As as follow-up to Jim Lydecker’s essay, My World Without Oil, I wanted to remind readers of an essay by occasional GIM commenter, Paul Chefurka. Titled Peak Oil, Carrying Capacity and Overshoot: Population, the Elephant in the Room, it makes the case that our use of oil dramatically increased the earth’s carrying capacity for humans. Paul argues that therefore, post-peak-oil, we will be in serious overshoot of that carrying capacity: “The decline in oil supply will reduce the planet’s carrying capacity, thus forcing humanity into overshoot with the inevitable consequence of a population decline.”
You may have noticed in Jim’s essay his comment, “But it is not going to be a pretty scene as hydrocarbons are depleted. We are talking social strife, mass migration, starvation, epidemics and worse.” Paul’s essay outlines carefully the population dynamics such a scene could involve.
As Paul says, this “brings a new urgency to the topic of Peak Oil.” I would add, as well, that it brings a new urgency to the topics of population and economic growth, and our ecological crisis as a whole. It concerns me, to say the least, that we have, converging, peak oil and ecological degradation at levels threatening global ecological collapse. (See here for details.) Either has the potential, in itself, to be the gravest threat we’ve ever faced. And they loom as two of their root causes — population growth and corporate economic growth — continue, ignored by the leaders and most of the organizations we would expect to address them. That they are occurring at the same time, each with the potential to compound the other’s effects, should be the headline in every newspaper every day.
Note: I’m back from my break now, and hope soon to finish an article concerning the past decade’s neglect of the population issue and how it has set back both social and environmental causes.