Michael Battalio

Friday, July 26, 2013

Serious conversations (part 52):

        This series is a continuation of my conversations with an atheist friend of mine. These are my edited responses from that conversation. The fifty-first and fifty-second entries deal with overpopulation.

        Previously I commented that as far as overpopulations is concerned, we are doomed either by our own greed, self destruction, or by mother nature.

        Certainly though, not everyone is a pessimistic as I, otherwise economies would have already collapsed.  I suppose people are relying on future human ingenuity to take care of the problems we are creating.  For example, I know there are several projects ongoing on how to cool the planet a few degrees under the assumption that we will limit the greenhouse gasses and there will only be a few degrees of warming.  They might work, but I wouldn't count on them.  As far as overpopulation, I just don't see how we get around it without swift governmental action.  We cannot continue reproducing at the rate we currently are. Our government is too busy solving problems of its own creation (i.e. the debt crisis) than to deal with the hard questions that must be answered for human longevity.  On the other hand, maybe we'll figure out fusion. With basically unlimited energy, many problems will be much easier to fix.  I think the development of a new, clean, and abundant energy source is the lynchpin in whether we survive.  

        Don't get me wrong, I don't think we are anywhere near getting fusion.  I am simply noting that it would be nice to have it.  It seems as if we have been 20 years from cheap fusion for decades.  But if we do get there the only environmental problems that can't be fixed are urban sprawl and destruction of habitat. Though piping desalinated water from say the Gulf of Mexico into the Great Plains, for example, will be a monstrous undertaking.  Again, if we can fix overpopulation and find a clean power source all the other problems will take care of themselves.  How simple! You’re welcomed planet.

        Again though, I think the only way to quickly deal with overpopulation is to legislate it.  Simply waiting for the third world to industrialize and reduce its population growth just isn't a solution.  At this point I'm not arguing for something as draconian as China's policy, but I definitely think that there should be tax benefits to married couples that have two or fewer children.  Catholics would freak out at that though.  They'd call it religious persecution, and it certainly would never get through Congress. Realistically we must encourage social custom to value fewer numbers of children and better educate people our age and younger about overpopulation.  With that we need to advocate sex education programs for youth.  Education for this is the key to solving it.  I suppose education is the key to solving just about everything.  If only we could teach everyone about the sciences and have them actually learn and understand what they are taught, a lot of these problems would be at least easier to solve.

Friday, July 05, 2013

Serious conversations (part 51):

        This series is a continuation of my conversations with an atheist friend of mine. These are my edited responses from that conversation. The fifty-first and fifty-second entries deal with overpopulation.

        I would argue that overpopulation is the root of all of our problems.  If there were only a couple of billion people on the planet and we had the same level of agriculture and technology, there would be no hunger and our problem with a lack of energy would be at the least much slower.  We wouldn't have to be worrying about running out of water or food; disease would be a much smaller issue.  The economy would be much more stable because we wouldn't have to worry about territorialism or having such a large welfare system, and since there would be so few people, growth would be much easier.  We also wouldn't have gone to Iraq for a useless war.  

        Since speculating about what the world would be like without so many people is pointless, let me instead focus on the problem we now have.  It's very clear that the expanding population is not sustainable.  There are people dying of thirst and hunger presently not just because there isn’t enough but also food cannot be distributed to them.  Now, as countries develop, the birth rate drastically decreases; unfortunately, the planet cannot wait for every nation to industrialize.  As up in arms as everyone would be, China's one child policy is working great.  As soon as their baby boom generation dies, their population will decrease.  Perhaps India and South America and Africa should instate the same policy.  Alas, churches and conservatism would have nothing of that.  The Catholic church in particular would sooner see the planet die than suggest that birth control is all right.  So the question becomes what do we do about it?  This brings us back to space travel.  Very soon we are going to have to start mining asteroids for metals.  In fact, recently in the news there have been private proposals to mine asteroids, and one of NASA’s newest projects is to lasso an asteroid and drag it to the Lagrange Point on the other side of the moon. Just mining one asteroid would satiate our needs for thousands of years.  Beyond that, we need a miracle in space travel.

        If I may make a prediction, here is what I believe will happen at the really bad end of the scale.  The population will continue to grow at the present rate.  By the time we get to around 10 billion people (around 2080 according to the UN), we will have exhausted a lot of the easily attainable fossil fuels.  Assuming that we haven't perfected fusion yet and that most of the climate predictions come true, wars will be fought for energy, food, water.  That won't be the worst.  At some point mother nature will fix what by then will be the "human problem".  Some sort of disease will eradicate a large percentage of the population, and we will have to start again.   Fortunately I'll be almost 100 by then, so I won't care. It certainly sucks for our posterity though.

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