robert Costanza and Ida Kubiszewski. I haven’t read it, but I like very much the first part of a review of this book by Gord Stewart in Solutions Journal, April 20, 2015.

“Business-as-usual is sure to deliver us a future that is both unsustainable and undesirable, with climate change arguably our most pressing problem. Had we begun to tackle it when first identified, incremental changes and modest actions along the way might have done it. With all the procrastinating, transformative change is now necessary.

“The same goes for other issues, from biodiversity loss and species extinction to air pollution and declining water quality. With the range and magnitude of environmental challenges we face, it’s easy to become discouraged.

“That’s why we need a focus and a plan. The focus is a clear vision of the kind of future we want. The plan is how to get there from here. This book offers both.”

150506-Witting-ASC_6705RLs copyAmen to that part.

But it’s nowhere near as complicated as he makes it sound, given that all – 100 percent all – of these problems could be solved if there were not too many people on earth to feed. And they cannot be solved so long as there are too many people for the earth to feed using the amount of food that the earth can produce.

Actually, that’s what the green revolution was about, giving us time to solve the population problem. You may have been told differently, but I was there and I remember. So long as we cannot feed the people – then – of course – hungry people want food and if they are hungry enough they are not concerning themselves about maintaining the health of our mother earth that produces all of our food.

If we could feed every mouth – then we could resolve the other problems. We can NOT feed every mouth by making more people than there is food. Food does NOT come from supermarkets. It comes from the earth. So whether or not that is our focus, we can’t do any of those other good things until we deal with the problem of overpopulation.

You must be able to see that we cannot possibly accomplish this when there are more people than there is food to feed them. And there is no place else to get food.

So what remains according to Mr. Stewart’s review? We need a plan. Yes indeed we need a plan. We need a plan that will reduce the overpopulation of humans on this earth, and because we waited way too long, we must plan at the same time to promote a healthy environment for the children; a plan to promote relevant education that will teach us how to not get into this fix again; we need a plan to end wars; we need a plan to promote compassion and to understand that unwise compassion can cause more harm than no compassion; we need a plan to revise our economics from the bottom up so that we can stop the growth for profit plan that simply makes things worse. And we need a few other things. We cannot have any of them unless we first reduce the population. That is simply a fact of life.

OK, I agree that I cannot do all those things, and neither can you, but I CAN tell you what will NOT work, and it will not work because all those problems are connected to each other at their root and stem. It will NOT work for me to try to prevent overpopulation while you work on all those other things. Because the tree of life has its roots in the soil of the earth, and overpopulation is the root and stem of the problem, and all those other aspirations are the branches. If the root dies, we will have NONE OF THEM. We ALL MUST contribute to reducing the population problem, fulfilling our obligation to the earth, BEFORE and at the same time that we work at whatever we love best. Nothing less will get us to where we must go if we are to rebuild a healthy human society.

No matter what happy fairy tales the corposystem feeds us.

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