Human Population Through Time

It took 200,000 years for our human population to reach 1 billion —
and only 200 years to reach 7 billion.

Posted in ... wait, what?, balance, Communication, Core thought, Education, Environment, History, Phlyarology | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Unwinding the Human Predicament

From here, reproduced with permission from the author Jack Alpert of the Stanford Knowledge Integration Laboratory, with a hat tip to Damn the Matrix for pointing me in this direction:

Note: this is an unfinished work, comments welcome alpert (at)

On St Matthew Island in the Bering Sea, the US Coast Guard brought 29 reindeer to graze on the island’s moss, to provide an emergency food source for men stationed there. Several years later the men left, leaving the reindeer. The herd grew too large for their natural moss food supply, ate it to destruction, and perished.

Humans on earth are about to share that reindeer experience. We are consuming our supporting resources to exhaustion.

We are too big for our ecological niche on Earth. We are consuming our renewing resources like clean water and soil to destruction. We are consuming fossil and uranium energy to exhaustion. The solar and wind renewable energy sources won’t be able to replace them. And we are dispersing to the point of lost utility our non renewing supports like phosphorus and rare earths.

Barring some technological breakthrough, the Earth at the end of this century will support far fewer people. Our population, according to UN projections, might rise to 9 or 10 billion persons by 2050, after which, according to my calculations, our numbers might descend to 600 million — who will live like 17th century serfs. This decline, without extreme restrictions on births, will result from starvation or conflict deaths.

Few want to believe my scenario. Most want to believe technology will make ‘tomorrow better than today‘. When previous civilizations overshot regional and technological limitations and collapsed, they rebuilt themselves better than before. People believe they and their children will slip through this century’s bottleneck and be the survivors in the next even better civilization.

My computations suggest only radical changes in human behavior resulting from a change in social organization can reduce overshoot to zero, avoid the tragedy, and implement an ever improving civilization. However, these changes appear too difficult to implement. Our genes are against them. Parts of our evolved brain are against them. Our culture is against them. Our institutions are against them. Most people see my proposed changes as expensive extravagances that obtain nothing of value — specifically they see them avoiding no meaningful liabilities.

Thus humankind continues to muddle forward. When the media presents:
a) views of ongoing and projected human and environmental injury
for example, climate change, or species extinction, and
b) thousands of proposed projects to address them,
the viewer fails to see that:
none of these issues reflect the full gravity of our predicament and that
even if all these issues are successfully addressed,
most injuries I project for this century will not be avoided.

Little is going to change unless:
a) autocratic action or
b) a ground swell of new learning among billions of individuals,
implements a civilization that modulates what is considered normal, and approved, personal behavior.
For example, we need collective human behavior which:
a) lowers the human footprint below earthly supports. And,
b) maintains these conditions thereafter.

If this change is to depend on collective will, rather than autocratic rule, billions of individuals have to know/ believe:

  • injuries exist on our civilization’s path that are worth avoiding See Part 1 of 6
  • an alternate design of civilization exists that does not create these extreme injuries See Part 2 of 6
  • forces exist that produce and maintain this design See Part 3 of 6
  • a social contract exists that creates these forces See Part 4 of 6
  • a global constituency can implement this social contract See Part 5 of 6
  • there is a process for creating the individuals that fill this constituency See Part 6 of 6

There is more to this… much more. Visit the website for more information — perhaps starting here.

Posted in ... wait, what?, balance, Biodiversity, Communication, Core thought, Culture, Environment, Health, Strategy | Tagged , , , , | 14 Comments

Bacteria in Bottles – an example of Exponential Growth

Professor Albert Bartlett famously said:

The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function.

A short while ago I published a wibblette that tried to explain the exponential function.
Dr Bob Rich added a comment:

I agree, many of humanity’s historical problems are because people think in straight lines not exponentials. My usual analogy is the one water weed seed landing in a pond. It produces a plant in a day. That plant only produces 2 new ones, on the next day. On the 3rd day, each of those 2 plants duplicate. Right. Eventually, half the pond is covered. How long before all of it is?
I used to describe this when teaching statistics to students who took an Arts course to get away from mathematics.
Most of them COULDN’T WORK IT OUT.

This reminded me of a part of Professor Bartlett’s lecture ‘Arithmetic, population and energy‘ where he gives a good example of the exponential function. So here’s his example — all three minutes of it, with a transcript below if you’d rather read than watch and listen.

Let’s look now at what happens when we have this kind of steady growth in a finite environment. Bacteria grow by doubling, and one bacterium divides to become two; the two divide to become four; the four become eight, sixteen and so on.

Suppose we had bacteria that doubled in number in this way every minute. Suppose we put one of these bacteria in an empty bottle at eleven in the morning and then observe that the bottle is full at twelve noon.

Now, there’s our case of just ordinary, steady growth: it has a doubling time of one minute; it’s in the finite environment of one bottle. I want to ask you three questions:

Number one: At what time was the bottle half full?

… Well, would you believe 11:59, one minute before twelve, because they double in number every minute.

And the second question: If you were an average bacterium in that bottle, at what time would you first realise that you were running out of space?

… Now, think about this: this kind of steady growth is the centrepiece of the national [US] economy and of the entire global economy. Think about it.

Well, let’s just look at the last minutes in the bottle:

At twelve noon it’s full
One minute before, it’s half full
Two minutes before, it’s a quarter full
… then an eighth, then a sixteenth.

Let me ask you: at five minutes before twelve, when the bottle is only 3% full, and is 97% open space just yearning for development: how many of you would realise there was a problem?

Now, in the ongoing controversy over growth in Boulder [Colorado], someone wrote to the newspaper some years ago and said, “Look, there isn’t any problem with population growth in Boulder because,” the writer said, “we have fifteen times as much open space as we’ve already used.” So let me ask you what time was it in Boulder when the open space was fifteen times the amount of space we’d already used? And the answer is: it was four minutes before twelve in Boulder Valley.

Well, suppose that at two minutes before twelve some of the bacteria realise that they’re running out of space, so they launch a great search for new bottles. And they search offshore, on the outer continental shelf, in the overthrust belt and in the Arctic — and they find three new bottles. Now that is a colossal discovery; that discovery is three times the amount of resource they ever knew about before. They now have four bottles. Before the discovery there was only one! Now, surely, this will give them a sustainable society. Won’t it?

Well, you know what the third question is: How long can the growth continue as a result of this magnificent discovery?

Well, let’s look at the score. At twelve noon one bottle is filled; there are three to go. 12:01 two bottles are filled; there are two to go. At 12:02 all four are filled — and that’s the end of the line.

Posted in ... wait, what?, Communication, Education, People, Phlyarology, Strategy | Tagged , , , , , | 10 Comments

“If you Ignore the recent Warming, There’s Been No warming”: Deniers Go Full Arm-Wave on Hansen’s 1988 Predictions

Climate change deniers persist with their misinformation…

Climate Denial Crock of the Week

There’s been a flurry of climate denial activity coinciding with the 30 anniversary of James Hansen’s uncannily accurate testimony to congress on climate change, June 23, 1988.  If you have not seen my vid on this, it’s at the bottom of the post.

Prominently, the Rupert (Fox News) Murdoch owned Wall Street Journal published a piece by serial climate denier and right wing think tank shill Pat Michaels, and a lesser known flack.

The piece is full of holes. Basically, “there’s been no warming since 1998 if you ignore all that warming.”

Dana Nuccitelli shines a light in the Guardian.  Zeke Hausfather, above, has some supporting information.


The incredible accuracy of Hansen’s climate model predictions debunks a number of climate denier myths. It shows that climate models are accurate and reliable, that global warming is proceeding as climate scientists predicted, and thus that we should probably start…

View original post 687 more words

Posted in Climate, Education, Environment, GCD: Global climate disruption, News and politics, Reblogs | Tagged , | 7 Comments

Join the Amazon Boycott!

Pages Unbound asked the question recently ‘How can Barnes & Noble save themselves?‘ and offers a variety of solutions to the problem.

Of course the issue isn’t one faced just by Barnes & Noble, it applies to all vendors of quality products containing pages.

Boycott Amazon - tax avoider

Click to visit Ethical Consumer’s Boycott Amazon page

The real root of the problem is unfair competition by Amazon. And one of the reasons that this competition is unfair is that Amazon, in common with so many multinational organisations, cheats us all by not paying its fair share of taxes.

So another way of dealing with the problem would be for consumers to ‘vote with their feet’ and patronise other vendors.

I’ve been boycotting Amazon myself since 2015. Of course one person makes little difference, it takes a whole lot of drips to make a puddle…

Posted in balance, Business, Capitalism, Communication, crowdsourcing, Strategy | Tagged , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Bite size climate science: the persuaders

Climate science isn’t rocket science, but it is still complex, and complicated further by the misinformation spread by the Merchants of Doubt and their groupies, as well as those who have been persuaded by their underhand tactics over the years.

The true message of climate science, however, can be fairly simply distilled. So here are four short video clips totalling a smidgeon over six minutes in total. I hope that you’ll watch them, especially if you’re undecided about whether climate change is something to be concerned about — or simply flat out think it isn’t.

First, from the World Meteorological Organization courtesy of Sir Charles, weighing in at a mere 53 seconds:

Lasting just under two minutes in length, again courtesy of Sir Charles, here’s ‘Monthly Global Temperature Jazz’, which puts the climb in global temperature since 1880 into audio perspective:

Next up is Katharine Hayhoe’s climate change elevator pitch, courtesy of Climate Denial Crock of the Week: this one is just 1:31…

… following up the rear at 2:23 there’s Eric Rignot’s climate change elevator pitch, which I reblogged the other day, also courtesy of Climate Denial Crock of the Week, well worth repeating:

Posted in Climate, Communication, Education, Environment, GCD: Global climate disruption, People | Tagged , , , | 13 Comments

Turbo-boost your site by optimising images

In a previous life, I used to design business websites. One of the things I made very sure of was that the ‘weight’ (size, in bytes) of each page was as low as possible, because heavier pages take longer to load, and people are impatient. If your page doesn’t load fast, your visitors will click elsewhere 😦

Text isn’t a problem; it doesn’t ‘weigh’ very much at all. The big problem is always the pictures. It’s important to make these as light in weight as possible; not so much ‘small’ in width and height but small in terms of the file size. If you use Windows Explorer (assuming you’re on a Windows system) then hovering your mouse over a file will reveal the file’s size in ‘KB’ (which stands for ‘kilobytes’; thousands of bytes). For image files, you want to keep this size low; I use the rule of thumb that 50 KB should be the largest file size for most: and picture files coming out of a camera will be much larger than this.

"Size is everything"

This is a full size image; filesize is 25KB

"Size is everything"

A ‘thumbnail’ image; filesize is still 25KB

A common technique for making an image appear smaller on screen is to resize it in the page; but that’s a mistake, as the image retains its full weight even though it appears smaller (as with the image on the right). Such a page will take just as long to load as it would were the image to be rendered at its full size.

If you’ve followed me so far, you’ll probably be thinking “that’s all well and good, but how do I make my image files smaller?”.

For this, you’ll need image manipulation software of some sort. Photoshop is quite commonly used. I use Paintshop Pro myself. There are also online editor programs that will do the job; some of them are even free. With such software, you can crop (cut the edges off) pictures and resize them to smaller dimensions. Once you’ve done that, you then save them in an appropriate format, such as:

  • PNG (when you want to retain high quality)
  • JPEG (good for photographic images)
  • GIF (if you want to use animations)

An additional benefit of going the extra mile to optimise your images is that you’ll need far less storage space, something that is usually limited by your web hosting provider.

I’ve skimmed over the main points here; I left a lot out so as to keep this article short. If you have any questions, please do use the comments to ask!

Posted in Computers and Internet, Strategy | Tagged , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Please sign this petition!

If you get a moment, please sign this petition. I have my doubts how much impact outsiders’ views can have on what is considered a cultural norm for one country, but then again if we stay silent, nothing can change…

Learning from Dogs

S. Korea is the only country in the world with large-scale, commercial dog meat farms.

Frankly, I wasn’t planning to publish a post today. But then in came an email from John Zande, he of the blog The Superstitious Naked Ape, and this is what I read: “Paul, hi… Really good news. The following email links to a petition supporting a bill that will end the dog meat trade in Korea. I know you’ll want to sign it. Share it around, too.”

John then linked to a petition over on the Lady Freethinkers blog.

Jean and I have signed the petition and now I am republishing in full what you can read if you go across to that petition page.



View original post 385 more words

Posted in ... wait, what?, balance, Communication, crowdsourcing, Culture, Food, Reblogs | Tagged , | 13 Comments

Being in the moment: in search of wu wei

For this last day of my ‘three day quote challenge’ I offer you not one but two quotations:

If you are depressed you are living in the past.
If you are anxious you are living in the future.
If you are at peace you are living in the present.
— Lao Tzu

I think this is rather profound. I know that when I’m feeling down it’s when I’m dwelling on things that have happened in my life. And that’s foolish: nothing can change what’s been and gone… “what can’t be cured must be endured”, as the saying goes. As for anxiety: the same goes there too: when I’m anxious it’s because I’m thinking of something ahead (and all too often worrying about it). Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, my fears aren’t realised.

‘Being in the present’ is clearly the best way to be. Perhaps there’s something to this ‘mindfulness’ stuff. It seems to me that writing is ‘mindful’; even if what you’re writing about is events in the past, or ponderings about the future, in the act of putting words in a row you have to be in the moment to do so.

Though it’s only recently I’d encountered this quote, I wrote a poem a few years ago that resonates with this theme. It’s called ‘Thought for the day‘. You may notice something odd about the comments in that post, in that I didn’t appear to reply to any of them. In fact, I probably did reply to them all, but in those days I visited the commenter’s site and continued the conversation there. Which perhaps leaves the impression that I didn’t engage with my audience. (These days, I try to both reply here and visit the commenter’s site; but there are only so many hours in a day.) It’s not always what one does, it’s sometimes what one is seen to do that’s important. And then again, it’s sometimes not; all is perspective, everything’s relative 🙂

If you feel so inclined, please do follow that link above to my poem; I’d love to hear what you think.

I promised you two quotations: here’s the second one…

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
— Lao Tzu

This reminds me to try to tackle those tougher tasks in the knowledge that nothing can be completed without having been first begun; and, again, the point at which one begins any thing is in the now.

Both of these quotations are attributed to the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu (or ‘Laozi’), who encouraged a return to nature, rather than action. As technology may bring about a false sense of progress, Lao Tzu suggested seeking the calm state of wu wei, which may be translated as ‘effortless doing’. Paradoxically, ironically, though naturally enough, one cannot actively pursue wu wei; it manifests as a result of cultivation. I think this is what my friend Hariod Brawn has been trying to teach me all these years over at

A swan gliding effortlessly along

Effortlessly doing…

Although almost certainly what Lao Tzu didn’t have in mind, the concept of wu wei brings to my mind the picture of a swan, gliding along on the top of the water — while, below, the feet are paddling furiously!

Now, on to the nominations:

The rules of this challenge are: post a quote on three days, each time nominating three other blogs to pick up the challenge. Or — in the spirit of wu wei — not, as you see fit 🙂

A hat tip to rayoflight144 for nominating ‘Wibble’ for the ‘three day quote challenge’.
(This was my first day, and this was my second.) It’s been something a bit different from my normal forays into blogland!

Posted in ... wait, what?, Communication, memetics, Phlyarology | Tagged , , , , , , | 27 Comments

Swimmers is now open!

A new community for bloggers, now that the daily post is shutting its doors!

Hmmm… something’s gone awry here, the Novus Lectio post I reblogged has gone walkies…

No matter, you don’t want to be here anyway; you want to drop in and visit:

Posted in Communication, crowdsourcing, Culture, News and politics, Reblogs | Tagged , | 9 Comments