Endangered Species Condoms?

Next month is the Global Population Speak Out Month – a whole month focused on raising awareness of a large (and growing) issue – population growth. We live on a finite planet, with only so many resources. Yet our population (and consumption, as I mentioned earlier) continues to grow. We’re over-stretching our carrying capacity, and it isn’t good for our species or other life on Earth either. What can we do?

The project I have been working on recently is involved with the coming documentary Hooked On Growth, which will be releasing later this year. Here’s a great video on the subject of population growth… and contraceptives.

The Real Population Question

7 Billion People

This year will be a monumental one. 2011 is the year our spaceship Earth will have 7 billion people on board. A large majority of the developed countries’ populations are entering the elderly years, when they become less able to work and need more care. This means a lowered workforce all around and an increased need for a workforce to care for our elders. In the developing world, where a large majority of this population growth is occurring, there are more malnourished children, more uneducated mothers and more people living with inadequate shelter, food, health care, water, et cetera, et cetera.

I’ve written before about population. This is a dodgy issue surrounded by misconceptions, fear and contention. It is an easy topic to bring up if you are looking to start a heated argument, loose friends or out any Nazis in a group. However, the topic of population is an important one and it simply needs to be framed properly with the other root cause of “the problem” – consumption. The two go hand-in-hand and we like to avoid talking about either in respect to natural limits.

Jeremy, over at Make Wealth History, brought it up last month in a great post, “How many people can the Earth support?” and I want to echo his thoughts. I also want to make it clear to everyone that this debate must be had! We must have debate over these serious issues. We must be willing to potentially change our minds or, at the very least, be able to open them to solutions we might not have thought of ourselves or might not have be completely confident in their success. Either way we have to do something.

Next month is Global Population Speak Out Month, and I think we should all open up this topic for discussion. It is important for us to recognize that there is a limit to the number of people the world can support, as well as the amount of consumption that can be supported. The real question is what is the desired level of consumption that we want for everyone? We must be fair and grant enough room for all to equally share the Earth, so what is an appropriate stable population and consumption level? Our generation must answer these questions, so we should start by at least asking them.

Check out this infographic on the subject (my thanks to Grist for showing it to me) or this National Geographic video:

Top Ten Steady State Posts of 2010

Another year under the belt, Steady State Revolution celebrated two years of publication in November! It seems only fitting on this, the first day of 2011, we take a moment to review the best articles of the last year. This is a list of the top ten posts in the last year, chosen by me but with influence from feedback and analytic tracking (oh, technology!) as well. For those of you that are new to this blog or haven’t checked out the archives yet I hope this list is helpful for you!

2010 Top Ten Posts

  1. Ten Things That Will Build The New Economy – Inspired by Yes! Magazine yet again, I decided to map out the things I think will construct our post-growth/steady-state/new-economy. It is an open thread, by all means, let’s work together to make that list long, thoughtful and inspiring to others!
  2. Decoupling Demystified – Tim Jackson’s work in Prosperity Without Growth tackles this subject very well in an entire chapter. This post was written to further this key argument against the growth paradigm, and to show how real-life science trumps the back-woods mysticism that is the current economic theory.
  3. The Limits of Efficiency – A follow-up piece to the “Decoupling Demystified” post, this topic is in my opinion the ultimately proof that growth everlasting is impossible – unless we find a way to re-write the laws of physics, of course. Initially the idea for this post never blossomed into a full article, but after some prodding from some of you wonderful readers I committed to it.
  4. Dear Dick Smith – 2010 presented a wonderful surprise – Australian businessman Dick Smith challenged the world to bring the debate to the main stream public. The prize? A cool million (in Aussie bucks). I know, there is some irony in it, but it still presents a great opportunity to get something moving, and then eventually funded by Mr. Smith. This post is my response to his announcement.
  5. The Opportunity of Limits – It is very easy in today’s constant news feeds full of climate catastrophes, apocalyptic prophecies, peak oil and the apparent lack of government action, to get run down. I have fallen into this downward trap a few times myself, but we must recognize that opportunity in our trails. Climate change and peak oil are frightening, yes,  but dwelling on the negative is akin to giving up. Meanwhile, the limits that we face on a finite planet actually give us the potential to create a better society, not a worse one. We just need to identify to the potential for good and act on that foundation, instead of the other alternative.
  6. Ethical Banking Systems – This isn’t the first time I’ve ranted about banking and monetary policy, because it’s pretty important people! Like the awful and cheese bumper sticker says, “if you aren’t mad, you aren’t paying attention,” we are mostly clueless of the injustices we allow the banking system to get away with on a daily basis. We definitely need a better system, so let’s make one!
  7. Resiliency & Peak Oil – This is a short post, but the topic is the main reason it made this list. In the next few years we will see more and more how resilient communities prevail in the rising costs of oil, as well as the rising impacts of climate change. The Transition Town movement was created to help foster that resiliency, and whether you buy-in to that specific movement or not it is still an extremely important concept for sustainability.
  8. Nothing Grows Forever – In May Mother Jones released a issue tackling some strong topics: population, consumption and the growth paradigm. This post was my review of their article on steady state economics. By far this is one of the largest media outlets to write a (mostly) good critique of ecological economics and the post growth movement. The ending left something to be desired, but I won’t hold it against them.
  9. Earth Overshoot & Natural Debt – This year I wrote three separate posts for this blog, Post Growth and a guest post on another blog: all focused on the very real fact that we’re using our planets resources faster than can be generated, we’re in overshoot. This is not a good place to be in, especially if you have any knowledge of biology and carrying capacities – typically those populations in overshoot have a mass die-off and collapse. However, we’re smart and motivated, with knowledge of our mortality, so hopefully we can find a way out of this spiral and into a sustainably scaled economy and society.
  10. Obama Announces Degrowth, Wins Republican Support – I couldn’t not include this great little post. I talked myself out of doing an April Fool’s day post last year, but in 2010 I was invigorated by a few other fool’s day posts and went for it. Surprisingly, it turned out to be a great post and was well received!

Happy New Year to you all! I think Two-Thousand Eleven has a lot of good in store for us all, and I’m excited to see how we move forward on these important issues facing humanity.