TED Conversations

This conversation is closed.

How many people can Planet Earth support?

Poverty comes from an unfair sharing of resources. Bono's naive idea to eliminate poverty to the benefit of mankind flies in the face of the fact that we live on a finite planet. Historically the world has been able to support around 1.5 to 2 billion people, The age of oil changed that 150 years ago and we now have nearly 4 times that. The resources to support 7-9 billion people will have to continue to impact on nature to the detriment and eventual extinction of both.

Share:

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • Mar 15 2013: After viewing the second talk: "How Many People Can Live on Planet Earth (FULL)"

    "Bono's naive idea to eliminate poverty to the benefit of mankind flies in the face of the fact that we live on a finite planet."

    Bono is not naive. Bono has been working to eliminate poverty for years, and he is well aware of ALL of the factors influencing poverty and poor people.

    "The resources to support 7-9 billion people will have to continue to impact on nature to the detriment and eventual extinction of both."

    The possibility that humans will cause the extinction of the natural environment is so remote as to be unworthy of serious consideration.

    There is the distinct possibility that the human species will damage the natural environment to such an extent that it will negatively affect the growth of the human population, possibly causing a reduction in the population or even our extinction. That is a possibility, but it is not inevitable. We can make choices that will reduce damage to the natural environment. IMO, the more important question is whether we actually will make the correct choices. There is another conversation that comes closer to addressing that question: "Is capitalism sustainable?"

    Nothing was said in either of the videos that attempts to answer your original question, "How many people can Planet Earth support?" My original reply to that question still stands.

    The eradication of poverty is not naive. The work has been effective and there is every reason to believe that the goal of zero poverty is feasible, even as the challenges become greater. As Bono said, the key is believing that it is possible. Today the primary causes of poverty have nothing to do with limited resources. The primary causes are politics and corruption. It is poverty that limits the resources available to the poor,
    • Mar 16 2013: I take it from your comment that "Nothing was said in either of the videos that attempts to answer your original question, "How many people can Planet Earth support?" that you have actually watched the video. The question is clearly intimated and, I believe answered... For 200 000 years homo sapiens +- 1.5 billion. This 150 year spike to 7 billion and climbing is.... unsustainable.
      You comment "The possibility that humans will cause the extinction of the natural environment is so remote as to be unworthy of serious consideration." And then in your next paragraph you go on to consider and actually agree! You go on to add that "We can make choices that will reduce damage to the natural environment and ask the question, will we?" I ask the question "Why haven't we yet?"
      What is very clear is that we humans see ourselves as separate from the 'natural world' and have forgotten that we are part of it. You say it is poverty that limits the resources available to the poor. The point is that we live on a finite world of finite resources. I agree they have been shared 'unfairly'. The solution proposed unwittingly in Bono's model is just as obscene, because its not just a simple 'take from the rich and give to the poor" . We take habitats and environments from the natural environment you referred to earlier and reshape or destroy them to suit our short-term wants. Grasslands, forrests, oceans ... all being plundered to support an insane injunction to "go forth and multiply". We are the most efficient predators the world has ever seen and we behave as though the world is 'ours' and we aren't really a part of it. Check out the famous foxes and rabbits simulation - there are any number you can Google and try.
      Finally, let me agree - zero poverty IS feasible. 10 billion people is not.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.