a question, and an answer

An old friend found my blog, and asked this:

Hi Murray.
I have just found your website.
Just a quick question. You have said that the world poulation
 is projected to hit 8 billion. Yet statistics are showing that
 fertility rates in many countries around the world are droping
rapidly. This therefore would indicate that we are in fact in a
couple of generations going to be in a huge population decline.
 Similar to your bell curve.
Your thoughts on these statistics

Fair question. The problem is that we will never get to that 8
(or 9) billion. That's a reproduction projection only. Resources
- food, water, energy - won't support the rise from here to there,
and the limits are happening now.
  There is not the oil (particularly) and a lot of other stuff, to
raise everyone on the planet to our level of consumption, and
been since 1980. We are doing it on borrowed time, using resources
that took millions of years to accumulate (oil being anaerobically
decayed biota, coal being fossilised trees, etc) up in one 220-year
period. That bell-curve (the Hubbert curve, in effect) was always
predicted to peak around 2012 to 2016. See the Club of Rome report,
(1970) and it's 10-year updates.
 Far from the declining population helping things, the declining
availability of resources (particularly the oil which powers all
non-peasant agriculture) will continue to outpace projected population
declines. They won't outpace real population declines, though. They
will inevitably drive them, and the picture is not pretty.
  Best estimates are that we are using up resources at 3 times the
sustainable rate. Turn that on its head, and there are three times
too many of us here. That, however, is at subsistence level. If you
take it at our level of consumption (well above the global average)
then the figures are perhaps 6 times too much consumption, and that
there is permanent support for perhaps 1 billion indefinitely, planet-
wide.
 How it will play out, I won't pick. Anthropologists suggest we keep
going hard, until we collapse. I think there will be wars over 
resources which will make Iraq look like a sunday picnic.
 Certainly, economic and physical growth, global average, has to stop
before 2020. Probably has now. Folk like me reckon you can plot the 
oil supply graph, and use it to extrapolate work done. It gets worse,
though - the ERoEI gets worse per volume - deeper, sourer oil, 
requiring more energy to lift and produce, that the stuff we cherry-
picked at the beginning.
 Rwanda, Haiti and Bangladesh are obvious examples of what will 
happen increasingly. Rwanda is conveniently portrayed in western 
media as genocide, but in some Hutu-only areas, the death rates 
were similar. It was poverty, land shortage, food and water..
  Can I be wrong? No. Hubbert, in 1956, projected a high and a 
low alternative to his 'peak oil in 1970 for the USA' projection.
 Even the eventual 3.4 billion barrels, versus his projected 3 
billion, mover that 14-year projection by 3 months.
 When you run into exponential consumption into peak supply rate, 
the time essentially doesn't alter.
 My pick? We get to 7.5 billion, and 2020, with increasing 
desperation, fighting and angst. At that point, social disruption, 
chaos, and anarchy. By 2050, still 3 billion or so alive, but
inhabiting a denuded planet, and taking out other species in a doomed
fight for survival.
 Not pretty. There is another way, but it is too late probably. Large 
numbers of people won't take responsibility for themselves, or 
ownership of the problem. Ans we're pretty much out of time to 
educate/change them.

Essential googling is:

Albert Bartlett - the exponential function
Marion King Hubbert - the Hubbert Curve.
The oil drum - blogsite.
 
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