Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Carrying Capacity of The Earth

Are there too many people on our planet?  Apparently there is a recent U.N. study that predicts the world population will reach the breaking point in 2050, with dire circumstances to follow.  Of course there are many who believe the planet is at its carrying capacity already, and that by 2050 environmental degradation will be a done deal.  Personally, I doubt that the last century's remarkable increase in crop yields due to intensive agricultural developments like mechanization, fertilizers and genetically-modified seeds will be able to keep pace with the demand for food.  Either way, it behooves us to contemplate what life would be like standing shoulder-to-shoulder on a land base perhaps diminished by rising ocean levels worldwide.  (Let's hope deodorant production and sales at least keep pace!)  I seem to recall that there is a biological phenomenon something to the effect that overcrowding in closed biological systems leads inevitably to a reduction in population by pestilence and/or starvation (something like the law of economics that states "if something cannot go on forever it will stop").  In the human realm, of course, in addition to pestilence and starvation we periodically reduce the world population through wars, and Niall Ferguson has recently stated as much in his book The War of the World: A New History of the 20th Century.  At any rate, have a good (uncrowded) day!