Introduction – Am  I crazy  or Are You Crazy

            We are exhausting the earth’s non-renewables like oil, degrading its renewables like soil, and over taxing its absorption and recycling capabilities like atmosphere and oceans.
            Am I crazy because I believe this means the earth is like a bus laboring down a lonely hot desert road. It’s carrying a lot of people and each wants many services. The rich inside the bus have air conditioning, fine dinning, and wonderful entertainment. The poor cling to the outside.  The overload is wearing out the bus.  Without much notice it could break down. Everyone would have to walk. Many would not survive.
            Am I crazy because I believe that those that accomplish improvements in their own wellbeing do so by taking that wellbeing from others with which they share the world and those that will live in the future?
            Am I crazy because I believe most people on earth are losing wellbeing? The losers will eventually get desperate and produce social conflict.  The sudden arrival and unexpected force of this conflict, despite our best efforts, will collapse civilization.
            Am I crazy because I believe we need to rapidly reduce population to prevent:  civilization collapse, massive die off, and environmental degradation so deep that our grandchildren will not be able to rebuild and will be stuck in an early Iron Age lifestyle.  
            Am I crazy because I believe a sustainable, peaceful world with ever -improving wellbeing for its occupants has a population below 100 million.
            Finally am I crazy because I believe if we want a nice life for our grandchildren we have to immediately implement rapid population decline.   
            The question I address in this book, is  --- “Am I crazy for holding these beliefs --or are you crazy for not holding them?”
            In the text I identify numbers that describe our world. Probably numbers you will find familiar and believe to be true.  I show how change in one number causes a change in another.  You probably also know these relationships to be true.  What you will find new and surprising is that these numbers and relationships when tied together support my beliefs. 
            Your challenge, in reading this book, will be to determine if my predicted tragedy and my rapid population decline behaviors to address it, are more correct than today’s commonly held beliefs that our problems are no bigger than before.  Our kids will be able to resolve them as they arise.  
            My beliefs call for rapid population decline (RPD) behaviors. The behaviors can be considered the “lesser-of-evils” only if civilization collapse means the loss of accumulated art, science, technology, and social organization.  And these losses mean produced goods and services will support only a small fraction of the existing population at a small fraction of present living standards.
            Let me outline a model, which defines the human predicament and predicts this tragedy. Collapse is precipitated by a little understood relationship between “change-in-scarcity” and “change-in-social conflict.”
            Three processes increase scarcity.
            1) Scarcity increases when an increasing total human footprint (population times per capita consumption) surpasses supplies of goods and services that are expanding too slowly. 
            2) Scarcity increases when the delivery of goods and services declines. For example, exhaustion of fossil fuel, over use of renewables, and degradation of the recycling or absorption capacities of the natural environment. 
            3) Scarcity increases with some redistributions. Even when the demand for, and supply of, goods and services are equal, scarcity increases when one group takes, economically or by force the goods and services previously used by another.
            Each scarcity generator creates individuals who experience ever increasing loss of wellbeing and in the process of reclaiming it create ever increasing social conflict.
            Increasing social conflict requires more goods and services to be diverted from "supporting" wellbeing to "protecting" or "acquiring" resources.  The diversion increases scarcity. Once this feedback loop is triggered it keeps going until civilization collapse occurs.
            Nothing new here. The model describes the fall of all previous civilizations, however it places our present existence on a precarious perch. Almost no one, who understands today's conditions and these dynamics, should think our civilization, on its present course, can avoid collapse.
             Black as this view is, there are human behaviors that can result in ever decreasing scarcity.  They are the behaviors that precipitate ever decreasing total human footprint; behaviors that are fast enough to reduce human footprint even in the face of decreasing carrying capacity.
             What are these behaviors? First let me tell you what they are not. They are not behaviors that take from the rich and give to the poor. That process mathematically would not decrease footprint.
             Capping maximum consumption of individuals does not reduce total human footprint. In both cases the resources released by the rich group will be completely consumed by the poor raising their wellbeing to the allowed limits.
            As long as everyone is scrambling for better lives, any resources, released through cleaner or more efficient life styles will not reduce the total human footprint either. 
            A rapid population decline (RPD) is the only trend that will produce large continuous decreases in the total human footprint.
            Rapid population decline is caused by:
                        1) A Mother Nature culling.
                        2) The powerful among us starving and killing the weak.
                        3) Reducing human births so they greatly exceed deaths.
            Now comes the hard part. If we don’t want rapid population decline forced on us by our total human footprint’s collision with Mother Nature’s limits. If we don’t want the strong killing the weak, then, we have to force rapid population decline on ourselves. We have to control births using one or more of three processes.
            1) The implementation of a higher intellect that allows the future
                        abstraction of civilization collapse to influence our
                        procreative choices.
            2) Autocratically coerce very low birthrates similar to China when
                        they implemented their one child per family policy.
            3) Democratically coerce low birthrates – what Garret Hardin called,
                        “mutual coercion, mutually agreed upon.”
            This book’s content contributes to the knowledge and logic that forms a democratic constituency that will implement rapid population decline though laws and policy. It focuses on changing the beliefs of (the reader) from: “things will work themselves out if we just keep plugging along,” to “the future is really black unless everyone acts differently.”
            It takes up the thorny problem: can a democracy (the collective) take away the procreative rights of the individual to maintain or improve the quality of life of a civilization’s members?
            Some would say that is what civilization does. Here are some examples. Democracies took away the rights of slave owners to own slaves. They took away the rights of males to subjugate females. They also took away the rights of smokers on airplanes and the rights of car drivers to drive as fast as they liked near schools.
            All we need to take away procreation rights is for a majority to believe “the resulting benefits of not having civilization collapse are bigger than the liabilities that result from curtailing procreative rights.”
            However, today, most people don’t believe  “civilization will collapse." Preventing it is not necessary. Proposing to take away an individual’s procreative rights to achieve rapid population decline obtains only confrontation. 
            Thus the first step in democratically implementing rapid population decline is providing individuals with a liability to be avoided -- a liability so big and so painful that previously unthinkable civil limitations on procreative choice seem reasonable.
            For example, if I could get people to believe that their children could experience a civilization failure similar to what happened when Somalia’s civil order failed and Somali children lost their parents, their homes, and had to carry guns in a militia to keep their bellies half full.
            If I could get people to believe that there are 15 or 20 nations besides Somalia vulnerable to civil failure. If I could get people to believe the slums of Rio, Mexico City, and Mumbai will make those cities’ civil order fail; that even Paris, London and Los Angeles or a city near them could also fall into civil chaos if their poor become too disenfranchised.
            If I could get people to believe that, without rapid population decline, the collapse of these cities will appear like car accidents, where one minute everything is fine and the next everything has tragically fallen apart.
            If I could get people to believe that once these civil failures are in process, all of our personal and institutional behaviors will be impotent to prevent injury – akin to trying to buckle a seat belt, mid-crash.
            If I could get people to believe that these failed conditions will not be temporary -- that after humankind consumes all the easily accessed resources in a failed attempt to keep civilization afloat, there would not be any left to rebuild.
            If, I could get people to believe, this continuously rising scarcity will eventually engulf their child or grandchild.
           Then, people might want to understand the human predicament. They might want to learn what changes might remove some of the blackness from their child’s lives.
            They might learn that the minimum change in human behavior, required to achieve the future they want for their children, implements rapid population decline (RPD.)
            They might learn that a static population is a meaningless, momentary value and a target that accomplishes too little too late. They might learn that the slow population reductions existing in Europe, Japan and other developed countries will also be too little too late.
            The following essays reveal how fast and how much population-decline is needed to reverse the existing trend toward civilization collapse.
            If I succeed in changing the reader's belief about the problem and the weaknesses in our attempts to address it, and the book sells more than a few copies, then humankind will have a kernel of believers that think rapid population decline should be universally implemented.
            Because, this small group cannot reverse any population trends, I then describe, “How to grow this kernel of believers into majority constituencies of each nation.”  And, “How, using Garret Hardin's ‘mutual coercion mutually agreed upon,’ nations can implement rapid population decline policies.”

            A handful of nations implementing rapid population decline will not be enough to reverse global trends. In order for civilization to survive, these “rapid-population-decline” nations will have to band together into a commonwealth creating a border around themselves and their mutually held commons. No human migration or commerce will cross this boundary. Those on each side will become isolated from one another. Each will progress toward different conditions.
            This part of the human experiment's path into the light is pretty dark. While the quality of life within the RPD commonwealth is ever brightening for its constituents (with progressively more resources per person), the quality of life for nations outside will darken (with progressively less resources per person). Resource scarcity in non-commonwealth nations will become so acute that resulting anarchy will crush their social order, decimate their productive capacities, create a die-off, and reduce the survivors to bands of subsistence farmers and hunter and gatherers.           
            Any aid given by the commonwealth to non-commonwealth nations will not change this outcome.  Instead of alleviating suffering aid will expand it by prolonging the death throes of their dysfunctional civilization.
            Aid will also create additional risks to the commonwealth by maintaining a base from which to launch resource wars.   
            There is a path into the light for each of these nations. Each can join the commonwealth if they implement RPD behaviors and achieve rapid population decline within their borders -- before they fail. The commonwealth will readily provide aid to implement RPD behaviors.

            It is impossible to illuminate all the social and physical aspects of such a large civil transition in one book. This book contains a series of essays some first written in 1975, which describe areas of a dynamic map of changing conditions and human behaviors.
            The essays are not all consistent in their prescriptions.  In 1975 I described the meaning to civilization of a rapid population decline caused by one child per family.  However, in the ensuing years, the human community's population has almost doubled. It's footprint has increased by a factor of 12. Both continue to increase.  Also the earth’s production of goods and services, which has been ever expanding,  is approaching a contraction.     I now think we will need true fertility rates much lower than 1.
            Today, many people see peak oil, depleted fisheries and climate change as important problems.  I hope after reading this book, each reader will see them as triggers of a more dangerous problem -- explosive civilization-collapsing social conflict.           
            My goal will be accomplished if the reader comes to see that behaviors that implement rapid population decline are the most powerful we have in our tool box to address the scarcity and social conflict that leads to civilization collapse.  The book will be successful if it shows that other touted behaviors like living smaller, stopping population growth, or equitable redistribution of goods and services are not.
            The book will achieve my goal if the reader becomes a member of a constituency that believes rapid population decline (RPD) is the core of a viable human experiment. It achieves my goal if that reader will recruit a few new members to the RPD constituency.
           This book contains simple essays based on common sense. Each relies on a huge body of research in the public domain that I regrettably have not referenced in my rush to presentation. For this I apologize.
            This book includes pointers to short videos I have posted to the web. Some of these presentations have a special purpose. If the unseen problem is so big, if the RPD solution is so sound, if the behavior to implement RPD is so simple, why has each remained so hidden? My answer is that we share a common blind spot (cognitive defect, something I call temporal blindness) that makes each person blind to a portion of reality. The seminars and short movies describe these flaws in common thinking and learning.
            After these cognitive limitations are made explicit and reader's wall of certainty is cracked, (that is he or she no longer believes his or her view of reality is complete) then there is room for the concepts presented in the book's essays to take root in the reader's now opened consciousness.
           Part I “Views of the human predicament” includes essays that help the reader learn the numbers and understand the mechanisms that describe the human predicament even when our cognitive processes conspire to keep their meaning hidden.
            Part II presents essays to help the reader understand why large reductions in human footprint prevent civilization collapse.
            Part III contains essays that help the reader understand how rapid population decline reduces human footprint.
            Part IV “Implementing rapid population decline” outlines the philosophical and democratic underpinnings for obtaining rapid population decline behaviors through law and policy.
            Part V Procreative Behavior Determines the Future,” We have choice. Different procreative behavior creates different futures.           
            The book succeeds if the reader concludes that our thought processes and behavior can create a viable human experiment.  Humankind can think and behave its way out of this predicament. We just have to:
            a) stop denying what we can see,
            b) temporally extend that view,
            c) give up fantasies that someone else will facilitate the fix, and
            d) behave accordingly.
                                                                                    Jack Alpert
                                                                                    August 2010