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Mitch SMith

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What are our true global economics?

I recently saw an estimate that human population is currently consuming 1.5 times the carrying capacity of the Earth.

This suggests that the resources we use - the plants and animals and energy required to keep us alive are generated by the planet ecology.
It suggests that the system, if left to itself, has a capital represented by sunshine, air, water, plants and animals.

It suggests that the carrying capacity for humans is like the "interest" on the global "capital"
The inference is that we are harvesting more than the interest and are well into the capital - harvesting at an exponential growth rate.
In other words, having eaten everything on the farm, we are now eating the farm. And there will be no more "interest" becasue there will be no more capital.
Like our global bank account is in free-fall.
One dimension of the assertion is that, by mass, the nitrogen in human beings is 1.5 the available nitrogen in the at-rest ecology.

Questions:
Firstly, is this a valid assertion?
Are Earth resources truly finite as assumed?
Are the available resources measurable? If so - who has a good set of data we can use for modelling?

Secondly, if resources are finite and measured - and we are consuming capital exponentially - what are our options?
What lattitude do we have for increasing carrying capacity?
How far can carrying capacity be pushed?
Can we survive in a no-growth, or contracting economic model?
What are the options for population modification?
How long do we have?

These questions are not formulated to "troll" world views. I am asking questions that a lot of people should have rational answers for.
Please reply in the spirit of the questions. Data would be good, as well as well considered models that can be tested.
Also welcome are weblinks that have rational foundations - no ratbag theory please.

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Closing Statement from Mitch SMith

OK.

I have digested available metrics and known models.

Like everyone else, I am finding that the non-linear factors render the numbers functionally useless. The modeling methods themselves seem to yield more information - but all models admit to not representing any comprehensive claim.

However, one thing is clear - the window of opportunity for business-as-usual closed sometime mid 1900's, the balance of carrying capacity against draw-down of fossil energy is well under way - capital is definitely being exponentially consumed and has a terminal point at around 2050 - at which point all life on planet earth will cease.

But this assumes business as usual based on what we think we know - as it turns out, we know very little.

So .. in this scenario - ignorance is bliss.

I the analogy of our common understanding, we are screwing the planet and the value it represents. So .. to stay within the things we understand - are we rape/murdering the panet - Or are we mating with it?
This distincion is the critical facto determining if a single human will occupy the universe past 2050.

2050 is a conservative estimate - I would recommend you start answering it now.
It might be too late for you, but you might have children.
If you value hope ..
Remember - hope is not required in the universe outside of your own skull.
What you do is important - to you.
I couldn't care less. _ I've made my choice.

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  • Nov 14 2012: I wouldn't say that overpopulation is the problem in the world. The problem is the industrial and manufacturing practices of developed nations; our priority has changed from meeting basic needs to indulgence, extravagance and more profits.
    Despite the increase in manufacturing capacity, developing nations still suffer hunger and all sorts of inadequacy (of basic needs). So, it can not be said that the increased production is for the purpose of meeting needs of the increasing population.
    Pollution and environmental degradation is as a result of the greed of a few.
    • Nov 14 2012: "Despite the increase in manufacturing capacity, developing nations still suffer hunger and all sorts of inadequacy (of basic needs). So, it can not be said that the increased production is for the purpose of meeting needs of the increasing population."

      How so? As long as population meets, or exceeds the growth in manufacturing capability you will not see an increase in average standard of living.

      "Pollution and environmental degradation is as a result of the greed of a few."

      No, right now, with the existing infrastructure even taking care of the basic needs of 7 billion people will lead to much pollution and environmental degradation.
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      Nov 15 2012: Hi Feyisayo,

      I agree to some extent. From your perspective, you see dynamics at work that impact you.
      But I am always troubled by the word "greed". I have observed that what many see as "greed" is no more than practice of "customary expectations". Within the wealthy countries, most people simply assume that it's OK to be burning the equivalent of 50-man-years of energy every single day. They have not known any other way. In developing nations, the people are transitioning from human/animal energy into petro-energy and they DO see the difference. IF a community was struggling along, but surviving with just man/animal energy, it looks like absolute total insane greed to be consuming 25 thousand times that energy. You would think "they must be sooo greedy!" but they are not - they simply have no memory of anything else. They do not know that a human can live very well on a fraction of the energy being consumed in the west.

      The other thing you are not perceiving is that governments and companies are creatures - they are apart from the humans who make them and they behave like simple organisms - eating more and more. They eat power and money - these are things that only humans create, so they farm these humans to harvest the power and money. They get bigger and bigger and start fighting amongst themselves. And we can't perceive them directly becasue they do not exist in the real physical world - they exist in the community environment created by humans. We do not properly see them, they do not properly see the physical world.
      They are: governments, corporations and religions - meta creatures that eat everything a human can feed them, staying alive on our effort and when it runs out, they send us out to get slaves, and when the slaves run-out they are forced to rip it from the Earth - to feed the bottomless hunger of these meta-creatures This is the greed you see.
      It is borne of carnivorous diet and farming.

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