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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.

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: I think Thomas Malthus got it right back in the 1840's. If we overburden the planet it will go into auto-correct mode and adjust the population downward in a very big way. I think your assertion is valid. I think we should make every effort to avoid the auto-correct mode.
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      Nov 14 2012: Hi Edward,

      I'm sure a lot of people will concur. However, Malthus was not in posession of impirical data with which to test his model. I'm trying to be as objective as possible - it may be necessary to gain a precise understanding of these questions before anything can be regarded as an effective response - if, indeed, response is indicated.
      For instance, if the model mandates population reduction, we will have to know the rate required --> in order to apply accelerated attrition --> without causing competitive backlash --> that will short-circuit the process --> with undesriable side-effects --> that could compramise future recovery.
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        Nov 14 2012: Sorry Mitch,
        I don't mean to belittle the ananytical powers of those who study such things, but there is a higher power, some call Mother Nature, I call God, who regulates matters beyond human influence. Are you still reading? I do not advocate doing nothing. We must fix what we know is broken. Auto-correct may begin while we are trying, futilely, to gain precise understanding. Let's go after first-world gluttony for starters. Mr. Stepien has stated it well (next reply). Thanks
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        Nov 18 2012: We all have too much time invested in this important topic you have presented to make weak assumptions about what the other person is meaning. So, to guard against doing that very thing I must ask to what "original text" you are referring? Thank you.
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          Nov 19 2012: Hi Edward,
          The bibles for starters.
          The thing about history is that it is taken as truth. There is no static truth, we move towards it, in perpetuity - never arriving.
          Written histories record only the location of the author at the time the ink dried. Thus, histories are no more than sign-posts. They do not ask us to climb into them and stop there, and the older the history, the more the truth has moved on.
          The other mistake we make is to assume "agency" in everything.
          Agency assumes intention - the subtext being "advantage", with undertones of "purpose".
          Indeed, there are many in this world (me included) who are motivated to manipualte the world with "intention". But that is not the only game in town - some things are "emergent".
          Emergence is without intention, it is just a property of the "system".
          Since emergence is not causal thing, it has no agent.
          The reason I ask about "original text" is to see if you have circumvented the surruptitious agency that has been injected into translations. Indeed, if you have appreciated the emergence being described by the original authors?
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        Nov 19 2012: Well Mitch, there are no "original texts" available for the Holy Bible, King James Version (KJV) of 1611 that I use, also known as The Authorized Version (AV). So, no, I have not examined the original texts because they do not exist. The earliest extant manuscripts may be what you mean by "original text"? If so, yes, I have examined them and find my chosen version to be free of self-contradiction resulting from what you call "surreptitious agency". Thusly I have become convinced that some matters are beyond human influence and belong to God alone. It was of these matters that Malthus spoke. Thanks again!
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          Nov 19 2012: Hi Edward,
          There is no ostensible problem with mistaking emergence for god. It's just a word.
          However, such words leave an enormous gap into which people attach their fears and delusions - through the assumption of agency - agency requires causality, and there is no causality in an emergence such as "god" .. all the causality attached to this phenomenon arise from oiur own imaginations - not the universe - we become self-worshipers in the process, to the detriment of "god's universe".
          I am fairly certain that you have avoided this, but the vast majority have not.
          As I understand it, KJV did not magically appear one day - it was sourced from historical documents, most of which reside in the Vatican today. And the Vatican has not stood still, these documents are re-translated continuously - and the skill of translation has increassed - a thing the Vatican is at pains to supress.
          I am not knocking KGV entirely - there is a glimmering of original authorship in it, but one has to dig.
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      Nov 14 2012: You should not worry about things such as overpopulation or auto-correct modes. If it is ever going to happen it will be spontaneous and human engineering skills will bo of no use.

      With systems that escape single person's perception there is no point trying to desing a solution. Nothing good has ever come out of it. Focus rather on the things which you can change on your own, and the spontaneous order will take care of the rest.
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        Nov 14 2012: What me worry?
        "It" has already happened more than once in human history. The Mathusian Limit can be reached at much smaller levels than just global. We are seeing auto-correct today in some African nations where birth rates are exceeding agricultural capacity and technology. The babies keep coming but the food doesn't. Right on sir! We must focus on the things we can change rather than searching for an ever-elusive designed solution. Malthus nailed it! Thanks!
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        Nov 19 2012: Hi Jedrek,
        I'm glad you bring this up - and thanks!
        One of my driving motives in this, is the observation of the vectors of "harm".
        We can sit here glibly nodding about, yes, it will all fall in a heap - and we will emerge again, as we have done so many times before.
        However. This cycle of cull leads to something no one discusses: ubiquitous harm.
        Have you observed, in person, how harm propogates through the community as harmed people harm others?
        Have you observed how harm propogates down the generations by harmed parents harming their children?
        Have you observed that cyclic harm favours the promotion of psychopathy? And how psychopaths sabotage and cancel all the healing done?
        Can you undestand that social collapse is the primary generator of this harm?
        If you want a world locked down into the inevitability of cruelty and needless pain - just keep that attitude of inevitability. If you are a psychopath, then it's understandable .. but you may not be.
        I have no intention to design a linear solution. I do intend to remove the impediments of a solution that already exists. I do not believe people are as stupid as they seem, I think they took a wrong turn and promptly forgot the intersection.
        Here are the intersections: Carnivorous pretention; agriculture. Both these correlate with the Older and Younger Dryas events. These are the events that got the harm ball rolling in the first place.
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          Nov 19 2012: I agree with you completely Mitch, but to make myself clear - I was not promoting inertia or any kind of apathy by saying that we can not influence what is beyod us. My point is that it is exactly the thing which are within our reach (family, etc.) where we can and have to act.

          If we are able to keep the harm away from our nearest environment I am sure that the harm will be lesser in its totality.

          They say, however, that there must be balance in nature, so perhaps it is utlimately impossible to get below a certain treshold of harm in its totality, but like I said - acting localy not globally should be of our concern.
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        Nov 19 2012: Hi Jedrek,
        Yes - doing things at a personal level is incredibly powerful - it sets models for others.

        Nothing is beyond us until it proves to be so. Such proof requires at least one genuuine attempt.

        It is quite possible that one can change the world by simply writing a few words on a wall. However, one must choose the right words, and the right wall ;)

        As for myself, I refuse to allow the endless oscillation of harm. The flaw is identified - given that, we can begin the task of addressing it.

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