It is Obvious

Chris Rick has got altogether too much to say

Stand on Zanzibar

Posted by chrisrick13 on December 20, 2010

It is obvious: we can.

I have been wandering my blog looking for a reference, but I can’t find it at the moment.

I am struck, as I was at 100 blogs, by how good a few of them are…a very few.  I am also struck that there are a small number of themes approached from different angles.  I am repeating myself.  At least I am consistent…consistently boring?

The blog I was looking for was related to the rule of 70.  I wanted to put that American prof. in my hero list.  He eloquently explains how exponential growth predicts much for us in simple fashion.  I will do him again as a hero when I find the blog.  I wanted to relate that simple process to the comments made by Bill Howard, which coincide with my views.  They concern world population.

I spend a lot of time wandering Dorset.  This is a reason you should not believe me when I say I am poor: I have a house there.  Dorset has no motorways and no cities.  The county town is exactly that: a town.  Dorset is not wild and ragged like Cornwall can be, North Yorkshire and Cumberland are, but it is rural.  As I walk the paths and bridleways I come across isolated houses.  Many are derelict.  I often turn a corner by a hedge and am confronted by a row of cottages.  Sometimes derelict, sometimes lived in, sometimes, obviously converted to holiday homes.  I also walk into villages.  Maybe thirty houses not near anywhere.  There is no shop, no pub, and no real reason to be there.  They are there because 100 years ago large numbers of our population worked on the land and needed to live close to where they worked.  Over that 100 years nearly all the jobs have gone and all the people have migrated into the towns (and cities if you are not in Dorset).  Much more food is being produced with few people doing it.

What did those people, no longer on the land, do over the 100 years?  They built bridges, roads, railways, sewers, dams, power stations…cities.  Apart from them falling down and needing to be replaced there is no need for the vast numbers of people to do it, machines can manage it with few people.

So as a race we keep increasing the number of people on the planet (mea culpa) what do we need them for?  All they do is consume so that our economies can continue to expand and keep the world order growing.

What we did 150 years ago and possibly finished doing 50 years ago is just now being replicated in China and India.  Countries with more than half the world’s population are seeing it move from the countryside to the cities.  Except this time there is no industrial revolution it is already here.  So they follow a different track in their development to Western Europe and North America.

Where does it all lead?  I cannot answer that accurately or in a useful fashion.  What it certainly ends in is a consumption of available resources and a sudden and violent end to that world order.  The Chinese economy is expanding at 7% per year.  by the rule of 70 it will double in 10 years.  India is on nearly the same course.

I can see you now going back to my blog about using curves to predict the future and complaining about my inconsistency.  But that is my point.  I don’t expect growth to continue at that rate.  It cannot.  We have enough trouble managing our national economies and the world economy where it is all predicated on continued economic growth.  We have never tried to do it with zero growth or, as will happen soon, shrinkage.  If you think those two expansion rates unlikely I will will say to you that with just 2% world economic growth our yearly production (and therefore consumption) will double in 35 years, and along the way will have consumed a heck of a lot.  Were it to happen that would imply, almost certainly, that world population goes from 4bn to 8bn

I intend to live to 90.  So even for me that means getting used to a new way of living just when I have spent 80+ years getting used to the old one.

It is obvious: we can and that is all we will ever need.

2 Responses to “Stand on Zanzibar”

  1. Bill said

    There are a lot of charities out there helping the starving millions. They show us pictures of (photogenic) babies around this time of the year and ask us to send money. The ones on TV all seem to be from Africa (?) . I know that the states in Africa have a lot of corruption, I know that there is little population control, I know that the land there seems not to be able to support the number of people living there (which is why a lot of them seek to migrate to Europe). If I give money am I doing good or am I supporting something that is ultimately unsustainable? Are the charities dealing with the results of the issue and not the problem itself? (Mind you if they did perhaps the need for their existance would disappear…)

    What is the answer? Perhaps by donating to maintain a population that can’t feed itself is just perpetuating a problem – in fact if the population continues to grow it just makes things even worse in the long term. Who knows?

    Perhaps if I reach 90 I will find out?

  2. We are in agreement on this.

    The conclusion is that at some point in the near future a lot of people have to die. It won’t be pretty and I sure as heck don’t want to be one of them. It also won’t be done equably.

    We need something like the novel: Implosion. With the diversity of minds working on…ideas…it could happen. If not then some nasty killing device, a good old-fashioned world war, or something natural like a mutated virus will do the trick. I plot to be more of the solution than the problem in the years left to me, and not just avoiding being the slowest when chased by the bears in the woods.

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