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May 02, 2010


Steven Earl Salmony

Perhaps there are other ways of looking at the essence of our problem. It could have something primary to do with human population dynamics and the human overpopulation of Earth.


Population Overshoot Is Determined by Food Overproduction

Even after more than ten years of trying to raise awareness about certain overlooked research, my focus remains riveted on the skyrocketing growth of absolute global human population and scientific evidence from Hopfenberg and Pimentel that the size of the human population on Earth is a function of food availability. More food for human consumption equals more people; less food for human existence equals less people; and no food, no people. This is to say, the population dynamics of the human species is essentially common to, not different from, the population dynamics of other living things.

UN Secretary-General Mr. Kofi Annan noted in 1997, “The world has enough food. What it lacks is the political will to ensure that all people have access to this bounty, that all people enjoy food security.”

Please examine the probability that humans are producing too much, not too little food; that the global predicament humanity faces is the way increasing the global food supply leads to increasing absolute global human population numbers. It is the super-abundance of unsustainable agribusiness harvests that are driving population numbers of the human species to overshoot, or explode beyond, the natural limitations imposed by a relatively small, evidently finite, noticeably damaged planet with the size, composition and ecology of Earth.

The spectacular success of the Green Revolution over the past 40 years has “produced” an unintended and completely unanticipated global challenge, I suppose: the rapidly increasing supply of food for human consumption has given birth to a human population bomb, which is exploding worldwide before our eyes. The most formidable threat to future human well being and environmental health appears to be caused by the unbridled, corporate overproduction of food on the one hand and the abject failure of the leaders of the human community to insist upon more fair and equitable redistribution of the world’s food supply so that “all people enjoy food security”.

We need to share (not overconsume and hoard) as well as to build sustainable, human-scale farming practices (not corporate leviathans), I believe.

For a moment let us reflect upon words from the speech that Norman Bourlaug delivered in 1970 on the occasion of winning the Nobel Prize. He reported, ” Man also has acquired the means to reduce the rate of human reproduction effectively and humanely. He is using his powers for increasing the rate and amount of food production. But he is not yet using adequately his potential for decreasing the rate of human reproduction. The result is that the rate of population increase exceeds the rate of increase in food production in some areas.”

Plainly, Norman Bourlaug states that humanity has the means to decrease the rate of human reproduction, but is choosing not to adequately employ this capability to sensibly limit human population numbers. He also notes that the rate of human population growth surpasses the rate of increase in food production IN SOME AREAS {my caps}. Dr. Bourlaug is specifically not saying the growth of global human population numbers exceeds global production of food.

According to recent research, population numbers of the human species could be a function of the global growth of the food supply for human consumption. This would mean that the global food supply is the independent variable and absolute global human population numbers is the dependent variable; that human population dynamics is most similar to the population dynamics of other species. Perhaps the human species is not being threatened in our time by a lack of food. To the contrary, humanity and life as we know it could be inadvertently put at risk by the determination to continue the dramatic, large-scale overproduction of food, such as we have seen occur in the past 40 years.

Recall Dr. Bourlaug’s prize winning accomplishment. It gave rise to the “Green Revolution” and to the extraordinary increases in the world’s supply of food. Please consider that the sensational increases in humanity’s food supply occasioned by Dr. Bourlaug’s great work gave rise to an unintended and completely unanticipated effect: the recent skyrocketing growth of absolute global human population numbers.

We have to examine what appear to be potentially disastrous effects of increasing large-scale food production capabilities (as opposed to small-scale farming practices) on human population numbers worldwide between now and 2050. If we keep doing the “big-business as usual” things we are doing now by maximally increasing the world’s food supply, and the human community keeps getting what we are getting now, then a colossal ecological wreckage of some unimaginable sort could be expected to occur in the fairly near future.

It may be neither necessary nor sustainable to continue increasing food production to feed a growing population. As an alternative, we could carefully review ways for limiting increases in the large-scale corporate production of food; for providing broad support of small-scale farming practices; for redistributing more equitably the present overly abundant world supply of food among the members of the human community; and for immediately, universally and safely following Dr. Bourlaug’s recommendation to “reduce the rate of human reproduction effectively and humanely.”

Steve Salmony is a self-proclaimed global citizen, a psychologist and father of three grown children. Married 38 years ago. In 2001 Steve founded the AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population to raise consciousness of the colossal threat that the unbridled, near exponential growth of absolute global human population numbers poses for all great and small living things on Earth in our time. His quixotic campaign focuses upon the best available science of human population dynamics in order to save the planet as a place fit for habitation by children everywhere.

Steven Earl Salmony

Out of the mouths of babes…



Charlie Darwin

Set the sails I feel the winds a’stirring
Toward the bright horizon set the way
Cast your reckless dreams upon our Mayflower
Haven from the world and her decay

And who could heed the words of Charlie Darwin
Fighting for a system built to fail
Spooning water from their broken vessels
As far as I can see there is no land

Oh my god, the waters all around us
Oh my god, it’s all around

And who could heed the words of Charlie Darwin
The lords of war just profit from decay
And trade their children’s promise for the jingle
The way we trade our hard earned time for pay

Oh my god, the waters cold and shapeless
Oh my god, it’s all around
Oh my god, life is cold and formless
Oh my god, it’s all around

Mark Rego-Monteiro

Public Policy is the subject of Dave's original post. The observation and critique of talk show hosts is one which I also generally agree with. As for investigative journalism, I'll be glad to take a look at the WSJ account of BP when I can. I have read an NYT account and learned unsurprisingly that BP's embrace of extremist neoliberal profit maximization policy had lead to unsound practice.

As for Sachs, while I'm glad he's learned about some environmental concepts, I don't find his views have advanced so far from his Chicago-like "Shock Therapy" days. While his critique of charlatans and big interests is sound, I was just reading his 2009 views that nuclear power is necessary. In this case, the issuing of white papers might not be a bad idea. However, I find it helpful not to underrecognize the overwhelming control of Federal government by corporate money by calling them blandly "special interests", and the exaggerated expectations for Federal action. Ultimately, prohibitions of local initiative, such as hamstrung California's attempts to lead in environmental policies recently, reflects the compound problems of Big Business influence and the unsound fixation on Federal action which has long preoccupied people in the Nation-state.

Unfortunately, even most ecological economists I find discussing the issues at the broadest levels. To be fair, Herman Daly does discuss microeconomics, at least. To establish a basis for clear and objective thought, and constructive action, I have since college tried to base my intellectual activity on objective grounds. Psychologists and Biologists have impressed me most with approaches that build from the source of social activity, the individual. I like to think we can remember the work of Jean Piaget or Carl Rogers, Pavlov or Jung, to recall the individuals in all our social circles who hold the key to the actions our society needs to take as a whole. In this way, we can appreciate the successful actions of, say all those who have bought solar panels and micro wind turbines for their homes instead of a second flat screen TV. Ultimately, we need to recognize that as self-reliance and local production has been redirected by corporate executives and hierarchies, many people's abilities to reason effectively and to take effective action has been distorted and diluted.

Most technocratic analyses are now based on these distorted and diluted conditions of corporate America, and favor large interests without providing effective solutions.
As a former resident of Brooklyn, NY, I came to appreciate the accomplishments of the Park Slope Food Co-op, which has been recently written up in Fortune magazine http://money.cnn.com/2010/09/16/news/companies/grocery_coop_Brooklyn.fortune/ . Based on values traditionally externalized by conventional economics, the PSFC epitomizes an approach that internalizes the value of people's labor, as Daly's ISEW might suggest, and their human right of ownership, as both the ISEW and David Ellerman's Labor Theory of Property would indicate. As such, it might come as no surprise that the PSFC already purchases 100% green power, in addition to the substantial savings it offers to members on organic foods, along with other services. Elinor Ostrom, the 2009 winner of the Swedish Riksbank "Nobel in economics" prize, has studied the ability of individuals in community to manage natural resources effectively.

I suspect that prevailing trends in the U.S. make this concept unfamiliar. If the concept is health, moreover, it may appear that a local savings bank's health insurance policy would have a hard time paying for a triple bypass operation. However, the very act of organizing and participating in a local health insurance co-op would already begin to instil the original healthy values of more robust and local living with its preventive effects.
As for Steve Salmony's discussion of food dynamics, I'd say I agree largely with his concluding suggestion of small-scale farming. I would add the benefits of networks and the ability of larger networks to convey benefits now associated with national and multinational corporations.

For example, the Via Campesina's U.S. member is the NFFA, made up of smaller associations all over the U.S. Monsanto and DuPont may want to rule the world, but GMOs have already been blocked in much of Europe. In the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, McDonald's has been obligated to pay higher wages. Wal-Mart has left Germany for similar reasons. Let's look forward to more developments like those.

Emily Jones


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Excellent blog. I hope you will post again soon

Steven Earl Salmony

Many too many so-called experts have consciously and willfully chosen NOT to openly discuss the root cause(s) of the global predicament resulting from human overpopulation of the Earth because they did not think it would be helpful, I suppose. But look at what silence during the last 60 years has wrought. Elective mutism by so many experts regarding outstanding empirical research of certain human population issues, particularly human population dynamics, has effectively and perniciously vanquished science. This outcome could be the most colossal failure of nerve in human history. The consequences of this incredible mistake do not simply threaten a civilization with collapse. The collapse of civilizations has occurred before. Sometimes on a smaller scale and other times on a larger one. But at no time in history can I find records of the precipitation of a human-driven collapse with such profound implications not only for a civilization, but also for life as we know it and the integrity of Earth as a fit place for human habitation. The ‘brightest and best’, most knowledgeable people, those in positions of much influence and great power, have not spoken out loudly, clearly and often enough.

When scientific knowledge is deludedly regarded as a threat to human wellbeing, and intellectual honesty, moral courage and personal accountability are everywhere eschewed, how on Earth do we ever give ourselves so much as a chance of mitigating damages, much less “solving” problems for which we bear a large share of responsibility?

I do not know what the future holds for the children. I am hoping they will find ways to muddle through. If they manage to do so, it will likely not be the result of the efforts of those in my not-so-great generation of elders. We have failed them so far “on our watch” and will continue to do so as long as we continuously choose to keep doing the same unsustainable overconsumption, overproduction and overpopulation activities we adamantly advocate and relentlessly pursue in our time, I suppose.

Silence will not save anyone from anything, and surely will not save humanity from itself. Perhaps we can agree that the Earth will go on, with or without the human species.

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