Paul Ralph Ehrlich, biologist and professor of population studies at Stanford University, has been warning for decades (The Population Bomb, 1968) that the earth is becoming increasingly unstable and incapable of supporting our ever expanding population growth. With 7 billion people on the planet and growth estimated to continue at a pace that would reach 15 billion by the end of the 21st century, Ehrlich notes that our concerns about feeding the world’s population and meeting energy resource needs for future generations are misguided. We shouldn’t be concerned with 9 billion people a decade or two from now, or 15 billion at the end of the century. We have an immediate problem right now and there’s a 90% chance that those living today will experience what we’ve often referred to as TEOTWAWKI (The End of the World As We Know It):
The population of Earth has doubled since Paul Ehrlich first warned the world that there were too many humans. Three and a half billion people later, he is more pessimistic than ever, estimating there is only a 10% chance of avoiding a collapse of global civilisation.
“Among the knowledgeable people there is no more conversation about whether the danger is real,” Ehrlich told the Guardian. “Civilisations have collapsed before: the question is whether we can avoid for the first time [an] entire global civilisation… of having the whole mess collapse.”
The idea sounds melodramatic, but Ehrlich insists his vision only builds on famine, drought, poverty and conflict, which are already prevalent around the world, and would unfold over the “next few decades”.
“What it would look like is getting to the situation where more and more people are living in uncertainty about their future, subject to all kinds of disease,” he said.
“My pessimism is deeply tied to the human failure to do anything about these problems, or even recognise or talk about them.”
The global population has since doubled [since 1968] and, although growth is slowing, is still on course to rise beyond the two billion maximum Ehrlich believes Earth can sustain without irrevocably destroying its water, earth and air.
“The next two billion people, should we get them, will put more and more pressure on environmental systems that are struggling today,” he said. “Each individual has to have food from more marginal land … materials from poorer ores, we’re going to use more oil so we have to drill deeper: we’re past the point of diminishing returns.”
“Can we solve this technologically? Theoretically, since we can’t know anything for certain, so we could come up with a magic way of producing food and that could save us. But my answer, always, to that is: we have all sorts of people in despair today. Don’t tell me how easy it’s going to be to feed nine billion people; let’s feed seven billion first, then I’ll be willing to talk to you about whether technology will take care of all those people.”
Source: The Guardian
In his 1968 book The Population Bomb, Ehlrich predicted that human demand would exceed the capacity of the Earth in the 1970’s and/or 1980’s. These predictions, argue critics, failed to materialize in the form of an all encompassing doomsday scenario.
However, if one were to look at the economic growth of, for example, the United States and Europe during these decades, one could argue that as demand began to outweigh supply certain regions of the world benefited at the expense of others. While richer nations experienced growth and prosperity, others were isolated from access to essential resources leaving billions on the globe struggling daily for food, clean water and energy resources.
In June of 2010 Michael Ruppert of Collapse Net discussed possible collapse scenarios, saying that after our financial and economic bubbles finally burst completely there will be one bubble left to go. The human population bubble.
Considering that much of the growth of Western nations from the 1970’s through today was driven by manufactured demand created through social engineering, creative finance, and monetary machinations, we should all be concerned that Ehrlich and Ruppert are on to something. Roughly one billion people, through manipulation of the global socioeconomic system, have benefited for the past forty years while four times as many have been left to fight over the scraps. What happens, then, when the economic systems on which all of this resource distribution was based collapses?
One can only surmise that this would lead the pendulum to swing from one extreme (booming growth and abundance) to the other (economic decline and poverty). This, as we have mentioned before, is a paradigm shift that will leave the majority of people in the U.S. and around the globe without the ability to acquire even the most basic of needs. The consequences of such a shift will lead to world-wide famine, drought, poverty and conflict.
We may very well be living through one of those periods in history – a multi-generational cyclical event – where there is a period of sustained economic depression and political turmoil, which often culminate in large scale wars over resource rights.
Preparing for such life changing circumstances is no easy task, but it can be done so long as your time horizon is grounded in reality. If we are, in fact, at the end of the line of global growth and economic expansion due to a system created around a model based on unsustainable processes and ideas, then we will most certainly see rapid waterfall events – things like debt defaults on a national level or hyperinflation of currencies. These sorts of events can play out quickly and without warning, and they can have an immediate impact on the population. In the midst of these crises people can expect utter chaos and uncertainty as the systems around them collapse – making access to food, resources and essential goods non-existent for a time.
Short-term preparations with a time frame of 30 days to a year will help at the immediate onset of crisis. But what if there is no going back in our lifetimes? What if the human population bubble does burst and leads to famine, disease and war for an extended period of time? It may be hard for us to imagine, but historically many civilizations – like those that survived the fall of Rome and transitioned into the middle ages circa 500 A.D. – experienced depopulation, deurbanization, and increased conflict for time frames measured not in months or years, but decades and generations.
Since we have a very difficult time with the notion that we will somehow magically solve this problem over the course of the next decade, we’re left with the stark conclusion that we must, as individuals, families and close-knit communities, begin to prepare for a different paradigm, one which will force us to modify our current lifestyles.
Prepare for the short-term, but don’t ignore the long-term ramifications of what’s happening. You don’t have to do it overnight, as a collapse of this magnitude will occur over years, giving you more time to adjust your lifestyle to one of sustainability and self reliance, as opposed to consumption and dependence.
For the long-term, look to acquiring a piece of land that can be passed on to your children and grandchildren. Equally as important, begin living your life by taking out the middle man that has for decades provided for us and made us dependent on their production of resources – namely food and energy. Learn to be self reliant, and pass those skills on to other members of your family. Your kids and grand kids will thank you for it.