Overview of this Essay

Today, overpopulation is the main threat to Continuing Creation.   Out of control human population growth uses up natural resources, pollutes air and water, destroys habitats, exterminates species, and causes global warming which will bring disastrous climate change to our Earth.

“The 20th century was a time of exponential scientific and technical advance…, and the spread of democracy and human rights throughout the world. It was also a dark and savage age of world wars, genocide, and totalitarian ideologies that came dangerously close to global domination.

“While preoccupied with all this tumult, humanity managed collaterally to decimate the natural environment and draw down the nonrenewable resources of the planet with cheerful abandon. We thereby accelerated the erasure of entire ecosystems and the extinction of thousands of million-year-old species. If Earth’s ability to support our growth is finite—and it is—we were mostly too busy to notice.

“As a new century begins, we have begun to awaken from this delirium… In short, we have entered the Century of the Environment, in which the immediate future is usefully conceived as a bottleneck…Now science and technology, combined with foresight and moral courage, must see us through the bottleneck and out.”1

To live in and love G>O>D> — the Growing>Organizing>Direction> of the Universe — a person must live in and love the Earth, all its living things, and all their entwined relationships.

To have this intense involvement, a person must first know and understand the biosphere and its systems.  The creatures and systems of Earth are our foremost evidence of G>O>D>.  And for humans, who are at this time utterly dependent on Mother Nature’s bio-systems for survival, without the Earth there can be no G>O>D>.

“Because all creatures are connected, each must be cherished with love and respect, for all of us as living creatures are dependent on one another.” – Pope Francis I.2

As we said in in our Essay LEADING A MORAL LIFE,  a central moral principle of the Path of G>O>D> is:  No one shall biologically father or mother more than two children.  Here in this Essay, we explain why that is so very important.

The Human population has become an infestation on the Earth.  Since the Industrial Revolution, our population has been growing at an exponential rate, taking fewer and fewer years to double itself.   Mother Earth carries 7.4 billion people on her back now, and She is projected to carry 10 billion by 2050.3

Not only is the population increasing, but huge numbers of people are entering the middle class; consuming more meat, more cars, more and larger houses.

Our increasing population is using up the resources of the Earth.  At the same time, we are polluting the remaining resources around us, including our air and fresh water.  We are destroying the ability of our ecosystems to sustain life.  The rainforests are being cut down, the coral reefs are dying, and we are killing off an increasing number of Earth’s species.

Our carbon-dioxide and methane emissions are producing global warming, with attendant violent storms, droughts, forest fires, melting of the ice caps, rising seas and ocean temperatures, and the flooding of coastal areas. In this Essay, we will look at these and other problems.  They are all interrelated.

The Pope wants to reduce use of carbon fuels, get rid of air conditioning.  But he never addresses the root cause of all the problems – Earth’s huge and growing human population.

Why do we favor news stories about dying children over news stories about dying species?

What is so special about humans?

— We have good eyesight, but nothing like the eagles.
— We can run for longer distances than any other animal, but we cannot fly.
— We can reason and plan far better than other animals, but our body odor is also unparalleled.
— We have sympathy and empathy, but elephants and whales may have more.
— The dexterity of our fingers is great, but is it greater than the legs of a spider?
— We can swim, but nothing like the fishes, whales, and dolphins.
— Our language is the most advanced, but whales, birds, and even trees also communicate.
— Our tool use is the most advanced, but chimpanzees and crows also use tools.
— We raise livestock and build cities, but so do certain species of ants.
— African lions hunt, but no species on Earth kills as many creatures as we do.
— Chimpanzees make war on each other, and so do ants; but human war matches their brutality.
— We cannot echo-locate, but bats, whales, and porpoises can.
— We cannot use Earth’s magnetic fields to locate our birthplaces, but sea turtles can.
— Humans likely exceed all other species in sexual perversion and sadistic cruelty.
— Human beings are unable to turn sunlight into food.  Only Earth’s plant-life can do that.
— Is there one thing that humans do that is utterly unique?  Yes.  We alone pollute the Earth.

Continuing Creation encompasses the universe. The Earth is the most tangible, encompassing creation any of us experience in our daily lives.  Therefore, Planet Earth represents the entire Process of G>O>D> in our lives.  Ancient myth has personified this reality in the person of Gaia, or Mother Earth.

In biblical times, we thought we were the masters of the Earth.  All the other creatures on the planet existed for our exploitation and/or our pleasure.  The large creatures that we did not hunt or domesticate for meat, we put in zoos for the amusement of our children.  Then, in the 1970’s, it dawned on us that we are not the masters, we are in fact dependent on all the other plants and animals for our own survival.  Twenty or 30 years later, we had a second awakening, realizing that we had killed off so many species and were fast killing off more, that we in fact now really are the masters of the life on Earth, because if we don’t fix our environment, it will surely kill us. 4

Pope Francis has written, “Intervention in nature has become more and more frequent. As a consequence, serious problems arise, leading to further interventions; human activity becomes ubiquitous, with all the risks which this entails. Often a vicious circle results.”   5But it may turn out that Earth needs us to learn how to master the Earth in total detail, so that we, and much of other life on Earth, can colonize new planets in new solar systems.  Stephen Hawking says humans must get off the planet sometime in the next 1000 years, or else go extinct ourselves.

Human Beings Over-Populate the Earth

As of August 2016, the Human Population of Earth was estimated at 7.4 billion, up from 6 billion in 1999, 3 billion in 1960, and 1.5 billion in 1881.

World population will further increase to 10 billion by 2050 – that’s an increase of 35% from where we are now.  (from 5763.) 6

However, many people are unconcerned about this because the rate of world population growth is now declining.  During the 1960’s and 1970’s the planet experienced population growth rates of over 1.8% per year, peaking at 2.2% in 1963.  As of 2012, the world growth rate had dropped to 1.1% per year. 7

The main cause of declining family size is that mothers in developing countries usually decide they would rather have 2 children who are educated and prosperous than 8 children who must slave away on poor farms or in stultifying factories.

“All the Latin American Countries are moving towards smaller families.  In 1964, America had small families and long life, while Vietnam had large families and short lives. And in 2003 we have in Vietnam the same life expectancy and the same family size as we had here in United States in 1974.”   (Hans Rosling, “Stats That Reshape Your Worldview.” Ted Talk, Feb 2006.)

Many demographers look to this declining growth rate as the eventual cure for Earth’s population-related problems.  But it is a very uncertain cure at best, for two reasons:

First, although the growth rate has slowed down, the population will still rapidly increase until around the middle of this century.  By then, forecasts estimate there will be between 8.3 billion and 11.4 billion Humans inhabiting the Earth.  (“World Population Prospects, the 2012 Revision – “Low variant” and “High variant” values”. UN. 2012. Retrieved June 15, 2013.  Also, per Sci Am, Mark Fishetti, 12/1/14, World Population Will Soar Higher than Predicted.)

Second, the decline in births will be accompanied by an increase in resource consumption and pollution.  The more advantaged children of modern, smaller families will grow up to buy new homes, new cars, finer foods, more clothes, and more electric appliances – all of which deplete more resources and cause more pollution and greater global warming.  Unfortunately, authorities say that the Earth does not have enough resources to provide the expected 11.4 billion people with the same lifestyle we enjoy in the U.S. and Western Europe.

The Book of G>O>D> places a lot of emphasis on the family.  So why not have large families?  Because large families no longer work toward the good of the Earth.

Students in Continuing Creation say — We can’t pin our hopes on declining birth rates to stop population growth.  Before we get it stopped, we’ll damage up the Earth beyond repair because all the new people between here and zero growth will want houses, televisions, cars, and meat. 

“Our industrial system, at the end of its cycle of production and consumption, has not developed the capacity to absorb and reuse waste and by-products. We have not yet managed to adopt a circular model of production capable of preserving resources for present and future generations, while limiting as much as possible the use of non-renewable resources, moderating their consumption, maximizing their efficient use, reusing and recycling them.” (Pope Francis ___)

Followers of G>O>D> are not interested in an Earth that has even the 7.4 billion people we have today, let alone the 11 billion we could have by 2050.  We don’t just want an Earth that’s sustainable, we want it to be beautiful, diverse, and wild in a lot of places.  If U.S. conservatives want less government and more freedom, they must be for population control.  The Earth cannot experience continually expanding human population without more government and more regulation.  If conservatives want more Freedom, they need to seek a smaller population.

In this Essay, we will look at our constellation of interconnected climatic and ecological crises.  Pope Francis covers nearly all these in his [insert encyclical reference]

Some readers, interested mostly in the Design of G>O>D> as a spiritual path, may feel that we have gone into too much detail in this Essay; but we must realize that preservation of Earth is absolutely central to walking the Path of G>O>D>.

However, readers who want to focus on human belief and spirituality rather than population and climate statistics, may elect to skip to the latter sections of this Essay.

Our data is as of this writing – November, 2016.  Readers can easily find these topics on line, and  can see more up-to-date data there as the months and years go by.

Over-Population of the Earth – The Root Cause of Climate Change and Pollution

Population growth is the root cause of Global Warming (also known as Climate Change) because every year more and more humans are burning wood, coal, petroleum and natural gas to provide energy – heat, electricity, and motion (travel) in vehicles.

Past Population Growth

World population has experienced continuous growth since the end of the Great Famine of 1315–17 and the Black Death in 1350, when it was near 370 million. [3] (insert reference from document 5764)

During the 20th century more people were added to the world than in all of previous human history. In 1800 there had been about one billion, and in 1900, still only 1.6 billion. By 1999 we had reached 6 Billion (reference Wilson “Bottleneck” article)

Present World Population

As of August 2016, world population was estimated at 7.4 billion.[1]  It is projected to reach 10 billion by 2050] (from 5763. Footnote#1 = Population Reference Bureau. “2013 World Population Factsheet” (PDF). www.pbr.org. Population Reference Bureau. Retrieved 5 December 2014.)

  • Asia has 60% of world population. The world’s two most populated countries, China and India, together hold about 37% of the world’s population.
  • Africa is the second most populated continent, with 15% of world population.
  • Europe had 12% of world population as of 2012.
  • Latin American and the Caribbean regions comprise around 9%.
  • Northern America, primarily the United States and Canada, has a population of around 352 million, for about 5% of world population. (from 5764)

Present World Resources per Person

The nominal 2013 gross world product was estimated at US $74.31 trillion, giving an annual global per-capita figure of around US $10,500. [footnote from 85]

  • Around 18.4% of the world population live in extreme poverty, subsisting on less than US $1.25 per day; [86]
  • Approximately 12.25% are undernourished. [87]
  • 83% of the world’s people over age 15 are considered literate. [80]
  • In June 2014, there were around 3.03 billion global Internet users, constituting 42.3% of the world population. [88] (5764)

Co-Creators of Continuing Creation Say – Clearly, we don’t want to redistribute the world’s wealth, giving every person a poverty-level income of $10,500 per year.  With all of us living on a subsistence level, there would be no science, technology or art, unless you really think that government could successfully do those things by taxing everyone to the tune of, say, $1,000 per year. On the other hand, it doesn’t make much sense for the top 1% of the United States’ population to control 40% of the nation’s wealth. 

The present population of 7.4 billion is too much for our planet, because we have dangerous conditions of global warming, water and food shortages, and polluted seas, rivers, and air.  When the population grows by 35% to reach 10 billion in 2050, the situation will be even worse if we keep our present-day technologies and attitudes.

“For every person in the world to reach present U.S. levels of consumption with existing technology would require four more planet Earths.” – Wilson Bottleneck, ibid.

The Global Fertility Rate

The good news is that the pace of world population growth is slowing.  The bad news is that it will not slow enough to avoid hitting the huge population total of 10 billion in 2050 and 11.4 billion people in 2100.

Demographers know that if the global birth rate, or fertility rate, is 2.1 children-per-woman (called the Replacement Level), the number of people on Earth will stay constant.  This makes sense, because 2.0 is the number of offspring that replaces one mother and one father, and the extra 0.1 allows for children who are born but do not survive to reproduce.

Globally, women today give birth to an average of 2.5 children.  Today’s 2.5 fertility rate is down from 5.0 children-per-woman in the 1950’s.

In fact, today in 40% of the world’s nations, the fertility rate is actually at or below the replacement level of 2.1 children per woman.  If we look at regions of the world, the fertility rate is now below 2.1 children-per-mother in Europe, Thailand, and much of Latin America.

Why is the Birth Rate per Woman Slowing (Outside of Africa, the Middle East, and Asia)?

Why is the fertility rate, (outside of Africa, the Middle East and Asia), slowing down?

As E.O Wilson writes, “The decline in global population growth is attributable to three interlocking social forces:

  • the Globalization of an economy driven by science and technology,
  • the consequent Urbanization as rural populations move into cities, and,
  • the resulting Empowerment of women” (reference from Wilson Bottleneck article).

Experts write that as women gain access to education, better food, and material goods and birth control, they develop an idea of progress.  They decide they would rather have fewer children and see them lead richer lives than have a large brood of impoverished children to help the family by working on the land or doing piecework in a factory.

  • Worldwide, women with no schooling have an average of 4.5 children.
  • Those with a few years of primary school have just 3.0 children.
  • Women who complete one or two years of secondary school have an average of 1.9 children apiece—a figure that over time leads to a decreasing population.
  • With one or two years of college, the average childbearing rate falls even further, to 1.7.
  • And when women enter the workforce, start businesses, inherit assets and otherwise interact with men on an equal footing, their desire for more than a couple of children fades even more dramatically.
  • The increasing availability of birth control methods reinforces these trends.
  • Advances in medical care mean that the few children a woman does have are likely to live longer and be more able to care for their mother in her old age.

(according to a calculation provided for this article by demographers at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria, Engleman, 5720)

As Robert Engelman points out, “Men also have to relinquish sole control over the decision to have children and refrain from abusing wives or partners who seek birth control.” (Robt. Engelman, Sci Am, 2/1/16)

“What is needed is a Zen approach to the art of population—a way of easing growth not by striving directly for that outcome but by creating the conditions through which it occurs naturally.” (Robt. Engelman, Sci Am, 2/1/16)

“The freeing of women socially and economically results in fewer children. Reduced reproduction by female choice can be thought a fortunate, indeed almost miraculous, gift of human nature to future generations.”(Wilson Bottleneck)

It could have gone the other way: women, more prosperous and less shackled, could have chosen the satisfactions of a larger brood. (Wilson Bottleneck)

“They did the opposite. They opted for a smaller number of quality children, who can be raised with better health and education, over a larger family. They simultaneously chose better, more secure lives for themselves.  The tendency appears to be very widespread, if not universal. Its importance cannot be overstated.” (Wilson Bottleneck)

“Social commentators often remark that humanity is endangered by its own instincts, such as tribalism, aggression, and personal greed. Demographers of the future will, I believe, point out that on the other hand humanity was saved by this one quirk in the maternal instinct.” (Wilson Bottleneck)

In every nation, rich and poor, in which a choice of contraceptives is available and is backed up by reasonably accessible safe abortion for when contraception fails, women have two or fewer children. Furthermore, educating girls reduces birthrates.

However, the Practice of Continuing Creation strongly advocates the prevention of contraception over abortion. With sufficient prosperity, education, and advancement in women’s rights, abortion could be nearly eliminated.

But in Africa, the Middle East, and Parts of Asia, Fertility Rates Remain Very High

But in Africa, the Middle East, and parts of Asia, the fertility rate remains stubbornly high. (Wilson Bottleneck.)  By far the biggest problem between now and 2050 is the population of Africa.  In Africa today, “women give birth on average to 4.7 children and the population is rising nearly three times faster than in the rest of civilization.” (Robt. Engelman, Sci Am, 2/1/16)

As we all know, harsh male domination of women, including economic repression, denial of education, confinement to the home, full-face masking, and genital mutilation are widely practiced in Africa and the Middle East.  For 1400 years, Islam, which claims to advance women’s rights, has not succeeded in rooting out these practices. (me)

“By 2100 Africa’s population could be three billion to 6.1 billion, up sharply from 1.2 billion today, if birth rates remain stubbornly high. This unexpected rise would stress already fragile resources in Africa and around the world.” (Robt. Engelman, Sci Am, 2/1/16)

“By 2050, the bulk of the world’s population growth will take place in Africa: of the additional 2.4 billion people projected between 2015 and 2050, 1.3 billion will be added in Africa.  Africa’s share of global population is projected to grow from 16% in 2015 to 25% in 2050 and 39% by 2100…

“The strong growth of the African population will happen regardless of the rate of decrease of fertility, because of the exceptional proportion of young people already living today.” (from: Projections of Population Growth”, on wiki: 3. “World Population Prospects: The 2015 Revision – Key Findings and Advance Tables” (PDF). United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division. July 2015. Retrieved 26 June 2016.  4. “World Population to 2300” (PDF). United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division. 2004.

 The Effect of the Global Average Fertility Rate of 2.5 Children per Woman 

Unfortunately, for decades to come, the sub-2.1 birth rates per mother in regions like Europe and the Americas are not projected to be enough to overcome continued high fertility rates in Africa, the middle East, and in some parts of Asia.  As a result, world population is predicted to become larger and larger until around 2100.

Although that 2.5 fertility rate number seems to be not much bigger than the 2.1 Replacement Level, it is still big enough to account for the expected 35% population growth between now and 2050.  Why? Because the “excess” growth compounds (builds on itself) year by year, as we illustrate in the next section.

The breakpoint can fluctuate between a perfect 2.0 and something well above 2.1 depending on the interplay between advances in medicine and public health, famine, epidemics, and war.   (Wilson bottleneck)     But in the long run, “the iron law of demographics is this: “to breed in excess [of 2.0 to 2.1] is to overload the planet.” (Wilson Bottleneck)  Meanwhile, longer human life spans could still increase the number of senior citizens and Earth’s population as a whole.

The Global Population Growth Rate

Now let’s shift from talking about the fertility rate to the population growth rate.   As we have said, a fertility rate (birth rate) of 2.1 translates into a population growth rate of 0%, giving the world a steady-state, non-growing human population.

As the global fertility rate has slowed down in recent years, so has the world population growth rate:

  • The world population growth rate peaked at 2.06% between 1965-1970.
  • Then the population growth rate declined to 1.18% between 2010-2015.
  • United Nations experts project it will further decline to 0.13% by the year 2100. (5764 “World Population Prospects – Population Division – United Nations” esa.un.org. Retrieved 2016-09-15.)

Since the population growth rate will be above 0% until 2100, the size of Earth’s human population is forecasted to increase from the present 7.4 billion people to around 10 billion by 2050, and then to level off to around 11.4 billion by 2100.   Any population growth rate above 0%, repeated year after year, leads to an ever-expanding world population.  (This is called “exponential” growth.)

You can see this growth for yourself using a simple Excel spreadsheet.

  • Start with “7.4” (standing for 7.4 billion people) in cell A1.
  • For cell A2, increase the 7.4 by 1%, getting 7.474 in cell A2.
  • Repeat the 1% increase for cell A3, getting 7.549….
  • And keep going until you reach Cell A50.
  • In cell A50 (representing 50 years of 1% growth per year, you will reach 10.4 billion people.
  • This progression shows the amazing power of “repeated-constant-percentage growth,” or exponential

Unfortunately, during the half-century between 2050 and 2100, Mother the Earth will have to carry over 10 billion people on her back.

Why We Can’t Wait for the Population Growth Rate to Drop to Zero 

Can we wait for the population growth rate to drop to zero?  No.  We have two big intervening problems:

The first problem is simple: even today’s 7.4 billion people is way too many!  Increasing to 10 billion by 2050 is horrifying.

The second problem with waiting is that in order for family size to continue to go down, the women who do not yet have a vision of progress need to get one.  And in order to do that, they need to garner a higher standard of living, and if that requires more cars, more pollution, and more global warming, then we will run out of time and resources before arriving at 2050 and 2100.  We are in a race against ourselves – will we achieve smaller families before our lust for bigger houses and autos destroys the Earth.

Global Warming – The Nexus of Most (but not all) Our Problems

Man-made warming of the atmosphere and ocean system is unequivocal.  (from file 5706, the 2014 Fifth Assessment)

  • “It is virtually certain (99-100%) the upper ocean warmed from 1971 to 2010. This ocean warming accounts, with high confidence, for 90% of the energy accumulation between 1971 and 2010.”
  • “It can be said with high confidence that the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have been losing mass in the last two decades and that Arctic sea ice and Northern Hemisphere spring snow cover have continued to decrease in extent.”
  • “There is high confidence that the sea level rise since the middle of the 19th century has been larger than the mean sea level rise of the prior two millennia.”
  • “Concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has increased to levels unprecedented on earth in 800,000 years.” (from file 5706, the 2014 Fifth Assessment)

In our Essay, ORGANIC MOLECULES TO CELLS, we learn that “the three M’s” are the three key ingredients for life.  They are the Membrane that semi-separates each living thing from its environment, the creature’s Metabolism for obtaining energy from food, and its Map for creating more creatures like itself.

The Earth itself can been seen as one giant living creature.  Its membrane is its atmosphere, particularly the outer layer of ozone that prevents penetration by the sun’s life-killing ultraviolet rays.  The Earth’s membrane also allows other wavelengths of the sun’s energy to come in, but not too much.  There has to be a flow-through of solar energy – not too much, and not too little.

Global Warming is also known as Climate Change, because as the planet warms overall, great storms are expected in certain regions as the weather becomes more violent and unpredictable.

Already the earth is experiencing harsher droughts, fiercer storms, and higher sea levels.

 Global Warming Trends & Predictions

The global surface temperature increase by the end of the 21st century is likely to exceed 1.5 °C relative to the 1850 to 1900 period for most scenarios, and is likely to exceed 2.0 °C for many scenarios. (from file 5706, the 2014 Fifth Assessment)

“If global warming continues, the impacts of drought, fierce storms, and higher seas will worsen for decades or centuries. Indeed, even if we ended all emissions tomorrow, additional warming is on the way thanks to the momentum built into the earth’s intricate climate system.”  (Engleman, file 5720.)

 Causes of Global Warming – Overpopulation, Coal & Oil, and Deforestation

Factors that can shape climate are called climate drivers.  These drivers include:

  • Variations in the Sun’s radiation,
  • Variations in the Earth’s orbit,
  • Variations in the reflectivity of the continents and oceans,
  • Volcanic activity and continental drift, and
  • Changes in greenhouse gas

The Climate Drivers work as non-linear, dynamic systems.  There are a variety of climate change feedbacks that can either amplify or diminish an initial climate driver.   There are also key threshold factors which when exceeded can trigger rapid, cascading change.

Of all the Drivers affecting global warming in the last 100 years, by far the most powerful has been the increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

A greenhouse gas is a gas that works to trap heat in our atmosphere, preventing it from radiating off into space, much as the glass walls and roof of a greenhouse prevent the heat inside from escaping into the air.  “Concentrated in the atmosphere, greenhouse gases do not allow the warmth of the sun’s rays reflected by the earth to be dispersed in space.” (Pope’s Encyclical)

While the greenhouse effect has been part of our atmospheric system for thousands of years, the recent marked increase in greenhouse gases, particularly CO2, threatens the existing climate and biosphere of the Earth.

Greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide, water vapor, methane, nitrous oxide and ozone.

Many other gases in our atmosphere, including Nitrogen (78% of our air) and Oxygen (21%) are not greenhouses gases – they do not work to raise the temperature of the air.

The concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has increased to levels unprecedented on earth in 800,000 years. (from file 5706, the 2014 Fifth Assessment)

Of all the greenhouse gases, Carbon Dioxide (CO2) has by far the greatest effect in increasing global warming, because it is the most prevalent and it is rising. (ref the source)  We will further explain how it contributes to global warming in a section below.

The Climate Monitoring & Diagnostics Lab on Mauna Loa says that CO2 rose in 2016 for the 47th consecutive year. (https://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/gr.html)

The National Center for Atmospheric Research predicts the atmosphere will keep warming for decades.  Earth’s future surface temperatures will be largely determined by cumulative CO2, which means climate change will continue even if CO2 emissions are stopped. (from file 5706, the 2014 Fifth Assessment)

Human Industry Causes Global Warming

There is a clear human influence on the climate. (from file 5706, the 2014 Fifth Assessment).

Human industry produces CO2 through combustion of carbon-based fuels, principally coal, oil, and natural gas; along with deforestation, soil erosion and animal agriculture. (10 wiki, “greenhouse gases”)

As we burn fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas) in our furnaces and engines, we emit CO2 into the atmosphere. CO2 is a direct waste product of the chemical reactions we call burning (oxidation).

The human race has burned a staggering amount of fossil fuels since the beginning of the industrial revolution, and as world population and living standards rise, this consumption keeps going up.

Coal, oil, and natural gas are, of course, dead plants and animals that have been condensed and buried deep underground by geological forces over millions of years.

Virtually all living animals, including humans, also burn (oxidize) the recently-living plants and animals we eat as food.  Our digestive systems prepare the food, our blood circulates it (along with oxygen from our lungs) to all the cells in our body, and the individual cells of our body oxidize (metabolize) it, supplying us with the energy to move around, think, and repair our tissues.  The waste CO2 goes back into the blood, which takes it to our lungs.  Then each time we exhale, we “dump” our waste CO2 into the air.

Fortunately, the living plant life all around us takes our waste CO2 in as a nutrient, and uses it to create new living plant material, along with other ingredients including water, sunlight, and minerals.  For the plants, the waste product is oxygen, while for us animals, oxygen is a “feedstock,” necessary for life.  In this way, plants and animals complement each other in a great planetary symbiosis.

Alas, as human populations expand, we cut down more forests and fill in more wetlands, such that the total capacity of Earth’s plant life to draw CO2 out of the atmosphere is rapidly decreasing.

Forests are now disappearing in the tropics at the rate of one Kentucky-size swath a year.  The globe’s fishing grounds, at current depletion rates, face exhaustion by the middle of the century. (add source)

“It is extremely likely (95-100%) that human influence has been the dominant cause of observed warming since 1950, with the level of confidence having increased since the fourth report.” (from file 5706, the 2014 Fifth Assessment Report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

Climate Change Deniers

Here in 2018, there is a large movement in the United States to deny the conclusions of climate change science , and especially the fact that the pollution from Earth’s huge and rapidly industrializing human population is responsible for most of the alarming increase in global warming. Backed by the fortunes and political power of U.S. industry, particularly our coal and oil companies, the climate deniers support think tanks, talk shows, authors, politicians, and talking-heads all saying that climate change is falsely generated by the “left wing” in order to weaken the American economy and promote “one-world-ism.”

The 97 % of climate scientists who agree that man-made climate change is leading Earth toward a monumental disaster are of course strongly arguing back.  At the time of this writing, there is an excellent website called Skeptical Science where all aspects of “denier thinking” is debunked by no less than 197 clear, well-documented, short essays, all organized by topic.  Go to —https://www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php

Overpopulation Causes Global Warming

“Because every human being consumes and disposes of multiple natural resources – not just petroleum but also water, wood, minerals and metals — a birth that does not occur averts consumption impacts in every direction.”  (Engleman, file 5720)

Increasing the efficiency of automobiles and replacing a coal-fired power plant with wind, solar, and tide power can reduce CO2 emissions and global warming.  “But without a population that stops growing, comparable technology improvements or lifestyle downshifts will be needed indefinitely to keep greenhouse gas emissions sustainable.”  (Engleman,  file 5720)

Human activities since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution (taken as the year 1750) have produced a 40% increase in the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, from 280 ppm in 1750 to 383 ppm in 2015.

(wiki on ‘greenhouse gases.” Footnote 6 & 7: non-copyrighted source: Blasing, T. J. (February 2013), Current Greenhouse Gas Concentrations, doi:10.3334/CDIAC/atg.032, on CDIAC 2013. “All of the reports, graphics, data, and other information on the CDIAC Web site are freely and publicly available without copyright restrictions. However as a professional courtesy, we ask that the original data source be acknowledged.”7. Ed Dlugokencky and Pieter Tans, NOAA/ESRL ([1])

Recent estimates suggest that on the current emissions trajectory the Earth could pass a threshold of 2°C global warming, which the United Nations’ IPCC designated as the upper limit for “dangerous” global warming, by 2036.  (from wiki, “greenhouse gases” Mora, C (2013). “The projected timing of climate departure from recent variability”. Nature. 502: 183–187. doi:10.1038/nature12540.)

How Do We Know that Humans Are the Major Cause of Today’s Global Warming?

Climate Change “Deniers” (people who do not believe that there is an acceleration of global warming caused by human activity), argue that the Earth has gotten hotter several times before during geologic history.  This is true.  The Earth was significantly hotter, for example, during the age of the dinosaurs.

However, prior (i.e., prehistoric) global warmings were produced by natural causes, such as an increase in the Sun’s temperature or by volcanic activity which increased the level of CO2 in the atmosphere.  Those natural causes are not presently strong enough to explain our present accelerating global warming. 

Yearly average temperatures (including “winters) reached 92 degrees Fahrenheit during the latter portion of the Cretaceous Period (from 145 to 66 million years ago).  This Period included the last and most famous part of the Age of the Dinosaurs.  The late Cretaceous also saw the advent of small mammals, birds, and flowering plants toward the end of the period.

Cretaceous global warming was likely the result of marked volcanic activity, which spiked the level of CO2 in the atmosphere to a level three and a half times the levels seen during the thousand years from the Roman Empire to the dawn of the Industrial Revolution in about 1750 CE.  Simultaneously, deep ocean temperatures were as much as 27 to 36 °F warmer than today’s. (Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels for the last 500 million years, PNAS April 2, 2002 vol. 99 no. 7 4167-4171, DOI:10.1073/pnas.022055499 )

How do scientists know that there was increased CO2 in the Cretaceous Period?  By analyzing the level of CO2 in core samples from glacier and polar ice that was laid down during the Cretaceous.

This ancient global warming caused the Cretaceous oceans to rise, flooding much of North America and Europe with shallow seas.  As a result, Earth’s oceans increased their interconnected circulation, discouraging formation of large scale ice sheets and polar caps, and accelerating the ongoing global warming.

(wiki on ‘Cretaceous Thermal Maximum,’ Poulsen, Christopher J., Andrew S. Gendaszek, and Robert L. Jacob. “Did the rifting of the Atlantic Ocean cause the Cretaceous thermal maximum?” Geology 31.2 (2003): 115-118. Web. 20 Oct. 2009. http://geology.geoscienceworld.org/cgi/content/abstract/31/2/115>.  Also *Stanley, Steven M. Earth System History. New York: W.H. Freeman and Company, 1999. ISBN 0-7167-2882-6 p. 480-2.   For confirmation, see: Dr. E. Peralta-Medina, E, and Dr. H.J.Falcon-Lang, Cretaceous forest composition and productivity inferred from a global fossil wood database. Geology 40(3) doi: 10.1130/G32733.1.  And see The Daily Galaxy via Geology and PlanetEarth Online, posted on February 28, 2012.  And see Nordt, Lee, Stacy Atchley, and Steve Dworkin. Terrestrial Evidence for Two Greenhouse Events in the Latest Cretaceous. Baylor University, 6 Oct. 2003, web 10 Nov. 2012.  And see G.R Foulger, Plates vs. Plumes: A Geological Controversy. 2010 Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 978-1-4051-6148-0.  And see Steven M. Stanley, Earth System History, New York: W.H. Freeman and Company, 1999. ISBN 0-7167-2882-6 pp. 480–2.)

Unlike the Cretaceous Period, there is no comparable high level of volcanic activity now, in modern times.  Nor are today’s seas free to circulate between Atlantic and Pacific; nor are the Polar, Canadian, and Russian Ice sheets gone, (although the ice at both poles is melting away).

How, Exactly, Does Carbon Dioxide Make the Atmosphere Hotter?

Carbon Dioxide, CO2, naturally traps heat. When the Sun’s infrared radiation hits the molecules of any greenhouse gas, including CO2, the molecules of that gas begin to vibrate.  The vibration is the heat.  Heat is defined as molecules vibrating.

The non-greenhouse gas molecules in our atmosphere, e.g. nitrogen and oxygen, do almost no vibrating when struck by the Sun’s infrared rays. (wiki on Greenhouse Gases)”

There are three reasons why scientists know that humans now cause the bulk of global warming:

  1. Only the combination of natural and human drivers explains the upward curve of global warming.
  2. There are “Human Fingerprints” on the above-normal Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere.
  3. The “Hot Layer” of the atmosphere, containing most of the CO2, is thickening.

A. Only the combination of natural and human drivers explains the upward curve of global warming.

[this section below is from https://www.terrapass.com/science-corner

“The whole climate change issue hinges on the fact that we are mining and pumping lots of carbon out of the ground where it is safely sequestered in the form of fossil fuel – coal, oil, and natural gas — and then pumping it into the atmosphere.

The Keeling Curve

This brings us to the most famous graph in climate science, the Keeling Curve:

“The atmospheric concentration of CO2 has increased from a pre-industrial era (AD 1000 – 1750) concentration of approximately 280 parts per million (ppm) to around 383 ppm, as measured at Mauna Loa, Hawaii in 2007.”  (get attribution. [2,9)

THE KEELING CURVE — Year 1700 Through September 15, 2017

(Chart Source: Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, 2017.   See  https://scripps.ucsd.edu/programs/keelingcurve/ for different time scales and data updates.  “Mauna Loa data” refers to exact scientific measurements of atmospheric CO2 concentrations taken at the peak of Mount Mauna Loa in Hawaii.)

“The Keeling Curve, above, shows in precise detail how atmospheric concentrations of CO2 have changed over past 50 years. Notice two distinct patterns in the graph:

  1. “The fine-grained saw-tooth pattern since 1950 represents the natural carbon cycle. Every summer in the northern hemisphere, grass grows, leaves sprout, and plants flower. These natural processes draw CO2 out of the air. During the northern winters, plants wither and rot, releasing their CO2 back into the air. This saw-tooth pattern shows the planet “breathing.”
  2. “The overall upward trend represents the decades-long CO2 build up in the air from the burning of fossil fuels. Every year, the baseline of the curve grows upward. This growth tracks exactly to the consumption of oil and coal.

“Before Charles Keeling started gathering his data in the 1950s, no one expected to see much meaningful systematic variability in atmospheric carbon concentrations, particularly over such short time scales. Keeling’s data was a revelation.

NOTE: “The Keeling Curve includes the well-known effects of large volcanic eruptions that spew tiny particles of ash, soot, and vapor high into the stratosphere.  These particles reflect or absorb some of the full energy of the sun, blocking it from reaching the surface of Earth, and create a global cooling trend for several years. The massive explosions from Krakatoa (Indonesia) in 1883 and Mount Pinatubo (Philippines) in 1991, for example, had measurable cooling effects (global dimmings) which can be seen in the data. “There very likely would have been even more warming in the past 60 years if it were not for these human-made and natural tiny particles.”

“The IPCC has carefully documented observed changes in air temperature, ocean temperature, ice retreat, and sea level rise over the past century.  The IPCC has also accumulated actual historical data on all the known climate drivers –the sun’s intensity, amount of volcanic activity, size and reflectivity of the ice caps, concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere, etc. Using the tools of physics and chemistry, they have calculated the effect each driver had, year by year, over the last century. (All five quotations/paraphrases  directly above are from J.L. Hansen, R. Nazarenko, et. al.  Earth’s Energy Imbalance: Confirmation and implications. 2005. Science 308: pp. 1431-1435.)

“When all the natural climate drivers are loaded into a computer model that adds up their effects, the summation of their effects does not match the actual shape of the temperature curve shown in the above Keeling Curve graph.  But when the effect of increasing man-made CO2 is added to the sum, the model does come quite close to matching the actual 50-year temperature rise shown by the Keeling Curve.(Fourth Assessment Report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). 2007.  And Fifth Assessment. 2014. Available online at https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar4/ and /ar/5 respectively.)

Next, suppose we look farther back in time:

A Keeling Curve Extending Back 450,000 Years

 

(Chart:  Atmospheric CO2 concentrations (Keeling curve) superimposed on the geologic history. Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide (Antarctic Record) Years before Present.

SOURCE:  J.R. Petit, J., et. al., Climate and atmospheric history of the past 420,000 years from the Vostok ice core, Antarctica, Nature 399, 429–436, 1999) Copyright 1999). Inset from C.D. Keeling and T.P. Whorf, Atmospheric carbon dioxide record from Mauna Loa (1957–2004), 2005, available at http://cdiac.ornl.gov/trends/co2/graphics/mlo145e_thrudc04.pdf, and earlier Keeling and Whorf CDIAC data sets.  Also shown in Ralph J. Cicerone, Forging the Future of Space Science: The Next 50 Years, 2010, National Academy of  Sciences; see https://www.nap.edu/read/12675/chapter/6)

CO2 Levels in Prehistoric Ice Cores

How do scientists know that there was increased CO2 in the Cretaceous Period?  By analyzing the level of CO2 in core sample from glacier and polar ice that laid down during the Cretaceous.

“Charles David Keeling directed a program to measure the concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere that continued without interruption from the late 1950’s through the present.  This program, operated out of Scripps Institution of Oceanography, is responsible for the Mauna Loa record, which is almost certainly the best-known icon illustrating the impact of humanity on the planet as a whole. Lessons can be learned about making long-term measurements based on the experiences of this program…

“The Mauna Loa record can now be placed in the context of the variations in CO2 over the past 400,000 years, based on reconstructions from polar ice cores. During ice ages, the CO2 levels were around 200 ppm, and during the warmer interglacial periods, the levels were around 280 ppm. The levels in 2005 were around 378 ppm.

“Looking ahead, if the rate of fossil-fuel burning continues to rise on a business-as-usual trajectory, such that humanity exhausts the reserves over the next few centuries, CO2 will continue to rise to levels of order 1500 ppm. The atmosphere will not return to pre-industrial levels even tens of thousands of years into the future. Unless serious efforts are made to reduce the dependence on fossil fuels, it is clear that we are on a threshold of a new era of geologic history, one with climate very different from that of our ancestors. These curves not only demonstrate the seriousness of the global warming problem, but also illustrate the power of continuous time series to communicate and clarify the essential science.” (all three quotations above are from Keeling Curve Lessons, Scripps CO2 Program 2017, Scripps Institution of Oceanography.  Go to   http://scrippsco2.ucsd.edu/history_legacy/keeling_curve_lessons)

B.  There are “Human fingerprints” on the Carbon Overload in the Atmosphere.

Returning to today’s climate change, scientists are able to detect the carbon atoms from burned fossil fuels separately from the carbon atoms produced by daily plant, animal, and fire activity on the surface of the Earth.

All carbon atoms have 6 protons, but the number of neutrons in the atom can vary.  These variations are called isotopes of carbon.  Carbon molecules that comes from fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas) have fewer neutrons in their nuclei than normal carbon atoms on the Earth’s surface.  Scientists are able to discern the amounts of the various isotopes when they measure samples of the atmosphere.  As scientists test the CO2 in the atmosphere over time, they see a clear increase in the percentage of carbon isotopes that come only from burning fossil fuels.

(2 = Forster, P., V. Ramaswamy, et al.  Changes in Atmospheric Constituents and in Radiative Forcing. In: Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change)

C.  The Hot, Lower Layer of the Atmosphere is Thickening.

Greenhouse gases, including the CO2 from burning fossil fuel, prefer to accumulate in the lower atmosphere (called the troposphere) and not so much in the upper atmosphere (stratosphere). As the lower atmospheric layer heats up, it expands (thickens) and pushes out the upper layer.

As the troposphere thickens, the boundary between the lower atmosphere (troposphere) and the upper atmosphere (stratosphere) has shifted upward in recent decades. This boundary is called the tropopause.

When the upward shift in the tropopause is modeled in multi-factor analyses done by climate science, the models that have both natural and human climate drivers match the observed change in tropopause height better than models with only natural climate drivers.

Also, scientists see that the upper atmosphere has been cooling, likely because the greenhouse gases are not migrating into it.  Decreased ozone in the stratosphere adds to this cooling stratosphere trend. This stratospheric cooling would not occur if the sun was the sole climate driver, as solar changes would have warmed both the stratosphere and the troposphere. [ add the reference ]

Arctic Ice and Snow Are Melting Away

Now we want to bring up a number of events and processes related to global warming which are of particular importance.

Readers can get up-to-date information of these processes on the internet.

As the Earth warms up, the Artic sea ice shrinks, glaciers shrink, and the land area covered by snow shrinks.  “It can be said with high confidence that the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have been losing mass in the last two decades and that Arctic sea ice and Northern Hemisphere spring snow cover have continued to decrease in extent.” (from file 5706, the 2014 Fifth Assessment)

As the ice and snow diminish, they reflect less of the sun’s heat back up into space, creating a positive feedback loop which exacerbates global warming

“Sea ice increases in Antarctica do not make up for the accelerated Arctic sea ice loss of the last decades,” a December 2015 NASA study finds. As a whole, the planet has been shedding sea ice at an average annual rate of 13,500 square miles… since 1979, the equivalent of losing an area of sea ice larger than the state of Maryland every year.” https://www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/nasa-study-shows-global-sea-ice-diminishing-despite-antarctic-gains

These melting events are already well underway.  The U.S. Coast Guard and Navy are hard at work preparing new ships and systems to patrol an Arctic Sea that is vastly expanded due to shrinking polar ice.  Canadian polar bears, unable to hunt seals from arctic ice-flows, are declining in numbers, with survivors migrating south to mate with forest-dwelling brown and black bears.

“Further decreases are very likely (90%-100) in Arctic sea ice cover, northern hemisphere spring snow cover, and global glacier volume.” (from file 5706, the 2014 Fifth Assessment)

Methane Is Escaping from Arctic Tundra

 “The Arctic region is heating up twice as quickly as the rest of the globe, and this heat is rapidly melting sea ice in the Arctic Ocean as well as the permafrost, which underlies 8.8 million square miles of the Northern Hemisphere…” (Sarah Simpson, The Peril Below the Ice, Sci-Am, Earth 3.0, Population & Sustainability, 2009)

“Permafrost, which averages 80 feet thick, is chock-full of dead plant and animal matter that has been locked in cold storage for thousands of years…”  (Sarah Simpson below)

“Thawing a block of permafrost is like taking a package of frozen hamburger out of the freezer and leaving it on the kitchen counter. As the meat warms, ravenous microbes consume it, giving off a gas as a by-product. On dry land, microbes convert the dead animal and plant matter primarily into CO2.  But in the wet, oxygen-starved depths of [arctic] lakes, they instead release methane.” (Sarah Simpson, The Peril Below the Ice, Sci-Am, Earth 3.0, Population & Sustainability, 2009)

“Methane in the atmosphere traps 25 times more of the sun’s heat than CO2 does…” (Sarah Simpson, The Peril Below the Ice, Sci-Am, Earth 3.0, Population & Sustainability, 2009)

“Conventional wisdom long held that permafrost should take thousands of years to melt away, so researchers expected it to play a negligible role in climate change. But recent findings — studies of arctic lakes by Dr. Katey Walter of the University of Alaska in particular—have wrecked that prediction…

“In a complete Arctic thaw, the myriad lakes of the far Canadian and Siberian north and their underlying permafrost could discharge a whopping 50 billion tons of methane: 10 times the amount already helping to heat the planet… “

“Even a modest release of methane could trigger a vicious cycle: warming releases methane and creates lakes, which thaw permafrost and liberate more gas, which intensifies warming, which creates more lakes, and so on…” (Sarah Simpson, The Peril Below the Ice, Sci-Am, Earth 3.0, Population & Sustainability, 2009)

Seas Are Rising

The progressive melting of artic ice and snow is causing the sea level to rise. “There is high confidence that the rise in the sea level since the middle of the 19th century has been larger than the mean sea level rise of the prior two millennia.” (from file 5706, the 2014 Fifth Assessment)
Coastal areas and islands are flooding more often and more severely.

“Global mean sea level will continue to rise at a rate very likely to exceed the rate of the past four decades.”  (from file 5706, the 2014 Fifth Assessment)

Oceans Are Becoming Warmer and More Acidic due to CO2 in the Seawater

The increased CO2 in the atmosphere is readily absorbed into the oceans, making them both hotter and more acidic. (from file 5706, the 2014 Fifth Assessment)

“It is virtually certain (99%-100%) that the upper ocean warmed from 1971 to 2010. This ocean warming accounts, with high confidence, for 90% of the energy accumulation between 1971 and 2010.” (from file 5706, the 2014 Fifth Assessment)

Coral Reefs are Dying from CO2 in the Seas

Coral reefs, the “rainforests of the sea,” are some of the most biodiverse and productive ecosystems on earth. They occupy only 0.2% of the ocean, yet are home to a quarter of all marine species: crustaceans, reptiles, seaweeds, bacteria, fungi, and over 4000 species of fish make their home in coral reefs…  But tragically, coral reefs are in crisis. (Renee Cho, Losing Our Coral Reefs, State of the Planet, Earth Institute, Columbia University, June 13, 2011)

“Coral reefs are endangered by warming seas and increasing levels of CO2…  The 30 million tons of carbon dioxide our oceans absorb every day is changing the chemistry of seawater and increasing acidification. Today, coral reefs are experiencing warmer ocean temperatures and more acidity than they have at any time in the last 400,000 years. Acidification reduces the water’s carrying capacity for the calcium carbonate that corals need to build their skeletons.

“According to Reefs at Risk Revisited, a 2011 report by the World Resources Institute (WRI), 75% of the world’s coral reefs are at risk from local and global stresses. Ten percent of coral reefs have already been damaged beyond repair, and if we continue with business as usual, WRI projects that 90% of coral reefs will be in danger by 2030, and all of them by 2050.”

Fish Species Are Going Extinct

There are an estimated 3.5 trillion fish in the ocean.[20] In the last 100 years, the number of small fish – such as pilchards, herrings, anchovies, sprats and sardines – has more than doubled. It is caused by a major decline in big ‘predator fish’ such as sharks, tuna and cod due to over-fishing.[21= David Derbyshire, The Daily Mail.com, MailOnLine, 2-21-11]

The globe’s fishing grounds, at current depletion rates, are facing exhaustion by the middle of the century. (Population & Sustainability, By Robert Engelman on June 1, 2009, Scientific American)

Deserts Are Enlarging

“Global warming causes the Earth’s water cycle to change, with increasing disparity between wet and dry regions, as well as wet and dry seasons, with some regional exceptions.” (from file 5706, the 2014 Fifth Assessment).

Another vicious climate-change circle begins:  As forests are destroyed for agriculture, the land becomes more vulnerable to desertification.  As desertification happens, still more plant life is lost, reducing the planet’s ability to sequester CO2, further increasing global warming.

Fresh Water Shortages Appear

The United Nations projects there will be more than four billion people living in nations defined as water-scarce or water-stressed by 2050, up from half a billion in 1995. (from 5720 — Robert Engelman on June 1, 2009, Scientific American  )

“Water is increasingly in short supply in many countries as the competition for that resource among households, industry and agriculture intensifies. Consequently, each new increase in food production is becoming more expensive to obtain. This is especially true if one considers environmental costs not reflected in the price of agricultural products.”… (John Bongaarts, “Population: Ignoring its Impact, Sci-Am, jan 2002mp.67

Food Shortages – Due to Overpopulation, Deserts, Lack of Water, Fewer Fish in the Sea

“Technological optimists are probably correct in claiming that overall food production can be increased substantially over the next few decades. Average crop yields are still below the levels achieved in the most productive countries.”  (John Bongaarts, Population: Ignoring Its Impact, Scientific American, Jan, 2002. p. 69)

Agricultural expansion, however, will be costly, especially if global food production has to rise twofold or even threefold to accommodate the demand for better diets from several billion more people. Why?  Because the new land being cultivated is generally of poorer quality than the lands already used for crops, and the new land will cost more to irrigate.  (John Bongaarts, “Population: Ignoring its Impact, Sci-Am, jan 2002mp.67

A large expansion of agriculture to provide growing populations with improved diets will likely lead to further deforestation, loss of species, soil erosion, and pollution from pesticides and fertilizer runoff.

Deforestation – Due to Overpopulation’s Need for Agricultural Land to Grow Food.

Forests Sequester CO2

The world’s forests and jungles are massive consumers of CO2.  In photosynthesis, plants breathe in CO2, and then strip the “C” (carbon) away from the O2 (oxygen).  The plants use the “C” to build new plant tissues, and breathe out the O2.

Rate of Deforestation

Forests are now disappearing in the tropics at the rate of one Kentucky-size swath a year.  (Population & Sustainability: By Robert Engelman on June 1, 2009, Scientific American)

Between 2000 and 2012, 890,000 square miles of forests around the world were cut down.  As a result of deforestation, only 2.4 million square miles remain of the original 6 million square miles of forest that formerly covered the Earth. (“Facts About Rainforests”. The Nature Conservancy. Retrieved 2015-10-19).

According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), overall tropical deforestation rates this decade are 8.5 percent higher than during the 1990s, and the loss of the wildest and most diverse swaths has likely increased by as much as 25 percent since the 1990s. (Measuring the Daily Destruction of the World’s Rainforests, Scientific American, https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/earth-talks-daily-destruction/)

Pinning down exact numbers is nearly impossible, but most experts agree that we are losing upwards of 80,000 acres (125 square miles) of tropical rainforest daily, and significantly degrading another 80,000 acres every day on top of that.

Deforestation makes Global Warming Worse

Loss of the Amazon rainforest and others makes global warming worse. Not only do we lose the carbon sequestration, but we also lose the rainforests’ stabilizing effect on Earth’s water cycle and the immense biodiversity of plants and animals that live in the Amazon.

Deforestation Reduces Biodiversity

About 50% (some sources say as much as 80%) of the world’s known biodiversity can be found in tropical rainforests, which are the most diverse ecosystems on Earth. (Measuring the Daily Destruction of the World’s Rainforests, Scientific American, https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/earth-talks-daily-destruction/)

Destruction of significant areas of forest cover has resulted in reduced biodiversity, including degradation of the microbial community which is involved in the recycling of nutrients, the production of clean water, and the removal of pollutants. [65]

Along with this destruction and degradation, we are losing some 135 plant, animal and insect species every day—or some 50,000 species a year—as the forests fall. (Measuring the Daily Destruction of the World’s Rainforests, Scientific American, https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/earth-talks-daily-destruction/)

Environmentalists also point out that a quarter of our modern pharmaceuticals are derived from rainforest ingredients, but less than one percent of the trees and plants in the tropics have been tested for curative properties. Sadly, then, we don’t really know the true value of what we’re losing as we slash, burn, and plant over what was once a treasure trove of biodiversity.

According to Chipper Wichman, President & CEO of the National Tropical Botanical Garden, (speaking on PBS, Feb __ 2015):  “Today, one-third of all tropical plant species are threatened.”

Loss of Tidal Wetlands Reduces Biodiversity.

The rising seas of warmer and more acidic water will destroy present-day tidal wetlands, which are vital breeding grounds and nurseries from thousands of species of insects, fish, amphibians, and birds.

Wetlands are also lost to infilling for agriculture, commercial and industrial uses.  In the 1600’s, before any significant settlement by Europeans, over 220 million acres of wetlands existed in what is now the lower 48 states of the U.S. (Dahl and Johnson 1991).

Since then, so many original wetlands have been drained and converted to farmland and residential/commercial use that today, less than half of the original wetlands remain. (Major Causes of Wetlands Loss and Degradation, North Carolina State University, http://www.water.ncsu.edu/watershedss/info/wetlands/wetloss.html)

Loss of Coral Reefs Reduces Biodiversity

“Coral reefs are believed by many to have the highest biodiversity of any ecosystem on the planet—even more than a tropical rainforest. Occupying less than one percent of the ocean floor, coral reefs are home to more than twenty-five percent of marine life.(Coral Reef Alliance, Coral Reef Biodiversity.”  http://coral.org/coral-reefs-101/coral-reef-ecology/coral-reef-biodiversity/)

“Coral reefs support more species per unit area than any other marine environment, including about 4,000 species of fish, 800 species of hard corals and hundreds of other species. Scientists estimate that there may be another 1 to 8 million undiscovered species of organisms living in and around reefs (Reaka-Kudla, 1997). This biodiversity is considered key to finding new medicines for the 21st century. Many drugs are now being developed from coral reef animals and plants as possible cures for cancer, arthritis, human bacterial infections, viruses, and other diseases.

(Costanza et al., 1997). (NOAA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Ocean

Service Education:

http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/education/kits/corals/coral07_importance.html)

The Great Barrier Reef is the largest living structure on Earth.  In March 2016, a warming of the seawater led to a great bleaching event at the Great Barrier Reef.  While all the data are not yet in, it appears that half of the reef’s corals have died.  January 8, 2010 edition of Science

“In the oceans, new species and genera tend to originate in the tropics and in the shallows near shore,” says paleobiologist Carl Simpson of Humboldt University in Berlin, one of the researchers on the new paper. In fact, of the 6,615 seabed invertebrates surveyed in the so-called Paleobiology Database, 1,426 evolved in a reef ecosystem.

As Pope Francis has written,  “In tropical and subtropical seas, we find coral reefs comparable to the great forests on dry land, for they shelter approximately a million species, including fish, crabs, mollusks, sponges and algae. Many of the world’s coral reefs are already barren or in a state of constant decline. “Who turned the wonderworld of the seas into underwater cemeteries bereft of color and life?”[25]

“Scientists fear coral reefs as we know them could disappear by 2050 if we don’t switch to cleaner energy resources.” (CNN.com/Vanishing)

More About Loss of Biodiversity

Biologists most often define biodiversity as the “totality of genes, species, and ecosystems of a region.”  (from wiki, footnotes[28][29] )

The Earth depends on its biodiversity for everything from crop pollination, to waste decomposition, to the discovery of new drugs to cure human disease.  Every species possesses its own beauty in appearance and in action.  Every species plays a unique role in the great ecosystem of Earth.  Every species contains a trove of bio-systemic and genetic information yet to be studied and understood.

The world is losing species at an alarming rate. Researchers at the United Nations Environment Program World Conservation Monitoring Centre in the U.K. and colleagues have found that  “…Fifty-eight percent of the world’s land—home to more than 70 percent of the human population—has lost more than 10 percent of its biodiversity, placing it below the ‘safe’ limit within which ecological function is relatively unaffected. “(Biodiversity Has Fallen Below “Safe” Levels. By Tanya Lewis, reporting in The Scientist on 7/18/16 on a study published in Science, July 14, 2016.)

“The five activities responsible for biodiversity loss can be remembered by the acronym HIPPO, which indicates the “magnitude of impact” of each activity:

  • Habitat destruction,
  • Invasive species,
  • Pollution,
  • (over-) Population of humans, and
  • Overharvesting by hunting and fishing.”

(E. O. Wilson, Preserving Biodiversity Is an Ethical Imperative …https://www.scientificamerican.com/…/eo-wilson-preserving-biodiversity-is-an-ethical…)

The Rate of Extinction

Estimates on the number of Earth’s current species range from 9 million to 14 million, of which about 1.2 million have been documented and over 86 percent have not yet been described. (Mora, C.; Tittensor, D.P.; Adl, S.; Simpson, A.G.; Worm, B. (23 August 2011). “How many species are there on Earth and in the ocean?”. PLOS Biology.)

Of course, species have been going extinct for millions of years. But prior to the advent of humans, the rate of species extinction – called the background rate of extinction – was mild compared to what we see today.

According to a new study, the present rate of species extinction is 1,000 times higher than the natural background rates of extinction that occurred in the 60 million years before humans came along. (lead author Jurriaan de Vos, a Brown University postdoctoral researcher, senior author Stuart Pimm, a Duke University professor, and their team appears online in the journal Conservation Biology, 8/26/14.)

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), 744 extinctions have been recorded since the year 1500, the arbitrary date selected to define “recent” extinctions, up to the year 2016.

(2016-3 Red List, Table 3a.   http://cmsdocs.s3.amazonaws.com/summarystats/2016-3_Summary_Stats_Page_Documents/2016_3_RL_Stats_Table_3a.pdf)

Endangered Species

An endangered species is one that has been categorized as “likely to become extinct” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The (IUCN) is sponsored by over 1200 governmental and non-governmental organizations and enlists the works of 11,000 scientists worldwide.  The IUCN formally assesses survival risk for as many of Earth’s known species as it can and publishes “Red Lists” of at-risk organisms within each nation and region.

In 2016, the IUCN, listed 6,197 plant species and 6,774 animal species as Critically Endangered (CE) or Endangered (EN) worldwide.   These 2016 figures were 3-to-4 times larger than the respective numbers for 1998.   It is also important to note that in 2016, the IUCN the was only able to evaluate survival risk for less than 5% of the world’s known and described animal species.  (http://cmsdocs.s3.amazonaws.com/summarystats/2016-3_Summary_Stats_Page_Documents/2016_3_RL_Stats_Table_3a.pdf.  And also Table 3b.pdf.)

How Human Overpopulation Kills Off Species

To sum up the prior few pages, Human overpopulation kills off plant and animal species in a number of different ways:

  • When humans convert will land to farm fields, we destroy native plants and habitats.
  • Humans hunt animals to near extinction for their meat, furs, skins ivory, oils, and horns.
  • Humans hunt animals to near extinction because they are “pests.”
  • Human chemicals and wastes pollute and poison oceans, lakes, rivers, and soils.
  • Human-caused global warming kills species (e.g. corals) and produces deserts.
  • International trade spreads diseases and invasive species.

Examples of Well-Known Species in Danger of Extinction

SOURCES:   1. CNN.com/Vanishing.   2. Other sources as noted

  • African Elephants: There are only about 500,000 elephants left in Africa. Mike Chase surveyed African elephant populations by air in 2016 {?} and found that 30% have disappeared between 2009 and today = 144,000 lost animals.  If poaching continues, experts fear African elephants could disappear within 20 years.  Ivory poaching is increasingly funded by organized crime. Poachers have killed 1000 wildlife rangers in Africa in the last ten years.  The ivory goes to the China market, where it is prized for carvings and jewelry.
  • Orangutans are on the brink of extinction, because their habitat is being cleared for palm oil plantations.
  • The monarch butterfly migration is in jeopardy.
  • Bees are suffering. More than 25% of bumblebees in the US are at risk for extinction. (Bees help pollinate 35% of the world’s food.)
  • Amphibians: About 40% of amphibians are at risk for extinction; mostly from diseases, such as the chytrid fungus, which is believed to spread through international trade.
  • Giraffes: Only 97,000 are left in Africa.  Giraffe are being hunted for their meat by the exploding African population.  Giraffe habitats are shrinking as the land is adapted to agriculture or becomes desert due to global warming.  Giraffes have declined by 40% in the last three decades. (Giraffes, Towering and Otherworldly, Are ‘Vulnerable’ to Extinction, by Partick Healey, Science Times 12-8-16.)
  • Sharks: The IUCN lists 73 species of sharks as Critically Endangered, Endangered, or Vulnerable. The Great White Shark is listed as Vulnerable. Population declines are mostly due to over-fishing by Asian commercial fleets for use in shark fin soup. About 100 million sharks are killed by fishing every year.  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_threatened_sharks)
  • Gorilla: All species and sub-species of gorilla are listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List.
  • Black Rhinoceros – Critically endangered. Hunted for its unique horn, composed of packed hair, which is valued in Asia as a supposed aphrodisiac

Critically Endangered (CR) Species in 2016  – Extremely high risk of extinction in the wild

Examples:  Addax · African wild ass · Alabama cavefish · Amur leopard · Arakan forest turtle · Asiatic cheetah ·  axolotl · Bactrian camel · black rhino, blue-throated macaw · Brazilian merganser · brown spider monkey · California condor · Chinese alligator · Chinese giant salamander · gharial · Hawaiian monk seal · Ivory-billed Woodpecker · Javan rhino · kakapo · Leadbeater’s possum · Mediterranean monk seal · mountain gorilla · northern hairy-nosed wombat · Philippine eagle · red wolf · saiga · Siamese crocodile · Malayan tiger · Spix’s macaw · southern bluefin tuna · South China tiger · Sumatran orangutan · Sumatran rhinoceros · Sumatran tiger · vaquita · Yangtze river dolphin · northern white rhinoceros · hawksbill sea turtle · Kemp’s ridley sea turtle

Endangered (EN) Species in 2016 – Very high risk of extinction in the wild

Examples:  African penguin · African wild dog[a] · Asian elephant · Asiatic lion · Australasian bittern · blue whale ·  bonobo · Bornean orangutan · common chimpanzee · dhole · eastern lowland gorilla · hispid hare · giant otter · Goliath frog · green sea turtle · loggerhead sea turtle ·  Grevy’s zebra · hyacinth macaw · Humblot’s heron ·Iberian lynx · Japanese crane · Japanese night heron · Lear’s macaw · Malayan tapir · markhor · Malagasy pond heron · Persian leopard · proboscis monkey · purple-faced langur · pygmy hippopotamus · red-breasted goose · Rothschild’s giraffe · snow leopard · South Andean deer · Sri Lankan elephant · takhi (near Critically Endangered) Toque macaque · Vietnamese pheasant · volcano rabbit · wild water buffalo · white-eared night heron · fishing cat · Tasmanian devil

Vulnerable (VU) Species in 2016 — High risk of endangerment in the wild

Examples:  African grey parrot · African bush elephant[b] · African lion · American paddlefish · common carp · clouded leopard · cheetah · dugong · Far Eastern curlew · fossa · Galapagos tortoise · gaur · blue-eyed cockatoo · golden hamster · whale shark · hippopotamus · Humboldt penguin · Indian rhinoceros · Komodo dragon · lesser white-fronted goose · mandrill · maned sloth · mountain zebra · polar bear · red panda · sloth bear · takin · yak · great white shark · American crocodile · dingo · king cobra.

Social Unrest, War and Terrorism: Due to Conflict Over Resources and Ethnicity

Overpopulation causes additional disaster beyond global warming, pollution, and species extinction.  Overpopulation also leads to conflict, war, ethnic cleansing, and mass migration.

Often, the conflict is over resources – land, water, access to the sea.  The conflict can also be ethnic, religious, and/or tribal – people do not want to live crowded together in and around others who have different customs and costumes.

Before the rise of city-states, it was possible for bands of human hunter-gatherers to live for generations on their own patches of land.  Even so, back through pre-history, “Archaeologists have found burials of massacred people to be commonplace. Tools from the earliest Neolithic Period include instruments clearly designed for fighting.”  (SOCE 67)

Today, centuries of population growth increasingly places nations into conflict at their borders.    Here’s a quick list (hardly comprehensive) of such conflicts, just since 1800:

  • Turks vs. Armenians (genocide); European settlers vs. Native Americans (near extinction); Spanish Conquistadores vs. Native South Americans; World War I; Serbs vs. Croatians vs. Bosnians; Nazi genocide of European Jews; Apartheid in South Africa; Palestine vs Israel; Hutu genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda; Sunni vs. Shiite; radical Muslim terrorism; Khmer Rouge extermination of middle and upper classes of Cambodia; Stalinist purges; Forced emigrations from Africa to Italy; from Mexico to the U.S.; from Europe to Israel; Warfare leading to separation of India and Pakistan; Sudan genocide against Darfur.  (For additional information, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_genocides_by_death_toll.)
  • In the USSR, during Stalin’s Great Terror, three million Ukrainians were denied food and starved to death in the winter of 1932-33. (SCOE 63)
  • “In 1994, killers from the Hutu majority in Rwanda set out to exterminate the Tutsi minority, which at that time ruled the country…800,000 people died, mostly Tutsi…. When a halt was finally called, two million Hutu fled the country, fearing retribution. “The… causes for the bloodbath… all stemmed from one root cause: Rwanda was the most overcrowded country in Africa.”  (Wilson SCOE 63.  Get HIS reference from HIS footnotes, and use that.)
  • “Senegal has already hit the +2-degree centigrade point of no return, and is “headed to four.” Many villages have lost virtually all their men to emigration.”  (Tom Friedman on Charlie Rose show, 11-23 or so 2016)

The Practice of G>O>D says:  It is only natural for people to want to preserve their own ethnicity and culture.  It is a politically correct fairy-tale that people will be most happy if we live in one giant ethnic and cultural mix, where everyone has the same customs, speech, music, and customs.  Each natural ethnic-religions group (e.g. the Kurds, Sunni, Shia, Irish, Hutu and Tutsi, just to name a few) should be allowed (to the extent practicable) to establish their own free and independent nation.

Other Problems of Overpopulation

Plagues

Plagues cannot arise unless there is high population in a given area.  You can’t have accelerating contagion without concentrated population.  “Over” population could be defined as the population density required to support and sustain a plague.  Therefore, we could even view plagues as one of Earth’s (“Gaia’s”) defenses against over-population.

Urban Blight

“Many cities are huge, inefficient structures, excessively wasteful of energy and water.  Neighborhoods, even those recently built, are congested, chaotic, and lacking in sufficient green space…” (Francis I)

Crowding and automation produce unemployment, exclusion, inequitable distribution… social breakdown, increased violence… new forms of social aggression, growing drug use, and the loss of identity.” (Francis I)

Cheapened Internet Culture

Real relationships with others tend to be replaced “by a type of internet communication which enables us to choose or eliminate relationships at whim, thus giving rise to a new type of contrived emotion which has more to do with devices and displays than with other people and with nature.” (Francis I)

Young, Unproductive Populations

“Rapid population growth leads to a young population, one in which as much as half is below the age of entry into the labor force. These young people have to be fed, housed, clothed and educated; but they are not productive, thus constraining the economy.”  (John Bongaarts, Population: Ignoring its Impact, Scientific American, Jan 2002 p.67)

“The streets of Lagos, Manaus, Karachi, and other cities in the developing world are a sea of children. To an observer fresh from Europe or North America, the crowds give the feel of a gigantic school just let out. In at least 68 of the countries, more than 40 percent of the population is under 15 years of age.”  (Wilson Bottleneck)

“Rapid population growth creates a huge demand for new jobs. A large number of applicants for a limited number of jobs exerts downward pressure on wages, contributing to poverty and inequality…  Both of these adverse economic effects are reversible by reducing birth rates….” (John Bongaarts, Population: Ignoring its Impact, Scientific American, Jan 2002 p.67)

In short – the cities of the developing world now have more kids than we can educate, more young adults than we can employ.  Too often they can become cannon fodder in ethnic and religious wars.

Pollution

Nine million tons of plastic end up in the ocean each year. This equates to one garbage truck-full per minute.

By 2015, researchers expected the ocean to contain more plastic than fish by weight.

Virtually every albatross that scientists cut open has plastic in its stomach.  Seabird populations may already have declined 70% between 1950 and 2010.

“Underground water sources in many places are threatened by the pollution produced in certain mining, farming and industrial activities, especially in countries lacking adequate regulation or controls. It is not only a question of industrial waste. Detergents and chemical products, commonly used in many places of the world, continue to pour into our rivers, lakes and seas.” (Francis I)

Possible Solutions from Technology 

Technological Progress — Past, Present, and Future Opportunities

For decades, Amory Lovins, Chairman and Chief Scientist of the Rocky Mountain Institute, has been capturing and conveying critical information about energy technology and conservation opportunities.  Below are bullet points taken from his 2005 article, More Profit with Less Carbon, published in Scientific American, ____  2005 (see file 5715.)

  • The U.S. now uses 47 percent less energy per dollar of economic output than it did 30 years ago, lowering costs by $1 billion a day…
  • Converting coal at the power plant into incandescent light in your house is only 3 percent efficient.
  • Most of the waste heat discarded at U.S. power stations—which amounts to 20 percent more energy than Japan uses for everything—could be lucratively recycled.
  • About 5 percent of household electricity in the U.S. is lost to energizing computers, televisions and other appliances that are “turned off,” yet still draw power for monitoring.
  • Many energy-efficient products, once costly and exotic, are now inexpensive and commonplace. Electronic speed controls, for example, are mass-produced so cheaply that some suppliers give them away as a free bonus with each motor.
  • Compact fluorescent lamps cost more than $20 two decades ago but only $2 to $5 today; they use 75 to 80 percent less electricity than incandescent bulbs and last 10 to 13 times longer.
  • Window coatings that transmit light but reflect heat cost one fourth of what they did five years ago. (Amory Lovins, “More Profit with Less Carbon, Sci-Am 2005 (see file 5715.)
  • Despite 119 years of refinement, the modern car remains astonishingly inefficient. Only 13 percent of its fuel energy even reaches the wheels—the other 87 percent is either dissipated as heat and noise in the engine and drivetrain or lost to idling and accessories such as air conditioners. Of the energy delivered to the wheels, more than half heats the tires, road and air.
  • Mass production and improved engineering have made modern wind turbines big (generating two to five megawatts each), extremely reliable and environmentally quite benign. Denmark already gets a fifth of its electricity from wind, Germany a tenth. Germany and Spain are each adding more than 2,000 megawatts of wind power each year.
  • The morning-after birth control pill.
  • Partially-reflective, super-thin shield deployed in the stratosphere over Earth.
  • Re-habbing all existing buildings for energy efficiency.
  • Roof gardens, hydroponics, less food waste, process and eat insects.
  • More and more biodegradable products
  • Use more fast-growing bamboo (requiring few if any chemicals) for building.

The Breakthrough Energy Coalition (BEC)

Some of the most exciting and substantial new efforts in Energy Technologies to Reduce C02 emissions come from the Breakthrough Energy Coalition BEC).   http://www.breakthroughenergycoalition.com/en/index.html

Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, Jack Ma, and a number of other billionaires and centi-millionaires have joined to form the BEC. Together, they have identified 12 promising technology groups in which to invest their own venture capital through the vehicle of the BEC. The Coalition aims to have at least 5 good start-up firms in each of the 12 groups, thus funding 60 companies in all. Separately but contemporaneously, a number of world governments have agreed to double the money they are spending on related basic energy research, including at the U.S. National Laboratories.

The BEC’s 12 Planned Areas of Research and Investment cover these 14 investment areas:

  • Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS)
  • Ultra-Low-Cost Wind Power
  • Ultra-Low-Cost Solar Power (including possible sunlight to gasoline)
  • Nuclear Fusion (possible small-scale, sodium cooled, depleted uranium fueled)
  • Ultra-Low-Cost Electricity Storage
  • Ultra-Low-Cost Thermal Storage
  • Ultra-Low-Cost Transmission of Electricity
  • Low-Cost Ocean Energy (electricity from tides, waves, temperature gradients)
  • Next-Generation Ultra-Flexible Electric Grid Management
  • Fast-Ramping, Low-GHG (Green-House-Gas) Power Plants
  • Low-GHG, Reliable, Distributed Power (where the
  • power generation is close to its use)
  • CO₂ Capture
  • CO₂ Sequestration and Use
  • Next-Generation Nuclear Fission

The Example of BEC’s Nuclear Power Projects:  Bill Gates is excited about  an outfit called Terrapower, which is building a 4th-generation breeder reactor.  This reactor can  get its fuel from old depleted conventional nuclear plant fuel, and we have enough of that to last for 750 years.  The first 4th-generation breeder plant will be in China.  Nathan Myhrvold, formerly chief technology officer at Microsoft and founder of Intellectual Ventures, says there are now 40 startup companies doing advanced nuclear designs, including the “molten salt reactor” which has been successfully has been tested at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (although the salt presents corrosion problems).  Both the 4th-generation breeder and the molted salt plants don’t need a coolant, because when the fuels get too hot it naturally expands.  The expansion moves the fuel’s atoms away from each other, and the nuclear chain reaction automatically stops.

Our Excuses For Not Doing More to Earth’s Biosphere

Luckily, there are enough climate-change-believing billionaires who are willing to fund the Breakthrough Energy Coalition’s investments.  One or more of the Coalition’s new technologies may save us all – humans and biosphere both.  But why haven’t the rest of us – the governments, the voters – already done more, and done it sooner?

We can break this question down into two parts:

First — why are we not reducing the human population faster than we are?
Second – Why does the present population (all of us) continue to waste resources and pollute the Earth?

Our Excuses for Having Too Many Children

To begin with, we must acknowledge that material progress could continue without any conservation or energy efficiency increases, if Earth simply had a smaller population.  If Earth had, say 4 million people instead of today’s 7.4-million-growing-to-11-million people, every one of those 4 million could enjoy a healthful, educated, rewarding standard of living under today’s technological and economic systems.  From that point, with zero population growth, we could go on to achieve higher levels of invention and culture with far greater ease.

But world population is rising, not falling.

Excuse #1 – “We Will Level Off at 11.4 million”

No one wants to do anything much about the expected rise of world population from 7.4 billion to 11 billion, because 11 billion is forecasted to be the peak.

The “experts” say the present high birth rates in Africa and Asia will be cut in half as the women living in those regions become prosperous, educated, and aspiring.  So we have all effectively decided to just sit and wait.

But suppose, in the face of on-going desertification and ethnic warfare, African women are never able to choose lower birth rates?  What then?

Excuse #2 – Past Attempts to Reduce Birth Rates Have Failed

Experts believe that attempts to social-engineer lower birth rates have failed in the past and will fail again if we try them in the future.

Robert Engelman, Senior Fellow at the Worldwatch Institute, has looked at the extreme birth control measures tried in the past and writes, “Should we restructure tax rates to favor small families? Propagandize the benefits of small families for the planet? Reward family-planning workers for clients they have sterilized? Each of those steps alone or in combination might help bend birthrates downward for a time, but none has proved to affect demographic trends over the long term or, critically, to gain and keep public support.”  (Engelman, file 5720)

NOTE: The Path of G>O>D> would advocate educating and publicizing; but never “propagandizing.” The Path of G>O>D> would advocate “sterilization” only with the fully-informed consent of the pregnant woman, in consultation with her loved ones and her physician. Family-planning workers should be paid fixed salaries and never by tallies of their supposed successes.

Scholars say that even the 400 million births supposedly avoided by China’s strict One-child Policy, (in effect from 1979 until phase-out began in 2015), were really achieved by the marked economic development achieved in those decades. (“Challenging Myths about China’s One-Child Policy” (PDF). scholar.harvard.edu. Retrieved 2016-06-06.)

Maybe so.  But likely China’s economic development was strongly aided by massive intentional and unintentional “sales efforts” – movies, T.V. programs – visually extolling the satisfactions of having one (and since 2016, two) children…  if those children are healthy, educated, and prosperous.

Thomas Rieder of the Berman Institute of Bioethics at Johns Hopkins University has said, “In the 1970s and ’80s, a wave of educational soap operas in Latin America, Asia and Africa wove family planning into their plot lines. Some countries did this when they faced economic crisis. The shows are credited with actually changing people’s opinions about family size.” (Travis Rieder, quoted in: Should We Be Having Kids In The Age Of Climate Change,? by Jennifer Ludden, NPR News, All Things Considered , August 18, 2016.)

Excuse #3 – “God Wants Us to Have Large Families.”

The just-mentioned desertification and ethnic warfare in Africa is compounded by militant Islam encouraging Muslim families to have as many children as possible, in order to “swamp” adjacent non-Muslim populations.

Christopher Caldwell, author of Reflections on the Revolution in Europe:  Immigration, Islam, and the West, writes that the large and growing population Muslim immigrants to Europe may not make the expected transition to two children per family.  He writes, “Muslim culture is unusually full of messages laying out the practical advantages of procreation.  As the hadith saying has it: ‘Marry, for I will outnumber peoples by you’ (Ibn Majah, 1:599). The late Yassir Arafat… called the wombs of Palestinian women the ‘secret weapon’ of his cause.” (pg 15-16)

The spike in African population is in fact getting a significant boost from the international charities working to eradicate disease on that continent.  Hopefully, a significant fraction of that money and effort is spent to distribute birth control pills, and to educate and free the women of the continent from male domination.

Of course, the Catholic Church continues to oppose “artificial” forms of birth control such as birth control pills, out of the belief that God anthropomorphically intends and sparks the life of each individual child that is born.  Children are gifts from God, and human technology must not be used to interfere with God’s intention.

If we look at religious doctrine through the lens of sociology, we see two things going on:

First – Large families were surely desirable when the child death rate was high, when children were needed to tend family crops and the herds, and when aging parents had no “social safety net” to rely on except the support of their children.

Second – larger Catholic or Muslim families means more Catholics or Muslims.  As sociologist Max Weber wrote, the primary objective of every bureaucracy is self- preservation.

We Builders in G>O>D> have these things to say:

Given the great number of unprepared and incompetent parents in the world, would it be wrong and immoral for society to license childbirth and parenting?   Or to provide financial incentives favoring small families and disfavoring large ones? 

We license car driving because each individual driver in a moving car affects the other people around that car.  Similarly, when a couple has a child, that child affects all the other people (and the biosphere) around that child.

Moreover, in today’s world, it’s not only the parents who are responsible for the health, safety, and education of the child, it is also society as a whole.  Therefore, society as a whole should have a say in the number of children each mother and father have.

In the 1970’s, the United States had an active Zero Population Growth (ZPG) Movement.  But today, we don’t hear about overpopulation, we hear only stand-in euphemisms like “urban sprawl.”

In the United States today, a housewife may say to a Talk Show Host, “I just feel so tired; so disorganized.  I can’t manage my four kids.”  And the Host responds, “Organize your time, eat better, get more rest.”  But the Host never answers, “Stop having kids!”

Conceivable Future, a nonprofit founded on the notion that “the climate crisis is a reproductive crisis.” Is now trying to take the reins once help by ZPG.  Josephine Ferorelli and Meghan Kallman are the co-founders of Conceivable Future.”

Oregon State University researchers have calculated the savings from all kinds of conservation measures: driving a hybrid, driving less, recycling, using energy-efficient appliances, windows and light bulbs.  Their key finding–

For an American, the total metric tons of carbon dioxide saved by all of those measures over an entire lifetime of 80 years: 488. By contrast, the metric tons saved when a person chooses to have one fewer child is far, far greater: 9,441 metric tons. 

Travis Rieder, a philosopher with the Berman Institute of Bioethics at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, has moral arguments against having children.  Rieder agrees that we can’t deny someone the hard-wired human fulfillment of creating a child.  But he says we should also agree that the moral bar for a second child is much higher.

We Pathfinders in G>O>D Agree with Dr. Rieder, as follows:

“He suggests things like paying poor women to refill their birth control and — something that’s had proven success — widespread media campaigns.  Rieder also proposes that richer nations do away with tax breaks for having children and actually penalize new parents. He says the penalty should be progressive, based on income, and could increase with each additional child. Think of it like a carbon tax, on kids. He knows that sounds crazy.

Scientists have proposed incredibly risky schemes to geo-engineer the clouds and oceans. They’re researching ways to suck carbon out of the air on a mass scale. Some have even called for overhauling the global system of free-market capitalism.  Compared to all that, Rieder says, bringing down the fertility rate seems downright easy. “We know exactly how to make fewer babies,” he says, “and it’s something people can start doing today.”

Finally, we Designers in G>O>D> also ask this:  Why would any religion find it sacred and glorious to have over two billion children infesting the planet Earth and threatening the biosphere with death by global warming, while we have left only 500,000 elephants, 90,000 giraffes, and when most species of gorgeous multi-colored Macaw parrots are now endangered in the wild?   Clearly, the Old Religions prove once again to be out of date and inconsistent with modern scientific knowledge.  We no longer need the Desert Religions’ ancient myths and imprecations.  The clear and vital object of devotion is right here in from of us – it is our precious Earthly biosphere and the Growing>Organizing>Direction> of the Universe that continually creates it.  Human lives are sacred; but our science, technology, and art – our progress – are more sacred. 

Why We Do Not Do More About Human Waste and Pollution

While the developing world – especially Africa and parts of Asia — struggle with their high birth rates, here in the west we are not doing nearly enough to reduce waste, reduce pollution, and stop global warming.   Why?  What are the underlying human traits that make us act against our long-term interest in this way?

Human Weakness #1 — We are addicted to material progress.

As with any addiction, we care more about our short-term satisfactions (our “fixes”) than long-term outcomes.

To many people, conservation looks like a serious sacrifice, and the idea of sacrifice threatens people, who are loathe to “give up their way of life.”

In fact, right-wing industrialists, bent on maintaining their profit growth at any cost, have mounted a major cultural and political oppositions to the overwhelming world scientific consensus that climate change is real and is caused by CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels.

The U.S. is the only industrialized country that has any significant amount of Climate Change Denial.  (Bill Gates, interview with C. Rose 11-25-16)

Climate Deniers have not been educated to see that life-satisfactions can continue even as we try to save planet Earth. They do not understand that millions of well-paying jobs can be created by new solar-power, wind-power, ocean-power, and distributed-generation industries.  Rehabbing the nation’s existing buildings for energy efficiency would create millions more jobs.

Human Weakness #2 – We like novelty for its own sake.

Humans like bright, shiny baubles that have no real value other than novelty.  We easily tire of possessions and amusements and endlessly seek new ones.  When the novelty wears off, we jettison the old possessions and buy new ones that are “more fashionable.”

Our cast-offs become trash, and trash pollutes the Earth, because, as Pope Francis writes, “Our industrial system… has not developed the capacity to absorb and reuse waste and by-products.”

We are also obsessed with personal displays and shallow social interaction – tattoos, nose rings, hair-color, dress, baubles, tan lines, dance steps, “tweeting” about who-said-what-to-whom.

Human Weaknesses #3:  Humans are species-centered

In his work, The Population Bottleneck, Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson offers the following additional list of human failings that hurt the biosphere:

  • We humans don’t care enough about non-human life.
  • We are evolved to commit ourselves to a small area of land, not to husband an entire biosphere.
  • We are evolved to handle immediate problems and local problems… only.
  • We are evolved to be loyal kin, tribe, and nation – care for all humans is a stretch, and care for other species an even farther stretch.
  • Being species-self-centered, we don’t care about plants and animals as long as we have food, human friends…and i-phones for endless communications and entertainment.

This last bullet point is a bit curious, given the love that little children have for animals.  And for many of us, pets – dogs, cats, horses, birds — remain effective “Ambassadors from the Biosphere” throughout our lives.

Humans Weakness #4:  Humans Have a Short-term Bias

E.O. Wilson also lists these human failings:

  • Our evolved horizon of care extends only two or three 3 generations into the future.
  • Our energies have always been best used on the things at hand, the things we can control now, because the far future seems “out of our control.” Empires come and go, but people have always kept their heads down, attended to family, had kids. Life goes on.

Both weakness #3 and #4 – Species-centrism and Short-term Bias — find clear expression in our law and economics.

Human economists work with blinders on, because our accounting does not include environmental costs. We completely ignore the environmental costs of economic activity.

For example, take a housing development built on filled-in wetlands.  Economists and business people count the dollars paid for the land, but ignore the biological cost of reducing the wetlands that support myriad creatures such as frogs and cranes, and also the cost of repeated future flooding.

Another example would be the economics of a coal mine.  Traditionally, we only count the costs of the land, machinery, labor, electricity, and taxes.  We completely ignore the environmental cost of the CO2 that is released into the atmosphere as the coal is burned – the cost we all incur as our coasts are flooded, and crops and animals die in the heated climate.

Possible Solutions from NEW Attitudes

We Practitioners of Continuing Creation think that our greatest success in combating global warming and pollution will come from (A) reducing global population, and (B) Technological breakthroughs in clean energy, in energy efficiency, and in the ecological-efficient use of materials.

 Nevertheless, humans can also help by adopting new attitudes; by moving beyond many of our evolved predispositions and weaknesses.  Below is a list of some of these possible “culture changes.”

 Go Vegetarian?

“The current world production of grains is enough to feed 10 billion East Indians, who eat primarily grains and very little meat by Western standards. But the same amount can support only about 2.5 billion Americans, who convert a large part of their grains into livestock and poultry. (2009 report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the world will have to produce 70% more food by 2050 to feed a projected extra 2.3 billion people.[148](5764)

Either the industrialized populations move down the food chain to a more vegetarian diet, or the agricultural yield of productive land worldwide is increased by more than 50 percent.” — Wilson Bottleneck

“If everyone agreed to become vegetarian, leaving little or nothing for livestock, the present 1.4 billion hectares of arable land (3.5 billion acres) would support about 10 billion people. – Wilson Bottleneck”

Vegetarianism is strongly linked with a number of religions that originated in ancient India (Jainism, Hinduism and Buddhism).  These religions believe it is immoral to kill animals for human consumption.

Other Cultural-Behavioral Changes

Here is a list of short of the cultural reforms – attitudinal, legal, and economic – which are having some traction at the time of this writing, January, 2017:

  • To stop farm encroachment, E.O. Wilson proposes protecting half the planet’s surface. That would save 84% of species, he says.  (Currently, only 15% of the land surface and 4% of the oceans are protected, according to UN’s Protected Planet Report.)
  • Tiny House movement
  • Millennials don’t want to own cars; they like to use Uber or ZipCars instead.
  • Get off the grid, live off the land.
  • Modular, pore-fabricated housing.
  • Healthy eating; organic farming – (no insecticides, antibiotics, or artificial fertilizers)
  • Rehabilitating all existing buildings for energy efficiency.
  • Carbon Tax.
  • Cap and Trade Laws.
  • “The establishment of a legal framework which can set clear boundaries and ensure the protection of ecosystems has become indispensable” (Pope Francis 1)
  • In New Zealand, certain lands and rivers have received legal “personhood,” as inspired by the Maori tradition. “In New Zealand, Lands and Rivers Can Be People (Legally Speaking)” — Bryant Rousseau, NYT, 7-13-16
  • Voluntary Simplicity Movement; Less-is-More; downsizing (“A house is just a place to keep your stuff, while you go out… and get more stuff !“) — comedian George Carlin.
  • Organic farming and ranching.
  • The re-conception of Earth as Gaia – seeing Earth as a living being.
  • The Deep Ecology Movement (See our Essay on Gaia and Deep Ecology
  • In the 20th century, Humans developed an international court for crimes against humanity. Now, in the 21st century, we need an international court for crimes against the biosphere.

Many of the above attitudinal changes are contained within the Deep Ecology Movement.  Deep Ecology promotes the inherent worth of living beings regardless of their instrumental utility to human needs, plus a radical restructuring of modern human societies in accordance with such ideas. (See www.deepecology.org)   This philosophy clearly echoes the Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist faiths.

Many of the above attitude changes are also features of monastic life – in Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islamic Sufism.

We Co-Creators in G>O>D> Say – Practices of self-denial and simplification can surely be voluntarily adopted people on our Spiritual Path, as long as each individual’s mind and/or body still pursues creative excellence in some field – e.g., music, scientific research, economic development, engineering, reform, charity – that furthers the Growing>Organizing>Direction of the Universe.

Finally, there is the most recent “Eco-Theology” of Pope Francis’ 2016 Encyclical _____.  While the Path of G>O>D> does not agree with Pope Francis’ criticisms of capitalism, we surely agree with his larger advocacy for Earth’s sacred biosphere.

Below is an excerpt from the Pope’s praise for his namesake, St. Francis of Assisi:

“[Saint] Francis helps us to see that an integral ecology calls for openness to categories which transcend the language of mathematics and biology, and take us to the heart of what it is to be human. Just as happens when we fall in love with someone, whenever he would gaze at the sun, the moon or the smallest of animals, he burst into song, drawing all other creatures into his praise.  He communed with all creation, even preaching to the flowers, inviting them “to praise the Lord, just as if they were endowed with reason”. His response to the world around him was so much more than intellectual appreciation or economic calculus, for to him each and every creature was a sister united to him by bonds of affection. That is why he felt called to care for all that exists…His disciple Saint Bonaventure tells us that, “from a reflection on the primary source of all things, filled with even more abundant piety, he would call creatures, no matter how small, by the name of ‘brother’ or ‘sister’”… if we feel intimately united with all that exists, then sobriety and care will well up spontaneously. The poverty and austerity of Saint Francis were no mere veneer of asceticism, but something much more radical: a refusal to turn reality into an object simply to be used and controlled.”

 

  1. E.O. Wilson, The Future of Life, A. Knopf, 2002 — from 5776.  As quoted in Scientific American “Population Bottleneck,” 2002.
  2. Pope Francis I,
  3. insert note.
  4. Lewis Thomas, Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher, 1974, Bantam Books, Viking Press, pp. 122-3.
  5. insert note.
  6. Population Reference Bureau. “2013 World Population Factsheet” (PDF). www.pbr.org. Population Reference Bureau. Retrieved 5 December 2014.
  7. Alan Emery,“Exponential Population Growth”, Kivu Nature website, May 10, 2012. Retrieved Jan 1, 2018, www.kivu.com/expotential-population-growth/.