Rapid population decline

One child per family

Not an Impossible dream

Population increases are driven by genetics. So is the human propensity to improve living conditions and reduce the tragic elements of life. The net effect of these two genetic drives is to increase the total human footprint.

Increasing total human footprint is wonderful, (more people -- each with more wellbeing) until it starts degrading the supporting environment which it is doing. Even with advances in efficiency provided by technology the carrying capacity is contracting. Oil is running out. Aquifers are being emptied. CO2, a by product of human life, is changing the climate. Over-harvesting of renewables is diminishing production.

Total human footprint must now contract to remain below global carrying capacity or one crashing into the other will ruin the human experiment, if not the whole world as we know it.

Changing the behaviors of enough individuals to facilitate a decrease in total human footprint is difficult because genetic drives oppose the change. Culture opposes the change. Religion opposes the change both directly in doctrine and philosophically in that the change shifts the responsibility for future outcomes from a super-being to human shoulders.

Changing behaviors is hard because these factors are so blended into our world view, we deny causal connections between our norm behaviors and present or predicted problems.

It might appear changing human behavior is impossible. However, here are some examples where humans changed entrenched behaviors. For example males procreating with any local but not necessarily consenting female, the owning of slaves, unequal treatment based sex or race, and unregulated driving or smoking. In each case personal behaviors, driven by genes, approved by culture, or blessed by religion were rationally curtailed in a effort to improve safety and social justice.

There are well known mechanisms for making these changes in the human fabric. Some come from an enlightened leadership dictating to the masses under their control. Let's call these mechanisms "top down."

Using another set of mechanisms regular individuals, of no exceptional power, identify that the "resultant goodness" attributed to a norm behavior is incorrect. They also identify that an alternative behavior avoids the tragedy caused by the norm behavior. Then these individuals recruit others to their beliefs. When the recruited membership becomes large enough "being a member of the new group" becomes a mechanism of recruitment. Cajoling and shunning also adds new members.

Finally, the group of believers is large enough to begin coercing individuals to change from the old to the new behavior. Garrett Hardin described a mechanism he called, "Mutual coercion, mutually agreed upon." In democracies, coalitions of believers legislate laws that both carrot and stick the new behaviors. Traffic and non-smoking laws are the result of these "bottom up" change mechanisms.

Today, rapid population decline (RPD) is the only trend strong enough to prevent total human footprint from crashing into global carrying capacity and creating the ultimate human tragedy. The behavior that accomplishes rapid population decline is "none or at most one child per family" "NoOCPF." Humankind needs to change the norm behavior from "each person can have as many children as they want" to "each person can father or mother at most one child."

Procreative restriction is a difficult change to implement. I have already mentioned that it runs counter to genetic drives, culture codes, and religion doctrine. However, let me add that a OCPF law takes away a time honored personal freedom. And it takes it away to solve a problem most people cannot even perceive and appreciate.

Rapid population decline (RPD) pulls Total human footprint (THF) back from its continuing crash into global carrying capacity (GCC). For many this collision is an abstraction. It is a condition that happens between two abstractions. For individuals who can give little meaning to abstractions, there is no problem. For them, their world and life, is just fine without this new restriction.

People do know about bumps in the road - war, famine, and injustice. However, by our tenacity, hard work, luck, or by grace of a super-being we have triumphed. The proof is that we are here while most of humankind has perished. It is easy to conclude that one's responsibility, to keep this party going, is to stick with the approved behaviors. The "One child per family max behavior is not only extracurricular it is not on today's approved list.

Recruiters must be able to overcome this state of mind. Recruiters are implementing a migration from one approved belief to another. They are getting people to agree that some genetic drives are not always good. Some cultural traditions are counter-productive. Some sacrifice of personal freedom to achieve additional safety and social justice is what humankind needs now to prevent tragedy.

Recruiters must get people to take on responsibility for the future which they have previously left in the hands of a super-being. Recruiters must be able to shatter conventional wisdom and replace it with different beliefs, behaviors, and understanding of causality.

The question before us today is to find ways for recruiters to be successful. I am sure there are hundreds of ways to do this. Each customized to overturn one unique person's indoctrination using that individual's cognitive abilities.

While each one-on-one conversation is unique, all will include convincing the listener that
   a) there is a super tragedy dead ahead and most of us
       don't see it.
   b) norm behaviors, unknowingly to most of us, are
       causing us to charge toward it.
   c) rapid population decline can reverse the human
       charge toward tragedy.
   d) none or at most one child per family is a required
   e) other technological, green, and social justice
       behaviors, while well-intentioned will not be
       enough to avoid tragedy.

Suggesting that "helping a person to these new views is impossible." reflects the power of our culture's false indoctrination. Each recruiter will have to dig down into his or her creative juices and find a way to bring a particular individual along.

Finally, it takes a quantum leap in cognition to realize the threat to the human experiment of total human footprint continuing its crash into global carrying capacity. Most people don't have that level of cognition. But this cognitive limitation is just an additional part of the task we face. If we don't duck it, we can put our mental shoulders to it.


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

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