free html hit counter Peak Oil Debunked: 158. THREE NEW PHASES OF GROWTH

Thursday, November 10, 2005

158. THREE NEW PHASES OF GROWTH

A major argument of Peak Oil doom is that growth is unsustainable. They argue that economic growth has to stop, and that this will bring down Western society. They argue that population growth must be halted, and the best way for this to happen is with a massive dieoff.

Now, I agree with them that humanity as a whole cannot grow at our current rate forever, at least as long as we are confined to the Earth. Most of our problems do come from the fact that more and more people want more and more wealth. This lecture by a guy called Al Bartlett explains the problem quite nicely. ("The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function").

The thing is that growth isn't a problem as such. The real issue is relative growth. In other words, if you have limited space and resources you can only sustain growth in certain aspects as long as you shrink others. So while economy, population and per-capita natural impact cannot grow simultaneously forever on a planet of finite size, as long as one of them is decreasing while the others are increasing you can continue to improve human standards of living indefinitely without the need for a "collapse" of any kind.

In the past, there have been two main phases in human growth:

  1. Economy, population and per-capita natural impact grow slowly and continuously over thousands of years. There are no real limits to growth because the world has more than enough space and resources for the small number of humans.
  2. In the 20th century, economy population and per-capita natural impact grow very quickly. For the first time, we run up against the limitations of our planet.

Over the coming years, humanity will experience three new phases of growth as we transition back to an environment where unlimited growth is possible again, ie space.

  1. Economic and population growth continues while per-capita natural impact shrinks. In the 1st half of the 21st century, resource limitations and environmental decline cause innovation and economic activity to focus on new energy sources and more efficient resource use, instead of larger cars and houses. Living standards rise thanks to new developments like nanotechnology and synthetic food production.
  2. Economic growth and per-capita natural impact increase while population shrinks. Decreasing birthrates cause population to fall over the second half of the 21st century, allowing other measures of growth to rise while human impact on the Earth remains the same.
  3. Unlimited growth in all three factors returns as human beings move into space. The continually-expanding boundaries of space mean that there will be no more limits to growth until we fill up the entire solar system. Meanwhile on Earth, all three factors can continue growing to some extent because global population is now so much lower.

None of this guarantees that various kinds of collapses will not happen, but it demonstrates that humans can continue to increase standards of living and economic success without requiring any kind of catastrophe.

This graph shows the falling birth rate around the world, dipping under replacement levels by 2040 (or a few years earlier if we enter "plague mode"). Note that birth rates peaked in the 1970s, around the same time as global oil discoveries (click the image to enlarge):

--by Roland
--------

Note from JD: Total fertility rate (TFR) is the average number of children each woman will have in her lifetime. World-wide TFR has been dropping like a rock since the 1970s. 61 countries now have a TFR of 2.1 or less (replacement fertility) Source. The curve for TFR (see below) looks like a Deffeyes linearization of oil production. If you showed it to a peak oiler (and told him it was a curve for oil), he'd swear up and down that variable was going to peak soon. And, in fact, it's perfectly possible that world population will peak at around 7.5 billion in 2040.

Source

22 Comments:

At Thursday, November 10, 2005 at 7:52:00 PM PST, Blogger John Markos O'Neill said...

Great post! Of course we don't know what the population (or its growth or decline) will be in 2040. Nonetheless, you have done a nice job of showing why we do not need draconian policies for the human population to stabilize and even decline.

 
At Thursday, November 10, 2005 at 8:17:00 PM PST, Anonymous popmonkey said...

well there are some factors that do need consideration regarding population growth:

1. cure for cancer
2. cloning of human organs
3. major breakthrough in aging research

any of these will cause a dramatic change to the population curve irregardless of the birth rate.

if human lives were suddenly greatly prolonged would the birth rates fall faster? it has been successfully demonstrated that affluence lowers birth rate. would the same be true if human lives were prolonged?

if you draw that scenario out, maybe those who would continue to reproduce would still stop at ~2 children per couple, i.e. replacement.

however, one must also consider that if the break throughs were available to the affluent only, which is likely, it would cause yet more disparity between the rich and the poor.

and so on ad nauseam

 
At Friday, November 11, 2005 at 12:02:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If prolonging human lives by a large factor became possible for the average first-worlder around 2040, I really don't think this would cause people to have any more children than they'd otherwise have.

Effective anti-aging therapies willbe only available to the wealthy - at first. That is inevitable if they are to be developed at all.

(Cure for cancer will only add 3.5 years to the average life expectation in first world countries. Curing heart disease will only add 6.6 years on average. Google up "Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence" for a more detailed idea where the real action is likely to be.)

 
At Friday, November 11, 2005 at 2:12:00 AM PST, Blogger Roland said...

if human lives were suddenly greatly prolonged would the birth rates fall faster? it has been successfully demonstrated that affluence lowers birth rate. would the same be true if human lives were prolonged?

Yes this is a worry. But unless you could significantly delay menopause or cure all infertility I don't think longer life would really change the birthrate. If anything it could make it go down as young couples would now be competing with an increasing number of high-flying centenarians.

If you did make people fertile for longer I hope that countries will realise the implications and consider whether a one-child policy is justified. But also note that many people stop having children in their 20s and 30s and may continue to do so even if they can stay fertile till 50.

On top of this, there is some chance that by the time we work out how to double people's lifespans we will also have worked out how to provide them with food and energy. It's not a guarantee, but here's hoping. :-)

 
At Friday, November 11, 2005 at 3:07:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The birth rate is the problem in developing countries

The death rate (people are living longer) is the problem in developed countries

 
At Friday, November 11, 2005 at 9:58:00 AM PST, Blogger James said...

Just wait until the effects of the Obesity Epidemic come home to roost. You're going to see baby boomers dropping dead of heart attacks and strokes like you've never seen them before.

This is going to strain the Health Care system to its limits, I fear...

 
At Friday, November 11, 2005 at 10:07:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A major argument of Peak Oil doom is that growth is unsustainable. They argue that economic growth has to stop, and that this will bring down Western society. They argue that population growth must be halted, and the best way for this to happen is with a massive dieoff.

This is something of a mischaracterization. Growth doesn't have to stop--it WILL stop, and when it does, it will bring about a chain of events that will entail a massive die off. It isn't that we want a die off to happen. It's that we see it coming and have been trying to warn as many people as possible.

Of course, there are some nazis out there who do want a die-off. They're not doomers. They're psycho nutjobs, and shouldn't be associated with doomers.

The thing is that growth isn't a problem as such. The real issue is relative growth. In other words, if you have limited space and resources you can only sustain growth in certain aspects as long as you shrink others. So while economy, population and per-capita natural impact cannot grow simultaneously forever on a planet of finite size, as long as one of them is decreasing while the others are increasing you can continue to improve human standards of living indefinitely without the need for a "collapse" of any kind.

This is obvious nonsense. All three operate within acceptable limits, and then either at the high or low ends of their respective scales, they entail die-off. Furthermore, they're entertwined to the extent that they aren't necessarily separable as easily as you seem to make out.

For instance, economy and population can increase somewhat without increasing the per capita footprint, but eventually we would reach an inflection point where, if footprint didn't increase, population or economy would plummet.

Perhaps more ominously, the economy cannot shrink substantively without population also shrinking.

Economy, population and per-capita natural impact grow slowly and continuously over thousands of years. There are no real limits to growth because the world has more than enough space and resources for the small number of humans.

There obviously are limits to growth. This paragraph is false as the very next paragraph indicates. I assume you meant that there was no conceivable limit to growth at the time, but that's a different claim. We are still living with the inherited ideological baggage from that era, and it's already doomed us.

In the 20th century, economy population and per-capita natural impact grow very quickly. For the first time, we run up against the limitations of our planet.

Yes, that is correct.

Economic and population growth continues while per-capita natural impact shrinks. In the 1st half of the 21st century, resource limitations and environmental decline cause innovation and economic activity to focus on new energy sources and more efficient resource use, instead of larger cars and houses. Living standards rise thanks to new developments like nanotechnology and synthetic food production.

This seems to be putting faith in something that already needs to be happening. I see no signs that it is in any meaningful way.

Economic growth and per-capita natural impact increase while population shrinks. Decreasing birthrates cause population to fall over the second half of the 21st century, allowing other measures of growth to rise while human impact on the Earth remains the same.

Weren't you just saying that we'd be reducing our footprint? Now, with the new technologies that we're supposed to have developed or be developing to keep our collective footprint low, it starts growing again? Why? Don't get me wrong, I think this is correct. But it exposes a little of the schizophrenia in your thinking.

Unlimited growth in all three factors returns as human beings move into space. The continually-expanding boundaries of space mean that there will be no more limits to growth until we fill up the entire solar system. Meanwhile on Earth, all three factors can continue growing to some extent because global population is now so much lower.

Living anywhere else in the solar system, even the moon, at meaningful population levels is going to require a lot of resources we do not currently possess. Without the benefits of fossil fuels, we won't be able to put people in space until some new technologies are viably on the table. That will probably take several centuries.

None of this guarantees that various kinds of collapses will not happen, but it demonstrates that humans can continue to increase standards of living and economic success without requiring any kind of catastrophe.

No, it doesn't demonstrate anything at all. Demonstration would require either inductive or deductive reasoning. You've made some statements, presumably meant to be taken as conclusions, with nothing to back them up. The inferred backup is rather shaky, and ignores rather a lot.

This is a pretty critical point. In essence, it's as if you'd taken a fiction, reinterpretted it as fact, and then gone on to claim that you'd demonstrated something. The fiction may or may not reflect truth. You just have to look at reality to see. I do not see any evidence that you've done so.

The rest of the post seems to argue nothing except that birth rates per capita have declined, which no one will dispute. But we have to not only head in the right direction, we have to arrive on time. We may be doing the first, but anyone can see we're not going to do the second. And that makes all the difference.

 
At Friday, November 11, 2005 at 12:01:00 PM PST, Blogger Quantoken said...

Complete rubbish. The fact of the matter is human race, just like other spieces, has always been and will always be confined by the natural limit of growth, throughout millions of years of history.

The point is overall TFR has always been higher than replacement fertility. Has it been lower than replacement rate for any significant period of time, the population would have dropped so much that human would have extincted. Mean while, even with a TFR just slightly higher than replacement rate, the exponential growth would mean the population would have grown to astronimical scale if it were not for the confinement of natural resource limit. Just multiply (1+1%) for a couple thousand times and see what number you get.

Human has always been limited by natural resource. Such limitation manifest itself in various forms: War, famine, disease, natural or man made disasters. Look at the history and you constant find periods where the total human population is slashed by 10 times or even 100 times. It happened again and again and again in history. And it will happen again.

The difference is in the past the population collapsed because we exhausted renewable resources. So after a considerable portion of population die off and the nature had some rest, the cycle of growth and destruction continues. This time, we have exhausted one of the most precious none-renewable resource, and the collapse will be much more severe.

I think civilization itself will be able to continue, but not before up to 99% of population die off and the population reduces to a level sustainable by renewable resources.

Quantoken

 
At Friday, November 11, 2005 at 1:40:00 PM PST, Blogger Roland said...

This is obvious nonsense. All three operate within acceptable limits, and then either at the high or low ends of their respective scales, they entail die-off. Furthermore, they're entertwined to the extent that they aren't necessarily separable as easily as you seem to make out.

When population is going down, people can get richer. When society is getting more sustainable, more people can be born. When there are more resources, we can use more resources. I don't see the problem with that.

This seems to be putting faith in something that already needs to be happening. I see no signs that it is in any meaningful way.

Actually it has. Compare today's car engines with those of 1970. Think of the advances in solar energy, home insulation, telecommuting and so on. The problem is that we haven't made use of these advances as much as we need to. We have more efficient homes, but now they're bigger. As we feel the tug of scarce resources, all that needs to happen is for us to actually use the tools we have.

Weren't you just saying that we'd be reducing our footprint? Now, with the new technologies that we're supposed to have developed or be developing to keep our collective footprint low, it starts growing again? Why? Don't get me wrong, I think this is correct. But it exposes a little of the schizophrenia in your thinking.

We don't have to increase our footprint. If we continue to shrink it, then that's fantastic. But if we want to increase it, we can. And we probably will, because we will have more resources, and we will expand to fill our boundaries.

Living anywhere else in the solar system, even the moon, at meaningful population levels is going to require a lot of resources we do not currently possess. Without the benefits of fossil fuels, we won't be able to put people in space until some new technologies are viably on the table. That will probably take several centuries.

When we have created a viable "space society" which can expand in its own right and survive just off the resources in space, then we will enter unlimited growth. This will happen eventually, without any doubt. The only question is when.

... it doesn't demonstrate anything at all. Demonstration would require either inductive or deductive reasoning. You've made some statements, presumably meant to be taken as conclusions, with nothing to back them up. The inferred backup is rather shaky, and ignores rather a lot.

I'm not predicting the future, I'm suggesting a path that humanity can take to avoid catastrophe. The only way to ge a better future is to imagine one. Die-off is not inevitable, and lamenting the worst-case scenario is only going to drag us towards it.

Human has always been limited by natural resource. Such limitation manifest itself in various forms: War, famine, disease, natural or man made disasters. Look at the history and you constant find periods where the total human population is slashed by 10 times or even 100 times. It happened again and again and again in history. And it will happen again.

The difference is in the past the population collapsed because we exhausted renewable resources. So after a considerable portion of population die off and the nature had some rest, the cycle of growth and destruction continues. This time, we have exhausted one of the most precious none-renewable resource, and the collapse will be much more severe.


There are other differences as well:
- Never before were all the humans on the globe linked together by communications
- Never before were concerned people like us able to analyse data from all over the globe
- Never before were there technologies which could solve all the problems if implemented correctly

In other words, this time we know what we're doing, and we know how to fix it. Whether we do fix it is another matter, but there's no reason why we can't.

To finish, here's a quote:
"One thing is sure. The earth is now more cultivated and developed than ever before. There is more farming with pure force, swamps are drying up, and cities are springing up on unprecedented scale. We've become a burden to our planet. Resources are becoming scarce, and soon nature will no longer be able to satisfy our needs."

This was written by a roman, Quintus Septimus Tertullianus, in 200 B.C.. Worrying about nature's ability to support us is a natural instinct, and it obviously serves a very important purpose.

 
At Friday, November 11, 2005 at 3:25:00 PM PST, Blogger Quantoken said...

Roland:

Your dream of space society is just a fantasy. Do you have any idea at all that our dear earth is the MOST RESOURCEFUL place we can find in our vicinity, namely the solar system, when all things considered.

What "space resources" you are talking about? There is NO unlimited resource in the space. At least there is no abundance of water and other critical resource in the space that we took it for so granted on the earth.

If we can't manage to live off the generous resources the nature endows us on earth (mainly due to our own greedy), how could we have the slightest hope to live off the resource of the space?

Let's say we manage to send a team of 12 astronauts to mars and they settle there for good, starting a new human race. It does not change the situation a bit at all for the 6 billion people remaining on earth: We still need to manage on whatever resource is still available on earth.

Using an analogy, a much greater proportion of population had migrated from England to America. Does that solve any problem for people staying in England? Not at all: This coming winter the people in Great Britain will have to deal with the fact that petroleum at the North Sea is depleting at an alarming rate: up to 20% year by year depletion. Can they deal with it by migrating more people to the United States?

Now you have a blind, religious like faith in technologies. Contrary to common beliefs, technologies are problems, not solutions. We have not invented a single thing that could break any of the physics conservation laws. And we have not invented a single technology that put back to the natural resources, instead of taking away from the resources. Every technology we invented, merely means we are depleting natural resources at a faster pace and more efficient speed. I am sorry we have not invented anything that produces something out of thin air. Everything we created simply convert resources to wastes, destroying the environment we live in.

Quantoken

 
At Friday, November 11, 2005 at 4:57:00 PM PST, Blogger Roland said...

What "space resources" you are talking about? There is NO unlimited resource in the space. At least there is no abundance of water and other critical resource in the space that we took it for so granted on the earth.

Actually, there are 100 billion stars in our galaxy alone. There are probably hundreds or even thousands of habitable planets. So in the longer-term future (hundreds, thousands, even millions of years) there is no real cap on human growth.

I never suggested that space will solve our short-term problems, but I'm saying that Earth will not limit human civilization forever. No way.

Meanwhile billions of people in the third world support themselves with every little technology at all. Are they going to die off? Are they doomed merely because heavy industry disappears in the West or first-world economies collapse?

In the shorter term, not all technologies "merely mean we are depleting natural resources at a faster pace and more efficient speed". What about renewable energies? What about more efficient materials? What about nanotechnology? What about arcologies? What about permaculture? What about Quorn? What about the Internet?

The only reason that the world is dominated by technologies which use lots of resources is that these technologies evolved in an environment where resources were abundant. In the future such technologies will not be suitable anymore. Sustainable and renewable technologies will be more suitable.

 
At Saturday, November 12, 2005 at 8:17:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When population is going down, people can get richer. When society is getting more sustainable, more people can be born. When there are more resources, we can use more resources. I don't see the problem with that.

When population goes down enough, people get poorer. Though its an extreme example, how could the last human being on earth be called "rich?"

Technology keeps society sustainable within certain population bounds. Push beyond those bounds, and we're screwed.

You have to do the math on resources and resource use. Just because we're growing our resource base doesn't mean that population can grow at any rate whatever.

Actually it has. Compare today's car engines with those of 1970. Think of the advances in solar energy, home insulation, telecommuting and so on. The problem is that we haven't made use of these advances as much as we need to. We have more efficient homes, but now they're bigger. As we feel the tug of scarce resources, all that needs to happen is for us to actually use the tools we have.

You're talking about stuff that not only has not been implemented widely (as it should have already been) but that can't be implemented widely without serious re-engineering and re-investment. That was my whole point, and it's quite sufficient here.

When we have created a viable "space society" which can expand in its own right and survive just off the resources in space, then we will enter unlimited growth. This will happen eventually, without any doubt. The only question is when.

Your conditional is circular--i.e. when we do x, then we can do x. I don't know that we will create a sustainable "space society." It's not been demonstrated that it's possible. I agree that the idea is attractive, and one we ought to explore.

I'm not predicting the future, I'm suggesting a path that humanity can take to avoid catastrophe. The only way to ge a better future is to imagine one. Die-off is not inevitable, and lamenting the worst-case scenario is only going to drag us towards it.

Anyone can make as many suggestions as they like. But your suggestion is clearly not feasible in practice. Therefore, you've essentially written a fluff piece. I don't mean to seem insulting; I just don't see that you've really demonstrated anything besides a little sentiment.

 
At Saturday, November 12, 2005 at 9:05:00 AM PST, Blogger Quantoken said...

Roland:

I am fully aware the universe is a huge place. But that's irrelevant. Nearest star is 4 light years away. Nearest star that contain any resource that allow life to sustain, is probably tens of thousands of light years away. We would have long exhausted useful resources on earth and totally collapsed our civilization, before we can acquire any technology that allow us to step out of our cradle and seriously explore outside the solar system.

Besides, what makes you think that the resource of the whole universe or the whole galaxy, belong to us little pity earthlines, eh?

We have no entitlement to anything outside our solar system. The fact of the matter is on any place or any star system that is suitable for life at all, you bet some form of life has originated there. They might not even be primitive at all. There are good chances (50%) that they could be far more advanced than us, in terms of technology and civilization.

The natural resource on those alien worlds are rightfully THEIRS, NOT OURS. We must manage do with what we have on our earth or within our solar system.

We must be very grateful that a much more advanced civilization, which most definitely exists some where in the universe, have not come to our home, conquer our earth, enslave all of our earthlines, and ship out and deplete all our resources for their own usage, because they thought the whole universe is theirs. If we humen are as greedy as Roland, why do we expect the advanced aliens be a little more polite than us?

The fact that we remain free people probably tells us that any civilization with Roland's mentality of greedy and aggression probably will NOT be long lived. They probably have all collapsed and go extinct due to their greediness and their depletion of natural resource, long before they can acquire any technology to step out of their own cradles and come to conquer the earth. Just like what we are facing right now.

It does not help a bit at all to day dream about star travels, when we are facing peak oil right now in this year os 2005. Wake up to the reality.

Quantoken

 
At Saturday, November 12, 2005 at 5:09:00 PM PST, Blogger Roland said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At Saturday, November 12, 2005 at 5:30:00 PM PST, Blogger Roland said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At Saturday, November 12, 2005 at 8:45:00 PM PST, Blogger Roland said...

You're talking about stuff that not only has not been implemented widely (as it should have already been) but that can't be implemented widely without serious re-engineering and re-investment. That was my whole point, and it's quite sufficient here.

Although I was never a big energy-waster, in the past three months, I have cut my personal energy use by over 60%. It wasn't hard. I still live comfortably, and there's still plenty of leeway left for further reductions. Crash conservation was done in the 1970s, now we must do it again, permanently this time, only with far more advanced technology in oil recovery, synthetic fuels and (ultimately) renewables. As for implementation, read Amory Lovins' "Winning the Oil Endgame".

Every technology we invented, merely means we are depleting natural resources at a faster pace and more efficient speed.

No, technology doesn't do that. People do. Oil is cleaner then coal, modern scientific farming is much better for the soil than old-style farming. We only have greater natural impact today because there are more of us, but as I mentioned in my post, population will enter decline in a few decades. Industrialization started the population explosion, but it ultimately also stopped it because increasing affluence means less children. I have yet to see evidence that "99%" of us will have to die because we cannot support ourselves. Why? What's the rug coming out from under us? Oil? Billions of people in the third world have very little oil dependence anyhow, so how will this affect them? For the rest of us, I am again yet to see evidence that we can't support ourselves with renewable energy and modern farming, or that we cannot convert to these in time to avoid "dieoff" (note I don't rule out hardship, but I can't find support for "dieoff"), or that these technologies cannot ultimately take over from unsustainable practices completely. Perhaps your argument is that these well-meaning, more environmentally friendly technologies just encourage the "cancer" that is humankind by preventing it from dying. In that case, I won't try and argue.

The fact that we remain free people probably tells us that any civilization with Roland's mentality of greedy and aggression probably will NOT be long lived. They probably have all collapsed and go extinct due to their greediness and their depletion of natural resource, long before they can acquire any technology to step out of their own cradles and come to conquer the earth. Just like what we are facing right now.

Why would aliens want to conquer the Earth anyway? There are hundreds of thousands of other planets out there, probably more suitable for the aliens requirements than the Earth. Our ultimate destiny lies in space. It's inevitable. But I agree with you that it doesn't hold all the solutions in the short-term.

I don't consider mankind inherently greedy, anymore than I consider us inherently generous. We're a mixture. Look at native American civilizations who lived a more-or-less-sustainable lifestyle, yet still manipulated nature and developed an advanced culture. Now we're facing a high-tech version of that society. The cost of renewable electricity is still higher than coal, but unlike fossil fuels the cost of renewables falls exponentially. It already makes better economic sense to be sustainable then to be wasteful, and that situation is only going to improve.

People thought civilization was a goner back in the 1960s. Erlich was preaching die-off and everyone else was worried about a nuclear armageddon. But almost every measure of global wellbeing has improved. There is less poverty, less starvation and less violent conflict. Life today is longer, safer and more comfortable than any other time in history. I see no reason why this trend will not continue, save for the occasional bump. Unlike in the 1960s, we now have the technology to feed and power the entire world sustainably, and I'm looking forward to seeing it used properly.

What's "Roland's mentality"? I'm not angling for any particular kind of "mentality". I'm simply arguing that you shouldn't give up on the 6,000-year-old human adventure just because fossil fuels are running a bit low. I'm arguing that while continual exponential growth obviously cannot last forever, there is no reason why falling birthrates and properly implemented technology cannot return us to the state of slow, continuous population growth that has been the norm for most of our history, without the need of 99% (!) of us to suddenly die.

I am not denying the possibility of famines, resource wars or greater depressions. But I have yet to see any proof that a massive worldwide dieoff could occur because of sudden resource shortages. I have yet to see any proof that is impossible to grow the economy and advance society while population is falling. I have yet to see any proof that we cannnot ultimately meet the energy and food needs of planet Earth sustainably. Hence, I'm arguing that we should use the unprecedented knowledge, technology and sense of duty we now have to do something about our problems, rather than sit around in big houses waiting to starve to death.

I used to be something of a doomer myself, until I started researching the solutions. History will prove who was right.

 
At Saturday, November 12, 2005 at 11:07:00 PM PST, Blogger Quantoken said...

Roland, what makes you think that "There is less poverty, less starvation and less violent conflict. Life today is longer, safer and more comfortable than any other time in history."

The only thing that makes you think so, I guess is pure luck that you happen to live in an era of relative peace, and live in a country which is powerful and prosperious amongst the nations, and you belong to the middle class or above. If you look at it from a world wide prospect, you have to realize your life quality belongs to the top 60 million, amoungst 6 billion population. There are 99% of people who lives a much lower quality of life than you. If you ask these 99% of people, they would definitely prefer to live in a different era than contemporary.

Sure you live in a nice big house, You own 2 or 3 cars for your daily commute, and you have all the comforts modern technology provides you. I have all those, too. But how could you say life quality today is better off, when we are not even sure how civilization itself could survive the next 100 years. And when we have to wonder every day if Bin Laden has a secret plan to blow up a dozen US cities all at once. And we also have to wonder what happens to our jobs etc, when the oil and gas runs out.

Had we still be in stone age today, no one would have any doubt that we can continue to live a few million years in the future just as we had in the past. But as the status is today, no one could tell us with confidence that human civilization can survive another 100 years.

We all know that the world's spieces of animals and plantations are extincting at an alarming pace. But the matter of fact is the odd of we human spiece go extinct are actually no less than an average spiece of animals. I am pretty sure, for example, if we go extinct, rats and insects probably will out live us without a problem.

Quantoken

 
At Sunday, November 13, 2005 at 3:18:00 AM PST, Blogger Roland said...

Roland, what makes you think that "There is less poverty, less starvation and less violent conflict. Life today is longer, safer and more comfortable than any other time in history."

Statistics:
http://www.humansecurityreport.info/index.php?option=content&task=view&id=82

http://www.cis.org.au/exechigh/Eh2005/EH31005.htm

 
At Sunday, November 13, 2005 at 9:06:00 AM PST, Blogger Quantoken said...

Roland:
Picking up a particular year for comparison, like your quoted URL does, is meaningless. It's mere random fluctuation and does not change the long term trend when you look at the bigger picture of thousands of years.
Beside they are not even looking at the data correctly. They call the Iraq war a special case and an aberration. Well, any war in the history is unique and an aberration by themselves. You really have to count everything in.
It's laughable when you look at specific items and compare them with what it was like a long time ago. Sure, 1.2 billion people now has access to clean water. But 2000 years ago, EVERY human and every animal all have access to clean water since the environment was not polluted then. And the so called "clean water" standard, will be judged as laughably dirty and filthy by people 2000 years ago. The report continues to strees the progress on AIDS. But a hundred year ago, there was no AIDS. A million years ago the sexual relationship between men and women were much more liberal as there were no marriage relationship then. They did not contract AIDS. Humen lived millions of years ago live half-naked and they survive pretty well (otherwise we would have long extincted). Today's human needs to live within many careful manufactured wrappers or "cacoon"s provided by technology. Stripped of all belongings and be left in the wild like an animal, 99% of today's people would not be able to survive even 100 hours.

Quantoken

 
At Sunday, November 13, 2005 at 9:27:00 AM PST, Blogger Quantoken said...

I might add that you look around yourself and see that the life quality is good. But the bigger picture is that the comfort of a small group of wealthy people is based on the misery of a big group of unwealthy people. Because the wealthy ones take a much bigger share of resources than what's fair.

You look at Africa and you see famines and all the misery and think maybe if they are as prosperious as us they will be in a much better shape. But should Africa be as prosperious as America, they would take such a great share of the resource that it depletes our share and we America will become Africa with famines and all that.

Let's compare China and USA. We feel that China's oil demand growth has triggered a world wide oil crisis. But the matter of fact is the USA, with 300 million people, consumes 21 mbd oil out of the world's total of 6 billion people and 84 mbd. China, with a population of 1.3 billion, consumes 6 mbd.

If you calculate the per capital consumption. USA is 26 barrel per year per person, world average is
5.1 barrel per person per year. China is 1.7 barrel per person per year. Not only China is consuming far less oil than the USA, it is also consuming far less oil than the world average, if you look at the per capital figure.

You see we are able to consume 26 barrel per person per year on the price of China suppress its own demand to 3 times below the worlds average, and 15 times below the USA. How could you cry "unfair" when China now wants just a slightly bigger share, which is still far below what it rightfully deserve?

Should China start to consume just the world average and not anything more than that, it will leave not a drop of oil for USA to burn. And should Africa start to consume at world average level, all developed country will have to manage at what China is currently consuming.

Quantoken

 
At Sunday, November 13, 2005 at 1:00:00 PM PST, Blogger Roland said...

Sure, 1.2 billion people now has access to clean water. But 2000 years ago, EVERY human and every animal all have access to clean water since the environment was not polluted then.

Did I ever say the population explosion was a great thing? No. I just think a population implosion is not a realistic solution to it.

And the so called "clean water" standard, will be judged as laughably dirty and filthy by people 2000 years ago.

Prove it.

I might add that you look around yourself and see that the life quality is good. But the bigger picture is that the comfort of a small group of wealthy people is based on the misery of a big group of unwealthy people. Because the wealthy ones take a much bigger share of resources than what's fair.

That's what has to change.

Humen lived millions of years ago live half-naked and they survive pretty well (otherwise we would have long extincted).

Yes, but life was also tough, painful and short. Life expectancy was less than half what it is now. If you got an infected wound, or broke a limb, or got cancer, or heart disease, or arthritis, you were screwed. That's still the case for much of the world, but our goal should be to decrease it within the bounds of sustainability, not wait for them to die off. Going back to the stone age is not a realistic proposition, however nice it sounds.

You see we are able to consume 26 barrel per person per year on the price of China suppress its own demand to 3 times below the worlds average, and 15 times below the USA. How could you cry "unfair" when China now wants just a slightly bigger share, which is still far below what it rightfully deserve?

I'm not saying it's unfair at all. Rather, I'm saying two things:

1. The rate of demand increase from China is faster than the US, and this will drive prices up, whether it's "fair" or not.
2. The only solution to the problem is to stop depending on oil, since there is clearly not enough to go around.

 
At Monday, November 14, 2005 at 1:10:00 AM PST, Blogger Quantoken said...

Roland said:
"Yes, but life was also tough, painful and short. Life expectancy was less than half what it is now. If you got an infected wound, or broke a limb, or got cancer, or heart disease, or arthritis, you were screwed. That's still the case for much of the world, but our goal should be to decrease it within the bounds of sustainability, not wait for them to die off. Going back to the stone age is not a realistic proposition, however nice it sounds."

Screwed were if you put a modern human in the environment millions of years ago. But ancient human being evidently survived pretty good. I can't imagine one live half naked in the forest for a lifetime, and never occasionally get some cuts or bruises. That's impossible. The explanation would be that their cuts and wounds some how rarely get infected. Or that they may get infected but it's nothing fatal at all, unlike modern human.

From the Darwin's point of view of survival of the fittest. The natural selection rule means ancient human beings must have incredibly good immunization systems and they can live a perfectly healthy life without any aid of modern medicine.

Also, cancer, which is often times caused by modern day pollutants, was never heard of in ancient times on recorded history. Nor was heart deseases. Modern day humen probably eat too much fat meat. Some how lions and tigers never get a heart attack though they eat nothing but meat.

Quantoken

 

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