Author Topic: do the dead outnumber the living?  (Read 3310 times)

Red Dog 344

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on: February 04, 2012, 02:18:03 PM
This is a genuinely unusual, and thought-provoking, news item from the BBC.

I'm not sure what editorial process prompted them to commission and run this piece (it's not even Halloween), since it's hard to see how this could inform political decisions at some practical level.... UNLESS the BBC knows something we DON'T.  <cue the peals of fiendish laughter>


  • Hipparch
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Reply #1 on: February 04, 2012, 03:51:56 PM
It is often said that there are more people alive today than have ever lived - and this "fact" has raised its head again since the UN announcement about the planet's population reaching a new high.

The idea helps fuel fears that the population is expanding too fast.

It is true that if you delve back into the mists of time, the population of Earth was tiny in comparison to today and logically it might seem plausible that the living outnumber the dead.
So what are the figures? There are currently seven billion people alive today and the Population Reference Bureau estimates that about 107 billion people have ever lived.

This means that we are nowhere near close to having more alive than dead. In fact, there are 15 dead people for every person living. We surpassed seven billion dead way back between 8000BC and AD1.
"Could we imagine a carrying capacity of the Earth of 100-150 billion? I find that quite unimaginable."

This is such a bizarre article, it seems like they were trying to argue that population growth isn't a problem because some crazy people cite a fact which is obviously the opposite of true.  At least that is what I get from the beginning.  But it ends with an "Earth can't support that many people" statement.  Is this them trying to argue that overpopulation is not a problem, but trying to be Fair and Balanced about it?

It is good to know the Earth can't possibly support an army capable of fighting off all the dead, we know the odds are against us.  Rather than zombies, the BBC is clearly more worried about ghosts, they even bring up the Arthur C. Clarke quote.  So we're making progress, at least for this generation.  I guess what I've learned is that if the ghost uprising doesn't happen soon, we all need to be sure to have at least 3 or 4 kids.  And make sure they know how to use their proton packs.
« Last Edit: February 04, 2012, 03:54:49 PM by Umbrageofsnow »

Red Dog 344

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Reply #2 on: February 04, 2012, 04:59:33 PM


It is good to know the Earth can't possibly support an army capable of fighting off all the dead, we know the odds are against us.

Indeed.  Although apparently most of the zombies are infants, toddlers, and kids--so if we can devise defenses against very short attackers, maybe the living will prevail.

I was a bit disappointed at the BBC's cutoff: "those who have ever lived" including only Homo Sapiens, so we have no people before 50,000 years ago.  I'm hardly an expert on primate evolution, but it seems like we keep pushing back the date for sentient ancestors capable of... well, telling scary stories and counting the number of stars in the sky and wondering about the meaning of it all.  That counts for something, I think.  Or getting back to our pressing zombie crisis, a zombie Australopithecus could cause just about as much trouble as a Homo Sapiens.