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Sunday, October 20, 2013

Earth's State of Population

Earth’s State of Population:

To diagnose, Doctors Need Metrics

Problem Overview

While I agree with the conclusions of the analysis regarding the unlikelihood of achieving sustainability, it is doing so from a similar but different conceptual framework - call it the eyes of a dispassionate Alien Doctor. Eyes that also conclude that the planet can never achieve any sort of sustainable population level because…

…earthlings are constantly trying to measure yards with inchsticks.

And without effective calibration metrics and devices, it is impossible to accurately diagnose analyze, remedy, manage or resolve any situation. It is the same as having either a thermometer or speedometer device that constantly show inaccurate and random readings – sooner or later, you get yourself into a heap of trouble, including extreme illness or death.

When it comes to state of population measures, there is no generally accepted accurate metric or unit of measure and thus no possible way to calibrate “the state of population.”  (Adding up individual head counts is a largely irrelevant number for management purposes as supported and confirmed by comparative numerical illustrations below.) Again, so would you ever drive a car without knowing its speed? Yet we continue to talk of population control with little or no understanding of what and how to measure its current state. There is no effective unit of relevant measure to be applied by conceptual devices. Making it impossible to diagnose, analyze, project, plan, remedy or create the desired sustainable population state. Without these tools, we are destined to randomly drive not just a car, but an entire planet over the cliff.

Key Assumptions

Here is a simple illustration that acts to explain the calibration and metric issues regarding “the state of population.” First, it is well known that annual oil consumption per capita, in North America, Europe and Japan (Western Complex), averages anywhere from 32 to 36 barrels per capita. While India and China (Eastern Complex), developing countries with over 3 billion in combined populations, annually average a mere one or two barrels per person. 

Thus, using this proxy measure, the ecological and consumption footprint is said and calculated to be 17 times (17:1 ratio) greater for each person living in the Western Complex. Given the known relationships between oil consumption and its environmental effects, this footprint is thus assumed to also share proportionately in the maladies now affecting the planet, in terms of climate, oceans, economics, geopolitical issues and all forms of biodegradations.

Case Study Illustrations

Now here’s the good news, with Doctor Alien’s powers, the Doctor was able to reduce our planet’s population to one billion people in fifty years through birth restrictions, natural attrition and other civil means, without war, conflict or any other sort of adverse human expense. Everyone should be overwhelmed with joy as there are now 6 billion fewer people on the planet and all existence concerns and threats should start  improving. Humanity should now be able to survive for hundreds of more years. One cannot imagine that anybody would be displeased with this great success – the miracle of all times!

Except for our good Doctor Alien. Because the bad news is that the remaining one billion are only Western Complex people and they have also concurrently doubled their footprint over the past fifty years, to a 34:1 ratio*, while they continued pursuing the infinite growth theories prescribed by their trusted neo-classical economic gurus. Life was good. Converting this, however, to the Eastern Complex’s individual footprint from fifty years back, the planet now has an equivalent population of 34 billion Eastern Complex people. It is now severely overcapacity.

* Eastern Complex people, for purposes of this illustration did not increase their footprint over the fifty year period it is considered the base or steady state.

Including a population equivalency of 500 million Western Complex people embedded in today’s 7.1 billion figure – what stands out in this hypothetical experiment, is that even with a dramatic decrease of 6 billion to 1 billion in global population numbers; we end up being worse off by more than doubling in footprint terms. Why? Because the new population consists only of 1 billion Western Complex persons, who were also busy doubling their ecological and consumption footprints, pursuing endless growth, over the past fifty years of global depopulation.

Here’s another way to look at this experiment in fifty years. For a moment, personify yourself as the planet earth and you have to make a decision about what Complex offers you the best opportunity to survive and build a long-term relationship. You have only two choices. You can choose to cohabit with 1 billion people from the Western Complex or 7 billion people from the Eastern Complex who do not pursue an endless growth strategy. Even with its 6 billion more people, for strictly rationale reasons, you choose the Eastern Complex simply because your longevity timeline is extended roughly five-fold (34/7). That is the most logical decision based on the arithmetic outcomes using the equivalent population metrics. On the other hand, if you decided based strictly on the absolute numbers, that 1 billion is lower than 7 billion, then you would have curtailed your life-expectancy by 75%.  (As an aside, most smokers would probably have no problem quitting this addiction when faced with these grim numbers)

Imagine that! For the planet, in this numeric experiment, the 7 Billion low-consuming people are clearly a much better choice, than the 1 billion hyper-consuming addicted people!  Most of us at first blush, would have likely thought otherwise. We did

Preliminary Conclusions

Leading to the conclusion that often-used unit of measure or metric “absolute population by persons “does not in any way calibrate “the state of the population” and it is not a meaningful metric or relevant unit of measure in any way whatsoever in this regard – you just are driving the car without a speedometer and surely heading for a heap of trouble - probably over the cliff. For planetary management purposes the number has limited utility on its own.

Moreover, the much better unit of measure or metric, calibrates “the state of population” based on ‘population equivalents ‘A metric that moves to embedding and calculating the aggregate of a specific population’s individual ecological and consumptive footprints on the planet. Shifting to measuring and managing planetary affairs based on generally accept “population equivalent metrics,” rather than just simple headcounts. is both profound and far-reaching. But, without qualification it is absolutely imperative if one hopes to better manage the population and planet’s resources and conditions towards a mix achieving their optimal longevities.

For as the good Doctor Alien’s final Inter-galactic Committee Report reads:

“…earthlings can no longer afford to be constantly trying to measure yards with inchsticks…”

T.A McNeil
First Financial Insights
October 18,2013

“Without accurate measurements we cannot even effectively diagnose the patient to begin with…”
Inter-Galactic Committee Earth Report*
October, 2013