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March 31, 2011 - Optimal Population Sizes and How to Get...

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Optimal Population Size 1. John Stuart Mill 1848: "Principles of Political Economy" A. One of 19th century's most important philosophers - Established 'falsifiability' as a criterion for what is scientific method - Stressed importance of liberty: danger of 'tyranny of the majority' - Proponent of freedom of speech as mechanism to avoid minority being suppressed by majority - For economic democracy with workers electing managers - Favored steady state economy - Leads to question of optimal population size & time period that are relevant Read: Principles of Economy published when population was 1.2 billion *** - Population growth will have to slow dramatically in the near future B. Growth is slowing down but population still growing Cohen: population size has to slow down Current human population growth has produced a doubling within the lifespan of people under 40; doubling during any periods shorter than the average lifespan has never happened before; has tripled for many alive today - But growth is projected to slow down and carrying capacity is highly uncertain Growth at current rate will take the population above the median of estimated human carrying capacities within your lifetime - Another illustration of the uniqueness of the current human population - Only unique to human The scale of human impacts on the biosphere is also unprecedented C. Later confirmed by satellite images Vitousek et al. (1986): humans use directly or indirectly, approximately 40% of all terrestrial net primary productivity - Some limits in irrigation required Global agriculture currently uses 60% of all run-off water (Sach 2008 but Cohen gave smaller figure in 1995) and is projected to exceed total supply in 2040 - Nitrogen fixed by reaction used in fertilizer; human activities doubled amount of nitrogen fixation. Nitrogen has impact on plant productivity Of the atmospheric nitrogen fixed in 2007, 55% produced by the Harber-Bosch chemical process, using fossil fuels, rather than from the natural biogeochemical processes - Some broader questions D. Yes, if you are interested in maximizing the number of people But that probably entails low quality of life and / or periodic starvation Does Joel Cohen's book title make sense? - Optimal Population Sizes and How to Get There April-04-11 1:06 AM March 31, 2011 Page 1
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But that probably entails low quality of life and / or periodic starvation But then, what kind of life do you want? And should everyone be entitled to it? Regulation includes: laws, taxes, rewards Should regulation be global or local? What kind of regulation is likely to work? at some point, population 'regulation' of some type will have to be agreed upon - Why pay attention to the topic of this course? E. Daniel Patrick Moynihan: 1977 Policy Review 1: 89~93 - Many government to fficials who are involved in environmental issues share this view Why it may not be so easy to find out about new developments? F.
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