Humans are no different from other animals. Human population growth seems to be similar to rabbit population growth without predators. This continually increasing growth is unsustainable and may be part of the boom and bust cycle. Are humans smart enough to avoid the bust?

We are an extremely adaptive species. We have reduced death rates and increased birth rates with development of sanitation and medicine (Give ourselves a big pat on the back). We have increased the carrying capacity for humans through the development of agriculture, the industrial revolution, and technological advancements. For more information see The Theory of Population Growth Cycles by Donald Cowgill. HOLD UP…there is a problem. We are still breeding like rabbits.

Looking back at World Population

Looking back at World Population

Human population is growing exponentially without any serious moderating influence (even wars and diseases are not stemming the growth). However, just like the grass around an overpopulated rabbit warren, our resources are becoming more scarce and less appetizing. There are numerous problems that will be exacerbated by global climate change. Examples of these these problems are droughts occurring in Australia , flooding in Bangladesh, biodiversity loss in the Amazon, increased forest fires in the Western United States, and hurricanes buffeting the Caribbean.

These issues are described in more detail by the fourth IPCC Report, which summarized in Dire Predictions: Understanding Global Warming: The Illustrated guide to the findings of the IPCC and a wikipedia summary.

Global climate change is an especially deadly affliction, because it is weakening the earths immune system while causing the above mentioned symptoms to be more intense. I described this in more detail in the blog article Is Earth an AIDS patient? This has created an unhealthy cycle that is eroding the earth’s immune system.

Global Immune System Weakens

The Global Immune System Weakens

This is a perfect example of the tragedy of the commons, where everyone is hurt by the over exploitation of resources.

We need to use our adaptivity to be able to address these problems. It is therefore important to look at what is inhibiting effective adaptation. Increasingly a large number of the growing population is being born into poverty and being impacted by climate influenced disasters. It is highlighted in A Stitch in Time: General Lessons from Specific Case Studies that one of the largest barrier to adaptation to climate change in the future is poverty. This is because there is not sufficient social and political institutions nor is there a sufficient economic and natural resources available to help people to adapt to changing environments and conditions.

Are humans different than other animals? Being smarter than rabbits has not stopped us from experiencing unsustainable population growth. Unfortunately, these younger generations are being born into an unstable world. What would make us different from rabbits and other animals is if we were able to control our population, (in a hopefully more moderate manner than the One-Child Policy in China, which is described in greater detail in the BBC Challenge on the One-Child Policy). We need to acknowledge that population control is a method for adapting to protect future populations from over resource use and their corresponding externalities. Even though this is politically and socially distasteful I would argue that it is preferable to allowing runaway population growth, resulting in even larger conflicts over resource use. Humans may have no predators now, but it is only a matter of time before the wolves of global climate change begin to decimate the impoverished peoples of the world.

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