Bare Bones Biology 057-Levels and Population II

Last week I told you about my little informal research project that involved talking to protestors and supporters of our local Planned Parenthood organization. What I learned from that was that the basic goals of both groups are — both right. At levels of organization one (that’s individual people), and two (our human communities), respectively. Today I’ll talk about level four (which is the ecosystem), and level three (the corposystem).

First I will remind us that the ecosystem is a living entity of which we all are a part. We cannot survive without the ecosystem. The ecosystem provides the food energy that we eat to stay alive. There is no other source for our food.

Second, I affirm that humans need compassion for their welfare but the ecosystem does not require compassion. It requires balance. When it becomes unbalanced, the ecosystem responds by trying to reset its balance points, so the carbon cycle and the water cycle and all the cycles that make food all try to stabilize in a new balance. We are adapted to the old balance. Any new balance will end up producing less food for one reason or another; when there is not enough food there is always more violence, war and genocide, and we are also growing epidemics of new diseases that cannot be controlled by the corposystem.

The question is, then, which life is more important – my life or the life of the ecosystem? It’s time for us to begin discussing that question, because the productivity of the earth is already maxed out. So – what is stopping us from getting together and resolving this problem? Primarily the corposystem is stopping us from getting together and stopping the growth, because the corposystem – to continue without changing itself – requires growth. The corposystem (in a “free” country) controls our thinking and our behaviors mostly in two ways. First is by taking control of the media and our school systems – dumbing down the people so they don’t have the knowledge to recognize the lies. Second, it spreads the lies and uses them to organize groups of us to fight with each other over relatively unimportant problems that the corposystem doesn’t care about. (That’s the old divide and conquer, we’ve all heard about that – here’s the modern version.)

This example first came to my attention when one of the protestors in my study referred me to a movie about population growth. The movie was pretty disgusting, with lies and false hate talk and fake statistics. It was made for conservatives and tried to convince us that dreadful things will happen if we don’t grow more. Actually, dreadful things are already happening that are CAUSED BY growth over the past couple hundred years. The movie claims these are caused by lack of growth. Now we can not change what happened before, and the you-know-what is hitting the fan. So it is all the more critical that we have good information. So I turned to another movie which was made for PBS and presumably for political progressives, and that’s when the light dawned. The only difference between the movie made for conservatives, and the movie made for progressives, is the style of presentation. Conservatives got a movie based in hate and fear; and progressives got a movie designed to appeal to those who believe technology will save us. As an aside, technology could help to save us if we were to use it to reduce growth, but of course that was not the message, and also that’s not what we’re doing.

So if you look at both movies, one right after the other, you end up pretty discouraged. The PRIMARY goal of both these movies is to get their respective audiences to continue fighting with each other so that nobody is talking or doing anything about the overwhelming need to stop both population growth and economic growth within this living earth ecosystem.

Folks, we humans all want and need the same basic things. We need food energy to stay alive and we need the compassion of supportive communities. We won’t get these things unless we are willing to define them as our goals and work together to get them. Instead of fighting with each other over something else. And the later we get started the worse it will be for everyone.

Bare Bones Biology 057 – Levels and Population II
KEOS Radio 89.1, Bryan TX
Audio available at http://www.barebonesbiology.com

Questions Answered

• What is your stance on overpopulation?

My stance is not relevant. Measurable facts are what we need to understand problems, whenever they are available. It is not difficult to know these facts. After we understand the problem, then we can have opinions about how to fix it. The basic problem is a balance of how much food is available and how many living things need it to eat. This can easily be measured. The person I know who has done the best job of measuring is Lester Brown (because he has been doing it for about 40 years and because he is honest).

• How can we stop it?

Overpopulation is a very complex problem to stop. Again, Lester Brown may have the most balanced view, because he tries to measure all the different factors that need to be addressed. I say balanced view because he studies many parameters: food resources, non-food energy resources, climate change and other problems that are brought about by an imbalance in the ecosystem. But we will need information from all fields of research to bring the problem under control in time. Apparently some people don’t want to control the problem, because there is one thing we could do tomorrow that would have a dramatic positive effect, and that would be to make birth control available to all women and men and families who want it. At the present time we are withholding this technology from the people who need it. Other kinds of solution would take longer and might be too late.

• Should we slow down birth rates?

If we don’t slow down birth rates, then they will slow down anyway beause the population will be reduced by war, starvation, genocide and epidemics. Providing birth control for people who can’t afford children or don’t want them would be very, very much kinder than killing them with war and genocide or letting them die in famines and epidemics. Those are the options — because this is a problem that is controlled by the ecosystem and neither humans nor the economy are more powerful than the ecosystem. We can’t change the natural laws that control the ecosystem, and if the ecosystem dies then everything inside it also dies.

The problem is very simple:

a) All food for humans and for all animals and for all ecosystems and also for all plants and most micro-organisms comes from photosynthesis. Only plants and green bacteria can do photosynthesis. They can make food for themselves. Every other living entity in the earth ecosystem must eat plants (or eat something else that eats plants or green bacteria) in order to stay alive. This is a good system as long as you have more photosynthetic organisms (producers) than you have of non-photosynthetic organisms (consumers).

b) The problem arises when you get more consumers than producers, and that is where the world is right now. From then on, something has to die so we can eat. For about the past 50 years it has been other species dying so we can use their portion of the available food. Now we are at the point where we are beginning to kill of each other and the plants. That’s when starvation begins because the plants make our food. The climate change question is similar. Photosynthesis makes oxygen. Eating and digesting food makes carbon dioxide, and it’s a cycle. I can send you a handbook that explains in more detail if you want it. Or you can download from this blog on the right side, Bare Bones Ecology Energy Handbook. The earth has a circulatory system of oxygen and carbon dioxide that must stay in balance. The circulatory system basically runs by the climate. Or is the climate. When that gets out of balance, the ecosystem will react. Just as any living thing will react when its physiology gets out of balance. It will try to not die. One of the important things that will then happen is that a lot of the plants will die because they are adapted to the balance we did have. It is the plants that make our food. We do not get food from oil wells or from the sun or from the wind, and we can not make food. (Because of the natural laws of thermodynamics that is also explained in the Bare Bones Ecology Energy Handbook.)

• How could we slow down birth rates?

Answered above.

• Is a bigger population hurting the economy? Is it helping it?

That question is not relevant to the problem. It is a question economists like to ask so that we will not be thinking about the real food resource problem. The economy has no power in this relationship. The ecosystem has the power. The economy is inside the ecosystem. The economy cannot make food, and neither can it change the laws of nature that keep us all alive. A bigger population is hurting the ecosystem very badly and if the ecosystem crashes we will all die and there won’t be any economy.

• Why is population often so centered? For example 8 million people in NYC.

This is not my kind of question, though I know it is partly a result of overpopulation because when people lose their homes from any kind of disaster they will tend to go to cities. If they had a little farm and they got their food from the farm, and they lose it – then they have no food and go where they hope to get a job.

Overpopulation causes starvation, genocide, war, disease — and global warming is melting the ice. So a lot of people are losing their homes. Melting the ice, for example, means people lose their land for two reasons. One is that the oceans get higher, so for example Bangladesh and some islands and Florida and some other places are getting smaller because the water is higher. Another reason is that the mountain glaciers are the source of the great rivers of many continents. If the rivers stop running and the deserts take their place, then the people will have to go away because the plants will die and the farmers can’t grow food anymore.

• What do you estimate the worlds population will be at in 2025?

This is not relevant. Why would we want to wait around to find out?

• Will birth rates slow down?

There are no valid statistics on this because this has never before happened to humans. However, all normal organisms make more babies than can survive. That is one of the natural laws. I don’t think there is any reason to believe that humans are abnormal in this respect.

But we can guess. A standard growth curve for most species is exponential, so long as plenty of food is available. That means the population doubles in shorter and shorter and shorter intervals until the food runs out. Then the population stops increasing. Then it crashes. The reason it stops increasing is because of war, famine, disease, genocide, etc. In mice and rats, some of the animals become crazy and start killing infant mice and rats.

The difference between humans and mice and rats is that humans have a brain that can understand what is happening and we have birth control technologies that we are not making available to the people who need it. So right now is the time we should be using both.