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posted by martyb on Tuesday May 26 2015, @02:47PM   Printer-friendly
from the On-a-Pale-Horse-vs-Being-a-Green-Mother dept.

The world population is growing because the birth rate exceeds the death rate, so to stabilize the world population either the birth rate needs to drop, or the death rate needs to increase. The most cited reference for population studies is the projections of future population (PDF) made by the Population Division of the United Nations. The UN report projects the world population to eventually stabilize as a result of countries settling in to a birth rate that falls around the replacement level.

A commentary by Stephen Warren in the open access journal Earth's Future takes the UN report to task for focusing on birth rate. He notes that all species generate offspring in numbers well above the replacement level of two, but you don't see historically the kind of population growth like you do with humans. He argues that despite all the negative feedback mechanisms on population (such as war and pestilence), it seems that Malthus (PDF) was correct that food supply is the driving factor, and wonders whether it is even possible to stabilize the world population until food production levels off.


[Editor's Comment: Original Submission]

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  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Jeremiah Cornelius on Tuesday May 26 2015, @02:50PM

    by Jeremiah Cornelius (2785) on Tuesday May 26 2015, @02:50PM (#188038) Journal

    There is abundance for more than the world's projected populations - just not at the levels of inequality we have historically tolerated.

    Somehow, having a few live like Kanye or the Sultan of Brunei at the expense of eugenics seems more palatable than an equitable and egalitarian arrangement for everyone.

    Animals on two legs. You should be shamed when you hear of human beings.

    --
    You're betting on the pantomime horse...
    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by FatPhil on Tuesday May 26 2015, @03:09PM

      by FatPhil (863) <{pc-soylent} {at} {asdf.fi}> on Tuesday May 26 2015, @03:09PM (#188049) Homepage
      Can you provide some maths to back up that assertion - in particular the "inequality" part.
      I suspect it's incorrect - in particular the "inequality" part - because inequality is causing *billions* to survive (or die) on only a tiny fraction of what it's comfortable to live on. The mega-rich are not eating a billion times as much as the extremely poor - so you can't equalise food distribution like you can money distribution (where the ultra-rich indeed do have a billion times as much as the extremely poor). Billions of people would need to eat less in order for billions of people to eat more. Therefore you can't easily pull the lowest layers up much easily - simply because they are so numerous.

      You also have to remember that the projected populations are arrived at after factoring into the equations things like lots of people dying from malnutrition and famine.

      I'm not saying that equality isn't a noble goal, it's just that I don't think it will achieve what you claim it will, namely abundance for all.
      --
      I was worried about my command. I was the scientist of the Holy Ghost.
      • (Score: 2) by RamiK on Tuesday May 26 2015, @04:10PM

        by RamiK (1813) on Tuesday May 26 2015, @04:10PM (#188094)

        Food shortages and warfare are irrelevant since there are no eugenics against diseases. Breeding for intellect, physical strength, beauty or sociability just means limiting long term genetic diversity on the expense of a better quality of life in whatever society you're living in that happens to encourage those traits as vestiges of defending against predators that are no longer around.

        You could argue targeting health for eugenics, but that's a shifting socio-political term as any. e.g. current life expectancy ratings in 1st world countries only reflect externally uninhibited health (no wars, predators or pandemics) and relies completely on access to food and medicine which are no guarantee in the long run.

        Eventually, you'll be faced with the fact that the only thing you can do is breed young and for numbers with multiple partner as genetically distant from you as you can in hopes whatever kills everyone else won't get to your offspring.

        --
        compiling...
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 29 2015, @12:34AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 29 2015, @12:34AM (#189416)

          Louis C.K. is that you ?

      • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Immerman on Tuesday May 26 2015, @08:33PM

        by Immerman (3985) on Tuesday May 26 2015, @08:33PM (#188258)

        The problem isn't that there isn't enough food - IIRC current global food production is 4-8x greater than necessary to adequately feed the global population. The problem is that there's no *profitable* way to get that food into the hands of the poorest quarter or so of the world's population.

        I.e., we don't have a food problem, we have an economics problem.

        • (Score: 2) by FatPhil on Tuesday May 26 2015, @10:29PM

          by FatPhil (863) <{pc-soylent} {at} {asdf.fi}> on Tuesday May 26 2015, @10:29PM (#188328) Homepage
          Ah, yes, thanks for the *emphasis*, perhaps with appropriately-portioned money, the problem can be solved by logistics? But logistics requires fule, and fuel's one of those things that we're also having the occasional flap about. And I get the feeling that it would quickly lead to us exploiting them and taking all their money back off them, as we do that kind of thing, historically.
          --
          I was worried about my command. I was the scientist of the Holy Ghost.
    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by WillAdams on Tuesday May 26 2015, @06:35PM

      by WillAdams (1424) on Tuesday May 26 2015, @06:35PM (#188179)

      Well, there was Gandhi's quote,

      “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed”

      http://thinkexist.com/quotation/earth_provides_enough_to_satisfy_every_man-s_need/181709.html [thinkexist.com]

      • (Score: 2) by Nuke on Tuesday May 26 2015, @07:36PM

        by Nuke (3162) on Tuesday May 26 2015, @07:36PM (#188219)

        Well, there was Gandhi's quote, “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed”

        He said that getting on for a century ago and no doubt it was true then. But we are talking here about centuries to come.

        Despite being in the West, and probably among the better-off half of it, I am already noticing shortages of things. Small signs, that do not matter very much at the moment, but worrying for the longer term. Like modern furniture being made out of compressed chippings of crappy timber; OTOH I have some old kitchen cupboards in my shed to store tools, nothing special in their day, but nevertheless made of quality wood back then. There is certainly not enough wood in the world now to make quality furniture, and one day soon I expect it will not even be made of wood chips - probably dried shit or laminated recycled human skin, those being things of which there will no doubt be plenty in the future.

        • (Score: 1) by WillAdams on Tuesday May 26 2015, @08:21PM

          by WillAdams (1424) on Tuesday May 26 2015, @08:21PM (#188248)

          You can still get solid wood furniture, you just have to be willing to pay for it, or make it yourself (in which case you either need to buy the wood, or mill it yourself).

          I live in Pennsylvania, in the middle of Penn's Woods, and there's an almost unbelievable amount of timber --- it's still getting cut, and it's still growing, and new trees are still being planted.

          Even w/ SCITES, exotic woods continue to be available, and there's been some effort to make species such as Lignum Vitae commercially available and grown sustainably.

          • (Score: 2) by Nuke on Wednesday May 27 2015, @10:16AM

            by Nuke (3162) on Wednesday May 27 2015, @10:16AM (#188541)
            I should have said there is not enough good solid wood any more for more than the wealthy. Like the very wealthy could still afford a bit of real meat in Soylent Green.

            I also live in a forest, in South Wales, and some of my garden looks like part of it. I had two big hardwood trees blow down two years ago and I am still burning them for heating. But in the UK that is very exceptional. I have old maps (like 50 years old) and comparing them with new maps it is frightening how much less woodland there now is (and how much more area has been built on) in just a generation or two. My bit of forest is curently protected, but I can see that being overruled by politicians in another generation to make room for more housing.

            Despite making a lot of noise about eg wind generation, supposedly to save global warming to save trees and wildlife, politicians actually don't give a shit about trees and wildlife directly and will readily sign off square miles of green countryside for new development, and with little opposition either. The "Green Movement" is really more paranoia about poisons (supposed or real) than caring about the natural world.

            Ironic that no-one (yet) in this discussion had mentioned what inspired the name of this website.
        • (Score: 1) by khallow on Wednesday May 27 2015, @02:12AM

          by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday May 27 2015, @02:12AM (#188400) Journal
          Hmm, you're right. I notice that I can't get whale oil for my lamps any more.
  • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 26 2015, @03:08PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 26 2015, @03:08PM (#188047)

    Population reduction seems like this theme is super popular right in entertainment right now.

    Just off the top of my head (spoilers, duh):

    Orphan Black
    Utopia
    Person of Interest
    Helix
    Kingsman

    • (Score: 2) by Bot on Tuesday May 26 2015, @04:18PM

      by Bot (3902) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday May 26 2015, @04:18PM (#188104)

      While topics like mind control are still taboo.

    • (Score: 2) by Daiv on Tuesday May 26 2015, @08:25PM

      by Daiv (3940) on Tuesday May 26 2015, @08:25PM (#188252)

      Utopia (UK, not the crap FOX reality-TV show) was fantastic! Excellent approach to the topic at hand. Check it out if you haven't already!

  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Wodan on Tuesday May 26 2015, @03:11PM

    by Wodan (517) on Tuesday May 26 2015, @03:11PM (#188050)

    So the population in Japan is shrinking because of the food shortages? how did they keep it out of the news??

    • (Score: 4, Interesting) by hemocyanin on Tuesday May 26 2015, @03:23PM

      by hemocyanin (186) on Tuesday May 26 2015, @03:23PM (#188054)

      Maybe the driving factor is a combination of poor economic future and sufficient food supply. You have to have the food, but when you can achieve nothing else in life except offspring no matter how hard you try, people might focus on that goal. Just a total guess on my part.

      • (Score: 3, Insightful) by ikanreed on Tuesday May 26 2015, @03:26PM

        by ikanreed (3164) on Tuesday May 26 2015, @03:26PM (#188057)

        Higher GDP per capita and average happiness levels are correlated with lower fertility. Your theory is ad hoc and does a poor job of explaining similar data in Europe.

        • (Score: 1) by khallow on Wednesday May 27 2015, @02:15AM

          by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday May 27 2015, @02:15AM (#188403) Journal

          Higher GDP per capita and average happiness levels are correlated with lower fertility.

          He was saying lack of future corresponds to higher fertility. If we assume that higher GDP per capita and average happiness levels corresponds to a better future, then he would be agreeing with you at least on the outcome.

          • (Score: 2) by ikanreed on Wednesday May 27 2015, @01:34PM

            by ikanreed (3164) on Wednesday May 27 2015, @01:34PM (#188589)

            Hmm. I guess I can believe that's what he was saying.

            It's one of those internet conversations where you just don't understand what the other person is saying, I guess.

      • (Score: 5, Funny) by FatPhil on Tuesday May 26 2015, @03:33PM

        by FatPhil (863) <{pc-soylent} {at} {asdf.fi}> on Tuesday May 26 2015, @03:33PM (#188066) Homepage
        My understanding, based on nothing more than tales of their technology and their porn, is that they are probably trying to breed with robots, but are failing because they don't know exactly what goes where due to government-mandated pixellation.
        --
        I was worried about my command. I was the scientist of the Holy Ghost.
      • (Score: 2) by mojo chan on Wednesday May 27 2015, @07:52AM

        by mojo chan (266) on Wednesday May 27 2015, @07:52AM (#188506)

        The population decline in Japan is due to the typical issues that affect people in develop nations. They want careers, children are expensive, and they have the education and empowerment to choose not to have them.

        --
        const int one = 65536; (Silvermoon, Texture.cs)
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 26 2015, @03:26PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 26 2015, @03:26PM (#188059)

      Perhaps if you even just skimmed the material you'd see that these issues are addressed:

      Section 4: Why Family Size Has Been Shrinking Worldwide, and Why the Exceptions Are Important

      Section 5: Why Can the Global Average Fertility Rate Rise Even if Each Country's Fertility Rate Is Falling?

      Remember, it is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.

      • (Score: 3, Touché) by Wodan on Tuesday May 26 2015, @03:30PM

        by Wodan (517) on Tuesday May 26 2015, @03:30PM (#188063)

        What, you expect me to read the actual article? The summary says it's all food!

      • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Ryuugami on Tuesday May 26 2015, @07:30PM

        by Ryuugami (2925) on Tuesday May 26 2015, @07:30PM (#188214)

        Remember, it is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.

        That may be so, but having only two or three comments per story would be boring.

        --
        If a shit storm's on the horizon, it's good to know far enough ahead you can at least bring along an umbrella. - D.Weber
    • (Score: 2) by FatPhil on Tuesday May 26 2015, @10:21PM

      by FatPhil (863) <{pc-soylent} {at} {asdf.fi}> on Tuesday May 26 2015, @10:21PM (#188323) Homepage
      But I heard on the radio just the other day "Well, don't you know that other kids are starving in Japan"
      --
      I was worried about my command. I was the scientist of the Holy Ghost.
  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by richtopia on Tuesday May 26 2015, @03:19PM

    by richtopia (3160) on Tuesday May 26 2015, @03:19PM (#188053) Homepage Journal

    Hans Rosling is a good presenter of TED talks, and uses statistical data for his support. Here is a relevant talk about population stabilization:

    http://www.ted.com/talks/hans_rosling_on_global_population_growth [ted.com]

    And if you can't watch the video, this is the statistical site he built for identifying trends. It is really cool to look at:

    http://www.gapminder.org/ [gapminder.org]

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Open4D on Tuesday May 26 2015, @04:10PM

      by Open4D (371) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday May 26 2015, @04:10PM (#188093) Journal

      I don't get Rosling. From what I remember of him, he doesn't actually say what his policy position is. But the implication from his headlines is that population concern groups like Population Matters [populationmatters.org] are wrong. That we shouldn't keep the focus on the empowerment of women, and the availability of contraception. That it would be wrong to promote small families as a virtue and to reduce child subsidies.

      He actually added no new information. I remember watching lots of fancy statistical presentations until we eventually arrived at his point that population will peak at 9 billion. I could have got that by looking at the UN projections, and saved myself an awful lot of time! And there are two problems with his argument. Firstly, 9 billion is far from certain. Can Rosling really promise that the UN's upper projection of 15 billion won't come to pass? Secondly, it only took about a billion wealthy westerners to get the planet into the state it is now. There is no room for his complacency.

      See also http://www.populationmatters.org/documents/population_solved.pdf [populationmatters.org]

      • (Score: 2) by looorg on Tuesday May 26 2015, @08:38PM

        by looorg (578) on Tuesday May 26 2015, @08:38PM (#188261)

        That is kind of his thing now isn't it? Travel the world and show off his animated graphs telling us how much better everything in the world is. It's like porn for statisticians. While the rest of us are left to wonder "so ...." and then get no explanation at all.

      • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Tuesday May 26 2015, @08:40PM

        by Immerman (3985) on Tuesday May 26 2015, @08:40PM (#188262)

        Oh?

        From what I remember his talks regularly make the point that the combination of
        1) family planning education combined with cheap/free birth control (cultural shift toward voluntary reproduction)
        and
        2) adequate juvenile healthcare (you can count on all your kids survive to adulthood)
        have almost invariably led to near-zero population growth.

        Seems like a pretty obvious policy recommendation to me...

      • (Score: 2, Interesting) by khallow on Wednesday May 27 2015, @02:19AM

        by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday May 27 2015, @02:19AM (#188406) Journal

        From what I remember of him, he doesn't actually say what his policy position is.

        You didn't either. I looked through the whole post and it just wasn't there.

        Secondly, it only took about a billion wealthy westerners to get the planet into the state it is now. There is no room for his complacency.

        You mean the state where everyone is massively profiting from a global economy, things have been getting better for centuries, and you can speak to thousands of people without having to get off the john? I wouldn't call it complacency as much as justified optimism.

        • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Open4D on Wednesday May 27 2015, @08:57AM

          by Open4D (371) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday May 27 2015, @08:57AM (#188528) Journal

          From what I remember of him, he doesn't actually say what his policy position is.

          You didn't either. I looked through the whole post and it just wasn't there.

          I think I made it fairly obvious in the post you replied to that my policy positions include the following:
          1 - increase the focus on the empowerment of women
          2 - increase the focus on the availability of contraception
          3 - promote small families as a virtue
          4 - reduce child subsidies
          And I am very concerned that Rosling, with his headlines like "Don't Panic - The Truth About Population" [bbc.co.uk], will have the effect of reducing the degree of political commitment around the world to policies like those. Of course, we shouldn't panic. But we should take urgent action. He rhetoric is simple but, sadly, effective.
          From http://www.populationmatters.org/2013/population-matters-news/hans-rosling-ecologically-illiterate/ [populationmatters.org] :

          If he succeeded in persuading governments, both donors and recipients, to reduce the still inadequate priority they give to family planning and women’s empowerment programmes, the effects would be: to increase the number of unwanted births, unsafe abortions, maternal deaths, and stunted children; to increase the rate of planetary degradation and the probability of crossing a tipping point, with a rapid increase in premature deaths; to reduce the number of people, the Earth can sustain in the long-term; and to reduce the likelihood of all our children enjoying a decent quality of life. Why does he do it?

          For us, the lesson of the programme is not that the population problem is solved but that it is soluble if we take the actions required.

          From http://www.populationmatters.org/documents/population_solved.pdf [populationmatters.org] :

          Sadly, the caveats of [Rosling and others like him] will be ignored, and the politicians and their hugely influential corporate and religious leaning advisors will jump on these dubious texts and lectures to play down any need to engage with population matters.

           
          N.B. I'd like to point out that my policies 1 and 2 above are worthwhile aims in their own right. I would still support them financially even if there was no population size issue. I also want to provide financial support to such worthwhile aims as increasing the average wealth of poor people, reducing the probability of collapse of human society, and increasing the chance of my children and grandchildren* having happy lives. One of the ways I support these latter aims is indirectly, by supporting policies 1 and 2 above and beyond what I would if there was no population size issue.

          * - not very many of them of course!

           

          Lastly, I note your defensiveness and I would like to re-iterate what I said in post #188082:

          I am not ... criticizing people who have chosen to have large families (e.g. my parents and grandparents). I am just promoting a way forward.

          • (Score: 1) by khallow on Wednesday May 27 2015, @09:22PM

            by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday May 27 2015, @09:22PM (#188788) Journal

            I think I made it fairly obvious in the post you replied to that my policy positions include the following:
            1 - increase the focus on the empowerment of women
            2 - increase the focus on the availability of contraception
            3 - promote small families as a virtue
            4 - reduce child subsidies

            And I think I've made it obvious that I disagree on this matter of obviousness. But that's not what is important here.

            What is important is that you were trying to communicate your opinion on Rosling's actions and largely succeeded. Would you have succeeded as well, if you had spent most of your time talking about your opinions rather than Rosling's?

            Now, I don't know Rosling's actions, motivations, or possible blind spots, but I can see a very rational reason for why he could be taciturn on policy positions. Namely, he is trying to educate people on a very controversial subject and is concerned that expressing his opinions on the matter may in turn cause them to shut out his primary message. By not expressing his opinions on public policy, more people will listen to him.

            Successful communication especially of the sort that educates or influences other people, is inherently constrained by what the listener will accept.

            And I am very concerned that Rosling, with his headlines like "Don't Panic - The Truth About Population", will have the effect of reducing the degree of political commitment around the world to policies like those. Of course, we shouldn't panic. But we should take urgent action. He rhetoric is simple but, sadly, effective.

            And why should that be sad? Shouldn't rather you be happy that the problem is not quite as bad as you thought?

            Sadly, the caveats of [Rosling and others like him] will be ignored, and the politicians and their hugely influential corporate and religious leaning advisors will jump on these dubious texts and lectures to play down any need to engage with population matters.

            Why would "corporations" and "advisors" do this? Overpopulation is a destabilizer of global trade and the infrastructure that any influential business would depend on. I could see some religions benefiting from a regime of high growth population mixed in with the occasional apocalyptic die-off. But that sort isn't likely to see power often. The above phrase just strikes me as an unwarranted assumption that some group you don't like is going to automatically do what you perceive as the evil thing. For example, I think most businesses would love to get a piece of the action from turning Africa into a large part of the developed world.

            I think a large portion of the disrespect for Rosling comes from his puncturing of various treasured myths and the fact that reality is choosing sides in the public policy debates. For example, we have this SN story about capitalism, titled "Is Capitalism Working?" [soylentnews.org]. It's basically a story about an economist who has wealth inequity opinions which run counter to the observations made by Rosling (and who can be largely deflated by noting that he ignores most of the world in his considerations and the effects of illiquidity, being unable to convert the on paper wealth of capital into spending money). But reality is indicating that capitalism combined with liberation of women is a key factor in making things better.

            The same goes for the anti-colonialist implication you made in your original post that somehow a billion developed world people have been bad for the world. But that ignores two things. First, those developed world populations aren't the source of overpopulation, instead, they all experience population decline, even the US is declining in population once you exclude first and second generation immigrants. Second, the whole world is better off in knowledge, trade, and just general well-being due to the efforts and presence of the developed world. A billion wealthy westerners has been quite good for humanity. Now, imagine that we have ten billion wealthy humans by 2100 with the relative industry, freedom, peace, and environmental awareness of the current western world. I think it can get a lot better than it is now.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by FatPhil on Tuesday May 26 2015, @04:10PM

      by FatPhil (863) <{pc-soylent} {at} {asdf.fi}> on Tuesday May 26 2015, @04:10PM (#188096) Homepage
      He didn't have time to explain the only challenging thesis in that talk - namely that by keeping more starving people alive, you help reduce the number of poor starving people. Which was a shame, as precisely one sentence before that he was claiming that the reason the 2 poor boxes became 4 was because birth rates were high. The obvious conclusion from that prior would be that in order to keep population growth down, you'd want to keep birth rates down, and then he curveballs "keep them alive" at you. He seems to think that a change to one variable (death rate) will invariable lead to a change in another variable (birth rate), and yet a change to the latter cannot lead to a change in the former. That flies in the face of everything I know about dynamic systems.

      Following your other link leads to an apparent explanation, http://www.gapminder.org/videos/will-saving-poor-children-lead-to-overpopulation/ but again, he just makes the same assertion again that only one variable can affect the other(s).

      He also fails to mention *all the other variables* which can be modified, such as education level (in particular of females - the gender which now has the higher education level in many of the most advanced countries), infrastructural investment (to expand local markets), international trading opportunities (such as us not fucking them over in the same way that we have been for centuries), ...

      After watching his vids, I'm pretty sure that the best thing for the starving africans to do is to raise spherical cows in a vacuum.
      --
      I was worried about my command. I was the scientist of the Holy Ghost.
      • (Score: 3, Informative) by FatPhil on Tuesday May 26 2015, @04:41PM

        by FatPhil (863) <{pc-soylent} {at} {asdf.fi}> on Tuesday May 26 2015, @04:41PM (#188128) Homepage
        For an concrete example of one thing he overlooks, after a quick view of http://www.gapminder.org/videos/the-river-of-myths/ - he's all proud of China managing to reach the "developed countries" zone on his graph, and yet completely "forgot" to mention that in 1978 China implemented its one-child-per-family law.

        I'm gonna stick my neck out here, and claim that maybe, just maybe, that law was something to do with the drop in birthrate in China between 1960 and 2010.

        I also notice in that video, when he explodes Ethiopia, the scatter pattern of each region seems to have a much flatter regression line than the historical 1960 world plot. Regression lines getting flatter over time is very interesting. What if that continues (should there be any reason for it not to?) The limitting case of regession lines getting flatter is a state we mathematicians call "uncorrelated" (no change in one variable would be expected to cause a change in the other variable). So his insistance that correlation actually is causation, and that nothing else can be causation, for this pair of variables even starts to look less supportable.

        If he wants to really show the causal trend that he's claiming, he should be plotting infant mortality at time T with birth rate at time T+delta, for some delta, and show that that is better correlated than the non-lagged data. (It shows more clearly that one follows the other - compare the leaded petrol vs. crime 20 years later plots from freakanomics (one of their more reliable analyses, some are pretty poor).)

        Don't get me wrong, I'm not claiming there's no connection, in particular once an appropriate lag is found I'm pretty sure there'll be a clear correlation between movement on one axis and movement on the other, I'm merely a perturbed by his insistance that there's *only* one way of changing one of the variables.

        Maybe he's trying to dumb things down for the masses so much that they've become wrong?
        --
        I was worried about my command. I was the scientist of the Holy Ghost.
      • (Score: 1) by albert on Wednesday May 27 2015, @03:34AM

        by albert (276) on Wednesday May 27 2015, @03:34AM (#188435)

        education level (in particular of females - the gender which now has the higher education level in many of the most advanced countries), infrastructural investment (to expand local markets), international trading opportunities

        To suggest that any of these matter in the long term is to deny evolution. If any one of those things should happen to retard population growth, it will be selected against. In the end, there is nothing that can stop humans from having lives that are as expected for normal organisms: in squalor, barely clinging to survival.

        • (Score: 2) by FatPhil on Wednesday May 27 2015, @07:17AM

          by FatPhil (863) <{pc-soylent} {at} {asdf.fi}> on Wednesday May 27 2015, @07:17AM (#188499) Homepage
          That's only true if there's actual positive evolutionary pressure towards larger numbers of offspring, or by "long term" you mean periods of time longer than we've known societies to exist, and thus an irrelevant consideration. Societal evolution over the last 100 or so years has demonstrated that it's perfectly possible to have almost entire populations of a third to half of a billion people prefer replacement-level breeding, for various reasons. Evolution is simply the application of a fitness function, and where the fitness function selects few-kids-life-of-rielly over lots-of-kids-living-on-the-poverty-line-with-poor-diets, population growth will not occur. That is pretty close to the late-20th-century fitness function for the majority of the planet.

          Having said that, Idiocracy...
          --
          I was worried about my command. I was the scientist of the Holy Ghost.
          • (Score: 1) by albert on Thursday May 28 2015, @01:37PM

            by albert (276) on Thursday May 28 2015, @01:37PM (#189069)

            What people happen to choose (fewer kids) is not the fitness function. People making this choice have low fitness in the current environment.

            The fitness function can only select for fewer kids if that increases the number of offspring in the Nth generation. Here you are talking about "replacement-level breeding" and not about poverty-line kids really actually dying of starvation, so that doesn't apply. The fitness function therefore selects for more kids. All that matters is the number of offspring in the Nth generation.

            This isn't just leisurely selection. This isn't the sort of thing that might give Danes height (took only a century BTW) or Irish freckles. This is much more severe.

            Evolution moves fast when the selection pressure is high. To pick an extreme example, imagine that we hunted down and eliminated everybody without blue eyes. In such a case, evolution would be pretty much instant.

            • (Score: 2) by FatPhil on Thursday May 28 2015, @04:19PM

              by FatPhil (863) <{pc-soylent} {at} {asdf.fi}> on Thursday May 28 2015, @04:19PM (#189157) Homepage
              An extreme example of memetic evolution is the reduction in number of children per mother in the last 50-100 years. Something is selecting for not having so many children.

              The fitness function can select for fewer kids if the people expressing that meme are not competing with those who are not expressing it. Which is how things are at the moment. You seem to assume that eventually they will be in competition, but all the evidence of the last 50 years points to that not being the case. Sure, those who adopt the meme earlier will end up as a smaller proportion of the total population when steady state is achieved, but that doesn't mean they're dying out, or even being resource-starved. Of course, there's no proof that the trends of the last 50-100 years will continue, and no proof that we will S rather than J (which has several wildly different possible outcomes) - we're all just passengers on this ride.
              --
              I was worried about my command. I was the scientist of the Holy Ghost.
              • (Score: 1) by albert on Friday May 29 2015, @05:25AM

                by albert (276) on Friday May 29 2015, @05:25AM (#189512)

                Something is selecting for not having so many children.

                Something did select for traits which now, in a different environment, lead to fewer children. Nothing is currently selecting for fewer children, at least not in the parts of the world where large families don't actually lead to death by starvation.

                We had a different environment just a century or two ago. There was no welfare state, child support, birth control, or secure food supply. A bit of resistance to having kids was beneficial. That bit of resistance was balanced off by sexual desire, leading to people producing roughly the number of kids that would maximize the ultimate (accounting for death) number of offspring.

                Our environment has changed, but our population still largely contains traits more suited to the prior environment. Those traits don't go away instantly, though they are very strongly being selected against.

                A few generations from now, we'll be back to double-digit families as the norm. The traits which lead to this are uncommon in our population today, but this is rapidly changing.

  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 26 2015, @03:23PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 26 2015, @03:23PM (#188055)

    Country after country have shown that by giving educating girls and giving a choice to women at being something other than a housewife (such as allowing them to succeed at work), then the country's birth rate will fall.*

    It doesn't take a genius to figure out that, no matter how much food you have, you won't get population growth if the women choose not to become moms (and you don't force them to become one). If most of your womenfolk are only willing to give birth to 0-2 babies in their lifetime, good luck trying to get your population to grow.

    * - if you dispute that, see how many countries you can find that have (1) gender equality, meaning no blatant discrimination against women, and (2) equal education opportunities to girls, and yet, still have a birth rate higher than, say, 2.5 per women.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 26 2015, @03:26PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 26 2015, @03:26PM (#188058)

      Country after country have shown that by giving education to girls ...

      (Sorry to reply my own post, just clarifying a typo)

    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by VLM on Tuesday May 26 2015, @04:12PM

      by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday May 26 2015, @04:12PM (#188098)

      Two parents being permitted in the workforce rapidly means two will be required unless you want to chop your lifestyle in half, and the more kids you have the less mom ends up net earning after restrictions to career and obvious day care costs...

      Also the trick is to keep them poor but aspirational and not absolutely dirt poor, then eliminate medical coverage and add a lot of "screw them over" child rearing costs like $40K/yr college and $200 car seats and $25 pediatrician copays and stuff like that. Then when they're just barely scraping by with 2 kids and think about what they'll have to give up to afford a third, they don't have the third kid.

      • (Score: 1) by khallow on Wednesday May 27 2015, @02:33AM

        by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday May 27 2015, @02:33AM (#188409) Journal

        Two parents being permitted in the workforce rapidly means two will be required unless you want to chop your lifestyle in half, and the more kids you have the less mom ends up net earning after restrictions to career and obvious day care costs...

        I guess you have to decide what is more important. Two worker families or mass human die-offs?

        Also the trick is to keep them poor but aspirational and not absolutely dirt poor, then eliminate medical coverage and add a lot of "screw them over" child rearing costs like $40K/yr college and $200 car seats and $25 pediatrician copays and stuff like that. Then when they're just barely scraping by with 2 kids and think about what they'll have to give up to afford a third, they don't have the third kid.

        The great irony is that these things have high cost in the first place because we were supposedly helping these people with these very costs.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 27 2015, @04:10AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 27 2015, @04:10AM (#188448)

        Two parents being permitted in the workforce rapidly means two will be required unless you want to chop your lifestyle in half

        That sounds more like people are spending their money on useless garbage that they can't afford unless they work 24/7. Their fault, really. Don't be a mere "consumer" who simply devours every bit of nonsense spewed forth by our corporate overlords; be a citizen.

        You don't need 40K/year college. Things like self-education and vocational schools are possible for many career paths. If you're going to college so you can make more money, you've missed the point of education and shouldn't be there to begin with.

    • (Score: 2) by Nuke on Tuesday May 26 2015, @07:54PM

      by Nuke (3162) on Tuesday May 26 2015, @07:54PM (#188230)

      It is not education, it is attitude. It is when women get the attidude that they can have a say in what lifestyle and how many children they want, and men drop the attitude that they can have sex with women however they like and if she gets pregant then that is not their problem.

      This no doubt loosly correlates with education, but I don't see strong causation. I don't see that a woman having a physics degree should make her any more aware of the impact of childbirth on lifestyle. It is more a matter of common sense, and education does not increase that - it is built in (or not).

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 26 2015, @08:58PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 26 2015, @08:58PM (#188275)

      So men are the source of babies after all. Clearly they are the better parents.

      • (Score: 1) by Placenta on Tuesday May 26 2015, @10:11PM

        by Placenta (5264) on Tuesday May 26 2015, @10:11PM (#188311)

        Babies come from the seed of the main mingling with the seed of the woman.

  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Thexalon on Tuesday May 26 2015, @03:30PM

    by Thexalon (636) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday May 26 2015, @03:30PM (#188061) Homepage

    First off, a major driver of tapering population growth is widespread and easily accessible contraception, along with the training for using it. That's still a very big issue in a lot of places in the world.

    The next biggest change you can make to reduce population growth is mandatory schooling up through age 18 and strong enforcement of child labor laws. These kinds of measures flip the economic incentives for would-be parents: Without child labor laws or mandatory schooling, extra children mean extra family income, which means parents will have more kids. With child labor laws and mandatory schooling, extra children mean extra family expenses and no extra income, so parents will have fewer kids if they can (i.e. have birth control and know how to use it).

    If those first two moves aren't enough, then you might have to look at more oppressive laws like China's one-child policy.

    Those two factors are the reason why Europe has mostly a stable or even slightly declining population, and the US grows fairly slowly.

    --
    If you act on pie in the sky, you're likely to get pie in the face.
    • (Score: 1) by khallow on Wednesday May 27 2015, @02:36AM

      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday May 27 2015, @02:36AM (#188411) Journal

      and strong enforcement of child labor laws

      You also end up with people largely incapable of working for months to years until they figure it out which I doubt is going to cut your fertility rate. I don't think create a large class of useless people will depress the fertility rate as much as expected.

    • (Score: 1) by albert on Wednesday May 27 2015, @03:55AM

      by albert (276) on Wednesday May 27 2015, @03:55AM (#188441)

      This being SoylentNews, I'll assume you accept the idea of evolution. Yes? I hope so.

      OK, all this stuff for reducing population is massively selected against. This isn't some minor selection bias that would cause a bit of the usual snail's-pace evolution. This is absolute win-or-lose selection. Anything and everything that defeats population restraints will rapidly become near-universal in the population, no matter how distasteful we may find it.

      Contraception tends to be defeated by a desire for kids, religious feelings, stupidity, inability to think ahead, rape, and irregular/misleading cycles. Economic incentives tend to be defeated by petty crime (pickpocket kids) and abuse of welfare, including the fact that our society is currently unwilling to let kids actually starve. A one-child policy generally relies on contraception and economic incentives, so the same things defeat it, plus you can add corruption.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 27 2015, @11:12AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 27 2015, @11:12AM (#188549)

        So you are saying (among other things) that creationists often have large families because they evolved that way?

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 28 2015, @07:40PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 28 2015, @07:40PM (#189274)

          DUH. Religious wacos despite their whining and maximum misinterpretation about evolution in practice tend to be very good servants of Azathoth. Other horsemen of atheist apocalypse keep them at bay most of the time thou.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 27 2015, @11:48PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 27 2015, @11:48PM (#188863)

      Mandatory schooling is awful. You don't want to "school" people, you want them to be educated. The truth is, public schools are almost always horrible prison-like one-size-fits-all environments that encourage only rote memorization. Homeschooling and self-education are alternatives.

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 26 2015, @03:36PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 26 2015, @03:36PM (#188068)

    I think welfare states are a good idea especially in case of a future where automation and robots take away more and more jobs. Instead of having people living in poor conditions or paying to support people expensively via crime and prison, might as well pay to support them in more efficient ways.

    However people on welfare should not be allowed to reproduce beyond a quota that's based on the country's estimated ability to support them and their resulting families, UNLESS they have sponsors who can commit to support their children. The quota could be per family-zero, or two or whatever - all depends on how rich the country is and is likely to be for the next say 30 years. Or it could be from a yearly pool - by lottery perhaps.

    If you don't put in such artificial limits you'll be breeding for parasites. It may not be significant at first, but after a number of generations you may find that there is an exponentially growing population of people whose entire families/subspecies are on welfare - grandchildren, greatgrandchildren etc.

    I'm well aware that not everyone wants to stay on welfare or will. However if you know how evolution works, you should realize what you will eventually breed if you do not put in such limits.

    You may think this is harsh and evil, but if the population grows to hit the country's hard resource limits there'll be even more evil and harshness.

  • (Score: 3, Informative) by Open4D on Tuesday May 26 2015, @03:48PM

    by Open4D (371) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday May 26 2015, @03:48PM (#188082) Journal

    Stephen Warren makes some interesting points, but I do not believe it is inevitable that food supply will be the driving factor. I am a member of Population Matters, "a leading international population concern group" (UK-based). I endorse, for example, their recent UK election manifesto issued [populationmatters.org]. I think the measures in it have a reasonable chance of reversing the UK's rapid population growth, and could ultimately be replicated worldwide.

    P.S. Having an opinion about human population size is a bit of a taboo. So I should emphasize that all the measures in that manifesto are reasonable & decent. I am not endorsing genocide or anything. Nor am I criticizing people who have chosen to have large families (e.g. my parents and grandparents). I am just promoting a way forward.

    • (Score: 3, Informative) by Open4D on Tuesday May 26 2015, @04:37PM

      by Open4D (371) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday May 26 2015, @04:37PM (#188122) Journal

      Although Population Matters membership is available worldwide, non-Brits might be more interested in one of these [wikipedia.org].

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Non Sequor on Wednesday May 27 2015, @12:19AM

      by Non Sequor (1005) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday May 27 2015, @12:19AM (#188357) Journal

      I guess I'm a population neutralist.

      An increasing population creates strain on capacity but a declining population means that individual investments in increasing capacity are less likely to have a positive payoff. For example consider that Detroit has been mulling bulldozing some of its abandoned areas. They have infrastructure that could have been useful if the city maintained its peak population but is no longer sustainable. You may see that down the line in China both from the one child policy and just from trying to plan infrastructure too far in advance of when the need for it actually surfaces.

      Have you considered the possibility you're focusing on a more obvious infrastructure problem and overlooking what the status quo accomplishes for more subtle problems? The status quo is that family planning is a mixture of accidents and half informed guesses. Yet more often than not, that seems to be allowing societies to make some complex transitions. Maybe those accidents and half informed guesses are in aggregate producing an answer that's reasonable more often than not.

      Human reproduction rates do seem to exhibit some selftuning characteristics, so I can't automatically support the conclusion that adding some new society level steering to it is necessarily an improvement.

      --
      Write your congressman. Tell him he sucks.
      • (Score: 2) by Open4D on Wednesday May 27 2015, @09:25AM

        by Open4D (371) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday May 27 2015, @09:25AM (#188534) Journal

        Have you considered the possibility you're focusing on a more obvious infrastructure problem and overlooking what the status quo accomplishes for more subtle problems?

        My position is as follows. I place great value in First World civilization. I consider myself one of the luckiest human beings to have ever lived, and I wish to ensure that the opportunities I've had are available to as high a proportion of future humans as possible. But there are elements of our civilization's behaviour that are unsustainable, and I fear there is a realistic possibility of its collapse. Things like climate change, and the rapid depletion of non-renewable resources. To me this possibility of collapse outweighs any "subtle problems".

        I can't automatically support the conclusion that adding some new society level steering to it is necessarily an improvement.

        I would argue that we already have society level steering towards increasing population, and that I merely want to put that very slightly into reverse until the population gets down to a level at which it can be sustained (for example, using only renewable resources, and leaving fossil fuels in the ground in case some future generation has an urgent need for them).

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 27 2015, @11:51PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 27 2015, @11:51PM (#188865)

        but a declining population means that individual investments in increasing capacity are less likely to have a positive payoff.

        Any business strategy which counts on infinite population growth or a stable population that is ultimately unsustainable is fundamentally broken. Yes, population decline can bring about some headaches, but that is necessary.

  • (Score: 2) by looorg on Tuesday May 26 2015, @04:00PM

    by looorg (578) on Tuesday May 26 2015, @04:00PM (#188087)

    How likely is it that food production is ever going to level off? I would assume it's highly unlikely unless, or until, we develop Star Trek like technology where food is print-on-demand (or replicated if you prefer that). Otherwise leveling off food productions sounds like a really poor and dangerous idea; "Ooops! Crops went bad, guess there will be famine!" -- Which might be beneficial to the birth/death-ratio but sucks for those doing the actual starving to death. Also there already is enough food on planet earth for everyone. We just have really poor logistics and distribution. Some places have a massive overproduction while others starve.

    Unless you want to institute some UN mandated 1 child per family type policy this just isn't ever going to happen by itself. They (the conspiracy people) will go nuts about the UN World government thing tho. There will have to be some massive PR-campaign to get people to agree to and believe this is a good idea. Most likely they'll just keep breeding and having offspring. It's not like the Chinese 1 child policy was a massive success -- perhaps it was, perhaps they would have reach a billion even faster or be two billion by now if they had not interfered.

    If I remember the classes and models in Mathematical Biology, and I do, food-based population equilibrium models sucks. "Zoomed-out" as a graph over time it will look like they (population and food availability) enter and match curves, they stabilize. But in actuality what is going on is a breed-eat-starve-die scenario as the population goes up and down very close to the available food-resource line. In times of plenty food they eat and breed and then the population size gets larger, to large and there is a starvation cycle where they keep breeding but dying until the population size falls below the resource live at which point they increase in size again. They just don't ever stop breeding. But I guess that is for the less evolved animals. Not us ...

    • (Score: 4, Interesting) by WillAdams on Tuesday May 26 2015, @05:10PM

      by WillAdams (1424) on Tuesday May 26 2015, @05:10PM (#188143)

      Leveling off food production won't be a choice, but a consequence of physics and chemistry. Some cold, hard facts:

        - we're using 2.5 earths worth of renewable resources each year (the extra 1.5 comes from non-renewable sources such as petro-chemicals)
        - current food production techniques burn 10 calories of petro-chemical energy (or convert it into fertilizer) to grow 1 calorie of food energy
        - a lot of fertilizer and a fair number of chemicals wash out to the seas due to modern industrial farming practices
        - the limiting element for converting the earth's crust into biomass is potassium --- look up where the reserves are, how large they are, and note which country has stopped exporting, but is instead importing all that it can
        - a lot of land is becoming contaminated with salt by being irrigated w/ not-quite desalinated water

      On the bright side, apparently at $200/bbl of oil, it becomes economically feasible to use solar power to make long chain hydrocarbons from warm moist air using fuel-air liquefaction techniques (assuming someone solves the catalyst problem).

      • (Score: 2, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 26 2015, @09:45PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 26 2015, @09:45PM (#188294)

        are you sure it's potassium not phosphorus?

        for the rest, spot on ..

        • (Score: 2, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 27 2015, @01:10AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 27 2015, @01:10AM (#188379)

          It is both actually http://wikipedia.org/wiki/Potash [wikipedia.org] and http://wikipedia.org/wiki/Phosphorus#Fertiliser [wikipedia.org]

        • (Score: 1) by WillAdams on Wednesday May 27 2015, @03:19PM

          by WillAdams (1424) on Wednesday May 27 2015, @03:19PM (#188643)

          Yes, conflated potassium w/ phosphorous. Thank you for pointing that out. My thanks to the AC for noting that the two are inter-related to a degree.

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 01 2015, @10:36AM

            by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 01 2015, @10:36AM (#190630)

            It's whichever that runs low/out first...

            Sustainable growth is an oxymoron on a finite planet.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 01 2015, @10:33AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 01 2015, @10:33AM (#190629)

          Whichever's the lowest. That's how it works.

          If you think "organic" produce is expensive, just imagine if much of the world had to go back to eating "organic food".

  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by physicsmajor on Tuesday May 26 2015, @04:04PM

    by physicsmajor (1471) on Tuesday May 26 2015, @04:04PM (#188090)

    Instead of this type of link prominently displayed, can we not hyperlink the word(s) after the submitter's ID?

    [submitter name](link to their name) [writes/tips us about/suggested we cover/etc.](link to original submission)

    This is where I'd look for the story attached to the submitter, and it would look much cleaner.

    • (Score: 2) by CoolHand on Tuesday May 26 2015, @05:30PM

      by CoolHand (438) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday May 26 2015, @05:30PM (#188152)
      I've posted this into our #editorial irc channel so we can discuss if this is better... Thanks for the suggestion.
      --
      Anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job-Douglas Adams
      • (Score: 2) by looorg on Tuesday May 26 2015, @08:41PM

        by looorg (578) on Tuesday May 26 2015, @08:41PM (#188264)

        Instead of the big text line just add like a little icon (or single work text) in a corner somewhere. It's nice that it's there, I even suggested it a few days ago (not sure if others did to) and then it became a reality. I just didn't envision it being this large and obvious.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 26 2015, @04:29PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 26 2015, @04:29PM (#188114)

    Increase education
    Self-sufficiency for the lowest economic classes
    End religion

  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by GungnirSniper on Tuesday May 26 2015, @07:02PM

    by GungnirSniper (1671) on Tuesday May 26 2015, @07:02PM (#188195) Journal

    So what happens when religions that keep women subservient, reducing them to breeder automatons, start to take over by virtue of more votes via more births? One place that may be the first to confront this problem is Israel, where the ultra-orthodox outbreed the secular Israelis by an order of magnitude. This is helping pull their national politics to the right.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 26 2015, @07:29PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 26 2015, @07:29PM (#188212)

    bullcrap.
    how about they're making more babies but also more babies die?
    like what's the difference between:
    2 born, 1 die
    and 2000 born 1999 die?
    srsly i think it's no problem to help. but if you acctually consider changing the number from
    "2 born and one dies" to "2000 born and 1 dies" then you damn good have a fucking plan for the future!
    ddo you want to help -or- help?