Rapid Population Decline
a path to conserving the environment

A proposal to Conservation and Research Foundation


This proposal seeks support to demonstrate that rapid population decline (RPD) is the most effective means to conserve our environment. 30 years of research at the Stanford Knowledge Integration Laboratory has brought together physical and cognitive science concepts to introduce "RPD effectiveness" into the sustainability discussion. We propose to create a book and DVD from existing essays, papers, books, and videos. The remaining task is editorial; combining the materials into a lay narrative. We have determined the costs of this effort -- have raised half --and request $5,000 to complete the project.


The Conservation and Research Foundation mission --"to conserve the natural environment” -- can only be accomplished by reducing the total human footprint. Because total human footprint is the product of "population" and "per capita footprint," a reduction requires the decline of at least one of these variables.

Reducing the average per capita footprint of humankind will be difficult, if not impossible, in light of the desire by billions of people leading marginal lives to upgrade their condition. Even if a "heavy footprint" portion of the population reduces its consumption, there will be huge, likely irresistible, pressure for the resources saved in that portion to be consumed by others. Even more obviously, simply slowing population growth does not reduce total human footprint because it does not reduce population. In our view, only large decreases in population will effectively reduce total human footprint.

Indeed, these decreases in population would have to be so large that collectively they would reduce the total human footprint below the global carrying capacity. For example, the current carrying capacity could support without self destructing, 100 million people living in upper middle class style. To see how I arrived at 100 million see Note 1.

Of course, if each person was striving for more wellbeing, that would ever increase the per capita footprint. The 100 million population would have to continuously decrease to keep total human footprint below carrying capacity.

Most people expect that global population will stop growing. In some places it is already contracting. However, few are thinking of a 98% reduction in population. And almost no one can conceive of a process to achieve such a low number that does not include starvation and genocide. However, the reduction could be achieved in little more than a century if some couples had no children and the rest had not more than one. To see how I arrived at 125 years see Note 2.

We at SKIL do not expect existing activities that have been used to slow population growth to be able to scale up to implement this level of RPD behaviors. See Note 3.

Therefore we propose to use a contagion model to accomplish the task. This model, described in SKIL Note 41, does not directly encourage individuals to have fewer children.

Instead, it helps individuals come to a belief that RPD produces the good future they want for their progeny. SKIL targets older parents and grandparents, who are beyond their personal child bearing needs, but whose progeny provides them a huge stake in the future. SKIL envisions this group, once constituted, becoming the earth's dominant culture.

This culture, will encourage the current child bearers to choose RPD behaviors through social pressure, and changes in the law and codes of its institutions. What kind of institutional acts would accomplish this, see Note 4 .

These changes in culture, this development of an RPD preference, this belief that RPD is necessary, will be driven by more than love of the natural environment. Assisting the transition may be a legitimate fear of the human experiment's current trend toward scarcity, social conflict, civilization collapse, and a prolonged and perhaps permanent dark age. See your morning paper.

While bad things will happen to humankind and the environment in the next 50 years, it is imperative that we find and implement powerful means to reverse humankind's course to self destruction. RPD is that means. Our goal is to insert RPD, into the discussion of the human predicament and its resolution.

We will do this by presenting (in a book and accompanying DVD) the human predicament cast as a dynamic system, the control RPD plays in that system, and a pathway to build RPD beliefs into a dominant culture. This steers the book and the ideas in it, toward the center of the debate going on in intellectual and policymaking circles about what is sustainability and how to create it.

The content of the book already resides on the SKIL website. You can view the 55 essays, the two hour video seminar, a few short papers, and two books on the cognitive science of temporal blindness. Since last year's proposal to CRF I have added essays 41 - 55 that are specifically focused on "how to build an RPD constituency."

This proposal seeks support in the amount of $5000 to work with an editor to transform the SKIL content into a coherent narrative.  The resulting book will be pitched to agents and editors in the hope that it will be commercially published. If a contract cannot be signed within 5 months, plans are in place for self-publishing and marketing the book.




Thank you for your consideration,

Jack Alpert PhD
Director: Stanford Knowledge Integration Laboratory




SKIL website     http://www.skil.org/
55 SKIL Notes   http://www.skil.org/Notes/head_Notes.html
DVD seminar on why our cognitive process does not see large future liabilities, understand which behavior avoids them, and builds motivation to take the behavior.
SKIL Note 41 RPD implementation -- a project plan
2007 Proposal to Conservation and Research Foundation


Jack Alpert (Bio)     mail to: Alpert@skil.org   (homepage) ww.skil.org      position papers

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