Will Human Population Collapse This Century?

Article CAIRCO note: 
You cannot increase population indefinitely on a finite planet
Article publisher: 
Big Think
Article date: 
2 November 2023
Article category: 
Our American Future
Article Body: 

Esteemed ecologist William Rees argues that humanity is in a state of ecological overshoot, using far more resources than the Earth can sustainably provide over the long term. When this happens to other species, there is a population "correction."...

For 99.9% of Homo sapiens‘ 250,000 years on planet Earth, our population has remained below one billion individuals, and for much of that time, our species' growth curve was relatively flat. Since 1800, however, the human population has exponentially ballooned to 8.1 billion from just under one billion. We now occupy almost all parts of the globe and ravenously consume resources beyond what Earth can sustainably provide for the long term.

As eminent ecologist William E. Rees argues in an ominous new paper, this is a recipe for impending disaster...

Boom and bust cycles

For 40 years, Rees taught at the University of British Columbia, focusing on planning related to global environmental trends and sustainable socioeconomic development. His most notable academic contribution is the concept of the "ecological footprint," the "amount of environmental resources needed to produce the goods and services that support an individual’s lifestyle."

As an ecologist, Rees is well aware that all sorts of species frequently go through boom and bust cycles. When resources are plentiful and threats are low, they reproduce and multiply. But when resources dry up, perhaps from over-consumption or environmental change, species' populations will precipitously fall...

How bad will it be? Rees cites estimates suggesting that the number of humans that Earth can support for the long term is between 100 million and 3 billion people. So, the population and civilization collapse he forecasts will be quite bad, indeed...


The article continues, offering the obligatory mindless injunctive that Rees might be a false prophet of doom.


World Fertility - The World's Most Important Graph

See this interesting 5 minute interactive tutorial: Understanding Exponential Growth

Population Driven to Double by Mass Immigration

Exponential growth, doubling time, and the Rule of 70

Fertility and Population Momentum

"The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function."

"Can you think of any problem in any area of human endeavor on any scale, from microscopic to global, whose long-term solution is in any demonstrable way aided, assisted, or advanced by further increases in population, locally, nationally, or globally?"

"A finite world can support only a finite population; therefore, population growth must eventually equal zero."

"'Sustainable growth' is an oxymoron."

"Thou shalt not transgress the carrying capacity."

"The stresses caused by population growth cannot be solved by international migration. They must be confronted by and within each individual nation. Fundamental to the concept of national rights and responsibilities is the duty of each nation to match its population with its political, social, and environmental resources, in both the short and the long term."

"No nation should exceed what the biologists call its 'carrying capacity'."

Sir David Attenborough on overpopulation