Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The World Without... Me.

I recently read a book by Alan Weisman, entitled The World Without Us.
It’s about the world.
Without us.
As in, what if we were not here all of a sudden?
No people, in other words. How would things deteriorate? How would things improve? Who would answer you from the little speaker at the Drive-Thru? Stuff like that.
It was interesting as hell.
I may write a proper review of the book later, but for now, I just wanted to mention a real neat segment, where Weisman was discussing Global Population.
For the sake of brevity, I will not present a rundown of his sources, but the data seemed very well-researched and credible.

Let me summarize by saying that the current [as of 2004] worldwide human birth rate is 2.6 births per fertile female. Researchers speculate on what would happen if this current rate were reduced to one child per fertile female, and a projection is made.
Well. The numbers are interesting.
“If this somehow began tomorrow, our current 6.5 billion human population would drop by 1 billion by the middle of this century.” (By the way, if we continue at the current rate it will reach 9 billion by the same time!)
I already find that information quite astonishing.
But it gets wilder.
Keeping with this “one-child-per-human-mother” program: → “By 2075, we would have reduced our presence almost by half, down to 3.43 billion, and our impact by much more, because so much of what we do is magnified by chain reactions we set off through the ecosystem.”

And get this:
“By 2100, less than a century from now, we would be at 1.6 billion: back to levels last seen in the 19th century, just before quantum advances in energy, medicine, and food production doubled our numbers and then doubled us again. At the time, those discoveries seemed like miracles. Today, like too much of any good thing, we indulge in more only at our peril.”

In light of this amazing information [and particularly inspired by that last sentence] I am currently using some of the mathematical formulas in Weisman’s book to make my own prediction about something a little closer to home, for me.
Basically, I’m wondering: If I limit my own hamburger-eating habits from the current 2.6 a day, down to just one, will I have a greater chance of LIVING to the middle of this century?



Beth said...

Re: the hamburger formula. I'm thinking, yes...

Interesting about the one child per fertile female. But how could that possibly come to be unless under a dictatorship?

stefanie said...

I've been wondering about this book. sounds really interesting.

I think you'd have a better chance to make it alive to the middle of the century if you went to one burger per week. Better yet if you could do one per month. But then the withdrawal might kill you so I guess either way you're taking a chance :)

Matt said...

I think China and India will make up for reduction of birth rate in the rest of the world. They don't really seem to get it.

cipriano said...

I am all for mass infertility.
[No, not seriously].... but really, we've got to start thinking of some of these things. The world [some parts of it, and these, oftentimes the least able to support the resultant life-forms created] are taking that verse in Genesis about "being fruitful and multiplying" a bit too.... literally!

The book is great, BUT.... were I to do a review of it, I would definitely mention that a lot of time is spent discussing what the world was like BEFORE we were here.... and this was a bit disappointing to me. I bought the thing to find out about what it WOULD be like, not what it WAS like, in pre-human eras!
I take your burger-warning seriously. I need to seek out a professional Lard-counselor, I know!

Seriously, we are humonically over-exponentiating ourselves to death!

Dorothy W. said...

I'm curious about this book too -- it sounds fascinating. And I'm doing my part to help the planet -- no children at all!

cipriano said...

Kudos, Dorothy!
[Jack and I plan on having like, NO KIDS!]
Just the occasional.... hairball, apparently!

danielle said...

Just when you had me completely hooked your post ended. Now I have to go get the book. Actually I am something like #42 on the library's waiting list, so I hope to read it next spring sometime.

Anonymous said...

Have been saying this since 2006. My book "Numbers" (Baton Roca: Universal, 2006) indicates why people resist this most obvious of answers, and how policy must change to allow it.

My calculations suggest it might take a bit longer than Dr. Weissman, but the change is still spectacular. Pleased to see his book.

Rob Ord, PhD, LLB