A Possible Target

Section
5. Reduce Population
Page
5.7

As mentioned previously, global biocapacity was exceeded at around 3.7 billion people at 1970s technology and consumption levels, but this didn’t account for the needs of other creatures, so an actual sustainable level for all life would have to be below this. Allowing for some technological advances – but not absurd ‘techno-dreaming’ – and much more equitable sharing of global resources, a common estimate appears to be in the vicinity of 2-3 billion. This would be within the world’s regenerative capacity and allow for other lifeforms.

This figure is fleshed out thoroughly in Christopher Tucker’s book ‘A Planet of 3 Billion’1, which is summarised in two excellent Population Balance Podcasts: Episode 57: Christopher Tucker Part 1 — Population Balance , and Episode 58: Christopher Tucker Part 2 — Population Balance . (Pt. 2 deals more with solutions and will be covered in 5.8).

      

 

The Population Balance website describes the podcasts thus:

“We’re asking the Earth to support 80 million more humans every year, and we add to the challenge by depleting some of the needed resources from the planet each year. Meanwhile, too few us ask the question, ‘What is a sustainable human population?’ Christopher Tucker did ask the question, went to work on it, and wrote a book about it: A Planet of 3 Billion: Mapping Humanity’s Long History of Ecological Destruction and Finding Our Way to a Resilient Future. He came up with an ‘optimistic’ answer of 3 billion. This episode features the first half of an insightful conversation we recently had with Tucker. 

“Our discussion includes why he avoids using the term ‘overpopulation’ (and why we DO use it), how and why the taboo on discussion of this topic came about, and the beautiful way we can bend the curve of human population numbers. How does achieving a global average fertility rate of 1.5 by 2030 sound? Is that really so crazy? Tucker points out this is just accelerating a norm shift that’s already underway.

“Christopher Tucker is chairman of the American Geographical Society, and strategic advisor to the US national security community. He holds a BA, MA, and PhD from Columbia University. Chris serves on a number of boards, including the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation and the Open Geospatial Consortium.”

 

Christopher Tucker is a strong, direct speaker. My spare notes on podcast Pt. 1, and minutes elapsed, follow:

12:  +80 million each year, and declining ecosystem health = too much for the earth;

13:  Must address population and consumption;

16:  Tucker thinks Ehrlich’s and Holdren’s estimate of a sustainable population of 2 billion is a little too low, but many think his estimate of 3 billion is overly optimistic;

18:  Says his estimate of 3 billion is ‘give or take a billion’, which he has the grace to laugh at;

19:  He is very much not the stereotypical environmentalist when he identifies as a ‘techno-optimist’ and an ‘unrepentant capitalist’. He says this has led him to lift his estimate from 2 billion to 3 billion. Clearly, he is in the camp that thinks the current system can be changed to deal with our environmental problems, whereas others think we need an entirely new system and order. This debate runs throughout Section 9, ‘Economy’, and indeed all T10;

24:  He says there was a great breakthrough at the Cairo Conference of 1994 when attention focussed upon women’s affairs, reproductive health, education and rights, but that at the same time population growth was ignored, and this has led to 25 years of denial and accumulated damage;

27:  Taking population growth ‘off the table’ has been a ‘great disservice to women’, comments interviewer Nandita Bajaj;

29:  He believes empowerment strategies for women are the way forward, not ‘population control’;

31:  He believes it is critical to ‘bend the population curve’ asap by reducing fertility rates to 1.5% by 2030;

32:  Says population is basically under ‘a gag order’ at the U.N. and elsewhere since the mid 1990s;

34:  Says you can talk about population growth and not be a racist, etc…;

35:  Says women’s empowerment is not enough in itself to achieve population reduction and that it must be joined explicitly to matters of population growth and planetary biocapacity;

37:  As mentioned in webpage 5.4 ‘Scale’, he believes a lot of people cannot grasp the sheer numbers involved in modern-day population and population growth, and are ‘innumerate’.

 

1 Tucker, C. 2019. Population 3 Billion. Atlas Observatory Press, https://atlasobservatorypress.com/

Explore Other Reduce Population

5.1 Introduction

This was the top of Mt Everest in 2019. Even here, in one of the remotest, most difficult places on earth, there is a great traffic-jam of people jostling for position. And yet, ever more vociferously, we deny that overpopulation is a problem for ...

5.2 Total Ecological Footprint

In Section 2, ‘Consumption’, we displayed the global footprint of countries divided by population so as to concentrate upon consumption only. This was useful to highlight the predominance of consumption and overconsumption by the First World. But,...

5.3 Earth Overshoot Day, The Population Podcast, William Rees

William Rees is a terrific speaker: clear, concise, honest. The following podcast is one of my all-time favourites because it so crisply dissects the environmental problems of the world and logically lays out the foundations and process of Ecologi...

5.4 Scale

I have talked previously about the problem of sheer scale when dealing with environmental issues, and perhaps the greatest example of this is population. We seem to have difficulty coming to grips with any large numbers, anything bigger than, say,...

5.5 Population Films and Documentaries

Dave Gardner is the perfect heretic: softly-spoken, mild-mannered, unflappable, and with a sense of humour, very hard to demonise and marginalise as ‘crazy’, ‘eccentric’, ‘dangerous’, ‘racist’, or ‘anti-people’. Heretics are, at best, dismissed, a...

5.6 Population Projections and Biocapacity

One of the many ways in which a concern about population is shutdown is through the curious application of declining-growth-rate projections. Even before this spurious argument is applied, the glaring assumption is that current population is not a...

5.7 A Possible Target

As mentioned previously, global biocapacity was exceeded at around 3.7 billion people at 1970s technology and consumption levels, but this didn’t account for the needs of other creatures, so an actual sustainable level for all life would have to b...

5.8 The Ageing Population Bogeyman

If Growth is the god and the economy/capitalism the religion, then the human is nothing but a widget in the system whose sole role is to procreate, produce and consume. In such a mean and tortured belief system, those towards the start and end of ...

5.9 Population Case Study: Australia

I am wary of saying more about my home country as I have vowed to try to be as global in outlook as possible, but I hope I can be forgiven in this instance because I think the information is good and the example is very relevant to much that is ha...

5.10 Solutions

We listened to Chris Tucker’s interesting podcast #57 in webpage 5.7 where he talked about the overall population issue and a potentially sustainable population for the world. In this, the second part, #58, he elaborates on ways to get there. My n...

Explore Other Sections

1. Build the Nature-Human Relationship
1. Build the Nature-Human Relationship 1.1 Articles 1.2 Art Installations 1.3 Books 1.4 Buildings 1.5 Film, Documentaries, Podcasts 1.6 Music 1.7 Paintings 1.8 Photographs 1.9 Poems 1.10 Spiritual Responses
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1. Build the Nature-Human Relationship

This section is designed to foster appreciation and insight that will – hopefully – lead to novel ways to build a better relationship between human beings and Nature. This section is also atypical ...
2. Reduce Consumption
2. Reduce Consumption

2. Reduce Consumption

I hope Reneé Descartes would forgive us for saying that, at least for the modern world, he was wrong.  When, in 1637, he said: “I think, therefore I am”, he could not have anticipated that the majo...
3. Replace God of Growth with God of Quality
3. Replace God of Growth with God of Quality

3. Replace God of Growth with God of Quality

In a supposedly secular age there has arisen a global religion and god like never before, a religion whose reach and power makes every other belief system before it seem pitiful and insignificant: ...
4. Work, Volunteer, Act for the Environment
4. Work, Volunteer, Act for the Environment

4. Work, Volunteer, Act for the Environment

What we do in our day-to-day lives can have great impact. Section Four divides up these actions into three groups – Work (4.2 & 4.3), Volunteering (4.4), and Action, e.g. voting, protesting, et...
5. Reduce Population
5. Reduce Population

5. Reduce Population

Even on top of Mt. Everest, in one of the remotest, most difficult places on earth, there is a great traffic-jam of people jostling for position. And yet, ever more vociferously, we deny that overp...
6. Ensure Media Acknowledgement of Environmental Context
6. Ensure Media Acknowledgement of Environmental Context

6. Ensure Media Acknowledgement of Environmental Context

The media is one of the three, great ‘poles’ of power in the world (alongside political and corporate power) and how they frame and present ‘the environment’ has a profound effect on how we respond...
7. Stop Further Loss of Natural Habitat and Species
7. Stop Further Loss of Natural Habitat and Species

7. Stop Further Loss of Natural Habitat and Species

New York is an exciting, mesmerising place. Human culture is extraordinary and often wonderful. Our powers of transformation of the natural world seem limitless. The trouble is, we don’t seem to be...
8. Assist Energy Descent and Transition
8. Assist Energy Descent and Transition

8. Assist Energy Descent and Transition

Our current energy largesse is an extraordinary ‘gift’, an unprecedented gift of the ages; millions of years to produce and from millions of years ago. Coal, oil and gas, forming...
9. Support New, Environmentally-Aware, Economic Systems
9. Support New, Environmentally-Aware, Economic Systems

9. Support New, Environmentally-Aware, Economic Systems

Just as with the previous section – ‘Energy’ – which is, inescapably, all about fossil fuels so pre-eminent and extraordinary has been their dominance and transformation of the world in the last 20...
10. Reduce Wastes to the Rate of Natural Assimilation
10. Reduce Wastes to the Rate of Natural Assimilation

10. Reduce Wastes to the Rate of Natural Assimilation

Section 10 will attempt to organise this enormous topic by addressing the context and status of pollution in 10.2, before focussing in on air pollution; particularly greenhouse gas pollution and cl...