Torstai 10.9.2020 klo 14:10 - Mikko Nikinmaa
The Living Planet Report 2020 was just published (can be downloaded from https://livingplanet.panda.org/). It is sad reading: the vertebrate populations have decreased globally by 68 % from 1970.The most marked decreases have occurred in areas with high population growth and least in areas with low population growth. In South America the decrease of animal populations is 94 % as compared to 1970 and in Africa 65 %. It is no surprise that the animal populations decrease most in areas with high population growth, since there the changes in land use are greatest, and changes in land use account for more than half of the changes in animal populations. Notably, about 75 % of ice-free land area is nowadays impacted by humans, and the percentage of wilderness decreases with population increase: wilderness remains in Arctic areas and deserts, which are uninhabitable.
Although it is clear from the Living Planet Report that population growth cannot continue, if we are to have sustainable future, the economic circles say that future of economies depends on population growth. This thinking is like increasing the speed of the car, when you know that a collision to a brick wall is imminent. Shouldn’t we instead start modifying our economic theories towards a regulated population decrease? If we did that, both biodiversity could be maintained and climate change could be stopped. Not a bad heritage to future generations. I bet they would accept this even if it was done with loans: it is much better to have healthy environment and high debt than to have no debt but unhospitable Earth.
Maanantai 10.8.2020 klo 18:01 - Mikko Nikinmaa
Climate change, Covid-19 pandemic, racial discrimination, populistic movements, inequality, biodiversity loss – the list could continue almostforever. The humankind has problems, and the problems are caused by greed and selfishness. That is best seen in the increasing nationalistic populism. We should only take care of our own group. However, why should we broaden our thinking as far as the nation state. There are usually millions of people in nation states – why should we care of people living in different areas, they are certainly taking advantage of us even if they are living in the same nation as we. Shouldn’t we restrict caring about others to our immediate family. Anyone who looks at all different is not worth caring. That is the basis of any discrimination, we can always find a reason to divide people: according to skin colour, language, religion, gender, disability etc. When the people are labelled to different from us, we do not need to think about how their conditions could or should be improved, but can label them rapists, thieves, murderers, terrorists, whose sole aim is to disturb our life.
Thinking of other people that way, the further they are from us, the less we need to care, makes it possible to be greedy – we do not have to care about their conditions as long as suppressing them gives us more riches. Or if we utilize them, they are not our equals but slaves: why would we care as long as we get cheap t-shirt, can dispose of our toxic wastes cheaply to developing countries or can eat cheaply in ethnic restaurants, or get sexual satisfaction. We in the rich world have been able not to care until recently: the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change, biodiversity loss and environmental pollution have now made many of us to realize that the earth has limits and that we have reached them. Further, it is obvious that inequality across the world cannot continue. To enable sustainable development, we rich need to decrease our consumption, and population increase needs to stop.
Unfortunately, there are still a lot of greedy rich people (and less rich ones), who refuse to see that anything needs to be done. Invariably they are reverting to the past, more or less saying that the coal and oil consumption is 1960s didn’t cause anything, so why would it now. The difference to today is that the energy consumption today is manyfold per person as compared to 1960s and we are four times as many. If we could go back to the past, I would gladly do it. None of the present-day problems would have taken place with the population and resource use of that time.
Thus, the change that is needed is the way of thinking. Instead of greed and selfishness, caring and compassion should be the leading qualities. Environmental problems cannot be solved, if the getting rich-me first-attitude persists.
Maanantai 20.7.2020 klo 20:08 - Mikko Nikinmaa
The most important reasons for all the environmental problems, climate change, biodiversity loss, loss of arable land, overfishing and pollution are the increase of human population combined with the strive for every human to be able to consume more. Thus, to be able to have sustainable development, the primary goal must be to stop population growth. Hitherto it has been estimated that the growth of human population continues to at least 2100, although the growth rate is decreasing. By 2100 there would be more than 10 billion people on the earth, if no catastrophes occur before that. In view of the gloomy predictions, it was refreshing to read the article by Vollset et al. in Lancet (July 14, 2020; https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30677-2). They estimate that the population reaches a maximum of 9.73 billion by 2064 and thereafter decreases so that by 2100 the population is 8.79 billion. The population decreases everywhere except in Africa especially in Sub-Saharan Africa. The population increase seems to continue there up to 2100 with the consequence that Nigeria will be 2nd most populous country in the world by 2100. Also, out of the world’s population, about 3.8 billion will live in Africa.
The economic systems virtually everywhere are based on population growth. Thus, one sees in European newspapers big headlines about how terrible the decrease of birth rate is. However, to enable sustainable development, that is what needs to take place. Since the population growth occurs in area from which emigration to Europe is feasible, European countries should, for their own sake, start thinking about immigration as an asset, not as a burden. This requires a change of many people’s attitude.
However, even the 8.8 billion population is too large for sustainable living. Even if climate change with new technologies could be stopped, the need for food, biodiversity loss and pollution continue. The population can be further decreased, if the education, especially women’s education is improved. It is clear from the enclosed figure that lifetime fertility (y-axis) decreases with the number of years of education. With education improved and birth control applied, the human population would decrease to about 6 billion by 2100, i.e. be about a quarter less than today. That would certainly be sustainable, so there is a ray of hope, which is achievable.