Population

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Author Message

James Weed

What's your take on the trajectory for U.S and world population for the remainder of the 21st century? Will we hit 9 billion by mid-century? How many humans will be around in 2100?

Wednesday 27 July 2011 05:20:57 pm

Dmitry Orlov

There are two takes on it. One has to do with having a realistic picture of the world. Another has to do with morbid curiosity and futile planning.

The realistic picture is that human population beyond perhaps a billion is a fossil fuel-driven bubble. It went up with fossil fuel use, and it will go down with it. It will go down lower than pre-industrial population because of the destruction of the earth's carrying capacity through industrialization (industrial agriculture particularly) and climate disruption. James Lovelock's "a few breeding human couples remaining in the high Arctic" seems extreme to me. I believe there will at least be thriving pockets of semi-feral human troglodytes thriving here and there, none of them living to be particularly old, but certainly old enough to breed, and to continue evolving.

The morbid and futile approach is to predict how and where the population declines will be the steepest and the fastest, or where they will strike first. It is possible to go quite far in this direction, imagining all sorts of ugly things, but I am not going to.

Thursday 28 July 2011 06:37:40 am