Sunday, August 9, 2009


How many human beings can Planet Earth support?

It seems that the estimate is a function of time and source.

For those who believe that we are in overshoot, the estimates seem to be declining with each passing year.

The standard benchmark was formerly 2 billion people, as Paul Ehrlich once thought comfortable.

Then along came James Lovelock and his scenario of 750 million cloying to the northern reaches of the northern hemisphere is search of respite from global warming.

David Pimental recently put the figure at 500 million---a level that seems to be utopian for many, considering the advance of Peak Everything.

William Stanton, famed for his seminal book on global overpopulation, shared that estimate, recently had this to say about it:

“I have now gathered my thoughts together and find that my estimate of 0.5 billion as a world sustainable population is an approximation based on

1. Before the exploitation of fossil fuels it was that figure, and without fossil fuels this is likely to be a recurring base.

2. Even with fossil fuel use at maximum only c. 1.2 billion people were existing in comfort. The rest were deprived to varying degrees.:
3. The actual figure could be much less, depending on how we had weathered the Malthusian storm. 0.2 B is possible. OPT's favoured 2 B is world pop at the time of World War 1. It is plain silly.

See pages 197, 207 of my book.”

200 million? Do I hear 150 million? 100 million? 5 million? 2.5 million? Extinction? I have heard it all now. Send me away for 100 years and when I thaw out from liquid nitrogen capsule I will tell you---or somebody--- if somebody is around to talk to, that is.


Arguing about ACTUAL global carrying capacity in a time of obvious overshoot is not very productive.

The important issue to get across to the human family is that its numbers must be significantly reduced.

By ADAPTIVE MANAGEMENT METHODS (make it up as you go) – in perhaps 50 years from now we can resume the discussion about what population levels are supportable.

For now we know that those numbers must come DOWN.

Peter Salonius

My Reply:

Yeah, we are all agreed on that point----we have to reduce the numbers SIGNIFICANTLY. But I think it is useful when the ante is raised by more alarming figures. When a person of prominence says that we can perhaps carry only 200 million people, that gives the problem more urgency than when the rest of the pack cruises along with the 2 billion figure. My reaction anyway. Tim

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