Monday, February 18, 2019

Might population peak sooner than we think?

There’s a well-known formula in sustainability called IPAT:


Human Impacts are a function of Population x Affluence (consumption) x Technology.

It points out that we have three levers to reduce our environmental impacts: reduce population growth, reduce consumption or change technology to those with a lighter impact.

The 20th Century was an environmental disaster on fronts. Human population ballooned from about 2 billion to 6 or 7. Rising affluence, especially in Asia (a good thing for people in abject poverty) turned into conspicuous consumption and a plastic ocean. Technology brought us traffic jams, invasive species carried by planes and mountaintop removal.

But in the 21st Century, there are glimmers of hope.

P....Morality has prevented us from limiting births or purposefully shortening lifespans. Even China gave up on it one-child policy. But researchers discovered that educating women and giving them access to family planning services was a powerful lever to reduce the birth rate. This new book, Empty Planet, the author calls into question the U.N. estimates of population growth, arguing that cellphones are driving a cultural change, projecting we will hit 9 billion by 2100 and fall from there.

A...Techniques associated with The Circular Economy and biomimicry (see previous posts) may limit the destruction associated with our stuff.

T...Technologies like renewable energy and nanotechnology might let us have the same benefits with less impact.

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