The term “peak oil” gets thown around so much that it’s connotation has lost all meaning, especially with gasoline prices not connected to traditional supply and demand economics. Worldchanging’s Alex Steffens has written a piece on “peak population” and how that notion is incredibly important for the future of the planet – maybe more so than peak oil.
Steffens main point is that now is the time to make changes because the population is going to crest and ideally it will happen sooner with less people rather than later with more people. At some point within the next few decades humans will reach the point when the maximum number of humans on the planet will exist.
It would be a mistake, however, to fail to see peak population as a hugely important insight, because when we know that we are riding a wave of increasing numbers (and increasing longevity) that will crest sometime after the middle of this century, we can also see that
1) The longer population growth rates remain high, the more total people there will be on the planet when we reach peak population, so one of our biggest goals ought to be seeing to it by every ethical means possible that the wave of population growth crests sooner rather than later.
2) If we are successful in reaching peak population sooner, at a lower number of people, rather than later with more people, we will be much more able to confront the myriad interlocking crises we face — a comparatively less crowded planet is an easier planet on which to build a bright green future.
3) Since we know the single best way of bringing down high birth rates is to empower women by giving them access to reproductive health choices (including contraception and abortion), education, economic opportunities, and legal protection of their rights, empowering women ought to be one of our highest priorities. (As Kim Stanley Robinson puts it, empowering women is the best climate change technology.)
4) Our other main task is to preserve natural systems and transform human economies in order to best withstand this wave of human beings, avoid catastrophe and leave behind as intact a world as we can — to save the parts (including not just biodiversity but also the diversity of human cultures and histories) so that future generations have as many options as possible.
5) Our best hopes for both avoiding catastrophe and preserving our heritage all hinge on our actions over roughly the next two decades. In that time we have enormous work to do: create at least the model of a zero-carbon, zero-waste civilization; begin deep and widespread impact reduction here in the developed world; sustainably raise the prospects of those (especially women) living in the developing world; and preserve as many working parts of our planetary heritage as we possibly can. After that time, all of these jobs will grow progressively harder, trending quickly towards impossibility.
I love number 3 on this list. It is truthful in every respect.
And I’m reminded of watching Travelling Sisterhood Pants 2 (or something to that effect) last night. You know, the one with the magic pants.
Okay, let me get this out of the way. I rented the darn movie. On my own. I mildly enjoyed the first one because I want Rory Gilmore to be my girlfriend. And I found it to be surprisingly decent. So I rented the second one last night. Because they were out of Hancock.
Anyway, one of the plots in the movie involved a girl who has sex with her longtime boyfriend. His condom breaks and there is a pregnancy scare. So what does she do? She prays for a miracle. Seriously. That would have been a good time to discuss (essentially empower her) the options available. Her options are clearly not pregnancy or a miracle and yet this is the type of country America has become. Women’s reproductive rights and healthcare options have become demonized and marginalized into something that women should not be allowed to pursue. [via]