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It's A Crowded World!You have been warned. Repeatedly. The world is full and we are very sorry but you will have to get off in the next station. Where you go from there is none of our business.

This seems to be the mantra of many ecological groups nowadays, groups that, surprise, surprise, advocate for "responsible" and "sustainable" growth in order to avoid (or at least delay) the inevitable catastrophe. And how do they propose we go about doing this? Planning. At the global level nevertheless; in other words, socialism. Yep! The same stuff that worked so well in the USSR.

We are going to examine today their basis for the alarm. For that, we need to look at two models: the "linear" and the "compensated". To task.

WORLD POPULATION

The linear model

Many groups advocating growth control (including population control) do so based on the forecast from current world growth population data. Something along the lines of:

World Population Growth - LInear Model

In this picture we can see that population in the world is growing in what seems to be a linear fashion (the red line). If we then consider that the line is indeed linear and extend it into 2070, we can see that the forecasted world population by then will be of about 12.5 Billion (or in the area of 180% from current levels of 7 Billion). This sounds terrible and… you guessed it… "something must be done".

Hence, we have all kinds of "family planning" and "rules" and "regulations" and "financial incentives" and "immigration policies" and other gimmicks, right down to Euthanasia and prison. Yup, because it worked so well in Singapore and China…

Anyways, the results of all this mumbo-jumbo are always unreliable, confusing and uncertain.

Reality

Meanwhile, reality continues through other paths. We can see a few of them in the following pictures.

Germany Population Growth

 

Greece Population  Growth

 

Japan Population Growth

 

We can see how the population in Germany is taking a dive same as in Greece (although we don't know if this is a temporary glitch) and also how Japan's population is most definitively at its apex and poised to take a dive.

These kinds of "success stories" are the ones that planners disseminate and applaud. Yessss sir! The danger has been averted! If only all the countries would follow the same path…

The compensated model

This model is based on the analysis of how populations actually behave as far as we know so far. This can be seen in the following picture:

World Population Growth - Compensated Model

As you can see, this picture is vastly different from the previous one. Population growth follows a different path. If we extend this path into 2070, we will notice that the projected population is about 9.5 Billion or about 135% over current. Furthermore, you will notice that the rate of growth gets to more or less zero about 2070. This means that by roughly 2070 there should be a world-wide stagnation of population.

The two models

And so we have two models, the first one telling us that population will continue to grow by about one billion every 20 or so years and the other one that is telling us that growth will stop by 2070.

Many advocates of planning choose -not surprisingly- the first one. Most reasonable people (and some advocates) choose the second one. But since we really don't know which one will prevail, we will analyze what will happen to both models in order to figure out if and where does the risk reside.

RUNNING OUT OF STUFF

The standard argument from planners is that we are "running out of stuff" and that we should therefore cull the population. Let's put this assumption to the test.

Running out of food

The first thing that we would like to know is if we are running out of food. For that we need to access the data from the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) that happens to keep track of all this info. If we plot the amount of kilocalories per person per day that the world has been and is producing over the years, we obtain the following graph:

World Food Production

This graph tells us a compelling story. Food supplies have been growing steadily over the last 50 or so years. Furthermore, they have been doing so in a linear fashion. There is no reason to believe that this will not continue to occur for the foreseeable future. But the key question is this: is this growth of food sufficient to sustain future population?

To answer that question we need to figure out how many Kilocalories does a person need per day. This is relatively easy to do. We know that a female adult needs between 1600 and 2400 Kcal per day in order to maintain her weight. The figure for males is between 2000 to 3000 Kcal. As there are approximately 50% females and 50% males in the world, we can average those numbers hence obtaining: 1800 to 2700 Kcal / person / day as the amount of calories required to maintain weight.

If you go back to the graph, you will notice that world-wide food production has overtaken the upper limit of this range sometime in 2004. After 2004 the world is producing more food than what it is required to support even the worst case scenario of its population's needs (a case where every adult requires 2700 Kcal/day).

The world did this despite China coming online, despite weather changes, and despite everything else that governments and politicians managed to do to prevent the fee market from operating. Furthermore, the world did this following a population growth that is roughly growing as the linear model (i.e. the worst case scenario).

The only possible conclusion here is that we are most definitively not running out of food, all evidence to the contrary.

Note #1: yes, the calculation of Kcal does not consider children nor special cases nor a myriad of other possible scenarios. However, it this assumption has very little effect if one considers that the vast majority of those "other" scenarios (such as children) actually consume less food than adults.

Note #2: yes, we did account for global warming. It so happens that while global warming is bad for some areas of the world, is good for others. Areas that are currently productive (agriculture-wise) will become dry and unproductive; however, areas that are currently frozen or too cold, will become very productive indeed. The net sum of this effect at the world-wide level is about zero.

Running out of space

This is another classic argument. We are running out of space! The world is being taken over by cities and we are losing all our agricultural soil to concrete! Well, let's take a look.

There are two current estimates of the amount of land (excluding non-habitable and all water bodies) that is occupied by urban sites (i.e. cities of any size) they are 1% and 2.5%. Let's take the average and so we get 1.75%. This means that the current population is living in 1.75% of all usable land anywhere in the world.

According to the WHO (World Health Organization) by their GHO (Global Health Observatory) an considering a large number of variables, the urban population growth will be of about 1.55% per year up to 2050, point at which will probably begin to decrease. Let's take the absolute worst case scenario and assume that urbanization will also grow at the same rate and that furthermore, there will be no slow-down past 2050. If we now calculate what will be the urbanization level in the world, it turns out to be about 3.77% (this is a simple compound interest calculation); in other words, negligible.

Furthermore, this 1.55% growth assumes the linear model of population growth, so it is indeed the absolutely worst case scenario. We are going from 1.75% to 3.77% of occupied space in 60 years.

Well… no risk here either.

Note: please see the Glossary if you are unfamiliar with certain words.

Continue to Overpopulation for the masses - Part 2

 

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