Mother Pelican
A Journal of Solidarity and Sustainability

Vol. 9, No. 11, November 2013
Luis T. Gutiérrez, Editor
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Human Population Dynamics and the Demographic Transition

Steven Earl Salmony

8 September 2013

Editor's Note: There are two articles in this page. The first article was submitted in response to my request for an update on the current status of the population growth issue. The second article, by the same author, provides a more comprehensive review of some pertinent background literature. There is some overlap of content, but the message is critical for the future of humanity and bears repetition.

Many scientists with appropriate expertise as well as demographers and economists everywhere in our time apparently have been rendered apoplectic by presentations of new and evidently unforeseen scientific research of human population dynamics and the demographic transition. These experts have relied upon preternatural thought and phony science to make a seemingly incontrovertible case for the viability of the human species and its current business-as-usual overproduction, overconsumption and overpopulation activities — global overgrowth activities of a distinctly human kind that can be seen overspreading the surface of Earth and that will soon be more generally acknowledged as patently unsustainable on the finite and frangible planet we inhabit.

Absolute global human population numbers have been skyrocketing since World War II. When I was born, 2.3 billion people were alive. In a single lifetime of threescore and ten years (1945-2015) human numbers are fully expected to grow to 7.2+/- billion human beings, an increase of 5+/- billion people. This population growth has been widely believed to be sustainable, at least in large part, because of two critical misperceptions that have been widely shared, consensually validated and allowed to stand unquestioned. Ruinously, predominant ideology has been deliberately confused with and presented as science. Recent unacknowledged scientific research indicates with remarkable simplicity and clarity that human population dynamics is essentially similar to the population dynamics of other species and that the traditional demographic transition model indicating population stabilization and an end to population growth soon is pseudoscientific, fatally flawed and utterly misleading. Fundamental mistakes have been made but experts have consciously refused to perform their duties to science and humanity by making necessary corrections.

Self-proclaimed population experts certainly are not stupid, and yet they appear to act as if they are ‘playing stupid’. Perhaps they been unfortunately influenced by TPTB ("the powers that be") just the way politicians have. In their foolhardiness, arrogance and avarice and by their lust for privilege, power and the concentrated wealth from which power and privilege are derived, TPTB have claimed ownership of the mass media. Global communications have become governed by what is economically beneficial, politically convenient, socially suitable, religiously tolerable and culturally contrived. The family of humanity has been duplicitously misguided and deceitfully duped by overly-educated, absurdly enriched sycophants of rich and powerful greed mongers who have been undermining and perverting science. The shared ideology of TPTB and their many minions leads to their imperious denial of scientific research that not only presents inconvenient truth but also exposes the ruse underpinning a non-negotiable but unsustainable way of organizing human civilization on our watch. One of many pernicious effects of this situation is the willful denial of the best available scientific research of subjects like human population dynamics and the demographic transition. Resulting misunderstandings have been decisive in paving the way for a civilization nearing its collapse. Civilizations have crashed before, but never has the demise of a civilization put at risk future human well being and the Earth as a fit place for human habitation. Should this perspective be somehow on the right track, then we could be witnesses to a colossal failure of nerve as well as to a determinative loss of capacity to do the right things, according to ‘the lights’ and scientific knowledge each of us possesses.

If human population dynamics is essentially common to the population dynamics of other species and, consequently, if food supply is the independent not the dependent variable in the relationship between food and population, then a lot of what has been reported could be distractions that serve to dismiss rather than disclose vital but unwelcome science of what could somehow be real regarding the human population and, more importantly, why our behavior is so utterly destructive of everything we claim to be protecting and preserving. It seems to me that if we keep engaging in and hotly pursuing worldwide overproduction, overconsumption and overpopulation activities, distinctly human activities that cannot be sustained much longer on a planet with size, composition and ecology of Earth, then the human species is a clear and present danger on our watch to future human wellbeing, life as we know it, and environmental health. If we can see ourselves to be 'the problem', then it is incumbent upon us to bring forward the best available evidence from science, especially when that evidence happens to relate directly to why we are pursuing a soon to become, patently unsustainable (superhigh)way of life. A tip of the hat is due Rachel Carson for her original awareness of the 'superhighway'. Should humankind emerge from 'the bottleneck' E.O. Wilson imagines for us in the future and somehow escape the precipitation of our near-term extinction, how are those survivors to organize life sustainably and not repeat the mistakes we are making now... and have been making for a long time? Without knowledge of why we are doing what we are doing, every one of us is forever trapped in an eternal recurrence of unsustainable life cycles, I suppose.

Rather than lay out for you what is novel research regarding human population dynamics and the demographic transition, I am going to refer all of you to a website where you will find the presentations: A Summary of Human Population Dynamics and A Presentation of the Demographic Transition Model. Credit for this research belongs to Russell Hopfenberg, Ph.D. Perhaps what we need is the kind of sorely-needed open discussion that has been avoided by the professional societies of science and universally denied by demographers and economists. Please make use of the following link, Panearth. On that web page please find the two new presentations to which I referred just above. For those interested in a deeper understanding of related research in population science, note that other presentations and peer-reviewed articles can be found at the website.

Also and as important, Professor Diana Coole is another extraordinary researcher to whom I want to draw attention. Her work on human overpopulation and flaws in demographic transition theory is second to none and worthy of careful consideration. Please click on the following link, Too many bodies? The return and disavowal of the population question. Abstract: "During the 1960s and early 1970s population growth was regarded as an urgent environmental issue. Since then the topic has fallen into abeyance. Despite continuing demographic expansion and anxieties about a range of socio-ecological problems - from the stresses of high-density urban living to climate change, water, energy and food insecurity and loss of biodiversity - there is currently scant consideration of the benefits of population stabilisation or decline. Indeed, the problematisation of population numbers is widely disavowed or regarded with profound suspicion. Why have we become so reluctant to ask whether we are too many or to countenance policies that might discourage further growth? I identify five discourses - population-shaming, population-scepticism, population-declinism, population-decomposing and population-fatalism - that foreclose public debate and subject them to critical analysis. I end by eliciting signs of a hesitant revival of the population question alongside the enduring potency of silencing discourses." (Environmental Politics, Volume 22, Issue 2, 2013)

PPS: Rachel Carson's quote,

"We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost's familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster. The other fork of the road—the one "less traveled by"—offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of the earth."

The Human Population: Accepting Species Limits

Steven Earl Salmony

This article was originally published in
Environmental Health Perspectives, January 2006

In “The Population Equation: Balancing What We Need with What We Have,” presented generally accepted thought and consensually validated data regarding the human population, even though he did not include an adequate scientific theory of absolute human population numbers. Dahl also appeared to confirm the wide agreement among scientists that it is difficult to make theoretical advances or conduct human population research because humankind is seen as essentially different from other species and the human world is viewed as being composed of many intricately connected things that interact in extremely complex ways. Therefore, the population dynamics of Homo sapiens are effectively relegated to the preternatural realm and are believed to include a number of factors that are so complicated and enormous as to be unsuitable for empirical research or else unknowable.

A theory of human population numbers that could objectively explain the increase and decrease of the human population would be useful. Perhaps correlation data from and the recent mathematical formulation of this biologic phenomenon by provide a basis for an apparently unexpected theoretical perspective. According to the empirical research (), human population growth is a rapidly cycling positive feedback loop in which food availability drives population growth and this growth in human numbers gives rise to the mistaken impression that food production needs to be increased even more.

The data of and indicate that the world’s human population—all segments of it—grows by approximately 2% per year, including more people with brown eyes and more with blue eyes; more tall people and more short people; and more people who grow up well fed and more who grow up hungry. We may or may not be reducing hunger by increasing food production; however, we are most certainly producing more and more hungry people. The evidence suggests that the remarkably successful efforts of humankind to increase food production to feed a growing population results in even greater increase in population numbers.

pointed out that the perceived need to increase food production to feed a growing population is a misperception, a denial of the physical reality of the space–time dimension. If people are starving at a given moment in time, increasing food production cannot help them. Are these starving people supposed to be waiting for sowing, growing, and reaping to be completed? Are they supposed to wait for surpluses to reach them? Without food they would die. In such circumstances, increasing food production for people who are starving is like tossing parachutes to people who have already fallen out of the airplane—the produced food arrives too late. However, this does not mean human starvation is inevitable.

If this view of the human population is somehow correct, then human population dynamics are not biologically different in essence from the population dynamics of other species (). We do not find hoards of starving roaches, birds, squirrels, alligators, or chimpanzees in the absence of food as we do in many civilized human communities today, because these nonhuman species are not annually increasing their own production of food. Among tribal peoples in remote original habitats, we do not find people starving. Like nonhuman species, “primitive” human beings live within the carrying capacity of their environment. History is replete with examples of early humans and other ancestors not increasing their food production annually, but rather living successfully off the land for thousands of years as hunters and gatherers of food. Before the agricultural revolution and the production of more food than was needed for immediate survival, human numbers supposedly could not grow beyond their environment’s physical capacity to sustain them because human population growth or decline is primarily a function of food availability (; ).

Given its current scale and rate of growth, the human population worldwide has identifiable, potentially destructive ecological consequences. From this theoretical perspective, recent global human population growth can be understood as a primary causative factor of a range of phenomena including biodiversity loss and environmental degradation.

Articles from Environmental Health Perspectives are provided here courtesy of National Institute of Environmental Health Science


Steven Earl Salmony is a psychologist with the North Carolina Disability Determination Service(DDS) of the Social Security Administration(SSA), Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA. His professional experience includes extensive clinical work in inpatient and outpatient settings, and he is currently focusing on emerging scientific research of the human overpopulation of Earth. For more on his background and current work click here.

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