…On The Idea of ‘Carrying Capacity’ Vs. “Unfair Trade Market”

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It has come to the attention of UNEP that a prevailing argument on the basis of ‘carrying capacity’ in the argument for global environmental protection. The theorist, Harding, believes that overpopulation puts a strain on the world and ultimately will be the largest of problems that will enhance scarcity. He states that when developing, or any, country becomes over populated they begin to stress their resources. In origin the problem is slight and minute; but, as children grow they become adults and will eventually attempt to maximize their profits. The real culprit in Harding’s theory is this maximizing of profits and furthermore the stress of millions of people being born around the world. If everyone was to take an extra unit of anything (for the purpose of simplifying it will be referred to as 1+) then that 1+ would be added for everyone in the world and ultimately the capacity of land, resources and tolerable pollution will be stretched 1+ for everyone on the planet.

Carrying Capacity is as much as a scientific equation as it is a simple math problem. Since one can only harvest so many resources at one time; but, can reproduce at a rapid rate eventually the latter will over take the former causing catastrophic events. There is also an economic look at this theory; but, it is not one where money can be thrown at the problem, more so money must be used to stabilize the infrastructure of countries so that overpopulation can be curbed through education or some other means. Harding also stresses that commons (places that are used by all; but, not owned by anyone: beaches, national parks, ect) will suffer through Overpopulation stretching carrying capacity. If everyone was able to touch, swim, feel and, ultimately corrupt these commons, what is going to keep them from being destroyed at a rapid pace?

Harding uses the theory of curbing the population, through education mostly (some in agreement with his idea might opt to use more harsh tactics) but, this would only put a strain on the population of the world instead of the resources. Imagine if there were less people working on fields to harvest grains, corn or cattle, the remaining would have to work doubly hard to obtain the same success as having twice the workforce. The smaller countries, struggling to enter the world economy as it is, would be held back by their physical work capacity, leading to an even more imbalanced import/export trade system. Larger, more affluent, countries will have more to sell and less to buy (the opposite of the imbalance that currently exist) this would force the smaller countries to buy instead of sell and possibly leave them broke within a few decades. The imbalance the other way also works in detriment of the smaller countries. When they have more to sell and less to buy the culture becomes obsessed with producing goods and less on education, failing to expand the country into one that can compete formidably in the global economy.

It is this problem that needs to be addressed rather than ‘overpopulation’. The unfair trade system often works to the benefit to the affluent countries, and in return, the affluent countries don’t do enough to balance that trade. When a large affluent country like the United States of America trades with a poorer country the cost of the import is more than likely outweighed by the cost of producing the import. This imbalance will force poorer countries to want to produce more goods in a quicker fashion (by means of more workers and/or machines) but, to become more efficient in producing goods one must spend large amounts of money to obtain the tools necessary to achieve that goal. This further puts stress on the smaller country and the amount of money that the affluent country is paying will not be enough to keep up the rate of production or any positive gain in the rate of production. This stress then leads to immoral and illegal labor uses and conditions that will further deteriorate the trade process, bringing in less money steadily over the years and eventually spiraling the country into impoverished conditions that can only be solved with drastic amounts of money thrown at it.

Rich companies have a moral obligation to invest wholly into the poorer countries, to look at them and ensure the structure is sound and working well enough to produce efficiently and subsequently earn a better pay from countries importing their goods. At this point the poorer countries will be able to sustain themselves, overpopulated or not, and compete in the market, which will eventually come to the benefit of all in the market affluent or not.

Concluding: if more affluent countries can help sustain poorer countries; then eventually poorer countries will help sustain even poorer countries; thusly, creating a cycle of positive movement morally and in the market


One Response to “…On The Idea of ‘Carrying Capacity’ Vs. “Unfair Trade Market””

  1. I question most of your apparent assumptions that economic models and actions can address overpopulation. Two of your major assumption seem to be that 1. there is sufficient time to implement economic / education models (and that they will be effective in the ways you describe) and 2. that overpopulation in itself is not a significant problem, or at least not one that can be addressed with economic/education actions.

    I think your are incorrect on both counts. Here’s why:

    We’ve already exceeded global carrying capacity. We are now in “overshoot”. (Visualize a car sailing smoothly, but quite temporarily, through the air after having been driven off of a cliff.)

    Global population is nearing 7 billion. Different theorists using different methods seem to end up agreeing that global carrying capacity is probably about 2 billion. (This assumes some level of social justice and a moderate, low by US standards, standard of living. More is possible if you accept a cattle car / Matrix-esque “life”.)

    In any case, we will get to that much-lower-than-7-billion number the hard way (wars, famine, disease, and their accompanying losses of environmental quality, freedom, and social justice) OR the less hard way (immediately and drastically reducing our population voluntarily). Yes, all of us, yes, everywhere. There is no scenario anywhere in which population growth is a “good thing” long term.

    Yes a drop in population would cause problems, but none of those problems are as big as the problems, suffering, and environmental collapse that is certain to occur if we don’t.

    I disagree with any argument that there is some “right to reproduce”. If there is any “right to reproduce” it’s in the concept that one has the freedom to nurture a child or children and form some sort of family. Biological reproduction is not necessary to do that and there are many in need of this sort of nurturing.

    This is a global issue with local and nation-state consequences. For example, immigration is a consequence of overpopulation, not a cause of it. Likewise, global climate change and the collapse of ocean fisheries are not impressed by national boundaries or nation/state level economic or education efforts.

    No technological / “alternative energy” options have the capacity or can be ramped up fast enough to avoid major global calamity. That isn’t to say we shouldn’t do them. Aggressively shifting to alternative energy is necessary, just not sufficient.

    For more comprehensive analysis of all this I suggest

    Bandura etc.

    Albert Bartlett on the exponential function as it relates to population and oil:

    Approaching the Limits http://www.paulchefurka.ca

    Bruce Sundquist on environmental impact of overpopulation http://home.alltel.net/bsundquist1/

    The Oil Drum Peak Oil Overview – June 2007 (www.theoildrum.com/node/2693)

    …and of course the classic “Overshoot” by Catton

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