(This transcript sucks, we'll fix it soon!)
I'm David Torcivia.
I'm Daniel Forkner.
[0:04] And this is Ashes Ashes, a show about systemic issues, cracks in civilization, collapse of the environment, and if we're unlucky the end of the world.
[0:13] But if we learn from all of this, maybe we can stop that. The world might be broken, but it doesn't have to be.
[0:20] Here on Ashes Ashes, we are constantly discussing what looms is the imminent end of the world collapse of our civilization and much more it's a story so much of death and tragedy catastrophe, before any of that pain to occur we need to beginning of the story the beginning of these stories are always wants of Life of Hope of growth this episode tackles these Concepts. Growth. And it looks at these ideas from the perspective of Doom itself because this week we're discussing overpopulation and the world rapidly running out of resources.
A Little History
[0:55] And any discussion of overpopulation population grow.
[1:12] Idea population Malthus said grows geometrically meaning that growth involves combining numbers through operations like multiplication or even exponentially on the other hand the amount of food that can be produced from the land increases at a much slower incremental rate, and he concluded from this that because population growth rapidly outpaces food production premature death was inevitable once populations exceeded their available food the results would be a cycle of misery involving poverty War disease and famine. This essay was and continues to be highly influential in wall in the Broadlands of History Mouse's was not the first person to introduce this idea, his ideas on the relationship between.
[2:06] Today Karl Marx criticized his essay for trying to block political reform by making the assumption that poverty in misery are unavoidable natural laws, those who adopted his philosophy used it to craft policies that would influence National affairs.
[2:23] Which of these ideas play Autumn reality in the ways that various States at the time and active laws in England for example of the property laws laws aimed primarily at poor people let me their lives very difficult and what's harder than it needed to be more motivated in large part by the ideas and Concepts and just an idea of an evitable poverty that mouth is first put down on paper and later maybe more dramatically but somewhere around the fifth was exacerbated dramatically by the failure of states to involve themselves early on and help rectify the problems that led to this family that could have large leading preventable because it was seen as a natural and result of too many people not enough land and a real world example of malthus's ideas playing out around the.
[3:15] Later people would criticize malthus's theory for failing to predict the rise in agricultural yield from technology, and you know maybe this criticism is a bit unfair as mouth is himself did allow for the possibility that technology could impact food production but that it would ultimately never outpace population growth and merely delay the inevitable, where his essay field the most is in the assumption that human population grows indefinitely in the presence of food without either a natural check. The catastrophes that he predicted or a broad human effort to restrain its own growth, and then reality this was a pretty simple model of populations and did not take into account what would become evident in the century after his essay the population sizes are part of dynamic systems that respond to a variety of complex variables, the impact death rate and birth rates in many different ways.
[4:11] For example for mini industrialization in Europe raise the cost of having children what also eliminating the need for many couples to increase the size of their families to run Farms but it's more complex.
[4:31] Unemployment and Family Planning 10 to lower birth rates. At the same time healthier Lifestyles from bed medicines and food can lower death rates in Greater per capita wealth means children or more affordable. Poverty income inequality play a significant role in the way populations emerge and in ways that tend to reinforce themselves where there is severe poverty what did the economic output must go towards short-term the Sesame Hospital schools in general subsistence economic growth is slow as a result and women who have no access to good economic opportunities result of childbearing is the best investment the quote from limits to growth. My drawing out put away from investment and into consumption population growth slows Capital Growth, poverty intern perpetuates population growth by keeping people and conditions when they have no education no Health Care no family planning no choices no power no way to get ahead except to help their children can bring an income or help with family labor. On the other Spectrum more wealthy countries can afford to diverticulitis Capital towards investment, multiplying two economic opportunities while lowering the need for more children this slower growth in population priest even more capital for investment as opposed to subsistence.
[5:48] Note to be clear unlike the argument that mouth this put forward, and no way do the way these systems play out represent what is natural or what must happen the red of these systems of poverty and wealth the way they operate is defined by the underlying economic and political structures in which they exist, to the extent to which something like poverty perpetuates itself depends on the way that wealth flows through the current economic structure and that's something we might expand on little bit later in this episode but in short it's complicated. And people began to realize that it was complicated shortly after mathis's sa as industrial Nations continue to develop and his ideas have been hotly debated and passed around intellectual circles ever since.
[6:33] But it was in 1968 that a new book on the matter came onto the scene which would have dramatic influence on policies going forward, originally titled population resources and environment and retitled by the editor to the population bomb, the book by Stanford entomologist Paul Ehrlich and his wife also a stand for scientist refrained this debate, like mouth is the airlines predicted that population growth would result in Mass famine and death in the very near future but that the underlying reasons went beyond a simple food to people formula they saw population growth as an attack on a complex global system in which quote too many cars too many factories too much detergent too much pesticide to little water too much carbon dioxide InstaQuote would destroy civilization.
[7:23] And although the air looks analysis may have included more complex variables and offices, another less came to the same conclusion population alone was the primary cause of global destruction Mass Diamond was inevitable within a few years and reducing population was the only way to stop it. This idea had some unfortunate consequences as overpopulation became the number one environmental threat to the International Community.
[7:49] As pointed out by Charles Mann and Smithsonian Magazine are lakes alarm triggered human rights abuses around the world, and many countries social workers had salaries that were tied to the number of iuds they could get women to insert.
[8:14] How to legally ride in the Philippines birth control pills were tossed out of helicopters throughout the countryside.
[8:20] In addition Indian China's role in sterilization and population control policies is well-documented at this point in his concern overpopulation really took off 1965 when the Prime Minister requested food Aid in the United States government. He was President Lyndon Johnson apparently told an aide I'm not going to piss away foreign aid in Nations where they refuse to deal with their own population problems and after he met with the Prime Minister he sent a memo to Congress a shirt. Who died going to India would be accompanied by Indian policies to curb population growth. In the decade that followed the Indian Prime Minister set in motion policies that would require sterilization in exchange for access to water food and even Medical Care, among other policies. Million people were sterilized in the year 1975 alone and his policies were praised by the World Bank they were in line with American foreign policy at the time and where exactly the type of initiatives that the air looks recommended in their book.
[9:19] Right because not only were they recommending curbing population growth is the primary goal to address environmental destruction but they had a number of recommendations to do so including various tax schemes to incentivize people to have less children and even going so far like in this Indian example to recommend that countries starve other nations of aid unless they make serious efforts to control their own population.
[9:47] And at the time and this was such a common thought that they were textbooks some of which were written by the are like sore or based off of the population bomb that would detail exactly how like you're saying to do this even things down to like what specific drugs are best distributed what's your most economical what's your most effective and this was a common thing you would see in colleges teaching people how to sterilize the world this was the the idea at the time because this book was so influential.
[10:13] And it goes without saying how policies like this and efforts like this opened wide the door for racist policies that targeted specific groups that's those in power wanted to lock out of economic progress as well as even in some cases of genocide, but you know David the idea that population is an important thing to Target in terms of policy it's not new it's not something that just came onto the scene in the 19th century.
[10:39] You're absolutely right Dan of these ideas that there's too many people in the world is too small or there's not enough food or resources on it or not new in fact there ain't you. Ancient philosophers like Plato and Aristotle wrote at length about the perfect population size boat that too few people were dangerous, you wouldn't have enough people to defend your town you would have enough people to do all the jobs but even more dangerous will be too many people because then you would bring quote certain poverty on the citizenry and poverty is the cause of sedition and evil and because of that Aristotle advocated for the use of things like abortion and just throwing away babies off cliffs or leaving them outside the died from exposure, this is not a new policy.
[11:22] Call David speaking of ancient Greece Spartan life was prompted largely by helots which are populations of slaves that significantly outnumbered Spartan citizens and according to Plutarch the elected leaders of Sparta enacted policies that permitted each Spartan citizen to kill a helot every year as a way to further subjugate this exploded people and prevent their populations from overpowering Spartan.
[11:48] And in the East Confucius caution that quote excessive growth May reduce output per worker or press levels of living for the masses and in gender strife. Confucius also observe that. Mortality increases when food supply is insufficient that premature marriage makes for high infantile mortality rates and that war checks population growth.
[12:09] So says Confucius.
[12:11] The connection between war and population is obviously well observed, tertullian early Christian carthaginian Author also wrote on how diamond and War can be used to prevent overpopulation. The strongest witness is the vast population of the Earth to its we are a burden and she scarcely can provide for our needs as their demands grow greater or complaints against Nature's inadequacy are heard by all, scourges of pestilence famine Wars earthquakes at come to be regarded as a blessing to overcrowded Nations since they serve to prune a way that looks Julian growth of the human race. So as you can see Daniel these ideas of overpopulation and population control or nothing new.
[12:54] And apparently very much of these ideas a company very unfavorable policies of genocide of infanticide of killing slaves it makes sense to me that you even so much as suggesting the phrase population controller bring it up causes, a huge resistance an emotional reaction among people.
[13:14] Yeah absolutely. There are thousands of years of people abusing population control for these horrible and results and in the process probably this point millions and millions of people dying from DHS application.
[13:27] It is very clear there's no doubt that the types of genocide or policies that this Millennial debate has spawned are pretty bad pretty horrific but much of the underlying fears that have motivated these awful conclusions are based in something real, before we discuss why the various policies in the past I've done nothing to address the roots of environmental destruction that is threatening our world,
Ecology And Systems [13:53] it's important to examine the way systems thinking apply to ecology gives us the best method of understanding our own impact on this Earth. In the context of this topic we can think of our human relationship with the Earth and very simple terms. In a finite world the expansion of humans physical presence are total ecologically footprint puts stress on the earth systems that support our existing.
[14:21] So what are some of these physical impacts that we have on the Earth, well I mean writing them all down measuring what all the Mars something that's basically impossible well outside the scope of the show but there are some of the very obvious and very huge and maybe most obvious for anybody watching his of course population size but also there are many other topics here that are affecting the Earth that we were responsible for pollution or the waste from our activities are mountains of landfill and plastic that Finds Its way everywhere are industrial output that means things like CO2 box air pollution of things we admit out onto this Earth.
[14:55] The very Commodities that we produce the goods that we make that circulate the world on ships and trucks resource depletion the mines The Chopping down of lumber the fishing of oceans.
[15:10] And of course the big topic the one that people have concern themselves with for the longest time is food production and the eventual exhaustion of the fertile land of Earth to feed an ever-growing number of hungry human mouths.
[15:24] It so as these various impacts expand as their activity intensifies they very obviously put stress on the earth limited ability to absorb their impact. Then what then is the obvious question what are these limits. Well I mean the Earth is limited in its ability to provide finite resources it's limited and its ability to generate renewable resources like fish wood in freshwater, it's limited and its ability to absorb air pollution so what happens when we expand Beyond these limits, well depending on the size of the reserves Within These systems it means that we overshoot the Earth's ability to sustain whatever it is we are doing and we can either scale back in time to avoid a collapse of that activity or the Earth system simply gives out and forces a collapse.
[16:15] After long-time listeners this is nothing new, it's a central underlying theme and just about all the topics we cover and I mean one day we'll do an episode devoted entirely to the state of the modern world in relation to this limit before the purpose of this episode we're going to remain mostly conceptual.
[16:32] The idea David that we as a sprawling Global civilization could ever collapse is an idea that is really hard for people to swallow besides the fact that it is emotionally uncomfortable there's not a lot of historical precedent outside the collapse of ancient empires like the Romans which we as a species had no problem adjusting to and moving on and continue to prosper in fact much of the species has been unaffected by localized collapses like that and in many cases flourished as a result, at the same time many influential people like Thomas Malthus and the air licks has sounded alarm bells that Civilization is on the brink of disaster in, here we are so while many people are willing to accept yes I see that melting sea ice is a problem, they are likely to strike it off with well we'll figure something out just like we always have.
[17:21] So don't understand maybe why this time it's different there a few components of the way systems work that will help us wrap your mind around this and those three houses even possible that our daily activities can threaten our future as a species.
[17:35] David let me do this one.
[17:37] Okay Dana go ahead.
[17:38] I was thinking about this I was trying to wrap my brain around how to explain what a system is right and ultimately what a system is in its most basic form it has four General components. It has a reserve it has an input and output and rates of change for both these inputs and outputs the flows if you will.
[17:59] Is this a lot of words Daniel this is hard to conceptualize can you give me like a visual picture here.
[18:04] Right so I'll give you an illustration okay think of a bathtub.
[18:08] I'm way ahead of you.
[18:10] You probably have one in your residence.
[18:13] Actually I only have a shower but I'll pretend it's Bill.
[18:16] That's that's not going to work I just can you just imagine that you have a bathtub.
[18:20] Okay I'm a leap of faith for you.
[18:22] The reserve is the amount of water in the tub the input is the water that comes through the spout and into the tub. The output is the drain and both of these flows occur over time and that rate can be adjusted you can turn the spout on higher faster slower you can plug the drain you can let it all out.
[18:42] And where does my bubble bath work into this.
[18:45] Well that would probably be a good analogy David for pollution and that's not going to work for this illustration so just bear with me okay.
[18:51] I don't bathe that bubble so but.
[18:56] Equilibrium of the system occurs when the flow of water going into the tub equals the flow going out and in the state the amount in the tub remains constant.
[19:06] So the same amount is coming in the same amount as going out into the water level doesn't change its imperfect balance.
[19:13] Perfect balance and that's a basic system and it's easy to understand but understand the dangers inherent in not understanding these systems.
[19:21] What you going to do to my back.
[19:23] Let's take this illustration up a notch with a mouth disease and function. Imagine that this type of water is your source of drinking water and you depend on it for survival.
[19:34] Drinking that dirty bath water.
[19:35] Yeah you still have your shower for bathing but this tub is exclusively for drink. You start with a reserve of 500 units of water water flows into the tub at one unit per day and for your survival you drink one unit per day equilibrium. You're drinking is also the only output because you plug the drain you can live in.
[19:58] I was thinking ahead I'm drinking my unit I'm feeling good.
[20:01] David you can continue this forever and the reserve will never decrease but you know what you decide on Day 2 to invite another person into your home. Now there are two people each drinking one unit of water per day which is more than the inflow of water but after that second day there are still 499 units of water left in the tub plenty of drinking water left.
[20:23] Yeah I mean a bath is more fun with two people and I still got 499 units of water left so that's a lot of days of double bathing which sounds pretty good to me.
[20:33] Remember David you're not getting in this tub you just drinking it.
[20:36] It's my water it's my unit I can do what I want with it.
[20:39] Alright don't make this past some unit lost okay you said you're feeling good if you and your new friend each invite another person to your home the next day you're up to four people and they're still 496 units left in the tub at the end of the day all right now you are really feeling good let's say this growth continues you each keep inviting people every single day growing in this very geometric way.
[21:02] A lot of friends.
[21:03] Friday 9 because your water drinking pyramid scheme is paying off there are 256 people in your home drinking water.
[21:12] 256 of my closest friends.
[21:15] And this is no problem because your reserves are still at around 50%, now David this is the most important moment in this example I need you to pay attention David because while there is still 50% left in your reserves it all gets depleted in.
[21:39] Just now just one unit per day that demand exceeds available Supply by over 51,000 percent. Of course this is a silly example where the behavioral flaw is glaringly obvious you wouldn't just drink up your total supply of water.
[21:56] I have too many friends.
[21:57] You're carrying your generous you're giving of all your water, and so as soon as this is there are two very important Concepts that make it difficult to see these types of things play out all around us in the real world and those concepts are geometric growth which is something that mouth this was a big proponent of and delays the geometric growth in water drinkers in this example means that the largest effects do not occur until the very last moment which is why anyone living out this illustration could not have predicted this inevitable collapse if the only day that they had was historical and the delay in the people's ability to change course is what facilitates that final collapse, delays occur because it can take time to measure the change of a complex system, Imagine David that instead of just being out in the open this tub was in the wall.
[22:49] You have no idea what the reserve levels are you could measure it but it would require investing in a device and then taking measurements over a five-day. It's not hard to imagine it could take a couple days to acquire this device, then it would take those 5 days to realize that consumption patterns were unsustainable at which point you have a ton of people in your house and then there would be a delay in action caused by having to convince everyone that there was a problem in this something should actually be done. Now take you one step further David imagine that this tub is not an isolated system but is in fact interconnect. With 10 other Dynamic systems all impacting each other in different ways and it different rates now that gets us closer to the real world.
[23:30] Just like my bubble bath pollution.
[23:33] Yes David just like your bubble bath solution.
[23:37] But enough about bats Daniel I mean in the real world every ecological system that sustains life on Earth operates as complex interconnected systems. And this is just like the top example but so much more difficult to understand we started looking at this with how connected ecosystems are in our Extinction episode Irreplaceable, the reserves are massive and receive input from tens of thousands of sources on a different rates and measuring changes can be mind-bogglingly difficult, but just like the tub example delays and tracking and adjusting to those changes coupled with a geometric growth in our impact lead. Total collapse of the system's ability to operate within the margin that's suitable for human life.
[24:21] David you're right these systems are everywhere when we think about the reserves within a system it's easy to imagine an oilfield where there's a finite pool of oil Oregon or something like a mind where you know once the Rock runs out the mine is dead but a reserve can be more abstract like the ability for lakes and rivers to absorb pollution, that ability represents a reserve that can be lost over time or gained over time.
[24:48] Rebuilding for topsoil to actually provide crops to be terrible this is a subject that we talked about several times.
[24:54] Episode 16 David and also episode 26.
[24:57] This is a very important topic and something that you win has identified as having at this point maybe only decades left because of our on sustainable practices with arable land but it also holds lots of other things did Questar CO2 it absorbs heat and we're reaching the limits of this natural system to hold those meaning that we might see in puts in other areas rise very rapidly.
[25:18] Another one which we only briefly touching the Extinction episode are the ecosystems that keep dangerous pathogens in check like various parasites viruses bacteria that can be harmful to human health butter, captainshack by a vibrant biodiversity. As we lose that biodiversity we lose the Earth's reserves ability to keep those pathogens in a healthy balance.
[25:41] You know I think we also touching that Concept in are irresistible episode about antimicrobial resistance especially in zoonotic transmission so these are like I said these are topics that we keep on harping on because they are also interconnect. And all building into the systems which we need to understand as a whole in order to really wrap our mind around these impending clips. I mean these systems interact with our economies in ways which are hard to understand, you're so very there so many inputs outputs effects different variables along the way that is really difficult to charge it all to measure it and wrap my mind around it I mean believe this example so industrial output affects ecological Health Food things like pollution. Ablution impacts population health and then that population Health turns around and impacts the demand for investment in health services and social welfare, these turn around and impact the flows Investments going into industrial reserves and that changes impact in food production how would our ability to maintain industry be affected if all the sudden we experienced a collapse in these types of oil reserves required to grow. What are Billy to maintain help populations be affected if we experienced a collapse in pollution absorbing Reserves. We mentioned in our Plastics episode of China's ban on porn waste Imports resulted in almost overnight overflow trash in the UK. In an interconnected Global World collapse and local systems can have dramatic cascading effects worldwide.
[27:03] According to the World Wildlife Foundation living planet report of 2016 quotes. Human activities and accompanying resource uses have grown so dramatically especially since the mid-twentieth century that the environmental conditions that fostered are development and growth are beginning to deteriorate and quote.
[27:36] Beers are what have generated so much concern over population and as we mentioned these fears have led to a number of startling policies policies of sterilization of genocide of racial discrimination.
Modern Population Control
[27:57] You know Daniel Boone I started looking into some of these crimes and I think that's the word I'm going to use because I really feel like they are even though a lot of these were illegal initiatives by States ever would still exist, and that was the most surprising part for me that that's like disgusting as some of these programs were, sounds really good he's in the Slidell that's the past we didn't know any better you know like 1930s 1920s America yeah of course we were sterilizing. That was a crazy time.
[28:25] We just had no idea right.
[28:28] You know that was like oh you're feeling bad your you got a coffee or smoke some cigarettes here's a little radiation on your feet you know it'll take care of you like that was just the time you go to the shoe store there like let me X-ray your feet without any blood protection. It was a simpler time.
[28:44] Right to find the perfect size boot make sense.
[28:46] Prescribed heroin whatever you know what's different time and ideally we have learned since then we're not making the same horrible mistakes lobotomizing people sterilizing them for no reason or you know at least that's what I thought. And I was shocked to find that even today in Europe their 10 European member nations that require sterilization in transgender individuals before they're allowed to legally change their sex registration with the government, as of the last census of these policies.
[29:16] Sterilization programs are going on right now in Bangladesh in attempt to sterilize refugee camps were nearly a million people are trying to survive, at least 250 people undergo government sterilization programs each month and are paid around $24 for the process.
[29:37] How many of these people being sterilized in Bangladesh are Refugee rohingya a threatened Muslim Refugee group fleeing government persecution in Myanmar in fact the UN. Just charged several Myanmar generals with genocide because of this these actions occurring right now and they're being sterilized actively by the Bangladeshi state in addition in Myanmar itself the introduce new laws requiring a spacing between birthing children 3 years I think it is right now and this is targeted primarily to punish rohingya populations that don't have access to some of the Family Planning materials that majority populations do.
[30:13] In Japan the national eugenic law was introduced in 1940 eventually replaced by the eugenic Protection Law in 1948 which allow sterilization of people with certain genetic predispositions including things like color blindness and the very general predisposition to commit crime, since 1940 up until 1995 around 800,000 people have been surgically sterilized.
[30:41] In the late 2000 Israel was secretly injecting Ethiopian Jewish immigrants with a long-acting contraceptive called Depo-Provera to prevent abuse women from being able to have children nobody knew about this for years until the media reported on it and it was eventually admitted and apologize for and Israel said that it was never intended to be the case but this policy continued for years at the time until it was eventually found out.
[31:04] The United States agency for International Development put 36 million dollars towards a program in Peru that took place in 1995 and which forcibly sterilized indigenous people.
[31:18] In South Africa there been multiple reports of HIV positive women being sterilized without their informed consent and sometimes even without their knowledge.
[31:27] In Russia many doctors can order sterilization without patient consent.
[31:33] And as we mentioned earlier in to use sterilization as a carrot to attract for individuals with desired land housing money or loans and rewarded them with those products in exchange for their own sterilization.
[31:46] But modern Eugenics really took off first in the United States and in perhaps this is where Modern Eugenics came from.
[31:54] Beginning about 1890 the United States. First Nation to really undertake compulsory sterilization for the purpose of improving the overall genetic fitness of the population or another word eugenics. Many of these civilizations were rooted in economic arguments with the presiding medical prejudices concerning this area of that time, California was the nation's leader and sterilization answer lies more than any other state by any normous margin, in fact the state alone, for a third of all the sterilization that occurred within the United States, this program was so prolific and successful that it was said to be an inspiration to add off Hitler and key importance of proving that large compulsory sterilization was a program that was feasible and could be put into practice.
[32:42] And although some of the institutions from this earlier time has shut down like the Oregon Board of eugenics later renamed the Board of Social protection shut down just a few decades ago in 1980.
[33:05] We're sterilized apparently as part of a volunteer program but later it was found out these prisoners did not give consent. In 2014 a man in Virginia who was on probation was given a plea deal if he accepted a vasectomy.
[33:21] And in fact plea deals that require for sterilization are common practice in US courtroom.
[33:28] Justice year David in February a 34 year old woman was sentenced to a year in prison with three years soup.
[33:46] Judge agreed to reduce the sentence if she agreed to Medical sterilization she did.
[33:52] I know we keep saying that we're going to do is show on plea deals but I mean I really just have to interrupt you and just see how gross this is I mean I understand that these judges think that they're acting out of the person's best interest. You should not have anymore kids maybe that's too I mean there's definitely people that shouldn't have kids that don't deserve kids, using a coercive method like a plea deal saying that if you don't allow us to sterilize you you will go to prison seems to me like a really. Way to use the system's I mean I was disgusted when I read these examples and and how common it apparently is like I said don't get me started on plea deals and it just don't episode it will get to it eventually but just really it's gross this is gross.
[34:35] Will David you know it's gross is forced sterilization is there is a more subtle population control going on in the United States this is part of how are public and lie.
[34:59] Black woman who can't take care of her family is not a good mother these types of stereotypes are not based in any reality but are things that we've accepted in society as a way to prejudge a person's ability to take care of their family in this isn't better than the way our Public Assistance programs treat them. If you are a poor mother in the United States and you want Public Assistance some kind of welfare some kind of help. You often have to give up your own privacy the government is going to, monitor your sexual life ask you questions about your future family plans put pressure on you to conform to a certain family style and if they do not accept Public Assistance but they fall into a certain cohort and Society they open themselves up two ongoing monitoring and surveillance by Child Protective Services, the way we intervene in these women's lives is totally foreign to someone who is part of a middle-class or obviously more upper middle class or even wealthy cohort in society, if a poor woman is pregnant she wants public health insurance often they have to give up more of their privacy that more of the.
[36:23] You have more than a certain number of children and so we see why this is not a direct sterilization is a very clear control of a population that we have already deemed Unworthy of equal participation in.
[36:37] Unworthy and unwanted but now all this discussion of the population control measures that are being put into place by states around the world
The Wrong Question [36:46] weather in control of things like welfare whether it's groups like The IMF and the World Bank limiting resources based on Family Planning concessions or whether it's direct sterilization often times that they specifically unwanted groups where they be socioeconomic or ethnic maybe we should stop for a second and reflect on whether overpopulation and the control of our population globally is even asking the right question to begin with.
[37:11] You mean if it's the right question in terms of the threats to our world.
[37:16] Well I'm not saying that population doesn't play into these systems that we talked about I mean if you have 7 million people you have 7 billion Mouse to feed that's math. Course population is a part of this equation but I want to suggest that maybe it's not the largest part and not by a long shot.
[37:34] Are you telling me David that if we line up some of the great philosophers, of our time and of ancient time Confucius Plato Aristotle those Spartan leaders well maybe maybe we won't include those but Thomas Malthus and those Stanford biologist the air looks are you telling me that they in some way got it wrong.
[37:55] I just think that they're missing the point like I said I mean it population is absolutely part of this equation we cannot deny that fact but fact of the matter is is that population is only, part of this in the question isn't in a we have seven and a half billion miles to feed are we going to do that but the answer that question you need to look at how much food are the seven and a half billion people going to eat. And when we start looking at consumption. How much resources a single individual admits and how we expand that across the world's population we very quickly revealed that the problem isn't overpopulation. The problem is overconsumption in certain typically very small portions of our global population.
[38:36] Okay so it's not that we as a global population, are having too many kids it's that some groups are just having a bigger impact and I'm guessing that's going to be found in well it's the last time I checked many of the wealthiest countries in the world actually have stable or declining population so I'm guessing the biggest impact is going to be coming.
[39:06] Is out of control.
[39:08] Will reading the air likes books he would think that's the case then and this is something that they continue to discuss even through to modern day decades after they first published the population bomb and they continue to claim that population reductions in places around the world that declining population you mentioned in Europe and Japan in the so-called civilized in developed world is a huge achievement is something that saving the world from standing on the edge of this Cliff built by the geometric functions of Thomas Malthus 200 years before. But this doesn't match up with the data not at all not even remotely, where is the consumption happening where all those resources being spent burned up consumed Willis in those countries that are developed those countries with those declining population and those countries were populations are exploding yeah I mean the consumption is going up pollution is going up CO2 mitt is going up but nowhere near the rate and it goes up in the developed world in places where population is supposed to be under control or Family Planning is part of the system attend and where the population growth has gotten so low. That many governments are now introducing Pro natalist policies trying to encourage more population growth.
[40:16] In 2012 the amount of resources and Echo logical services that we.
[40:31] Consumption patterns around the world industrial output pollution demands for energy food production it becomes very clear, that some of our biggest impacts have very little to do with the underlying growth in population. In what early critic of the population bomb that book by the Air lyrics, pointed out that while the air licks look to population growth as the sole problem of environmental destruction and our future pollution in the 70s was, pacing population growth 721 demands for Power 8 to 1 and we see similar Trends today in fact us agricultural yields outpace current worldwide population Trends per capita food production increased between 1961 and 2011 at a rate of .64% per year and that's over population growth that means that we were producing food faster than we were reproducing.
[41:29] Well it's going to send you some numbers just for a moment because I think this really illustrates for me being a very graphic visual way just how dramatic the disparity between the consumption of the wealthiest of the world and the poorest are and why the conceptions of overpopulation as the greatest threat to our world is so wildly off not about population spell consumption soaps, and for simplicity's sake we're going to look at carbon dioxide emissions the really easy thing to charge you can look at it by per capita emissions you can break it up into individuals the top 1% wealthiest the top .1% the bottom 10% whatever it's very easy to divide up and look at much more so than a lot of other pollutants are inputs or variables that we talked about that are so hard to graph chart so for the sake of his example were looking at Global carbon dioxide emissions annually, I'm looking at per capita nations were looking at it also has this the bases along the world so we take our total Global annual carbon dioxide emitted and we can see who invented what. How much did the poorest 10% of the world and how much did the richest 1% of.
[42:35] Should I guess Dave.
[42:36] Let me ask you this question right now we're living unsustainably there's no doubt about.
[42:41] 1.6 Earth's baby maybe we can figure it out.
[42:44] Exactly I mean it was so we have a population of 7.6 billion people give or take we are absolutely on a collision course to unsustainable collapse no doubt about it, Paris agreement is trying to get us down to specific things in order even just a limit RC what to impact at this point in and not even limited it completely I don't want to get into that at the moment but life is unsustainable we can agree on that so we take the impact of the bottom 10%. And we spend this. Global population so we limit the top 90% And we make everybody in it as much CO2 is his bottom 10% how many people do you think would have to be on this Earth to emit the same amount of carbon dioxide don't take a guess.
[43:23] All else being equal David you know suming we don't have to build like massive bunkers in the sky to house all these people.
[43:31] Just see if we can magically snap your fingers and make this happen your clothes. Try double that. What's 140 billion people on Earth so hundred thirty-three billion actually would admit the same amount of carbon dioxide as we do right now if all those hundred thirty-three billing people with living the same way as the poorest 10% of people on Earth do, does that sound like an overpopulation problem let's try this in the flipside Daniel 8 richest 10% of people on Earth instead okay.
[44:06] Alright these are the billion at the rich of the rich we're flying from our. Flying from Singapore Towers to Towers in Dubai where we never touch land we're always in the air. I order my filet mignon they cut the beef in Brazil they fly at to London where they cook it.
[44:24] Daniel has never flown anything beyond like stowaway class no no.
[44:29] I wish I could be that would be awesome.
[44:31] I mean it's not billionaires like that.
[44:32] No seatbelts baby.
[44:33] The richest 10% is basically everybody on Earth who lives in a developed Nation this is a lot of people to 760 million people but these 760 million people consume more than half of the world's Resources by himself. So that means just barely over 1.5 billion people would consume the same amount of resources as our 7.6 billion do right now if we all lived like the richest 10% of people on earth which if you're listening to this show is almost certainly you does this sound like an overpopulation problem or over-consumption problem.
[45:05] Let me get this straight if everyone on Earth lived with the same impact that the top 10% population does then a sustainable level would be 1.6 billion people on earth.
[45:18] Not even a sustainable level this same level of unsustainable living.
[45:22] We're still we're still.
[45:23] We're still on 16.
[45:24] We're still using 1.6 Earth.
[45:26] We're just yeah we're just all living like a developed Nation lifestyle but the Earth can only support globally if everyone lived like that 1.5 billion people but maybe let's take it even farther than that.
[45:38] Now I'm a billionaire I got my burrowing playing I'm actually underwater I'm going to Atlantis and buying my beef this time to chop the beef down in.
[45:48] Why why are you buying beef in Atlantis.
[45:52] Cuz I'm a billionaire David I can do whatever I want.
[45:56] Okay here's the number start getting a little bit iffy because it's harder to nail this down exactly but for the papers I've seen this is pretty accurate and I'm going to be a little bit generous with this estimate to so I'm going to overestimate it in favor making it less dramatic than it is but so let's look at the global .1% the richest of the rich, these are not even your billing errors Daniel Caesar be modest millionaires of the world all the way up to The Sheiks CEOs Bill Gates Elon Musk to the world this is globally 7.6 million people, 7.6 richest people on earth, if the entire world population was made up of these people and they all polluted the same as they do now the same levels of Earth unsustainable missions that we have right now will be made up like just around 33 million people, that is the carrying capacity of Earth if we all pollute as much as the richest .1% of people on Earth just 33 million people. Does that sound like an overpopulation problem or overconsumption.
[46:56] Well David.
[47:03] For me and everyone else to achieve that billionaire status because of the probability associated with reaching that level but now I know that if we all did that way, well it would destroy the Earth in a heartbeat so thank you for that but you know looking at carbon dioxide emissions is one thing but another way to look at it is income and data from the United Nations development program reveal that in 1960 the per capita income of the wealthiest 20% of the global population was 30 times higher than the poorest 20%, and by 1995 that ratio had increased from 30 to 1 to 82 to 1, the receipt as time goes on that rich 1% gets richer and richer and the poor get poorer as we would expect. And it's really highlight how overconsumption is a problem David or not just overconsumption meaning we buy too many shoes but overconsumption meaning that the way we live our life is crap. By systems that abused the environment in unsustainable ways a good illustration of that bring it back to Mathis and his fixation on food we can look at food production to see some startling trends right now about half the entire global population is sustained.
[48:23] Two things that cannot continue but yet half the population of the world gets its food through this process. 1% of all Farms are large industrial scale operation but these covers 65% of agricultural land, employing those unsustainable industrial practices and 45.6 billion consumers worldwide who purchase their food from some Source tied to the international market, 45% of the food bought takes place in large supermarkets suggesting that this food system is being propped up by Cheap fossil fuels allowing crops that are now Commodities to be shipped cheap Lee worldwide something again that cannot be sustained and your numbers David highlight so clearly how we don't have a population problem we have a resource use and in wealth distribution and consumption problem in such a way that targeting population declined cannot be the true solution to.
[49:22] Because in this world in a profit-seeking consumer economy as we see consumption is greatest in wealthy countries where is anything population already is in Decline, and why is this it may be true that expanding the consumer base through population growth does benefit some sectors of the economy who want to sell more toothbrushes and shoes but population growth is not necessary to grow consumer economy, if population declines, as long as we're continuing to go forward business as usual under the current economic Paradigm advertisers and companies can adapt, by persuading people to consume more waste more for us and richer countries that might mean buying more plane tickets, or eating more lavish meals or owning more Gadgets in our homes or simply owning more homes altogether and for poor countries there's a lot of potential to grow consumption by emulating these wealth your Lifestyles there is no end to the amount of consumption that we can squeeze out of people as long as we're still driving forward in this indefinite physical growth paradigm regardless of what population.
[50:29] And so the only way that we can address some of the systemic issues that we've been talking about on the show and various topics is to get at the heart of the fundamental economic structure the structure that allows wealth to accumulate in such dramatic proportions where 1% of the global population can outnumber in terms of consumption by such a huge margin everybody, speaking of income in equality I want to come back to that bathtub illustration David and take it one more step okay are you ready can you do this one more time.
[51:03] Okay I'm ready.
[51:04] Okay so in the first bathtub illustration. You invited your friends your closest friends to your home to partake in your water but let's say David in this imaginary world you have no friend.
[51:17] It is an imaginary world.
[51:18] It is hard to imagine but if you really stretch your mind I think you can do it now you have this Water Resource you have this type of water but there's one problem you're not making any money off of it. So you've come up with a solution and that is you.
[51:44] Going to be wealthy people you really want to Target those whales out there David with a lot of money so it's $10 to get in to the door.
[51:52] I'm liking this visit final I think I was giving me some ideas.
[51:55] Yes why you stick around to the end cuz you might not like the conclusion but for the moment you're making money people are coming to your door they're coming into your house and they get access to this exclusive resource and you look out the window and you notice that all around you the world is suffering but you and your home you get to laugh and laugh because you are making so much money and you and your friends now they are your new friends youth alive.
[52:17] That's right making money making friends.
[52:19] You all are getting rich you all are reaping the benefits that come at the direct expense of everyone else but then we know how the illustration is. The reserve Runs Out demand outpaces Supply and now what are you do David you go out into the world looking for a little bit of water to quench your thirst but you find that all that is left is real. And again this bathtub example sure it's silly but this is exactly how are economy functions and it's one of the fundamental characteristics of our economy that must be restructured.
[52:53] Simply adjusted but completely restructured if we have any hope of getting through these problems. And maybe it seems like a hot take to say that our economy is function in this way but I mean going back to food another example of this consider that right now European demand for meat consumption is supplied by Outsourcing soy production to South America, which takes up 46 million hectares or land mass equivalent to 90% of all Germany's agricultural land, and soil is one of those industrial agriculture practices which destroys rainforest which destroys the topsoil over time, and that destruction impacts all of us we simply don't see it but these Global Systems catch up to us. As long as we live in a world that says the only people who deserve to eat are those that earn it through wages or return on investment and we will continue to live in a world that advances the rich at the expense of the poor, fostering competition for scarce resources in the destruction of the environment exclusion and accumulation are fundamentally inconsistent with economic systems operating within sustainable boundaries.
[54:02] These are Dire Straits and in many ways actually a World War consuming too much seems harder to fix the world where there's just too many people. It's easy to tell somebody you can't have anymore kids easy to sterilize someone it's much harder to come to somebody and say you need to live less, you need to eat less you need to eat more sustainably change your diet change how you live, change the environment you live in those are tall orders nobody wants a lower standard of living but if we want a sustainable Earth that's why we might be facing, there's a word for this a word for an economy that is built around converting to sustainability instead of one based solely on constantly explaining the resources, and that word is D growth.
[54:46] You know David we talk a lot on the show about the failures of an idea that's embedded in our society that indefinite economic growth is necessary and good, it's an idea that gives life too much of the Economy Inn and we harp on it every now and then but growth is simply something that is measured, and this idea of indefinite growth is only dangerous today because of what we are measuring.
[55:09] And sometimes Daniel but we aren't measuring.
[55:12] Exactly there are many things that we could measure to track human progress but we have chosen to measure it in sales. Products not even a specific product but just any products, we measure the success of Hulk countries based on how many shoes how many loans or how many rocks they sell, GDP is the measure of success by which we judge other groups of people and what is comprised of GDP the amount of things that people buy the money we invest the amount of things countries by from us money spent by the government, does any of this tell us something meaningful about our relationship to each other and the Earth that ultimately makes life possible. And it's not enough to Simply scale back or ask one company to stop destroying the Earth because both options will lead to suffering as our economy suffer.
Structural Change Or Nothing [56:02] Economic recessions and depressions are painful which is why the only viable solution must mean a departure from current economic models profit-seeking does not preserve the environment, . if we want to live on this Earth we have to start fundamentally from an ecological understanding of the earth we must look at the ground beneath our feet and ask what level of taking and polluting that ground can we sustain, once we establish those levels we must commit to maintaining them these limits must be completely outside the Realms of echo.
[56:42] Has a basic right to food shelter to life and that no individual has a right to more than their fair share Acer that is proportional to what that environmental limit is if this seems crazy or ridiculous it's only because we've become normalized to living in an already crazy world we can't survive at our current rate of extraction and output but that fact has been hidden out of sight because the people who profit the most literally do not care our billionaires and world leaders were given a choice except Untold riches today. At the expense of mass suffering in the future or don't accept it and watches your peers out-compete and out achieve you, many people made this Choice did they make the evil Choice perhaps. Exclusively blaming these individuals ultimately won't help us because it is a fundamental economic structure underneath them that has allowed them to make that choice in the first place, a world in which we all establish food as a basic right and a right that must be cats with an environmental boundaries precludes the option for a person to profit from the sales of pesticides patent seeds industrial-scale Harvesters and nitrogen fertilizer because those things would have no demand in society they would have no reason for existing.
[58:04] So as we insinuated maybe it's time to imagine a new economy one based not on measuring things like GDP per capita growth how many widgets reproduce the one that's focused on D growth or if we want to rephrase that word because we've become so concerned with this constant growth word and its warmed its way into our mind that controls how we see the world instead we twist our focus of what growth is not from these economic imperative that we have right now of ever higher GDP and stock prices but instead a more sustainable future, turning to measure our sustainability index and this of course means a lower standard of living for many of us involved Nations if you curious what that looks like a recent report in 2016 found that there are about two Nations that are fully sustainable that is their imports their exports their impact on their environment and what those two countries look like it's not wealthy it's real Anka and it's Cuba, you're not well off by any means at least compared to developed Nations but they don't lack there's enough food there's enough education there's enough Healthcare in though there are poor and some are wealthier than others inequalities much lower and there aren't many developed and developing nations this is the model of a sustainable future is one where we don't have excess we just have enough.
[59:24] And instead we need to fill that hole left in our hearts by the things that we bought by the things we collected and consumed and said with each other, with community relations with our neighbors with family, with hobbies and Pursuits and we can pursue because we have the free time to because our days aren't dominated by the endless quest for more more widgets more money's more promotions, driving the stock numbers Higher and Higher and it's dead measuring our development in satisfaction our development and sustainability, are measure of animals returning to places where they haven't lived for Generations because we drove them out in the Quest for more.
[1:00:02] This is a world where D growth is the rule for regrowth is the future. Growth of useless economic measures is done and buried and still we grow together that is the only way forward that we can weather the storms that are coming because overconsumption is real it's here right now and population is growing it's going to exacerbate this problem even more. As well as things like migration unsustainable production more resource extraction, greater numbers of products constructed and consumed around the world or doing the opposite of what we need to survive as a species in as a civilization, and if we don't act right now and our children and our grandchildren will pay the cost.
[1:00:45] But you know what is interesting David as we come to the close of this episode.
Who Gets The Last Laugh? [1:00:59] Laugh.
[1:01:00] Let the Right Daniel researchers published a paper in 2017 that found a link between one of the most common herbicides in the agricultural industry and birth defects birth defects go up when Farmers spray nearby fields of the herbicide atrazine with vin makes it into the drinking water supply, terrible as it is it may not be that surprising that when pregnant women drink water with chemical herbicides. HIDA scan the affected but what alarm the researchers the most is the fact that this endocrine-disrupting chemical causes permanent epigenetic changes to DNA, meaning exposure to the chemical can leave imprints on your DNA that has been passed down and a narrative. Our understanding of epigenetics is still very new and constantly evolving but basically it's a phenomenon by which environmental triggers ecology need to express themselves in different ways and for all the testing we've done a medicines drugs and chemicals we administer there have been no studies to measure multigenerational impacts of certain drug especially not chemicals like a through z, everspring all over the.
[1:02:06] The same researchers also found that 93% of pregnant women in Indiana five levels of glyphosate the main ingredient in monsanto's Roundup in their urine which correlates to Shorter pregnancies and likely epigenetic effects similar to atrazine what does this mean David will help understand the scientist ran a study on rats in which they exposed pregnant rodents to atrazine and as expected their babies had health defect what was unexpected though was the fact that subsequent generations of rats not exposed to any chemicals developed worse and worse Health defects to the point of infertility because these DNA changes were being passed down and magnified at each generation.
[1:02:49] This point is crazy the same effects occur in humans, it means that some of the pollutants toxins and other products of industrial activity or have an impact on her health but the full consequences of these impacts won't even be noticed until two generations later.
[1:03:05] Remember that bathtub analogy David and how an important concept that leads us to collapse is the delay before adjustments can be made to systemic change it.
[1:03:22] All because of chemicals dumped on the ground by your grandparents generation at that point it's way too late to make a correct.
[1:03:30] At least at that point the overpopulation debate can finally be buried if you want to learn more about any of the topics we discussed today read the full transcript of this episode you can do all of that and much more on our website at ashes ashes. Org.
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