One Finite Planet

Inferno: How could we limit the population?

First Published:

dantes_infernoThere is an argument that we currently have more people on Earth than ideal, but even if you accept that we have an overpopulation problem, the idea that a sudden reduction in the population would solve the problem is both absurd, dangerous and damaging.

The premise of the movie ‘Inferno’ is that a virus could randomly target and render infertile one in three humans as a means of population reduction. Inferno is a movie, and a suspense drama, not an actual plan.  But if you do accept that the earth is overpopulated, what would be a real appropriate response, and why are ideas, such that containing in the movie, so damaging?

Understanding the problem.

To give some perspective, during the mid 20th century, the population on Earth was on a trajectory of doubling every 30 years.  This means even a plan as drastic sterilising 1/3 of the population, or even for that matter, even killing 1/3 of the population, would simply undo around 10 years of growth.

The fact is: any overpopulation problem is about growth rate, not about numbers.

How many people is too many? Well if the growth rate was to continue at that late 20th century level, it doesn’t matter because whatever the number, it would be reached with exponential growth.  Even if you believe we could have 200 people for each square centimetre of the earth, we would reach that level and be heading towards 1,000 in another 60 years.  One day growth rate has the change.  The population number is not so important as the growth rate,  because no change in the current population number is significant in the long term compared, to a change in the growth rate.

Sudden change: a significant concern.

Anyone who suggests sudden change to fix ecological problems should be cautious.  The earth has been through many changes, and life on earth has survived many changes.  But when the change is too sudden, there is a mass extinction event.  Radical change dangerous.  A sudden change in the human population, would have far reaching change impact and kill off even more species, but would fix nothing as the required fix is to return to historic rates of population growth.

The ideal solution is already in place, the challenge is to not disturb the change.

If you have ever seen someone try to steer a boat for the first time, you will have seen have they try to steer and as nothing immediate happens, they keep trying to turn even more.  But the time the initial steering change actually takes place, they have already steered too far.

The population on Earth is like steering an ocean liner. There is a huge delay between changing birth rates and actually feeling the effect.

In fact we have, to use the analogy, altered the steering position to stop the population growth problem, with almost all countries moving to an average of around two children per family.  But it takes time to see the effects.   Actually the biggest danger is that governments and big corporations addicted to population growth are in denial about the change, and will seek to restore the old course heading of unbounded growth as they feel the effects of the change in course.



Table of Contents


A different perspective: Humans maybe the greatest threat to life on Earth but also the only hope.

The title ‘one finite planet’ can be mistaken to be yet another proclamation of how we live on this amazing planet which could even be unique, and we humans are foolishly placing it all at risk. Boring.

No. Instead, the perspective is we are living on a planet that is naturally hostile to humans, where nature dictates only a limited total amount of life, can only exist for a limited time, and that time is almost at an end. When seen from this perspective, even the environment mission changes from just not interfering, to the more complex task of tackling the challenge of overcoming nature, while yes, quite importantly, not bringing life to an early end in the process.

Read More »

COP27: Climate change action sabotage?

Reports from COP27 seems indicate the key initiative this year to make wealthy nations cover the cost of the damages poor nations will incur as a result of emissions that have main originated from those wealthy nations.

The proposal as it stands has a missing an essential piece, and trying to cover for that essential piece, appears most to likely to increase emissions, and move COP away from a focus on solving the climate crisis and instead toward just fighting over the cost.

This is a troubled look at the key flaw in what has been put forward and the real solution that should be in place.

Read More »

Can Peter Dutton repair the democracy ‘loyal opposition’.

Democracy is under threat, and a significant part of the problem stems for the distortion of the current model of ‘opposition’. While the politics of division and polarisation of the USA Trump republicans vs Biden democrats attracts most attention on the world stage right now, what happens in Australia following the recent election which saw democracy strike back (page coming soon), has the potential to provide the world with an alternate blueprint for the role of the opposition party, which could reinvigorate democracy and spread to the US and elsewhere.

Is there an alternative to the current Republicans vs Democrats style, where ‘opposition’ is about each party demonising the other?

Read More »

News In Brief.

It is now war until the end for Putin. If Putin is to win in Ukraine, he would simply have to start a new war elsewhere, as relations with Russia could never again return to ‘normal’ without charges of war crimes being held.

Read More »