[Coral-List] Conformation bias

Douglas Fenner douglasfennertassi at gmail.com
Sat Jun 20 03:34:51 EDT 2015

    I assume you meant to say that population is the root cause of all the
environmental problems(?)  You didn't really mean to say it was literally
the root cause of "everything", did you??   That seems a tiny tad unlikely.
    That aside, I would certainly agree that population is one of the two
main ultimate causes of environmental problems (though there is huge long
list of proximal causes).  I think Paul Ehrlich and his co-authors had it
right when they argued that the "ultimate causes" (root causes) of
environmental problems are population and consumption.  I suspect that
people in developed countries tend to think the problem is population, and
conveniently forget about consumption.  Consumption, or gross national
product or development, or wealth or something like that, is of course,
much larger in developed countries, where population growth rates tend to
be lower.
     Ehrlich et al argue that these two things essentially multiply to
produce the problems.  As a result, if either one is small enough, the
other can be large without necessarily producing great environmental
damage.  If consumption were small enough, even large populations of humans
would produce only modest environmental effects, compared to the same
population with high consumption.
      In my view, this is probably a gross oversimplification, but it
illustrates a general principle, that large population and high consumption
together can cause more environmental damage than either could by itself.
       So to me, while population is PART of the problem, it's not the
whole problem.  I also argue that in the intermediate stage of economic
development, environmental damage can be widespread, but that with further
economic development often comes a middle class that doesn't like the
illness and death that comes with pollution and prefers a relatively clean
and healthy environment instead of a very dirty and dangerous one.  When
they are no longer desperately poor, they have the relative luxury to be
able to demand a cleaner environment to live in.  Witness Beijing these
days, heavy social pressure is leading to cleaner air, just as it did
decades ago in Tokyo, US cities, and before that, London ("London fog").
       The excerpts I've read of the Pope's new encyclical makes reference
to heavy consumption and waste in the wealthier countries.
 Maybe people in wealthier countries would prefer not to hear that.
        I've argued here before that while in the very long run (of a few
hundred years), population absolutely must be controlled, the current
projections are that it will do so naturally, and a bit earlier than had
been predicted before.  But I also argued that human population growth
cannot be slowed, stopped, and reversed in time to save coral reefs, which
are projected to undergo great degradation starting within a few decades.
The only way human population could be reduced that much that fast would be
from masses of death that probably exceed anything in human history,
including the plague and black death in Europe, the Spanish Flu and the
World Wars all combined.  Nothing but a nuclear holocaust could do it.
Hopefully that won't happen.
      I don't think we can use population reduction to save reefs.  Which
doesn't mean that we shouldn't work to make voluntary family planning
available to all who want it.  That should help slow the rate of population
growth and benefit the environment in the long run.  There is no question
that population growth can't continue at the present pace, but then it is
projected not to.  People in rich countries may think that their economies
can grow endlessly too, but they can't grow endlessly any more than
populations, since resources are finite.

Cheers,  Doug

On Wed, Jun 17, 2015 at 3:11 AM, Eugene Shinn <eugeneshinn at mail.usf.edu>

> I sorta wish I never started this thread. You folks now have the Pope on
> your side. I can't disagree with him can I? Maybe he will call for
> reducing world population.....Does anyone disagree that increasing world
> population is the root cause of everything?
> --
> No Rocks, No Water, No Ecosystem (EAS)
> ------------------------------------ -----------------------------------
> E. A. Shinn, Courtesy Professor
> University of South Florida
> College of Marine Science Room 221A
> 140 Seventh Avenue South
> St. Petersburg, FL 33701
> <eugeneshinn at mail.usf.edu>
> Tel 727 553-1158
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Douglas Fenner
Contractor with Ocean Associates, Inc.
PO Box 7390
Pago Pago, American Samoa 96799  USA

phone 1 684 622-7084

"belief in climate change is optional, participation is not."

Much-touted global warming pause never happened.


Has global warming taken a rest?  Not so fast, study suggests.  (check out
the graph)


Climate change deniers love to talk about a recent "pause" in global
warming.  A new study says it didn't happen.


website:  http://independent.academia.edu/DouglasFenner

blog: http://ocean.si.edu/blog/reefs-american-samoa-story-hope

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