Leadership and the Environment


294: Population: How Much Is Too Much?

Ep. 294

What is Earth's carrying capacity? Why is it important?

Many ask how we will feed 10 billion people. Mathematician way of asking is if we can feed so many and if so how. Maybe we can't.

First, don't want to know. While it depends on many assumptions that aren't hard or measurable numbers, like standard of living, distribution of resources, and technology, we can say it's maximum misery per person.

How do we narrow it down? Could ask resources per person and how much resources Earth can provide. Limits to Growth projects how much planet would sustain from a systems perspective including history and how we live our values.

I prefer a historical perspective I learned from Alan Weisman based on the Haber-Bosch process, which enabled artificial fertilizer. Before artificial fertilizer, limitations on fixing nitrogen to grow food suggest Earth could sustain about 2 billion, enough to create Einstein and Mozart. Want people like Jesus, Buddha, Laozi, and Aristotle? We needed only a few hundred million to create them.

If we're over the planet's carrying capacity, especially by factor of 3 or 4, strategy isn't to ask how to feed 10 billion but if we can lower the population before processes like famine, disease, loss of critical resources, war, and so on do it for us.

I couldn't answer except in ways where the cure was worse than the disease, but the history of Thailand's Mechai Viravaidya's leading a nation-scale cultural shift from 7 babies per woman to 1.5, voluntarily, peacefully, leading to abundance, prosperity, and stability changed everything for me.

Mechai's success makes lowering the population plausible and fun. The limitations of growing food without artificial fertilizer make it necessary to avoid famine and other natural disasters. These two factors clarify our priority, it seems to me.

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319: Avoid doof

Ep. 319
Food is fundamental to our environmental problems.Most of what American restaurants and supermarkets sell looks like food but isn't by my definition. It makes us obese, diseased, fatigued, poor, dependent, and such, whereas food, like fruits and vegetables, bring us together. Many of us are addicted to salt, sugar, fat, and convenience.Yet people addicted to salt, sugar, fat, and convenience can point to addicts to other things, like alcohol or cocaine, and say, "they don't need their thing but we need to eat." But no one confuses Doritos with broccoli. But the terms "junk food," "fast food," and even "frankenfood" have the term food in them, leading people to confuse them with food.I introduced the term doof---food backward---to distinguish between doof and food. Doof is all the stuff sold to go in your mouth refined from food, usually designed and engineered to cause you to crave more of it, usually through salt, sugar, fat, convenience, or other engineering.Here are my notes I read from:What motivated the problem: reading about food, nutrition, health, and the environmentMy favorite food writers, and podcast guests, Drs. Joel Fuhrman and Michael GregerTheir books Eat to Live, Junk Food Genocide, How Not To Die, and How Not To DietTheir videosThe problem: the term "food" in junk food, fast food. Other addictions, like tobacco or alcohol, people say you don't need them, but they need food.Beer versus water versus Doritos versus broccoliSolution: New termOne that isn't sticking as well: craving-oriented mouth fillerOne that people like: doofSounds like doofus. Helps you not confuse doof with food, like you don't confuse poppy seeds with heroin.Next episode I'll share my story of shopping in a supermarket for the first time in years, nearly all doof.Michael Pollan's "Eat food, mostly plants, not too much." Doof clarifies.Won't confuse McDonald's, Gatorade, Starbucks with food since they don't serve it.Enjoy food. Avoid doof.Spread the word!Dr Joel Fuhrman'sEpisode on this podcastBooks Eat to Live, Fast Food Genocide, and the new Eat For LifeHis bio and TEDx talkHis videosMichael Greger'sEpisode on this podcastBooks How Not To Die and How Not To DietHis About pageHis videos and Nutritionfacts.org