Cheetah extinction, the Earth’s carrying capacity, and how many kids you want

December 31, 2016 by Joshua
in Nature

News a few days ago said the cheetah is approaching extinction. As the BBC wrote in “Cheetahs heading towards extinction as population crashes,”

The sleek, speedy cheetah is rapidly heading towards extinction according to a new study into declining numbers.

The report estimates that there are just 7,100 of the world’s fastest mammals now left in the wild.

Cheetahs are in trouble because they range far beyond protected areas and are coming increasingly into conflict with humans.

The authors are calling for an urgent re-categorisation of the species from vulnerable to endangered.

Wiped out

According to the study, more than half the world’s surviving cheetahs live in one population that ranges across six countries in southern Africa.

Cheetahs in Asia have been essentially wiped out.


Earth’s human carrying capacity

People speculate on how many people can live on our planet—its carrying capacity. Economists suggest we need the population to keep growing for economies to survive. I don’t believe their beliefs that if the population leveled off we couldn’t distribute food to everyone.

For some reason people seem to like the idea of human population growing.

Do they realize that humans reaching the planet’s carrying capacity means no large wild land mammals? We compete with them for resources. More of us means less of them. The maximum of us means the minimum of them, which means zero. Nearly every large land mammal that existed where our ancestors immigrated has gone extinct. A few we’ve domesticated. We’ve caused extinctions of large non-mammals too.

It’s possible we find dependencies with some that would lead us to protect them, but generally we won’t and our population growth will cause them to go extinct. Maybe we’ll keep a few alive in zoos, but that’s not the same.

Yellowstone and the Everglades limit our population, which means reaching the carrying capacity would make them go away.

Waking up

I don’t know what it takes for people to see that their actions create these results. You can talk about poachers and other logistical details, but at the bottom of it all, our population competes with most animals’. We help some populations, like rats and cockroaches, so you see growth with them, but most people I know prefer cheetahs to rats.

Are they also comfortable with finding ways to level off the population (which doesn’t mean eugenics)?

How many kids do you want?

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