Children, to have or to have not: be childless for the environment?

WtD's garden: winter vegetables on display for every passer by to see

WtD’s garden: winter vegetables on display for  all to see

The topic of children frequently comes up in the climate discussion.

Not merely about the kind of future the children of today – and future generations – will inherit, but should people be even having children at all?

Such thinking stems from the belief there are “too many people” on the planet; if we simply reduced our numbers it will mitigate our species environmental impact.

It’s a fraught debate to say the least.

However I wanted to write as a parent concerned about climate change, but also sympathetic to those who express this view.

Let me begin: the decision to have, or not have, a child is one of the most significant decisions an individual can make. I know, I’m the parent of a 5-year-old.

To have a child – or not – cannot be labelled a selfless or selfish act. We all have the right to control our life and bodies – regardless of gender, age, race, and sexual orientation. The question about having children is personal. No one should answer it for you.

But the question people sometimes ask is how much difference will it make to the environment if they remained childless? And is that the only course of action?

To answer this question, let’s start with some perspective.

All organisms – regardless of the species – leave an imprint and shape the Earth. Humanity does, so do ants and so do microbes. All life shapes the biosphere – life is an integral component of the climate system itself. Consider the role of plants in regulating the climate. But also consider the impact humanity is having: changing the atmosphere and ushering one of the six major mass extinction events of the last 560 million years.

Those who understand the deep history of the Earth and the climate know how radically different the planet has been over the vast eons. Remove humanity from the planet, and the climate will continue to change.

What matters to us – today – is the type of change we are inducing. How fast, how disruptive and how much potential suffering will these changes induce?

Thus to my mind, the question about having children is framed incorrectly.

Let me rephrase it thus: is having any impact negative?

My response: no, not at all.

Even if we substantially reduce the individual carbon footprint of every person on the planet, we will continue to have an impact at the local, regional and global level.

What matters is the scale of the impact an individual or community has. It is not the numbers of individuals that matter, it their level of consumption and resource use. 

If you move through world disregarding the impact you have, thoughtless about the harm you are inflicting it does not matter if you have a child or not.

A childless CEO flying from point to point in their Learjet, driving a SUV and investing in the fossil fuel industry will do more harm than 1000 families living modestly and within environmental constraints.

Help life find the places to grow

Car park converted into productive space for growing food

Car park converted into productive space for growing food

Let me tell you a story.

A few weekends back my five-year old daughter and I were tending our vegetable patch.

We started growing it with neighbors in the front yard of our apartment, right on the street. Anyone who walks past can see the vegetable patch (see the photo above). I’ve seen people grab a sprig of rocket – and that’s OK.

As we tended our garden people stopped to talk. Others smiled as they walked past. My daughter helped, but really she spent a couple of hours playing in the mud. I planted an olive tree. I’m hoping it will fruit in a few years so I can start preserving my own home grown olives.

Out the back of the apartment complex you’ll find the spaces for the residents cars – a grey, flat and dull expanse of concrete. But in places the concrete is cracked, exposing the soil beneath.

A neighbor planted a cherry tomato plant in one of those cracks – it flourished, yielding the most delicious fruit. All during summer my daughter and I ate cherry tomatoes fresh of the vine. Food from a place were the only plants normally to be found are invasive weeds.

And why shouldn’t we plant food in that space?

It is merely a matter of perspective and convention that tells us certain spaces are for certain things.

Life can grow anywhere: sometimes it is our role to help life find those cracks in the pavement. In doing so we make something wonderful.

Through this simple activity of helping the garden grow I’ve come to know my neighbors; my daughter learns something about where food comes from; we all share fresh food.

This is what it means to be human: we are social creatures. We flourish when we belong to a community.

As a parent you experience both joy and hardship: but overall, children bring delight. Children bring joy. This is part of being human.

And yet I would stress (just as strongly) one can also live a joyous and flourishing life without being a parent. I know many such people, and regard their choices as valid. The lives they live are just as flourishing. At times, especially when parenting is hard, I envy their freedom from the responsibility of child rearing.

But that makes me human.

You can tread lightly: even as a parent

I live in the inner city: I use public transport, I sometimes walk to work and have a hybrid car. I cycle to social engagements. I’m active in the climate discussion.

I’ve changed my life in accordance to my values: but I’ve not made myself poorer in any way.

I work for a large company, but I restrict flying for meetings: I video-conference. I enjoy my role in a large professional services firm and receive a decent salary; I do not reject the free market outright, though I believe it needs to be appropriately regulated.

Ditching a large mortgage and most of the trappings of consumption was liberating. I don’t have a TV.

I’ve not sacrificed – I’ve gained.

I save more, have less stress and more time by having a smaller place.

In doing so I’ve rediscovered the insights philosophers over the centuries have extolled – live modestly; reflect on your actions; act ethically; the rest will follow.

What matters is the life you wish to lead – what will make that a flourishing life?

Only the individual can answer that. Picture that life, work towards it.

You can tread lightly – that can be done as a parent, or by making the valid choice not to be.

Remember, to have a child is not to commit oneself or your child to a life of mindless consumption.

You have a choice – you can teach your child to have the skills to make valid choices.

What better legacy is there but teaching your child about the universe, their responsibilities to others and the environment?

When they grow up, they may go into the world and teach others.

The legacy we leave does not have to be one of abstinence, or sacrifice only.

What matters is what you choose to value.

There are many paths and options open to you: don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

The rest will follow.

—————–

[Note: I will watch the comments on this post carefully, NO debates about how climate change is a conspiracy between Greens and those advocating a radical eugenics program to de-populate the Earth. If comments becomes too "heated" offending posters will be banned.]

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137 thoughts on “Children, to have or to have not: be childless for the environment?

  1. […] 2013/05/29: WtD: Children, to have or to have not: be childless for the environment? […]

  2. Mark says:

    I’m not sure how off topic stuff works here so let me know if this is verboten….

    But,

    How funny would it be if this turns out to be true..

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130530132443.htm

    All the time spent on CO2 and we’d solved the problem 30 yrs ago.

    • john byatt says:

      had a read of it,

      would not waste much time on it as he has made some serious errors and unsupported assumptions,

      it is one of those papers that i doubt anyone will even bother to refute

      here are the current forcings, CFC’s play a role but the dominate greenhouse gas is CO2 at present

    • He’s from my alma mater, so my university friends are discussing it. As I wrote to them,

      Thank you, Mr X. Good studies are always worthy. Let’s see if the paper survives. Mind you, the author was quoted as saying “What’s striking is that since 2002, global temperatures have actually declined.” This actually isn’t quite so. That is measuring surface temperatures only. The surface represents under 3% of the global heat content. The oceans, particularly the deep ocean, is warming. The surface temperature record appears to contain short (a few year) flat periods – but the long term trend on the surface is only going one way. Climate is multi-decadal, not just one decade.

      Heat content http://www.skepticalscience.com/graphics.php?g=46

      • In the more likely event that CO2 is the culprit, it notes that we solved one environmental problem with global regulation. We may need to do the same with the next.

      • john byatt says:

        Lu has been pushing has theory for a while it seems.

        Lu: from ‘interesting but incorrect’ to just wrong
        Filed under: Arctic and Antarctic Climate Science Greenhouse gases — gavin @ 5 July 2011
        Some readers might recall a story from a couple of years of ago relating polar ozone depletion to cosmic rays and the subsequent failure of predictions made using that theory. The idea came from from a Qian-B. Lu (U. Waterloo), and initially seemed interesting (at least to those of us who were not specialists). Perhaps cosmic ray induced chemistry was playing some part in releasing chlorine from CFCs as well as the more accepted idea of heterogeneous chemistry on polar stratospheric particles? Lu’s predictions for increased polar ozone loss in 2008/2009 as a function of the low solar activity (and therefore higher CR flux) did not come to pass. Worse (for this idea), new analyses demonstrated that the hypothesized CR-induced CFC loss wasn’t detectable at all.

        Undaunted, Lu continued to publish his ideas, though without really dealing with the criticisms, and indeed extending his scope to the issue of climate change as well as ozone depletion. He made a new claim that since CFC concentrations correlate better with temperature change, and that implies that CO2 can’t have an impact on climate. Very odd logic indeed. Unsurprisingly, his newest contributions have ended up in less and less mainstream publications. His last paper (Lu, 2010) was in the “Journal” of Cosmology – a recent online production that has been associated with a number of ‘fringe’ ideas (to be polite).

        The paper before that Lu (2010, Phys. Rep.) has now come in for a real spanking from Grooß and Müller (2011) in “Do cosmic-ray-driven electron-induced reactions impact stratospheric ozone depletion and global climate change?”. From the abstract:

        Lindzens iris hypothesis was peer reviewed and so have Spencers papers, all wrong

        Mclean’s paper was peer reviewed , it was awarded the worst paper in history award

      • john byatt says:

        surface temperature trend last decade HadCrut3 was 1.5DegC. ie from 2002

        that alone will blow his curve fitting out of the water.

      • john byatt says:

        Headgear warning

        from the paper

        http://tinyurl.com/my92egw

      • Mark says:

        “surface temperature trend last decade HadCrut3 was 1.5DegC. ie from 2002″

        huh? I’m not sure what your end point year is but there is no time since 2002 that HadCrut3 trend hasn’t been negative.

      • john byatt says:

        sorry should have been Hadcrut4

      • john byatt says:

        Also the difference between Hadcrut3 and 4 are in hundreths of a degree, so 3 will also have a similar trend….ie since 2002 not negative

      • Mark says:

        I don’t think changing to Hadcrut4 helps. Its also been mostly negative since 2002 and never +1.5degC/century(?).

      • john byatt says:

        Now who would know , some guy called mark on a blog or Gavin Schmidt climatologist at NASA?

        http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2012/11/short-term-trends-another-proxy-fight/

        So here are a few things that are all equally true, conveniently plotted for your amusement:

        The linear trend in HadCRUT4 from August 1997 to August 2012 (181 months) is 0.03ºC/decade (In GISTEMP it is 0.08ºC/decade,
        .
        The trend from August 1975 to July 1997 is 0.16ºC/dec , and the trend to August 2012 is 0.17ºC/dec

        .
        The ten years to August 2012 were warmer than the previous 10 years by 0.15ºC, which were warmer than the 10 years before that by 0.17ºC, which were warmer than the 10 years before that by 0.17ºC, and which were warmer than the 10 years before that by 0.17ºC

        The continuation of the linear trend from August 1975 to July 1997 , would have predicted a temperature anomaly in August 2012 of 0.524ºC. The actual temperature anomaly in August 2012 was 0.525ºC.

      • Mark says:

        OK, we are now up to the part where John, realising that he’s wrong, starts thrashing about in order to muddy the water.

        I was using the sks trend calculator for the period after 2002.

      • john byatt says:

        ask a climatologist mark and your thrashing around remark is childish, trying to educate you here

      • Mark says:

        Atta boy John…never admit an error. Just brazen it out. And the swarm will avert their eyes so they can pretend not to notice you screwed up. But I’ll drop it now….even I’m embarrassed for you.

      • Mark gets 9.5, out of 10, for bluster.

        Lu as wrong as he was last time. So’s Mark. All a bit repetitive really. http://www.climatesciencewatch.org/2013/05/31/qing-bin-lu-revives-debunked-claims-about-cosmic-rays-and-cfcs/

  3. john byatt says:

    mandas says:
    May 31, 2013 at 6:55 am
    Mike @ WtD

    I am curious about your ‘cut’ of my post.

    Apparently it is ‘offensive’ for me to suggest someone is stupid – but ok for others to state that I “posted a heap of shit”, or that my comments were “too stupid – ignore”.

    I am perfectly happy to follow the moderation guidelines, which state:

    “…Treat all posters, commentators and readers with respect and refrain from personal insults and ad hominem attacks….”

    So could you please explain why it is unacceptable for me to have responded to a series of posts which firstly suggested that my post was too stupid, and then suggested that I look up stupid in the dictionary, with a comment that when I did look it up I saw a picture of the person who had been insulting to me and treating me without respect.

    Seems pretty inconsistent to me.

    how i read it mandas

    your comment was too stupid, that is not personal insult

    you did post a heap of shit, that is not personal insult

    you claimed that in the dictionary was a photo of me under the word stupid

    that is personal insult,

    mike will correct if i got that wrong

    I am very aware of the guidlines and how to refrain from the personal insult while still getting a point across

    I did not say that you were stupid , I said that your comment was, see the difference?

    If i had said see the difference stupid?, then that would be a personal insult

    • mandas says:

      John

      “…. did not say that you were stupid , I said that your comment was, see the difference?…If i had said see the difference stupid?, then that would be a personal insult…”

      Ah, I see John. Thanks for that explanation. I guess the bit about showing respect is immaterial then?

      But as you have explained it to me, I will make an effort to do better next time. I will even correct my previous post to comply with your explanation. So instead of saying:

      “… when I looked up stupid in the dictionary I saw a picture of you…”

      what I should have said was:

      “… when I looked up stupid in the dictionary, it said “John Byatts opinions on most things….”

      Better?

      • john byatt says:

        Once upon a time mandas made a comment about global warming and actually backed his view with a link to a scientific paper.

        obviously a fairytale

  4. […] Mark’s response was…. interesting. He […]

  5. john byatt says:

    http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/2013/20130529_AmericanParty.pdf

    Unfortunately, proponents of nuclear power or renewables, in promoting their preference,
    usually attack the other. This helps the fossil fuel industry, but is detrimental to our children’s
    future. Given the urgency of phasing out CO2 emissions, we need both nuclear and renewables.
    In the long run, one may win out over the other, but this is no time for mutual destruction.
    Solar power and wind power have moved smartly through RD&D in recent years and are
    beginning to provide significant amounts of electricity, the biggest success story being Germany.
    In the decade 2001-2011 Germany increased the non-hydroelectric renewable energy portion of
    its electricity from 4% to 19%, with fossil fuels decreasing from 63% to 61% (hydroelectric
    decreased from 4% to 3% and nuclear power decreased from 29% to 18%). Germany’s
    renewable energy is continuing to increase (but the fact that Germany is building new lignite
    power plants is disconcerting as regards their expectations for fossil fuel phase-out).
    Nuclear power has demonstrated a capacity for rapid expansion, e.g., in the decade 1977-1987,
    France increased nuclear power production 15-fold, the nuclear portion of electricity increasing
    from 8% to 70%. That was 2nd-generation technology, light-water reactors that use only about
    1% of the energy in the nuclear fuel, leaving nuclear waste with a lifetime of millennia. Reactors
    planned today (mostly 3rd generation, light-water technology) include improvements (such as
    convective cooling that can operate without external power, thus avoiding the basic problem
    faced by the Fukushima reactorsb
    ), but they still leave most of the fuel as long-lived “waste”.
    Expansion of nuclear power thus depends on introduction of 4th generation technology

    Hansen

  6. Moth says:

    Growing up, we always had chickens and a veg patch in suburbia. It’s something I’ve personally missed since moving out (being in share accom as a undergrad, and moving a lot since, it’s been difficult). I’ve made the most of what I can do, however; I have potted a small veg patch, a pomegranate tree, strawberry guava, numerous berry shrubs and some herbs.

    Even my pomegranate tree at a mere 4 feet in height has provided us a few fruit last spring.

    The value in food production in urban spaces is too overlooked in Aust. We are, for the most part, so detached from food production that children honestly do not appreciate it, or the real effort in it.

    To have kids or not… It is a personal question, for sure, but the environment should not play a role in one’s choice. Choosing not to have children is not one of biological fitness and thus cannot be, in a strict sense, environmental. Prosperity and flourishing ecosystems is imperative regardless of the species and we ought to find ways to encourage flourishing rather than ignore continual biodiversity loss. Population limits will be part of that, for sure, but that does not mean sacrificing the choice of having children.

  7. mandas says:

    “…It is not the numbers of individuals that matter, it their level of consumption and resource use….”

    Sorry, wrong.

    It is not the level of resource use by individuals that matter, it is the total resource use by a species (ie humans in this case) as a whole. If you reduce the total number of humans, then if each of those humans continue to use resources at the same rate, then the total resource use will decline. Even if individual resource use increases, if the total number of humans reduces significantly, then the overall resource use will still decline.

    Human population size is the elephant in the room for so many issues – and not just climate change. Habitat destruction, the decline in stocks of fisheries and other wild caught food species, pollution, peak resource availability – you name it, overpopulation is a factor in them all.

    We cannot solve these issues without finding more resources (ie another planet), or by reducing their use. And we will not reduce their use without reducing our own numbers. To deny these facts is no different to denying the facts of climate change.

    Its high time we all woke up to that very simple fact and put in place policies which discouraged people from reproducing.

    • john byatt says:

      for climate change, the worlds richest half billion produce fity percent of emissions

      http://e360.yale.edu/feature/consumption_dwarfs_population_as_main_environmental_threat/2140/

      overfishing is a threat of course but pales when compared to acidification of the oceans,

      We can farm saltwater fish etc on massive scales but not if the ocean is destroyed by CO2

    • Dr No says:

      Agreed. The elephant in the room is sustainable population.

      This is where I part company with those who advocate unlimited growth on the assumption that we can somehow find technological solutions to provide everyone with the same standard of living.

      Simple arithmetic says no. For example, Australia is the driest continent (apart from Antarctica). Each year X liters of water falls out of the sky onto the land mass. Y liters evaporates or runs off into the oceans etc. leaving Z liters to harvest. This is approximately fixed no matter what we do. Multiply the average water consumption per head times the total population and you will quickly find out that we can easily exceed Z. Either we cut back our consumption or we cut back the numbers. At some point we must face the fact that the numbers cannot grow unchecked.

      There are numerous other arguments (environmental, societal, economic) which favor a sustainable population target for Australia. The arguments against are pretty flimsy – mainly advanced by real estate agents, greedy business people and hysterics who erroneously think it represents some form of racism. To be clear – we do not need unchecked growth to maintain a healthy, multicultural society.

      Just remember, if unchecked population growth is so good, why do some countries maintain a stable population and standard of living (e.g. Sweden and Finland) while some of the poorest are overpopulated (I do not think Bangladesh would be in favour of an increased immigration policy).

      • john byatt says:

        Again i am not preaching global population growth but taking an extra share of the current population

        Desalination alone could provide all the water for our cities leaving a lot of water for farms and environmental flows

        so i do not agree ” leaving Z liters to harvest. This is approximately fixed no matter what we do.”

      • john byatt says:

        water as a limiting factor on Australia population

        http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1745-5871.2011.00707.x/abstract

        up to 280 million in this study

      • I’ve posted it before and no doubt I will again in the future.

      • mandas says:

        John

        I don’t think that anyone would disagree with you that the world’s resources are not evenly distributed. People in countries like Australia tend to use approximately 10 times as much energy per capita and waste far more than those in the developing world.

        The problem is, that as these places lift their standards of living, their energy use and wastage starts to equal that of ours. What that means is that, if we are to keep climate change to acceptable limits, the amount of CO2 that we have to stop emitting increases to virtually unachievable levels.

        And that is why we must do something about population control, and not just imagine that it is a matter of sharing the resources more equally. We can’t – there simply aren’t enough for everyone in the world to live at the same level of affluence as we in the west. So if we want everyone to have the same advantages that we do – and we should want that – then we have to reduce the population.

        It comes down to one simple choice. Either we reduce population so everyone can have a reasonable share of the resources; or we limit resource use for everyone. Which would you prefer?

      • john byatt says:

        No I will not take you to task for this very selfish attitude, think about it and rewrite because i am sure you did not mean it to come across as it has

      • mandas says:

        John.

        So how about you explain what is supposed to be selfish about it.

        Is it my statement that I think we should want everyone in the world to have the same advantages that we in the west enjoy?

        Is it my statement that we have to either reduce population so that everyone can have a reasonable share of resources, or that we have to limit resource use for everyone?

        Is it something else entirely?

        Or is it that you didn’t read my post properly, and are now constructing a strawman that you want to argue with?

      • john byatt says:

        “The problem is, that as these places lift their standards of living, their energy use and wastage starts to equal that of ours. What that means is that, if we are to keep climate change to acceptable limits, the amount of CO2 that we have to stop emitting increases to virtually unachievable levels.”

        How about instead, we reduce our, what you call standard of living which as it applies to us is just over consumption and waste as you acknowledge.

        What makes you think that the poor would ever want to achieve a level where they could equal our tossing out 20% of the food they buy and dumping 99% of everything they purchase within six weeks .Is that something to which they aspire?

        It comes across as “we are not the problem it is the poor wanting what we have” and if they do then it is they who have to reduce their population.

        yet we find that the richest 500 million, account for 50% of the CO2 emissions.

        You see the problem as them, I see it as us.

      • mandas says:

        John

        As you would well know, it is very easy to construct a strawman and to then argue against what you have just constructed.

        There is nowhere in my post where I have said that the problem is ‘them’ – whatever ‘them’ means. But I will agree with you on one thing – the problem is ‘us’. The difference between you and I is that you think that ‘us’ is the affluent west. I think that ‘us’ is humanity.

        So let me reiterate my position so that it is absolutely clear – although if you want to construct another strawman please feel free to so so.

        The problem is not that individuals use too many resources. The problem is that humanity as a whole uses too many resources. This will get worse as the developing nations ‘catch up’ to the west. And we certainly want people in developing nations to enjoy the same benefits as we in the affluent west.

        That creates all sorts of problems, because we are using resources unsustainably right now. As that resource use increases things will just get worse. That leaves us the options of reducing population, or reducing resource use. The second won’t work – of that there is no doubt. The west won’t do so, and the developing world should not be expected to – indeed it is not even acceptable that they be expected to use resources at the same rate as they do now. It is only right and proper that they have the same advantages as us.

        So that leaves only one option – reduce our population size.

        You asked me:

        “…What makes you think that the poor would ever want to achieve a level where they could equal our tossing out 20% of the food they buy and dumping 99% of everything they purchase within six weeks .Is that something to which they aspire?…”

        No-one aspires to be wasteful – but it is a byproduct of affluence. To eat the best cut of the animal and to have meat with every meal. To buy a new car every few years. To get the latest i-phone. To have huge feasts with enough food that everyone has more than they need. To live on a huge block of land in a mansion. To fly around the world on holidays.

        All of these things are ‘wasteful’, yet they are a product of our lifestyle, and the lifestyle that others aspire to. Why would you want others to have to make do with less than you have? – because that is what you are suggesting. It is not me who thinks the problem is ‘them’. It is you who thinks that they are different to us.

      • john byatt says:

        You claim a strawman yet are quite happy to construct a strawman of what the poor countries want.

        ‘That leaves us the options of reducing population, or reducing resource use. The second won’t work – of that there is no doubt. The west won’t do so,”

        You can reduce resource use by using renewable for power, we could increase our population 20% today if we just look at food wastage alone

        we can live on 99% less if that is how much of our purchases end up in landfill every six months. that is a hell of a lot of wasted resource

        “…It is not the numbers of individuals that matter, it is their level of consumption and resource use….”

        “Sorry, wrong”.you say but it boils down to your belief that “the west won’t do so”

        then the west is the problem

      • Dr No says:

        John, thanks for that paper alert. It is a good paper and does refer to a total of 280 million. However, that is a theoretical upper estimate for a sustainable population – not a practical limit.
        It assumes:
        (1) we can harvest 100% of the excess (not possible)
        (2) we can squash everybody into our coastal fringes
        (3) no environmental impacts.
        For example, it requires we put 90 million people into Tasmania!

        I suggest that a realistic number is closer to twice the current population.

    • Mark says:

      Ever since the early 1800’s, with Malthus, we’ve been told that we are going to run out of resources, that the population is going to outstrip the ability to feed and accommodate it.

      That way of think continued through to the ‘Population Bomb’ in the late 1960’s where we were confidently told that the fight to feed humanity was over and it was inevitable that there’d be famine in the china, India and even the US.

      In the 1910’s it was an article of faith that we’d run out of oil in 10 yrs.
      In the 1930’s we were going to run out of oil in 10 yrs.
      I well remember, in the late 1970’s, we were told that the government needed to implement pricing controls on oil because we were going to run out of it on 20 yrs.

      The telephone revolution was going to stop because we’d run out of copper.

      Remember the ‘Limits to Growth’…all wrong.

      We are not running out of resources. We have never run out of any resource. We never will run out of resources.

      Belief in this type of thing is just part of an innate human yearning for the apocalypse. Its a bit like a horror movie…we can’t look away no matter how scary it might be.

      So why didn’t we run out of food as predicted in the 1960’s. Human intelligence. We saw a potential problem and solved it…with the Borlaug’s Green Revolution.

      I don’t need to explain why we didn’t run out of oil as predicted. Or cooper. Or zinc. Or fertilisers. Or….

      Some people see a problem and think its insoluble and disaster awaits. Others solve it.

      We will max-out at around 9 billion people. We can easily feed them, probably using less farmland. But if the population doesn’t stabilise, we can just as easily manage 20 or 30 billion. We just have to put our minds to it, and there’ll be a lot more minds to do so.

      • Take 80 minutes off and watch the video I posted earlier, seriously.

      • john byatt says:

        there are always limiting factors for everything

        http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=phosphorus-a-looming-crisis

      • john byatt says:

        will have to wait till end of month but read a lot of his stuff instead,

        read a debate as well

        will wait till i watch on weekend

        basic message in the video?

      • Mark says:

        uknow_etc,

        I’m well aware of Bartlett’s views. They are really just Mathusian philosophy dressed up in modern maths with modern examples and modern fears. But at their core they are the same errors: population grows exponentially, food supplies grow arithmetically; therefore famine.

        But our experience over the past 200 years is that population doesn’t grow exponentially (its less than that) and food production doesn’t grow arithmetically (its more than that) therefore no famine. Yes yes I know famine still exists in parts of the world but here I’m talking the advanced nations. The best way to eliminate famine is to have economic advancement, not imposed stability.

        Really Bartlett’s views aren’t in the least new. As I said, and he acknowledges, he is a Mathusian. Malthus was wrong, wrong and wrong.

        In more recent times we’ve had Osborne and Vogt, The Club of Rome and Limits to Growth – all wrong. We had the Paddock brothers book ‘Famine 1975! America’s Decision: Who Will Survive?’ – guess what!. They were wrong.

        We’ve had Ehrlich’s ‘Population Bomb’ – spectacularly wrong.

        And now we have Bartlett. And still people fall for the innate fallacy in the argument, being that it ignores human ingenuity.

        I guess you could adopt the law of averages approach ie the more often they’re wrong the more likely they’ll be right next time. But I wouldn’t count on it.

        • “But our experience over the past 200 years is that population doesn’t grow exponentially (its less than that)”

          You cannot be serious. Tell me Mark, how much has the population grown by on average over the last 200 years? Break it down year to year if you want and then go and look up the meaning of the word exponential.

      • Mark says:

        uknow_etc,

        A feature of exponential growth is that the rate of growth be constant. Now clearly in this regard we can’t expect it to be the same year in and year out but we do need to see it hover around a constant average rate. But that isn’t the case with population. Here the growth rate is in steady decline. Hence it is not exponential.

        eg:

        Since this was the only response you made to my post, are we to assume that you agree with the rest of my argument?

        • “Since this was the only response you made to my post, are we to assume that you agree with the rest of my argument?”

          Not necessarily. Since you have form in making the assumption that I agree with you, let’s make this perfectly clear… My refusal to comment on any part of any post you make does not automatically mean I agree with you.

          Your notion of the exppoential function as it applies to population is wrong. I provided links in my response to you at my blog that demonstrate this. Congrats by the way. It takes special people to qualify for my DCOD series. You’re in good company. The trackback is at the bottom of this thread.

      • john byatt says:

        if it was your first post there it will go into moderation, once cleared your comments with one link will be posted immediately

      • john byatt says:

        I know that i am guilty but try to put long url’s through “tiny url”

      • Mark says:

        Actually uknow_etc is being more than a little disreputable here. I was clearly talking about the last 200yrs. To get anything like an exponential graph he has to go back 700yrs or so. Either he hasn’t understood my point or has decided to misrepresent it so as to not have to admit error.

        On the same issue:
        “Population in the world is currently growing at a rate of around 1.10% per year. The average population change is currently estimated at around 75 million per year.

        Annual growth rate reached its peak in the late 1960s, when it was at 2% and above. The rate of increase has therefore almost halved since its peak of 2.19 percent, which was reached in 1963, to the current 1.15%.

        The annual growth rate is currently declining and is projected to continue to decline in the coming years, but the pace of the future change is uncertain. Currently, it is estimated that it will become less than 1% by 2020 and less than 0.5% by 2050.

        This means that world population will continue to grow in the 21st century, but at a slower rate compared to the recent past. World population has doubled (100% increase) in 40 years from 1959 (3 billion) to 1999 (6 billion). It is now estimated that it will take a further 42 years to increase by another 50%, to become 9 billion by 2042.

        The latest United Nations projections indicate that world population will nearly stabilize at just above 10 billion persons after 2100.”

        http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/

        Growth rates are in decline and are predicted to decline to zero later this century. By definition they are not exponential.

        But this is not the substance of what I said originally about Bartlett and the neo-Malthusians. I suspect unkow_etc won’t address that substance – never seems to.

      • zoot says:

        Mark, ask your ESL teacher what “disreputable” means.

      • Mark says:

        zoot….more sniping from the pusillanimous cheer-squad in the bleachers.

        Look it up.

      • john byatt says:

        while you are there take mike’s ( uki ) advice

        “look up the meaning of the word exponential”.because you are just digging a deeper hole at the moment

      • Mark says:

        I don’t need to look up the meaning of “exponential growth”. It is (or ought to be) well known.

        But for those who prefer to wallow in ignorance:

        via Dictionary.com

        Main Entry: exponential growth

        Definition: development at an increasingly rapid rate in proportion to the growing total number or size; a constant rate of growth applied to a continuously growing base over a period of time

        My emphasis. Population is not (repeat, not) growing at a constant rate. It is growing at a declining rate. Therefore not exponential. Its not a tough concept….if you put your mind to it.

        Oh, and entirely beside the original point, which, I notice, you and your self-absorbed side-kick have assiduously avoided.

        • If you wish to go down the up escalator, you can keep rabbitting on about how you are no longer going up as quickly as you were before, as much as you like, but when it comes to population growth, or fecundity for that matter, as long as the population growth remains above the replacement rate, the growth is exponential. Don’t take my word for it, go and ask any demographer on the face of the planet. By the way, naming me disreputable because you don’t like what I say is a bit sad. I am professionally well respected amongst my peers and personally well respected amongst my friends. You will also find that I am hardly self-absorbed. Anyone who actually knows me could very quickly disabuse you of that notion. However, your ignorance about nearly everything you have discussed is on show for all. Well done.

      • john byatt says:

        wondered how our sesquipedalian friend was making such a balls up with words,

        seems to be looking for a word using a thesaurus and picking one word at random.from the list.

      • zoot says:

        … more sniping from the pusillanimous cheer-squad in the bleachers.

        It amuses me.

        You don’t expect me to take you seriously, do you?

      • Mark says:

        For those who don’t speak gibberish, this is John’s way of saying:

        “Ok you are right about exponential growth requiring a constant rate, but I won’t admit it, so lets change the subject.”

      • john byatt says:

        No, keep putting more of this nonsense up and we will educate you at the end, more fun that way

      • zoot says:

        Nah, just let him keep displaying his ignorance. There is nothing funnier than arrogant ignorance – the comedy gold of Dunning-Kruger.

      • Mark says:

        “It amuses me.

        You don’t expect me to take you seriously, do you?”

        Yes, I suspect you’re easily amused.

      • zoot says:

        Yes, I suspect you’re easily amused.

        I am, petal.
        I am.

      • Mark says:

        uknow_etc,

        “but when it comes to population growth, or fecundity for that matter, as long as the population growth remains above the replacement rate, the growth is exponential.”

        What does that mean?

        Are you saying that, as long as the population is growing, its exponential growth?

        Or are you saying that if growth rate is above the replacement rate (fertility), its exponential. FYG, the replacement rate fertility is somewhere around 2.2 but the growth rate is down around 1.15%.

        What you say makes no sense.

        Disreputably…I said you were acting disreputably because you sought to disprove my statements about the last 200yrs by referencing the last 700yrs.

        Self-absorbed…I was refering to your belief that merely writing about me on your blog somehow proved my error.

      • john byatt says:

        when will the current population double mark?

      • Mark says:

        Ok uknow_etc, I get it. Neither of us (I nor you) has the faintest idea what you’re talking about.

        “when will the current population double mark?” (John).

        According to the UN and most demographers….never.

      • john byatt says:

        The United Nations will warn this week that the world’s population could more than double to 15 billion by the end of this century, putting a catastrophic strain on the planet’s resources unless urgent action is taken to curb growth rates, the Observer can reveal.

        That figure is likely to shock many experts as it is far higher than many current estimates. A previous UN estimate had expected the world to have more than 10 billion people by 2100; currently, there are nearly 7 billion.

        The new figure is contained in a landmark study by the United Nations Population Fund (Unfpa) that will be released this week. The report –The State of World Population 2011 – is being compiled to mark the expected moment this month when somewhere on Earth a person will be born who will take the current world population over the 7 billion mark, and will be released simultaneously in cities across the globe.

        Some experts reacted with shock to the figure. Roger Martin, chairman of Population Matters, which campaigns on population control, said that the Earth was entering a dangerous new phase. “Our planet is approaching a perfect storm of population growth, climate change and peak oil,” he said. “The planet is not actually sustaining 7 billion people.”

        2011

      • Mark says:

        John,

        I know that you are predisposed to believe whatever alarmist claptrap that comes along but…really?

        Here is the report your piece of alarmism comes from:

        http://esa.un.org/wpp/Analytical-Figures/htm/fig_1.htm

        “Key result: The world population is expected to keep on rising during the 21st century, although its growth is projected to experience a marked deceleration during the second half of the century.”

        Note also that even the graph line that your favoured number reflects is essentially straight ie NOT exponential. But we already knew that, didn’t we?

    • mandas says:

      “…then the west is the problem…”

      Yes John, because no-one in a developing nation is wasteful. No-one in China or India or the Middle East is wasteful – only us nasty wasteful Europeans / Americans / Canadians / etc.

      It is not the west that is wasteful – it is an affluent lifestyle. And as soon as you attain that – no matter what your culture, you become wasteful. Have a look around the world – that’s pretty damn obvious.

      • john byatt says:

        too stupid, ignore

      • mandas says:

        Thanks for that rational response John.
        It’s up there with your previous stuff, so I guess that’s probably all you are capable of.
        Mind you, I suggest you look up the word ‘ignore’ in the dictionary.

      • john byatt says:

        look up “stupid’ in the dictionary

      • Mark says:

        Mandas,

        I’ll translate for you….
        “too stupid, ignore” translates as “I don’t want that to be true, so I’ll ignore it”.

      • john byatt says:

        actually it means that Mandas posted a heap of shit

      • john byatt says:

        seeing that Mark is kicking in and seems to agree with mandas, what is your understanding of

        “Yes John, because no-one in a developing nation is wasteful. No-one in China or India or the Middle East is wasteful – only us nasty wasteful Europeans / Americans / Canadians / etc.

        It is not the west that is wasteful – it is an affluent lifestyle. And as soon as you attain that – no matter what your culture, you become wasteful. Have a look around the world – that’s pretty damn obvious.”

        bottom line MARK ?

      • john byatt says:

        mandas”As that resource use increases things will just get worse”

        mark”We are not running out of resources. We have never run out of any resource. We never will run out of resources.”

        this could get interesting

      • mandas says:

        [CUT for being offensive]

        Mandas – this is a first warning, do not insult other readers as such. Please see community guidelines. Mike @ WtD

        http://watchingthedeniers.wordpress.com/about/community-and-discussion-guidelines/

      • john byatt says:

        just made up a batch of popcorn

        john byatt says:
        May 31, 2013 at 2:30 am
        mandas”As that resource use increases things will just get worse”

        mark”We are not running out of resources. We have never run out of any resource. We never will run out of resources.”

        this could get interesting

      • Mark says:

        “just made up a batch of popcorn”

        Hope you made lots because, apparently, you’re going to throw 99% of it away.

      • john byatt says:

        You need eric’s short term memory app

      • mandas says:

        Mike @ WtD

        I am curious about your ‘cut’ of my post.

        Apparently it is ‘offensive’ for me to suggest someone is stupid – but ok for others to state that I “posted a heap of shit”, or that my comments were “too stupid – ignore”.

        I am perfectly happy to follow the moderation guidelines, which state:

        “…Treat all posters, commentators and readers with respect and refrain from personal insults and ad hominem attacks….”

        So could you please explain why it is unacceptable for me to have responded to a series of posts which firstly suggested that my post was too stupid, and then suggested that I look up stupid in the dictionary, with a comment that when I did look it up I saw a picture of the person who had been insulting to me and treating me without respect.

        Seems pretty inconsistent to me.

      • Mark says:

        Mandas,

        Perhaps it might help if I give you a short list of the type of things that ARE acceptable on this site. I know they are acceptable because they’ve been used to describe me in the month that I’ve been here:

        witless troll,
        woefully stupid,
        lying troll.
        sub-literate
        Moron,

  8. lensville says:

    Really beautiful post, Mike, on all counts.

    • Watching the Deniers says:

      Thanks lensville – note, other readers check out lensville, good blog :)

  9. Sou says:

    What a lovely article. As for tomatoes, in the last couple of years we’ve had wild cherry tomatoes sprout in all sorts of odd places. They are delicious, require no tending, keep out the weeds and provide an interesting conversation piece. :D

    A thought – sometimes the childless adult becomes the surrogate carer of multiple nieces, nephews, ageing parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, siblings doing it tough etc etc – sometimes even all at the same time. Everyone finds themselves in different roles at different stages of their lives. Sometimes it’s by deliberate choice and sometimes coz there’s no-one else to do it. You’ve just got to go with the flow. Muddle through when when the going gets tough and relish the good times.

    • Eric Worrall says:

      Agreed. Some of the worst episodes of human history have been created by people with a burning ambition to make the world a better place. Sometimes its better to let people sort their own problems out.

      Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their consciences.

      CS Lewis

  10. john byatt says:

    Australia can certainly fit in a lot more people, I like the idea of the poor (boat people) finding there way here, spreading the worlds population around more

    I remember many years ago all the whinning about dagos, wops and chinks coming in.

    the second generations are full on proud Australians,

    I expect that at least one of the great grandkids will be half sudanese, relationship has survived about five years, Wife cannot wait,

    I told the grandaughter with the first great to call her ivory so we could call the next possible, in a few years ebony, they are used to me,

    in the family counting cousins we have Italians,Chinese, Malay and Phillipino as well.

    • Eric Worrall says:

      I agree – especially in the far North.

      But the big impediment to immigration is the welfare state.

      Its not so bad if you’re not affected by the immigration. But if you have to wait longer for medicare treatment, because a load of people who have never contributed to medicare get the same access as you do, it can create resentment.

    • Steve says:

      John and Eric,
      Yes, Australia can certainly fit in a lot more people, and I too “like the idea of the poor including boat people finding there way here” but not everyone agrees that Australia can support in any comfortable sense a much larger population.

      http://www.google.com.au/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&ved=0CDQQFjAB&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.environment.gov.au%2Fsustainability%2Fpopulation%2Fconsultation%2Fsubmissions%2Fpubs%2F0361.doc&ei=Q26mUYCaEe-iiAflk4HgDg&usg=AFQjCNGTCyoJ4injTt-jbwcwkOdusPVdsw&sig2=M_xnr7qnkBGAYqvpQd2vEA&bvm=bv.47008514,d.aGc

      • john byatt says:

        Not on about global population growth steve, just about spreading the world’s current population.

        I reckon that Tasmania would be able to carry double the current population of Australia by itself. exporting produce from Tasmania is very expensive, import the people instead.

      • Eric Worrall says:

        Have to chop down a lot of Tasmanian forest to create room for all the new people. Perhaps you should debate this with Uki ;-).

      • john byatt says:

        No need to chop down anything eric, I have lived in Tasmania. there are huge areas already chopped down, People buy up ex farms covered with weeds and just live on a small area leaving the weeds to multiply and wreck nearby dairy farms,

        in the mid eighties i purchased a small property in Tas covered in every weed you could imagine,

        we worked hard and removed all weeds, the dairy farmer next door could not believe his luck that after twenty years people who had bought the block were actually using it to produce food instead of weeds,

        so just these types of places alone would provide an enormous amount of land for
        self sufficient communities, We lived virtually self sufficient for two years. loved it

        We would go to Port Sorrel and collect oysters, a huge area, every rock, even pebbles covered with a massive amount of oysters, every stick covered in mussels, every spadeful of sand had dozens of pippies,

        I asked the locals why they did not have free range oyster, mussel farms and sustainable pippy harvesting, we import pippies from Taiwan

        The answer was that when such a proposal came up some locals went down south, they found that the oysters growing there had a lot of silt in the area,

        it was therefore obvious to them that oysters attract silt,
        the locals opposed any farming on that basis, more than a decade later
        in 2001 they finally worked it out.

        great oysters and mussels from port sorrel and still a large area left to increase production,

        the department report found that the farms were beneficial to the ecology,

      • Eric Worrall says:

        The Vietnamese boat people got in first, on the seafood.

        Altona beach, where I grew up, every rock used to be covered in Mussels. If I knew how good they taste, I would have been down there collecting them every day, but long before I had the pleasure, the entire seafront was stripped over the course of several years by new immigrants who couldn’t believe their luck.

        The migration of the boat people is an interesting story in itself – Australia opened her arms to people escaping war and devastation, and settled them in a new housing estate – right next door to the local rifle range.

      • john byatt says:

        When the greeks and Italian immigrants arrived in the 50;s they cleaned out a lot of pippies in gunnamatta bay’

        they would take home washing baskets full on the train sunday afternoon

        I knew about the mussels and oysters though, most australians at the time thought that they were eating something disgusting ,snails,

        in Queensland there are now take limits on all shellfish etc and have been for many years

        probably all states

  11. Mark says:

    By way of disclosure…4 kids, 2 grandkids and counting. Hoping for lots more.

    Unsurprisingly, I don’t buy the too-many-people story. Its another one of those entirely obvious ways of thinking that doesn’t really stand scrutiny. We’ve been told since at least Malthus that the population is too high for the available resources and its never been true. It remains untrue now.

    The only real resource on this planet is the human brain. Every other so-called resource only becomes a resource because of the action of humans. By way of a simple example, a stick is just a stick until a human attaches a sharpened rock to it. Then it becomes a resource. Oil is just some stuff that befouls farm land until humans work out how to make use of it.

    Given that, having more human brains seems like an entirely advantageous thing. The more we have the more likely we are to resolve all the other problems, both real and perceived.

    As it stands we are likely to max-out at around 9 billion such brains around mid-century and then go into a slow decline. This planet can easily manage 9 billion humans and, as we have done for the last two centuries, feed them all and feed them more.

    I don’t begrudge those who decide to go childless. Each person and couple have the right to make their own decisions. Hopefully they feel the same way…but I doubt it. Somehow the decision becomes a moral and political one, as always.

    To my way of thinking, we are here for one reason only…to reproduce. There is no higher purpose, no meaning of life. We exist to pass on genes. Going childless misses the point.

    • Eric Worrall says:

      Any decline will be temporary. The next generation will be populated by people who really wanted to have children. Many of their children will inherit that desire.

      • Mark says:

        I’m not so sure about that. The correlation between affluence/education and declining birth rates seems strong and enduring. This has been going on in Europe, Japan, US and even Australia for more than two generations now.

      • Eric Worrall says:

        Its a bit like resistance to HIV. There is a small, a very small group of people who seem to have genetic resistance to HIV – they carry mutations which impede HIV reproduction in their body. But even though HIV has been with us for several generations, even in hotspots, resistance to HIV isn’t spreading very fast. It takes time, even for a genetic advantage like that, to rise to prominence.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CCR5

    • rational troll says:

      Clean water, clean air, food, territory, these are all resources that exist not only for, or because of humans. A stick is much more than a lever to which to attach an axe head, it’s part of the carbon cycle, it’s shelter and food for a myriad of creatures, it is a tool for animals other than humans. To imagine its value only exists because we’re kind of smart is simply wrong. Even oil is a resource for bacteria, not just for us to process and burn.

      We are beyond lucky, how many people over the last two centuries have lived in abject poverty? How many have starved to death? I’m sorry, but the world isn’t doing as fantastic a job of feeding everyone as you make out. Fortunately this situation is improving, but as living standards raise around the world we simply don’t know how many people the world can sustain living a 1st world lifestyle.

      This is a complicated issue and it deserves more than just lipservice, or to be dismissed off hand. Even in our sparsely populated country and I’m being petty, but how many hours a week do you think an average sydney sider spends stuck in traffic?

      At the risk of being a Nihilist, I don’t feel like we exist for any reason at all, Sure, being here is pretty cool, but if every human decided tomorrow not to reproduce, in the scheme of things, not much would really change.

      • Eric Worrall says:

        Our value is subjective, not objective – but ultimately, our subjective values are what counts to us all on a personal level.

        A stick might be a home to lots of small critters – but I don’t give a sh*t. Not if there is an axe which needs a handle, so I can cut firewood to stay warm.

        Caring about the environment is very much a luxury only rich people can afford – the environment is simply not a priority if you are hungry or cold. You are right that there are still far too many hungry people in the world, but if you want to fix the environment, and increase the number of people who have the luxury to care, addressing global poverty should be a priority to you.

        http://www.spiegel.de/international/spiegel/spiegel-interview-with-african-economics-expert-for-god-s-sake-please-stop-the-aid-a-363663.html

        • “A stick might be a home to lots of small critters – but I don’t give a sh*t. Not if there is an axe which needs a handle, so I can cut firewood to stay warm.”

          and there you have it. Right wing anthropocentricity in its purest form. The stick of course is a metaphor for every resource on Earth. Presumably if you don’t give a shit about the small critters that might use the resource you don’t give a shit about anything in the natural world. We know how you feel about crocodiles and polar bears so we shouldn’t be surprised.

      • Eric Worrall says:

        I always find it amusing that a lefty like you can say something like that, then claim your side of politics “cares” about ordinary people more than the right.

        We don’t put an interesting photogenic fungus ahead of the interests of our kids, or other people’s kids.

        http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20427290.500-human-versus-forest.html

        Only a champagne socialist like you could simultaneously believe they were helping people, while at the same time claiming it is wrong to prioritise people ahead of nature.

      • john byatt says:

        You cannot be serious

        Letters
        William Laurance’s article “Roads to ruin” verged on being inhumane (29 August, p 24).
        In many cases, the people exploiting the rainforest work in appalling conditions – heat, humidity, tropical disease, unsafe work practices – because they want to create a better life for their children. They use their high-risk, above-average incomes to buy for their children all the things they never had – education, medical care and good food.
        If the price of such people lifting themselves out of grinding, hopeless poverty is the destruction of every rainforest on Earth, so be it. We should not stand in their way, unless we can offer them a realistic way of improving their lives.
        The forests of Brazil, Indonesia and Congo belong to the inhabitants of those countries, not to us.
        ~~~~~~~~
        By Eric Worrall, Southampton, UK

        • I wonder how Eric feels about the mineral resource rent tax brought in by the evil socialists given the minerals of this country presumably belong to we, the people. In fact, given Eric’s logic, the mining companies should be forced to share every dollar they make. Taking his logic further, there shouldn’t even be mining companies and the government itself, being the representative of the people, should be controlling all our assets. Conclusion, Eric is himself a communist. Who would have thunk it?

      • john byatt says:

        Eric is excusing the rape of our own country by proxy.excusing any rape of the GBR by proxy,

      • Nick says:

        ‘Ultimately’ Eric can see the way clear to place subjective values above objective ones….er,no,ultimately you have to respect physical reality. By respecting objective reality it makes your subjective rights richer in perspective,and gives you a better idea about what you can actually promise yourself and others.

        Caring about the environment is not optional,’ultimately’. You do not exist without it.

      • Eric Worrall says:

        My point was that if you demand people in grinding poverty don’t exploit every resource available to alleviate their condition, then you better be prepared to make it up to them somehow – to offer them a realistic alternative which provides the same immediate benefits.

        As for the “carrying capacity” of the planet, there is no evidence we shall ever run short of resources. 7/8 ths of the Earth’s surface has barely been touched – there are already speculative plans for deep sea robotic vacuum cleaners to hoover up particularly rich deposits of minerals just sitting on the seabed.

        And when the land and sea is exhausted, we shall have access to space based resources. The technology was developed in the 1950s to move entire industrial complexes weighing millions of tons into orbit, at low cost, to establish non terrestrial mines and industries. The 1950s technology is dirty and undesirable, but when has that ever stopped a greedy capitalist? ;-)

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Orion_(nuclear_propulsion)

        I hope that cleaner alternatives will be the choice of the future – but if all else fails, the dirty 1950s technology will be used to maintain the capitalist economy.

  12. Excellent post Mike. When I was living in Tasmania, my immiediate local community in a suburb of Hobart had a loose arrangement of urban harvesting. The idea was that everyone grew a couple of fruit trees in their front yard, the fruit of which was available for any neighbours when they needed it. My cherry, lemon and pear trees were regularly visited by neighbours who only ever took enough for their immediate needs. I took great pleasure in taking my daughter for a walk when we needed apricots, plums, apples or nectarines.
    In my backyard I had the standard vege patch which supplied most of my family’s requirements with extras on occasion which went out the front in a wheelbarrow for urban harvesting.

    It’s important I think for those who find it difficult to grow some of their own food due to renting or because they live in an apartment, to seek out community gardens, source their fruit and veg locally, and eat in season.

    On the child thing, Steve is 100% correct. Affluent and educated societies tend to have fewer children. For example, Japan recently moved into a phase of negative population growth.

    • Watching the Deniers says:

      Indeed – I’m personally aghast at the idea of population control. However, give people choice (and education) and they’ll make informed choices about family planning. This applies particularly to women.

      • zoot says:

        Omigod!!! Eugenics!

      • Eric Worrall says:

        Indeed ;-).

        If you decide to restrict the right to have children, then you have to make decisions about who gets the child license, who should be permitted an above average quota, and what to do about people who flout the rules.

        Ugly subject.

        • Watching the Deniers says:

          Eric – this is where you and I agree. Personally, I’d never sanction breaching the rights of the individual. This is where the ethical debate get’s difficult: an ugly subject indeed.

      • john byatt says:

        Then we could help by taking up a large amount of the chinese population.

        what other course of action should china had taken to prevent the overpopulation of the country?

      • Eric Worrall says:

        Be careful what you wish for.

        China thanks to its single child per family law has a surplus approaching 40 million young men – a demographic imbalance on a scale not seen since the Viking age.

        http://cnsnews.com/news/article/china-s-one-child-policy-expected-produce-40-million-surplus-males-2020

        It turns out that if you insist parents can only have one child, in a fairly sexist culture, little girls are surprisingly accident prone. Authorities have been understanding with parents whose little girls kept suffering unfortunate accidents, until they had a less accident prone son.

        So if you ask China for their surplus people, they’ll probably just send men. Lots of them.

  13. john byatt says:

    Growing plants on the roadside is fine nowadays

    not so, when years ago when we had lead in petrol.

    a large market garden in the area grew all their vegies along what was once a fairly quiet road, Sunshine coast, David low way, over the years the traffic grew bumper to bumper (linking Noosa to Maroochydore , A test of the plants revealed a very high lead content,so they then only grew up to fifty metres from the road, costing them a huge amount of their fields.

    when the lead was removed from the petrol in the nineties they went back to growing roadside, we are all used to seeing sugar cane and bananas growing along the road up here, silver beet and lettuce does look strange though

    and of course we do not have the dogs roaming like we once had (wee)

    You can even grow a small garden right on top on the concrete using three sleepers, one cut in half and about 200mm deep , in winter the sun warms the concrete and transfers some to the garden base,(southern states) a pole in each corner supporting a polyscrim roof, use the planting guide but if it states “plant 600 mm apart reduce that to 200mm, three times as much in the same area.

    I asked my grand daughters to consider not breeding, my first failure arrived a month ago.

    • Watching the Deniers says:

      I know – when I planted the garden I was thankful we got rid of lead petrol!

      LOL about your last comment ;)

    • Nick says:

      JB ,You still need to consider residues from tyre wear which are spread along road margins. Congrats on the grand-child!

      • john byatt says:

        The amount is effin incrediable eh?

      • john byatt says:

        Great grand child , the daughter took over the role of grand parents, we are now known as, the great ones

      • Nick says:

        You are either ancient JB,or your family are serial early procreators! ;)

      • john byatt says:

        first child at 21

        daughter had first of the grandchildren at 23

        grand daughter had her first child at 25

        69, probably upset mark again with that number .

        remember our parents looked ancient at 40.

        dioxin (vietnam) has not been kind to me but still kicking,

  14. Eric Worrall says:

    Seconded – great post. I like growing the odd veg, though as John pointed out, I’m not very good at it ;-). I think the possibility of people making a decision to not have kids for “the sake of the environment”, for a couple who otherwise want kids, is nothing short of a tragedy – a lost opportunity which will never heal. We almost missed our chance, because of issues I don’t want to describe in detail, our little girl is also our little miracle. You can’t know how much fulfilment and joy kids bring into your life until you experience parenthood for yourself – if you aren’t trying to build a better world for your kids, why bother?

    Regardless of your view on the importance of CO2, there is no doubt that our carbon emitting period will be short. In a few decades, cheap solar technology will displace a lot of fossil fuel usage, even if we don’t embrace nuclear technology in the way I hope we will. So nothing we are likely to do the environment can justify such self denial.

  15. Steve says:

    Your vegetable garden looks very nice.
    There is an idea that I find odd. This idea is that edible plants should be grown out of sight of the road. I once saw someone who had some good tomato plants at the front of their house and heard a comment by a passerby that they were unsightly, but 150 years ago when tomatoes were believed in England to be poisonous people grew them at the front of the house because of the bright red fruits.
    But about children: I totally agree with you that it is a personal choice that should be thought about very seriously.
    As far as keeping the population down in general is concerned there is no need to limit the number of children people have. In countries like Australia people are choosing to have less children. If government will allow it our population will stabilize.

    • Watching the Deniers says:

      Thanks Steve, and very interesting fact about tomatoes. Interesting how people perceive what planets should be hidden – or not. Perhaps because to brings to mind the biological processes of the body? If so, a very Victorian mindset…

  16. A great post – thanks for sharing!

    A vege patch isn’t really feasible in our current rental, but by the end of the year we hope to have our own modest home where I have every intention of planting all manner of veges, herbs etc. My 5 month old will be conscripted into helping tend to all this when she’s able — I think that sort of thing is great for kids.

    • Watching the Deniers says:

      Wonderful Sammy! Sound’s great. I’ve only recently discovered the simple pleasure of gardening. But tonight, I’ll be having a salad with fresh rocket and spinach. Kids love mud, a near universal I think.

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