—Systemic change begins with personal change—

708: Chris Bystroff, part 2: Understanding the United Nation’s Projections


Talking with Chris has made me more concerned about population projections that only show the possibility of collapse as error bars. I hope to bring him and past guest Wolfgang Lutz on the podcast together to help resolve their disparate views. I see some of humanity's effects on the environment that could affect our population beyond what the UN projections show not as low-probability high-impact events, but already happening. I mean things like depleting aquifers or fisheries that hundreds of millions of people rely on or plastic building up in the ocean. Several major rivers don't reach the ocean, including the Colorado, Tigris, and Euphrates. Solving these problems could be low-probability. They’re like driving by looking only in the rear-view mirror. Our relevant question is not, as the UN projections imply, “how do we feed ten billion?” It’s, “might human population collapse?” By implying we don’t have to worry about collapse, I see the UN discouraging acting on sustainability, in my view.

698: Chris Bystroff, part 1: Population Growth and Overpopulation


Population modeling can be hard, as is figuring out a prediction's accuracy, therefore how much confidence to give your conclusions. Many people can't hear talk about population without hearing things like eugenics and racism even when they aren't there. But population is one of the most important factors in sustainability. Everything becomes easier when population isn't near or above what Earth can sustain and harder when it's above. I came to Chris from reading his paper on modeling population growth, Footprints to singularity, which showed a couple things. It clarified that UN and peer projections lacked feedback mechanisms so couldn't show population decline. If your model can't show a population decline, it will blind you to the possibility and therefore keep you from preventing or preparing for it. It also leads you to ask, "how do we feed ten billion people" instead of seeing that we can't without causing a steep drop in population soon after, a pattern called overshoot and collapse. Second, it showed a good chance that population would likely decline significantly soon. It and he also reinforced my confidence in Limits to Growth's dynamical systems approach. Chris's paper prompted my contacting Wolfgang Lutz, and I recommend listening to his episode too. I hope to bring them together on one episode to see if they can reconcile their differences. Oh yeah, I also enjoyed and learned from the class slides for his undergraduate course in human population.

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