According to the Worldwatch Institute, an environmental think tank, the Earth has 1.9 hectares of land per person for growing food and textiles for clothing, supplying wood and absorbing waste. The average American uses about 9.7 hectares.

These data alone suggest the Earth can support at most one-fifth of the present population, 1.5 billion people, at an American standard of living.

Continue reading:  How many humans can Earth support?

Further reading:  Alarming facts and figures about global population

Commentary by The Secular Jurist:  The current world population is roughly 7.6 billion, over five times the maximum number sustainable by Earth’s limited natural resources.  A human population greater than 1.5 billion is theoretically sustainable if living standards are reduced, but such an alternative would be logistically impractical and politically dangerous as evidenced by the populist backlash against austerity measures throughout western democracies.  So, there are at least 6 billion people alive today who are pushing modern civilization to the breaking point simply by their existence.  What can we do?  What are our options?

  1.  Maintain the status quo.  Do nothing other than continue current policies and practices.  By the middle of this century or sooner, population growth will flatten out and the death rate will climb due to food and fresh water shortages, the spread of disease and escalating military conflicts.
  2. Rebuild societies on sustainable models.  This would require an accelerated transition away from fossil fuels and towards clean renewable energy sources, a fundamental shift away from greed and wealth accumulation as economic motives, a reformative freeing of our political systems from big money and other corruptive special interest influences, and more management of human reproduction through education and increased access to birth control methods.
  3. Take drastic measures.  This would involve a purposeful triggering of a depopulation mechanism or mechanisms, or taking advantage of artificial and natural catastrophes such as nuclear war and asteroid impacts.

I prefer option 2.  How about you?

24 thoughts on “How many humans can Earth support?

  1. Those in “control” who pooh-pooh the idea of #2 are our most dangerous enemies to sustaining human life on this planet.

    And unfortunately, because most of them are wealthy and will be able to avoid experiencing the effects of continuing population growth, nothing will change.

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  2. In general option 2 is actually the only practical and realistic solution. But the human population is still growing too much, and on a long term this does not leave enough space for all the other beings on which we depend like insects or bees. Humans beings have also to stop of only thinking about the human species.

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  3. I would choose Option #2 but, as Banactee mentioned, it won’t be enough. And, as Nan notes, Options #1 and #3 are quite scary.

    I believe that we humans have already passed the threshold of no return, in which the total collapse of the Web of Life will eradicate the human species.

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    • Homo sapiens, as a species, might survive. The rich have their underground bunkers and secluded retreats, so a Morlock scenario from The Time Machine might prevail. But for the rest of us, and modern civilization too, it looks very bad.

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  4. I agree Rosaliene. We have passed the point of no return. Obviously #2 is the logical one, but who ever said humans were logical. All you have to do is look at trump supporters, most republicans, religious nuts, corporate greed, unfounded bigotry etc. to see that.

    The likely scenario is #1 and perhaps some pandemic of sorts and the ever uninhabitable weather that will increase.

    Maybe it’s evolution’s way to encode enough stupidity genes in the human species to insure eventual self destruction to either make room for something else to evolve or return the earth to its original pristine existence.

    And if you really look at all this from the beginning, the biggest threat to long term survival and a peaceful decent life for the whole species has been religion and greed. Two absolute destructive things that seem to be built into human nature.

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  5. I have eleven grandchildren, Robert. So I find this post depressing. You know I usually land on the optimism side of things, but it’s difficult not to face the reality of things. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Found this place thanks to John Zande. Will be very pleased to follow you. Coincidentally, I published a post today over at my place more or less on the same topic – that of population growth.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Obviously, anyone with compassion and intelligence understands there is no logical choice other than option #2.

    Maybe humanity is nothing more than an intelligent virus that destroys everything it comes into contact with. Maybe we aren’t really that intelligent, but are merely impressed by our creations – even though they pale in comparison to our destructive capabilities.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I find myself oscillating between despair and hope. The latter emotion usually brought about by some scientific breakthrough that I have read about. E.g. In this week’s issue of Science is a feature article reporting how “ammonia made from sun, air, and water could turn Australia into a renewable energy superpower.” (Page 120.)

      Will close with that old saw: “I can predict anything save those things concerning the future.”

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