Demografie şi consum

Isaac Asimov : "In the same way, democracy cannot survive overpopulation.  Human dignity cannot survive it.   Convenience and decency cannot survive it.  As you put more and more people onto the world, the value of life not only declines, it disappears.  It doesn't matter if someone dies. The more people there are, the less one individual matters."
        - From page 276, A World of Ideas

Economiştii au o vorbă: Cererea creează piaţa. Īn cazul de faţă e vorba de energii alternative. Aici īnsă economiştii au greşit. Nu există substitut pentru petrol şi gaze naturale. Pur şi simplu. Peste 500.000 de produse din petrol. Fără petrol şi gaze naturale nu există fertilizatori şi īngrăşăminte pentru agricultură modernă. Practic nu există agricultură modernă.
Cāţi oameni ar putea să supravieţuiască fără agricultură modernă? Ce capacitate are fiecare ţară?

Petrolul a īnceput să fie extras comercial īn 1859. La accea vreme populaţia lumii avea mai puţin de 1.5 miliarde de suflete. 150 de ani mai tārziu populaţia mondială a explodat la 6,5 miliarde. Īn acest răstimp am reuşit să consumăm jumătate din petrolul mondial. Din ce a mai rămas, cea mai mare parte va fii prea scump, dacă nu imposibil de extras.

Să o luăm altfel: Tu, eu şi cu īncă patru oameni suntem pe o insuliţă īn mijlocul oceanului fără nici un mijloc real de a pleca de acolo. Pe insuliţă există destulă māncare doar pentru patru dintre noi. Matematica e simplă: cel puţin doi trebuie să moară de foame. Dar cel mai probabil 3 vor muri īn īncăierări pentru māncare. Asta dacă pe insulă nu se află şi arme de foc.

Many of the "knowledgeable" people speaking on environmental problems turn out to have a very poor grasp of the simple mathematics that govern the situation they are working with.  Here's a section from an Albert Bartlett article which gets across what has happened to the earth's resources in the last couple hundred years:


Bacteria grow by division so that 1 bacterium becomes 2, the 2 divide to give 4, the 4 divide to give 8, etc.  Consider a hypothetical strain of bacteria for which this division time is 1 minute.  The number of bacteria thus grows exponentially with a doubling time of 1 minute.  One bacterium is put in a bottle at 11:00 a.m. and it is observed that the bottle is full of bacteria at 12:00 noon.  Here is a simple example of exponential growth in a finite environment.  This is mathematically identical to the case of the exponentially growing consumption of our finite resources of fossil fuels.  Keep this in mind as you ponder three questions about the bacteria:

(1) When was the bottle half-full?  Answer: 11:59 a.m.!

(2) If you were an average bacterium in the bottle, at what time would you first realize that you were running out of space?  Answer: There is no unique answer to this question, so let's ask, "At 11:55 a.m., when the bottle is only 3 %  filled (1 / 32) and is 97 % open space (just yearning for development) would you perceive that there was a problem?" ...  See Table II. 
Table II. The last minutes in the bottle.

11:54 a.m.     1/64 full (1.5%)     63/64 empty
11:55 a.m.     1/32 full (3%)       31/32 empty
11:56 a.m.     1/16 full (6%)       15/16 empty
11:57 a.m.     1/8  full (12%)      7/8   empty
11:58 a.m.     1/4  full (25%)      3/4   empty
11:59 a.m.     1/2  full (50%)      1/2   empty 12:00 noon        
full (100%)           empty 
Suppose that at 11:58 a.m. some farsighted bacteria realize that they are running out of space and consequently, with a great expenditure of effort and funds, they launch a search for new bottles.  They look offshore on the outer continental shelf and in the Arctic, and at 11:59 a.m. they discover three new empty bottles.  Great sighs of relief come from all the worried bacteria, because this magnificent discovery is three times the number of bottles that had hitherto been known.  The discovery quadruples the total space resource known to the bacteria.  Surely this will solve the problem so that the bacteria can be self-sufficient in space.  The bacterial "Project Independence" must now have achieved its goal.

(3) How long can the bacterial growth continue if the total space resources are quadrupled? 

    Answer: Two more doubling times (minutes)!  See Table III. 
Table III.
The effect of the discovery of three new bottles.

   11:58 a.m.  Bottle  No. 1 is one quarter full.
   11:59 a.m.  Bottle  No. 1 is half-full.
   12:00 noon  Bottle  No. 1 is full.
   12:01 p.m.  Bottles No. 1 and 2 are both full.
   12:02 p.m.  Bottles No. 1, 2, 3, 4 are all full.
Quadrupling the resource extends the life of the resource by only two doubling times!  When consumption grows exponentially, enormous increases in resources are consumed in a very short time!"
NOTE:  The doubling time for human population has been on the order of 35 to 50 years for the last couple of centuries.  The time at which something could have been done to prevent the current catastrophe was a couple of generations ago.


The average citizen of the United States uses fossil fuel energy at a rate which could, perhaps, be provided by 14 horses. On the same basis, the average European uses the power of 7 horses, while citizens of India make do with about one If we fail to find energy sources to replace fossil fuels, it is a more than plausible hypothesis that eventually the Earth will be able to support only a much smaller population — probably about a half to a third of the 6 billion people who are expected to populate it by 2000. It is clear that for there to be a chance of stabilizing carbon dioxide levels, population needs to be limited to about 3 billion. While those statements are of crucial importance, we will not dwell on them here, since the Optimum Population Trust (OPT) has presented the arguments elsewhere. The purpose of this paper is to enquire when fossil fuels will be exhausted, and more especially to ask some common sense questions as to whether an adequate replacement for them is likely. A first step in tackling those questions is to consider how far ahead we need to look.
Choosing a relevant period of time
The age structure of the present population is such that by 2040 world population will be at least 8 billion — unless a natural catastrophe intervenes. From 2040 onwards, it might be possible to set in motion, and sustain, a steady fall in population of 1 percent a year. Let us suppose, for the sake of the argument, that this difficult task is achieved. Then 110 years after 2040, that is in 2150, population would be 8 x 0.99100 = 2.6 billion. So to achieve the population size assumed in the hypothesis, we need to act now to prepare for 150 years hence. That being the case, we cannot allow ourselves to think in terms of anything less than 150 years. In short, it would be unwise to wait and see what happens to energy supplies, and then lay plans.
We will not be the first to attempt a long-term view. In a book called The Coal Question (1865), the Victorian economist William Stanley Jevons (1835-1882) discussed the possibility that Britain would eventually run out of coal. Jevons had the wisdom to see that it did not greatly matter that it was difficult to assess the amount of coal resources, because the power of exponential growth is so great that substantial error in the amount of the resource makes little difference. However Jevons failed to foresee the development of oil and natural gas, so his forecast that, “the check to our progress must become perceptible within a century from the present time,” has not been fulfilled. In this instance common sense could not have predicted the abundance of oil and gas; but, as we hope to show, common sense can be applied more fruitfully to the events of the last thirty years, and also to the future.

The problem of sustainability

A further question arises as to whether the yield factors being used are based on sustainable agriculture.  For instance, if a high yield factor is being achieved by irrigation, but the irrigation can only be accomplished either by drawing down aquifers (United States), or raising water tables and increasing soil salinity (Australia), then clearly it is not sustainable.  Furthermore if pesticides are being used so intensively that they are polluting groundwater, then that level of pesticide use is not sustainable.  For most nations it is too difficult to make even a rough estimate of the adjustment to the yield factor which would be needed to take sustainability into account.  However, the United States and Australia are two nations for which it would be grossly misleading to assume that current agricultural methods are sustainable.  For these two countries, we make significant adjustments to account for sustainability; the details are covered in OPT’s Carrying Capacity papers. There are further complications which we will touch on later, but at this stage let us look at carrying capacities for all nations which in 1993 had populations above 50 million.  Table 1 lists these nations in order of “excessive population.”  Excessive population is an obvious corollary of the idea of carrying capacity: it is arrived at by subtracting carrying capacity from actual population.  The “excessive population” column merely saves a bit of mental arithmetic!

Table 1.  Excessive populations based on a “Modest” footprint, covering nations whose 1993 populations exceeded 50 million.  For China and India, carrying capacities appropriate to a “super-Modest” footprint (see main text) are given in square brackets.

Country 1993 population Carrying capacity, Excessive population  
    “Modest” footprint (in 1993)  
  millions millions millions %
China 1196 168 1028 86%
India 901 103 798 89%
Indonesia 192 29 163 85%
Pakistan 133 24 109 82%
Bangladesh 113 6 107 95%
Japan 125 27 98 78%
Mexico 90 27 63 70%
Nigeria 72 10 62 86%
Philippines 65 6 59 91%
Egypt 60 4 56 93%
Brazil 156 105 52 33%
Ethiopia 51 7 43 84%
Thailand 58 16 42 72%
Italy 57 16 41 72%
Germany 81 42 38 47%
Turkey 60 22 38 63%
United Kingdon 58 23 35 60%
United States of America 258 254 4 2%
France 58 62 -5 -9%
Total 3784 951 2831  

The figures in Table 1 are calculated according to the assumptions we have already outlined.  Additionally they assume what we call a “Modest” lifestyle:  one which is closer to the European rather than the American in its demands for arable land, pasture, and forest products.  As to energy, the allowance is either the 0.61 ha/cap already discussed, or even less for a few nations, for which, with their present population, such a level of consumption is “ecologically impossible.”  What is important is that a simple analysis, as per Table 1, is often misleading: many countries need to be looked at according to their specific circumstances, as we shall explain. 

For instance, it makes no sense to assume that China could expand its built-up area to Western standards, because in the process it would use up virtually all its arable land.  Moreover it is equally unrealistic to imagine that China, with its present population, could adopt European eating habits: it simply does not have the ecological resources to do so.  Thus, for our in-depth look at China, we make the following assumptions: (1) only 0.03 ha/cap of encroachment of built-up land on to present ecological resources; (2) an arable land footprint which is half of the European size; (3) a pasture footprint which is only a quarter of the European size.  After adjusting the spreadsheet for these assumptions (assumptions which may conveniently be referred to collectively as a “super-Modest” footprint), we arrive at the following result: 333 million people.  For a similar super-Modest footprint, India would have a carrying capacity of 181 million.  These conclusions surprised even us; but then it is hard to imagine the difference between the lifestyle of the average Indian or Chinese and the average European.  Land areas in China are shrouded in uncertainty, so these figures are not written in stone, but we have every confidence in the broad truth of our conclusion, which is summed up in the words: Few things can be more important than to appreciate the impossibility of “development” for such heavily populated areas of the world

72 de milioane de oameni pe an. Asta e cifra creşterii globale anuale. Adică de 3 ori şi jumătate populaţia Romaniei.
Time unit       Births      Deaths           increase
Year       129,108,390   56,540,896        72,567,494
Month       10,759,033    4,711,741         6,047,291
Day            352,755          154,483           198,272
Hour            14,698            6,437             8,261


"China is now the number one consumer in the world of copper, platinum, steel, zinc and iron. They produce more steel than the US and Japan combined. And there are more cell phone users and beer drinkers than in the United States… Chinese consumer demand, which is currently among the lowest in the Far East, is expected to grow significantly…China has the largest population in the world, with 1.3 billion people representing 25% of the world's population. China has over 30 cities with populations over five million…Over 60% of China's labor force remains in the countryside, but there is a steady migration…to the cities…China is also suffering a chronic shortage of electricity and plans to install 42 gigawatts of generating plant capacity this year alone, equivalent to the UK's entire installed capacity....Of more concern, as goes the Chinese economy, so goes America's financial markets. By becoming the world's largest debtor nation, America has unknowingly allowed itself to be governed by the newest superpower, China."

Jason Giambi's Decline: A Peak Oil Analogy
For over a year now, I've been using a baseball player on steroids analogy to explain the ramifications of reliance on petrochemicals on agriculture. It goes something like this:
"Think about a baseball player who at 25 years old is capable of hitting 20 homeruns per year. He starts taking steroids and by the time he is 28 he is hitting 40 homeruns per year.
For a while, everything is great - he's hitting 40 homers a year, making millions, getting endorsement deals, dating models, appearing on Leno, etc. . . Under those circumstances, why would he ever consider stopping or even weaning himself off the chemicals?
Then, for whatever reason, he is forced to stop pumping himself full of chemicals. Because his body is totally reliant on the chemicals, he doesn't just go back to hitting 20 homeruns per year. Rather, his production and career abruptly plummet as his health fails.
All of a sudden, 'The Party's Over', as Richard Heinberg might say.
Our land has the same problem. We've been pumping it so full of petrochemicals that when the supply is halted, we wo'n't just go back to the days of the 1800's. Rather, the land will stop producing all together."
Take a look at Giambi's statistics in 2000-2002 when he was using the petrochemicals. Then take a look at his 2003 statistics - his first year off the chemicals. Then take a look at his 2004 statistics - his second year off the chemicals.
We can expect a similiarly drastic decline in production when we are deprived of our petrochemicals.