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When resources run out — averting the apocalypse

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posted on Apr, 25 2014 @ 10:46 AM
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In 1944, the United States Coast Guard released a herd of reindeer on St. Matthew Island off the coast of Alaska so top naval personnel could hunt them for recreation.
The reindeer population grew exponentially. From the 29 creatures initially released during World War II, the island’s reindeer population reached 6,000 by 1963.
By that year’s end, however, the reindeer had munched their way through all the forage on the island, and virtually the entire 6,000-strong population died from starvation.
“When you have a population growing exponentially in a closed environment, collapse is inevitable when resources run out. That will be us,” warned noted ecologist William Schlesinger. “We can either orchestrate that in some kind of a sensible way or we can blunder along until it happens.”

Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse’

The inaugural speaker of the Sustainability Task Force’s Distinguished Lecture Series at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Schlesinger titled his seminar “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.”
Speaking to more than 100 faculty, postdoctoral researchers, and graduate and undergraduate students from across the university who packed Joyce J. Cammilleri Hall inside the Dornsife Neuroscience Pavilion to hear his lecture, Schlesinger described how human population growth, resource use, growth economics and biodiversity loss are the major obstacles in creating a sustainable future.
The first horseman threatening that future is population growth, said Schlesinger, president of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, N.Y.
“The current human population is above the caring capacity of the planet and, although the growth rate may be slowing, it’s still growing and we need to take that seriously. We can’t sweep the population issue under the rug.
Every child a wanted child
“The solution to this is to have every child on this planet a wanted child,” he said. “We can do that by promoting family planning, empowering women around the world educationally, culturally and economically and by preserving their right to choose. With fewer of us, there is no question that each of us will have a chance at a better life.”
The second threat, Schlesinger said, is the global emphasis on economic growth.
Each year, the human population extracts fossil fuels from the crust of the Earth equivalent to roughly 400 years of past agro-activity on the planet, Purdue University researchers have determined.
“We are burning every year what the Earth grew in 400,” Schlesinger said. “That fossil fuels pie has finite boundaries to it. We are exploring the edges of that with fracking and other ways of getting at fossil fuels that we couldn’t before, but essentially we are running down a finite resource at the rate of 400 years to one.”
Charting an unsustainable course

Economic growth, coupled with population growth, has put us on an unsustainable course, Schlesinger said.
“ ‘Anyone who believes that exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist,’ ” he added, quoting early environmental economist Kenneth Boulding.
Schlesinger described his third horseman — resource use — as “riding the waves of greed.”
“There’s no question that we homo sapiens like ‘stuff.’ We want our stuff fast, and we assume our children will have yet more it.”
We are not the only ones unwilling to break old habits and make do with less, Schlesinger added. Corporations are also resistant to change.
Citing corporate defense of lead in gasoline, phosphates in detergents and pesticides that adversely affect bees, Schlesinger spoke of the difficulty in changing corporate thinking or behavior once production methods are established.
“Once started, it becomes almost an act of God to get them changed because too many people have a stake in them,” Schlesinger said. “It’s a tough arena when you are trying to say ‘No, this has got to stop’ when you’re facing a full line of defense attorneys, deep pocketed industries and Darwinian behavior on the part of corporate executives.”
Schlesinger favored introducing environmental scientists into the corporate decision-making process as soon as possible.
“This is something a school of sustainability could do here at USC — train the kind of people who will be at the decision-making table as a new industry comes in.”
Other issues complicating change include the fact that environmental policies are often seen by politicians as job killers, especially in times of sluggish economic recovery.
Global agreement can also be problematic. To illustrate the argument of those who say we do not have the right to tell sovereign nations how to behave on global issues, Schlesinger told a story.
“There are two men in a rowboat and one begins to drill a hole in the bottom of the boat. The other says, ‘Stop! You can’t do that,’ and the guy with the drill replies, ‘Oh, shut up, the hole is under my own seat.’ ”
That, Schlesinger said, is how we often think about our pollution of the global atmosphere if told to stop.
On average, a third of carbon dioxide growth in the Earth’s atmosphere results from population growth and about two thirds from increased resource use.
“Homo sapiens — you and me — have had enormous impact on the chemistry of our planet. This is reflected in the common areas in the atmosphere we breathe, the water we drink, across the whole sweep of chemical elements that are important to us. It is reflected in the pollution of our streams, mercury in fish and the origins of acid rain.”
Schlesinger is a strong proponent of introducing a carbon tax on fossil fuels, arguing that by making nonsustainable resources more expensive than alternative energies, such as wind or solar power, the situation will regulate itself.
“We didn’t end the Stone Age because we ran out of stones, but because we thought of something better to do,” he said.
Preserving species


The fourth horseman is biodiversity loss. One third of the species present on this planet is likely to become extinct with climate change as a result of losing critical habitat.
“We should take every effort we can to preserve every species we can to support the biodiversity of the planet,” he said. The literature of ecology is full of examples showing how, as the productivity of ecosystems climbs, the species in those ecosystems are lost.
“I look at a world without wood thrushes or the humpback chub or the pearly mussel; it won’t be as interesting as it is today but it’s also not likely to function in ways I want it to.”
Schlesinger pointed out a gaping hole in our species preservation efforts.
“We punish individual actions, like shooting a protected bird, but not collective actions that are much more threatening to the species we are trying to preserve, but for which no one is obviously to blame.”
While acknowledging that his lecture contained a fair amount of doom and gloom, Schlesinger said the situation was not yet hopeless.
“When the populace puts its mind to it, we can see the results,” he said, citing reduced levels of acid rain in New York due to the Clean Air Act and the gradual recovery of the ozone hole over Alaska.
“It’s not that we can’t do it. We don’t have to throw up our hands in despair. It takes good science, long-term studies and a collective will to make it happen.”
William Berelson, professor and chair of the earth sciences department at USC Dornsife and a member of the USC Dornsife Sustainability Task Force headed by Wendy Wood, vice dean for social sciences, helped bring Schlesinger to USC for the lecture.
“A talk like this is motivational if it inspires people from natural sciences, social sciences and even the humanities to get involved in the sort of real cross-disciplinary activities we would like to see in this area,”

The inaugural speaker of the Sustainability Task Force’s Distinguished Lecture Series at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Schlesinger titled his seminar “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.”

Speaking to more than 100 faculty, postdoctoral researchers, and graduate and undergraduate students from across the university who packed Joyce J. Cammilleri Hall inside the Dornsife Neuroscience Pavilion to hear his lecture, Schlesinger described how human population growth, resource use, growth economics and biodiversity loss are the major obstacles in creating a sustainable future.

The first horseman threatening that future is population growth, said Schlesinger, president of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, N.Y.
“The current human population is above the caring capacity of the planet and, although the growth rate may be slowing, it’s still growing and we need to take that seriously. We can’t sweep the population issue under the rug.

If we reach the 9 billion global population limit there will not be enough food.

edit on 25-4-2014 by wonderworld because: edit too many quote marks wow

edit on 25-4-2014 by wonderworld because: oops i went nuts on the external quotes they are probably still there, oh well




posted on Apr, 25 2014 @ 11:02 AM
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Not to worry..............".Mother" will take care of our excesses....it shouldnt be too long to wait either.....
I see a huge human population "Correction" looming on the horizon....
Earth will survive even if we don't.....and so it goes....



posted on Apr, 25 2014 @ 11:08 AM
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it isnt the western world that is the problem, it is the THIRD WORLD>

THEY are the ones having TOO MANY KIDS> third world mentality "if i cant support one kid, heck lets have 6!"


look at India!



posted on Apr, 25 2014 @ 11:10 AM
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No ,no , not another co2 crap climate change piece . The only ones that will benefit from this scheme is the all ready rich The poor do not have the money to have two three cars and probably don't have the one for one ..If it's consumerism that is the problem then ban advertising .I am sick and tired of all the useless flyers they drop at my door only produced by the Paper Company that owns the gas you need to put into the car to get to their mall to buy the junk they keep telling us we need on the commercials they put on their TV stations ....



posted on Apr, 25 2014 @ 11:29 AM
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originally posted by: stirling
Not to worry..............".Mother" will take care of our excesses....it shouldnt be too long to wait either.....

I see a huge human population "Correction" looming on the horizon....

Earth will survive even if we don't.....and so it goes....


Did you know that if every man, woman and child in the US were to eat the required amount of fruit and veggies there would not be enough. I mean today! 2009-2010 we were warned of the food crisis coming. Billions are already starving but they rarely make the news.

I think everyone should look up the first 100 items missing from store shelves in a crisis and get them all, plus store up on food. Well that is what I do, crazy or not, just being prepared. I dont even live in a danger zone for natural disasters.



posted on Apr, 25 2014 @ 11:33 AM
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originally posted by: the2ofusr1
No ,no , not another co2 crap climate change piece . The only ones that will benefit from this scheme is the all ready rich The poor do not have the money to have two three cars and probably don't have the one for one ..If it's consumerism that is the problem then ban advertising .I am sick and tired of all the useless flyers they drop at my door only produced by the Paper Company that owns the gas you need to put into the car to get to their mall to buy the junk they keep telling us we need on the commercials they put on their TV stations ....


This was just on the news today. I'm not really thinking on the lines of climate change but I do know it's occuring. The point is we shouldnt ignor the food crisis for whatever the reason may be. Ive written many threads of food crisis and this is another angle. Simply put...



posted on Apr, 25 2014 @ 11:43 AM
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The time to plan is yesterday, if something happens, today will be too late.



posted on Apr, 25 2014 @ 11:48 AM
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a reply to: wonderworld There were times in the far past when the climate changed and crops failed and people starved .I think it was called the dark ages .Now if the same deal went down and it looks like it is because of the sun cycle then the earths population will fall dramatically .That is the nature of this planet we live on .Some times it can be cruel .But co2 is good for crop yields and for grasses that feed goats and cattle .



posted on Apr, 25 2014 @ 11:56 AM
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Indeed.IMO we need to find a habitable planet and figure out how to get there.No small feat.Only if we hope to survive as a species.In the meantime birth control,recycling and conservation would help in delaying the worst but isn't the answer.
There's simply finite resources with an ever expanding population.



posted on Apr, 25 2014 @ 12:21 PM
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a reply to: wonderworld

Worth repeating.

Anyone who believes that exponential growth


can go on forever in a finite world


is either a madman or an economist






edit on 25/4/14 by soficrow because: format



posted on Apr, 25 2014 @ 12:29 PM
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Good thread, but you aren't supposed to link the text of an entire article then not even provide your own opinion on it.



posted on Apr, 25 2014 @ 02:24 PM
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"Be the change you want to see in the world."

Just a little Ghandi for all of you who think we need a sudden population drop. Another way to put it, is You First.

The third world lives under much different and brutal conditions. If they want carry on their family, they need to have a bunch of kids so that they can be sure at least one or two of them survive to adulthood. That's the incidence of mortality in children.

It's when they start to get enough technology and development that a whole bunch of those kids live to adulthood that you see the real problems. Ye, the developing world, not the third world. It's because cultural attitudes have not yet caught up with technological reality. They still pop out kids like most of those kids will die, instead, they all live to adulthood.

In the first world, culture catches up with technology and you see fewer kids to parents, so population levels or even starts to drop.



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