Part 2: What Constitutes Overpopulation in America? Exceeding Carrying Capacity

Published on October 30th, 2010

Little known and always avoided, the United States faces THE single greatest issue of its existence in the 21st century.  “What is it?” you ask.  Top environmental experts respond, “Overpopulation!”  We ignore, evade and suppress this issue at every level in America.   Innumerates as defined by Dr. Albert Bartlett, (www.albartlett.org) insist we can grow forever without any consequences.  Citizens pursue their daily tasks without understanding the ramifications of this civilization adding another 100 million people within 25 years, and doubling to 600 million people within 60 to 70 years.  (Sources: PEW Report, Fogel/Martin “US Population Projections”, U.S. Census Bureau) This “Human Katrina” advancing on our civilization deserves more than a wink and a nod. It desperately needs attention by our leaders and the media.  Why do they avoid it?  It could be political correctness, or lack of education or, it’s ‘out there’ in the future so they don’t have to address it. Since another 25 years will skate past in a blink, we need to address it today in order to prevent its manifestation in two decades.  Basically, the faster our population rises, the greater the calamities accelerate as exposed in this series. It all boils down to ‘carrying capacity’.  A glass carries only so much water. A restaurant seats a limited amount of patrons.  An airplane can hold exactly a limited number and not one single added person past the number of seats on the plane.  Why?  Because of finite space or limits! The Earth remains finite.  Therefore, it carries a limited amount of space.  At some point, no matter how much humans fool themselves, they must come to terms with limited water, soil, oceans, food, energy, air and resources. CARRYING  CAPACITY IN THE UNITED STATES ALREADY EXCEEDED In 1970 or before, we began exceeding our energy carrying capacity as our population hit 200 million.  Peak Oil as defined by the “Hubbert Curve” indicated that the USA would drop production from nine million barrels of oil daily, to less than three million barrels. That’s exactly what happened.  Today, we produce about 2.6 million barrels of oil a day and import about 70 percent of our oil, or about 16 out of 22 million barrels daily.  Clearly, we exceeded our  energy carrying capacity forty years ago.  Not to mention our ‘carbon footprint’. (Source: www.350.org ) That same “Hubbert Curve” created by famous geologist M. King Hubbert, shows that the entire world oil supply today has peaked or will peak within a few years. In other words, no matter how many wells we drill, we cannot extract more oil. In fact, it takes more energy units to extract oil that we utilize once the oil arrives on the surface than the oil delivers. “Our ignorance is not so vast as our failure to use what we know,” said M. King Hubbert. We face daunting challenges being ignored as we grow our population along with the rest of the world adding 80 million more annually. “The cheap oil age created an artificial bubble of plentitude for a period not much longer than a human lifetime….so I hazard to assert that as oil ceases to be cheap and the world reserves move toward depletion, we will be left with an enormous population…that the ecology of the earth will not support. The journey back toward non-oil population homeostasis will not be pretty.  We will discover the hard way that population hyper growth was simply a side-effect of the oil age.  It was a condition, not a problem with a solution. That is what happened and we are stuck with it.”  James Howard Kunstler If you think ‘technology’ will save us; think again.  Nothing on the horizon can equal the energy density of oil.  As we use it at 82 million barrels a day, we make a Faustian Bargain with a Hobson ’s choice for a final curtain call. In order to drive cars, boats, planes and fuel industry, Americans use 20 million barrels of oil daily while the rest of the world burns 62 million barrels.  That equals 82 million barrels of oil every 24 hours! When you multiply 365 days by 82,000,000 barrels of oil burned daily, it equals a whopping 29.9 billion barrels of oil annually. If you remember your science, it took two billion years to produce all the oil on this planet.  In other words, when oil reserves decline, we exhaust the single major energy source that drives our civilization and most other societies on this planet. To show how much energy oil provides the U.S. annually, Michael Brownlee of www.transitionbouldercounty.org provided an astounding graph of one cubic mile of oil.  That’s how much oil humans burn around the planet each year!  That equals to the same amount of energy provided by 52 nuclear power plants built every year for 50 years or 104 operating coal-fired electrical plants built every year for 50 years or 32,000 wind turbines built every year for 50 years—and in continuous operation—or  91,250,000 solar panels built every year for 50 years. “As we go from this happy hydrocarbon bubble we have reached now to a renewable energy resource economy, which we do this century, will the “civil” part of civilization survive?  As we both know there is no way that alternative energy sources can supply the amount of per capita energy we enjoy now, much less for the 9 billion expected by 2050. And energy is what keeps this game going. We are involved in a Faustian bargain—selling our economic souls for the luxurious life of the moment, but sooner or later the price has to be paid.”  Walter Youngquist We need not do this to ourselves. We can change course.

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