How Many Can Live On Planet Earth? Pt 4

Part four of this six part series focuses on two major ideas: carrying capacity and overshoot. Carrying capacity refers to the limits of an environment to support any given population. Overshoot is consumption which exceeds the environment’s ability to provide water, food and energy. In 1994 Rwanda, within three months, mounted a genocidal rampage by two ethnic groups that led to the slaughter of over a million of its inhabitants. The cause was related to fighting over resources and land which could no longer carry the population of much of Rwanda, and the consequences of ever increasing overshoot that reached the breaking point.

The world now consumes 85 million barrels of oil a day and demand expects to increase by 40% in the next two decades. If the world’s carrying capacity is compared to the resources consumed by Rwanda, the carrying capacity for all of the world would be 18 Billion people.  On the other hand if resources consumed by say the United States is the yardstick, the carrying capacity for the planet is 1.5 billion people. If in fact we are moving to a population of 10 billion by 2050, overshoot by American and Western Europe standards becomes a cataclysmic event.




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