The Earth's Declining Carrying Capacity

Carrying capacity refers to the number of individuals of any species who can be supported in a given area within natural resource limits, and without degrading the natural, social, cultural and economic environment for present and future generations. According to Garrett Hardin (1991), "carrying capacity is the fundamental basis for demographic accounting."

Unfortunately as population grows the environment is constantly degraded, carrying capacity actually shrinks, leaving the environment no longer able to support even the number of people who could formerly have lived in the area on a sustainable basis. Revisiting Carrying Capacity: Area-Based Indicators of Sustainability by William E. Rees of UBC is an excellant indepth article on carrying capacity.

Basically it's the calculus of diminishing population in response to declining carrying capacity. Which brings me to The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement, a link sent me by a fellow doomer. They figure phasing out the human race by voluntarily ceasing to breed will allow Earth’s biosphere to return to good health. Crowded conditions and resource shortages will improve as we become less dense. Thier motto: “May we live long and die out”. They offer a well constructed arguement for not having kids [oops, to late for me] from an enviromental perspective.

The folks at VHEMT seem to be advocating an overshoot. Mother Earth went to a lotta trouble evolving an upright ape capable of abstract thought and an opposable thumb, i'm still thinkin that when the big collapse comes there will be little oasises that retain a small carrying capacity for a renegade primate or two. That setting a goal of phasing out our species completely leaves no room for hope, no room for change. Better for me to hope that somehow things will change, that somehow even in a much lower populated world my children and theirs will have a shot at using their long evolved tools to live within the carrying capacity of that future world.
Wilder yet, The Church of Euthanasia , advocates creative methods for improving population density. Even those who are not easily offended may not want to peer into the sanctuary of the Church of Euthanasia. Prepare yourself by thinking the worst first, then the four pillars of the church won’t seem so awful.