Friday, November 27, 2009

Haiti: Canary in the Coal Mine?

Posted by: Dennis R. Lieb

This is a response to Tim Pickel's last post about Haiti.

Haiti's gasoline availability problem points out an often overlooked fact. One thing that comes up a lot in discussions about sustainable communities, along with issues of resource scarcity and environmental degradation, is over-population. The underlying assumption being that we should "do something" about it. Well, what do you do? It would be impossible in a free country like ours to control anyone's reproductive capacity. And since we have it good (at least for now) our over-abundance of available resources makes such an idea ludicrous. What happens to third world countries in terms of population is another thing. Totalitarian states with some measure of national control can mandate civil rights issues - as China has with population control. Most countries though have no way to deal with the issue. But what we will see in a future with limited energy supplies, high costs and spot shortages is naturally occurring de-population.

As the twentieth century unfolded, massive discoveries of oil and other petroleum derivatives made these commodities almost too cheap to sell. We had to come up with products and processes that used oil just to make it profitable to was cheaper than water in Texas in the 1930's. Of course, today things are different. As the population curve arched upward, the oil discovery curve trailed obediently upward behind it to match demands of an expanding economy. As the oil discovery curve flattens and now begins it's descent, population's relationship becomes the trailing factor. There simply will not be enough cheap and easily available energy to maintain current human populations.

What we will see in the future is defacto population crashes around the world as resources that we take for granted today begin to affect life and death. This will take place in the background "noise" of daily affairs. When the Soviet Union collapsed, the daily needs of an entire continent went unfilled. Over a period of years, many things related to reliable energy supplies collapsed(in this case the result of a failing infrastructure)...medical care and pharmaceuticals, agricultural production and fertilizers, heating of homes and logistics involving delivery of necessities. Those who were too young, too old or too sick simply didn't make it. There was no great big headline in the news about it. Millions of people simply disappeared without a trace...going out with a whimper and not a bang.

Fortunately or unfortunately, population will take care of itself for us. Economists, energy experts and environmentalists concerned with future predictions about needs to decrease green house gases, increase economic and energy production (or anything else) may have to rethink things. These predictions are all based on an ever increasing population pressures...something that is no longer a sure bet.

We can talk about this phenomenon clinically and dispassionately now because we Americans still have the wherewithal (at least for while) to fend off the risks in the US. Haiti will not be so fortunate. Neither will most of Africa, South America and considerable parts of Asia. For us it is wholly unreal. In Haiti it will be the possible end of life as they know it.



noel jones said...

A must-see video on this topic:

Dennis R. Lieb said...

I've seen "The Story of Stuff" video a couple of times. It's excellent. Thanks for the link. I would advice everyone to spend 20 minutes watching it. It really lets you know what kind of scam we are being fed on a daily basis by the corporate state.


Timothy George Hare said...

Interesting film.

However, population statistics document an unmentioned (and unmentionable?) obvious reason for the colossal explosion of 'stuff' in the world.

The huge population explosion, created by unprotected heterosexual sex behaviors, quite an ever-growing elephant in the living room, could be the single largest contributing factor.

Perhaps heterosexual sex is actually the "love that dare not speak its name"?:

World historical and predicted populations (in millions):


1750 ... 1800 ... 1850 ... 1900 ... 1950 ... 1999 ... 2008 ... 2050 ... 2150 -----

Population in Millions:

791 ... 978 ... 1,262 ... 1,650 ... 2,521 ... 5,978 ... 6,707 ... 8,909 ... 9,746

Dennis R. Lieb said...


See my Haiti post for my take on population and it's ramifications.


noel jones said...

Population control is always an interesting topic--I have heard that China managed to do it, through mandatory free birth control and financial incentives for having one child, but only half the money for two, and none for three.

There have been scandals in some countries in South America where doctors have been sterilizing poor women without their knowledge, when they come in for other surgeries.

Then we have the complications of many religions that focus on producing as many children as possible.

It always amazes me that Christian fundamentalists are often simultaneously against safe abortion rights, and yet also against their tax money going to welfare, when the abolition of abortion rights would cause our welfare rolls to swell exponentially.

Everyone is entitled to their beliefs, it just makes me nuts when people's own beliefs contradict each other, i.e., Christian fundamentalists who are "hawkish" and want us to send a troop surge to Afghanistan, but at the same time are screaming that their taxes are too high. How do these people think a troop surge will be paid for?