Good News Everyone!

26Jul08

While I am certain that some of you may think I’m just lying about being on You Are Here, the fantastic Public Affairs show on Sunday mornings on http://www.wers.org and 88.9 WERS Music for the Independent Mind (Damn it feels good to plug), I now have proof that I am in fact some what legitimate. You can check out the shows here:

http://www.youtube.com/user/djyman15

This week’s topic is over population (which I am giving you a preview of, my segment).I spoke with Bob Engleman, author of More: Population, Nature, and What Women Want, Ellen Marshall of the fantastic site RH Reality Check (recently featuring an Op-Ed by none other than my home girl Sen. Hillary Clinton), and in opposition to them both, long time Boston Herald columnist and Global Warming denier (may have to post his full interview…) Don Feder. Please listen and enjoy!

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3 Responses to “Good News Everyone!”

  1. 1 Nathaniel

    I find myself disagreeing with him on the idea of overpopulation.

    Global Warming is an important subject that needs to be handled for a better future for both the human race and ecologies worldwide.

    However, I’ll argue lowering population (in either a “hands off” or “hands on” fashion for governments) is not likely to help deal with this issue.

    First of all, there is not a correlation between the amount of greenhouse gases and people in a nation. (possible response: What? I thought people contribute to global warming? More people more warming, right?) If having more people was key to increasing global warming gases than China and India would not have produced less greenhouse gases than the USA throughout the 20th century. Each of them had a much greater population than the US and polluted less. Now when China is finally overtaking the USA in terms of emissions. Ask why is it doing so? There has not been a sudden baby boom to ramp up population (the 1 child policy has actually been effective, despite corruption and loopholes, in the overall goal of lowering China’s birthrate.) China’s emissions rise has occurred alongside a birthrate drop because China is industrializing. China is building 1 new coal power plant per week because new factories are being built and a Chinese consumer class is rising that purchases electronic devices (as well as SUVs that have finally stopped selling in the USA).

    It is even possible to have a population shrinkage and an increase in global warming gases-look at Europe with shrinking population in some nations, they haven’t stopped polluting. Many are still better than the USA on an emissions per person basis but their pollution went up despite a shortage of babies in some nations.

    If you want to handle global warming I would encourage handling the direct sources of emissions. These (especially if you are talking about the carbon that has to be brought up from underground and then put in the air) are the devices we use.

    This is why highly developed nations are generally much worse polluters than less developed nations-the latter have less in the way of automobiles or energy requiring devices.

    To solve Global Warming (which is going to be with us for many years due to the damage already done) deal with the devices we like to have that add more greenhouse gases to the air. Either make them effectively carbon neutral or see if you can live without them.

    The number of devices rather than humans is the real problem. You can actually lower the number of humans on the planet and see the number of devices they use rise through greater numbers per person/household. There once was a time when the average US household didn’t have 2 or more cars, more than 1 TV and so on.

    The greatest irony of all is that the nations where the birthrate is highest are also tend to be those where the emissions per person rate is low. Global Warming is mostly caused by us in the developed world who already have low birthrates and high levels of device use.

    There is absolutely no guarantee that lowering population levels will reduce global warming. With the possibility that some business may try to further mechanize (using devices run on energy from carbon emitting sources) to produce more with fewer workers there is even the theoretical possibility that the emissions problem will become worse.

    I would argue that saying the number humans is the problem may sometimes occur from having a bit to much Malthus in one’s intellectual diet-and don’t forget that history has frequently proven wrong those who come up with ideas based on his theories.

  2. 2 poliology

    Let me say that I actually agree with you to a large extent–this piece was taken out of context from a larger piece on aspects of overpopulation.

    Overpopulation does affect global warming (more people more carbon footprints). It is certainly not the only thing affecting it–you’re right to point out industrialization. Ellen Marshall points out in the piece that the US will add literally 2 billion less people than Africa will over the next 50 years, yet produce the same carbon footprint–thats important to remember.

    However where global warming and overpopulation intersect is this idea that we cannot have everyone on the planet hoping to live a USish lifestyle. This is a problem because it affects basically the level of what we can actually do about poverty. In other words, how are we supposed to start to develop countries if using power from fossil fuels will hurt the environment. The answer for that doesn’t necessarily lie in limiting the amount of people–it lies in finding alternative fuel sources.

    However, I do think (maybe on a second listen to the piece) that overpopulation is a serious problem. You can’t exactly find “alternative food sources” the same way you can with fuel. Don Feder’s point about China (although again, he’s a family values type) not having enough women should be a taken somewhat seriously. And Ellen’s points on this also being a women’s rights’ issue is also key.

    Global Warming is only one concern–unfortunately since it is media-friendly issue (one everyone can get behind without getting into a fit about political correctness) it tends to be a lowest common denominator to relate problems to. It does relate to overpopulation to some extent, but overpopulation is a can of worms all in its own

  3. 3 Nathaniel

    Thank you for taking my points into consideration. I very much agree with you on the notion of finding alternative energy sources.

    My understanding of China’s gender demographics problem is that it is due to a combination of China’s population control policy and cultural traditions favoring male children. Thus this problem was created, in part, by trying to limit the population.

    An interesting addition point about China’s population control efforts relate to the possibility they helped China become the top emitter of CO2. This is an unusual way of looking at the situation but if you take the Solow growth model from field of economics population growth is viewed as having a slowing effect on (at least in the short term) economic development. The wealth that would have otherwise have been spent on raising children could instead be put towards creating new factories and coal power plants to provide the electricity to run them. As the latter are very much not an alternative source of energy it is possible that the population control policy contributed, in part, to greater pollution in and from China.

    As a counterpoint to the idea that concerns over if the entire world could have a current USish lifestyle should lead to worrying about population levels perhaps the question should be if current USish lifestyles should be promoted. Alternative energy sources may provide an way to maintain them without much of the environmental harm but if we don’t embrace those then perhaps some aspects of the lifestyle should be let go in the US as well as the rest of the world.

    Lastly, on food there is an open question on if the problem relates less to total food production or food distribution. A comment that was made by some earlier this year is that worldwide food production has exceeded amount to feed the world’s population. A book written a few (but not that many) years back titled World Hunger: 12 Myths tries to point out how there is actually enough food to feed everyone. About the future… I have seen projections that say the world’s human population will likely level off at somewhere between 9 and 11 billion people. This is lower than a number of projections I’ve heard of relating to possible number of people the world could feed, the range of these projection is wider and runs from enough food to feed 13 billion to 40 billion people. However, at each end of the range the amount of food that could be produced seems to be higher than the actual number of people. All projections are educated guesses so I don’t know for sure where we will end up but it is possible that food may not be as much of a concern as some think it will be.


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