Good News, Bad News

Well, this isn’t news, just two items that made me laugh.  First, the one paragraph in the book that I just finished (The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson, which I discussed in my last blog) that made me laugh out loud:

Years ago, when my wife and I were just dating, she took me on a day trip to the seaside at Brighton. It was my first exposure to the British at play in a marine environment. It was a fairly warm day — I remember the sun came out for whole moments at a time — and large numbers of people were in the sea. They were shrieking with what I took to be pleasure, but now realize was agony. Naively, I pulled off my T-shirt and sprinted into the water. It was like running into liquid nitrogen. It was the only time in my life in which I have moved like someone does when a piece of film is reversed. I dived into the water and then straight back out again, backwards, and have never gone into an English sea again. 

Then this video, which was mentioned on NPR yesterday, Web Site Story:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FtPb8g8Jl6I

Bad News

Last week got my Sierra Club magazine.  A lot of gloom and doom –

  • If Trump is elected he will bring back coal, its pollution and greenhouse gases.
  • Kids today spend four to seven minutes outdoors playing each day and up to seven hours staring at a screen.
  • IMG_6503[1]We should stop using plastic.  (There has been a plastic bag stuck high in a mesquite tree in the desert behind my house, too high for me to retrieve it, kinda a portent for the future.)
  • 44% of honeybee colonies were lost between April 2015 and April 2016, probably due to neonicotinoid pesticides.
  • A Maasai man in Kenya said that the young Maasi children grow up now without ever hearing a lion roar at night.  (Photo of me next to our Maasi guide in Tanzania at the bottom of a blog1.)
  • Coral reefs are bleaching in the equatorial Pacific, including as much as half of the Great Barrier Reef.  (Guess I should see it before it’s gone.)

And so on and so on.  Regarding the last four items, who can dispute that there are too many people in the world?  If each couple had only two children we could stop the insane overpopulation.  If I were a god, that is what I would dictate.  But none of our gods micromanage, so we must do it on our own.  How?  (I’ve already written about this in a blog2.)

Our growth is not healthy.  Governments want growth, but what we have is more like a cancer, enlarging itself and killing its host.

Everyone should read about the Tragedy of the Commons. (The concept and name originate in an essay written in 1833 by the Victorian economist William Forster Lloyd...  The concept became widely known over a century later due to an article written by the ecologist Garrett Hardin in 1968.3)  This from the Web, re Hardin4:

1. The world is biophysically finite.

  • The more people there are, the less each person’s share must be.
  • Technology (ie, agricultural) cannot fundamentally alter this.
  • We can’t both maximize the number of people and satisfy every desire or “good” of everyone.
  • Practically, biophysical limits dictate we must both stabilize population, and make hard choices about which “goods” are to be sought.
  • Both steps will generate opposition, since many people will have to relinquish something.

2. Over-population is an example of the tragedy of the commons (ToC).

  • Commons are un-owned or commonly-held “pool” resources that are “free,” or not allocated by markets.
  • Hardin’s ToC model assumes that individuals are short-term, self-interested “rational” actors, seeking to maximize their own gains.
  • Such actors will exploit commons (have more babies, add more cattle to pastures, pollute the air) as long as they believe the costs to them individually are less than the benefits.
  • The system of welfare insulates individuals from bearing the full costs of over-reproducing.
  • When every individual believes and behaves in this manner, commons are quickly filled, degraded, and ruined along with their erst-while exploiters.
  • A laissez-faire system (letting individuals choose as they like) will not “as if by an invisible hand” solve over-population.

3. The “commons” system for breeding must be abandoned (as it has been for other resources).

  • In other words, something must restrain individual reproduction. . .
  • but it must not be individual conscience; appealing to conscience will only result in fewer people with conscience in the population (assuming here that it is genetic, or perfectly transmitted by learning).
  • It should be accomplished by “mutual coercion mutually agreed upon.”
  • Sacrificing freedom to breed will obtain for us other more important freedoms which will otherwise be lost.
  • “Coercive” restrictions on breeding could take a number of forms.
  • The “right” to determine the size of one’s family must be rescinded.
  • This will protect the conscientious traits in the population.

4. The problem is then to gain peoples’ consent to a system of coercion.

  • People will consent if they understand the dire consequences of letting the population growth rate be set only by individuals’ choices.
  • Educating all people about the ToC, its consequences, and the alternatives to it, is necessary.
  • Then various restraints and incentives for low reproduction can and must be instituted.

This is one of my rants (in addition to ZPG).  I wrote about it in 2010, at the bottom of this blog:
https://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2010/01/28/the-state-of-the-union-address/

1https://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2011/05/20/birds/
2https://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2015/07/02/world-population-day/
3https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tragedy_of_the_commons
4http://faculty.wwu.edu/gmyers/esssa/Hardin.html

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One Response to “Good News, Bad News”

  1. Jim Says:

    The family in Peru, Juan and Ana Mosobite, which takes our house in the Amazon will have seven children by November.

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