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level 1
[deleted]
18 points · 1 year ago · edited 1 year ago

Carrying capacity changes with technology, and is a dynamic equilibrium. I challenge you to even define the "natural" carrying capacity of the earth. If you define it by subsistence hunting and gathering there should only be a few tens of millions of people on this earth. If you define it by Neolithic agriculture you start getting to the upper tens of millions. Industrial agriculture gets you into the billion range. Biotechnological agriculture is barely in its infancy yet promises even greater carrying capacity. Pushing up against the current carrying capacity has historically triggered technological change that subsequently increased the carrying capacity, and we have certainly not exhausted our options in this regard.

However, we seem to be reaching the end of that paradigm, not because we are up against the edge of the carrying capacity of the earth but rather because people are voluntarily making the decision retain the increased resources for personal use rather than dilute them across supporting more offspring. This trend is already leading to population decline in some of the most developed countries, and is spreading to less developed ones.

Ultimately, Malthus was short sighted when he envisioned people behaving like other animals. People would much rather be exceedingly wealthy than exceedingly fecund.

level 2

You didnt answer his question at all.

level 3
[deleted]
2 points · 1 year ago

I absolutely did, what part do feel is lacking?

level 4

The question was about the sixth mass extinction and the frightening numbers of other species going extinct on a daily basis. You went off on carrying capacity of humans. He is asking about the numerous, numerous other species going extinct due to human industrial activity.

level 5
[deleted]
6 points · 1 year ago

The growth of the human species is far beyond the "natural" carrying capacities of the earth.

I was more interested in clearing up this misconception to start with. I did respond to the concern about loss of biodiversity elsewhere, but I'll give it to you that it wasn't in this post.

In short my answer is that humans have been altering the environment for thousands of years to increase its carrying capacity for humans. This comes at the expense of biodiversity in the form of the anthropocene mass extinction. The opening post conflates the biosphere in general, to a biosphere optimized for large human populations. Right now the biosphere, as it pertains to humans, isn't collapsing at all. We are more able to survive in our environment than ever before. This comes at the expense of eroding the viability of other species though, as it always has. While this is unfortunate and something we should work to reverse, I fail to see how this will lead to societal collapse if not avoided. This is not well detailed in the opening comment, but if you have thoughts on the matter I would be more than happy to hear you out.

level 6

Humans not threatened by biosphere collapse? Bees? Acid oceans? Exhausted farmland? Biodiversity is just part of it, and none of it worries you?

level 7
[deleted]
1 point · 1 year ago

It worries me because those are bad things in and of themselves. They aren't existential catastrophese though.

level 5

I'd like to hear more discussion about this as well.

level 2

Earth is always at maximum carrying capacity for life. Adding more humans just displaces other species.

level 3
[deleted]
6 points · 1 year ago

I don't even know how you would define that. Like in terms of biomass, or diversity. Either way both are in a dynamic state of flux with huge variations across geologic time.

But humans causing extinctions is a real thing, we've been doing it for 10k years with no really impact on our ability to continue growing. Don't get me wrong, I think preserving biodiversity is a worthwhile cause, but it is hardly an existential crisis.

level 4

All I'm saying is there's not empty space that humans pour into and start creating habitat. Creating more human habitat leads to less habitat for everything else. You can say we can put life on antarctica or the moon but that involves extraction from places with life.

level 5

It's not exactly a zero-sum game...there was after all a time when Earth was completely devoid of life, and as life spread from a single place to cover the world it would have been hard to argue that it was displacing anything to do so. Are you sure we're 100% out of that phase, where there are still nooks and crannies of the world that could be developed such that the overall amount of life on Earth increases? Could we perhaps irrigate some deserts in such a way that the effort of doing so causes less depletion than the irrigated land then produces?

You're stating it as though it's obvious mathematical fact that it's a zero-sum game, but it seems more likely to me that's it's only usually a zero-sum game approximately.

level 5
[deleted]
2 points · 1 year ago

As we have been doing for the past 10k years. Is the loss of biodiversity a global tragedy, absolutely. Is it likely to lead to societal collapse, probably not I see no plausible way for that to be accomplished.

level 3
Ψ MSc Psychology5 points · 1 year ago

Interesting thought, but I can name a few examples where this isn't true: The Mount Everest base station, low earth orbit, the Atacama desert.

level 4
[deleted]
11 points · 1 year ago · edited 1 year ago

Keeping people alive in uninhabitable places does displaces other species, except indirectly, since the people up in Mount Everest and LEO are not self-sufficient, and ultimately depend on the extraction of resources from habitable places to survive. In fact it is not unlikely that keeping someone alive in e.g. LEO actually displaces more species per person than anywhere else. Just think of how huge of a supply chain, how much technology, how many people are ultimately needed to keep someone alive in space.

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