by BOB IRVINE
With global population numbers due to stabilise in the next 50 years, the human geographical footprint should be our biggest environmental concern. I’m assuming here that every extra square meter of the earth humans need will result eventually in a square meter of natural habitat being compromised in some way.
TABLE 1. POPULATION OF THE WORLD AND REGIONS, 2017, 2030, 2050 AND 2100,
ACCORDING TO THE MEDIUM-VARIANT PROJECTION
There is a good discussion of Global Population Demographics at;
It is important that we look at global population demographics when discussing the big environmental issues. According to the UN, population in nearly all non-African countries will either be steady or shrinking by about 2050. Africa has a young population and will follow this trend sometime early in the 22nd century.
According to Matt Ridley, Kazakhstan is the only country in the world that does not have falling birth rates.
There are many reasons given for this population stabilisation. Greater trade and consequent specialisation have played an enormous part in this transition, largely driven by the internet and cheaper travel. Higher immigration levels lead to more contact between cultures which always leads to more commercial contact and trade. Higher living standards have been driven by trade, free enterprise, responsive democratic government and cheap energy. After an initial jump in population these higher living standards have resulted in lower birth rates and neutral or negative growth in population. Feedbacks, in fact, will have stabilised population at a new level.
Higher living standards and lower population growth rates are now directly linked, particularly in developing countries.
Agricultural technology has advanced to the point where it should be possible to feed the eventual stable human population without expanding our agricultural footprint too much.
The UN apparently cares about habitat loss and human encroachment on wilderness areas yet promotes the use of intermittent energy sources. Not only will these expensive energy sources increase our energy costs, reducing living standards and putting upward pressure on population growth, they will also significantly increase our environmental footprint.
According to Bjorn Lomborg, “to replace a 1-hectare gas fired power plant, society needs 73 hectares of solar panels, 239 hectares of on-shore wind turbines or an unbelievable 6000 hectares of biomass.”. It is lucky for our environment that the take up of these intermittent energy sources will be limited by their cost. Common sense seems to have had little impact to date.
All the indications are that humans, after an enormous 300-year disruption and consequent population increase, will once again be living in a stable ecosystem by the end of this century. This time, however, there will be no continents to discover and cultural differences will likely have been softened by contact.
What will this mean for our society and how we organise ourselves?