It was first Malthus and then Ehrlich, in his 1968 Population Bomb, that made similar, albeit ultimately mistaken conjectures. There is no reason
to indicate that we are subject to the same positive checks on population growth that all other species on this planet share as a basis of
The solution is not in changing ourselves; that is not a fruitful investment of resources. Which of these routes seem more viable to you: promoting
the occupation of personal spirituality in an attempt to reduce violent crime, or enforcing law and punishment on those who do not comply? Similarly,
would you favor genetic engineering to increase cognitive alertness in an attempt to reduce possible driving accidents, or the implementation of
insurance policy and behavioral restrictions, punishable by law if not obeyed?
The former are lofty ideals, yet they remain totally impractical upon review. When resources become scarce, the first person to break the rule and
race toward the unused food supply and seize it for himself is infinitely better off than the person that decides to forgo the opportunity for the
sake of the community. So for the sake of simplicity let's assume everyone is going to go at it for themselves. Which approach would you trust more?
You can't reason with human biology, but you can create artificial selective pressures that mold these systems' behavioral patterns, in order to
reduce inequality and distribute resources more efficiently. The evolution of sociability through vocal and bodily language, behavioral conventions,
as well as the emergence of cultural traditions and religious organizations can all be seen as effective tools in combating the deficiency of
short-term rationality. The sustained functioning of civilization requires more than just animal instincts.
Game theory analyzes the rational behavior of players, or agents. Modern economists apply game theory to the creation of policy tools, which work to
allocate resources efficiently, knowing that most people would rather choose to act in their own perceived best interest (perceived because you often
don't know the long-term outcome).
Policy is a wide range of tools that shifts behavioral equilibria from a point of general instability to one of long-term sustainability. Of course,
changes in the dynamics of the democratic environment, for example, might put alternate pressures on policy, until new representatives are elected,
and replacement legislature is passed, effectively restoring pregame conditions. Many of our daily interactions are actually social dilemmas
where our decidedly most appropriate decisions actually contribute to an overall worse-off outcome for all the parties involved. In addressing climate
change we come face to face with the natural dialectic of the intelligent organism; the evolved short-term rationality (that necessary for survival in
the wild) of the human organism finally confronts our ability to overcome catastrophe through the use of tools that refocus our efforts on the
long-term. There is a clear dichotomy growing here and we have to pick a side quickly.
These doomsday scientists are just plain wrong. They argue that in times of duress we revert to our basic animal instincts. Of course if you model
human systems as if they were animals, they would be subject to Malthusian laws, and that would obviously mean a reduction in population size.
The reality is technology will be developed, which will fall in place of our tendency to ignore long-term rationality in favor of our evolved
propensity to consume in the short run. Considering the human life span is so short, we can't expect to take the time to train rationally perfect
social individuals, because catastrophe will always strike before the process is complete. Few people attain such a degree of patience in one
lifetime. Those that do usually give up a lot, and most people aren't willing to pursue a lifestyle, characterized by abstinence and meditation.
The demand to live is infinite. We have the capital to pursue any solution we want. Technology, where law and policy for the past few decades have
abysmally failed, will ultimately correct human deficiencies in rationality. Our interactions with technology are pretty straightforward. Legal action
is only so limited. And in a time of great panic and distress, in the face of so much catastrophe, we will look upon the natural world we've asked to
sacrifice so much for us so far, and usurp all its bounty so as to propel us into the stars...
It's good to have these concerns. Without them, we would not inevitably come to conquer our forthcoming challenges.
On Climate Change
The problem isn't that anthropogenic greenhouse emissions are actually capable of contributing to a global warming phenomenon all on their own,
rather; there is a threshold beyond which the planet can not accept any more inputs into its delicate carbon feedback cycle. A rise in global
temperatures are not exactly related to presence of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere on a linear scale. At a certain point, a very small amount of
greenhouse gases will cause a very significant burst in warming.
One such feedback mechanism is the Clathrate gun hypothesis
, where upon the sea reaching a certain temperature will release vast amounts of
stored methane gases, resulting in exponential levels of global warming. There are massive deposits of these methane complexes all along the seafloor,
and they are waiting to erupt. When this happened in the past, methane was released gradually over a period of 20,000 years, causing the Permian
extinction event. Scientists estimate we can release the equivalent amount of methane in a sizable fraction of that time (possibly one lifetime),
which would result in the near immediate incineration of the planet.
This does seem to raise an interesting question for the future of human civilization. Will all our future colonized planets be engineered to exist in
a permanent Holocene-like state? Are we really that limited in our options? We must actively consider the possibility of being subjected to unfamiliar
environments. Terraforming cannot be our only option. We need to utilize technology to make any inhospitable environment livable. If we can't live in
a world that is merely 4ºC hotter, then we shouldn't expect to last long as a species. Constant homeostasis just isn't possible on a body (planet),
which in relation to the size of an individual human being, is vastly greater in size. Bottom line, we can't live in the same world forever. We
can't live within the realm of the same delusions for much longer either...
[edit on 27-2-2009 by cognoscente]