Split- "Overpopulation" vs "Underproduction"

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by Phil Of Mac, Oct 20, 2003.

  1. Phil Of Mac macrumors 68020

    Phil Of Mac

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    #1
    How about feeding their own goddamned people? China isn't "overpopulated" because overpopulation doesn't exist, only underproduction. China is underproducing to the point where they have a one child policy they have to enforce with forced sterilizations and partial-birth abortions. Generally the more people the have the more productive you are and the more food your country can afford, but China right now is stuck between communism and some sort of fascist, corporatist state which ensures that they're not going to be especially productive.
     
  2. Rower_CPU Moderator emeritus

    Rower_CPU

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    #2
    Calling it underproduction is just word play.

    Any population (human or otherwise) can only expect to survive for so long if they outgrow their food source(s).
     
  3. Phil Of Mac thread starter macrumors 68020

    Phil Of Mac

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    #3
    In a decent economic system, it is impossible for humans to outgrow their food sources, because each additional human being adds more than enough economic production to feed himself. You aren't a burden on the food supply: you have a job (economic production) which has a certain value that you are paid (wages or salary), and you use that money to buy food. If food ever reached a point of shortage (right now, food is cheap, and would be an order of magnitude cheaper if the government didn't prevent it), it would be so expensive that people wouldn't have children anymore.

    The problem with China is that their state-controlled economy does not allow each individual to produce wealth to his or her full potential. If it did, they wouldn't have any problem at all. If the United States reached a population of 1 billion people, assuming the government didn't take more control over the economy, we'd be fine, because our government allows individuals to produce at closer to their full potential.
     
  4. teabgs macrumors 68030

    teabgs

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    #4
    EVERY person does this?

    it's IMPOSSIBLE to outgrow our natural resources....?

    Do you really believe these things or are you just spitting out what they tell you in school?
     
  5. Rower_CPU Moderator emeritus

    Rower_CPU

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    #5
    It's not about economics, it's about the ability of an environment to sustain the drain on it by a population.
     
  6. Phil Of Mac thread starter macrumors 68020

    Phil Of Mac

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    #6
    The vast majority. I suppose that disabled people, children, and street bums don't.

    You could subject people to an economic system that made it possible, but under that circumstance it's your economic system and not your population that's the problem.

    Much like Moore's law, the amount of agricultural production we get from any given piece of arable land increases through time. There are also numerous technological innovations that lead to the presence of more arable land in total: the Israelis for instance have been able to make deserts more or less arable. As population and therefore demand for food grows, the more lucrative it becomes to increase agricultural productivity.

    Right now we're feeding more people with less arable land than ever before in history. Even if overpopulation were possible, we wouldn't reach it anytime soon.

    But suppose we did reach some sort of Malthusian point. What would happen? By the laws of supply and demand, food would grow more and more expensive, over time. This would be a gradual process, but as it happened, less and less people could afford to support children, so they wouldn't have any thanks to the miracle of modern contraceptives. The rate of population growth would decline as we approached the Malthusian point in such a way that we'd never reach it.

    But my primary point is that food production is not static and does not grow any slower than population growth. Quite on the contrary: the more people there are, the more production of wealth there is and the more demand for food there is, therefore, the more food is cultivated.

    This is in direct opposition to what they tell me in school. In fact, I developed most of this theory myself. That said, I've just barely explained it here, so if you're still one of those who buys into the excuse of overpopulation, my argument probably isn't that persuasive. But I will expand on it.
     
  7. Phil Of Mac thread starter macrumors 68020

    Phil Of Mac

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    #7
    If China wanted to economically isolate themselves this might be true, but given free trade, or something closely approximating it, it wouldn't matter, because we have plenty of arable land on the planet Earth.
     
  8. Rower_CPU Moderator emeritus

    Rower_CPU

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    #8
    You're going to have to "expand" on your theory, as you stated above, because I'm still not seeing it.

    It's a fact of Nature that a population grows and shrinks to match its food supply.
     
  9. teabgs macrumors 68030

    teabgs

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    #9
    I 2nd that.

    we may not have reached any point yet....but we sure have done a lot of damage.

    There is no way that we can have our population expand exponentially and still not use up our resources.

    Also, even if it IS possible, we'd have to totally screw up the natural order and kill most other life on earth, save the ones we keep for oxygen, and food.....

    plus there are a lot of theories that are great as theories, but totally stupid in practice, and if you buy into the fact that these theories (and there is a reason it is a theory) can work, then you're in for a rude awakening at some point
     
  10. Dont Hurt Me macrumors 603

    Dont Hurt Me

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    #10
    lets get back on track you all this is about space and china's there, not natural resources, population growth etc... have to make a comment that capsule that came back sure looked to be in good condition. maybe this is just what our govt/Nasa needs to get focused on building better spacecraft.
     
  11. Phil Of Mac thread starter macrumors 68020

    Phil Of Mac

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    #11
    This is really something I've meant to write up for quite awhile now.

    "It's a fact of Nature that a population grows and shrinks to match its food supply."

    The difference is that we humans can increase our food supply. It's called agriculture. With all other species food supply is an independent variable that has nothing to do with population, but with humans, food supply is really a function of population (i.e. demand for food).
     
  12. Rower_CPU Moderator emeritus

    Rower_CPU

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    #12
    Our ability to increase our food supply is not infinite. It's quite an assumption to say that agriculture will be able to match our population increase. Do you think agriculture will be able to double it's output in 40 years (the timeframe for the human population to double from 6 bln to 12 bln)?

    Food supply is a function of the ability of the environment to provide nourishment. We're getting down to laws of conservation here...you can't make food out of thin air.
     
  13. shadowfax macrumors 603

    shadowfax

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    #13
    this is reading suspiciously like a *hem* political discussion....


    while it's certainly true that there has to be an equilibrium of people and what nature can support, i don't know that this is the problem in China. i think their problem, much like Russia, is that they're an economic flop in terms of food production and distribution. so in that specific case, i would agree with PofM...
     
  14. Rower_CPU Moderator emeritus

    Rower_CPU

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    #14
    If it gets there, I'll move it, but it's not political per se, just yet. ;)

    I'm not debating China in particular, but overpopulation vs underproduction in general after PofM's "overpopulation doesn't exist" comment.
     
  15. Dros macrumors 6502

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    #15
    It sounds more than a decent economic system, it sounds like a system where calculating marginal rates of return is considered foreplay. Not likely to happen! The hot area of economics right now is exploring the many ways that humans are not perfectly rational creatures that make appropriate economic decisions.

    Food production probably can grow for another 20 years. Pollution from production, probably not. I think food costs are low in part because of government subsidies and in part because the true cost of food production (e.g. fertilizer run-off) is not carried by the producers.
     
  16. tristan macrumors 6502a

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    #16
    No shortage of agricultural capacity

    You're saying "land is a fixed resource, and population is a growing resource, so eventually we'll have no more capacity to feed population."

    I can't argue with logic, but how far away are we from that? I'd say hundreds of years - here's why.

    Land is a resource, but not the only resource in the equation. There's also labor and capital. Some crops are more land intensive, some are more labor intensive, and some are more capital intensive. As land becomes more and more scarce, we can substitute labor and capital.

    For example, rice is pretty labor intensive but not very land intensive. That's why most overpopulated Asian countries farm and eat rice. If you really needed more land, you could envision some kind of multi-level greenhouse structure. Now you've applied capital to the problem. Or get some new type of fertilizer or pesticides.

    And because of free markets, prices will adjust. Beef is an *extremely* land intensive product because cattle have to graze. So beef prices should go up, and people would switch to other foods (soybeans maybe?)

    So what I'm trying to say is that its not as simple as "constant land, increasing population, we all starve". Remember when people thought we run run out of oil? Now there's more oil reserves than ever. Same principle basically.
     
  17. Rower_CPU Moderator emeritus

    Rower_CPU

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    #17
    What we're looking at is much more complex than static land vs increasing population. Air and water quality, as well as waste removal and delivery systems all play into this equation.

    Just because we're finding more oil doesn't mean that will be sufficient to sustain 2x the number of drivers, just as more arable land and better cultivation/harvest/etc techniques doesn't mean there will be food production sufficient for 2x the number of people.

    It's a finite system.
     
  18. Frohickey macrumors 6502a

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    #18
    Somehow, I think that Phil is right on this one, not just because he is going against the mantra of the environmentalist, but it is proved by history as well, at least in the United States.

    Compare the number of people that were farming in the 1900s, versus the number of people that are farming in the 2000s. Also, compare the amount of land used for farming in the 1900s, versus the acreage used in the 2000s.

    In both cases, less people and less land are used to feed more. Granted, its not a perfectly linear equation, or else, you would be able to feed everyone on no land. ;)

    Carrying capacity of habitats is not fixed, especially with tool-using humans capable of putting energy and innovation into increasing it.
     
  19. Rower_CPU Moderator emeritus

    Rower_CPU

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  20. Durandal7 macrumors 68040

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    #20
    The United States is a massive country with a relatively miniscule population. Aside from that we have easy access to cutting edge technology. The US is in a dramatically different situation then countries like China or India.
     
  21. rainman::|:| macrumors 603

    rainman::|:|

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    #21
    i live in iowa, which is well known for beef, corn, and soy agriculture which feeds a great deal of America. and i can tell you, overall producing farmland is getting smaller and smaller, not larger. cities grow, roads are built, improvements are made, family farmers go out of business due to lack of government subsidies in a bad year and their land is purchased by corporations which house huge feedlots polluting the rest of the ecosystem in ways we can't imagine, etc.

    True right now there is enough food to roughly sustain the entire planet, eliminating starvation. But we've reached a peak in many places, where food production decreases rather than increases, and it's sure to happen everywhere eventually.

    if you're right, phil, why is there such a huge interest in biodomes and setting up agricultural colonies on other planets?

    the only way you're going to see food distribution enough to sustain us in the meantime would be communism. which means there will be a lot of starvation until we work something else out...

    pnw
     
  22. tristan macrumors 6502a

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    #22
    population increase

    The other reason your forecasts are wrong is that you're forecasting population increases. Well, in developed countries populations are increasing only because of immigration. With no immigration, they would be stable. People in developed countries just don't have that many kids. How many people do you know with four kids? Now how many people do you know who are 40 and don't have any kids?

    They've also seen that as developing countries get wealthier, they cut back on their population growth. I used to live in Singapore, and during the sixties they were pushing a one child policy. Now they're giving people subsidies to have more kids because their birth rates are so low.

    So your forecast of the world population doubling every 40 years is very likely inaccurate.
     
  23. Rower_CPU Moderator emeritus

    Rower_CPU

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    #23
    Based on population increases over the past 2000 years or so we have been doubling our population in half the time of the previous doubling. So, if it took 80 years to go from 3 billion to 6 billion, it should take 40 years to get to 12 billion.

    Current growth estimates are about 73 million per year (source). Even if we assume linear progression (which we have never had in recorded history) we will get to 12 billion in 80 years.

    Being at 12 billion in 40 years is not unlikely.

    edit - Found another site showing a lot of info on world population increases (http://www.geohive.com/).

    I also found a PDF saying 12 billion by the end of the 21st century, but they also point out that there are already food/water issues at hand that will manifest even at the current growth rate.

    http://www.usaid.gov/pop_health/pop/publications/docs/popenv.pdf
     
  24. rainman::|:| macrumors 603

    rainman::|:|

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    #24
    part of the problem is that in the past we have had epidemics that killed huge chunks of the population... today we don't have that, outside of several diseases, nothing that can suddenly claim 30% of the population. Medical science has taken us to an age where nature's controls over human population do not apply, and so we're out of balance with the ecosystem.

    as always, when talking about overpopulation, i recommend reading some vonnegut... welcome to the monkey house, etc. he has lots of short predictions in his stories, like body-numbing drugs to suicide parlors... his fear was mostly individual longevity-- he is a firm believer that our lifespans will increase as our technology does. it's proven right so far.

    pnw
     
  25. Phil Of Mac thread starter macrumors 68020

    Phil Of Mac

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    #25
    There is a limit, but as we approach that limit, through the laws of supply and demand, the price of food will rise.

    You don't need to make complex calculations to find out when you can't afford to have another child. If food becomes more expensive, guess what? We all eat food! So we'll all have less money. So when your wife wants to hear the pitter-patter of little feet around the house, you can say, "Sorry honey, but we're in debt and our last trip to the grocery store cost $500. I don't think we can afford to have kids."

    You don't *need* to do a cost/benefit analysis at that point.

    The government actually keeps food prices artificially high to ensure that we have enough farmland and capacity to feed the country in case of emergency.

    The productivity of any given piece of land has grown. It's like Moore's Law, only except for transistors on a square inch of silicon, it's food from a square mile of land. In addition, more and more land becomes arable as we develop the technology--the Israelis have been able to make the deserts bloom, for instance. Land is a fixed resource, but agricultural production isn't. As soon as the need arises, we *will* develop technologies, even if it means growing food indoors with artificial sunlight. (Hey, they do it for cannabis already!)

    We are HUMANS! We can overcome! Malthusian overpopulation happens for animals because they don't control their own food supply. We do!

    And if you're talking about any given country (say China), China does not have to produce all the food they're going to eat themselves. They can produce two-button mice instead, and trade them to the United States for food. Basically, as long as you're producing *anything*, you have a demand for food, you are willing to pay for food, and thus you are contributing to the production of food in that manner, when you buy it and when you constitute part of a market that someone is going to want to capture.
     

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