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Monday, January 2, 2012


Planet Earth cannot attain sustainability for 7 billion people at an American lifestyle. It's easy to predict that the world population will continue to rise to 9 billion. But, while United Nations demographers are careful about this, I would not be surprised if there is a precipitous decline until a state of dynamic equilibrium is reached, possibly something lower than 5 billion. Under these conditions, with expensive fossil fuels, for by 2020, some form of severe carbon tax will be edicted to curtail global warming, the disparity of rich and poor will be exacerbated. It is entirely possible that humanity reached our peak at the turn of this century.

As I'm from Hawaii, I can further suggest that our local economy will enter into a prolonged state of economic depression when jet fuel skyrockets in price, for tourism is our only real revenue producer. With smart planning, by 2050 we could begin to return to a new normal, featuring luxury tourism, half the visitors than at our peak, with the fate of the community depending on how well the Blue Revolution succeeds. Renewable energy will be prominent and there will be a return to paradise.

I've dedicated my entire career to finding solutions for Planet Earth and Humanity, working on biomass, geothermal energy, algae biofuels, hydrogen, laser fusion, wind/solar energy, OTEC and more. While technology is part of the solution, it is hardly the entire answer.

I've also:

- Taught "Technology and Society" and "Environmental Engineering" at the University of Hawaii, integrating the socio-political factors with population and the environment.
- Been involved with the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory on laser fusion.
- Dabbled in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, for what if signals are being sent from advanced civilizations with clues on how to attain world peace or really do fusion.
- Drafted original bills on wind/solar/ocean/hydrogen in a three-year period with the U.S. Senate.

In various internet fora, where the attitudes range from polyannaish optimism to establishment of survival enclaves, the mood of the discussion now seems headed towards some form of coming doomsday. Peak Oil, Global Heating, broken governments and a looming depression seem like overwhelming issues beyond our current capability of resolution. Yet, every doomsday prediction thus far has been embarrassingly wanting. But this time?

The obvious problem, according to most, is that we live on a planet with limited resources and too many people. I've come to a sad conclusion that wind/solar/biomass will never provide enough energy for 7-10 billion people to live comfortably, and that commercial fusion is probably half a century away, if then.

Fission might actually be a partial answer, but with Fukushima and the evils of nuclear waste and terrorism, it's best to bypass this option. Thorium might be safer, but fission only provides electricity. What about air transport and much of ground travel? An all-purpose cornucopian partial solution could well be the Blue Revolution, but, for our current population, there needs to be a clean mega-source, and that is fusion (those protons to the left come from hydrogen). But the dimension of time is condemning.
My HuffPo on the future of population this past summer was the introduction to this issue. Three centuries years ago Thomas Malthus (left) already warned about the inevitability of the Ehrlich (right) Population Bomb and Meadows' Limits to Growth.  
A good example of reaching the tipping point is that we are soon to experience the something Garrett Hardin called, the "Tragedy of the Commons."
Debate all you want, but the the problem is that we already have too many people. China is trying with a one child policy, and it's beginning to work, but their dictatorial form of government is the last major economy left. Much of the developing world is heading towards democracy, and if Africa and India are indicators, we are in real trouble, for the combination of no social security, low GDP/capita and general human rights coupled with religious freedom are ingredients for high birthrates. Mother Nature is harsh, and, perhaps she will resolve this issue. But is there a more humane way to minimize all the coming agony and suffering?

I suggested geoengineering to cure climate change. While this posting was not particularly popular, is there nevertheless a socio-political-moral mega solution equivalent for population? Hitler had a Final Solution, and a few "friends" have suggested a similar quick fix involving, perhaps, a tailored virus. There are numerous other equally horrifying measures, even from otherwise sane and respected people, such as compulsory abortion, mass sterilization, etc.

Is there, really, a growing Eugenics Movement? In the past, prominent people like Winston Churchill, H.G. Wells, Theodore Roosevelt and John Maynard Keynes supported the concept. An infertility sterilant (not sure what this would be) could simply be added to drinking water, like in fluoridation, some say. Segments of the media are even criticizing the United Nations for promoting population control to reduce climate warming, and implicating Bill Gates in the same breath. Did he really say that vaccines could reduce world population?
All this contorted logic leads to conspiracy theories when hot buttons involving pro-life/pro-choice and sacred beliefs are added to the mix. What is real and what is possible? I personally have no solution to offer, for I'm overwhelmed by all the moral and legal implications. Do you have an answer?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There seems to be no right or wrong answer for the issue for over population. There are too many styles in how people are raised or what those people were exposed too, to give them the personal choice on how they view things should be done. But our planet isn't immortal, nor are we. I wish that I had the knowledge that you were seeking, but as it stands there is no solution. But. That doesn't stop YOU from making a solution; clearly you are making an attempt, and that is exactly what should be done. Instead of being like the vast majority of the population who worries about problems that aren't even really 'serious'. I wish I had the tools to try and make a difference in the world for the better so that we weren't so congested, and do it in such a way that 'all' of mankind would agree upon such an idea. Frankly... I'm disappointed that we are not on Mars yet. Heh, maybe not in my life-time.. but maybe when everyone realizes there's too many people they will push for more research for planetary colonization.