X-Message-Number: 23789
References: <>
From: Peter Merel <>
Subject: Carrying Capacity
Date: Thu, 1 Apr 2004 07:33:17 +1000

Charles is quite right to take me to task over carrying capacity. I 
mentioned it in my "selfish" response as a strawman to provoke thought 
about whether cryonics or medicine really have anything to do at all 
with population concerns.

I dare say we've had this debate here sufficient times for most of us 
here to be catholic on the subject. 
http://www.overpopulation.org/solutions.html and many related pages try 
to take a statistical approach to the thing. That's to say, if what 
we've experienced of population and ecological trends now can be 
regarded as normal, what can we say about bounds on the behavior of the 
whole ecosystem over time.

But what's going on now isn't normal, and this kind of prediction is 
hopelessly projective. The whole ecosystem is a much more complicated 
critter than we understand, and what we're doing now is likely making 
it skitter over its massively dimensional phase space like a skipped 

That said, of course there are some extremely worrying developments 
about the sustainability of human civilization. The mass extinctions of 
birds, butterflies, and amphibians, extreme weather events all over the 
planet, and the overall stagnation of our industrial technological 
development over the last 30 years all give the sensation of riding for 
a fall.

But in reality we're far more likely to do ourselves in directly than 
indirectly so it doesn't seem worth worrying about ecological 
projections. If we can't master ourselves en masse we can scarcely 
expect to master our planet. While our social systems are so badly 
broken on such scales we shouldn't worry very much about impacts we're 
powerless to affect.

Peter Merel.

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