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Temporal blindness and overpopulation in America

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Cap and trade? Will it work? Not a chance! Screw in a mercury, curly-cue bulb to save electricity! Will that stop carbon emissions? Sorry! Drive a Prius for greater fuel efficiency? Only delays the inevitable! Add more lanes to Los Angeles' freeways to solve gridlock? That's like a four hundred pound man facing a heart attack--unbuckling his belt to allow more room for his bulging belly. That's a tragic choice!

"TEMPORAL BLINDNESS is a limitation in cognitive process. People with temporal blindness cannot gather and process available information into predictions of future conditions. Their processes cannot connect future conditions to a causing behavior. When their processes do create unpleasant predictions, and identify the causal behavior, they fail to create enough present meaning for the future conditions to motivate a change in that behavior." Dr. Jack Alpert

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In a brilliant essay, Dr. Jack Alpert,, introduced a new concept for Americans to consider: "Why do we need rapid population decline?"

The first question you might consider stems from our civilization that grew population every year for over 400 years. How will you stop that kind of a cultural juggernaut? Simple: either we do it or Mother Nature will! And, Mother Nature always bats last.

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"Everyone knows population-increase grows cities and crowds freeways," Dr. Alpert said. "As a result freeways get wider and cities get bigger. Everyone knows that if city dwellers want bigger cars or houses cities and freeways grow even if the population doesn't.

"Hard to grasp is that city growth requires more square miles of ocean and farm land to feed its dwellers. Cities need more water to flush its toilets and water its lawns. Farms need more land and water to feed city people. Cities need more energy to heat homes, run transport and support goods and services."

Alpert points out that what you see at first glance is not the real problem. Like an iceberg, with 92 percent of its volume below the water, the actual human predicament is 10 times bigger than our first estimate.

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"Cities already consume 75 percent of the resources of humankind," Alpert said. "Farm land is finite. Oil reservoirs, aquifers and rain are finite. Places to put waste are finite. Mined resources like soils and iron are finite.

"There is a whole web of life from bacteria to polar bears that share this finite environment. When humans usurp their space and resources, they are extinguished. Loss of diversity threatens the ecological system."

Are you beginning to see below the surface? Catch a glimpse of the reality of overpopulation? Understand the implications for your children?

"When there are relatively few cities and a lot of unallocated global resources, city growth appears to have no limits," said Alpert. "But when the support for all these cities equals the environment's abilities to produce, one city must compete with another for scarce resources. Eventually the competition turns into disenfranchisement and conflict.

"Conflict consumes resources. This leaves less resources to support cities. Which increases scarcity. Which increases competition. Which increases conflict. Which diverts more resources away from supporting cities. The circular process causes civilization to experience a death spiral.

"Two possible approaches to keep scarcity of goods and services from triggering collapse of civilization. One increases global carrying capacity with technological efficiency and substitution. The other constrains total human footprint.

"Many people think these dangers can be avoided by a combination of technological expansion and population stabilization. However, even with a cessation of population growth technological expansion is facing a very large task.

"First, because we don't know how close the current human footprint is to the globe's limits. Some would say we have overshot them at present technology and are depleting fish stocks, oil reservoirs, aquifers, and damaging climate.

"And second total human footprint would still continue to grow because 80% of today's global population, the poor, consume at a rate of 1/8 to 1/16 of that consumed by the 20%, who are wealthy. We should expect these have-nots to increase their consumption. If they doubled that consumption every twenty five years, It would take a century or more for them to catch up with the haves and it would quadruple the total human footprint and the technologist's challenge.

"In addition to the poor's increase in consumption the haves will increase their wellbeing. The goods and services required by even a constant population will likely double every 20 years for centuries.

"If we are counting on technology to protect us from the vagaries of scarcity, it will have to double global production of goods and services (with fixed land and less dense energy) every 20 years for centuries.

"Any technological shortcomings will have to be addressed by constraints on total human footprint. At first this might be viewed as capping the excesses of the rich. However, if improved health care increases longevity that increases footprint and it has nothing to do with excesses.

"Since total human footprint is the product of population times per capita consumption, any improvement in wellbeing will have to be matched with reductions in population. Even an improvement in healthcare requires a decrease in population.

"If we expect a doubling of human footprint every twenty years, and technology fails to keep up then the prevention of scarcity must be addressed with a halving of the population every 20 years.

"Rapid population decline (RPD) appears to be "the" path to a viable future for our kids, our nation, humankind, and our ecosystem.

"Rapid population decline (RPD) occurs only when deaths greatly exceed births. The three mechanisms for having deaths exceed births are:
1) deprivation (starvation or disease,)
2) genocide, and or
3) birth rates far below two per woman.

"The challenge that confronts us is, "Can we engineer a future with lesser amounts of RPD caused by deprivation and genocide and more RPD caused by lower births?"

(1)Many answers to the following questions justify a shift in emphasis from current proposals that address visible problems (eco destruction, resource exhaustion and social inequity) to RPD proposals that produce civilization viability.

  1. What is the carrying capacity that is divided between humans and other species?
  2. How much and how fast can carrying capacity drop?
  3. When will carrying capacity drop?
  4. If billions are living hand to mouth on a dollar
    or two a day, how fast can a doubling of food costs(demandover supply) put billions on a death diet?
  5. How long can/will the rich keep the poor from starvationusing redistribution?
  6. When it is obvious that redistribution will not satisfy the starving hordes and inhibit their social conflict, how long will it be before the rich or powerful resolve their desperation with genocide?

Another question Dr. Alpert asked, "How fast can a lower birthrate reduce the population?"

InSKIL Note 63, Alpert providesgraphs of population vs time for various birthrates established by various behaviors. He said, "The graphs describe the opportunities for the human experiment that are created by birthrate-driven rapid population decline. He hoped the model's products make implementing very low birthrates a little easier. By visitingSKIL Note 63you will be able to see the graphs and down load the model that runs under the latest version of MS excel. For all 67 SKIL Notes, a selection of articles, and books that more fully describe our temporal blindness, the human predicament, trends that resolve it, and behaviors to create these trendsclick here.

As Alpert illustrates, our civilization must change course from unending growth to population stabilization or Mother Nature will change course for us.


Frosty Wooldridge has bicycled across six continents -- from the Arctic to the South Pole -- as well as six times across the USA, coast to coast and border to border. In 2005, he bicycled from the Arctic Circle, Norway to Athens, Greece. He presents "The Coming Population Crisis in America: and what you can do about it" to civic clubs, church groups, high schools and colleges. He works to bring about sensible world population balance He is the author of:America on the Brink: The Next Added 100 Million Americans. Copies: 1 888 280 7715


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Frosty Wooldridge Bio: Frosty Wooldridge possesses a unique view of the world, cultures and families in that he has bicycled around the globe 100,000 miles, on six continents and six times across the United States in the past 30 years. His books (more...)

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