Thursday, November 15, 2007

Too many people

Overcrowding is a common fear these days, just like global warming and other similar crap. I just thought I'd save here a quick calculation to put things in perspective.

  • Living area for a single person: 100 m^2 (this would make it 400 m^2 for a 4-people family)

  • Number of people you can fit in a km^2: 10,000 (because 1 km^2 = 1 million m^2)

  • Land area of the Earth: 148 million km^2 (see Wikipedia)

  • Say only a fifth of that area is available for people, that would be 30 million km^2. Multiplied by 10,000 this gives us 300 billion people.

300 billion people. With no many-stories buildings, no overcrowding a la Asimov's fiction (how on Earth could he estimate only 40 billion people for Trantor I cannot imagine) and no food problems ('cause we have four fifths of the land area for that - in fact, even if we remove 30% of the total area as desert it still leaves us with 70 million km^2 for animals and crops).

One other thing - what the overcrowding gang never mention is this: on average, people will necessarily produce more than they consume (because they need to produce for their own consumption, for the new population and to improve the living standard). More people means more resources, not less - well, unless governments interfere with the process, of course.

Finally - these calculations are useless for persuading anyone. If it's not population, it's food. (Malthus said that people grow exponentially while food grows arithmetically, so we're going to run out of food sooner or later. That he was an idiot is not necessarily a surprise; that there are millions of other idiots who repeat that without realizing that food is also biological, and therefore should also increase exponentially, is the really weird part.) If it's not those, it's water (I'd try calculating the amount of water in a single glacier but it would also be pointless) or energy or who knows what else.

So. I guess the conclusion is: we're all gonna die. Yay :P

1 comment:

ben said...

I read your criticism of me and come away thinking that it'd be better to acknowledge than ignore you... even though I get the feeling that you simply stuck around long enough to seek additional outrage, then bounced off once you found it.

It's also pretty damned clear that the clarity of my writing could stand A LOT of improvement, and for that implied feedback I'm grateful.

Elsewise, I'd appreciate it if you could illuminate why my rationale for opposing frameworks is, as you put it, "stupid."

My bottom line is that they're not appropriate for inexperienced operators, and they're not one-size-fits-all solutions. Technically, there's nothing categorically wrong with frameworks in general (otherwise I would've been arguing on the same minutiae as everyone else).

With respect to power plants, I feel as if the direction of my point was misconstrued, and that you're simply dinging me for writing something that was poorly sourced, poorly thought out, and poorly-written (which is criticism I can accept without qualification).

You criticized my brief description of objections to nuclear power - objections which, like you, I reckon are far more nuanced in fact than most people care to appreciate.

Keep in mind that I'm sympathetic to (if not actually supportive of) the prospect of a new round of nuclear power plant construction. I'm just not convinced that such plants once built can be efficiently supervised and operated in the United States given the regulatory environment here.

To make a long story short, I'd be happy to go into more detail - but additional posts and/or comments are not the way to do it in the near term. Neither your readers nor mine are particularly interested in this latter argument, I suspect. The framework/CSS debate may be another matter, I don't know.