Monday, November 20, 2006

Even Kurt Cobb Fools Himself

Kurt Cobb's recent Attitude adjustment: Facing our ecological predicament piece is irrational denial of his own. Here is a classic example of this irrational insistence that humans are somehow magically special and exempt from the consequences of things like our own population growth.

That curve cannot be refuted and for anyone to expect the results of that curve to be anything other than what has happened with every other group of mammals to overshoot in the same way is simply irrational. Thus the logical conclusion is that global civilization as we currently know it is doomed. However, once you get past that tidbit, you are still left with a realization that civilization itself, at least on more local terms, does not have to be doomed. In most places the probability is death on a wide scale but some locations might actually manage to implement a working "ELP" renaissance that can act as the lynchpin for local civilization to continue in some form.

Quite honestly, mainly due to lower population density than many other continents, North America would seem to have a good shot at pulling this off on a large scale. Australia is constrained by too many environmental factors. South America is going to be hit hard both by current poverty, which will slow any chance at mitigating such problems and by population density. Europe is stuck in the midst of a cultural tsunami that will largely wash away Western civilization as we know it while at the same time raising birth rates to levels that will make the already tired continent even less sustainable. Plus Europe is directly physically connected to Asia, which also means physically connected to Africa. Asia is far too densely populated and will suffer accordingly from that. And Africa is already dying. We are already seeing people trying to flee Africa for Europe. If a dieoff really begins there will be a migration of homo sapiens as never before envisioned.

So if I had to rank continents as a whole with the best chances of sustaining some form of civilization after a crash, it would be North America first and probably South America second. Europe would be a distant third largely because of the presence of land routes to Asia and Africa. Now I do not mean to suggest that North America has a good chance of pulling this off. Quite the contrary. I think North America's chances are extremely poor, just that the other continents are in even worse condition.

Cobb's problem is that he does not accept the above overshoot population curve. In his mind some combination of actions still must exist that can save all those still living, if we all just agree to a somewhat (undefined) lower standard of living.

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