Posts Tagged ‘evolution’


Climate Change, Overpopulation, and Darwin

   Posted by: Robert    in Politics

I wonder if it is unfair to use the rules of evolution against the left.  For all the confusion the claims say conservatives have about how species change over time, nowhere is ignorance of the forces which drive population changes more on display than in today’s opinion section of the New York Times.  Thomas Friedman invites us to believe that conservatives “believe the world is going to face a mass plague, like the Black Death, that will wipe out 2.5 billion people sometime between now and 2050.”  He apparently feels that conservatives “believe all these things because that is the only way their arguments make any sense.”  His proof, however, entirely ignores the way population change works.

But there are two other huge trends barreling down on us with energy implications that you simply can’t deny…

The first is that the world is getting crowded. According to the 2006 U.N. population report, “The world population will likely increase by 2.5 billion … passing from the current 6.7 billion to 9.2 billion in 2050. This increase is equivalent to the total size of the world population in 1950, and it will be absorbed mostly by the less developed regions, whose population is projected to rise from 5.4 billion in 2007 to 7.9 billion in 2050.”

From this quote right here we get to see where the 2.5 billion person figure comes from.  It’s based on a UN projection of population growth and the apparent belief that the world cannot support any more people than are currently occupying it today.  As I see it, this has two major problems.  The first is that there is no indication that the Earth cannot support any more humans even under our current technology.  The second is that Mr. Friedman counts as dead about 2.5 billion people who do not exist and may never exist.

But be those problems as they may, there is nothing so terribly sinister at work as some deep belief in a mass kill-off of a significant chunk of the human population.  The forces underlying evolution apply a downward force on the growth rate of every species.  As the population of a species increases, the odds of survival for any individual member tend to decline.  Natural predators are attracted to dense concentrations of prey, competition for mates intensifies, and resources become harder to find.   These downward forces gradually eliminate the less adapted members of the species until the population reaches an equilibrium state.  The result is not a mass killing, but a gradual pruning of the family tree.

This process, of course, occurs in nature every day and nobody thinks much about it.

Mr. Friedman is hardly the first to have brought overpopulation fallacies to bear for political ends, nor is he likely to be the last one to make such an error.  To the extent that green technologies require burning our own food as gasoline, the net increase in hunger will serve not to prevent the 2.5 billion “deaths,” but to accelerate them.  What’s more, even the greenest of technologies will serve only to kick the can down the road; the human population will eventually reach its capacity for growth.

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