Jane Goodall on overpopulation

It’s always worth bringing attention to another respected voice calling for action to address population. This brief video is a section of a broader October, 2007 interview with Jane Goodall:

Notice, at the 1:20 mark in the video, Dr. Goodall’s mention of the appreciation villagers showed for a family planning team sent to assist them. This is consistent with what I’ve gleaned from articles on population concerns in African, Indian, and other newspapers.

There are some who hesitate to condone action to address population growth in developing countries on the grounds that it means imposing the values of those in the First World on other cultures. It’s an understandable concern, but is no justification for doing nothing. Dr. Goodall’s remarks suggest we need to distinguish between “imposing our values” and providing needed, wanted assistance.

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29 responses to “Jane Goodall on overpopulation

  1. [with apologies to Freud] Sometimes family planning services are just family planning services and appreciated as such.

    For all the cultural relativism we engage in, I hope we don’t loose track of the women (and men) who just want to regulate the number of children they have — for their own reasons. Empowering women and couples to stop growing their families or to space out their children, is a good in itself. If there is the positive side effect of slower population growth so much the better. For me this is compassion and humanism in its best aspect.

  2. I Wonder What Galileo Is Doing Tonight……..

    I find it irresistible not to at least take a moment to wonder aloud what Galileo is doing tonight. My hope would be that the great man is resting in peace and that his head is not spinning in his grave. How, now, can Galileo possibly find peace when so many top-rank scientists refuse to speak out clearly regarding whatsoever they believe to be true about the distinctly human predicament presented to humanity in our time by certain unbridled “overgrowth” activities of the human species that loom ominously and threaten to engulf the planetary home God has blessed us to inhabit?

    Where are more leaders like Dame Jane Goodall who are willing to support the good science of human population dynamics and climate change that is being presented in the solid scientific observations and consensually validated empirical data?

    Perhaps there is something in the great work of Dr. Goodall that will give Galileo a moment of peace.

    What would the world we inhabit be like if scientists like Galileo had adopted a code of silence or selectively mined data or manufactured controversy or passed along disinformation….. or had logically contrived ‘scientific’ evidence which was politically convenient, religiously tolerated, economically expedient, and socially correct?

    Steven Earl Salmony, Ph.D., M.P.A.
    AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population

  3. Dear Dame Jane and Friends,

    Human overpopulation of Earth is the elephant in the living room of the family of humanity. This elephant is so big, no one person can see the whole of it. Who knows, we say to one another, perhaps the leviathan-like creature in our midst is not real. All of us know that there is no similar organism like it anywhere in our world.

    Even if the elephant is real, at least we can pretend it is not real if we can persuade everyone else not to talk about it. So here we are, where silence prevails. Not only outside the scientific community, but within it as well, silence is golden.

    When it comes to the overpopulation of Earth, there is no consciously expressed “global gag rule”; however, let us make no mistake about one thing, a global gag is in full force today, thanks to the spectacular silence of economic powerbrokers who are ready and willing to adamantly advise and relentlessly demand the endless expansion of the global political economy, come what may. If the environment is recklessly degraded, biodiversity senselessly extirpated, and the natural resources of Earth irreversibly dissipated, so be it. The “hear no threat, see no threat and speak of no threat” example of these super-wealthy commanders of economic globalization effectively enjoins their bought-and-paid-for politicians and their many obscenely enriched minions in the mass media not to so much as acknowledge the subject of the ecological challenges posed to humanity by human consumption, production and propagation activities now overspreading the surface of Earth.

    The Growth is Madness Blog and other similarly situated efforts to acknowledge the ominously looming global challenges posed to humanity by the unbridled growth of human numbers, per human consumption and economic globalization, are themselves marginalized by the “the powers that be.”

    How, here and now, do we take a forward step, one that mainstreams our marginal discussions? How do we overcome the global gag rule, the one the rich and powerful among us have set forth, by means of their silence, to prevent the public from “centering” its attention on the most daunting concerns of our time?



  4. http://www.evfit.com/population.htm

    Will humanity be left home alone?
    John Gray

    According to Edward O Wilson, the greatest living Darwinian thinker, the earth is entering a new evolutionary era. We are on the brink of a great extinction the like of which has not been seen since the end of the Mesozoic Era, 65 million years ago, when the dinosaurs disappeared. Species are vanishing at a rate of a hundred to a thousand times faster than they did before the arrival of humans. On present trends, our children will be practically alone in the world. As Wilson has put it, humanity is leaving the Cenozoic, the age of mammals, and entering the Eremozoic – the era of solitude.

    Homo rapiens

    The last mass extinction has not yet been fully explained. Many scientists believe it to have been the result of meteorites whose impact suddenly altered the global climate, but no-one can be sure. In contrast, the cause of the present mass extinction is not in doubt: human expansion. Homo rapiens is gutting the earth of biodiversity.

    Biodiversity loss is transforming the biosphere …

    The lush natural world in which humans evolved is being rapidly transformed into a largely prosthetic environment. Crucially, in any timespan that is humanly relevant, this loss of biodiversity is irreversible. True, life on earth recovered its richness after the last great extinction; but only after about 10 million years had passed. Unless something occurs to disrupt the trends under way, all future generations of human beings will live in a world that is more impoverished biologically than it has been for aeons.

    … yet we humans ignore the destruction of Earth’s biodiversity

    Given the magnitude of this change, one would expect it to be at the centre of public debate. In fact, it is very little discussed. Organisations such as the World Wildlife Fund press on with their invaluable work, and there are occasional reports of the destruction of wilderness; but for the most part, politics and media debates go on as if nothing is happening. There are many reasons for this peculiar state of affairs, including the ingrained human habit of denying danger until its impact is imminent; but the chief reason is that it has become fashionable to deny the reality of overpopulation.

    Human overpopulation – dire, but politically incorrect to acknowledge it

    In truth, the root cause of mass extinction is too many people. As Wilson puts it in his book Consilience: “Population growth can justly be called the monster on the land.” Yet according to mainstream political parties and most environmental organisations, the despoliation of the environment is mainly the result of flaws in human institutions. If we are entering a desolate world, the reason is not that humans have become too numerous. It is because injustice prevents proper use of the earth’s resources. There is no such thing as overpopulation……………………………..

  5. Is it possible that the standard for determining what is real and true in a culture is this: whatsoever is widely shared, consensually validated and judged to be ecomonically expedient, politically convenient, socially agreeable and religiously tolerated is true and real.

    We can see how good science is ignored and silence prevails when reasonable and sensible evidence comes into conflict with what culture prescribes as real and true. Perhaps good science does present culture with evidence of inconvenient truths.

  6. Steve,

    (Although I believe Mr. Feeney, in all likelihood, is about to get a little fed up with my increasingly intrusive comment-leaving on his personal brain child: this unacceptable truth blog), 😉 I feel like answering your call. I’m a social anthropologist by education, so … oh well … anyway …

    The concept of culture is not always all that easy to define. As a matter of fact, anthropologists of different ideological leanings and scientific leads have been quarrelling about the validity of all sorts of definitions of culture. — Structuralists, functionalists, symbolists, psycho-socialists, linguists, feminists, etc., all cling to different concepts of culture. Among post-modernists it is even fairly normal to reject the whole concept of culture as a scientific or social construct. Many cultural/social anthropologists are even finding it difficult to make use of the form “cultural” in dealing with the ins and outs of human society and its analysis. And hey! There is no reason to forgetting about differences of reflection based on political theory. — Conservatives, marxists, liberalists and libertarians, for example, all deal with the concept of culture in different ways. For example: Marxists are always on the lookout for class structures and social layers, liberalists look for individual freedoms, libertarians will find the various social/cultural entrepeneurs interesting, while conservatives are usually more family and social structure (status quo) oriented.

    I myself am among those who are most definitely inclined to always be conscious about the reality of social, economic and political class structures. It has something to do with my personal working class background, I guess. — My perspective was out of touch with the conservative leaning of the institute in which I got educated. — Stupid me.

    As noted previously, I can really appreciate your phrase “ecomonically expedient, politically convenient, socially agreeable and religiously tolerated.” I feel/think it wraps things up very neatly. Most definitions of culture press on the view that it must be “widely shared, consensually validated and judged to be true and real.” However, this is one of the points where I can no longer agree with standard anthropological (or sociological) ways of thinking. What might be widely shared is the social/political forums and means of negotiation. Human life is always about acceptance or rebellion against the cultural and social status quo. Human life — especially in this modern era of “everywhere westernization” — is always an everlasting social process. Social and economic inequality is recognised and displayed in all sorts of ways, and by all means possible, be it locally, regionally or nationally. — What I try to explain is that different cultures or cultural areas should not be seen as static or cemented social structures existing in a void, immune to processes of change. To the contrary: different cultures or cultural areas are constantly under some kind of pressure from the outside world. And especially these days, when economic and political globalization is really starting to roll. As the communication revolution keeps on coming to more and more remote areas of the planet, it is becoming ever more difficult for different social, cultural or traditional structures to avoid all contact, and thus remain unaffected by whatever takes place on the national stage, and even at the continental and global level.

    So believe me, Steve: good science is seriously presenting culture with a whole lot of evidence of inconvenient truths. In fact, to many African and Asian cultures, good science has its own way of presenting old cultures or remote cultural areas with truths that are unacceptable. You need only to think about the scientific fact of exponential population growth, — also known as “population explosion”. — I’m hinting at the mathematic fact that an average of two childbirths per woman will lead to a stabilisation of populations, while three childbirths (along with good, modern medicines and vaccine programs) will inevitably lead to an exponential growth of populations. – 💡

    As demonstrated under the link below.


    I’m telling you (not joking): all that is needed in order to make an African teacher lose his mind, is a calculator.

  7. Dear Friends,

    At least from my vantage point, we are making good and meaningful forward movement by discussing overpopulation and a population of 6.63 billion people now can SUSTAINABLY GROW to 9.2 billion in 2050. That is a 40% increase in the global human population in the next 43 years.

    Let’s look at what is happening now. We have millions of people who are conspicuously over-consuming Earth’s limited resources and becoming obese; on the hand, billions of people do not have substantial sustenance, are going hungry, living in poverty and many are emaciated.

    How on this good Earth are we going to manage properly 2 1/2 billion additional people to our current numbers by 2050 and improve life for the family of humanity? Is such a goal realistic? If so, how? If not, then what can be done to move forward in a more humane, reality-oriented way, thereby preserving life as we know it and the integrity of Earth? Skyrocketing absolute global human population numbers could soon threaten life as we know it; and obscence per human over-consumption of resources, at a rate that dissipates resources faster than they can be restored for human benefit, could irreversibly degrade our planetary home.

    Scientific research, reason and common sense fail to provide good evidence of how “proper management” and “improvement in human wellbeing and environmental health” is realistically accomplished between now and 2050. I am supposing that we cannot keep doing what we are doing now: that is, over-consuming and overpopulating the planet we inhabit. Such ideas remind me of magical thinking and such a strategy looks like a prescription for disaster.

    For example, the seemingly endless growth of cities, or of any other human construction, for that matter, is bound to become patently unsustainable at some point in time in a finite world, will it not? Whatsoever is is, is it not…..regardless of human wishes and intentions to the contrary?

    Is it reasonable and sensible to consider an alternative? Let us examine the probability that in 2050, we will have millions more people over-consuming resources, just as we are doing now. We will also have billions more people going without substantial sustenance by 2050.

    If such an unsustainable situation was somehow likely to occur in first half of Century XXI, then we could begin now to protectively and ably respond by putting forward a more reality-oriented “action plan” both for limiting per-capita over-consumption of finite resources and rapidly reducing absolute global human population numbers.



  8. The Lysistrata Strategy

    by Kelpie Wilson

    Wild Earth, Winter 1997/98

    Can you imagine what life would be like if everything weren’t always getting more crowded, dirtier and poorer every day with the threat of war and ecological collapse hanging over our heads? The root cause of our global impoverishment is growth. Growth – both the economic kind and the population kind, makes every ecological and social problem worse and more unmanageable. Growth may bring vast wealth to a few, for a limited amount of time, but the legacy of growth is topsoil loss, over-fished oceans, deforestation, global warming, species extinction, pollution, disease, starvation and war. The world needs a strategy to stop growing and start living sustainably. We now have six billion people and may grow to twice that number in the next few generations if we don’t do something. Growth not only needs to be stopped, it needs to be reversed, for a time at least. Some ecologists think that two billion is a reasonable number for the Earth to support in perpetuity.

    The good news is that we could humanely reach an optimum global population of two billion in only three generations. When my parents were born, there were only two billion people in the world. If every woman on earth today had no more than one child, the number of people of reproductive age would halve in the next generation. By the end of another two generations, we could achieve our goal of two billion.

    Read the rest…

  9. Steve: “… we could begin now to protectively and ably respond by putting forward a more reality-oriented “action plan” both for limiting per-capita over-consumption of finite resources and rapidly reducing absolute global human population numbers.”

    – —

    Exactly. You’re absolutely right. An action plan for reducing per-capita consumption and getting the REALITY of an overpopulation “PROBLEM” across to the people who are going to feel this heat the most (third world countries in the less than developed world, first and foremost) can hardly be a move which is unwise. Well, anyway, one should be allowed to think so, and then, on top of that, allow ourselves to be bold enough to ask this simple question: WHERE is the political will to take any such responsibility on the part of the human race?!!

    Believe me: throughout the so-called third world, the overpopulation dilemma is, from a moral and ethical point of view, a non-issue. The very idea of an overpopulation “problem” is impossible to even think about.

    And a reduction of general consumption may be a most fortunate move, if we should care to think ahead. But from an African village point of view, it’s downright laughable! Especially if it should originate from the fingertips of a Norwegian or even an American, sitting in front of his or her personal computer. I’m not kidding, and I feel confident that you know exactly what I mean, isn’t that right? 😉

    But let’s return to the political side of things. It’s such a pity that Bill Clinton was very right when he said that the overpopulation issue could never become a topic for his wife to meddle with, not now and probably not ever, simply because it she runs for the arguably most important political office of the whole wide world. In her current position it would be way controversial, by far.

    And let’s return to the political side of things once more. I mean: would you believe your own ears if ever you were to hear an American president or a European prime minister say that per-capita consumption should have to go down? At the expence of whom? Whichh factory owner and which shopping mall boss?

    Never mind. 8)

  10. Steve,

    Interesting article. I’m not positive, but I don’t think Kelpie Wilson (at Truthout) writes about population anymore. Have you seen anything newer from her on the topic?


    Believe me: throughout the so-called third world, the overpopulation dilemma is, from a moral and ethical point of view, a non-issue. The very idea of an overpopulation “problem” is impossible to even think about.

    I understand what you’re saying, but let’s not forget that in some instances (e.g., Lester Brown describes the cases of Thailand and Iran) Third World countries have decided population was an issues and have made real progress in addressing it. Note as well, Jane Goodall’s observation of villagers welcoming help with family planning. Moreover, there’s the work of organizations like some of those in the “population growth” section of the sidebar here which I think does help, though they’re terribly underfunded.

    So, I do think there’s room for hope there. 🙂

  11. If we look at just a single dimension of the overall problem, CO2 emission per capita, the increasing population of a first-world nation like the United States is as significant as that of any third world country. One American is responsible for a CO2 output 7 times greater than the world average. One poor person in a third world country has almost no CO2 output. So, in these terms, the US has to be included in the bin for “countries with serious population growth problems.”

  12. So, in these terms, the US has to be included in the bin for “countries with serious population growth problems.”


  13. Six million people to 6 billion people! That looks to me like unbridled, near exponential growth of absolute human numbers worldwide over the past several thousand years, with most of that growth occurring very recently. If we grow our numbers from 6 billion people to 9 billion by 2050, as is projected by the UN Population Division, and people continue to conspicuously consume Earth’s finite resources as many of us are ravenously doing now, what will be left to sustain the life as we know it for our children and their children, let alone coming generations?

    Are our current leaders missing something vital for future of life, human wellbeing and environmental health.

    Perhaps someone can take a moment to explain how a great democracy of 300 million good people becomes perverted by a tiny, selfish confederacy of wealthy and politically powerful dunces?

    Steven Earl Salmony
    AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population

  14. On the subject of population, you guys might find this interesting:


    It’s a good example of the kind of extreme, baseless view expressed by some (In this case, it’s a view seen mainly among a few on the left. The arguments from the right are, of course, equally ridiculous.) regarding population.

    On the plus side, my sense is that today those in places like the UN and other organizations with influence in this issue mostly see through such arguments. I suspect they regret having placated those with related views at the Cairo Conference in 1994. (Details here)

  15. Steve — Looking at this discussion on Grist…


    I see there are some asserting the common argument that if we just cut consumption enough we could support the current or even a larger population sustainably.

    This is probably my favorite topic right now, one I’ve been investigating and thinking about a lot. It’s something I’ll write about soon, but the more I look into it, the clearer it becomes that those arguing the line of reasoning seen by those in the Grist comments are just flat wrong.

    No time right now for detail, but below are some items for which these folks usually fail to account. The first three items are, in my view, enough to counter most such arguments. (These are an adaptation and condensation of parts of an email I recently sent to someone in discussing this.)

    1) Population size multiplies with per capita consumption to determine total consumption. So it’s obviously wrong to say, “It’s not population, it’s consumption!”

    2) There is often an underlying assumption that there’s some important reason to try to maintain or grow our current numbers. This has no basis in much of anything.

    3) You have to begin with recognition that we’re already deeply into overshoot. This is supported by widely available, highly reputable data, and provable with simple logic. The implication is that we need to get our numbers down far lower than the current level. Therefore, any efforts to address population today will help in the short term (fewer people born into a world of diminishing energy and other resources) and is essential for the long term.

    4) The available data tell us that to bring our current numbers back to within carrying capacity merely by reducing per capita consumption we’d have to drop to levels comparable to some of the poorer counties in the world. To account for anticipated population growth we’d have to go far lower, probably to levels below those of the poorest countries. (A complete switch to renewables is fairly far off. But based on these data, it would, in any case, almost surely be insufficient.)

    6) The best established and best organized available data on this topic do not yet account well for a number of key areas of consumption. To do so would tell us we’d need to drop per capita consumption considerably further than indicated above.

    7) A thought: To conclude the earth’s carrying capacity for humans is over 7 billion, is to say, “Well, our numbers were only in the millions for about 99.999% (literally!) of our history. (Our numbers are estimated to have been under 10 million prior to the beginning of agriculture.) After that, after exceeding 1 billion, we commenced serious ecological damage. Okay, I’m going to guess the carrying capacity for humans is over 7 billion.” This doesn’t prove anything, but should give us pause.

    8 ) We humans seem to have developed a widespread sense of entitlement to the earth’s resources regardless of the impacts on our fellow earth inhabitants. We seem to feel entitled to usurp those resources by growing our numbers vastly out of proportion to any comparable species. (What is the larges number of gorillas that ever existed? What would be the impact on humans and how would we react if gorillas or chimpanzees suddenly numbered 7 billion — rather than being on the brink of extinction due to largely to our numbers? Note that those species consume at levels that are about as low as we could go.)

    Humans now usurp as much as 40% of all products of photosynthesis on Earth. Yet we resist the simple observation that it’s easy, humanely and volutarliy, to bring our numbers down. We seem to think it’s important to push to or well beyond the limits of carrying capacity. This is clearly at great cost to other species, and ultimately to out own. Every acre of land we take, every bushel of corn we grow, destroys habitat and takes from the sustenance of other species. Why then do we persist in thinking it’s okay to number nearly 7 billion and counting?

    As I mentioned, I hope to write an article on this soon, and will provide all data, math, etc. there.

  16. Pingback: Hooked on Growth: an important film now in production « Growth is Madness!

  17. Dear John and a growing number of friends commenting on this website, on Earth & Sky, on Dot Earth and Grist, among a growing number of other websites,

    Let us be crystal clear about one thing: We are going to make a difference that makes a difference leading to a good enough future for life as we know iton Earth………. or we will die trying. That simple.



  18. John, while I didn’t see anywhere to leave a comment under the WaPo article, many thanks for that and all the other useful links. The Gristmill discussion is quite revealing.

  19. Trinifar,

    At WaPo I had to register and log in to post a comment. But the comments under that article are generally of such a low level of discussion and just so silly, I think it’s hardly worth the time.

    The Grist discussion is a little better. I guess I’ve taken on the role there of challenging advocates of the “don’t talk about population; just address the underlying social issues” approach. I just know someone is going to come up with some social issue which was successfully addressed by avoiding talking about it. 😕

  20. Hi,

    Since this thread speaks directly to the overpopulation issue, I have a question for all of you that belongs here.

    I am looking for creative ways for determining how many people on the surface of the Earth are having sexual intercourse at any single moment in time. Any ideas for this calculation?



  21. Magne Karlsen


    Is this a question that seems to be is keeping you awake at night?

  22. Dear Magne,

    Yes, this is a question that awakened me only last night!

    Let me add here a bit more about what is on my mind.

    Last night I awakened out of what felt like a deep sleep. I had this idea of “the world having stopped spinning.” By that I mean everything just stopped. Then I imagined that a set of giant, solar-powered reflectors were placed skillfully and carefully in space so that it became possible for anyone on Earth to “stop the world” by observing (with the help of supercomputers, of course) what everyone on the planet was doing at any moment in time. With assistance of computers and reflectors, people could gain a species-level perspective of what is actually happening in a moment of space-time. People could see the world we inhabit from a different point of view. Their scope of observation would change.

    Then, I asked myself how many people, let us say at noon, Greenwich Mean Time, would be engaged in sexual intercourse worldwide; how many people would be foregoing sex at that moment in order to eat; and how many people would be not be having sex or eating, but working? I also thought that it would be helpful, but not necessary, to know how many people were sleeping at noon GMT as well as how many people were somewhere purposefully playing and galumphing at noon.

    Then, I wondered what it could mean to members of the human community if we could see what the human species is actually doing currently with regard to its unchecked propagation activities, its unrestrained per capita consumption activities and its unbridled expansion of big-business production capabilities on the surface of Earth at any moment in time. (People slumbering and playing, I am supposing, are not presenting major problems for life as we know it or the integrity of Earth.) Would it not become immediately possible for many people to recognize the distinctly human-induced predicament humanity is approaching and, also, to begin addressing the predicament by modifying the course of economic globalization, limiting increasing per human consumption, and regulating skyrocketing absolute global human population numbers…….. with all deliberate speed?

    Wonderful comment, Magne. Thank you for it.



  23. Magne Karlsen

    Steve: “Would it not become immediately possible for many people to recognize the distinctly human-induced predicament humanity is approaching …”


    Trinifar (comment #14): “More people are switching on to the nature of the problem. Is this happening at an exponential pace? There’s no way to know.”

    Exactly like everything else in this world seems to be happening or escalating at an exponential rate, why not assume that this could be the case with awareness, and even attitudes? It sure is a brilliant idea.

    – —

    Steve: “… and, also, to begin addressing the predicament by modifying the course of economic globalization, limiting increasing per human consumption, and regulating skyrocketing absolute global human population numbers…….. with all deliberate speed?”

    I doubt that. As a matter of fact, I know that the Norwegian government is by no means the only government of this world to having made the to allow CO2 emissions to keep rising at a very high speed; all in the name of metallurgy, and serving the best interest of industrial power-houses like Statoil-Hydro, Aker-Kværner and Norske Skog, among other such powerful interest groups and intimate political-economic players.

    On top of that, I know that the vast majority of the adult Norwegian population dwell on a very relaxed attitude towards the matter of increasing Norwegian CO2 emissions, quite simply because they can all understand that these emissions, to a most significant degree, are the by-products of economic activities, which are needed in order to secure work and employment.

    You see: this is a vexing issue! There are such a lot of dilemmas and paradoxical situations here. The problem with the environment, locally and at large, are all problems concerned with the way of life of modern, westernized humanity. I mean: look at it! Everywhere you go, in all four corners of the planet, and in almost every location within these corners, there is currently a building and construction boom taking place. New shopping malls, new skyscrapers, new airports, new roads, new everything is currently being built; not only in the USA, in Scaninavia and Japan, but also in China, Malaysia, India, Mocambique, Cameroon and Uruguay. Everywhere. These activities are all extremely energy consuming. So what is going on here, on ground level, humanity’s demand for energy is booming. The cheapest kind of energy humanity can think of is fossil. Coal, gas, and oil: those are the substances we most often make use of, and those are the substances that are creating the greenhouse effect. We know this. Yes, we’ve all been informed about that. Our governments are all treating the situation as a serious crisis, at least in lovely, little greenwashing speeches, in which they send someone to stand in front of a television camera or eight, and talk about all the things that must be done twenty years from now, only not right now, because that would never be a very wise economic move.

    And the fact is fact is fact is fact: while some of the politicians keep talking about what is known as “climate change action”, CO2 emissions keep increasing.

    Dream on.

  24. Magne Karlsen

    Steve. “Last night I awakened out of what felt like a deep sleep. I had this idea of “the world having stopped spinning.” By that I mean everything just stopped. Then I imagined that a set of giant, solar-powered reflectors were placed skillfully and carefully in space so that it became possible for anyone on Earth to “stop the world” by observing (with the help of supercomputers, of course) what everyone on the planet was doing at any moment in time. With assistance of computers and reflectors, people could gain a species-level perspective of what is actually happening in a moment of space-time. People could see the world we inhabit from a different point of view. Their scope of observation would change.”

    – — 😀

    Dear Steve.

    I don’t know whether or not you can understand half of what I am saying most of the time, or if — to the contrary — you are able to follow my way thinking all the way home, as you have come to understand and appreciate the fact that I must be some kind of extraterrestrial being or another, a rather ugly freak of nature, and/or a desperado. I believe I can subscribe to all three descriptions.

    I’m a dreamer. I have, on many occasions, had the same kind of dream as you have had now: I’m thinking of the idea that everything just stopped. I’ve not been dreaming of technical devices that could make this actually happen. Just stopping the world like that, as if like pushing a button or pulling a switch. No, I’ve been dreaming of space aliens. A race of extraterrestrial beings which had the brain power to really make sense of all the things that goes on in the minds of a sample of humans, and indeed also of the entire human race, as a functioning collective. Unfortunately, a dysfunctional collective of thinking, feeling and dreaming individuals who are slowly, and very painstakingly, coming to realize that the human species — as a functional whole — must surely be regarded as a very destructive, and, in the eyes of the observing space aliens, and after a while, humanity itself, a most pathetic, paracitic species. One that is quite able to, knowingly and willingly, destroy it’s home planet’s ecosystems, methodically and perversely, by means of poison like oil, gas, and coal: substances that this species has become addicts of, and just cannot do away with for the presise reason that the whole species is addicted to the shit. But the realization that we just might be a paracitic lifeform doesn’t have to be bad news. To the contrary: as more people are becoming aware of the ecocidal developments on this planet, then maybe, just maybe, will most of us decide to change our ways. Simply because it is unbearable to think of ourselves as a paracitic species, I suppose. Well anyway: I have a dream.

    I know from before that you are not particularly fond of the idea that the human race has certain paracitic traits. The way we are overwhelming all ecosystems. The way we double our population in a matter of no time (in a cosmic sense). I think you’re frightened of the idea. And this I think all humans will have in common. We’ll be afraid that we just might be able to strangulate this planet by means of atmospheric poison; the world coming to resemble a veritable gas chamber. And human beings all over the place, running, driving, flying and sailing around like some funkling maniacs. I believe you get the picture?

    I have for a very long time been thinking about this manuscript for a novel which is never going to be written, since I intend never to humiliate myself like that, ever again. My last plan to write the story of a group of space alien researchers on the human predicament. I was thinking that the individual researchers were all appalled by what they were seeing here, on this planet. And very afraid that this very warlike and very murderous race of vampires, zombies and zappers was one day going to discover interstellar travel power. I mean: the idea of having humans invading space would simply be out of the question.

    The combination of over-industrialization and population explosion is going to make this planet look like a something very difficult to describe, I guess. — If only I had a magic wand. —

  25. Dear Magne,

    It is not possible for me to say what parts or how much of all you report that I am understanding, but then, that is not what is most important. What is most important is that you keep thinking and sharing experience.

    You are correct in noting that I do not see human beings as parasites or pathogens, even smart ones. It may be, however, that what human beings are doing on Earth in our time is approaching a point in history when our species, “as a functional whole,” looks like something we are not, definitely not.

    Keep going.


  26. Steve asks, “I am looking for creative ways for determining how many people on the surface of the Earth are having sexual intercourse at any single moment in time. Any ideas for this calculation?”

    Without thinking too much about it, here’s a back-of-the-envelope guestimate:

    — 6.6 billion people
    — 50% too young, not intested, or not able to have sex
    — sex once a week on average
    — 5 minutes per copulation on average
    — 24 * 7 * 60 = 10,080 minutes in a week

    So, at any one moment there are about
    6.6 billion * 0.5 * 5 / (24 * 7 * 60) = 1.6 million
    or 800,000 couples copulating (… Eight maids a-milking / Seven swans a-swimming / Six geese a-laying / Five golden rings … And a partridge in a pear tree).

    Another question is, how many of these couples are trying to have a baby? Of those who aren’t, how many have access to birth control? And, of those, how many are using it?

  27. Magne Karlsen

    Steve: – It may be, however, what human beings are doing on Earth in our time is approaching a point in history when our species, “as a functional whole,” looks like something we are not, definitely not.

    – —

    That’s exactly my point. We have to look closely at “the spectre of mass extinction,” acknowledge that it is happening, and then ask ourselves a few questions regarding our function or dysfunction inside this biosphere, which is the Earth, and, on a more local level, inside the ecosystems that are immediately around us, wherever we may be.

    The next step will be to protest, as we may come to realize that we’d much rather be a large bunch of garderners and protectors of the living nature, as this would suit the planet much better. I mean: we do not have to keep polluting the place with every kind of toxins that is available to us, as a matter of human nature?

    We need to think twice now, and reach a decision which is pleasing to the brain, to the soul, to the heart, and to the spirit. 🙂

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