[Coral-List] Subject: Re: Coral-List Digest, Vol 107, Issue 22 -Re: sea level rise speeding up

Durwood M. Dugger ddugger at biocepts.com
Wed Jul 26 10:42:21 EDT 2017

Hi Doug,

Thank you for the heads-up. I did miss your and the other comments on overpopulation and anthropogenic impact relationships - including. I been too busy, admittedly over consuming. Oh, and I did write this article on algae biofuels <https://seekingalpha.com/article/4090258-bloom-still-npk-dependent-non-sustainable-non-economically-viable-algae-biofuels> that may or may not interest you.

Like everyone else, I just can’t help it (over consuming). In my defense - at least I’m no longer reproducing and when I did, I stopped at two. Unfortunately, even with college educated parents and constant diet of the destructive nature of human over population and its symptoms of overconsumption - my two daughters have produced eight grandchildren. So, much for developed country education and high living standards effecting and or dissuading over population - at a personal observation level.

I’ve done a lot of research on overpopulation and its relationships with anthropogenic marine impacts - and like many subjects today, the “facts" are intermixed and co-mingled with countless incomplete input projections, that are too often based on poorly designed meta analyses, “expert” opinions and to a cumulative error point - where accurate conclusions are difficult to impossible to almost anyone. Consider that global population estimates range widely (as do their errors) between those doing the estimates. As do their respective errors, though accuracy tends to increase with time and census development, but only in part of the developed countries. I don’t disagree with all your conclusions, especially that over consumption is not primary symptom  of overpopulation, but I do disagree with some of your “facts”/assumptions and some of the basic logic that you used in how you get to your conclusions. They are debatable in many instances.

Let me start by saying I agree with you that because of gross human overpopulation and its symptomatic consumption impacts, it’s too late to prevent significant and global marine ecosystem shifts (already underway) that will necessarily change coral reefs (and lots of other ecosystems) as we know them today. But not necessarily forever, and I think that in a few hundred years - or worse case a few thousands of years - that coral reefs will be back (along with other sensitive species that manage to find refuge from us) and perhaps similar to what we have today and or at least appropriate to the conditions at that time. Coral reef systems have survived far too many past extinction events, not to survive the limits of our most of our greatest probable impacts (excepting planetary nuclear war annihilation) and even that isn’t likely to extinguish all live, but rather a re-start of another long evolutionary train to higher and perhaps a more sentient species than our own.

Let me address some of what I consider flaws in your perspective and logic:

"Population is only half the problem, as Erhlich et al themselves have pointed out. "

One of the common problems I saw in researching Anthropogenic Marine Impacts course materials -  even by the “experts” is the failing to logically separate anthropogenic impact causes from their impacts' symptoms - and even the symptoms from their symptoms. (Nor unlike the failure to account for subsidence in sea level rise estimates - as noted in my earlier CL post.) This is especially true when you consider the definitive nature of “overpopulation.” Overpopulation by definition means the overconsumption of critical resources necessary to maintain the respecitive species.

Illogically, in seeking solutions - many ignore that you can’t eliminate a primary problem by only moderating its symptoms (like consumption) - especially when the symptoms are expanding exponentially faster than their cause - the primary problem. Population growth rates are half (down from around 2% to 1.18%/yr) of what they were less than a century ago, but the global population has more than tripled in that period and consumption growth rates have exponentially dwarfed the slowing population growth rates. It isn’t known whether population growth rates will continue to decline (developed countries) because some developed countries birth rates have risen in recent years, but it is relatively certain developing countries in Africa, Asia and South America will continue grow and their consumption rates will increase dramatically from the present - until - like all the planets other species - there are population limiting critical resource limitations.

We seem to be at an evolutionary point where our intellects and our instincts battle for dominance of the brain. Intellect and instinct seemed to have reached a tie - at least on basic biological directives - our instincts on reproduction, tribalism, and hoarding for example overrule our intellect. Population wise there also seems to be additional layers. Emotional/psychological components involved in resisting population reduction. Part of which is perhaps intellectual embarrassment and resulting denial and or an unwillingness to accept the blame for letting our population get so far beyond sustainable levels. Most major religions must shoulder a large amount of the blame for further enabling our biologic reproductive directives. “Go forth and multiply” reproduction attitudes have been foisted - over our scientific intellect now for centuries. And “No.” - I don’t believe religions are supportive of modern science - only when there are undeniable conflicts in observable reality with religious dogma and or it benefits the religion. This coming from someone who started out in college thinking they would become a Methodist minister. Marine biology seemed far closer and useful to me in describing the nature of any possible supreme being. That it eventually actually contradicted the probability of such a supreme being - is another story.

Your conclusion that population and consumption are the same problem, though common and understandable - is easily proven illogical and incorrect. Its flawed logic also has consequences in our obviously inherent resistance to correct our overpopulation problems. In the most basic and simplest form: There is no consumption without the human population. Consumption has proved to be exponential when populations develop a technological base and achieve certain population critical masses/economies-of-scales thresholds. Logically human population and its respective sustainability level (or not = overpopulation) is the cause - and over consumption of renewable resources (or resources faster than their renewal rates) is an effect of overpopulation  -  governed by finite critical resources (primarily energy) availability and the respective technological levels. With sufficient technology and unlimited free energy - almost all critical resource limitations can be moderated or eliminated. Without unlimited energy, over consumption is - the definition of, the logical outcome for, and unavoidable consequence of overpopulation.

I would also point out regarding population growth rates and population trend projections - often confused with population growth itself - they have consistently been wrong - underestimating continued population growth and its impacts.  Population growth still defy UN population growth slowdown estimates decade after decade - just as it is doing at present.  <http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/09/140918-population-global-united-nations-2100-boom-africa/#> There are numerous UN and World Bank population error apologist efforts, but the fact remains that "Absolute error has varied from 4.8 percent on average in 5-year projections to 17 percent in 30-year projections.” The underestimation error in anthropogenic impacts projected for the past three or four decades has been much worse, due the economic, technological, global development advances' cumulative and amplifying/exponential nature of consumption. Unless we bump up against economic/critical resource limits in the production and depletion of finite critical resources - such as petroleum dependent NPK (95% of global food production dependent) - global population will continue to grow, even if at slightly slower rates. Unfortunately, the serious awareness of overpopulation as a threat to the survival of the human species is very limited in our species - even today. Far too limited for it to have an impact on human population growth - and consequently on over consumption.

Clearly, growing populations create economy-of-scales that contribute to technological development, and fiscal economies with excess funds (profits) for both reinvestment/growth and expansion, and as well increased recreation. As technology develops, its impacts on the planet expand asymmetrically, but (as you point out) not necessarily proportionately - as we have seen since the First Industrial Revolution. As the population expands all of these economy-of-scales not only expand with it, but can in many cases be amplified by it. The technology development foundations that occurred in the Second Industrial Revolution   <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Industrial_Revolution#Fertilizer> creating the petroleum industry which then enabled and produced NPK food production - is a primary example of extreme population amplification - by a single outcome from a chain of related and necessary sequential technological development events. 

Currently, humans and their current technology (and that technology's probable development rate) are far beyond critical finite resource capacities of the planet. Both energy and the food production resource paradigm are currently wholly dependent on our petroleum economy (economically-fiscally, physically and chemically). Without an improbable energy technology leap-frog advancement miracle, current energy/food production paradigms provide hard limits to human population growth limits. In spite of progress in alternative energy (also currently petroleum and petrochemical materials dependent), we are far from being physically able (total alternative energy supply was less than 15% of the primary energy supply, wishfully projected to be 26% by 2020) to get off our petroleum dependency and especially related to food production fertilizers and other food production management chemicals. An economic dependency of the petrochemical industry on the transportation petroleum industry. This economic dependence of the petrochemical industry coming from cost sharing by the much smaller (5%) petro-chemical industry. 

Even the new petroleum production technologies that have almost doubled global petroleum reserves (by taking avg. oil reservoir recover rates from 30% to nearly 60%) since 2014 - only offer our growing overpopulation an additional couple of decades respite before we deplete economic petroleum resources. Unless we have a major energy source paradigm shift in the next couple of decades - that’s all the window-of-opportunity we have to solve our overpopulation/critical resource depletion's generation of the classic biological limited resource base population collapse. In other words, if petroleum depletion isn’t replaced by the discovery of a new (and currently unproven source) of near free, non-polluting, and globally abundant energy) in the next couple of decades, the human overpopulation  - like all overpopulated species reaching the limits of their critical finite resources - will catastrophically collapse. 

While we agree that consumption is rapidly increasing as developing countries develop, believing that we can effectively and significantly control anthropogenic marine impacts by effectively controlling human consumption and without first controlling population - is almost the logical equivalent of asking the human population - not to exhale. Once you have human overpopulation - excessive consumption impacts are inevitable are unresolvable as long as the overpopulation persists and critical resources aren’t restrictive. 

Bonaire, like most islands is a microcosms of the overpopulation and resource depletion problem. Until enough people were on the planet to create the necessary economics and technologies to fill commercial airliners, cruise ships, dive boats, etc. - very few people visited Bonaire. Population generated the economies-of-scale necessary for greater consumption and now that consumption has grown to the point of negatively effecting the marine ecosystems and the coral reefs here on Bonaire. 

Using only “socially equitable" logic, we really think we can’t deprive the people of Bonaire - or other developing countries on the planet of the same development opportunities and rewards as the most developed countries have experienced and "enjoyed." Unfortunately, real logic disintegrates when it is compartmentalized. 

Especially when that compartmentalization is based on emotional and or imagined social priorities - rather than species critical ones. Overpopulation survival priority is biologically the ultimate logic for any species. We should also consider that humans are one of the latest evolving species, and the world was doing just fine, if not arguably better before we arrived. We should recognize our presence on the planet is and become demonstrably and undeniably biologically unnecessary to the planet’s well being.

I don’t disagree on your assessment then that population growth rates (but not actual population) may well decline as its consumption expands exponentially more than it has - before it collapses. Once a species exceeds sustainability, reducing population growth rates, and or achieving zero population growth of an unsustainable population level has the same outcome - collapse. I don’t disagree that unavoidable increases in consumption (regardless of ineffective social pressures) will continue to impact ocean ecosystems and especially coral reefs - again, we are too far beyond sustainability. In other words, I think that finite critical resource depletion shortages and the resulting competition, conflicts, and chaos will likely more than effectively limit human population growth and impacts on corals, much sooner than later and more than any well intentioned, but well proven inefficient consumption reduction efforts.

"All of this is largely irrelevant, because...” I would agree with the irrelevancy, but insert - “ because humans will not give up their perceived “god given right” to reproduce.” If you want to experience the emotional bias and indignant rage that reproduction rights/faith based belief systems can generate, just make an overpopulation comment on a non-science, non-technical dominated comment section of the popular media articles - even on science based media. It this anti-science, anti-over population - denial actually seems to be growing.

Once you have overpopulation, there is no credible - way short of extreme force of altering its consumption and their impacts. Consider what our current social mores consider “extreme” is only relative to current civilization standards and carry no biological weight in a species survival - at all. I would disagree that reducing populations drastically doesn't have to inflict violence, physical pain or even extreme deprivation (biologically) to accomplish (though it is less probable than continuing toward and overpopulation collapse), but I wouldn’t argue that human population reduction( can be accomplished democratically in a growing anti-science world. 

"I challenge anybody to run the numbers and explain how few children people will have to have, how they are going to get people to have that few children, and how long it will take with that birth rate to stop population growth, and how long to get population down to the level you think will let corals live."

You do understand that having children when there is no survival imperative - is a form of over consumption in itself? (And as well failing to manage that human population - is ultimately self-annihilating to the logic of conservation biology.) Consequently, our growing population continues to be - the proof that trying to socially stigmatize consumption reduction is not only ineffective, but alone - is not near a solution. 

If you set aside emotional and cultural biases, the math is straight forward. Reducing overpopulation is just basic math, Doug. Very basically its the average live span divided by the time of the average generation (range is about 22-32 years, but much closer to 20 in rapidly growing populations) per generation - and then selecting the number of generations with restricted birth until the population reaches sustainability - generally considered well under 2 billion. The details of actually achieving it are more complicated sure, but meaning if there were virtually no births for two generations or about 40 years (assumes a minimal reserve breeding age population is maintained necessary for a restart until sustainable reproduction rates can begin) there would be a massive population decline as the initial and even more when the non-reproducing population life span expired (and a huge human and human animals biomass impact decline on ecosystems) and if there were almost no new births were to replace them until sustainability was reached. 

And by the way if you read up on China’s One Child Policy - you will find that less than 30% of the Chinese population actually participated in it - so no, it was not effective, but nor was it properly implemented to be effective. In China, money, privilege, politics/ethnic preferences, etc. destroyed the math of their population reduction plans. 

What we have learned is here is very clear - that population reduction measures will unfortunately not be effective unless they are not voluntary, not left up to human decision processes once implemented and are applied using methods equally effecting the global population. Clearly, not easy or likely to be popular - but technically possible today, and we are coming close to those dread “life boat” survival priorities - sooner than later. We are also coming close (if not actually passed) to where developed nations, with advanced genetic technology have the bioweapons capability of selective global human population reduction to insure their own survival, acquire greater critical finite resources and essentially dominate the planet. 

I’m not saying population management doesn’t have its own economic consequences and or human emotional hardships, but I firmly believe based on the changes in global ecosystems that I have seen over the past 50 years, the research I’ve done on the subject - that it is the only way that we will avoid a catastrophic human population collapse. The longer we wait, the more the extreme the efforts will have to be to survive  - or until chaos takes over and does the work we refuse to do. Chaotic outcomes by definition and nature - are uncontrollable and consequently unpredictable. Our species, even more so our civilization and or its technologies might not survive a global human population collapse.

I know non-voluntary reproduction limit impositions seem extreme, but given the economic/finite critical resource collapse that is otherwise inevitable in about 30 years (excluding the aforementioned energy/food production paradigm shift. A couple generations with minimal births is by far the least traumatic, kindest, merciful and most preferential means that is effective in not only reducing marine anthropogenic impacts - including reducing anthropogenic species extinctions, but likely necessary in saving our entire species.

Doing, essentially nothing (as we are now - with anthropogenic impacts continuing to expand globally) - the next generations will look back from the economic and resource deprivation ravages of a critical resource depleted planet and wish that we/us currently had the intellectual fortitude to initiate effective population/birth reduction strategies now - when it could have solved the overpopulation problem comparatively painlessly. Eliminating our already beginning regional resource wars (ME for example), their potential destructive global war chain reactions and their related chaos - that at some point makes new peaceful solutions (and acquiring the necessary resources to achieve them) virtually impossible.

Short of global nuclear war and the biological annihilation of life on the planet (one of several growing probabilities resulting from finite critical resource depletion conflicts), coral reefs will still be here recovering as they did in the past climate cycles and other catastrophic calamities (be they natural or human induced) - adapting and recovering in a few hundred or maybe a few thousand years. Planetary ecosystems have clearly survived greater impacts than humans have produced. However, humans' continued dominance, arrogant overpopulation and its unavoidable over consumptive occupation of the planet seems - far, far less durable, secure and exceedingly doubtful.

Just got you email today - regarding conservation biology. We have a number of books on the subject and that sometimes used as college course text books, but they aren’t very impressive. Hopefully, your ref is better. I do appreciate the reference. Given what I have read by conservation biologist in general, I will buy into the effectiveness of conservation biology as an anthropogenic impact solution - when conservation biology also includes discussions the critical need to manage human over population as the first and foremost precept of conservation biology. 

Without accepting that overpopulation is the cause of all anthropogenic impacts (by definition) and not just reactively trying to manage that overpopulation’s inevitable over consumption symptoms, conservation biology can only marginally delay humans' inevitable critical finite resource population collapse. Conservation biology while helpful in fisheries management to replenish specific species stocks, doesn’t recognize that by restricting the use of the managed species, only pushes over population to over consume another species. Again, treating the symptom doesn’t solve the problem. Like recycling, though helpful, useful and necessary - it doesn’t solve the finite nature of our critical resources or the lack of sustainability of the human species. As I said earlier, viewing symptomatic treatments of over population as solution has and continues to only make that over population greater, more damaging and ever more difficult to change.

Best regards,

Durwood M. Dugger, Pres.
ddugger at biocepts.com <mailto:ddugger at biocepts.com>
BCI, Inc. <http://www.biocepts.com/BCI/Home.html>

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