TED Conversations

Mitch SMith


This conversation is closed.

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.

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.


Closing Statement from Mitch SMith


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: Certainly earth's resources are finite. I don't know how much data exists to determine the actual amount of resources that we have left.

    At this point, because the earth is populated mostly by sheeple who beg to be fleeced and butchered, and who battle fiercely to preserve their right to be victimized, this problem will not be corrected without help. Either those who fleece the sheeple will create a fiscal catastrophe or mega war in order to lower our numbers, or the earth will respond to our abuse of her with a virulent plague.

    Perhaps, as our numbers increase, and global warming continues, and aquifers are depleted and polluted by mega corporate farmers and oil companies who use fracking to get natural gas, and arable soil is lost through unsustainable farming practices by giant corporations, we will simply choose to starve off those who were not lucky enough to be born with a silver spoon in their mouths.
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      Nov 14 2012: The effort to gather data is so much fiddle playing. Who thinks the data we finally, if ever, gather will indicate "No Problem- Status Quo Indicated"? Rome is burning. Let's find broken stuff (deforestation, pollution, mega-farms using genetic manipulation, excessive consumption by the first world, mega-cities, etc.) and fix it! We humans are supposed to be exercising dominion over this magnificent planet.
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      Nov 14 2012: Well .. there seems to be a lot of fear - and no one seems to have any real basis for it beyond "what I was told", "gut feeling", "intuition" or "plausible model".
      I just want to get some kind of clarity.

      And Edward . I think that notion of "dominion" is part of the problem (if there is one). Specially since the words in most histories are proven to be wild misineterpretation - at least, as far as many translators are concerned.

      I am growing weary of assumption - someone out there wants me to be crushingly afraid, and I want to know the truth before I accept it

      At the very least, the exercise will raise awareness..

      @TL .. one of the many assuptions doing the rounds is that the Sun will nail us long before any of that other stuff.
      And "sheeple" would stop letting themselves be farmed if they were allowed to open their eyes - we are all near as damnit clones, and brain plasticity takes care of teh rest.
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        Nov 14 2012: You're right. The sheeple would stop letting themselves be farmed if they were allowed to open their eyes without threat of repercussion. I don't blame the sheeple for having become sheep. I was once one of them. If I could escape it, why can't everyone?
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          Nov 18 2012: Well .. the fences are just fo show. Any sheep can just walk off the farm. As far as the farmer is concerned, anything outside his fence is a wolf - and he has tame wolves(sheepdogs/police) to back up his assumptions.

          Walk off the farm - and open your mouth and let everyone see those great big white sharp teath - and don't worry, the sheepdogs are just as trapped as the sheep - if they go through the fence, then all the sheep will know they can - imagine a whole world full of slavering wolves?
          This is what the farmer fears.
          Wolf community is far superior to life on the farm - no matter what lies you heard about wolves.

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