Such a prescient, beautiful sentiment.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

The cause of all our woes?

How does crowding make you feel?

"Calhoun (1962) has also found deterioration of group behaviors including mating, care of the young, and nest building among laboratory rats that became overcrowded in a small portion of their living space. Calhoun interpreted these data in terms of learning and frustration (blocking) of learned responses. specifically, he hypothesized that the rats became social feeders which led them to eat frequently, but only for very brief periods, that is, because of the presence of a central food supply each rat ate whenever another rat was observed to be eating. This interfered with the completion of other ongoing behaviors such as nesting, mating, and care of the young. Calhoun called this abnormal social situation a "behavioral sink." These data suggest some of the complexities of behavior of animals in groups in terms of the variables affecting them and their changing form."Calhoun, J.B. (1962). Behavioral sink. In E. L. Bliss (Ed.), _Roots of Behvavior_, New York: Hayser.

This paper has intrigued this Oldrightie for most of his adult life. The similarities in deterioration of behavior in diet, mating, care of the young and so on have, for me, such resonance in human activity today. It has recently been argued that future conflict will be about water and land (space) shortage. Are we seeing those issues now? Mass migration, more often to cities throughout the world, brings automatic competition for space and resources. In Britain, a small land mass is now severely overpopulated in respect of sustainability. We refer to sink estates. Is this subliminal for "sink behaviour"?
If we accept all of this premise, what's to do? A natural reaction will happen if people do not respond with major effort to address overcrowding/overpopulation. We will starve in the future, the planet will not support the total dominance of one species.
Yet back to today. Give people a decent life in their own lands. Disperse populations to vast land masses and restrict movement of humans in favour of logistical trade, fairly targeted. Rocket science? I think not.


  1. "In Britain, a small land mass is now severely overpopulated in respect of sustainability."

    Which is what the Optimum Population Trust has been banging on about (wrong turn of phrase I think!) since a long time. See for their global and UK sustainable population figures. It suggests we're 200% overpopulated.

  2. Thank you Richard for that link and your kind post.

  3. The problem with the current global economic model is that it's predicated on continued growth, which is based on increased consumption and a perpetually-increasing population. But what happens when natural resources run out, or cash runs out (like now), or when we're beyond the earth's carrying capacity for an acceptable standard of living for most of its inhabitants (well, we passed that decades ago)? Er... The Green Party posit an alternative economic model of zero growth, which in turn wouldn't be dependent on an increasing population in order to avoid collapse.

    But how do you reduce the population to a sustainable level without doing it by force? I suppose that's the function of wars, natural disasters, and global pandemics, but people have a habit of breeding after such calamities. Even in the face of abject poverty.

    Even if the problem of the replenishment of population is solved, the elephant in the room is then that of retirement and pensions. The current systems assumes a much larger working population than a retired one, but with increasing longevity, that isn't necessarily the case any more. This has already been highlighted as being a potential source of conflict as younger generations become increasingly resentful of an increased tax take to fund the healthcare and pensions of an increasingly large elderly population.

    Retirement ages are already creeping upwards, and in the not-too-distant future, it's literally going to be a case of "work until you drop". For anybody in their mid-30s/40s and younger, the concept of a "retirement" where one puts their feet up for, say, a couple of decades, after four decades' worth of work will be unknown.

    Back to optimum populations; the reduction in population numbers through natural wastage is going to be painful and expensive, but the benefits will probably be worth it. Less competition for natural resources, fewer wars, less hunger, less exploitation, and some certainty as to the long-term survival of the human race. I find it astonishing that there's no global strategy to control population numbers, except those devised by Mother Nature. Without any sort of strategy to bring population levels back to a sustainable level, we'll suffer an unplanned catastrophic decline in population, and with the concomitant collapse of society that that will bring. Humans will be just another species that once dominated the earth. Long after we're gone, the cockroaches will just carry on as if we were never here.

  4. the cockroaches will just carry on as if we were never here.

    Richard, I totally agree with all of your post. My theory is that the climate industry is there to fight for the survival of the human race, not the planet. The inaction on population however will be the cause and nature will prevail