Thursday, September 25, 2014

No Room! No Room!

The title to this piece is a play on the title of Harry Harrison's Make Room! Make Room! which was the basis for the movie, favorite Charleton Heston cannibal movie, Soylent Green.

The panic over population waned somewhere in the early 1980s.  Likely a factor of (borrowed) renewed economic prosperity, and convenient projections that the worlds population would peak out somewhere around 10 billion.

Well maybe not.

World population to hit 11bn in 2100 – with 70% chance of continuous rise
Damian Carrington, The Guardian (U.K.), 18 September 2014 (hat tip: NC)
The world’s population is now odds-on to swell ever-higher for the rest of the century, posing grave challenges for food supplies, healthcare and social cohesion. A ground-breaking analysis released on Thursday shows there is a 70% chance that the number of people on the planet will rise continuously from 7bn today to 11bn in 2100.
The work overturns 20 years of consensus that global population, and the stresses it brings, will peak by 2050 at about 9bn people. “The previous projections said this problem was going to go away so it took the focus off the population issue,” said Prof Adrian Raftery, at the University of Washington, who led the international research team. “There is now a strong argument that population should return to the top of the international agenda. Population is the driver of just about everything else and rapid population growth can exacerbate all kinds of challenges.” Lack of healthcare, poverty, pollution and rising unrest and crime are all problems linked to booming populations, he said.
I should mention that No Room! No Room! is also a quote from the beginning of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland: Chapter 7: aka: The Mad Tea Party.
There was a table set out under a tree in front of the house, and the March Hare and the Hatter were having tea at it: a Dormouse was sitting between them, fast asleep, and the other two were using it as a cushion, resting their elbows on it, and talking over its head. `Very uncomfortable for the Dormouse,' thought Alice; `only, as it's asleep, I suppose it doesn't mind.'
The table was a large one, but the three were all crowded together at one corner of it: `No room! No room!' they cried out when they saw Alice coming. `There's plenty of room!' said Alice indignantly, and she sat down in a large arm-chair at one end of the table.
Two days in a row mentioning Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.


PioneerPreppy said...

I don't see where they think the resources are going to come from for that much growth in population.

Harry Flashman said...

Thomas Malthus was right. His timing may have been thrown off by the development of chemical fertilizers, but the basic theory remains spot on.

russell1200 said...

Pioneer: I am presuming there is some idea on the researchers part that other factors, bad ones, will interact with the projection. I think the issue is that the problem won't heal itself.

Harry: There has been a lot of looking at the specific cyclical mechanisms involved. A lot of those folks don't buy into Malthus it seems, so there may be issues with Malthus in the details. Tainter is also very blurry on mechanisms which make his theory not very useful.

But in general, Malthus was just starting to be wrong when he wrote, because the English were already using coal for heating purposes, and thus freeing up land previously needed for fuel. If you don't count gunpowder, oddly enough the first fossil fuel revolution seems to have effected farming first.