Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Defusing the Population - Density - Bomb

This is a sister post to the previous (Where Does Land Come From?)  You were expecting maybe another Right?  They are inseparable as the notion of available land is intimately linked to the number of people who wish to use it.

  (No date provided.) 

[Still] not ready to address the matter of Australia's ideal population.  (I like children and migrants, economic or otherwise.)  However, I am interested in the subject of what is a desirable level of population density.

This discussion may help, with a few facts.
The overall density of earth's population in (2011) 
54 people per square kilometer
 (0.54 per hectare).

This excludes Antarctica. 

Total land area being 130 million square kilometers
 (13 billion hectares).
And the earth's population reached 7 billion in 2011.

  This article from  
  explains our right  
  to space as a biological, territorial imperative.  

Upper red square indicates our biological range; 
lower one is our actual amount of personal space.

  Viewing us as another biological creature  
  (all other species do not rely on fossil  
  fuel for their energy), we need 4 square kilometers  
  per individual.  This only means, as animals, there  
  should be 32.5 million of us!  Our current  
  world population speaks very well for our social skills  
  [and resourcefulness] in that case.  

From objective census figures, Australia's population lives
 mostly (about 85%) within 50 km of the shoreline. Is this figure increasing or not? 
It seems to be, percentage-wise and relative to the rest of the continent. 
(Most of the growth is in capital cities, and these tend to be coastal!)

Good news for our marine friends?

That may be the normal human instinct to flee drought and seek water – which is where human civilisations have always positioned themselves.  [But it may be something else too.]   In Australia, the move toward water does not correlate with a move toward increased food production.   Because most of our food (animal and vegetable) is produced in the drier more rural (aka regional) areas.

And these are the areas that are growing in population more slowly or not at all (even in reverse – losing in numbers).  And ageing, because younger people are leaving and older people are moving in.

[Ref article from link in previous post.]

Here we have the most urbanised and arguably beach-obsessed nation on earth. In all fairness, new arrivals to any country do tend to settle in cities – migrants of all stripes go there for social, cultural and economic reasons – not wishing to venture forth into less-inhabited regions.   [Shows what a new country we are.]   In our history, emancipists (newly freed convicts who'd completed their prison terms) were given land to live on.   But farming proved – either because the terrain was too unfamiliar, or they lacked the skills in the first place – too difficult leading to episodes of near starvation.

The Fatal Shore, difficult reading for any one with half a heart!

This opened the door to others who wished to buy them out (engaging in land speculation from the early days of the fledgling colony), and of course the the former “farmers” had nowhere to go but to the cities (or city) to seek their fame and fortune.

Note close relationship with Australia's population map (top of post).

  The problem with arid places isn't just lack of water.  
  It's lack of trees/vegetation.  

How do we then demonstrate the possibility of living in less populated, more arid, often semi-fertile areas and [the possibility of] producing food simultaneously with a satisfying level of culture and social interaction and economic (!) sustenance? (!)

  Here we have some people who are part of the solution.  
  [Links to a short video, and similar videos.]  
  You can also read about them here, with related articles.  


Mongolian couple turns desert into oasis.

EARTH VISION The 10th Tokyo Global Environmental Film Festival@ featured,

"over the last 28 years
 the couple have planted over 600,000 trees, 
covering 1,600 hectares."
(They started in 1985.)

My belief is that mass-consciousness level decision-making can only really occur one individual choice at a time.

There may be more numerous opportunities to own land and fulfil the dream of lower density, lower impact, stress-free lifestyle away from cities – in precisely those same regional, marginally fertile and less well-watered areas of the continent!

That are being deserted, abandoned.

Earth ships, invented by Michael Reynolds

 (as seen in the Garbage Warrior film) are designed 
to cope with desert condition.  That means extremes of
hot and cold and very little water.  They can grow food 
inside them in specially engineered biological cells
 [wastewater recycling compartments].

The real key will be the social factor.   For although individuals must make their own choice, we still need the support of groups and families to embolden us when it comes to massive shifts in our lifestyle and consciousness.   Some one needs to go (and create!) first.  [Again, see Chris Cole post.]

Did I mention that earth ships are built from old tires?

Here is a building code written around their use.
(And check out their earth ship photos,
 you can feel the warmth inside and snow outside.)

We are challenged to re-invent society, creating those things – traditions, institutions and cultures that we would like to see (in the world, our lives) that don't already exist for our benefit.  We need to create! We need to be the creators of this.  It will not be done for us by various levels of government, but it will be done by us.

Members of government can follow, themselves benefiting in equal measure.

 Dig. The desert.

Create.  In the desert.

Julie Firth's 
Drylands Permaculture Farm 
(site has very interesting links) is well-placed
in Geraldton, WA, Australia
to re-invent our culture in an arid climate.

"Dryland regions cover over a third 
of the world's land surface and home to 
over 2 billion people, mostly in developing countries."

 Permaculture swales.  Desert.

 Life in the desert.

Back to population.

It is also my conviction that once a goodly portion of society has seen and aspires to the benefits of a lower density, non-urban lifestyle – it will be obvious and clear what levels of population can be sustained.

 (Copyrighted artwork by Karim Nafatni, visible here.) 

Urban Octopus

  Is this the bomb?  

For example, if the traditional size of family domains (homestead, living area) becomes 1 to 3 hectares

  Remember, the article above states humans might benefit from 400 hectares each!  

  That is the size I was imagining for a village!  

  Perhaps, being social animals, the village  

  offers us a virtual domain  
  allowing some extension and overlap 
  of each villager's home territory by means of the  
  common, or shared land.  

(depending on climate, water and soil fertility) – and the traditional size of each settlement is 100 or so family units (households) – and each settlement is built with a buffer zone around it equal to the width of the settlement (say 1 – 3 km or so) – then population is automatically limited by the number of niches actually available. 

The Russian dacha. 600 square meters. 

How many is this? It depends on our definition of habitable land. Nomads [see Songlines book] have chosen the extreme of arid land (Sahara, Mongolia, Outback Australia) – and by my calculations the ideal domain size for them approaches closer to infinity than the one hectare mark.

Building a ger

 Mongolian yurt or ger. 

Animal graziers in Australia have found this too (the pastoralists) – that the carrying capacity of arid land is far smaller than that of fertile/arable land. Hence we have cattle stations the size of Luxembourg on our continent

Cattle Station Outback Australia

Human ingenuity truly know no bounds. After all, have not people inhabited the Middle East and Northern Africa (MENA) for millennia.  Question is, was their land always the way it is now.. 

Rock paintings, Jebel Acacus, Sahara Desert, Libya

  Libya, Sahara Desert.  

When it comes to family size, this is also an individual (really couples) level decision/choice.  From the point of view that society has now an average of 2.5 people per household  – and we imagine 100 households per settlement, that gives 250 people as a target for the desirable maximum of people who will live in close proximity to one another and (possibly) interact with each other on a daily basis.

   (100- 250)   
 [Refers to Dunbar's Number.

(There is some suggestion this is a humane [village] number that can be managed – by us from a sociological standpoint, group dynamics, etc.)

 Gallup poll, USA

From a balanced perspective, therefore, each family of 5 would need to be matched with an empty block or domain of 1 to 3 hectares (0 size household) to keep the average at 2.5.


And a single-person household would thus balance a family of 4, and a couple or single parent with one child would balance a family of 3.  (3 obviously a couple with one child or single parent with two.)

     4                                                      3     
     1                                                      2     

To carry this further, look at large families. Take two with 7 and 8 (total 15 souls).  This requires 4 empty hectare blocks (just as 9 and 6 together do) to average 2.5 people per block. And a family of 10 needs 3 empty blocks to balance it.

                8                                                     9                                                    10      
                7                                                     6                                                      0       
                0                                                     0                                                      0      
                0                                                     0                                                      0      
                0                                                     0     
                0                                                     0     

We are not even projecting human life-span (likely to increase when a healthy lifestyle prevails, as may a desire for more offspring).  But climate (and earth) changes that we are all familiar with are likely to put a natural ceiling on this.  (Nature has ways of handling us when we cannot manage ourselves!)

  Nature – our current terrestrial support system –  
  something I believe we can interact with, and that  
  we'll eventually come to a mutually beneficial  
  understanding with each other.  

Astral Tree of Life by Leah McNeir

We are also not projecting that those from large families (by my observation) are more likely to go on to produce large families themselves. [Interestingly, rural families today have larger families, but generally shorter life-spans.] There needs to be some sort of logic that works with instinct in our society to ensure we do not grow exponentially – and beyond our natural limit (carrying capacity).   It has been seen that humans (as other life forms) tend to fill up available space.

 Population, the elephant in the room. 

Does that mean that cities are life forms – (perhaps death form would be a better choice of words) – that sprawl as far as they can, devouring farm land, pushing farming families further into less arable areas as they go?

4,200 acre farm in Tennessee, USA.

We are here. We exist. The earth is here and it exists. We exist on the earth; it is ours and belongs to us. The notion that it does not, and that we must pay to take up space in our own home land is, well, preposterous.

Dialling back their judgement – as I have not –

 I feel future versions of ourselves will come to see our [land ownership]

 practices as outdated, unhelpful and this position

 [lack of real ownership] as untenable 

and not in any one's ultimate interest.

We are not dealing in absolute numbers [of people].

It is more about the relationship between how many people

 there are and the amount of land 

that can be successfully utilised.  

That and quality, rather than quantity of human life.


    If you love people, then plant trees.   

No comments:

Post a Comment