One Finite Planet?

Why One Finite Planet.

To a single individual, it is not necessary obvious that our planet is finite, even though it seems deep down everyone agrees at least on this point.

The common theme to these pages is looking to the future, and one key to looking forward is understanding the rules with follow from the limitations of one finite planet. The rules are:

  1. 100 doublings of population is beyond the maximum possible on Earth.
  2. 100 doublings would not take long, for example pandas happen quickly for any organism, and even us humans could totally carpet the Earth within 3,000 years.
  3. Yet, No organism reaches 100 doublings, therefore every organism reaches a capacity constraint.
  4. Every niche for life, is full to capacity, except following catastrophes or major disruptions.
  5. Population growth of any species, requires an evolution and the population decline of other species.
  6. Population can only continue while the continued elimination increasing numbers of other species if possible.
  7. Every species must find population stability while limited to one finite planet.

Rule 1: 100 doublings of population is beyond the maximum possible on Earth.

Since 1 million is 1,000 times 1,000 such an organism could double its population 1,000 times in a million year timeframe, but doubling population even 100 times is more than enough for any fully populate the Earth with that organism. A doubling of population 1,000 times is , and double 63 times in 63,000 years.

The ‘wheat and chessboard problem‘ illustrates how large numbers grow by repeated doubling, also known as exponential growth.

The wheat and chessboard considers doubling 63 times, in 63 steps from step 1 to step 64, doubling each step. One grain of wheat on the first square (20=1)as the starting value, leads to 2 grains on the 2nd square (21=2), 4 on the 3rd (22=4), 8 on the 4th (23=8), all the way to 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 on the 64th and last square (263). So a single living organism would result in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 organisms after 63 doublings.

Given the total land and ocean surface area of the Earth 510,064,472 km2, and each square kilometre is 1 million square meters, the 63 steps results in 18,082 organisms per square metre of the entire surface of the Earth, which for those who do not speak metric, is over 180,000 organisms per square foot. Not very comfortable for humans, possible for something very small. Allowing the 100 doubling steps 2,485,275,234,437,872 organisms per square metre ( over 25 quadrillion per square foot) or 2,485,275,234 organisms per square millimetre of the entire surface of the Earth.

So 2.5 billion organisms for every square millimetre of the entire surface of the Earth, as a result of doubling 100 times.
So 25 quadrillion organisms for every square foot of the entire surface of the Earth, as a result of doubling 100 times.

Rule 2: 100 doublings need not take very long, even for humans.

Relative to length of time life has existed on Earth, 100 doublings of even slow population grown animals does not add up to very long time, relative to planet over 4 billion years old.

Every organism requires a mechanism to multiply in order to create their current population, and to recover than population in the event of catastrophe or disruption. Any past population growth can be used to calculate a population doubling time. For example, pandas have been shown to be able to increase population 17% in a decade. A 17% increase means 117 pandas for every 100 after 10 years. Since 1.17 to the power The ability to increase population

Humans are The slowest , or there would only ever the same number that first appeared. PEvery living organism must have the capability to increase population, as mechanism is required to create this is required to generate an initial popuOrganisms with predators need a quite short doubling time, as they need to reproduce at a rate that allows for predation without becoming extinct.

As an example, even humans could totally carpet the Earth within 3,000 years.

If every couple has 5 children, which is below the historic average prior to the 20th century, and if 4 of those 5 children live to have their own children, then humans would double in population every generation. y this doubling does not normally happen, although such a rate of population growth did happen worldwide between 1965 and 1972, and was close to that rate between 1923 and 1972.

Such a rate of growth would have seen 100 doublings during the time of Ancient Egypt (over 5,000 years with almost 30 centuries as the leading civilization).

The takeaway is that every living organism, even us recently evolved homo sapiens, have had far more than enough time to double 10x and overrun the earth.

take very long, yet no organism has reached population levels of billions or organisms for every millimetre of the planet that would result from 100 doublings of population.

Rule 3 , so there are always other constraint(s).

Even relatively recent species such as ourselves with a long time between generations, has had way more than enough time to completely carpet the Earth if population growth did not meet some constraint at which point growth stops.

would have be capable of completely ‘carpeting’ the Earth within arounEvery organism has a potential for population growth. Without that potential, the population would have never expanded from the in ‘population doubling time’, which is the time period for population doubling in the absence of predators or environmental constraints.

Rule 3: Excepting for shortly after catastrophes or major disruptions, Every niche for life is always full.

Every organism on Earth has had sufficient time for 100 doublings of it population, but no organism has reached the incredible population number that would result if they kept doubling unconstrained.

Every niche of life on Earth would reach its maximum possible population well before 100 doublings, and as every organism has had time to reach 100 doublings, every organism has reached the maximum possible population.

This also means that even apex predators and even us humans, face population constraints and do not just keep multiplying.

, which on a finite planet, has constraints .

have soon reached the maximum possilbe

Even apex predators mee, which means every organism has had time to reach the maximum population the possible given the environment and the competition.

Reality is doubling every generation, like humanity between in 1965-1972, or even every 50 years as happened during half of the 20th century, could not have happened over most of history. Homo Sapiens have existed for at least 200,000 years, which is sufficient for 4,000 doublings of population, yet if there were only 2 people 200,000 years ago, and 8 people billion now, that represents on 32 doublings, over 200,000 years. That would be a doubling at an average rate of less than once every 6,000 years.

To take 6,000 years to double the population requires an annual growth rate of around 0.0116%. A rate so close to zero growth, that is far more likely the growth has mostly been exactly zero, with occasional periods of real growth.

This means, most of the time, even the human population has had zero growth. But then, sometimes even populations that have reached a previous plateaux, experience additional growth.

Rule 4: Population growth of any species, requires an evolution and the population decline of other species.

Short term population grows and declines for a number or reasons, related to weather and the number of predators present, but long term population growth requires some form of evolution. Despite every population having had time to reach the maximum possible, there are times when populations expand. Certainly animals with predators

Rule 5: Continued population growth requires continued elimination increasing numbers of other species.

Rule 6: Every species must find population stability while limited to one finite planet.

Why One Planet?

For the foreseeable future, we only have one planet, as we do not even yet have the science to house any significant human population elsewhere.

What About the Mars Projects and a possible Lunar Colony?

Mars etc cannot absorb growth.

While there is talk of colonising mars, and of potentially a base on the moon. Elon Must, not well know for overly conservative estimates, has projected it could take 100 years to have a colony of 1 million people on Mars. If this is achieved it would be an amazing and valuable achievement, but for a world that currently adds over 80 million more people per year, a home for 1 million people, even if built at the fastest rate imagined of 40 years rather than 100 years, finding a place to house 1 million is not about finding a home for many people. The goal of Mars colony is to make humans begin to be a multiplanetary species, but it is a beginning on a very small scale, and without forests beaches, oceans, rivers or even the ability to walk outside, life on Mars will be far from experiencing ‘another Earth’.

Mars and other locations in the solar system can house perhaps a total of 5 years of population growth, but expansion beyond that requires not only science beyond our current level, but perhaps even genetic engineering of the people to live with the artificial environments. People living in a location other than the Earth is a huge milestone, and an insurance policy on the future of humanity. But it is not a significant factor in providing for increased population, nor does it provide anything life what we have here on Earth.

But what about Earth 2.0?

In this galaxy of over 200 billion stars, it seems logical there must be at least one other Earth like planet? The catch is, humans could not live on Earth as it was originally, and it took over 3 billion years of life to transform the Earth into a planet that support oxygen breathing life on the surface.

Do we get the image on the left, or the right?

  • Left: A planet with a surface full of life, and ready for humans as long as we displace some of that existing life.
  • Right: An planet with a lifeless surface as Earth has been for most of its existence. (Although most of the time having oceans and lifeless land masses).

Even Earth only recently supported life on the surface, and wont for much longer. If there is life on a finite planet, the planet will be full of life, so in a familiar pattern, colonization requires replacing ‘the locals’. Question both ethically and practically.

If there is not life, then it is not possible human life would be supported and then the planet is no more ready for life than mars. It took around 3 billion years for life to transform the Earth from the original state to being ready for us to settle, and for Earth, we did not have to solve the problem of how to get there.

We may solve these problems, but it not going to be fast. It could be as fast as 500 years if we discover enough new physics, or more than the 100 million left for the Earth.

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: