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John Taves

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Humans have almost always been overpopulated.

Populations grow and shrink exponentially when there is a difference between the birth rate and the death rate. If the birth rate is below the death rate the species goes extinct. Birth rates do not magically match death rates, thus every species that is not extinct has a birth rate above their death rate, until their numbers reach the limits of what can be maintained by the environment. Death rates are forced to rise to at least match the birth rate in order to stop the population growth.

Humans are no different. We have not throttled our birth rates, and have been in existence for enough time to have hit the limit.

This means that humans are overpopulated, and have generally always suffered the effects of overpopulation.

We can explain that fact that our numbers have grown, and stabilized, and grown, and stabilized throughout history by the fact that we have the ability to discover better techniques for acquiring our sustenance. When we discovered farming techniques, we raised the limit, and the population bloomed to fill it back up. When we discovered how to make fertilizer, we raised the limit, and the population is again blooming to fill it back up.

We must not assume we are not overpopulated. We must assume we are overpopulated.

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  • Apr 24 2012: It's not overpopulation, it's endemic, about-to-be-lethal misuse of resources and technology. This planet could sustain us all quite comfortably and then some, if we treated it with basic respect, but we don't. Why we don't, and how or if we will change, is another matter. We must assume nothing of the sort, not when there are plenty of other things around to assume. I myself prefer the qualitative side of the argument to any such simplistic quantification. If one person is shouting in a library - the library is over-populated to the tune of one person. But that does not mean that the number of readers should be reduced in response; that is absurd, and it is a pretty good analogy for your argument. Because a very small number of wealthy, irresponsible people and corporations are destroying us and our planet for personal 'gain' does not mean that we should reduce the number of us. We should reduce the number of them, if anything. Then, those of us who just want to live on this planet, rather than steal and sell bits of it, would be able to.
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    Apr 26 2012: So John, let's say your idea that we are overpopulated is true.

    What next? Do you think we need to be doing something?
    • Apr 26 2012: I am not sure that it makes any sense to answer "what next" just yet. I am certainly willing to, but it seems to me that all the comments about this topic have expressed dissatisfaction with some conclusions one must draw if one comprehends this logic. It does not seem productive to add more conclusion to this topic just yet. I have not seen any comments that indicate comprehension of the topic. Indeed your question leaves doubt in my mind.

      "we are overpopulated is true" is not specifically what this topic says. It says that we must not assume this. It also attempts to point out that any non-overpopulated state is temporary, as long as we average more than two. If the definition of "overpopulated" is the condition where the death rate of children has risen to limit population growth, then one can argue that this is the current situation in only the poor countries. In other words, with that definition, there are many countries that are not overpopulated today.

      Also see: http://www.ted.com/conversations/11060/we_need_much_better_definition.html
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    Apr 26 2012: Hi everyone,

    I suggest, if you haven't already, watch the Ted talks that John Traves has sited above in the description. They are helpful. =)
    • Apr 26 2012: Strictly speaking they do not help to comprehend the logic I am showing. If these prominent people do not agree with the above information, then the above information must be wrong is poor logic. If one comprehends the logic I am showing, then these TED talks will show you that at least two very prominent people do not comprehend this logic.

      In particular, Melinda Gates says that it is OK to have 3 children. If we all have 3 children what happens? If we cannot all have 3 children, why does she argue that we must be free to choose how many children we have?

      Also see http://www.ted.com/conversations/10955/the_conventional_wisdom_of_dem.html
  • Apr 25 2012: The comments below are unfortunately poor.

    It seemed to me that Edward Long comprehended the logic, but he left out a time factor. I tried to explain that in the hopes that he might provide more thought into the topic.

    The other postings have basically failed to comprehend the logic described in the original posting. It seems that the posters want to ignore the logic and tell me that the conclusion is wrong. I'm sorry, if the logic is correct, then the conclusion is correct.

    Please, put some thought into this.
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      Apr 25 2012: Some helpful advice John,

      Being rude to your participants really turn everyone else away that wants to understand you. It is a growing process and sometimes we really want to be right, but sometimes we can't always be right. I am never right, but I am not always wrong. You should try to understand their logic and remove your emotions because it only clouds a persons' judgement, usually. I hope you can also understand that people should accept that not everyone agrees on a topic, and we should learn how to "agree to disagree".

      Thanks for reading my thoughts. Feel free to share yours. =)
      • Apr 26 2012: I do not see the rudeness you are commenting about.

        As far as I can tell my comment is technically accurate.

        Here's an analogy that might help to understand my comment. If I describe the proof of Pythagorous' theorem, and people respond with "I have a triangle here where the sum of the squares of the sides do not equal the square of the hypotenuse, and it does have a 90 degree corner." I would comment that this proves the commenter did not comprehend the proof. The proof shows us that any measurements that do not agree, are flawed measurements. You simply cannot challenge the proof with measurements. You must challenge it by finding a flaw with the logic.
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          Apr 26 2012: I can just picture numbers in my head after you talked mention the Pythagorous' theorem.

          John,

          Try to teach us what you understand through a warm inviting presence and a push in the right direction. I believe your comprehension is at a different level and you assume all your participants are up to par with your comprehension at the highest of levels.

          Thanks again. =)
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    Apr 23 2012: I think we are overpopulating the world and/or using up many of the planets resources, but Anne brings up a good point about food waste. I would like to add in addition to other things being wasted and many people aren't living practically, which really stresses our resources.

    Why does a family of three need a giant mansion that doesn't produce any type of output for the community?

    Do we really need to pay ridiculous amounts for the same product that cost 1/1000 of a price (just throwing possible numbers around)?

    I would like to disagree though with your use of the word "always" because I don't think it was always. That would be too bold a statement that would not make sense, but in the recent years after the industrial revolution population has exponentially grown in crazy amounts.

    I have a very interesting site that measures things on the planet that might come into use for this conversation:

    http://www.worldometers.info/

    Thanks for reading my thoughts. Hope you share yours. =D
    • Apr 23 2012: I did say "almost always".

      Regardless of whether we can be more efficient with food, if we properly comprehend what I wrote above, we should recognize that if nature is forced to bring our death rate up to at least match the birth rate, and we have the power to control our birth rate (we can put on a condom), then we are committing involuntary manslaughter if we do not throttle our birth rate.
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        Apr 24 2012: Sorry John,

        But I must disagree still because life on Earth starting becoming overpopulated much later in history. Probably the most noted is the industrial revolution, which gave life expectancy an additional 20-30 years at the time period. Another point, is I am a bit picky on word choice at times, but I appoint the cause to be my essay.

        Putting all that aside, I agree with the rest of your idea. We need to implament more free contraception and birth control through government programs like planned parenthood.
        • Apr 25 2012: You've decided when the Earth started becoming overpopulated. I am not sure where you got those beliefs, but this posting is about questioning those beliefs. The logic above is trying to show you that "started becoming overpopulated much later in history" is a poor assumption.
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        Apr 25 2012: Okay John,

        I didn't make any assumptions. The Earth is estimated to be about 4.5 billion years old and first life was estimated to have begun 3.5 billion years ago in the form of stromatolites. Ape-like mammals were first discovered to have been alive around 65 million years ago. This link provides brief information: http://anthro.palomar.edu/earlyprimates/first_primates.htm

        Then, Let me link you to this page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Industrial_Revolution

        Check out "Standards of living" portion or press ctrl+F, then type in life expectancy in the field of search. It should highlight information that you searched for.

        During the era before industrial revolution, birth rate was low and death rate was high.

        My thought is that you are making an assumption that the human population on Earth has always been at a high birth rate and low death rate level before 2012. Earth hasn't started becoming overpopulated until life expectancy rose to about 70-80 some years of life per person in a developed country. Also, that other people on the planet had a lot of complications while having births before, but now there is so much science for having birth even in third world countries. They did not have that type of technology nearly as advanced back before the industrial revolution.

        I hope that the links are clear enough.

        I don't denounce that the Earth is currently overpopulated though because currently we are very overpopulated.

        What is a possible solution?
        • Apr 26 2012: The logic in this TED conversation is directly challenging the beliefs/assumptions of demographers that were used to draw conclusions about population issues. You have effectively restated their conclusions. Therefore their conclusions cannot be some sort of proof that the logic in this thread is flawed.

          Plot the human population numbers over the history of humans. Is that plot a nice exponential curve? No, it is not. There are small time periods where you can see exponential growth, for example the past 200 years. if we do not see exponential growth, then the birth rate must match the death rate. That's the ugly reality of an exponential function.

          Nature must make sure these two rates do not differ for long, because nature is this finite planet we are on. Nature can only do this with misery and death. Nature does not distribute condoms to reduce the birth rate. It kills to bring the death rate up. Starving organisms have little energy left for reproduction, which brings the birth rate down. That is what I would like to refer to as "suffering the effects of overpopulation", but many simply call it overpopulation.

          Ultimately what this means is that at any time during history (excepting the periods right after the limits were expanded), if we had lowered the birth rate, the child mortality would have been lower.

          This means that a much better way to interpret the industrial revolution is to say that it expanded the limits of how many people can be provided for. Our numbers are growing to fill that new limit (not some static number).

          We cannot expand the limits forever.
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        Apr 26 2012: I understand your topic better now John. Thanks for the clarification.

        I didn't know that your idea was more of a debate at the end.

        I recently watched Hans Rosling's Tedx and it really put the rest of my ideas into this topics perspective.

        I think you should emphasize the importance of Hans Rosling's Tedx because your description focuses on death rates and birth rates, which threw me off. Your description of "rates" lead me to think of static numbers.

        I think you have a good idea going here, but your description and our disagreement about the word "almost always" lead me down a different road. I think that the 5th paragraph of your description "We must not assume we are not overpopulated. We must assume we are overpopulated", would have made a been the perfect opening paragraph.

        A good idea, but my personal opinion is the emphasis of Roslings talk and The 5th paragraph becomes the first would give a clearer concept of your idea, though there may be nothing wrong at all and my comprehension was hindered from the cloud of previous knowledge about the increase in population from the industrial era, which Rosling takes out that idea from the start.

        Thanks for reading my thoughts and sharing yours. =)
        • Apr 26 2012: I will digest this and see if I can improve the wording.
        • Apr 26 2012: Hans Rosling's talk is correct on some level, but subtly wrong in his conclusion. Deadly wrong.

          Whan Hans pointed out the poorest billion people average 6 children, and 2 die and their numbers subsequently double, he totally failed to say what should have been said. He should have said something like this:

          "Averaging 6 children is tantamount to murder. It is only due to our recent (e.g. past 200 years), and temporary ability to make room for more people on this planet that only 2 of 6 end up dead before becoming adults. In the long run, 4 of 6 must die if we average 6. Every rich country has a moral obligation to ensure that everyone has birth control, and that we do not average more than 2."

          Hans Rosling is pointing out that the wealthy countries have an OK birth rate. He did not state that the wealthy countries average 2 or fewer, and he did not state that they MUST do this. I am sorry, but "low birth rate" is not good enough. There is a specific value that it must be lower than. In addition, the fact that a low birth rate seems to correlate with wealth is also not good enough. We must ensure that we have a mechanism, not a correlation a mechanism, that ensures we do not average more than 2. We must ensure that every country does not average more than 2 children, poor or rich.

          We must recognize that in a global economy a birth anywhere contributes to the current average. The current average is above 2, and we have not managed to lift all areas and all people out of the condition of "suffering the effects of overpopulation" (see http://www.ted.com/conversations/11060/we_need_much_better_definition.html), and that means that a birth anywhere in the world contributes to the death of a child.
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    Apr 22 2012: Have we really exceeded the limits of resources when there is so much food waste?
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    Apr 22 2012: No, i don't think we are overpopulated.

    An overpopulated system uses all resources til it dies or it migrates to another area,there is enough room on the planet to house twice the amount of what has been forecast,it's the congestion of those areas we call cities that is our problem.
    • Apr 23 2012: We should define some terms a bit better.

      If you look at the definition of overpopulation on wikipedia, and pay attention, you'll recognize that we are massively overpopulated according to that definition.

      The only way a species can exceed the carrying capacity is by consuming resources faster than they renew. Humans are consuming many resources faster than they renew, and these resources are essential to providing for our numbers. For example, we are not capable of keeping 7 billion humans alive without burning oil. Oil will become scarce. This means that every country and the planet as a whole is overpopulated. And overpopulated by a lot.

      If we define "suffering the effects of overpopulation" as the condition where nature (or we humans) cannot handle more people as fast as we are attempting to grow our numbers given our birth rate, then we can see that many countries are suffering the effects of overpopulation.

      Regarding: "enough room on the planet to house twice the amount of what has been forecast". This is a whopper of an assumption. You might be right, but you have no proof, and if you are wrong, you will be deadly wrong.
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        Apr 24 2012: I'm not wrong,think about it.

        If everywhere was green and healthy on every land mass on the planet with a perfect temperate climate or the climate of Uruguay what would 9 billion be but a drop in the water.People are stuck in the mindset of "Make the african stop having children first" how about we, the so called western nations stop first and give the rest a chance,who are probably healthier than the westernised nations put together in sperm count.

        When wasn't man somewhere not suffering? If you're above forty then you will remember "Feed the world and the concerts that was held on that day by good old bob,ten years later they were still suffering.At no time in our history has man planet wide been at peace and hunger free,ever.

        There is a way,well several,so i'll choose one that might be closer to reality than the others.we let the crash happen and then begin again but this time, we Geoform the planet.What's the largest living lifeform on earth?Silia,it covers the whole planet,let's boost that a little with this in the link below.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terra_preta

        It will take hundreds of years but hey,no ones eternal and it would give future generations far better future of sustainability,permaculture is our only way out,got any others that's better?
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    Apr 21 2012: So is this your syllogism, Mr. Taves?:
    1. Species having a death rate lower than their birth rate are not extinct.
    2. Homo Sapiens are not extinct.
    3. Homo Sapiens are overpopulated.
    This demands there are only two conditions for any life form: Extinct and Overpopulated. Hmmm.
    • Apr 23 2012: You did not provide a complete summation.

      A species can be temporarily not overpopulated. Introduce rats to some island they have not existed on, and their numbers will bloom on that island for a while. They will reach some equilibrium. While their numbers are blooming, they are not overpopulated.

      Humans have the power to expand the number that can be provided for. For example, when we figured out how to pump up oil and burn it in a tractor to harvest and plant crops faster, we increased the capacity of what can be provided for. That causes the limit to be raised and until our numbers grow to the new limit, we are not overpopulated.

      We have the power to put on a condom, thus in theory we have the power to throttle our numbers without letting nature throttle them by using the death side of the function. There is no reason this would be a temporary condition.

      In short, you did not comprehend the temporary respites from overpopulation, nor did you spot the long term way to ensure we do not continue to suffer the deaths due to overpopulation.
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        Apr 24 2012: I guess I missed your point nearly entirely Mr. Taves. Sorry.
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    Apr 21 2012: Isn't overpopulation only a matter of ressources? Or mesured in global violence? What are the criteria?
    I'd suppose we're less overpopulated than ever. Technology is improving life standards faster than population growth.
    And global violence is dropping too.
    • Apr 23 2012: I agree that today many are experiencing the lowest child mortality rates every experienced, thus planet wide, one can argue that we are not overpopulated now, or rather we are experiencing the lowest effects of overpopulation.

      If you look at individual countries, you'll see that many are experiencing the effects of overpopulation. Many countries have never had the low child mortality that we are experiencing in the USA, and they have never throttled their births to ensure their numbers do not hit the limits. The fact that their numbers have grown, tells us that they have increased their limits, but not increased them fast enough.

      In short, technology has not improved life standards faster than the population has grown in all areas of the world.

      More importantly, technology cannot improve life standards faster than the population will attempt to grow if we continue to average more than 2 children. Averaging more than 2 attempts to grow our numbers to infinity, and on a finite planet no amount of technology can solve that.

      Technology can NOT solve the fact that we are averaging more than 2.
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        Apr 23 2012: ", and on a finite planet no amount of technology can solve that."

        Technology is growing faster than population, and shows no signs that it should be finite. It just has no reason to stop improving.
        Our earth is just full of stuff we can harvest one day. And when the time comes, we'll leave this old planet for a bigger one. Some of us will, at least.
        Check out what's been going on since 1970. Population has doubled. Technology has... exploded.
        And it keeps exploding, ever faster.

        Besides, the developping world is actually developping. Life is globally getting pretty good.
        • Apr 25 2012: This logic is bad on many different fronts. You cannot measure technology, so having a belief that it "exploded and keeps exploding faster" is just rubbish. Do we have 4 technology units now and will have 8 tomorrow? Please.

          If you are attempting to say that food production has exploded faster than the exploding population, you would be incorrect. There is plenty of starvation. Maybe you consider it minor noise, but I don't. By raising this topic, I am trying to find people that can think through this and recognize that the assumptions most people bring to this topic are just plain wrong. Everyone assumes that the cause of that starvation is one of many world ills: corruption, bad politics, bad markets, etc.... We don't question whether we have created too many people. That assumption is just plain evil.

          You are using the horrible logic that something rose in the past, therefore it can rise forever. When talking about food production on a finite planet, that logic is dead wrong.

          Regarding getting off the planet to save our asses, you'll have to rethink that too. It takes mass and energy to get off the planet. The planet has a finite amount of both. Averaging more than two children causes our numbers to attempt to grow to infinity and no amount of wishful thinking or escape rockets will allow that to happen.

          Our numbers will peak whether we are idiots or smart. The only question is whether we can be smart enough to ensure it peaks as a result of averaging less than two.
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        Apr 26 2012: Of course we can mesure technology. In so many different ways, too. Be creative.
        Many fields make specific and quantifiable progress, such as computing.

        Look, I don't have a clue about what our future might look like. But it seems you're chosing to ignore the fact that the future of technology is unpredictable. We don't have solutions now for future problems...
        ... or there wouldn't be future problems.

        "The end is near". yeah yeah.
        • Apr 26 2012: I did not predict the future. I did not say the end is near. I simply stated the fact that it is impossible for anything tangible to increase to infinity on this planet, and averaging more than two children causes our numbers to attempt that.

          There are many things that are intangible, and they can grow to infinity. For example, the economy, as measured in dollars, can grow to infinity, because dollars are intangible. Food is not intangible. It cannot grow to infinity. More importantly everything humans depend on for life are tangible. The intangible goods are simply nice to have. A faster computer allows us to be more efficient. Does it allow us to be infinity efficient? No. I will not "be creative" and confuse these concepts and allow myself to come to an illogical conclusion.

          Nobody on this thread has shown any flaw in the logic/math stated above. You and the others have attempted to dispute it by arguing that your view of the world does not match the conclusions one is forced to draw if one comprehends the logic. The whole point of that logic is to show that your conclusions, specifically that technology can somehow allow us to average more than two children without suffering horrible consequences, is dead wrong. In other words, faulty conclusions cannot prove the logic is faulty.

          Show me a problem with the logic or math.
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        Apr 26 2012: "that technology can somehow allow us to average more than two children without suffering horrible consequences, is dead wrong."

        you have no ground for this argument. Perhaps you should rephrase into this : "we can't expect the eath to provide infinite ressources." This one is true.

        Your conclusions are hasty. There is no law of physics forbiding infinite technological progress, and this is all I know.