Population Control

A central and repeatedly stated assertion of the two Quinn books I read is that at some time humans lived in a stable equilibrium. That is not a worldview, that is an assertion of fact. A particular fact that is problematic in proving, yet Quinn claims to know it is true. He actually waters it down at one point and says that human population did grow steadily before some arbitrary level of agricultural innovation, but that it was slower than in recent times. My question is: Why should I believe that modern humans ever existed in a stable equilibrium? I believe that the growth rate has not been constant, yet how could I know that the early history of humans is fundamentally different from exponential growth in which growth is relatively slow for a long time early on?

I just read Ishmael and found it thought provoking in many ways. The central tenet seems to be that Taker culture, in its present course, has harmed and will eventually destroy the environment. I am familiar with much of the literature that supports this apocalyptic vision. However, I find Bjorn Lomborg’s book “Skeptical Environmentalist,” in which he discredits much of this premise, to be quite credible. My own research and observations put me in varying degrees of agreement with Lomborg. Do you have any comment on Lomborg’s research and have you considered the possibility that your assertions of imminent environmental destruction are exaggerated or simply false?

Even if we live tribally (in the sense you use the word in Beyond Civilization), aren’t we still going to crash just as fast as if we work for a hierarchical corporation? We’re still dependent on agriculture. What is to stop the new tribalism from damaging the planet just as much as civilization, provided that we’re still dependent on growing all of our own food?

When I talk to people about controlling the population of the Earth, the subject of birth control often comes up as a potential solution. I can say all I want that “birth control might work on an individual level, but it doesn’t work on a group level,” but I don’t really have any facts to back up this claim. What arguments can I put forth to back up the claim that birth control won’t work to control our population as a whole?

By the time we “discovered” America the continent was fully inhabited by Native Americans. Their population growth is much slower than ours, but it grows too. They still had enough of room to grow slowly without being a real danger for this world. But what if they have had another hundred thousand years? Their growth is slowed down by the way they live, but there’s no proof that it is really limited. Or is there a proof? Finally, my best argument is: they DO have a population control that works until now, which is more than we can assert. And it would be better to have a control that presumably works than to have NO control at all. But would it work if they would have our technology? If we don’t have to give up technology, and if the Leavers have the only known mechanism to control population, what would happen if you combine these components?

The USDA is going to license a patent to Monsanto for genetically altering plants so that they cannot reproduce. This may well result in the bulk of our food supply relying on plants which cannot reproduce naturally. This is by far the most blatant, and frightening, manifestation of “locking up the food supply” to coerce behavior. With this development it seems time just grew allot shorter for us to come up with solutions to our current way of doing things. Do you (or does anyone) have any ideas as to how we can fight these kinds of developments? How do we come up with a more sustainable way of living if the very foundation of nature is so radically altered by geneticists such that our food supply itself is no longer self-sustaining? This scares the hell out of me, and I’m really short of bright ideas at the moment.