Use energy to separate the alkane, producing CO2 as a biproduct.
Our planet does not have enough gravity to hang on to raw ‘unattached’ hydrogen, and it floats off into space, so unlike the Sun, or giant planets like Jupiter, we have far less hydrogen and what we do have is combined with other elements.
Hydrogen is still the 10th most abundant element in the Earth’s crust, and you just need energy to separate it from other elements. Then you get some of that energy back, by letting it reattach to oxygen to form water. Just like a battery: put energy in so you can get it back later.
With method 1, if you use renewable energy for the separating, you have ‘green hydrogen’.
With method 2, the production of the CO2 provides the energy, which is just as well as more energy is needed if you start with water, but this process produces the energy needed.
So you always need an energy source to produce hydrogen. Hydrogen isn’t the energy source, it is what you use the energy source to produce. Just like a battery, hydrogen provides energy storage, and you get back a percentage of the energy from the source later.
Again, you need an energy source to start. Ideally you use ‘green electricity’. You can also use coal as the energy source, but 95% of production uses natural gas, because that gives the energy and the hydrogen in one.
There is a full page exploring this, but it turns out, as explored below, most proponents of hydrogen cars have ulterior motives and in the end there are no real benefits to offset having more complex and expensive vehicles with 3x the running costs of battery electric.
Alarm Bells: Hydrogen As The New Snake Oil? Always ask “Where is the energy coming from?”.
The moment anyone says ‘hydrogen as an energy source’, run.
Outside of nuclear energy, hydrogen is never an energy source. When it is suggested hydrogen is the energy source, someone is being scammed. Where is the energy really coming from? Often, when you hear words like this, the person speaking has been scammed, and does not think to ask “where is the energy coming from?”.
You always have to start with an actual energy source and convert the actual energy source to hydrogen. For ‘green hydrogen’ you start with ‘green’ electricity, but in the real world so far, for almost all hydrogen ever produced, your start with fossil fuels and produce more CO2 for each joule of energy, than you produce by burning the fossil fuel.
If a green energy company, or someone else who really does have at least genuine plans for green electrical power, talks about green hydrogen, then they may be genuine. The credibility in green energy, and the production of excess wind and solar is what needed for green hydrogen.
But if a mining company, or a company without green energy plans is talking about hydrogen, at some point it is going to be that someone is being scammed.
Outsider green energy companies wanting to store that green energy, it is best to treat any scheme or technology based on hydrogen with significant scepticism.
Apart from nuclear and rocket fuel for space, there is really nothing you can do with hydrogen, that you can’t do directly with fossil fuels. So most projects around hydrogen, are:
Based around plans to ‘greenwash’ fossil fuels
Or distractions to confuse and delay green energy projects.
Blue Hydrogen: Disguised Natural Gas Made Worse.
Fossil fuel has carbon, that makes CO2 when you burn it, or when you take out the hydrogen. Blue hydrogen is when you pretend you have a way to catch the CO2
In the video to the right, from the channel “just have a think”, suggests “blue hydrogen” is the greatest fossil fuel scam in history.
Note that even people talking up ‘green hydrogen’ can in fact be looking to create markets for fossil-fuel sourced, ‘blue’ or ‘grey’ hydrogen. Unless you have green electrical energy going to waste, ‘green’ hydrogen is just expensive, and fossil fuel companies have an alternative.
Hydrogen Cars And Trucks.
The Big Picture: The Economics Don’t Add Up, Its A Stalling Tactic, or a ‘fossil fuel’ trick.
I have previously explored in detail the pros and cons of battery electric vs hydrogen cars and found 3x running costs, more expensive cars with no real benefits not available using batteries. The bottom line is, for motor vehicles, the economics just don’t add up to use hydrogen in place of batteries.
In more detail:
The argument against hydrogen is:
If using green hydrogen from electricity, you need 3x more electricity than battery electric cars.
The suggested benefits for hydrogen:
If you have really really large fuel tanks, you can in theory better range than battery electric cars.
In practice, hydrogen cars only better the range of very low price electric vehicles, and there are no low price hydrogen vehicles. In practice, far better range is available from battery electric.
Recharging can be faster than the recharging a battery.
Battery swapping is faster and safer than rechanging hydrogen, and there are already more battery swap stations than hydrogen stations.
Toyota: The Anti Electric Vehicle Car Company.
So why are some companies still pushing hydrogen cars, including the worlds largest car maker: Toyota?
Toyota gained a positive ‘environmental’ reputation with the introduction of hybrids, starting with the Prius in 1997.
Here was a company introducing new technology that reduced emissions!
For the performance and other specification, the Prius was an expensive car. To make a hybrid, you take a normal car make it more complex by adding a battery and electric drive train, and perhaps the motivation of Toyota was simply to sell more complex cars? To move from a hybrid to an EV, you take things out and make the battery bigger, which makes the car simpler. It seems on making cars simpler, Toyota are not so pleased, and looking at the EPA data, maybe the environment is not really their motive.
The main reasons for backing hydrogen cars, is that doing so could slow or even derail the uptake of battery electric cars, which are a threat to:
Some existing automakers who will lose market share and as a result employ less staff.
Fossil fuel companies.
Not only are hydrogen cars seen as a way to delay the uptake of electric vehicles, but also as a potential market for ‘blue hydrogen’ for fossil fuel companies, and a way to retain pricing and profit for Toyota and some other car makers not ready for battery electric vehicles.
Hyundai: Did You Know They Also Do Oil and Gas?
I thought of Hyundai primarily as a car company, but on corporate web site, automotive is just 1 of 11 activities, and oil and gas is amongst those activities. I do not know if the activities look as synergies, but Hyundai being the only company I know of that does both automotive and oil and gas, as well as now appearing to be the strongest remaining supporter of hydrogen cars, may not be entirely a coincidence.
‘AsianPetrolHead’, an informative reviewer of cars from Korea, recently attended a Hyundai promotion on their plans for hydrogen, and was provided with the message that hydrogen cars “can act as a generator“, and that even entire buildings could be powered by hydrogen.
Given that ‘green hydrogen’ requires more electrical energy to produce than the electrical energy get back, it is not logical to use the fuel cell to generate electricity if the hydrogen was made from electricity.
This means that for Hyundai, it seems clear what the answer to the question “where does the hydrogen come from” is:
Is it possible that the car division of Hyundai is announcing a strategy to support the “natural resources” division?
Honda and BMW have also produced a small number of hydrogen cars, but why is not clear, but there is more information here.
Hydrogen Home Gas: Leaky Pipes Anyone?
Michael Liebreich, the influential energy analyst and founder of BloombergNEF, told Recharge in June: “You’re not going to have hydrogen in your home for safety reasons. It’s just not going to be a thing.”
One suggestion is that hydrogen could replace methane as the gas used over the ‘gas main’. The appeal is that many homes are already fitted for gas.
However, all those gas pipes and fittings have been tested for leaks of methane. These same pipes are untested with hydrogen, which is a major problem as that hydrogen is a gas of much smaller molecules than methane, and will leak when methane would not leak. The reality is that pipes and fittings of the gas main already leak methane, just within acceptable limits. Upgrading theas system of pipes for hydrogen would be very expensive.
Then, all the ‘burners’ and heaters and appliances the burn the gas would need either replacing or modification to work with hydrogen instead of methane or ‘lpg’.
And what would we be the benefit, if the hydrogen begins life as electricity, and 50% of the energy is lost by converting to hydrogen? We can already distribute electricity to homes, and there are already cooktops and heaters available. Yes, historically natural gas could be less expensive than electricity, so gas was economic. But those economics are from the past if in future the gas is going to be produced using the electricity! Remember, if you convert electricity to hydrogen, there are inefficiencies and you lose a lot of the energy, and solar is now far less expensive than electricity was in the past. Hydrogen at homes would be used only for heating, as converting back to electricity using fuel cells would be just ridiculous, so the losses are less than with electric cars and other situations where you need the efficiency of electricity, but there are still substantial losses. It will simply cost more even to heat and cook using hydrogen than with the more efficient heat pumps and induction cook tops.
Plus, burning hydrogen is not completely pollution free, and some nitrogen from the air inevitably also becomes burnt, producing some nitrous oxides.
Home hydrogen gas would mean higher power bills, so at least utility companies may be happy, but it still requires changing stoves and heaters in homes, and is not pollution free.
Converting ‘green electricity’ to hydrogen to send to homes does not make economic sense. They only way sending hydrogen to homes in place of electricity could make sense, is if the hydrogen does not come from electricity, but from natural gas. The trouble with using hydrogen from natural gas is, that greenhouse gas emission are greater than from using natural gas. So going through a conversion from natural gas to hydrogen from natural gas, that results higher household energy costs, more CO2 and more dangerous homes, only adds up if you are prepared to make great sacrifices to provide profits for oil and gas suppliers.
Hydrogen Exports: Send Power By Boat Instead Of Electrical Wires.
There are real plans to export ‘green hydrogen’ from places such as the Australian Northern territory. This sounds great, there is so much sunshine and free land at the source location, that solar and wind makes perfect sense.
But just one question: why convert the electrical energy into hydrogen to send it to other countries?
The map here is of the submarine cables that connect the internet, but why would it not be possible to also use submarine cables to send electricity?
Is it really more efficient to send ships loaded with hydrogen to move electrical energy from one point to another? If it is, why have we been wasting all these years using electrical cables to move electricity from one point to another!
Consider Japan’s plan for buying hydrogen:
https://gcaptain.com/norway-races-australia-to-fulfill-japans-hydrogen-society-eream/Under the Australian plan, coal would be converted to gas for processing to remove sulphur, mercury and carbon dioxide, leaving hydrogen. The Norwegian system would use renewable power for high-temperature electrolysis to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, which would be released into the atmosphere. In both cases, the hydrogen would be liquefied for shipment to Japan.
The entire project to supply Japan was developed around the idea of sending fossil fuel sources hydrogen, and the ability to use fossil fuels is a major reason for sending hydrogen, rather than shipping electricity.
Yes, and advantage of shipping hydrogen is that there can be stored energy at the point of import. But given the inefficiency of physically shipping hydrogen, and the loss of 2/3rds of the energy, using cables and a mix of using some of the electricity immediately, and converting some to hydrogen at the destination just has to be more cost effective if all the hydrogen would be ‘green hydrogen’.
The sun doesn’t always shine and the wind does not always blow. In reality if you have a big enough connected areas, the sun always shines somewhere during daytime, and the is always wind somewhere, but politics usually block having a large enough connected area, and even then there is the day night thing unless the connection is global. Reality is, storages is needed.
The most tried and tested storage in pumped hydro, and there are places that have now proved batteries as storage. I need to check again if anywhere has hydrogen as storage, but in theory if the area is too flat for pumped hydro, then hydrogen should be a good option. Hydrogen for storage need not be a scam, but it is unproven and so far, as soon as hydrogen is mentioned, the natural gas people tend to try and hijack the project.
Who Is Being Scammed?
this section still being updated.
It sounds good. A supplier offers you hydrogen, and undertakes to ramp up the percentage over time that is “green hydrogen” or even that magical “blue hydrogen”. If you are buying the hydrogen from another country, is it your problem if there are emissions at the location of the source of the hydrogen?
After all, it still lets you have commit to targets for reducing greenhouse gases within your country!
Do not need wonder why supplier does not suggest sending electricity via submarine cable, given that if it is green hydrogen made from electricity, that would be more efficient than sending hydrogen?
I thing everyone has heard the taglines:
The most abundant material in the universe!
Pure clean energy that produces only water as a waste product.
The reality is that hydrogen is not readily available everywhere as the tagline suggests, and even ‘green hydrogen’ never quite matches electricity for lack of environmental impact. It can’t because the cleanest way to use the hydrogen is to use the hydrogen to produce electricity anyway, and you always need more energy to start with.
If you listen to the stories, you could easily believe hydrogen is even better than electricity, and the main reason is that there are huge amounts of marketing behind hydrogen.
All they hype, it is not just consumers being trapped. The promise of schemes make millions from hydrogen infrastructure is also a real thing. One of the key reasons is that building infrastructure around hydrogen can be a distraction from other projects that genuinely transition away from fossil fuels. The more infrastructure projects in the works, the longer we keep using fossil fuels in the interim. That does not mean that hydrogen projects will actually make economic sense once the required green electrictiy is available.
Always question: “Where is the hydrogen coming from?”
Its the economy stupid. Voters want the best economic outcome, but by measuring the economy using ‘Economic Activity’, governments can effectively cheat the public. Governments can focus on their own share of the bottom line, as well as the share of prosperity enjoyed by major political donors, even without doing anything to increase or even maintain overall prosperity. This can a ‘growing economy’ where most people to get poorer, and total prosperity is reduced.
In many western societies, instead of maximum prosperity, governments pursue maximum economic activity, even when it is not only against the best social interests of society, but even against the economic interests of all society.
Economic activity can be such poor measure of productivity, that in fact an increase in economic activity, can even be detrimental to productivity and the economic standard of living.
Economic Activity Vs Productivity
What Is Economic Activity?
Concept, Strengths, Weaknesses,
Enemies of Economic Activity Can Be Socially Desirable: Good things can be bad for “the economy”.
Conclusion: Good News, There Is Hope, and There IS A Better Measure For Prosperity.
Economic Activity Vs Alternative Productivity
Economic Activity: The Concept, The Strengths and Weaknesses.
There is a small change between the concept in theory and in practice, as highlighted by the first two explanations of the term I found online.
Economic activity is the activity of making, providing, purchasing, or selling goods or services. Any action that involves producing, distributing, or consuming products or services is an economic activity.
Definition: Economic activity is a set of actions that produce, trade, sell or distribute goods or services with the involvement of monetary transactions. An economic activity groups similar endeavors that provide products or services to institutions or end consumers.
The slight difference is the second specifically states the requirement for the involvement of a monetary transaction. While this is a requirement for ‘economic activity’, it is often overlooked that significant and important activity can occur without the involvement of a monetary transaction. The amount of economic activity is in fact the value of the monetary transaction.
Measuring all economic activity totalling the monetary transactions values for all economic activity provides as simple metric that can measure and compare the value of economies. If all else is equal, then if the total economic activity doubles, it can be assumed the total value of the economy doubles.
Another strength, is employment opportunities are created. For example, if no parent is allowed to spend time with their own children between 8am and 6pm, then many childcare jobs would be created. Every economic activity creates employment, but on closer examination, not all employment is beneficial for society, and in some cases can even mean a lowering of the standard of living.
A limitation is that requirement for a monetary transaction, and the use of the value of the monetary transaction to measure the value. Significant productivity can occur without any monetary transaction, and simply decreasing or increasing the size of the monetary transaction does not change the real value of the activity.
For example, if a power company raises prices, then the economic activity increases even if the same power is produced and consumed. While schemes to adjust for inflation can be used in some circumstances to try to compensate for changes in price alone, there is no solution to the reality that the monetary value has at best an imperfect correlation to the value of the activity to the society.
Enemies of Economic Activity Can Be Socially Desirable: Good things can be bad for the economy.
Enemy #1 Unpaid work: Over 43% of work is not counted.
From an economic activity point of view, unpaid work is of zero value.
From this perspective, if you drive your relatives to an activity it is of no value at all, but if you become and uber driver and drive some people the exact same route, it is then part of the economy and an activity that is now economically essential,
In the US, men spend 165.8 minutes per day on unpaid work, and 331.7 minutes on paid work. For women it is 271.3 unpaid vs 240 paid minutes. In total, 45% of all time worked is unpaid.
For governments seeking to grow the economy, and easy path is to simply have work done currently as unpaid work change over to paid work. This increases the economy with no additional work done, but does increase taxes and the chance for corporations to become involved and earn a profit from work currently out of their reach. Despite the bonus for government and shareholders, as there is no additional wealth so individuals are economically disadvantaged, and the impact can also be negative from a social perspective.
For example, if parents spend time with their own children that is of zero value, but when children are in before school care, after school care, or day care, that is economic activity. As an additional bonus, if parents are now with their children, they could work extra hours. Even if the parent is in an economically worse position as they earn less additional income than the cost of care, economic activity in increased!
Further, there if there was a rule that no-one could do their own gardening or cleaning, and was required instead to garden or clean for their neighbours for payment, then each person in the neighbourhood could then do the same amount of gardening and cleaning, but economic activity would significantly increase!
Enemy #2 Efficiency Gains.
Imagine a factory where a product originally requiring 100 hours of labour at $10 per hour to be produced where a new production technique allows the product to now be produced with 20 hours of labour, allowing paying workers $20 per hour. Production cost has fallen from $1,000 dollars to $400 and the company can now decrease prices to increase market share. But every efficiency gain decreases the economic activity! Even if twice as many products are produced and workers have an increase in pay, from and economic activity perspective, every step is a reduction in economic activity.
Enemy #3 DIY
Across the country, their are hardware stores providing people tools to ‘do it yourself’ in place of paying an outsider. The problem is, this often results in projects being completed at a lower cost. It does not matter if more projects are completed, because such projects are all unpaid work that does nothing at all for economic activity.
Enemy #4 Charity Work.
In many societies, people undertake volunteer work to assist charities. For maximum economic activity, this should be banned, with charities requiring only cash to be donated, and then all work could be paid work increasing economic activity.
Enemy #5 Automation and Modernisation.
A society where clothes must be sent to the laundromat will have increased economic activity over a society where people have access to washing machines they can use themselves. The invention of the domestic washing machine, and generally most other appliances, reduce economic activity. The modern refrigerator killed of an industry of producing and distributing ice.
The invention of the loom was a classic blow to economic activity that gave rise to the term ‘sabotage’.
Boosts To Economic Activity Are Often No Productive And Can Be Counter Productive.
Boost #1 Paid Non-Work.
An effect highlighting the potential incongruencies of using monetary transactions to determine real value, consider how replacing all free parking at railways stations with paid parking would deliver a boost to economic activity. Simply making people pay more for costs they already incur with no added benefit will increase economic activity.
Now consider if a rule was added requiring all commutes to and from work to travel a minimum distance. With this rule, if you live withing 10km of you place of work, then you are required to travel 10km to a point 10km from your place of work, end that journey, and then being a new commute to your work. Think of the increased economic activity! Those on public transport would have a longer, and more expensive journey, increasing economic activity. Those who drive would require more fuel and generally increase motor vehicle running costs, all driving up economic activity.
In both of these example, people now have to pay more for activities that may be required for work, but that will not increase their ability to get work done, but will increase their contribution to the economy.
Boost #2 Inefficiency.
Another way to boost economic activity is find a less efficient way to do things. Imagine a rule requiring all freight to be transported by wheelbarrow. There would be a boost to employment, and their could even be ancillary business such as production of ice to keep perishable goods cold for the far long period of time required for transport. Even better, some perishable goods would actually perish, raising the price of these goods, and the lower yield would increasing the cost of producing and getting the required amount of goods to market!
There are times when inefficiencies that generate employment can benefit society, but generally there are better ways to invent employment than either generation of artificial inefficiencies or forced conversion of unpaid work to paid work.
Boost #3 Outsourcing.
Companies moving to outsourcing boosts economic activity, as it turns what was previously an internal transaction, into a monetary transaction. The more monetary transaction steps in the chain from raw materials to finished goods, the greater the economic activity from the production of the finished goods. Take a car. A vertically integrated company such as Tesla would generate far less economic activity when producing the same car, than a company that outsources manufacturing, and ideally has the manufacturing plant use subassemblies that are again outsourced.
There is nothing inherently wrong with outsourcing, but does not mean it makes sense to consider operations more valuable solely because they use outsourcing.
Covid-19 And Economic Activity: Highlighting Anomalies.
The Lost Of Output: Lost Productivity.
Lockdowns hit not just the economy, but also hit real productivity the economy hard. Generally, when those who cannot work from home are forced to remain at home, the cost to society is very real, and highly problematic.
Without Loss Of Output: Continued Productivity, But Reduced Economic Activity.
Next is the double edged sword, where there is loss of economic activity, without loss of productivity. Consider the case when some people find they now can work from home. Working from home, even when work is of the same standard, reduces economic activity as:
There is less travel to and from work, consuming less fuel, and requiring less public transport.
Some people may make their own coffee and lunches instead of paying others to make coffee for them.
This raises some complex questions as to whether people who have discovered they can work from home, should be be permitted to work from home. On one hand, fuel supplies will lose revenues and some jobs, a percentage of baristas and lunch cafe staff would also lose their jobs, and any loss of jobs is undesirable. But on the other hand, does this mean we should be forcing people to travel even longer on their commutes, as this would increase fuel sales and jobs in transpoer, and result in more meals away from the home creating even more jobs?
Of course the problem with jobs that result from people being forced to spend unnecessary time travelling to and from work is that is simply unproductive, and is effectively taxing the people who are doing the extra travelling in order to transfer part of their money to those in the generated jobs. In reality, if we are going to tax those people who already do have the jobs more, it would be better to also not rob them of their time, and to use the money to fund jobs that are productive, so the wealth of society is actually increased. The problem with Covid-19 is it brough the change too quickly to properly adjust, rather than the change being undesirable in the longer term.
A Jump To Our DIY Future.
An enemy of economic activity is DIY activity, and technology and robotics is taking to the world further to DIY. With ever improving technology and ‘tools’, people can do more themselves.
If you Do It Yourself, then you don’t pay someone to do it. Lockdowns saw a huge increase in DIY. Everything from cleaning, gardening, cooking, making coffees and cakes through to baking bread. This results in loss of income for cleaning services, gardening services, restaurants and cafes, cakes shops and bakeries, but without necessarily anyone going with cleaning, gardening, meals, coffees, cakes or bread. There was in fact a boost in sales of household and cleaning appliances, gardening tools and equipment, cooking appliances, coffee machines, and home break making machines.
Unlike reducing unnecessary commuting, most of the lost economic activity was actually necessary, and simply that which was necessary still happened in moved from paid to unpaid. There is still the reality of lost employment, even if the ability of people to handle tasks on their own shows not all of that employment is really necessary. Some tasks becoming DIY is a genuine replacement, while for other such as food, the result is mixed. Fast food may be no better than what is made at home or simply stops being eat in fast food, but not many people can replicate fine dining.
Still, much of the lost employment that could be replicated by people doing it themselves is a preview of the future, as robotic vacuums, robotic mowers, better automated gardening tools, and every improving household appliances are all targeted at moving more and more tasks to do it yourself.
Does It Matter? What Are the Alternatives?
What Is Measured Is What You Can Improve.
Successful measurement is a cornerstone of successful improvement. How do you know if the changes you are making are leading to improvement? Simple: you measure. Measurement doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming. The key is to pick the right measurements, so that you can see results quickly and adapt your interventions accordingly, putting less strain on resources and more focus on outcomes.
The same principle applies everywhere, improvement requires measuring what you want to improve. Improving economic activity is not a worthwhile goal for society.
Stock Market Indexes Reflect Only “The Big End Of Town”.
The main alternative measure of economic success is the stock market. Again, as with economic activity, if all else is equal if the stock market rises, things are going well. But as with economic activity, the metric can produce problematic distortions. As stock market indexes are all based on the a small number of the very largest companies results, driving small companies out of business to advantage the larger companies would also drive up the stock market.
It turns out, both these measures of the economy is open to indicating favourable conditions, when for the average person, things are headed in the wrong direction.
Both policies to maximise stock market indexes, and economic activity, benefit big business who are best positioned to make large political donations over the average citizen.
Initially: Scotland, Finland, Iceland, Wales and New Zealand.
These countries have worked to finds a more worthy goal. Norway and Canada also have began come onboard.
Instead of metrics better aligned with major lobbyists, there is hope that at least some governments want what is best for the people. And not just hope, action has commenced.
Some societies have realised that chasing metrics in order to further privilege those who can afford to have influence is just not a fulfilling life.
Conclusion: Good News, There Is Hope, There IS A Better Measure For Prosperity
I am not aligned in any way with the wellbeing economy movement, and did not even know of the website prior to starting my exploration of the problems with current metrics and looking for alternatives.
When you do it right, “its the economy stupid” is not just about winning votes by fooling people, but by winning votes by helping people.
For the environment, peak population will be a nightmare. This page explores alternatives for the future of population, and the possibility that the current peak population will be the last time there are ever this many humans on Earth.
Introduction and Recap.
The Fragile Starting Point.
Endless Climate Summits: And We Need Them.
Don’t Mention Population.
Recap: Understanding How We Got To This Many People.
The Possible Futures:
The UN projection: stability.
The Most Common ‘Sci-Fi’ Future, continued growth, and the elimination of nature.
Collapse: The Dystopian Alternative.
Descent To The Plateaux: Leaving The Population Peak
to be continued….
Introduction and Recap.
The Fragile Starting Point: Should A Climate Summit Mention Population?
Endless Climate Summits: Governments Are Feeling The Need To Respond.
Recent human advances have provided great benefits, but have also come at huge environmental cost.
Huge strides in reducing infant mortality came too quickly for birth rates to compensate, producing a huge population explosion. In parallel, other advances such as plastics, automobiles and refrigeration have compounded the problem by increasing the environmental footprint per person.
There is now worldwide majority consensus, that the environment, under the strains of supporting over 7 billion people living as they do currently, is extremely fragile. Logically, two steps are required:
Step 2, population, described by many as the elephant in the room, is a topic avoided at current conferences, despite the widespread acknowledgement that population itself poses an existential threat to the environment.
The naturalist David Attenborough once said the creature he finds “most extraordinary” is a nine-month-old human baby. But now he believes the planet can’t sustain many more.
In an interview for BBC Newsnight, the 92-year-old British broadcaster said: “In the long run, population growth has to come to an end. There are some reasons for thinking that will happen almost inevitably.
“But it is very alarming at the rate we’re going, and although people will say, ‘In the long run, we are going to stabilize’, they’re going to stabilize – as far as I can see – at a rather higher level than the Earth can really accommodate.”
I continue to uncover new surprises as I came to grok the pieces of the puzzle. The two most recent, and critical pieces of the puzzle were:
“Full planet”: The realisation that there has been a similar total amount of life since life on land began, and therefore increases in one species population always means decrease in the population of other species.
“Normal Population”: That most advanced life controls it rate of reproduction to reproduce at the optimum time and optimum number to ensure survival, and not beyond that number.
These follow from the realisation that, given it only takes a few thousand years of exponential population growth for any creature have enough individuals to occupy every millimetre of the surface of the earth, and even humans have been here for hundreds of thousands of years, there has been enough time to grow the population from just two people and carpet the entire earth with humans, or any other organism, time after time after time.
On one hand, normally unusual population booms in nature soon end, population return to normal population, and the environment recovers.
But we have never seen a global population boom like this before, and the trigger for the boom remains in place, even though humans seem to be adapting birth rates to match the new normal of almost all children surviving.
The Possible Futures:
The UN projection: stability.
There are many graphs plot population growth as asymptotically approaching zero, as if stable population is the lowest rate of reproduction possible.
With everyone alive today born during a population explosion, and their parents, grandparents, great grandparents, and great great grandparents only ever experiencing a population explosion, it is perhaps understandable that even stable population seems a foreign concept, despite thousands of years of history revealing that stable population is the normal reality.
Perhaps in this context, it makes sense that the UN, with all the politics of member states at play, is reluctant to predict any population reduction. There is a cost to population reduction, for leaders of government, for big business, and for the extremely wealthy. Although these groups are small in number, they make up for it in influence, and do need delicate handling.
The difference between UN projections, and those such as Deutsche Bank who are financially motivated with no real need to watch politics, can be seen in this data.
Note this data, is now 10 years old, and that the journalist felt that, despite the projections for the year now seen as critical, 2050, being almost identical, that the difference between projections was the difference between “out of control” population, and “no problem”. The difference in reality is the size of the problem beyond 2050.
The Most Common ‘Sci-Fi’ Future, continued population growth, and the elimination of nature.
With future fiction, a genre of science fiction, when a positive future is envisaged, the future Earth almost always has a population that has continued to increase, potentially well beyond the carrying capacity of the Earth, where the number of inhabitants makes experiencing nature simply not feasible given the number of humans who would want to experience nature at the same time. Imagine your favourite wilderness area. If you visit with your family it is wonderful, but if 1,000 other families want to visit at the same time, it is no longer wilderness.
Yet this future of a crowded Earth filled with humans who never get to experience nature is the most common science fiction view of a positive future.
Examples: Fifth Element, Total Recall,
Population Collapse: The Dystopian Alternative.
From H.G Wells “Time Machine”, through “Planet of the Apes” and “Logan’s Run”, and to “The Hunger Games” and “Divergent”, stories of a future where an inevitable apocalypse that dramatically reduces population in the future is a very common way to picture the future of humanity.
Descent To The Plateaux: Leaving The Population Peak.
Yet there is another possible future. Back in the section on the UN version of the future, I referenced a BBC article with projections and assessments of future population back in 2013.
In just those almost 10 years, “births per woman” numbers have fallen to 1.1 in several countries, which given the required rate for population stability is around 2.3, suggests that, not only have major organisations predicted a future when population moves naturally towards a sustainable number of humans, the predictions are being supported by reality.
Consider the following:
Fertility rates and sperm counts are falling worldwide, including in areas not linked to a toxic environment.
Family sizes continue to fall globally.
There are an increasing number of couples not desiring children at all.
Understanding my perspective on what is happening requires reading “normal population“, but there is significant supporting data.
Conclusion: To be continued….
I will update this page progressively over the coming week. There is quite a lot more to add, including the economic implications….
People Are Often Guinea Pigs, Mostly Without Safeguards.
People were guinea pigs when a whole generation of kids grew up watching tv, and again now with a generation growing up exposed to social media. People become guinea pigs so often that it doesn’t make the news anymore, but we should not just ignore that it happens.
At least with vaccines, there are sound processes, mostly staffed by well intentioned normal people who are not all part of some conspiracy as some believe, to reduce the risk posed by the experiment, but it is still an experiment.
The Safety Experiment: What Are The Risks.
And being vaccinated is not always completely harmless. Vaccines don’t even fight disease or hang around in your body beyond a couple of weeks, but they give your body a look at something that looks a little like the virus, and your bodies own reaction to that triggers your immune system, and your own immune system:
Does fight future infections.
Is ‘primed’ in a way that lasts at least several months and maybe for ever.
Can, in admittedly rare cases, can cause problems that make people unwell or even die.
The assessment is that for most people, exposure to Covid-19 without vaccination is a far, far more risky experiment than vaccination. At least most countries have decided that for over 12, while other countries have only decided that for over 16s. The young fit and healthy can still die from Covid-19, but their risk is reduced, so at this time, it is assumed that risk/benefit for the very young becomes questionable. If you are under 16, it would seem to be less certain what is best.
Vaccine Risk vs Infection Risk.
Getting vaccinated means you will get the vaccine for certain, while it may not be certain you will ever be infected with the virus. There have been situations, like in Australia in early 2021, when there was more immediate risk from the vaccine than the virus, because at that time, no one was being infected within Australia. It did not take long for the odds to be reversed in Australia, but if you live somewhere that the virus will not reach, then the equation changes.
So if you live in a location with no Covid-19 around or you are under 16 or not much older, then it can make sense to hold off on being vaccinated.
There is the adage “do your own research”, but the cost of the lab, test equipment and medical facilities is quite prohibitive, and allocating friends and family to the placebo group could be problematic.
For those over 16 in locations where the virus is circulating, the evidence is very compelling from existing research that it is better to be guinea pig for the effects of the vaccine than a guinea pig for the effects of the virus.
The Effectiveness Experiment: The Forgotten Risk.
All vaccine trials check not only for safety, but also for ‘efficacy’. At first I thought if I have a vaccine with 90% efficacy, that must mean I would be then 90% protected. It turn out, no, this is not necessarily the case. Unlike the virus, vaccines themselves are basically harmless, and when there is harm, it is the reaction of our bodies own immune system that causes the problems. You could think of an allergic response as like an anxiety, an overreaction to something that was not really a threat. With the original vaccinus or “from the cow” (origin of the word ‘vaccine’) there was an injection of a real cowpox virus, but most modern vaccines are not just less dangerous than the target disease, they present no threat at all.
There is simply no need for our body to produce any immune reaction to the vaccine at all. The desired response is that our immune system if fooled into responding, even when there is no need.
On one hand we don’t want people to dangerously overreact, but there can also be a percentage people with no reaction at all. If a person’s immune system correctly determines the vaccine is not even a threat, then as within around 2 weeks, the vaccine will be gone, and the person will be no more immune than the were before.
A component of vaccine ‘efficacy’ is the percentage of people have the same risk after vaccination as they did before vaccination.
Secret Covid-19 Future: The Truth From a politician?
It seems in Australia we have a genuine conspiracy to deceive the public. This is a conspiracy in two steps, with many conspirators only committed to the more benign step one, but likely being drawn into the more worrying step2.
The Two Step Conspiracy: The People Don’t Know What’s Best.
A Conspiracy, really? Who are the conspirators and why?
International Consequences and A Breakup of Australia?
The Two Step Conspiracy: The People Don’t Know What’s Best.
Step 1: The Santa Claus Vaccination Plan.
Most parents let their children believe the white lie: “If you are good, Santa will bring you presents”.
The Santa story, using a little bribery since children are too young to understand that being good is its own reward. As parents, we seem to feel this is harmless and, the end justifies the means.
The same principle is applied with the public and vaccinations. Internationally, there have been various attempts to provide a reward for being vaccinated, as insufficient members of the public seem to understand that being vaccinated is also its own reward.
So, some governments in Australasia, particularly Australian national government, push a post vaccination “paradise only better” mythical world awaits vaccinated people, as a way to motivate people who don’t understand vaccination is its own reward.
This is an even easier sell in Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne where previous zero-covid-19 now “paradise lost”.
Those who do not like deceit in general, don’t look too closely are the reality of the promise, as there is no real question about the benefits of vaccination, so even if the promise is questionable, surely the end justifies the means.
Given the motive at this step is all about getting people vaccinated, it is not difficult to get health care professionals on board. There is a desperate need to overcome provide some of the public with a vision of a rosy future, and these are not always the most reasonable people.
A vaccination centre at the Melbourne Town Hall would be shut until Monday after several of its staff were physically and verbally abused on their way to work, operator cohealth said on Thursday.
In fact, it becomes understandable for politicians to start to treat some of the public like children. But even if it is understandable, is it acceptable? It is valid to suggest “Santa Claus is coming” in the form of a post vaccine paradise, even after they have realised reality looks different.
There may be a degree of white lie, but some can excuse themselves as they are not spreading the lie, just not revealing the truth of what will happen after vaccinations.
Step 2: Government knows what’s right for public, so ‘railroading’ is justified.
Step 1, using a false promise to encourage people to people vaccinated is arguably relatively harmless, but it is step 2, the railroading of the public into the governments chosen path following vaccination, could potentially cost thousands of lives.
When vaccinations began back in March 2021, the original plan was that once vaccination levels achieved herd immunity, border restrictions to prevent spread of covid-19 could be safely removed. It has since become clear that target levels of vaccination will not achieve herd immunity, but the government plans to open anyway, despite the almost certain consequence of a Covid-19 death toll and hospitalisation rate far higher than seen in Australia or New Zealand previously during the pandemic.
The Australian government may feel the cost in potential lives lost is justified by trade and economic benefits of open borders, but does that excuse hiding the implications of opening from the public?
Use reduced transmission through vaccinations to improve zero-covid-19 of ‘past paradise’, and continue to work towards a goal of “herd immunity“.
Use reduced hospitalisation as a result of vaccinations to “live with Covid-19” even without herd immunity.
This second step of the conspiracy is for the government to keep secret that vaccination targets no long provide herd immunity, and open anyway without allowing and debate as to whether this is what the public wants. The government choice may turn out best, but if so, why block debate in a democracy?
Originally it was thought when sufficient people were vaccinated, there would be herd immunity. Herd immunity with herd immunity cases would fall even after opening borders, giving the benefits of both choices. Now it is not yet proven that herd immunity is even possible.
The government wants to prevent any public debate on which option to choose.
The Australian government attitude is that, just as there people who do not know what is good for them and do not want to be be vaccinated, there are also people who don’t want borders open if too many deaths will follow, and they don’t know what is good for them either.
Step 2 is to keep it hidden that targets do not represent herd immunity and there will likely be many deaths per day following opening, allowing government to choose the next step without “messy” consultation or any need to ensure public support.
The Secret Behind Stage2: Paradise Lost With Delta.
Past Paradise: The Relatively Normal Life During Covid-19.
To understand why the reality how life after vaccine targets as planned by the government has to be kept secret, requires understanding how different live in Australia and New Zealand has been up to July 2021.
It has been no secret that, for most of pandemic up until July 2021, New Zealand and Australia were the places to be. Most of the time there were few restrictions New Zealand and the states of Australia, with the exception for some of the time of the state of Victoria and particularly the city of Melbourne. Every day life was quite normal, although restaurants and other venues did technically require 3d barcodes to be scanned, or least have people go through the motions of scanning, in order to record their visit, life was almost the same as pre pandemic. Except for one big restriction: international arrivals were limited and had to endure quarantine. In reality, apart from the quarantine, life was quite normal. No face masks or limitations to gatherings, even when attending full capacity sporting, or other stadium events.
Apart from a few rare outbreaks, no one was getting ill or dying, as there was simply zero-covid-19. Outside of Melbourne, Australia had less than 100 deaths from locally acquired infections, and New Zealand less than 20. Life was for most people, for most of the pandemic, unchanged except for those pesky travel/border restrictions, which was why so many celebrities were sitting out Covid-19 down under.
However, the national government was always strong opposed to the travel/border restrictions. They disrupted tourism and international trade, and the national government in Australia never felt it was worth disrupting trade to achieve zero-covid-19. Even the New Zealand government was running out of patience for tourism and trade. Vaccines have always been seen as the way to border and travel restrictions, so life could fully return to normal.
“Paradise” came at a cost: border/travel restrictions. Not even an option for most countries, but delivering a paradise for both Australia and New Zealand.
The Big Secret: From Paradise, To A Future Being Similar to the US or UK.
But now we get to the big secret: Instead of a return to life up to July 2021 in Australia, lifting border restrictions in Australia after reaching vaccination targets will most likely deliver a future similar to that in countries with similar vaccination levels who never had the same border restrictions. Like life in countries such the allies of the AUKUS alliance, the UK and US.
With Australia heading for similar levels of immunity to the UK and US, and planning to move to a similar policy border policy in respect of Covid-19, it should be not surprise that the result may be similar. But Australians are just not ready for that result.
The Big Secret: The Reveal, Denials, Attacks and Outrage.
There was outrage at suggesting Australia could see 80 deaths a day following the lifting of border restrictions, even thought, the projection is consistent with outcomes in other countries that do not have border restrictions. Consider daily deaths in the UK and the US:
Both countries have a larger population than Australia, so the figures need to be adjusted to deaths per 100,000 and applied to Australia’s population, results in these numbers for Australia:
55 deaths per day based on the UK where immunity is higher than Australian targets.
155 deaths per day based on the US with immunity as levels similar to Australian targets.
The 80 deaths per day suggested by Anastasia Palaszczuk, the leader of government in the state of Queensland, is certainly consistent with the numbers from the US and UK, as fact checked below. Yet Anastasia Palaszczuk was attacked and highly questionably fact checked as being “misleading” by Australia’s national broadcaster.
The claim of misleading was based on:
The figure of 80 deaths per day not being the only future included in the modelling.
Data in the modelling suggestion 80 deaths per day would no continue as lockdowns (even though not considered at a such a time in national government strategies) would likely be introduced.
Technically the quote is misleading as it draws not only on the modelling, but also on Australian government stated policy. Perhaps the quick quote should have been something like “if you used the data from modelling and assume current policy will be applied…”?
Yet, even the denial did not dispute that the main substance of the statement was in fact correct. The projections do show deaths of this magnitude, and in reality, looking the data, it does not seem logical to expect a different outcome.
To me this qualifies as a denial, and it seems the denial attracted more coverage than the original statement, which is why I have quoted a link to the “fact check”, and no link to the original reveal. In fact I found more then 5 sites reporting this denial, and none reporting the original reveal in any context other than in order to report the denial.
The Attacks and Outrage.
Annastasia Palaszczuk is questioning if and when borders should be reopened, given the death toll that will likely result. The problem is, given the strength of distain by the national government for any restriction on borders, even suggesting a discussion on how to proceed triggers the “pr” machine in response.
All the attacks and outrage incorrectly state Palaszczuk has declared she will not open borders, when in reality her words were a call for serious discussions:
“If New South Wales is the model of what lies in store for all of us, then we need to be having some serious discussions.”
The premier said she will ignore the national cabinet’s plan to open borders at 80 per cent vaccination rates, saying it will send QLD ‘backwards’, ruining Christmas plans for thousands of people separated from their families. On Thursday she said the national plan had ‘not been finalised’ and that she would keep borders shut to New South Wales despite soaring vaccinations.
Again, just questioning with the border should open will cost jobs.
These are just sample I found on a quick search. I feel the important point is that just questioning when borders should be opened is what has resulted in the attacks.
Fact Check: Zero-Covid-19 and Immunity Level Comparisons.
Zero-Covid-19 or “Covid-zero”.
Australia always had a policy of “suppression”, not elimination. So what is covid-zero or “Zero-Covid-19”?
New Zealand, and the individual states of Australia all followed a policy of “zero community spread”, which has been also been reffered to as “covid-zero” and other variations.
They all mean a policy of using whatever means are required to end chains of transmission of the virus. There are three main ingredients:
Border control with quarantine.
Track and trace.
Lockdowns in response to significant outbreaks.
Border control with quarantine. The first principle is to prevent people who arrive infected with the virus from infecting others during the time they are infectious. If no one introduces the virus, then there will be no “local transmission” of the virus. That is, the only cases will be those who arrive infected, having been infected before being “local”. Statistics of locations such as New Zealand still show cases being confirmed, even during long months of “covid-zero”, because people infected before arriving in New Zealand may only be confirmed as infected while in quarantine after then arrived. These people are not cases of “local infection”, but still count as cases within New Zealand.
Track and Trace. Border control with quarantine is not perfect, and cases still do get through quarantine, resulting in one or more “local infections”. When this does happen, the people who became infected, may have infected any number of people they have been in contact with. “Track and trace” is the process of trying to identify all people each infected person may have been in contact with, then test these people to identify any further infections. A complication is that most often the original case “escaping” quarantine will have been asymptomatic, and unknowingly infected several other people, and some of those may have been asymptomatic, resulting a many cases before an outbreak is even detected.
Lockdowns. When it becomes clear that there are, or will soon be, too many cases for track and trace, a lockdown is introduced to try to prevent or minimise spread while track and trace is used to isolate infected people. Prior to delta, even 20 cases was not necessarily sufficient for even a local area lockdown, but with delta, even the entire nation of New Zealand needed to lockdown with a single case was detected. This sounds, and is, extreme, but for almost 18 months this policy allowed New Zealanders to dine, socialise and attend sporting events unaffected by Covid-19.
Immunity Level Comparisons: Australia, New Zealand, UK and USA.
Immunity from Covid-19 generally results from either having previously been infected, or having been vaccinated. There is solid data on vaccinations, but on infections there is only confirmed cases, which depending on the testing regimes at the time and place will be somewhat lower than total infections.
Australia and New Zealand.
Both Australia and New Zealand have had negligible levels of infection so far, which on positive side means few deaths and hospitalisations so far, but the minus is that there is almost zero immunity from infection, which means there is no level of immunity beyond from vaccinations, so data from vaccination trackers is the level of immunity.
Levels of vaccination in Australia and New Zealand are quoted as a “percentage of the eligible population”, which is currently 16 and over in Australia, and 12 and over in New Zealand, which means numbers from the two countries cannot be directly compared. International data, as from vaccination trackers, is most often expressed as “percentage of the [full] population”, in order to allow direct comparison. Data reveals 18.7 percent of Australians were aged 0-14 in 2011, so assuming data is currently similar today and allowing for adding15 year-olds, gives around 20% of the population being under 16, so Australian vaccinations rates should be multiplied by 0.8 to arrive at rates for the entire population, while New Zealand number should be by 0.85. So opening levels for Australia at 70% and 80% represent 56% and 64% of the entire population.
As I found when exploring “Covid-19, Almost over?“, in early August 2021, researchers in the UK directly tested people was that 94% of adults in England had immunity to Covid-19. In the UK only those 16 and over are currently receiving vaccines, but the big difference in the UK is that a significant percentage of children would have already been exposed to the virus. Estimates so far suggest at least 90% of the total population would have some immunity.
I have not seen a study of immunity that allows projecting immunity levels nationally within the US. What we do know is that in the USA, 55% of the population are fully vaccinated as at September 21, 2021, which compares with 39.4% of Australians at this same date. Given significant number in the US who have been infected, the total immune level would I believe conservatively be at least 70%, which is almost double the current immunity in Australia.
Australian Situation: Lack of exposure in the past is a problem for the future.
The 70% and 80% immunity level for adults in Australia gives 56% and 64% population immunity, which even at higher of the two levels, is not only lower than the 90% estimated for the UK or even the 70% overall estimated for the US.
In fact, not matter what percentage of the Australian population 16 and over are vaccinated, it is not possible to reach immunity levels present in the UK. In reality, it will require a significant number of people being infected to ever match vaccination levels of the UK.
To achieve even current immunity levels present in the USA without a significant number of Australians gaining immunity through infection would require 87.5% of the Australian population being vaccinated.
Other factors may be different, but it will be difficult for Australia to even reach current USA immunity levels.
Australia and New Zealand have two real choices of next step:
Use reduced transmission through vaccinations to improve zero-covid-19 of ‘past paradise’.
Use reduced hospitalisation as a result of vaccinations to then “live with Covid-19”.
Both options are highly problematic and there is no easy solution.
Option 1: Use Reduce Transmissions to Improve “zero-covid-19” strategy.
There is no getting around that even in a fully vaccinated society, “zero-covid-19” still requires some form of “border protection” to prevent infectious people arriving and spreading the virus. The current system has failed in New Zealand and the Australian States/Territories of NSW, Victoria and ACT, and lead to lockdowns to contain the spread of the virus.
If all had remained the same, continuous streamlining improvements to border quarantine could have made life with zero-covid-19 better, but delta made it harder, while vaccinations should make it better.
It could be argued that if the relevant population(s) had been sufficiently vaccinated that spread would have been sufficiently suppressed that lockdowns may not have been needed, but how easy it is to solve the problem with the new elements of the delta variant and a vaccinated population is just unproven.
Australians in Sydney and Melbourne see people in the UK and USA now living what appears to be as free as people in Perth and Brisbane, and think “they have all the freedoms without any risk of outbreaks!”.
Option 2: Use reduced hospitalisation as a result of vaccinations to then “live with Covid-19”.
Many Australians are simply not ready for the levels of illness and death that accompanies those images where people in the USA and UK are living as just as free as people in Perth (Western Australia).
The illness and death are not seen, and to some, they don’t even matter. Protesters in Melbourne in particular, see their football grand final held in Perth Western Australia where there is no Covid-19 risk, while in the USA and UK the risk of Covid-19 does not seem to matter anyway. It seems there is no need to have borders and keep cases low, when life can look normal if Covid-19 is just simply almost ignored.
Again, it is a move into the unknown. Will the legacy of low cases and deaths in pandemic so far mean that lower levels of immunity will result in an even worse medical outcome in countries protected by vaccinations alone? There are those people who will care about the deaths. Or will it all just go away as Trump always predicted.
Confirmation Bias And The Flood of Information.
There is so much data on Covid-19, and much of it appears contradictory. In both providing and interpreting information, there is so much ambiguity. For example:
There is no universal agreement on what constitutes an ‘infection‘, or a ‘case‘.
Information of vaccination rates is presented as a percentage, but what it is a percentage of can vary make numbers look higher or lower.
Immunity from infections can be assumed to be at the rate of confirmed cases, or estimates of actual cases, which will normally be at least 2x greater, and up to 10x greater.
Data fluctuates so significantly making it “cherry pick” to support a variety of different conclusions.
For example, at the time of writing, both cases and deaths for both the USA and UK are higher than at the same date last year. This could be used to argue conditions have not improved, despite vaccinations. Alternatively, perhaps it is not time of year that is the deciding factor, but the phase of a ‘wave’ or ‘cycle’ and both countries it could be argued have far lower deaths and hospitalisations than at the same point in previous waves. There is data to support “things are worse than ever” and to support “things better than before”.
Given opinions are so polarised, there is a huge amount of confirmation bias happening when data is processed. Errors such as stating populations must have similar immunity levels on the basis of vaccinations alone and ignoring immunity from infections, is a typical example of distortions of reality that are rarely questioned.
A huge problem is that it is not just the public with ideas polarised through confirmation bias, it can also be the politicians making the decisions.
A Conspiracy, really? Who are the conspirators and why?
The essence of a conspiracy: A secret and hiding truth.
Just what is a conspiracy? There are many dictionary definitions, but there two common elements:
There is a plot or plan with some motive for those involved in the conspiracy.
The plot relies on keeping something secret that, if revealed, could the prevent the plan succeeding.
As you may have noticed, conspiracy theories have become rather common, and often with low credibility. Often it seems the “truth” claimed to be being hidden is not very credible, as with “flat earth” conspiracies, and other times it seems unlikely that the required number of people would all maintain secrecy if the secret was real, as with “twin towers” conspiracies that assume many many people participated in the consipriacy.
This conspiracy is all based on it remaining “secret” that opening border at the governments planned stage will likely result in deaths of perhaps 80 deaths per day, unless lockdowns continue following border openings.
At the core, this is a plot to ignore the science.
Conspiracy theories about Covid-19 are everywhere, but they are mostly where people who ignore science, or who believe the science is wrong, conspiring to protest and complain. Normally, the people in power are the ones following the science, although there have been some clear exceptions.
In the case of Australia, it is all about politicians with a history of ignoring science on other issues, doing it again. The Australian federal government has the history of choosing belief over science, and they have the same pattern with Covid-19.
Nationally, Australia’s policy with Covid-19 has always been “suppression”, based on the belief that the higher the level of cases, the easier it is to prevent more cases. While this may be true once a virus starts to run out of new people to infect, at more tolerable levels of virus in the community, growth is exponential. The very nature of exponential growth is, the bigger the number, the bigger the amount of growth. This means, in direct contradiction to opinions expressed by prime minister of Australia Scott Morrison, the more cases, the faster the growth and the harder the virus is to contain.
But it is the goal of the core members of the conspiracy, the party lead by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, to censure debate and “railroad” Australians into a path return to “zero-covid-19” is “too difficult”, leaving “living with covid-19” as the only option available.
As with climate change where it not clear whether this political part believes climate change is no threat, if simply believes it is beneficial politically to act as their is no threat, it is difficult to know if the party members believes deaths in Australia will never reach per capita levels of comparable countries.
The Alternative Narrative: Borders must be open, consequences are just reality.
This new plan is simply a return to original narrative, this time eliminating the arguments of opponents that health outcomes would also be costly by keeping the health costs secret.
Faith and Confirmation Bias, How Followers Join The Conspiracy.
The conspiracy of “opening anyway” relies on the “secret” that herd immunity no longer will not be in place when the border are opened. That all data suggests opening will mean cases rising to levels common elsewhere but previously seen in Australia under wraps until opening has gone too far to be stopped.
The national government alone cannot stop others realising. It takes medical advisors, and state leaders and news media to also continue to promote “just get vaccinated and all will be OK”. It certainly does not need those pesky states questioning whether they should open up and allow infections to rise.
In reality this makes a fragile conspiracy as there are both those for and against:
The Rupert Murdoch controlled press and “shock jocks”.
During covid-19 have supported “the virus is not even a real problem” side of any argument.
Some Medical professionals fearing vaccine hesitancy.
If opening is seen as a reward for vaccination, perhaps promising open borders is ok, and surely the government will not really open if it is not safe?
State Leaders In States where are current outbreaks that are not under control.
Opening borders may not make it worse if covid-19 has already spread.
The Breakaways: Who will “spill the beans”?
Data is becoming clearer and clearer on spread even when vaccinated.
State leaders from states without covid-19 cases when targets are reached.
Palaszczuk from the state of Queensland
Most likely McGowan from Western Australia, and perhaps others in Zero-Covid-19 states.
The New Zealand government?
There are signs of supporters joining the breakaways as targets for opening come closer and potential problems begin to look like realities. The NSW state leader has already started qualifying messages on opening. I expect “leaks” of the truth to start to emerge from others beyond Palaszczuk, and will update this section as any emerge.
International Consequences and A Breakup of Australia?
There is more to explain, but for a few months in 2020, all Australia had lockdowns and the national government supported the lockdowns by funding a scheme to protect jobs while employees were forced to remain at home.
Contrast responses to the delta outbreak in NSW, Victoria and New Zealand:
The responses in NSW and Victoria were ineffective as workers needed to continue to work as the national government would no longer offer “job keeper” since the national government never supported Zero-Covid-19.
The response in New Zealand was effective as the national government still supports Zero-Covid-19.
Now consider what will happen in future with Western Australia:
The Western Australian Government will be very reluctant to open borders unless it is genuinely safe.
The National Government will not support Western Australia with any future lockdowns, or other Covid-19 support unless borders are open.
This could lead to a battle between a very popular state government in Western Australia, believing it should have the right to funding its own policies as it is a significant part of the Australian economy.
Western Australia could “go it alone” and keep their borders closed in defiance of the national government.
Western Australia “going it alone” would be a significant threat to national stability if deaths rise to expected levels in the eastern states.
The reality is that no country has managed the ultimate goal of herd immunity. It initially looked possible in Israel, before delta took hold. It even looked possible in the USA before delta arrived.
“zero-covid-19” while it requires quarantine
“living with covid-19” while it will result in even close to “30 deaths per 10 million people per day”
Is an outcome any country wants to accept going forward. A problem with covid-19 is that we cannot conduct live experiments with populations, and the world needs to be able to use results from countries who are able to do things differently to learn the best path. Australia and New Zealand, perhaps due in part to their isolation have provided data on alternative paths that is of value to the world. If either or both simply give up and join the rest of the world would be sad. To do so even if it will result in unnecessary deaths would be tragic.
It is not yet clear which is strategy is correct for Australia or New Zealand at this time, but as it is important for the world that somewhere tries “zero-covid-19” if it is at all viable at this time, it is certainly important that neither country is railroaded into just opening borders regardless of the alternatives because of an ideological position the prevents even open debate..
The Environment Always Recovers From Plagues In Nature, So No Problem?
Conclusion: A Return To Normal For the Many, Or Greed Of The Few?
Normal Population in a nutshell.
The concept of a ‘Normal’ population is that the entire population of each species follows a similar growth pattern to an individual animal.
The normal growth pattern for an individual is for each individual to experience a growth phase, until reaching an adult size, and then to remain at approximately the same size from that time. Every individual animal is also a ‘colony of cells’, and continues making new cells for its entire life, but the population of cells reaches a point of stability at the end of the growth phase, and while new cells continue to be produced, for most of the individuals life there is a stable population of cells. From maturity the number of cells in the animal remains at a ‘normal’ population: cell population stability. New cells are always being produced, but once mature, this happens only fast enough to continue the stable population. The average cell in a human is around 7 years old, even if the human is 70 years old. The same ‘person’ even though almost all the cells are new. When there is damage, there can be more rapid grown, just as when we lose skin cells, but once the damage is repaired, cancer aside, cell reproduction goes back to just the rate required for population stability.
The population grows to ‘normal population’, and then cell production naturally drops to the level required to achieve population stability, just as cells populations do in an individual adult. If the population is temporality reduced, the population will recover and again stabilize.
The concept of normal population, is that the entire species can also be considered as a living organism that grows the population of individuals until maturity when ‘normal population’ is reached, and then there is population stability.
Real World Example: Humpback Whales.
As an example, consider humpback whales. The population of humpbacks in the south Atlantic ocean fell from an estimated 23,000 to 34,000 in 1830 to 440 by in the late 1950s, and has since recovered to an estimated 99% of their previous population. This is 5.7 doublings of population is less than 70 years, or one doubling every 12 years. Despite their ability to double the population once every 12 years, and having existed in the Earths oceans without any significant predators prior to whaling for well over 1 million years, which is enough time to double in population 83,000 times, their population stopped doubling after within 15 doublings even if there were only 2 whales 1 million years ago. Clearly there is a normal whale population, and as these whales have not decimated their plankton food source and there there an not whales continually dying of starvation, the ‘normal’ population is not a result of deaths of whales or running out of food. Some natural process results in an whales growing in population up to an optimum number, as also happens with elephants, lions, or any other animal.
Despite every animal on Earth having had more than enough time to overpopulation many times over, most animals reach a ‘natural’ population level, at which point they only reproduce at a level that results in a stable population.
The Population: “Missing Puzzle Piece”.
Researching the history of human population uncovers a puzzle, and normal population finally provides a solution to that puzzle.
I have been exploring the state of global population since 2014, as outlined in the my population journey. Initially motived by the passionate sound of alarm by David Suzuki, I soon had my first surprise on learning that rather than follow a path towards annihilation as highlighted by David Suzuki, population growth rates had fallen towards a level of population stability.
On a planet billions of years old, every living thing has had more than enough time for way, way beyond 64 doublings, and no species exists in the numbers that would result from continual doubling in population at even a fraction of the rate that species can double in population. Clearly, exponential growth over any significant time is impossible, and all life has some mechanism for population stability.
Plants, and some other organisms are resource constrained, which makes overpopulation impossible for those organisms. But for a huge range of species, from the bacteria in David Suzuki’s petri dish, through to humanity, population growth beyond a sustainable level is not only possible, but inevitable without some mechanism limit reproduction to exist in “ecological balance with nature”.
The missing puzzle becomes: how is it possible that most organisms can exist in a state of population stability?
Growth Cycles In Nature: The Concept of ‘Normal Population’.
Observations of nature: Did Elephant or other wild animal populations keep growing before humans?
I existed my entire life until recently, assuming that reproduction just blindly produced offspring in some fixed ratio relative to the parents my entire live until stopping and considering the alternative.
If we look at the populations of animals such as elephants in areas where there was not habitat destruction of poaching by humans, all evidence is the populations are stable. This is the same from whales in the ocean pre-whaling, through to polar bears and penguins. Plants and animals have flourished in natural habitats without constant population growth, and give the length of time these organisms have existed, if there was population growth then every habitat would be overrun. The reality is we see that population growth is not ubiquitous in nature, and at least almost all species manage a stable population when the environment is stable. This suggests either all species are resource constrained, or that there are natural mechanisms that control population growth.
The Mechanism for ‘Normal Population’.
Observation suggests that most living things tune their rate of reproduction to produce a stable population level.
The proposal is that evolution has resulted in many living things having evolved the ability to regulated their population at a desired ‘normal’ level.
How could this work? In practice, achieving a stable population would requires a feedback mechanism, so that when the population is below the ‘normal’ level, reproductive rate increases, and when the population exceeds the ‘normal’ level, reproductive rate falls. So for this idea to be reality, there must be examples in nature of mechanisms to control growth rates.
The Human Body As A Model: Growth Stops at Maturity, unless repairs are needed.
Consider how an individual experiences growth. For the first few years, growth is rapid, and then during teenage years, we stop growing, and spend the entire rest of our lives without further growth. It is not as simple as we stop growing, because while it seems possible for brain cells to last our entire lives, even bone cells only last 20 years, many other cells only last days. Our bodies are a population of cells from a series of generations. Cell production is continuous, takes place at varying rates for different cell types, but once we are adults, manages to produce cells at just the right rate for a stable population.
Further, consider what happens with skin cells when the skin is damaged. New skin cells are produced at an accelerated rate. If the accelerated rate continued, there would be excess growth around the wound, but once the wound heals, the growth rate returns to normal.
Mechanisms of Population Control at the Cellular Level: Contact inhibition of proliferation.
Some mechanisms of population control at the cellular level are well known. Contact inhibition of proliferation, a clear and simple example of population control, is where the density of cells in a given region controls the speed at which cells reproduce, with signalling between cells playing a key role. Although we are still learning all the details of ‘contact inhibition’, including having learnt that actual contact is not required, it is clear that population density can directly inhibit population growth at a cellular level.
Just as too many organisms endangers the entire colony, too many cells also endangers the entire organism, and without a mechanism to stop cell reproduction, our bodies would have cancer like growths or actual cancers.
Contact inhibition of proliferation, that is, the phenomenon that cells stop proliferating upon contact formation has been described several decades ago (Fisher and Yeh, 1967), but the underlying mechanisms are only now emerging. Importantly, loss of contact inhibition is a hallmark of cancer.
As discussed in ‘life in the colonies‘, in fact we are all colonies of cells and what happens at a cellular level normally propagates even to the level of societies.
Mechanisms of Population Control in Animals: Kangaroos as an example.
Today in Australia the population of kangaroos is a problem for farmers, however it should be considered that, despite kangaroos in Australia having had 24 million years to grow their populatio , the Europeans did not arrive to a country overrun by kangaroos. While there are now more kangaroos than desired by farmers, that is partly as farmers raise not kangaroos, but sheep and cattle, and they all eat the same food.
In fact, the kangaroo population manages to reduce to a ‘drought normal’ in response to drought, and return to ‘non-drought normal’ when droughts end, without any assistance from humans.
Periods of extreme drought may delay the onset of maturity in female kangaroos and lead to suppression of their fertility cycles. At the same time most fertile females cease to breed. As a drought worsens, fewer and fewer females have joeys either at foot or in their pouches.
After two years of drought a population may include females aged three years or more which have never produced young, while none of the kangaroos in the area would be younger than two, the precise duration of the drought.
That droughts last several years in Australia allows kangaroos to provide a clear example of how large mammals can not only maintain a ‘normal’ population, but even adjust to a ‘different normal’, in this case for the duration of a drought, and then return to ‘regular normal’ when the drought ends:
Following rainfall and growth of new herbage, kangaroos come into breeding condition almost immediately. However, it can take as long as eight years for kangaroos, even though prolific breeders, to reach their pre-drought numbers again.
Alternatives to ‘Normal Population’: Predation and Resource Constraint.
It sounds simple, the number of organisms is limited by available resources. In fact, this simple model does appear to apply for some living organisms.
Recall the original “bacteria in a petri dish” by David Suzuki? This example highlights both that the bacteria do demonstrate resource constraint, and the limitations of relying on resource constraint for population control. Unless the constrained resources can be renewed from zero, like new sunlight each day, population will continue to increase exponentially until the constraint is reached, completely exhausting the resource. Then there will be the catastrophe of maximum population and zero resource. Relying on resource constraint for population control is often going to be a path to extinction.
Consequently, observation reveals most complex organisms have evolved population control that avoids the problems of relying on resource constraint. Even ignoring the fact that relying on resource constraint will completely devastate the critical resource, we simply do not see animals where the population is control mechanism is a significant number of deaths by starvation due to lack of resources. If population control was a result of only resource constraint work, there would always be too many lions in a safari park and a given percentage would always be dying of starvation, and when we went into a national park, we would see a percentage of dying starving animals. Further, the lions would continue to populate unsustainably devouring all their prey.
What we actually see is that, as with the kangaroos, animals seem to manage their reproduction to produce only the number of offspring that the resources will sustainably support.
Constraint by Predation.
One alternative to a species controlling its own population would be external control from predation. Certainly for many animals, a reduction in the number of predators will see population numbers increase, which suggests at least two possible explanations for this observation:
The species is has no population control mechanism other than predation.
The range of reproductive rates of the species has evolved to allow for predation.
The first explanation has three problems. Firstly, it is natural that the species would evolve before predators for their species exist, so they would have nothing to prevent catastrophic population growth prior to predators appearing. Secondly, while predation would slow growth, there is no way it would automatically result in a stable population, as any time the population of the species grows, survival rate from predation would increase, resulting in even more population growth, and a decline in population would result in a higher rate of predation leading to extinction. Thirdly, this mechanism breaks down with apex predators, for whom predation provides no population control, and so apex predators would continue population growth until the wipe out all of their prey.
The second explanation seems far more likely. That species do have another mechanism of population control that when combined with predation produces a stable result, but that other mechanisms may not be sufficient when predator numbers change dramatically.
Population Growth from a human Perspective.
Why Can’t We As Individuals Keep Growing?
Imagine a human growing up without any adults as a reference. Year after year this human gets larger. Why would this person assume that at a certain age they will stop growing? I can imagine it would be disturbing for such an individual, having experienced year after year of increased growth, to observe their growth decrease and eventually stop. In such a situation, would you wonder if you were dying? Or worry if something was wrong with you to stop you growing?
Or perhaps, this lone individual human would notice that it seems normal for other animals to reach a ‘normal’ size at maturity, and then exist at that same size for the rest of their life?
Don’t We Notice “Normal Populations” in Nature?
Or maybe the human wouldn’t learn from what happens with other animals. Humans have habit of assuming we are beyond the rest of nature, and can seem that we have not learnt about population growth from observing other animals. We don’t expect the populations of other living things to just keep growing, and we don’t expect their lack of population growth to be result of significant starvation, yet it is not common to consider what this means for humanity.
When I walk though a national park, I have never even though about the fact that the number of lizards in that park has remained basically the same for millions years, because I assumed that like us humans have lately, all animals must always increase in population. Of course when you think about it, clearly it is impossible for these species to have been increasing in number for millions of year, but I never thought about it.
But I had also not thought about the fact that when I enter a national park, there is no abundance of animals dead from starvation as a consequence animals having too many young. When there are fires or other disasters naturalists all talk of populations recovering, but as humans we don’t think about how these populations reach a ‘normal’ level and then remain at that level.
Somehow, we have animals all around us with ‘normal populations’, without it occurring to us to ask “do we have a normal population?”
Human Population: Continuous Growth, or ‘Normal Population’.
It Can Look like Resource Constrained Continuous Growth: But its not!
There is that David Suzuki model of population growth like bacteria in a petri dish, which looks a lot like t human population growth of 1960, or even 1980. Human population growth has been at 2% per year a rate of doubling every 34 years! Clearly unsustainable, unrestrained growth that will soon result in all resources being decimated!
But then, stepping back, doubling every 34 years would produce 64 doubling in just over 2,000 year, so we would expect at least 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 humans by now, even if there were only two humans just over 2,000 years ago! We should have at least 18,000 humans per square metre of the entire earth!
It turns out, through most of history, population growth was almost non-existent, and then we have a had a recent explosion.
This seems the exact opposite of what is expected. Instead of growth before reaching a ‘normal population’, humanity had a boost of growth long after reaching ‘normal population’.
Full Human Population History: The Reality Of Human Population Growth.
If we consider humans as a species that evolved around 300,000 years ago, we should have been able to reach our ‘normal’ population within at most 10,000 years.
Yet, although normally very gradual, there has been continued population growth. Discounting the recent population explosion since 1801 for the moment, to go from two humans as to around 1 billion humans in 1801 would be an annual growth rate of only 0.007% per annum. That is assuming continuous homogenous growth, which seems unlikely. But there is still a long term trend of very gradual growth, and that can’t happen with every species, or the world would be getting fuller and fuller, and it is not.
An increase in population of one species would normally occur following a step in evolution, and result a decline in the population of other species displaced by the new improved more evolved species. With humans, it is not the species that has continued to evolve, but the societies of people that have evolved.
Looking more closely, human societies have driven population increases due to changes:
Increased range due to migration.
Improved tools in the progression from Palaeolithic age to Neolithic age.
The invention of farming.
The rise of civilizations.
Continual introduction of of new technology.
Propagation of new technology societies.
So to put all of this together, the history of human population is linked to the evolution of not the human species, but instead evolution of human society. The pattern is that human populations:
Are completely static for most of human history.
Exhibit very slow growth are evolution of society increases range and slowly improves technologies.
Has seen bursts of growth following major society evolution such as the introduction of farming.
Saw unprecedented growth during the population explosion from around 1800 to year 2000.
Population And The Evolution of Human Societies.
Normal population should see a ‘normal population’ quickly achieved, followed by population stability until evolution results in a new species.
People have not really evolved, but society certainly has evolved. In many ways, rather than the species ‘homo sapiens’ being the organism, the organism is the society. Practices adopted by each society changes both the ability to compete with other species for resources, and ‘normal population’ that can be sustainably supported within a given environment. The entire basis of ‘normal population’ is that the control of population evolved to protect the organism that is the colony. Just as individuals stop growing at maturity, societies stop growing at maturity.
But when a society evolves into a new society, just as when an individual gives birth to offspring, the limitation of growth is reset, and the society grows to a new maturity, just as would an individual baby.
As the evolved society grows to a new ‘normal’ people can increase family sizes, lifting population levels. Still, in all the more recent human history where we have statistics, population levels were remarkably stable up until the recent population explosion. In fact, population levels have been so stable, that either it has just been an amazing coincidence, or humans also have some mechanism that has ensured births are in balance with deaths.
Historically, we can see over time the human population has grown at specific times, but the long term stability suggests long periods of population stability. As a ‘colony’ or society, there has been major evolution, sometimes gradually, and sometimes in great leaps. Population ‘normal’ does seem to increase incredibly gradually when society evolves gradually, and move ahead in leaps with breakthroughs to society like the introduction of farming.
Population Explosion: The Breaking of ‘Normal Population’.
An initial assessment could be that the industrial revolution must be an evolution of society that triggered a new, higher ‘normal population’ for human beings, so in response the population expanded. Improved farming techniques able to support a larger population, either reduced deaths from starvation, or triggered people to have more children.
Reality is, deaths from starvation were not reduced during the explosion, and instead, some countries experiencing a population boom, such as China and Bangladesh experienced famines, as a result of increased population. There is a link for the population boom causing starvation, and no link for a reduction in starvation causing a population boom.
Further, analysis of birth rates shows that birth rates declined during the population explosion. An increased ‘normal population’ effect, should trigger increased birth rates. Perhaps there rare locations where birth rates rose somewhat, but if so, this was more than offset by almost all of the world experiencing reduced birth rates.
All evidence is that that main driver for increased population, was the reduction of infant mortality. The goal in almost eliminating infant mortality, is the reduction of suffering, and the resulting population explosion was a side effect, not a motivation. This means that the previous balance of population was broken by improved an improved medical system, and that the population explosion was not humanity adjusting to a new level of ‘normal population’.
The End Of The Population Explosion: ‘Normal Population’ Resumed?
With infant mortality largely eradicated, far less children are required for births to be in balance with deaths. It does seem that birth rates are adjusting downward, to restore ‘normal population’, and generate birth rates that are again produce a population in balance.
What we have seen, is that when families needed 6.0 (six) children to maintain the population due mostly to infant mortality, families had 6.0 (six) children. Now, with infant mortality down to a level where only 2.3 children are required for a stable population, families globally are having only 2.3 children. Is this a new coincidence? Or is this evidence of a mechanism for ‘normal population’ in humans?
The Mechanisms Of Stability and ‘Normal Population’.
Mechanisms In Nature.
Kangaroos do not get together and debate “drought headed this way, we all should agree to hold off having children”. Instead, the reduction in offspring is the result of instincts. Many plants an animals reproduce either only, or predominantly in spring. Their biology could allow them to reproduce throughout the year, but they are ‘triggered’ to reproduce only when there is the greatest chance of survival of their offspring. Reproduction does not just happen all the time as with the bacteria, sophisticated animals and even plants reproduce in response to stimuli. It also logically follows that they reproduce not at the optimum time, but in the optimum number. Any animal that reproduces in numbers that would destroy the environment soon becomes extinct.
Are Humans Beyond Nature?
Are we humans really that much different? Isn’t our desire to have children also driven by instinct? Yes, following those instincts may lead to some of the greatest joys in life, but it still makes sense that these are instincts. Instincts that in just over 100 years have result in our joy being fulfilled by giving birth to far less children than in all of previous history.
I can see three possible factors altering the number of children people have:
The number of children people feel the instinct to want to have.
When Mechanisms Fail: From ‘Normal Population’ to Plagues and Population Explosions.
Population stability results from a balance between births and deaths. Deaths are mostly determined by environment, with the species in question needing to adjust births to match deaths, over which the species itself normally has no control. Disease, predation, and natural disasters can all impact deaths, and as adjusting births takes time, there can be near extinction events or population explosions and plagues, but over time, populations return to normal, and the environment recovers.
Has the Human Explosion Exceeded ‘Normal Population’?
Perhaps the advances of the industrial revolution caused birth rates to fall more slowly as we adjusted to the ‘new normal’ of almost all children surviving, but the increase in population was all a result of birth rates not falling quickly enough to adjust to the new smaller number of children required. The medical advances were rapid, and resulted in saving lives of children already born that would have perished without these advances. It would be impossible for people to adjust the number of children they had in anticipation of medical advances.
Clearly, even if there was no basis for an increase in population, solving the problem of infant mortality would result in an huge lift in population whether desirable or not, as people adjust to the new ‘normal’ number of children.
Statistics on birth rates show we are again at ‘peak child’ and population stability has returned, but now we have an increased population, that, for the first time, was not increased by human birth rates in response to a readiness for a population increase.
Now we are faced with this hugely increased population, whether society is ready for it or not, and the result is that we are currently not able to exist sustainably. The definition of carrying capacity is the number of a species that can exist sustainably. Clearly, we are currently over carrying capacity, and thus we have overpopulation.
You would never trade sustainability for saving all those infants from death. Solving infant mortality was worth the price of resultant overpopulation. But now we are in a race to change our society so that the current population is sustainable, before the damage to the environment is too great.
The Environment Always Recovers From Plagues In Nature, So No Problem?
The human population explosion is unusual as humans it was largely a result of improvements in medicine, but nature also gets out of balance and can produce population explosions, and populations normalise, and the environment recovers. Every time. Locust plague, mouse plague, whatever, the population normalises, and the environment recovers.
On that basis, the human population should normalise to a level that ends the damage to the environment, and then the environment will recover. But there are two potential problems:
Humans are now a global society, so this is global population explosion, and the environmental damage is global.
Humanity is not ready to accept solving the problem with through population reduction, and in reality, in this case, population reduction alone is most likely not a viable solution anyway.
The reality is the problem of a global overpopulation of humans is complex, and there is already significant focus on solving some of the most pressing problems. However, further interference with nature to exacerbate the root cause of many environmental problems. overpopulation, is an ongoing risk.
Conclusion, and Where Next?
The evidence for ‘normal population’ is compelling, as is the evidence that humanity had a population explosion that breaks the rules of ‘normal population’.
The planet needs a solution to us having broken with ‘normal population’. We either need to find a way to bring or ‘normal population’ up in number to match the number of people we have, or just manage things hoping ‘normal population’ will see the number of humans naturally return to an appropriate population. Or perhaps, some combination of both.
What we do not need, is economic greed of the few who would benefit, driving a push for further population increases with a total disregard for nature.
Why The Privacy: Seeing what others see, protecting your profile.
The Limitations Of Genuine Privacy.
Country specific searches.
Who Can You Trust, And How Far Can You Trust Them?
How Does Do We End Up Paying, and How Do Search Engines and Browsers Providers Get So Rich?
Somebody is paying a lot of money!
How The Money Gets To Google etc: The Cost of Business in the 21st Century.
Advertising, Influence and Corruption: A Continuum.
Who Pays? Other people, or is it really us.
Conclusion and What’s Next?
Search Services Exist To Earn Money, And Show What They Want You To See.
The Revenues Come From Providing ‘Tweaked’ and Biased Search Results and Information.
It is easy to forget that search engines and web browsers exist so the companies that provide them can make money. Every search is designed to earn them money. How they earn the money is discussed later, and this section is about understanding how their profit motive affects the results you see.
It is not as simple as searches only reveal information when paid, as they have to balance being too blatant, in order to keep you using their service.
The companies providing the most popular search engines and web browsers, are trillion dollar companies, with more wealth than any companies in any industries ever before.
These companies do not provide these search engines and web browsers out of the goodness of their hearts, but to generate the revenues that them the richest companies ever.
As explained below, the revenues of these companies depends on two goals:
Maximising your use of their products providing the results you find engaging.
Ensuring as much as possible their products become your source of trusted information.
Influencing your decisions through the information you receive.
Some information is just there to keep you using their products as much as possible, but without the profits from influencing your decisions, that would just increase their expenses.
Each of these three steps requires tailoring search results to suit the person doing the searches.
Most of us use the products confident that our views will remain balanced, and while these companies manage to influence others into believing the world is flat, the influence of opinions only happens with other people. Even if we wont be influences by the results, we should be aware that the data we see has been is not neutral, and is filtered and adjusted due to the need to at least try to influence our opinions.
Incognito or otherwise: Personalised Search Results (with bias) = Maximum revenue.
Incognito or ‘private’ setting do not change the web services tracking you, the main ones always track.
Search results use profile data to return results specifically for you and that will engage you, and this means your search results could be very different from those seen by people in other countries, with other viewpoints, or even the information seen by your neighbour from their searches.
Have you ever wondered what search results people with different views from you see? Do you ever feel a desire to see what search results not specifically designed for you would look like?
Pick one issue you feel strongly about, search and you will usually find results that confirm your viewpoint. But what search results do people with the opposing viewpoint see?
One way to see results that are not specifically generated just for you, is to hide your identity from the search. If the search is unaware of who you are identity, then surely it can’t still be biased to confirming you existing views.
The trap is, although browsers have an ‘incognito’ or ‘private’ mode, is that, as stated by Google Chrome and Firefox etc your identity will still be visible to websites you visit, which includes search engines. Incognito mode means your computer won’t have a record of your browsing, but web sites, search engines, your ISP, and if you are at work your employer, will still have full information on your internet searches.
The benefit of ‘incognito’ is that someone else looking at your computer wont see your browsing history, but the web still sees you.
Even without cookies, every web request from your computer creates a trail of information “web request from computer X to web address Y”. Every point on the web the request passes through can keep track of what requests are sent from your computer, and where the requests are headed. Incognito makes no difference, and it has been know for some browsers to also report your data to the company who made the browser, even when that company is not even a party to your web request.
In summary, the ‘free’ products are all supplied by companies that earn revenue from your searches, and the richest ones earn the most money by being able to link searches and other requests to the person making those web requests. Despite the searches appearing free, it is a multi-trillion dollar business, the most valuable the world has ever seen, and they do not just ignore making money.
Your searches will be linked to you, and will return the results that make the most money for the companies running the searches and the browsers that their business model allows, incognito or not.
Does the Bias and Being Tracked Matter?
Being Aware Of the Bias.
The main problem with the bias is not realising the bias is there. It can seem amazing that not everyone shares your point of view given that every thing you find does seem to support your point of view. Until it dawns on you that others are seeing none of what you see, and a whole lot of evidence that supports a contrary point of view. Possibly the biggest danger from bias occurs when you don’t recognise the bias is there.
They Don’t Sell Your Data: They use it to manipulate you.
Selling Your Data Is Not The Problem.
Neither a big search engine company, or browser company is going to risk their billions or trillions doing any deal that is a serious breach of privacy in terms of giving your data to others. At least not routinely. The reality is the data they have on users of their products is their greatest asset, and the asset that has created their massive wealth. They do not want to let go of that data, they want to use it for themselves.
But do not think, “they already have my data anyway”, because the problem is not them having the data, it is them using that data to manipulate you whenever you are online.
These companies sell their ability to influence and manipulate. Like a government lobbyist, their reputation is build on results. The two measures of results are:
How much do people use their product?
How much evidences is there they can influence how people think.
There goal is maximise these metrics. To get people to use their products as much as possible, and for people to have their views directed by the information from using their products.
Manipulation to keep you online: Too much time online?
Are you spending too much time searching things or on web sites? This is the how your data is used against your best interest. Stealing your time, and stealing your attention.
Have they changed who you trust for news and information.
Where do you get your information? Have search results, links provided for you, or ‘recommended for you’ suggestions resulted in changes to where you get your news and opinions? The next way your data is used against you is it is used to shape your opinions.
Search With Minimised Bias and Manipulation.
Everyday Search Privacy Using ‘Duck Duck Go’ or Equivalent, and ‘Safe’ Browser.
As explained in the article in Entrepreneur above, the DuckDuckGo still exists to make money, just less of it. There are other, similar search engines. The simple principle is that the less money they make from searches, the less they need to compromise the search in order to earn that money.
There are still limitations to the bias, but for everyday purposes, just moving to DuckDuckGo will go a long way towards removing the bias from your searches. Of course the moment you click on a link as result of a search, you create a footprint on the web, and google and others will have ways to track you. The web has become just like a spider web.
Everyday Browser Privacy using Brave or Equivalent.
Of course no matter how you search, your web browser can still provide data to remote servers in order to track you. Firefox from Mozilla generates less revenue than the market leader Chrome, which means they have less to spend on influencing you to use their product, but it also means it is likely to be safer to use their product.
In fact I have been using ‘Brave’ since the beginning of 2020. Brave is based on the same open source Chromium code as google chrome, but without the ‘special sauce’ code that google does not reveal which is responsible for tracking and earning the money for google, but Brave adds its own extras for privacy and add blocking.
If you compare the same site shown on your screen opened with Chrome and Brave, you will see that with Brave, you are seeing far less advertisements. All the adds will slow down your browsing, but overall it will do what it can to increase your time spent on the web. If you want to see targeted adds, easiest to stick with Chrome, although Brave can allow add if you option in, and shares the add revenue with you if you do.
The downside is there are some web sites that will insist on showing adds, or decline to show their content without you allowing adds.
Real Privacy Using Brave and Tor.
While simply using DuckDuckGo search with the Brave web browser is a sufficient improvement for most uses, some content will still be optimised for your viewing.
My method to ‘visit’ search engine or other websites with real anonymity, is to the use the ‘Brave’ web browser, together with the “New Private Window With Tor” option. If your personal safety depends on being anonymous, there are even stronger protections available such as using the Tor browser, but under normal circumstances, Brave with Tor protection is sufficient.
What about the trail of information that includes “every web request from computer X (your computer) to web address Y(the search engine or site)” that is seen by every link in the chain?
Using Tor, your web request goes to an intermediary ‘Tor’ computer, and so that is all the links in the chain can see that you are doing.
The intermediary, then sends a request to the search engine or other web site to get the information for you, ensuring that your computer never connects with search engine or target website. Your have a session only with the Tor computer, which is normally in another country, and search engines and web sites see only web requests from the Tor computer.
Why The Privacy: Seeing what others see, protecting your profile.
Greater privacy ensures the search pages or other web pages are similar to those seen by everyone else and not just what a company decides to show based on your profile.
Another reasons is that you may want searches that do not appear in your online profile. For example, after seeing some information on ‘Hitler’, you may want to check online without adding that word to you profile as one of your search terms.
For me, the main reasons are wondering “do other people get the same results when searching”, and when I want to research something I suspect will trigger advertising if I don’t avoid it.
Even searching with “DuckDuckGo”, I get different results searching with and without using Tor, so something about either my location or ID does affect the result.
The Limitations Of Genuine Privacy.
Some web sites are designed for obvious commercial or communication reasons, such as a major brand, and online shopping site, or a government web site. Others, such as a site that comments on produces reviews on an industry, exist in order to gain advertising revenue. Some of these sites simply will not give information without getting personal information on who is browsing, because it breaks their revenue model.
One way to learn about the motives of a website is to check if it will still talk to you anonymously. Google search does varies in its response, sometimes asking “are you a robot”, sometimes insisting on setting cookies first, and other times just deciding not play. In the end, google is not in the business of providing search results and getting nothing in return.
Country specific searches.
Want to know what people in a specific country would see? Google has search pages for different countries, but since it knows who you are, it will give you the same search results regardless if you used “google.com” or “google.co.uk”.
Using Tor will typically identify you as from a different country each time you establish a connection, but it is ‘pot luck’ which country so this will allow you to see responses in different countries, but not those of your choosing. Want to know what an Italian sees as ‘best type of pizza’ instead of what Americans see as a response? Unfortunately that requires using a VPN service and is more complex.
Who Can You Trust, And How Far Can You Trust Them?
There are various privacy services, but since you deal with one privacy service to connect with multiple web sites, there is less research required to check that one specific privacy service is trustworthy, and then use that service, than to check each time you feel cautious about an individual website collecting data on you.
How Do We Pay and How Do Search Engines and Browsers Providers Get So Rich.
Somebody is paying a lot of money!
Search engines such as Google, Microsoft Bing, and even DuckDuckGo, all have to earn revenue to exist. Yes, even DuckDuckGo has to make money, just less of it.
To search, you also need a web browser such as Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Firefox etc, and they all also need to earn revenue. Yes, even Mozilla, the makers of Firefox have to make money.
Google maker of the most popular search engine and web browser, is valued at close to one trillion dollars.
How The Money Gets To Google etc: The Cost of Business in the 21st Century.
If you want to be in business in the 20th century, you find you need to pay google. It has become a cost of doing business. Without help from Google, far few customers will find you, as google have become from the the majority of consumers who search with Google, the gatekeepers to being found when people “google” your product category.
Corruption, Influence and Advertising: A Continuum.
Corruption and Influencing Customers.
At one time in many countries, paying bribes was considered a cost of business. Another experience was gangs with “protection money” that if you didn’t pay, you would not remain in business. Hopefully all these practices, in most countries at least, are a thing of the past.
Still there is corruption. While there are steps to prevent corruption, in practice this is not possible, and all that we are left with is rules to limit corruption. The most blatant corruption was when to get business people would pay cash to those making the decision.
More obscure is when is when gifts, travel, or expensive meals are used to sway decisions. Now there are often limits on the value of meals or gifts, which is in some ways an acknowledgement steps to influence people, can be limited, but not completely eliminated. The line between being ‘nice’ and ‘friendly’ as opposed to seeking to influence becomes blurred. Reality is there is a level of ‘sucking up’ that is currently considered accepable, but it taken to levels that occurred previously, it can now be a crime.
The same perhaps can said of advertising. It should not be banned completely, but is there a point at which the budget allocation to influence buyers is going too far, given the effectiveness of the means to influence that are now available? It is well accepted that without a sufficiently large advertising budget to influence voters, it can be considered impossible to win elections.
Money spent on swaying opinions works. You can even sway people to make decisions that are against there best interests, which is why cigarette advertising is now banned. Just as an election can be won with the right budget, a consumers decisions between two products can be swayed by the right budget even if at odds with what is the best product.
The Pay TV Example: Acceptable Influencing, mostly.
At one time I felt that pay TV was a step backwards, as previously advertising had enabled free to air television, so consumers did not have to pay. Now I am not so sure. The marketing budgets that funded the TV stations, were all paid by consumers through increases prices of what they buy. If advertising was just about informing, then advertisements for Coca-Cola would describe the product rather than simply showing attractive people having fun. Would consumers have been better off if they paid for TV, but the products they purchases were less expensive?
With TV funded by advertising, the cost consumers are actually paying for the networks to exist becomes hidden from the consumers of the TV content, and the advertised products. Does hiding the costs from us result in significant waste in the system?
Apart from cigarettes, and some alcohol advertising, and perhaps some other forms, it does generally seem that system of funding television through advertising budgets that raised product prices may have been inefficient, but it was acceptable.
Does The Internet Take Customer Influencing Beyond An Acceptable Cost Level?
We were always paying indirectly for “free to air” TV, but despite our inability to control what we pay, it does not feel like the system was particularly broken, so perhaps indirectly paying for search engines and web browswers will also be fine. But there are differences.
Advertising on TV was not considered a business essential, especially for small business.
TV advertising was true promotion, and the TV networks never controlled the way people found a business.
There were several rival networks, and no monopoly.
Everybody saw the same advertisements, and no content was tailored to the individual.
Networks did not have data on individuals that could be used to effectively run individualised campaigns to shift the thinking of consumers.
The TV networks never because ‘gatekeepers’, and although that did partially exist in the form of telephone directories, these gatekeepers were never powerful enough to amass huge wealth.
Now we have advertising and influencing at an entire new level. Perhaps in the same way gifts below a certain cost level can be seen as ok, but over a certain cost become corruption, the internet advertising/influencing industry has crossed a line from tolerable to unacceptable?
Is the industry of influencing so valuable to society, that it justifies the profit margins from the process of influencing consumers to be so large that companies managing the influencing can have be as economically significant as the economy of Great Britain? That is where things are currently headed.
The total spend by consumers on the percentage of what they purchase that has to be diverted to marketing has become staggering, and continues to increase. It may be acceptable that 10% of cost of things we buy must be paid by the company behind the product to internet companies for influencing our purchase decisions, but is it ok if this reaches 20%? 50%?
Who Pays? Other people, or us.
Microsoft etcYou don’t pay directly, but through the products you buy, as the companies supplying the products all pay the web search and web browsing companies for their role in influencing your decisions.
If a company doesn’t include within the pricing an amount to pay to influence the decisions of buyers, even though their products would cost less, no one will be influenced to buy them, or perhaps, to even know the products exist.
So although we pay indirectly, we all pay to fund the web search providers and for the web browser providers.
Conclusion and What Next?
Conclusion still being considered. The consumers lose control over the cost of “free” products where they pay indirectly needs more consideration.
To still be explored is that consumers were provided product by TV networks as they created the content. The internet search companies are just the gatekeepers on the delivering the content, but are able to charge so much just because consumers don’t see that they are paying. DuckDuckGo and others prove how inexpensively the same service can be provided.