It might be tempting to think that human population growth isn't as extreme as the one described in the video. Unfortunately, it is. Here's a graph of human population levels in the last ten thousand years, courtesy of Wikipedia:Read More...
Examining the possibility of a world without fossil fuels, Michael Le Page comes to the conclusion that global warming may be an inevitable result of any industrialised civilisation, as fossil fuels are an unavoidable phase of that development (18th October pg34). He also reports that this might explain the apparent absence of extraterrestrial civilisations despite the high probability that they exist, as each planet offers once chance at transitioning from reliance on finite fossil fuels to renewable energy sources.Perhaps it would be useful to consider a sentient race that could control its population? If our global population had stabilised at a healthy 7 million, rather than 7 billion or more, it's perfectly feasible that we could have passed right through our fossil fuel phase without wrecking our planet's environment.
The editor writes: We will never know for sure. But it is likely that a critical mass of people as well as energy is needed to reach something we would recognise as an industrialised civilisation.
The map above (courtesy of the Wikipedia page) shows the extent of the Roman Empire in around 100 AD. It was big. Surely if our global population was the same as the population of the entire Roman Empire, we'd be able to keep going technologically? Around the time of Christ, daily life in Roman Empire wasn't significantly different from today. They had water supplies, sewage systems, household heating, international trade, docks, cranes, pottery and metalwork and a quality road network. They had developed mathematics, researched complex astronomy and created steam-power prototypes. If the Roman Empire was the only civilisation in the world and its population had stabilised at that point and it had been given enough time, surely it would have been capable of advancing past us? It is true that a lot of technological development in Europe was thanks to developments outside Europe, particularly from the Arab world but the Arab world gained many of their technological developments from Egypt and Greece, which were both part the Roman Empire. For a scientist trying to decide on a critical mass of people required to develop into a modern industrial civilisation, the population of the Roman Empire would seem an adequate amount.
Here's the rub. The population of the Roman Empire, east and west together, in 400 AD, was 70 million people. The entire population of the world at the time of Christ was about 170 million people. Our current global population is a hundred times larger than the population of the entire Roman Empire.
It's very strange that the subject of population is very rarely mentioned when people talk about climate change. It's almost a blind spot and yet population is the elephant in the room. For example, for every extra person in Britain, we need to spend £140,000 more on infrastructure; roads, houses, hospitals etc. Extra people are a big burden. For anyone interested in learning more about the effects of population increase, I recommend visiting the population matters website. Population Matters is a charity that works to educate and inform people about the effect of population on our planet and ourselves. The '£140,000' fact comes from a recent study they conducted into the effects of population growth.
There's a dark final point to the matter of a sustainable global population. It would seem that 70 million people (or 1% of our current population) is a believable global population for survival and development. We've grown fifty times larger in the last two-thousand years and we're still growing, but all the evidence points to climate change putting us back down to that figure in the next five hundred years if we don't do it ourselves. That reduction will be brutal and ugly if we don't find a way to do it ourselves humanely. The choice is ours.
"In her article exploring whether dolphins live up to their reputation for intelligence, Caroline Williams tells of being forcefully rebuffed by a dolphin after attempting to connect with it (27th September, p46). In this era of climate change, the possibility that dolphins don't want to be friends with humans makes them seem more intelligent and emotionally developed than ever."
There would have been more but I only had my creaky old mobile phone with me and its battery life is geriatric. I was planning to carry an inflatable globe (see earlier post) and was on the point of buying one in the excellent map shop near Covent Garden on Long Acre when I noticed that it was made in China. Hmm. Buying a lump of plastic carted half-way around the world to use as a symbolic prop in a climate change demonstration didn't seem quite right, so it stayed on the shelf.
Best quote of the day comes from the actress Emma Thompson whose advice on the threat of climate change and the urgent need for serious action was both accurate, succinct and charmingly direct:
“Unless we’re carbon-free by 2030 the world is buggered.”
This Sunday (21st September), there will be a climate change march in London and other cities to promote and highlight this huge and incredibly important issue. A lot of different organisations are taking part, including Friends of the Earth, Population Matters and the Campaign against Climate Change. The march is along the Embankment from Temple Place, starting at 12:30pm and will end up in Parliament Square. The whole event should wind up around 3pm. For more detailed info, check out the websites of the various charities etc that are involved or click on the picture above. I've heard talk of all sorts of fun activities during the march, including a samba band, so it might even be fun!
I'll be taking part. I'm hoping (if I can find one) to carry an inflatable Earth with me. It'll make a good symbol and if I get bored, I can bounce it up and down like a beach ball. ;-)
It'd be great if lots and lots of people come along. Although it might not end climate change overnight, or even possibly make any significant change, it's still worth doing. You could even help to reduce the effects of climate change for entirely selfish reasons, as I chatted about in this earlier blog, but you could also do it because you want to be a person who stood up and made an effort. Later on, when things get tough and people start asking questions, you'll know that you tried. That could be a really good feeling to have.
Here's a great article from Jarvis Cocker in today's Guardian newspaper, putting forward his thoughts on Sunday's march.
Here's a more general report from the Guardian, including comments from a host of celebrities.
For those of you who might be motivated by watching a programme about the forthcoming worldwide climate change march on Sunday, here's the official documentary:
For everyone else, please come. It really, really, really, really is important!