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Is it possible for our planet to "crash" due to being a closed biological system?

After watching a wonderful video by Mike deGruy, I was very impressed by the illustrations he used regarding closed biological systems.

Please take the time to watch the TED event talk below, and chime in with your insight and/or opinion, on whether our Earth will eventually end up like the other three examples given in the video.

Some feel this is a very big problem, and offer many different solutions.

What is your take on this issue? Is it an issue? Or is the Earth able to continue producing indefinitely?

  • Feb 19 2012: I have been regarding the torus symbol to a closed system, the planet has forces that initiate the perpetuation of the planet's life, regulating with the weather patterns as tools. The system, being understood the connections in respect to dark matter, does what it needs to alter the system from overpopulating and shutting down. This regulatory system can fail if it is not maintained by the environment and its diversity. Life will find a way to live, we just have to make sure we are not part of the problem or vast environmental disasters will drive us out of the system.
    • W T

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      Feb 20 2012: Hi Joseph, I am not sure I know what you mean by "torus symbol".

      I do feel that there is alot we do not understand with regards to the diversity of life on earth, and the natural cycles.

      And yes, we (humans) seem to be part of the problem at in your opinion, we as humans can be driven out of the system, and yet the Earth will this an accurate statement?

      I too feel the Earth will continue indefinitely........will human life???

      We'll have to wait and see.
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        Feb 21 2012: It's funny when people bring in a bunch of pseudo babel to try to explain something that can be described easily with objective reasoning.
        • W T

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          Feb 21 2012: Benjamin, thank you for your comment.

  • Feb 20 2012: My answer is yes, irrespective of how you define crash, a sudden change, or otherwise. I could just point to limits to growth book, but it's basic thermodynamics. Collapse will happen once the energy flows that sustain the considerably complex human structures stop, or when the climate system driven by energy flows shifts to a new dynamic equilibrium as has done so many times in the past in our planet and in others. A subsequent question you might want to ask is the extent to which humans drive this process.
    • W T

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      Feb 20 2012: So in your opinion "crash" is can just maybe be accelerated by the way we humans are acting.

      Hmm.....I really find this hard to believe.....well, of course, I am no expert. But it's just what I have seen as far as the Earth's ability to come back from devastating volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, fires, and the like...

      My curiosity is mostly dealing with what I saw in the deGruy video....I really do not agree with his premise...that like the three examples he gave prior to speaking of the Earth, he considered us to be a closed biological system headed for destruction because the Earth can only produce so much....Although a powerful delivery....I found it to be inaccurate.

      Perhaps we will have to wait and see.
      • Feb 20 2012: Of course Earth is still here, with us... having come back from every single catastrophe.
        Homeostasis as is referred to in the video. Us however, like the algae in the video we use the nutrients and face the odds. Increases in efficiency will only delay this, if the same consumption patterns and processes are kept in place. One caveat is the so called demographic shift where the birth rate of countries decreases as the living conditions and well being of their inhabitants increases.
        Now, having said that the vast majority of people, more than 4 billion have not gone through this transition, hence their rates of multiplication are high and exacerbate the problem of resource or nutrient depletion. This places us in the following conundrum, in order to control population growth by lowering population increase rates we have to raise standards of living, and this of course requires that an unbearable burden to the planet's resources if all of us are to live like Europeans do, let alone the Americans...
        Finally, contrary to the video we can use something outside the petri dish, namely solar energy instead of the closed system's nutrients.
        Of course as is the case often, this is more easily said than all bets are off as to how this plays out...
        • W T

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          Feb 20 2012: Thank you very much for elaborating....I will chew on what you said....
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    Feb 19 2012: Mary, good question. IMO, the crash of civilization is coming because the global marketplace is a closed economic system, in which the affluent necessarily exploit the poor, with ecological devastation part of the collateral damage. This is also how biological systems work - the strong eat the weak - and the result is a continuous cycle of collapse and recovery. I believe its inevitable that this cycle continues, and that global civilization is rushing us towards the next collapse. Global civilization isn't sustainable in its current form, so it must go down, but it doesn't have to be a disaster for all of us and for all of life on Earth. Instead we can accept it and start building the new world.
    • W T

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      Feb 20 2012: Quote: "with ecological devastation part of the collateral damage"

      I agree with this.....IMO also, the ecological devastation we are seeing is collateral damage of the global greed for many things. Why don't people see this?? Are those responsible for the damage not realizing their own offspring will be affected by this sort of pollution and emminent disaster?

      Quote: "it doesn't have to be a disaster for all of us and for all of life on Earth. Instead we can accept it and start building the new world"

      This I also agree with.....It is possible for some to survive the disaster that if inevitable, and then start to rebuild.

      I feel the Earth is so beautiful and powerful in it's cycles, that no mater what man does, the Earth is able to heal itself.....of course, it might take thousands of years.....and we might not see the results personally.
      Or can we??
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        Feb 20 2012: Mary, I believe it's fairly impossible not to see the looming crash - if one looks. But even those who look still mostly turn away in denial, while many of the very best of those who do recognize the trouble around us fix their focus on the symptoms rather than the cause...because we are the cause. We might change the way we live collectively in time to avert the fall or we might change the way we live individually to prepare for the fall. It's difficult to believe that we can accomplish collective change when the global agreements we do manage all seem to compromise away the possibility of success. While individual change requires leaving the banquet table, and thus is an option only for those whom have a seat there. But has any leader ever taken the world along a new path while keeping their seat at the banquet table?
        • W T

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          Feb 20 2012: Kevin, when I was younger and sometimes listened in on my parents conversations I remember my mom saying, "The worst blind person, is the one who refuses to see." This is so true today, just like you mentioned at the outset of your reply. People turn away in denial.

          While it would be incredibly fantastic if we collectively changed, to avert the fall, I think the more likely scenario will be that individually, many are preparing for it, because they see it as inevitable.

          That having been said, I personally do not see the Earth being destroyed......but I can see human life reaching extinction if a solution doesn't appear.

          Do you think a human government (leader) will provide the solution to our dilenma? Because I don't.
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    Feb 21 2012: It's actually so very simple.
    Let's say you have a population growth of 7%.
    That leads to population doubling every 10 years.
    If the growth factor is 3.5% - it takes 20 years to double population.
    Rather than looking at growth, look at the capacity of the finite system.
    Let's say for arguement that a community has 1000 acres of arable land.
    Let's say that it takes 1 acre to feed 1 person.
    Let's say that the community starts at 2 people and has a growth factor of 7%.
    Here are the numbers:
    After 50 years, not much has happened, the population is now 59 - the 1000 acres is going fine.
    After 70 years there are now 227 people .. hey no biggie, they have only used about 1/4 of the avialable land.
    THen after 83 years, there are 549 people .. hmm 1/2 of the land is gone, but hey, plenty left huh!
    THen at 88 years, there's only 1/4 land left hmm doesn't seem so bad.
    Then at 90 years, there's only 118 acres left.
    THen at 91 years there's only 56 acres left
    At 92 years, people begin to starve.
    THat's 4 years between 1/4 available to all gone.
    At 3.5% - it takes 8 years for that to happen.
    But see how it all happens at a rush?

    This will apply to all resources - and we are well and truly into the rush with most things.

    Now if you go out and discover another 1000 acres of land - what does that give you? Another 10 years.
    If you double yields - that's still only another 10 years.

    Once you hit the slope, you must flatline-growth or collapse
    The debate must be about how to flatline growth.
    Not a very popular position I know, but the numbers don't give us much alternative.

    What is US growth rate right now?

    And please - stop blaming the poor countries - many have less growth rate than USA and many other rich western countries - and those poor countries with higher growth rates have much smaller populations - they contribute a lot less to the over-all growth problem.
  • Feb 21 2012: There certainly are limitations within Earth like soil energy, and fresh water. I feel like humans are bound to hit rough rocks before they do anything substantial as part of alleviating climate change/crash and helping sustainability. Many believe we have the technology to do so, just not the political/economic will (which is just as important). An alarming fact is that according to carbon footprint studies, we use more Earth than there is available as is, and that means, in my opinion, there should we a pressing concern that we have to be more sustainable.

    I have seen a few counter-arguments towards overpopulation control, about how population will in fact level or drop, and I consider that unlikely considering how poverty will continue and possibly worsen over the years, (with 40% of pregnancies being accidental) those in poverty (a good 1/3-1/2 of the world?) will not stop reproducing (without change, of course).

    With a loose, open perspective, I believe that there is a need of both develop countries to stop consuming more than feasible, and for poorer ones to stop producing at such an alarming rate. The only thing for me to find out is why these are happening, and what their solutions are also.
    • W T

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      Feb 21 2012: Alex,

      Thank you for voicing your concerns.

      I think that the why these are happening has been discussed in other ted's greed and lack of long term vision (widom).

      The solution: These vary depending on who you talk with.

      Everyone seems to want a beautiful clean Earth....but it's not happening. We live in these huge cities, and are happy with all the entertainment and technology and restaurants....and vacations on cruise ships and eco-tours to beautiful lush forests or sandy beaches, but in reality.....our Earth is being ruined.

      Well, like I've stated in other's comments, we will have to wait and see what will happen, and who will step in.

      Thank you for contributing Alex. Be Well.

      [EDIT] IMHO population control is not the answer.