Andrew McKillop: We Must be Near Peak Crisis by Now

Posted: January 14, 2014 by tallbloke in alarmism, Analysis, Big Brother, government, humour, Natural Variation, People power, Philosophy, Politics, propaganda

populationGuest post from Andrew McKiIllop

The World is allegedly Grossly Overpopulated
Writing for the site PeakProsperity, Adam Taggart in early January republished a 2013 presentation by Bill Ryerson of the US Population Institute repeating all the known arguments about exponential population growth but only arithmetic growth (or no growth at all) of the resources we need, think we need, or might some day need. The long discussion by Bill Ryerson was honest by kicking off with the straight admission that talking about population management is inflammatory. Arguing for ZPG or zero population growth is accused by some as “crypto fascist” at worst and misanthropic at best, but early-2014 news includes the fact that Japan – the world leader in ZPG – recorded its highest-ever annual decline of population in 2013, with a loss of about 245 000 citizens. Japan’s contraction of population is now running at about 1 million every 4 years, and can easily accelerate.

Ryerson said the world’s population is now more than 7 billion and headed to 9 billion by 2050, but the second figure is as sure and certain as saying global average temperatures in 2050 will be 2 degrees celsius higher than today’s average. The IPCC’s latest report says the decadal rise (10-year rise) of average global temperatures is 0.09 degC, meaning that a rise of 2 degC would need 200 years. Not 36.

In no way does this change the basic question Ryerson asks – if world population continued in exponential growth, when will we hit planetary carrying capacity limits? Or, even worse, are we already exceeding them? He did not ask the question why Japan’s population is falling, like that of Russia, Germany, Singapore, Spain, Italy and several other developed countries. Or ask why population growth rates of countries including Bangladesh, Iran, Malaysia and Egypt are now very close to replacement rate only – when the same countries, 25 years ago, were on a population doubling track only needing a few decades to double their needs of everything. As we know, China has very recently been almost forced to relax its 1-child policy, through fears of what a too rapidly aging society moving too fast into ZPG will do to the economy. The few countries in Europe still-positive for population growth including France and UK are only in this status due to recent economic inward migration. PIIGS debt-wracked countries, including Spain, have in some cases like Ireland experienced a dramatic outflow of recent economic immigrants, as well as migrating Irish.

What are the just, humane, and rights-respecting options that are on the table for balancing the world’s population with the ability of the earth to sustain it? Alternately, do we need to panic if national populations decline, and go on declining whatever government policies are used?

War Poverty Starvation Disease Inequality
Population management, we already said, is inflammatory. Simply because of this, it is a “hidden and occult subject”, that politicians steer away from in almost all cases. Because of this second fact, the shift to population decline has to be seen, and admitted as a mega change which happened when nobody was looking at the subject or expecting it.

Apart from being a massive surprise even to demographic specialists, the shift from the fastest-growth of human population, to global population decline being very easy to forecast has been incredibly rapid.  Through 1969-2009 world population doubled. During the 1980s, population was increasing at its fastest-ever annual rate – itself a contested or controversial figure, of possibly 110 million-a-year. The rate is already down to 70 million-a-year as of 2013. The next and biggest population surprise of all is that the doubling of 1969-2009 was almost certainly the last-ever. We are now looking at a near-halving phenomenon, spread over this century, from about 2050-2100 and probably cutting world population from a peak around 10 billion to perhaps 6.5 billion by 2099.

Shifting from population growth at extreme-high rates, to an outlook for world population decreasing by at least 33%, perhaps even 50% from its 2050 level, by 2100, is hard to discuss without triggering heated emotions. One reason is that we are still on the uptrend, but demographic change has been so rapid that at present, and from now on, every year with no exception, the average age of the world population will increase. Humanity is aging and will do so for decades ahead – certainly 4 or 5 decades – and there is no alternative. In some countries like China, Russia, Japan and Germany the aging process will soon be highly noticeable. All the developed countries face this aging problem – because population growth is declining, or population is declining.

To be sure, the subject of ZPG was always ducked by our political elites. It was too controversial, it was impossible to have an adult-sized conversation about ZPG without being sidetracked by slogans, so we can expect the same about post-ZPG, that is world population decline. Put another way, the elites did not want ZPG – after all more people means more unemployeds which mean lower wages and higher corporate profits – so they have even more aversion to population decline!

The well known and heavily used “conventional fear theme” that overpopulation means war, poverty, starvation, disease and inequality is itself a list of reasons why elites want overpopulation.

Resource Limits to Growth
Peak everything is – to some – a profitable “endist” theme which they can spice with cynicism before getting back to the bottom line of inaction.  Being close to, or at the peak of everything we only need to play couched potato, give a sigh and watch the riots on TV.

Resource limits to growth is a 30-year-old cottage industry with its inevitable list of the biggest mouths and biggest-selling writers and speakers who got lucky at the right time.

Limits scenario building is obliged to, and always assumes “the economy” plugs along in growth mode, and any downturns are – like the elites tell us – just side issues and temporary limits to growth. Population growth is with economic growth the most basic assumption of growth limits cottage industry experts, in fact a religious article of faith like it is for their opposite numbers with nice jobs in government agencies, who always forecast growth. Put another way, it is easier to imagine resource-crunching depletion will continue if the economy is actually growing.

When it does not, this is already a paradigm shift. Details such as the “overground stock” of minerals, that is waste dumps, are also frequently missing from depletionist limit scenarios.

When resource demands change, this can have a dramatic impact on “static decline rates” of known reserves of that resource, and current and recent past or historic rates of its consumption, but this impact grows even bigger when the known economically-recoverable reserves also change. In the 1970s, even the 1990s, it was possible to forecast that static decline rates of world petroleum reserves meant that Peak Oil was a total certainly by at latest 2000-2005. Even ultra basic resources like iron ore, using 1970s or 1980s data and trends, could be analyzed as facing “imminent decline”.

Limits such as building aggregates supply, water, urban land space, agricultural land can also be forecast as credible – if population and the economy go on growing. If they don’t, this is a challenge to add to the technology and economic change paradigm.

Limits to Crisis
For a variety of reasons we do not have a smooth exit scenario from “known and acute” crises, they simply fade away like 1960s rock stars and become fuzzy-edged pure myth. The demographic population crisis is surely and certainly facing this endgame as of early 2014 for example due to about 25 years, since 1988, when the annual increment of world population has declined – not increased.

Residual crisis experts working this theme are forced to argue for continental variations in “the demographic cycle” from fast-growing young populations to the exact opposite. Since at latest the 1990s however, both South America and a large slice of Asia excluding India, and much of the Arab world except Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, have all shifted toward slow or very slow population growth, with ZPG easy to forecast. Only Black Africa remains locked-in to growth, but with increasing national variations and a rising number of slow-growers.

Looked at in continental terms Europe, Russia and Japan are most-advanced in the demographic cycle and this process will likely quite soon also include North America.

With no mystery, as population growth declines, hits ZPG and then goes into outright contraction the trend for economic growth will almost certainly decline, over and above the economic causes of the economy growing at ever-slower rates. The feedback from this, to further decline of population is well known and operated throughout the Great Depression of the 1930s, and although this is rarely offered as an additional reasons for Europe’s continental trend to low or zero economic growth since at latest year 2000, followed by economic contraction, the demographic cycle is a likely candidate.

Crisisology, to be sure, may need to “keep the powder dry” by arguing we have runaway population growth alongside peak oil and global warming, but the rational basis for this crisis theme have shrunk like the bases of the other failing crisis themes.

  1. Me_Again says:

    Adult sized conversations eh? What is a crypto-fascist? Answer: a pejorative term for the secret support for, or admiration of, fascism.
    What is fascism? Answer: well it used to be categorized simply as belief in an authoritarian form of government [which of course included communism] but latterly appears to have re-defined itself to an authoritarian system with nationalistic tendencies, and throw in the right wing bit at the end to exclude communism.

    I do prefer the originals sometimes, like gay means happy go lucky, but I do love these almost ‘soviet’ style re-defintions and the smartarse ‘crypto’ definers.

  2. “Only if we keep our nerve will voluntary population restraint and voluntary per capita consumption rates be achievable without war, poverty and famine extending indefinitely into the future with fatal consequences for humanity, the planet and the entire environment.”

    from here:

    July 3rd 2008

  3. George Warburton says:

    A world population of 7 billion could, if a four foot square was allocated to each person, be accommodated in an area of 1024 square miles. This is less than a 32 mile square. Also the annual increase, were it 70 million, could be accommodated in a further 10 square miles.

    I realise that this raises more questions than it answers, because it answers none. It may however be of interest to those who value the lives of foxes, badgers, polar bears, tigers etc above all else.

  4. Joe Lalonde says:


    Economics of putting value on all things is what will destroy our society and many other species.
    The haves have the wealth, but fail to understand that a balance is needed before the poor take over by sheer numbers no matter what protection they have bought.

  5. Bill McIntyre says:

    Great post. Seems to be unbiased – which goes a long way towards believability.


  6. dp says:

    I will be convinced of the severity of the problem when those who believe it is a problem choose for themselves their death over life for the good of the world they leave behind. Until then it is a dull intellectual exercise that puts the living against the unborn.

    When the curtain is pulled back it is revealed this is nothing more than a plea for infanticide and forced sterility for all but the parents of the hand-wringing elitists who put people behind all else.

  7. Brian H says:

    Even the UN sees it coming. The only UN Pop. Survey spreadsheet that has ever come close is the Low Band (now “low Fertility”) version, and it now predicts peak at 8.3 bn in 2049. 6.7 bn by 2100.

  8. ren says:

    The predicted position of the polar vortex on 25 January.

  9. Me_Again says:

    Does the 4 foot square include passageways oneself and for others to transit………….?
    George was there a point to your post? I’m sorry but I can’t see what relevance cramming everyone into a small space has.

  10. John McGoldrick says:

    Both the left and the right agree on one thing – that population growth is good. The reality is that in the short term, population growth increases prices and reduces income and assets per head.

    Though they claim that it is good, the left and right also point to the fact that the population growth rate is falling. That is correct but misleading.

    The World’s population growth rate peaked in 1963 at 2.23%. It has indeed fallen and is now at “only” 1.1%. But if you look at numbers instead of rates then you will see that in 1963 the population grew by 71 million, and in 2013 it grew by 77.5 million. The increase in the number is because the base population for calculating the growth rate grew from 3.2 billion in 1963 to over 7 billion last year

    For some reason since1997 the World population growth has only varied slightly from the 77.5 million figure. As long as it stays at around this figure, the World’s population will increase by about one billion every 13 years or so.

  11. Euan Mearns says:

    Andrew, this is an interesting essay – need to come back and read it again when I have time – ha! I was one of the principles at The Oil Drum for many years and so peak runs through my veins;-) But I did become disillusioned with what emerged as a Green obsession with peak everything and collapse.

    The main point I want to make is that global population is following a logistic curve – rate of growth is slowing and will this century decline (can’t put my hands on the data right now). So this is good? Yes? No?

    In The Revenge of Gaia I was disappointed that Lovelock abandoned his core theme – that the Earth would self regulate (I think). Global population growth is responding to resource limits. But as you point out, not in black Africa.

    I believe one outcome of all this is that the Ponzi scheme of pensions will collapse. What that means is that we will all have to work (or blog) until we drop. Lucky ones may be looked after by families. Happy to be corrected!

    I got a new post on the impact of Arab Spring on oil production on Energy Matters. 2 million barrels a day lost as of Sep 2013. Enterprising readers I’m sure will fid a way of finding it;-)

  12. Anything is possible says:

    @ ren

    Here’s a weather blog which shares your enthusiasm for the polar vortex and sudden stratospheric warming events :

    If you are not already familiar with it, you may find it interesting and useful.

  13. ren says:

    Thank you very much. This is interesting for Europe. January 27, 2014.

  14. ren says:

    These are very bad forecasts for America. Northeast gets the air directly up from the pole.

  15. tallbloke says:

    Euan: It’s being replaced by shale gas. I expect to see linkage being broken and automotive lpg become cheaper in relation to petrol and diesel.

  16. hunter says:

    The over population myth is quite lucrative for those who got in early of latch on to Ehrlich and gang’s cause.
    That western academics have not relegated Ehrlich to the same dustbin as Lysenko is a damning indictment on academic intellectual corruption.

  17. Anything is possible says:

    I’m taking credit for that one, Tim. I first posted that link on Steve Goddard’s blog on the 9th :

    Then Joe Bastardi picked it up and tweeted it.