Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Can WW-III Fix the Broken Global Machine?

World Energy and Population: Trends to 2100

Energy constraints will trigger a reduction in population starting within 20 years, and the impact of those constraints will far exceed anything that such humanitarian measures could accomplish. In fact, if the model is correct, there will be no ongoing overpopulation problem at all, as natural processes intervene to bring our numbers back in line with our resource base.

This leaves the question of what such a population decline would look and feel like. The details of such a profound experience are impossible to predict, but it's safe to say it will be catastrophic far beyond anything humanity has experienced. The loss of life alone beggars belief. In the most serious part of the decline, during the two or three decades spanning the middle of this century, even with a net birth rate of zero we might expect death rates between 100 million and 150 million per year.

To put this in perspective, World War II caused 10 million excess deaths per year, and lasted a scant 6 years. This could be 50 times worse. Of course, a raw statement of excess deaths doesn't speak to the risk this will pose to the fabric of civilization itself. If it is true that the Inuit have a dozen words for "snow", we will need to invent a hundred for "hard times".