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PHI 3640- Module 9 Discussion

Aug 11, 2023

McKibben Questions  ESSAY #1 (and remember to review the critiques by Ostrom and Kasun).

  1. Why does McKibben think that this time is a “special moment in history?”
  2. In general, what is happening to the overall population and the rate of the population?
  3. How many calories did hunters/gathers consume? Modern humans? Modern Americans?
  4. Describe what McKibben is referring to in his “balloon” metaphor?
  5. What are the challenges in calculating the carrying capacity of the human population?
  6. Who are the referenced doomsayers in the article and what did they predict specifically (be brief)? (you can bullet point these people and put the three Greeks into one bullet)
  7. What did Ester Boserup argue? Julian Simon?
  8. According to these anti-Malthusians, what is the greatest resource on this planet?
  9. In the “Looking at Limits” section, briefly describe the consequences of the Green Revolution (i.e., primary productivity, soil, water, and the food growth curve).
  10. In Joel Cohen’s work, he surveys the literature and determines the median carrying capacity of humans on the planet.
  11. In Earth2, he discusses how insurance companies assess risks by assuming that future conditions are similar to current ones (e.g., predicting hurricanes). He then posits that we are living on a new Earth with different conditions. What evidence does he present to support his argument (be sure you read the rest of the section up until “Stormy and Warm” before answering this question.
  12. In the last paragraph, he discusses how the negative impacts of climate change are a problem that needs to be solved now or we should not even bother. He uses the analogy of a “timed test” where at the end of the time we need to put our pencils down and stop trying to solve. The essay was written 15 years ago and it appears that we have not made much progress on this issue (in my opinion). Do think we have reached the point where we need to put our pencils down and focus on adaptation rather than mitigation?

Week 9 Discussion

1. This time is a “Special moment in history” as proposed by McKibben is very interesting, where he believes that every human being is born at a special moment, and based on nature’s cycle, the child born today might see the peak of the human population. The human population has drastically changed from the time of agriculture and farming. There have been times when there was exponential growth which was uncontrollable, and sometimes a considerable decrease in population. But now it is predicted that the population growth might increase to reach its peak taking the momentum on the higher side.

2. The rate of population growth is on the lower side with less exponential growth since World War II, there are many factors contributing to it, from the issues of sustainability, economic instability, poverty, lack of education, and so on. It is more evident in developing countries. However, the population is increasing constantly with the advancements in science and technology.

3. The total consumption of hunters and gatherers used to be a mere 2500 calories per day, the modern human being uses 31000 calories per day consuming mostly from fossil fuels. An average American consumes 6 times an average modern human being. It is about 1,86,000 calories on average, this is unimaginable.

4. The balloon metaphor used by McKibben, explains the excessive utilization and consumption of resources by modern-day human beings in comparison to what was utilized before. McKibben stresses the rapidly changing lifestyle of human beings, dependency on a luxurious life, a clear demarcation of the ‘basic need’ and the ‘over-consumption’. It is well explained in the Vancouver example, where 1.7 million people live on 1 million acres in Vancouver, still needing massive 21.5 million acres of land resources to support them.

5. Calculating the carrying capacity of the human population depends on a lot of factors from demographic sustainability, resources availability in a particular area, development of trade, transportation feasibility, the rise of science and technology, improvement of medical science, and awareness of health and nutrition, power of innovation to attain comfort and luxury, socio-political influence and the sense of adaptability.

6. The referenced doomsayers and their predictions are as follows:

a. Plato, Euripides, and Polybius predicted that as the population increases exponentially human beings will simultaneously run out of food and resources.

b. Thomas Malthus stressed this idea to state that the population growth curve is ‘geometric’ in its existence which with time outpaces the production of food resources.

c. William and Paul Paddock wrote the book Famine (1975), stating that certain regions could be saved.

d. Paul Ehrlich in his book Population Bomb predicted the inability of human beings to feed their own race and with time millions of deaths due to famines will end the battles to feed humanity.

7. Ester Boserup argued that the more the population grows, the more would be our urge to innovate and more would be the holistic progress of mankind. With time, not only does the population increase, the standard of living keeps changing based on the need of the hour and the exaggerated sensibility of luxury and comfort. The sustainability capacity based on the problem-solving ability also increases with the population as stated by Boserup. This is also argued by Julian Simon, who believes that an increase in population increases the knowledge that helps in developing needful healthy survival skills.

8. According to Anti-Malthusians, the greatest resource on this planet are human beings, as they are skilled, knowledgeable, creative, and spirited to solve problems whenever adversity strikes and benefit the world around us.

9. The consequences of the green revolution indicate the lack of a conservative approach while using the resources which eventually results in nature taking it back from us. To explain the over-utilization of primary productivity, Peter Vitousek stated that to support the human population in the year 1986, 38.8 % of the primary productivity was utilized which is considered very high. The distribution of rainwater is very uneven, affecting the lives of human beings with reduced accessibility of drinking water, irrigation issues from soil erosion to salinization of soil, loss of vital mineral resources in the soil, and so on. Conversation of farmlands, soil erosion, and many other factors contributed to the decline of the food growth curve after World War II, which was to cope with the population growth curves.

10. Cohen demonstrated that humans are the ultimate state of existence and have altered the world in which we live, there are no ecosystems that are free from human interference and influence. Humans have changed the natural cycle of nitrogen; they add 130-150 million tons of nitrogen every year. The excessive use of nitrogen in fertilizers results in reduced oxygen levels causing problems for aquatic ecosystems, the man-made nitrogen gas stays in the atmosphere for a very long period of time causing pollution in the natural cycle of nitrogen, which affects the natural life of human beings.

11. The new earth created by us, is full of elements that have changed the basic natural essence of the world around us, which naturally protected us from different adverse conditions. The excessive carbon-di-oxide release in the atmosphere is a huge factor in changing our environment. The carbon-di-oxide release leads to the greenhouse effect which in turn is the cause of global warming. Before our atmosphere contained 280 parts carbon-di-oxide per million, now it has gone up to 360 parts carbon-di-oxide per million.

12. It is an undeniable fact that mitigating is quite tough now, and adaptability is the option to look forward to, as we as human beings are very far from bringing any changes, changes come on the correct implementation of the necessary steps, but before that do, we all realize the criticality and seriousness of the situation that we are in. Not everybody does, henceforth there are very less people who are concerned about it. Awareness and self-realization is the first step to bringing any changes, only then a positive implementation model can be developed.

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