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Overpopulation cannot cause death by starvation, because the human body has a mechanism to prevent starvation death when food is limited.

Every day, human beings starve to an early death.

How does this happen?

We know that for every person that starves to death in th eworld today, there is plenty of excess food that goes unused and uneaten, more than enough to have kept that person alive.

Any large scale starvation to death only occurs as a result of disaster causing an abrupt stoppage of resources, or as a result of human choice not to redistribute resources.

To test this, consider a thought experiment given these parameters: in a closed community of people, food is distributed to each individual according to need. To mimic a starvation scenario caused by finite supply and population but not by natural disaster, we keep the rate of food production constant and the population's desire to reproduce constant.

Given a supply of food, the people in the thought experiment will naturally multiply. As they multiply, they will eventually start using all of the food supply. As they continue to multiply, each person's share of food is decreased.
This will contnue to happen until population is high enough to mean that each full grown person will lose weight.

Eventually, each grown individual loses weight and begins losing fat stores.As the sexually mature women lose weight and fat stores, they become infertile. As a result of infertility, population ceases to rise.

Thus, the body makes reproduction impossible in the absence of excess, and therefore, rising population cannot cause death by starvation because people become infertile because they starve to death. As female athletes often prove, a woman can be infertile yet quite fit and healthy until she reaches old age.

The biological mechanism is that the human body becomes infertile before it starves to death..

The purpose of this conversation is point out that how we treat each other is more critical to our survival than any population number we attempt to adopt.


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  • Nov 11 2013: Your argument is flawed because it doesn't include greed, power, war, natural disaster, lack of clean water, infrastructure to transport food and other such items. You are right that most people who are starving don't die from starvation but from side effects like infection due to lowered immune system. The effects of starvation go beyond the individual that is starving, it creates lowered output because they cannot work hard enough to provide for their families. If you are a farmer and have to work long hours you need more calories to do your work than a lawyer or doctor, but if you go through a bad year because of drought, then you might not produce enough food to provide for your family and have enough seed left over to plant next year's crops. You might have to kill your ox for food and then tilling the field becomes impossible.

    This is one of those things that works on paper but not in reality.
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      Nov 12 2013: Thanks for your comments, Scott. I actually do account for those things. The point of this coversation is to isolate the role of population. To do this, we assume constant level of food supply and we assume even distribution. That is completely intentional, because by doing so we can examine what will happen as population grows. Isolating a variable can help us better understand the complex system.

      In terms of population, we can see that the human body becomes infertile when excess dissappears. Because of this, when food supply declines, population declines, and could, at certain rates, do so without one person starving to death.

      The point is to understand how to minimize premature death by starvation.

      To do so, we need to find ways to maintain constant food supply, making the resource use sustainable. Eventually we would be finding ways to make the modern lifestyle as sustainable as possible with the least amount of fossil fules as possible. We have to manage and prevent pollution.

      We must also find ways to redistribute resources as evenly as possible. When we combine this goal with the goal of sustainability, the principle of democracy surfaces. It is the model that makes it more likely to attain more even resource use, and do so long term because the people themselves are empowered.

      In other words, hopefully we can finally put an end to Malthusian scaremongering once and for all, and turn to the very real goals of sustainability and democracy.

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