Our Choice

I expect that the contents of a previous Facebook post I made today: https://www.facebook.com/bernie.edwards.58173/posts/796016553852058:0 repeated in the quote below, (if anybody actually read it) would have elicited a number of ‘shock horrors’ from people.  It is a mark of the state of the world and our endemic preoccupation with ourselves rather than with what is going on around us, that that would be the usual reaction.

Only two days now until June 5.  Only two more days until the bubble potentially bursts and chaos breaks out.

June 5 is the date for the next 300 million euros payment by Greece to the IMF.  I can’t see it happening.  I don’t really want it to happen.  I want to see what happens next.

Greece’s major creditors, especially the IMF are becoming increasingly worried about the consequences, and the IMF has offered to have the payment delayed until the end of the month. Greece has not responded to that offer.  I hope they stand firm.

Let me make my position absolutely clear on this, in case my past ramblings have not done that.  I want to see the devastating power of the financial world broken.  I want to see markets crumble.  I want to see banks fail.  I want to see the end of globalisation.  I want to see our global civilisation collapse into ruins.  I want, somehow (doesn’t really matter much exactly how),  for the lives of billions of humans to be ended, and fairly quickly.


Because that is the only way that some of us may survive to begin life again on this beautiful planet.  There is no other way for that (our survival, that is) to happen.

This global societal collapse will come about one way or another.  Whether the Greece thing gives it a kick-start or not is really immaterial, but interesting enough to watch the situation closely.  Some thing, some where, some how, some time soon, will be the catalyst for the collapse to begin.  Empires come and empires go.  For the first time in our history we have achieved a global empire where every nation is interwoven with every other nation.  That empire, the final empire of this age, is about to fall.

I linked that Facebook post to this article from CNBC:  Greek crisis: 2,400 hours of brinkmanship

Any thinking person would know that things cannot go on the way they are for long and that at the base of the problem is the fact that there are just too many people living on this planet, both for their own good and for the good of all other planetary lifeforms.

If that statement of position is not universally accepted, that is one thing, and we can just go on living our lives just as we are, until one day we can’t, whether we accept that or not. On the other hand, if we do accept the premise I laid out, then again the rational person would inevitably want to do something about the situation, even if they felt that alone they could do nothing.

I doubt that the situation I have outlined will ever be accepted either by people generally or by the world’s power-brokers who have lots at stake in keeping the current scenario alive and kicking their own goals …but let’s just assume that there were at some stage soon a global realisation that something has to be done about world population.  What could we do?

I said in my earlier post that it didn’t really matter how we did it as long as something happened to reduce population levels, but there are (with global assent) better ways and worse ways of acting.  There is of course the ISIS method. Line people up and chop off their heads.  I’m sure that they would be very happy to assist.  Then there is the do nothing method of allowing nature to take its course in starvation, disease, drowning and dying of thirst.  We could also put the world’s nuclear stockpiles to good use to obtain a quick result.  These and many other possibilities are unthinkable as acceptable solutions and not at all what I was thinking about when I made the statement.

So, what does that leave us with that might be acceptable to all or most?  A moratorium on babies?  Hurry the old folk on their way out the door?  Put that way seems to be offensive but I think that a clearly laid out plan covering births and deaths would be the only humane way to approach this dilemma.  Bear with me for a while while I present a few facts.

World population is growing at about 1.14% a year.  That doesn’t sound like much but any growth rate at all is exponential over sufficient time and we have reached the time when even if that rate held steady for a number of years the actual number of increase in the population every year will grow dramatically.

Currently, the world birth rate is 18.7 per 1000 people or around 136.5 million new births annually.  The current death rate is 7.89 per 1000 people or around 57.6 million deaths annually.  The difference is a positive population increase of some 78.9 million people every year.

Clearly, even if we killed off all the oldies and the weak to get a death rate of near zero, that would not solve anything for long.  So how about reducing the birth rate?  Well, even if we got rid of the oldies and weak and halved the birth rate we would still be growing at about the same rate we are right now, since current births are at more than double current deaths.

The only solution that I can see involves tackling both statistics but much more robustly that previously mentioned.  How about this?   > > > > > > >

First, a moratorium on births.  All births.  Not for long.  Just long enough to achieve a more managable situation, and I don’t mean terminating any current pregnancies.  Say, an immediate global announcement that no more births are allowed from around April 2016.  Any new births discovered after then, to be euthanised.  How long would this need to be in force for?  Are we going to lose generations?  No, only one generation. In conjunction with the death measures I will explain next, it would take only 42 years to reduce population from its current 7.3 billion level to around 1 billion, which is our natural, pre-industrial, sustainable, population level.  We could of course stop the project at any point, say 2 or 3 billion, if the need arose or situations demanded.

So, how do we tackle deaths to achieve a satisfactory population reduction in conjunction with a zero birth rate for a while?

As I said earlier, the current death rate is 7.89 per 1000 people or about 57.6 million people a year.  This has not always been the case.  In fact the death rate has been falling over the years such that back when I was about to enter my teens in 1955, only some 60 years ago, the rate was around 19.5 deaths per 1000 people.  The difference has, I would say, been almost entirely down to improved medical intervention for sustaining life beyond natural conditions.  The higher death rate back then doesn’t mean that more people passed on each year, in fact the actual number of deaths has remained fairly steady in the high 50 millions.  It is just that there were far fewer people around then and in the in-between years.  There were only about 3 billion of us alive in 1960.

Here is my proposition.  We globally stop medically prolonging life beyond its natural term, for everyone not just the oldies, and thus return the annual death rate to its natural level of around 20 per 1000 people.  It just means that we would see fewer people over 70 years old, and I am not advocating the termination of life, other than voluntarily, just withholding life support either pharmaceutically or mechanically, which we are going to have to do anyway soon due to resource restraints among other things.

A death rate of 20 per 1000 today would result in over 142 million annual deaths, allowing, together with a zero birth rate, population reduction to acceptable levels for species survival possibly in sufficient time to be effective.

Personally, I do not see any other way.  Also personally, I do not think any thing like what I have outlined here will ever happen.  Instead we will opt, and by doing nothing we are already making that choice, for the default position of one or more of: starving to death, dying of thirst, cooking or freezing ourselves to death in climate chaos, or beating each other to death in an orgy of self-destruction over diminishing stores of whatever is left to allow us to continue as we are, until there are insufficient others left standing with the capacity to beat anyone else to death.

The choice is ours.  I have outlined an alternative but I think we have already made our choice.

Added after publication:

I just wanted to add an afterthought which should really go without saying.

Were we to achieve a successful population reduction following a plan similar to what I have proposed here, it would be a permanent feature (all other things being equal, of course), a more or less steady, no growth, stasis situation, much as it has been for most of our history on this planet.  We would never again have the means to disrupt living conditions for ourselves or our fellow creatures nor inflict the kind of suffering that they have endured, mostly in silence, throughout our rampaging rape of the planet for the last 2-3 hundred years.

We have had our moment of madness.  We have used up all of the resources that once laid beneath our feet.  Oh, we have been very clever from a particular point of view.  There is no doubt about that.  But at the same time we have been incredibly stupid, thoughtless and heartless in the blind pursuit of our goals for knowledge, wealth and comfort for ourselves.

I just hope that we have learned something about ourselves in the process.


3 thoughts on “Our Choice

  1. Well, you don’t post much, but when you do, it’s a doozy. 😉 I bet all the Facebookers choked on their cornflakes this morning. As you say, we won’t do any of what you suggest; we’re too greedy and self-centred to care. And that’s the way all species are. Live for today and don’t concern yourself with tomorrow as you may not live through today. Like you, I want it all to collapse, but I’m self-centred enough to not want to be part of it. I’m comfortable with the idea that Nature will do it for us, and hopefully sometime after I’ve gone (but it would be nice to be a fly on the wall all the same).

    Unlike you, I don’t want any of humanity to survive. It’s extinction or nothing for me. I think our intelligence is our, and the planet’s, problem. Hopefully natural selection will solve it and another species like us will never come this way again.

    • Thanks for your comment Bev. Oh dear, you do have a downer on our species. I don’t have much faith in us either since we have never shown signs that we can be peaceful and kind and caring about others and everything around us on anything but a very superficial level, but we do have that capability which occasionally shines through and it would be a shame to just throw away everything with the bad. I will be happy knowing that if we want to continue hurting each other it will be back to sticks and stones and hopefully there will be few enough of us that we can exist far enough apart that it will not be worth the effort to antagonise each other but close enough to cooperate together so that any bad apples that emerge will soon be rooted out. If nobody has anything of value other than from the work of their own hands then the incentive to do bad things may not be there. There are always some though that want everything and to control everyone else. Maybe you are right.

      • It’s not so much that I have a downer on our species, rather it’s recognising that all species have an ingrained desire to maximise energy consumption and procreation. An intelligent species like us can do it so much better and ultimately it’s at the expense of the biosphere and its function (and ourselves, ultimately). So my theory is that intelligence, at our level, is a failed experiment in evolution (that’s the only way I can put it, but I know evolution doesn’t do experiments….what works persists and what doesn’t goes extinct).

        Seemingly, our intelligence doesn’t allow us to see that….or if it does, we can’t overcome our genetic drive to consume energy and reproduce. Well….some of us can, but most can’t.

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