Bad Bad Futures (Which Didn’t Happen!) The Overpopulation Edition.

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One can’t read science fiction — old or new — without taking away the idea that “there are just too many darn people.”

Now part of this is because humans are really good at scaring themselves with numbers.  Starting with Malthus, and on through the early 70s, or so, everyone was plugging the growth numbers for the population since the beginning of the industrial age and extrapolating them ad infinitum.

Which, btw, by now would have us as some truly impossible number.

Of course Malthus — misanthropy in math — was wrong.  Not just a little bit too.  It apparently never occurred to him that given women (families in general really) being able to count on more kids surviving, they would no longer have six or seven or however many in batch lots.  I mean, sure, without contraception, humans would still have more children than we do now, but even then… The population growth was already falling by the early twentieth century due to the old ways of making population fall: later marriage, some timing control of sex in married life.  Sure, it doesn’t work for everyone (wouldn’t work for me, part of my problem being odd times for ovulation, which caused us the opposite problem of too many children (!) but it still modulates population growth, so it’s not uncontrolled.)

As you guys know, I don’t think we’re 7 billion or whatever number the UN claims, and frankly I can’t understand why ANYONE believes the UN on this. They can’t be trusted on anything else, pretty much taking the word of dictators and totalitarians for proven facts, but you trust them on this? Really?  And you’re sure that countries that can barely keep commerce going (and sometimes can’t) are really sending out census forms and getting accurate counts?  Or do you think such countries are taking to bush and hinterlands and isolated villages in the middle of nowhere and counting “peasants” person by person?  If you do you probably also think that Juan Valdez picks coffee bean by bean.  Not to mention that it’s just a coincidence, I’m sure, that countries that are net recipients of international aid PER CAPITA have the highest population growth.  I’m sure.

But more importantly, what the heck is “overpopulation?”  Like “Global warming” it seems to be a case of finding a problem in “too much of a good thing.”

I mean, humans thrive when the Earth warms, and human progress and well-being (yeah, and population too) dives when the Earth cools.  We want the Earth cooler, because?  And please, don’t say we’ll become Mars or some such arrant nonsense.  There are reasons Mars is the way it is and they don’t apply to Earth, no matter how many times Scientific American (I remember a nineties article.  Not the first to make me lose all respect for SA, but close to the last) screams that they do.

In the same way what is “overpopulation?”  At what do we set it?

Americans don’t realize how much closer populated Europe is.  And Europeans don’t realize how UNPOPULATED the US is.  Just watching a movie the other day — one of those endless saving Christmas movies, because husband was watching it while I did something in sight of the TV — I was amused by images of “going all over the US” including the west, including Denver, but the shots were all NYC dense and high.  But having grown up in Europe I can tell you that’s what Europeans think all of America is like, all high rises coast to coast.  So, yeah, they think we’re overpopulated.

But you know, as tightly packed together as Europe is — to us — they’re still not overpopulated.  Their population density (mostly near highways) works, and makes for (mostly) walkable communities. (No,I don’t want to import it here.  But it works for them.)  And if you ask, they might wax poetical about unspoiled meadows and forests, but they don’t consider themselves overpopulated.

We’re certainly nowhere at maximum capacity the Earth can support, either in space or food.  Most famines in the world today are not caused by scarcity but by kleptocracy.

Sure, you can claim that we’re injuring the environment, destroying species or whatever the heck, but the truth is that the US is more forested now than when the pilgrims arrived, and as for rare species: species have been arising and dying since there has been life on Earth.  Also given the ridiculous way species are considered as separate for the sake of making something a protected environment, I’m not even sure we have a true picture of that.  Beyond the fact that we also have no clue “what is minimum species diversity?”

Take it as read that people like looking at the pretty animals and plants, and wealthy people — which humans now are, by and large compared to historical norm — put a priority on this.  What priority is it? How important? And are we really hurting anything, or is the fact that species encroach on suburbs (not the other way around. Check) just a show of the wildlife doing better.  Also, when should we intervene when one species threatens another?

If your entire job is screaming about humans doing this or that, you’re not an environmentalist.  You’re a sad freak who hates your own species, probably because he hates himself.  Species encroach on and hurt each other’s number or habitats all the time.  If you took “species diversity”seriously, you’d care about those TOO.

Oh, yeah, contributing to fears of overpopulation was Calhoun’s mouse experiment.  People look at how the wheels came off as the number of mice climbed and keep seeing parallels with our own society.  It would be more accurate to see the mouse experiment as a prison population or perhaps as the results of socialism.

First of all, humans aren’t rodentia.  Second the Earth is not and never will be an absolutely enclosed space.  Third, to get to the level of “overpopulation” he had, we’d need to… well…. we’d need to be denser than the densest city on Earth ALL OVER THE EARTH. Fourth, the main problem was the “loss of role” of the population.  Which had more to do with the fact they were being fed “for nothing” than actually striving for their daily bread.  And if you consider what happened, it closely resembles the behavior of humans under the “soft” version of socialism, aka European socialism than anything having to do with overpopulation.

People are still terrified of overpopulation, though, even though we demonstrably are nowhere near the world say of Logan’s Run.

Why?  I have this theory that it is because subconsciously we think our environment is a lot more densely populated than it is.  I know that there was an experiment semi-recently in which people apparently say they have a lot more neighbors/friends than they do, because seeing people on TV, etc. subconsciously convinces people they live in a vast tribe.  Our brains aren’t equipped for modernity.

I think this fear we’re overpopulated plugs in that.

But we’re not.  Relax.  Okay, you’re allowed to point and laugh, particularly when some sample of cognoscenti says we should all live in super high rises because mah overpopulation and leave the world to the plants and the little animals.

Pfui.

This is just hatred of their own species set to music. (Or in this case, to fashion.) And it’s arrant nonsense.

Sure, I think we should spread to the stars, because a diversified environment is better for a species, and I happen to like humans, but we’re not even close to being “too many” for the Earth.

Also no one knows what too many is.

That fear didn’t come to pass.  In fact the opposite might be true.

So when the peddlers of nightmares try to encroach on you or prescribe (somehow they always do) socialism for “overpopulation” just laugh and make duck noises.  Then ignore them, and go your own way.

And if they persist, tell them to go forth and multiply. Only not so politely.

UPDATE: On the great booksale of 2018 — new post tomorrow, but… —

I CAN’T FOR THE LIFE OF ME FIND NIGHT SHIFTERS.  I know I have them and remember unpacking them, but I think I put them in “a safe place.”  I’ve remedied the people who had ordered, but let’s assume I can’t find them in the next week.

Darkship Renegades MIGHT be sold out.  I’m going to package extant orders (those people to whom I’ve given the go ahead) tonight and will let you know.  I might have one or two copies left of the appalling (horrendous, no good) hardcover of Draw One In The Dark. (it’s in good condition.  The cover just sucks.)
I found an entire box of hardcovers of All Night Awake (Shakespeare books).  There might be other hard covers down there, in boxes, so I’ll try to have a count tomorrow morning.  For now, on those too, let’s call hardcovers $18, okay? (mostly because extra weight.)  And for the horrible and probably collectible cover of DOITD, first come first serve.

I have a couple of Dipped Stripped and Dead (under Elise Hyatt) and a few more of each of the subsequent ones.  Let’s call those $5 each if buying more than one.  ($7 otherwise?)

I have a Goldport Press TPB of Death of a musketeer (call it $12 with other books.) and a few others I’ll tally tonight.

Oh, yeah, I have TPB copies of No Will But His and a few of Plain Jane (the later under Elise Hyatt.)  Again, I’ll see how many I have tomorrow and whether it’s an “urgent” thing.

I’ll give you a new list tomorrow.  Promise.

460 responses to “Bad Bad Futures (Which Didn’t Happen!) The Overpopulation Edition.

  1. I don’t often comment, but your post reminds me of when Isaac Asimov’s Trantor city world is discussed and the population numbers in the book don’t add up to the density described.

    • And this was a hobby horse of Asimov from the 50s at least with The Caves of Steel.

      • He bought overpopulation hook, line, and sinker.

        • Also rod, reel, and waders.

        • To be fair to Isaac Asimov, he lived through one of the most rapid population growths our species has ever experienced. It is understandable that he would be worried about the possibility of it continuing on without any cessation, slowing, or relief. He was a very smart man, but he was not omniscient — and he was also most definitely rather arrogant.

          • Also, he grew up in NYC.

          • Also to be fair (on this meme, not on most of his other beliefs) – it was “the given” postulate for science fiction in those days. Read the openings to Tunnel In the Sky or Farmer In the Sky – RAH explicitly bought into the theory in those, although it is a background assumption in many of his other books.

            At that, RAH, Asimov, (early) Clarke, and some others assumed that population pressure would be the thing that pushed humanity to colonize other worlds – a positive aspect of a bad situation. Others just assumed that it would lead to catastrophe on our own world (only one I can think of a title for is The Marching Morons, but there were many others – those books have migrated to the dark corner of the library, so I can’t just glance over…).

        • He bought into the UN-as-world-government thing, too, as I recall.

          Man, I’m glad we dodged that bullet.

          • Not that the UN isn’t still trying. I find it entertaining how they flail when they try to scold the US and get a “So? What’re you gonna do about it?” response.

            • If the Democratic-Socialists manage to get enough control, they’ll eventually succeed in subordinating the U.S. to the U.N. At which point things will become very bloody.

            • Sorry i am totally in the ‘pay our fair share’ department now… as in, we shouldn’t be putting any more money into the UN than any other country pays. Per capita would be even better.

              • I recently saw an observation about how the United States is castigated for not supporting the UN enough, yet the US pays 22% of its budget — and is forbidden from paying more.

                I’m strongly of the opinion that we should stop paying that 22%. The UN is a den of thieves and tyrants, and we should stop supporting it.

        • A lot of folks of his time did. I remember Hal Clement making remarks about “too darn many people” or some such at a con around the turn of the century.

        • Heinlein did as well, at least early on, as illustrated in Farmer In The Sky. Earth was overpopulated and undernourished. But he used the perceived reality of Malthus and later Earlich as justification for the human diaspora, getting ourselves off this dirt ball outward to new frontiers and challenges.

          • Even MiaHM relies on it. The whole Luna feeding Earth’s teaming masses was essential. Mannie talks about crowding making him crazy even in NYC and argues for more Lunar Colonists as they have more space than they can use.

            The later may have been a case of someone from Wyoming visiting Singapore, but the food issues were central even though when the novel was written famine was a product of politics interfering with distribution and farming technology and not raw population numbers.

            • Later on, he goes on to talk about how most of the world is empty space, as they look for unpopulated areas to throw rocks at.

              • In fairness, a lot of that space is well-nigh unlivable. Antarctica, the Russian and Canadian tundra, the Sahara…

              • Heinlein needed assumptions his readership would accept, which is not the same thing as stating his personal beliefs. The contradiction between pending population apocalypse and Earth’s largely open spaces may well owe more to the editor than to the author.

                Authors are in the business of telling believable lies, not unbelievable truths. Any correlation between the author’s actual beliefs and the works’ assumptions may be entirely coincidental.

            • Come to think of it, Starship Troopers assumes that overpopulation of the universe was inevitable, and that all wars are caused by the competition of resources caused by overpopulation…

              I haven’t explored the premise further, but I suspect there’s some truth to it. It certainly has more merit than the preachy-atheist claim that most/all wars are caused by religion!

              • where, specifically, does it say that?

                • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                  Chapter 12 of Troopers includes the idea that “all wars are caused by population pressure” which is slightly different from the idea that “wars are caused by over-population”.

  2. I grew up in Holland, one of the most densely populated parts of Europe, and yes, Europe is more dense than the USA.
    Still, “walkable”? Not really. The central west coast of Holland (“Randstad”, meaning “the city at the edge”) is pretty metropolitan but even there you have plenty of open land full of greenhouses growing stuff. Further east and south, where I grew up (near Eindhoven), you have towns and villages several miles apart, sort of like a flat version of Massachusetts. Things were close enough that I could take my bicycle to the high school in the city — but it certainly wasn’t close enough to walk.
    Neil Smith did a nice take on population density. He pointed out that the population of the whole world fits in Rhode Island. “If you put them in Connecticut, they could sit down”. He’s right — you can do the math.

    • Jerry Pournelle in one of the “Survival with Style” essays in “A Step Farther Out” used then current population density figures to show that there was a lot of room for growth. One of his statements was that while we might not want to live with the population density of Singapore(? It’s been a long time so I don’t particularly remember) but surely we could survive living as close together as the Scots–Scotland at the time having a surprisingly high population density.

    • I think Portugal is denser. Er…. populated. I mean. The part of Germany I briefly lived in was walkable as well — but I consider 5 miles walkable.

    • The ‘whole population fits on (space)’ really helps bring things into perspective. Really, it’s a boggling thing, the size of the planet. Particularly emphasized by people when they go traveling in areas like the US, or Canada, or Australia…

      • Shadowancer:

        Yup. When my wife first visited Canada, she was totally, absiolutely blown away at how empty, forested and green the province I lived in.
        She lived in one of the more densely populated countries in the world.
        She really appreciated the quiet; something that doesn’t exist where she lived

      • It’s a major theme in “Stand on Zanzibar” by John Brunner.

    • I’m in Silicon Valley. I had a handyman doing work for me who grew up in Bosnia. He spent as much time as he could in the California wilderness and marvelled that you could park your car and hike a trail for an entire day and not encounter a village.

  3. William O. B'Livion

    Their population density (mostly near highways) works, and makes for (mostly) walkable communities. (No,I don’t want to import it here. But it works for them.)

    We *have* it here. There are quite a few areas in Denver that (except for work) you can walk everywhere you need to. If you REALLY don’t want to own a car you can move to Chicago, NYC or San Fransisco. I suspect Portland and Seattle would work too. Yeah, they’re left sh!tholes, but so is most of Europe.

    • Yes, in the middle-sized and larger cities, you can usually find a place to live where you can walk to just about anywhere you need to go, for certain values of “need”. But outside those? You better buy some good hiking boots, and expect to make an expedition of it.

      • When we lived in Virginia Beach we lived within bicycling distance of anywhere we needed to go. Same when we lived in Great Mistakes, IL. In Ocean Beach, CA we lived within walking distance of any place we needed to go, except for work, which was bicycling distance.

        But that’s places we need to go, which is far far different from places we want to go. And doesn’t account for weather. When it’s -20°F without wind chill with snow/ice on the road bicycling distance is zero feet and walking distance is from the door to the car and vice versa. Common occurrence in Great Mistakes.

        Also, when we lived there we were much younger. At 63 the idea of bicycling 18 miles to work doesn’t appeal to me at all. In my 20’s didn’t faze me a bit.

        In NYC, probably moreso than other major cities, the public transportation system can take you anywhere in the city in a reasonable amount of time. That type and frequency of public transport isn’t feasible even in most cities. In Boston there’s a 5-8 hour gap between the last train at night and the first in the morning. The “A” Train in NYC every 20 minutes all night. The Staten Island Rapid Transit is probably the longest wait in NYC. Every 30 minutes at night. Which not so coincidentally coincides with the Staten Island Ferry service- every half hour all night. Living without a car in NYC is easy.

        Living without a car in Wayne County NY isn’t. Well, it’s easy for some. There’s lot’s of Amish in the area…. but for the rest of us, privately owned vehicles running on our own individual on demand schedules is the only way to go. And the people in NYC eat the produce that’s grown in Wayne County. Well, some of it. NYC eats very little food that’s grown there, and drinks water imported from the rest of the state. I could be a complete locovore (one of them newfangled words) if I wanted to be. But I’d have to give up things like bananas and oranges.

      • You’re forgetting college towns, where much of this foolishness begins.

      • I occasionally had to do without a car when I was working at an outside job where I was paid by someone else – a jaunt to my workplace was a mere twenty-five minutes by car, maybe half an hour at worst. By public transportation? Easily an hour+ on the bus, maybe two transfers AND a three-block walk at the start and beginning of my day. In the heat of a Texas summer, AND the opportunity to hang out at a minimum of one transfer point, meeting all kinds of … other interesting people. And no chance of picking up a quart of milk or some other necessity at the grocery store on the way home … plus the obligation to live life in obedience to the bus schedule.
        I’ve always thought that being able to live life according to your own desire, convenience and schedule is the difference between being rich and poor. Being poor means living at the convenience of others. Being middle-class at least, or rich, means you can live at your own damned convenience.

        • I’ve mentioned before that this was a common complaint of Soviet defectors during the Cold War. The idea that they could just walk out to their car and *go* – at any time, to any place – without a travel cartouche, or an internal passport, or having to account to someone for their movements – didn’t just blow their minds, it stressed them out.

          When they had the freedom to go where they wanted, they mostly withdrew and became hermits.

          Victor Belenko was almost unique in getting a car and driving across America. And is it coincidence the band in “Leningrad Cowboys Go America!” followed nearly the same route, down in the banjo-playing underbelly of flyoverland…?

        • One doesn’t have to live in a densely populated area to forget the trials of having to depend on public transport. I have to explain rather frequently to various medical staff, who are baffled with the way I’ve set up ‘house’ in order to stay with my daughter in hospital, that I’m a good 3-4+ hours of public transportation travel away from home. That’s why I have a suitcase, a rice cooker, and supplies of food and sugared drinks, and no, that’s also why I can’t just ‘nip out for 30 minutes’ and adhere to Daughter’s rather strict CPAP requirements by rushing back home when we get discharged…

          • Don’t they have Ronald McDonald Houses or a local equivalent? The place where parents or families stay over, next to the hospital?

            • There’s apparently a shiny new Ronald McDonald house across the park I can see from the room (Seriously, big kudos to the company for that particular thing). They’re mostly for the folks who come from much further away than I’ve come; especially the ones from the islands – there’s a lot of French speaking patients here- and the cancer kids parents. I’m told it’s pretty luxurious, not sure if they’re apartments or hotel room like. I can actually sleep in the same room as my baby (there’s a couch-bed thing, not the greatest thing but when you’re exhausted…) and I’ve set up ‘house’ around her cot (which, honestly, I fit in, just from eyeballing the size); and I’ve got some canned goods, a rice cooker and some rice, coffee, sugar, some cans of cola.

              There’s also a parent’s hostel and a bunch of little motel like places surrounding this hospital that cater almost exclusively to the parents that stay to be near their children.

              It’s just that for a while it was really hard for the staff to remember that while I could, in theory, commute back and forth daily (I did for a few days), I couldn’t stay to take care of the baby for more than 3 hours at best; and that a trip back home to resupply would eat up the day. It’s not a quick ‘oh I’ll just pop over and be back in an hour or two.’ A chunk of the travel time is waiting for connections.

              • It’s the wait between connections that makes public transportation untenable, more than anything else. *Particularly* since most non-trivial trips require at least one transfer.

                Whenever a transportation system decides to break up routes in favor of transfers, it drives me nuts. I remember, for example, when the local UTA (Utah Transportation Administration) decided to end bus routes to downtown Salt Lake, favoring buses that go to the newly-constructed Trax stations — the idea being that you could bus to Trax, then catch Trax to downtown.

                Never mind that not everyone using the bus system is going down town, and now some people have to use a bus to get to Trax, and Trax to get to the next bus, that then gets them to their location (after a bit of a walk)…

                I wouldn’t mind public transportation so much if it only added ten or fifteen minutes to a trip. For me, at least, it always seems to add an hour or two, one way….and at that point, I want to just burn the system to the ground and insist we should just use cars and taxis….

                • Re: taxis. Taxis in Utah (not counting Uber) seem to be available only for getting to the airport and back. Apparently there are so many regulations on the darn things that this is *all* they are practically good for.

                  The funny thing about systems like Uber and Lyft is that they get around the regulations that make plain taxis impractical. I have the suspicion that neither Uber nor Lyft would be viable if the regulations preventing taxis from being effective didn’t exist in the first place….

                • Lane County has “routes” for specific park ‘n ride stations, some of which may never reach downtown, some that do. Then there are specific park ‘n ride station buses who are “direct” to downtown. So, I can get on Route 52, & hit every stop between the house & downtown (about 45 minutes), or I can transfer to at the park ‘n ride to catch the direct route bus. Might save 20 minutes. Or I can just drive the car to the park ‘n ride & pick up the direct route. Direct routes don’t run all day (or didn’t, it has been over 30 years now), except the ones from downtown to the university or community college. Again, unless you have to deal with long term parking downtown (or any parking at the university or community college) it is not worth it.

                • I know, right? I’m kind of lucky since we don’t have to walk very, very far to get to a bus (the route of which meets a number of train stations) but trips that I was contemplating doing before via public transport, to seek out specialty shops I hesitate to do now with a pram, and even more so now with the daughter requiring a CPAP for all her sleeps, and NG tube feeds… *sigh*

                  I’ve noticed that the buses where I live tend to zig-zag into residential areas and back to a train line or major commute route. If I walked faster and were willing to risk my ankles and neck on the steep hike, there’s a train station physically not too far from where I live, but it’s actually less stress to go to the bus stop and wait, take the bus to the train station just further along the road…

                  That said, I tend to plan over an hour for just the bus ride to train, as a miss of bus means anywhere from 10 to 40 minutes wait.

                  I really wish I could drive.

        • Downtown: 6 mile drive or hour bus ride or two bus transfer from bus near house to “direct” at park ‘n ride. Or drive or walk 2 miles to park ‘n ride (although they are “suppose” to be moving it to a new location which would be a mile closer). Oh, yes, forgot the Bike option.

          Last job I worked wasn’t downtown, but logistics were the same. Tried the bike once … yea, no. I drove to work. What I found interesting was the person who did not own a car. Leased one when going out of town, otherwise relied on the bus system. Lived close enough that was only one bus, & maybe a block walk on either end. What interested me was how many times that person caged rides (out of the way for most of us), home after work, & lunch, regularly. You could “walk” to lunch, if you were willing to walk, pickup, then bring back to your desk to eat after you official lunch hour.

          My grandmother, same town, but lived clear across town, relied on the bus system. She went anywhere she wanted to. Her main market was just down the street from her home. Not a matter of not owning a car, she didn’t for obvious reasons – she didn’t know how to drive. After grandpa died (’59) her siblings & adult kids tried to teach her, didn’t go well from what I’ve heard, from all parties, including her. Definitely doable local. Something I don’t choose to do. Would get into shape to ride a bike, or equivalent, first. No, just no.

      • William O. B'Livion

        That is true of anywhere in the world.

    • Mr. B’Livion you can add Boston to that list (and some of its suburbs, Cambridge, Brookline, some parts of Newton and Watertown) of walk-able US regions. Of course to do it pleasantly you need at least a mid 6 figure income. Consider where my work is in the North End. Almost everything you’d want either in walking distance or hop on transit for $65 a month. Only real exception is a decent one stop grocery store. Green grocers, Salumerie (North End is Seriously Italian), bakers, Farmers Market in Season, but not a grocery store. Although if you have money many Grocers will deliver (saves having to tote multiple grocery bags. All of this within 10 Miles of the citycenter. Step out into the real suburbs and you better have a car. Get out into the true exurbs out west or north of Worcester and it may be a 30 minute drive to anything. And Massachusetts is dense compared to say Maine or New Hampshire, let alone Wyoming or the Dakotas.

      Room is not the problem, now or in the foreseeable future.

      • Part of the issue with the walkable areas of Denver is “also too expensive.” I’d put up with a lot for the chance to walk everywhere, with my eyes spending most of their time in “too wonky to drive” mode these days. But we cannah afford it.

        • William O. B'Livion

          That’s pretty much true of anywhere in the developed world–you have to make significant sacrifices to live in places like that.

          You see people in NYC living in 80 or 100 square foot apartments (700 a month for a 90 square foot apartment https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZSdrtEqcHU)

          In Chicago we just organized our life around the El.

        • I’ve been here for 17 years. I couldn’t afford to buy my house, today. Until KMart closed and I bought a gun (unrelated things), everything was in walking distance. Amazon makes up for KMart. The range and Sam’s Club are the only places I drive to. Range is far and walking TO Sam’s Club is easy, but back home? Not so much.

          Truck gets 12 miles per gallon. I fill it every other month.

      • Taking a hard look at what you just described and the reason against real grocery stores is obvious. No one can buy a carload of groceries when they’re on foot or using mass transit.
        Spent three months TDY in Washington D. C. Had a rental car that I used on weekends to explore the countryside and for the bi weekly trips to the super market, which were all by the way located out in the suburbs.

      • Part of the issue is that many cities, such as my present hometown, had long enforced zoning laws which forced people into the suburbs, laws banning residential living above downtown storefronts, for example.

        Yes, there were reasonable intentions* behind such regulation, but people complaining about “Urban Sprawl” and “Suburbia” rarely care to address those in their haste to denounce the land-greedy, culture-less, American suburban wasteland.

        *In my town the fact that the largest suburban developments (including shopping centers as well as homes) were developed by the members of the town’s wealthiest (and philanthropic) family should not be included in those reasons. That was just happy happenstance and an effort to ensure decent housing for those fleeing urban squalor and shut-up.

        • I have never fully understood why we should have zoning laws forcing people to live in places they don’t necessarily want to live, and closing off places that people might want to live.

          Yes, it’s awful to put a noisy, polluting factory in the middle of a residential neighborhood, but Common Law already had a reasonable tradition to prevent that: if a neighborhood is already established as a peaceful, clean place, you can’t come here and make it noisy! And there’s a similar principle for factories: you can’t just move in next door and demand everything to be quiet and clean.

          In either case, you knew what you were getting when you moved in!

          While I understand requirements for basic cleanliness, structural soundness (particularly in the face of earthquakes and hurricanes), and fire-resistanceness, once these conditions are met, who cares if you want to live next to (or in) a factory, or above a supermarket? *Particularly* if you want to live near where you work?

          It annoys me to no end that the same people who have done everything in their power to prevent people from doing this, are also the loudest lamenting that people don’t live near where they work and shop!

          • I wish to hell they wouldn’t let the idiots who move to communities close to the Interstate highways demand noise abatement. No idea how much tax money has been spent to build freakin’ walls to try to block some of the noise from the highway when the highway was there before the subdivisions were built.

            • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

              In the book “Airport”, one of the problems the Airport manager is dealing with are people living near the airport complaining about the noise.

              Part of his response was “We put up signs warning of the noise problem but the people trying to sell you homes there torn down the signs”.

              IE The Airport was there first but developers built homes near the Airport and didn’t want the home buyers to be aware of the noise problem.

              • I don’t know about that book, but in my county we had complaints when FedEx picked us for a site, contingent on our building a (long-planned) second (and we’ve since built a third) runway. They were upset that the airport expansion and FedEx’s running flights all night long would create too much of a noise problem.

                When originally built the airport was well outside of town, but urban sprawl and suburban development had crowded people nearer it and of the few who performed due diligence before buying shrugged because there had been no progress in its planned development in some forty years. Add to the fact that people who’d lived there for ten – twenty years did not think the expansion likely enough to caution prospective home-buyers … as well as developers certain the plans would never come to fruition and you’ve got a passel of lawsuits before the project gets fully approved.

                FedEx had picked the site sufficiently in advance that all of the various environmental and other suits were played out well before their site opened. “Unexpectedly” those “bad” low-wage jobs FedEx was criticized for bringing came with a significant number of well-paying jobs as makers of high-value, low-mass goods requiring rapid shipment (electronics & pharmaceuticals, for example) located plants and distribution centers nearby to take advantage of the FedEx center’s proximity.

              • *Suddenly imagines buyers rolling a spot check, and getting critical failures on spotting an airport*

              • I’ve heard of a realtor who’s done very well about drawing such homes to the attention of the deaf.

            • Agree. We have neighborhoods that are that way & they have funded the highway expansion including the noise abatement. The ironic part is the sections still with out these abatements are the neighborhoods that were already there when the highway went in!

              Then there are the neighborhoods that back up to the expressway. Complaints: Busy road (duh!), Railway switch yard (better now that it is not now a repair facility, but still 24/7), Alder Mill. All were there well before the neighborhoods went in. Heck we hear them on clear summer nights (not having central air so windows open) & we are almost 1/2 mile away. Heck mom can sometimes & she’s another 1/2 east of us; none of her windows open that direction, so you have to be out front to hear that noise.

    • European population densities are the reason that light rail mass transit works there, just as it does after a fashion here in metro areas with a similar density of residents. Such systems are often proposed in areas where the density simply does not support a sustainable return on the initial investment.

      • Based upon farebox recovery ratios, virtually no European light rail or rapid transit operations have sustainable return on initial investment, either, as nearly all have ratios below 100%. That means they’re taking in less in fares than operations. Even with things like ad revenue, retail space rentals at stations, etc. many still have to be subsidized. The situation in Asia is somewhat better, but even some of the Japanese transit operators are taking in less in fares than operations cost. OTOH, virtually all modes of transportation are subsidized in all countries, to one extent or another, directly or indirectly. Trying to untangle it all is NOT a trivial exercise.

      • The main reason mass transit “works” anywhere, even in high density places, is that these are places where tax payers are forced to subsidize those transit systems.
        A LONG time ago you could find private enterprise transit in Europe — Holland once had 5 or so private enterprise railways — but those times are close to a century in the past.

        • There was a time when private transportation worked in New York City, but the City required things of the company — never increasing fares being among the policies — that eventually caused the company to throw up their hands and let the City run it.

          Not quite immediately after, but eventually, the City started raising fares (among other things)….

    • US cities are *purposely* not walkable. It hasn’t anything to do with population density (or at least not much) and everything to do with zoning restrictions. That you can’t live where you work where you shop and where your kids go to school is enforced by government zoning mandates.

      • And the ridiculous thing about *that* is that the very people who forced these zoning restrictions on us, are the same ones lamenting that Americans created a country that is unwalkable — and they have the gall to blame American materialist culture and free-market capitalism for this!

    • Yeah, they’re left sh!tholes, but so is most of Europe.

      I rise for a point of order. Can anybody here identify a single polity which has been dominated by the Left for a quarter-century which has not become (or is fast approaching becoming) a sh!thole?

      Sure, some places in Scandinavia are often cited as examples but the fact of the matter is that those are (economically) far more free market than most of America.

      • I recently learned there are abandoned libraries in Detroit, with the books still there.

        I wanted to go rescue the books =(

        • You would probably find very little to read in an average American public library. They’re usually stocked with what tradpub marketers and extremely liberal library staff thought people *ought* to read. Most of it is only good for lighting fires or termite food.

        • I saw those photos!

          Seriously, enough to make you cry.

          Want to rescue the books, clean the rooms and set up a glorified boarding house. Renter has the room, there’s a hotel cheapo breakfast in a common area, a cold lunch and a hot dinner at given hours.

          Note: they’re actually illegal in most areas. For good reason, they WERE centers for crime…because they were mostly used by unmarried 20-40 year old males. AKA, “the guys who do most crime.”

  4. Take it as read that people like looking at the pretty animals and plants, and wealthy people — which humans now are, by and large compared to historical norm — put a priority on this. What priority is it? How important?

    Both Friedman and Sowell go into this. Political “solutions” are usually categorical. Once a political group says “we need X” it becomes an absolute with no upper limit and no concept of trade off. “We need clean air” is something that sounds good, but is it really worth what it costs to reduce something from ppm to ppb levels? However, in the real world there are no solutions, only tradeoffs. If we want clean air or “species diversity” or what have you, how much of other good things we want are we getting less of when we allocate scarce resources that have alternative uses to providing those things?

    • This ties in to one of my (many) pet peeves; the ‘If it saves one life’ nonsense. Since every dollar (or whatever monetary unit you want to use) is, at base, a fraction of a human life, there must necessarily come a,point where you are spending more lives than you save. And that point comes a damned sight sooner than the would-be world savers want to admit.

    • ““We need clean air” is something that sounds good, but is it really worth what it costs to reduce something from ppm to ppb levels?”

      Depends on toxicity. If it results in people living too short a lifespan to pass on knowledge to their children, or reduces human fertility levels too low, or increases birth defect rate too high, well, then the cost is necessary.

      Thing is, what you call open space, or wasted space, or just unused land isn’t waste. We need that extra space for required slack in the system. That empty space is like the quarter of a tank of air in your water tank in you home. It has to be there to allow expansion and contraction as water is added or removed from the tank. That slack in land area gives us room for a Murphy factor. It’s also part of the eco-system that both filters air and water, and provides us dilution when we do silly things like pollute the air to unbreathability like the 1952 London Smog or heck, even Bejing nowadays.

      I could argue that’s one of the reasons designing closed systems on board spacecraft are continually failing to achieve longterm stability. We still can’t build them and launch them big enough and cheaply enough to put enough in the ship to last. We can do short term, but we always require resupply, frequently; and we always lose material from the system either by leaks, unrecycleability, or just plain dropping waste out the hatch.

    • The other problem is that government bureaucracies do not ACTUALLY intend to fix the problem you might think they are supposed to fix. After all, if they succeeded they would no longer be needed, and would have to find real jobs.
      Pres. Johnson started a “war on poverty”. Many billions have been sunk into that bureaucracy, but there are no results to speak of. And there won’t be. Not just because bureaucrats cannot do this, but because they wouldn’t want to even if they could.
      Outfits like the EPA are somewhat similar. They might in fact have delivered some things, but that doesn’t mean they declare victory — it means that instead they look for new “problems” to work on.

  5. Patrick Martin

    Population pressure is, in large part, psychological. One of the problems with the modern world is that mass communications increases our sense of overpopulation. The TV changed our perception of the world because much of the story content revolved around urban settings and other more densely populated areas. Today population pressure is sitting in your hand with your friends, family and random strangers able to contact you 24/7 no matter where you are so long as you have cell-phone reception. I sit here in rural N.W. Montana 60 miles from the nearest Walmart and I have innumerable contacts with people all over the world, when my little (ok, maybe not so little) primate brain still thinks that if people can communicate with me they must be close, evolution always lags behind technology. Mass transportation doesn’t help either, given that highways and expressways generate populations along their routes which gives the impression of high population densities despite the fact that just a few miles beyond these routes might lie howling wilderness. Likewise I have been startled by how many people have never been beyond their own urban enclaves or had any experience with life outside their urban bubbles, like the people in California who called 911 after an earthquake because the sky looked so funny, they had never seen the stars without the streetlights blotting out much of the light. I believe that these things have much to do with the idea of overpopulation going from a few dimwits like Malthus to a much larger crowd in the modern world.

  6. I live in a major suburb of Detroit – Oakland county, and if you go up in a plane and look even these so called urban areas are often woods in the areas between the roads. There are enough woods the deer are a pestilence.

    • I seem to recall that during the period when Washington DC was being called ‘the murder capital’ (I was living in themarea at that time) there were more deaths from running into deer in the DC metropolitan area than murders.

  7. In 1983 Thomas Sowell proposed the “Earth’s entire population could fit in a single city the size of Texas” thought experiment to frame the population and poverty discussion, and ever since there have been econuts who have taken that as a goal – lock the humans up to let Mother Gaia recover from us.

    It does, however, bring up the point that the population density from Sowell’s thought experiment, applied to colonies on the Moon or Mars or in Lagrange habs, would enable a vast expansion of total human population.

    And the resources to support all those folks are out there too.

    Just one more argument to add to “don’t keep all your eggs in one basket” and “there comes a time when you have to climb out of the cradle” and “move industry out where pollution is a non-sequitur” for getting off this rock.

    • I think about habitrails for rodents and all the vertical space added and passageways and stuff when I think of Mars or space habitats.

      Oh, and also MMORPG maps.

      There are a lot of things that can be done to create an illusion of space and of more space than there actually is.

      The trick may be how to give people vistas while creating isolated pockets that feel private, or at least uncrowded. It’s the middle distances that cause problems.

      • Donald Stephens

        Having more than one ‘dome’ would go a long way towards creating a sense of privacy and space. Of course, some of these might be barrel vaults or other structures. Besides, redundancy has value too.

      • One trick from various housing developments is the “fake lake”, with parks and trees and winding roads.
        Rivers are also a nice feature to stick in somewhere.

    • Except you can’t fit the entire population of the planet in a single city the size of Texas. There’s a considerable portion of the population that would go homicidal under those conditions.

      Heck, I get stressed out living anywhere I can see the neighbors outside my windows.

    • And yet there are people who are opposed to the space movement because they don’t want to ‘spoil the ecology’ of Luna, Mars, etc., and get hives when they hear about colonizing, say, Mars because of ‘colonialism’.

      • If they were just satisfied to “well, I never” from home while the colonists colonized, that would be fine. The problem is they want to impose “they should never” from home.

  8. One can’t read science fiction — old or new — without taking away the idea that “there are just too many darn people.”

    It is amazing how common this is. It is vital to the plot of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and Farmer in the Sky which I didn’t think about until the past couple of years on the former.

    Yet Heinlein, to echo your distrust of the UN, wrote a long digression in Expanded Universe about how the Soviets were lying about the population of Moscow and how to arrive that belief in three different ways. While I haven’t seen a direct admission, Virginia’s method, counting relatives, marriages, and births of people she talked to, was born out by what we learned about life expediencies and choices in the old Soviet Union.

    As you guys know, I don’t think we’re 7 billion or whatever number the UN claims, and frankly I can’t understand why ANYONE believes the UN on this.

    I accept it as the best first order estimation we are going to get. For one thing, the two nations that make up roughly half of that reported number don’t have most of the reasons to lie you cite and they behave like they believe it, unlike Westerners on population and climate. In fact, China over acted to their great detriment, as they are now acknowledging.

    More importantly, I think the UN trend lines I think are trustable. Are we at 5 billion versus 7 billion? Maybe, but are we slowing the growth and reaching where under reasonable models we are less than half a century from a peak in population and maybe even a quarter century? Yes, that I will accept because it matches the behaviors we’ve seen in the west for the reasons we have. Yes, some cultures experience those forces to a lesser degree, but they still experience them (such as surviving children lowering birth counts).

    That said, overpopulation has killed at least one series, Allen Steele’s Coyote books, when in less three centuries humanity will have used up all the resources not just of the Earth, but the solar system. Also, it was very shoe-horned. A desire for breathing room and easier to recover resources was salable but humanity is doomed in the solar system due to population and resources in less time than we are removed from Columbus?

    Killed my interest and, I suspect based on things you have said about trad publishing, was not driven by Steele because it didn’t fit with the earlier books.

    • China has other reasons to lie. Read Mao Tse Tung poetry. Before the Islamic Womb there was the Chinese Womb. Yes, even while taking measures against that. Repeat after me: NEVER TRUST TOTALITARIANS.

    • Use Google Earth to look at Africa. Pick any random city. Look at the official listed population. Then look at the city. Look at the traffic, lack thereof. All the ships on the river carrying goods. All the rail lines. And, look around the rest of the country for evidence of organized agriculture- easy to find in the U.S. or Europe. And after you’re done analyzing all that, look at the official listed population again. And ask yourself- “Do I believe this?” The answer will likely be “No.”

      • Africa is irrelevant in the 7 billion figure.
        Checking Wikipedia (not the greatest source but it’ll get the idea across) the most populous nation on the continent is Nigeria at 182 million. That is about 2.5% of the supposed 7 billion.

        Africa as a whole is nominally 1.5 billion people, or roughly what is reported for India or China individually. Even a 50% inflation of numbers over reality means that drops to 1 billion.

        For that matter if every nation on the plant is over reporting by 50% that means 7 billion becomes 5 billion, which is the number I said as a low estimate. Above an average of 50% overstatement it’s going to be hard to sell and I don’t expect any first world nations are doing so.

        For that matter, I suspect much of Africa could think it is over reporting to pull an aid scam and actually be under reporting or dead on. I accept African numbers are tightly coupled to reality but not because I believe there is fraud, but because I believe even if they want to commit fraud they lack the ability to get a US quality census to create fraud from.

        That is possibly true in parts of Asia and South America, but I have less faith in that.

        The real question marks are India and China. Are they lying or not?

        • I’d bet you first world nations are doing so. At least if you call Europe first world. Hell, we’re doing so. We overestimate urban “uncounted” poor.

          India? Do you really think they have the APPARATUS to count? And yes, they’re net recipients of varying aid, still.
          China is still lying, same reason the soviet union was.

          • India might or might not have the apparatus.

            We overestimate urban poor, but probably underestimate rural poor for the same political reasons. I suspect we’ll see huge rural declines as people move to the cities under Trump’s destroyed economy in the 2020 election.

            I’ll question the distribution much more than the top line number. I’m happy to believe there is up to 50% overestimate in some parts of the world (and some of those up to a 50% underestimate).

            In the developed world I’d say an error (due to method or intent) of over 25% in the top line is hard to sell, but I’ll take 50% world wide due to where most of the estimates are from.

            That still puts us at 5 billion, which is the same order of magnitude as 7 billion and the same OoM as the UN’s 2050 projections, even the highest at 10 billion (or 7 billion assuming a 50% fraud overstatement). Even their worst case of 12 billion in 2100 is the same order of magnitude as even by my +50% fraud allowance.

            I guess that’s why I don’t worry about what the UN says too much. I don’t have Universe handy, but I don’t think Heinlein’s estimate of politically motivated inflation of Moscow was 50% over reality.

            Now, in terms of giving dollars it matters, but the solution there is to quit giving dollars, which is the same solution to people not improving their lives because of fish handouts.

            And I think I’m rambling somehow so I’m going to cut this one off now.

          • Since censuses are often tied to voting, there’s another incentive to lie about the number of people in one’s tribe and village- you get more ballots allocated during the election. That means you get to gin up more votes to put your guy into parliament, which means you can kick back more development money into your tribe.

          • Donald Stephens

            Oh, yes. I remember the calculated histrionics of the so-called ‘homeless advocates’ in the lead-up to the 1990 census. The Census Bureau even tried outreach to these flacks and got stunts in return (like dumping a front-end-loader’s bucket of sand on the Bureau’s steps to symbolize the homeless being as uncountable as grains of sand). They were proclaiming there were 50,000 street people in New York City alone, etc.

            The Census went ahead without the power-grubbers. I remember the New York City count: 600. Which is 600 tragedies, but nowhere near the propaganda. (There were also people in temp housing and shelters, but far less in total than that 50,000.)

            • > dumping a front-end-loader’s bucket of sand on the Bureau’s steps

              Why can’t *we* ever do something like this? It’s always either bluster* about how they had better not cross a line (then they go through the Ardennes), or Get Out The Vote! hype in hopes of eeking out a win against whatever blue cesspit is in that particular state.

              * yes I know it isn’t all bluster. Maybe even mostly isn’t bluster. But you’d be hard pressed to know the difference.

        • > US quality census

          The different department of the Fed don’t all agree with the official census, BTW. And given districting and representation, there’s considerable inventive for the states to lie about their populations, even ignoring the illegal imigrant elephant in the room.

      • Don’t expect the infrastructure of the third world to look too much like that of the first.
        Here in Papua New Guinea, most fresh produce is transported to market not in trucks or rail cars, but in Toyota HiAce vans. The major artery that supplies a good majority of the nation is only two lanes, and most of that is pothole.
        Even in “urban” or “suburban” areas, most people still live in huts made from bush materials, and get most of their food from small subsistence gardens.

        • The Man from Kilos 40

          The late Henry Olivier in his book Dam It, a memoir of buildings dams all over Africa and Asia, mentions that for his first dam in Africa, the Owens Falls dam, he budgeted a certain amount of food per African worker. This was in line with the amount of food they would eat normally, and was significantly less than the amount of food he needed to budget per European worker.

          He had to pull off a third of his African workers and set them to catching fish, so that the remaining workers could get enough to eat, so that they could do the job building the dam.

          For all dams he was involved in afterwards, he budgeted the same amount of food for all of his workers, irrespective of origin. And he never ran short again.

          The amount of food needed to keep people alive and sort of functioning in low level activities are significantly less than needed for people busy with hard labour.

  9. Well, our overlords here in Finland – and I assume also in the rest of Europe, which while more tightly packed to start with still does have forests and stuff – are trying to cram all of us into a few spots connected by the last properly maintained bits of railway and highways, and let everything else go to bush by making living in the actual countryside too darn expensive because gas tax and red tape and so on. So of course it FEELS as if there were more people all the time. Because there is. In the allowed spots.

    • Put everybody in a few buildings, have them dependent on goverment-controlled mass transit, and everything else. That sounds like a great recipe for tyranny ensuring the Welfare Of The People! ‘Sides, it leaves lots of open spaces for Those Better Than Us. (I saw that starting in California before we left in the early aughts. Not getting any better.)

      I’ll deal with deer and coyotes near the house. Let me breathe!

      • Notice that even the most woke of Leftist leadership owns large houses in desirable areas with lots of grounds around them?

      • Cabrini-Green. Pruitt-Igoe. Robert Taylor Homes.

        Prestigious addresses, one and all.

        • I’d love to see HRC, BHO, San Fran Nan, and others forced live in randomly selected Section 8 housing projects. With the same amount of protection that the normal residents get.

      • Ah, the John Christopher story where I got the phrase “so sharp you’ll cut yourself.”

        Hang on: It’s The Guardians
        https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/114403.The_Guardians

      • Read an article where it was taking 30 or more months to replace a home destroyed in any CA wildfire, because of all the environmental assessment reports/reviews/sign-offs. A good portion are taking their money, selling what’s left of the lot & skedaddling. The “blame” is being put on CA Prop-13. If the home is rebuilt by the owners who lost the home in the fire, property taxes remain the same. But if the lot is sold, even at discounted prices to environmentalists or more likely speculator developers looking to get as many lots as possible, then Prop-13 property taxes get a reset as if new lot, & new house (if one gets built). Granted if goes into green space under environmental then the county has lost revenue. The bet is only a few neighborhoods get rebuilt, but under new ownerships, so that property taxes from those out weigh the lost revenue of the rest. Either way the lower, middle, & even what most of us would consider “rich”, families are being priced out of homes, in areas where they lived before. Of coarse everyone involved with the rebuilding process is denying all this. The only thing they can’t deny are the lots being sold & original owners not rebuilding; down play the frequency, but can’t deny it.

        • And that means we’ve got a new wave of Califonificators heading out to virgin territories, who will then vote themselves the exact same foolishness that led to them needing to flee in the first place.
          The wall needs to be built on the Cali border.

          • Oregon has something similar to Prop-13. Key word is “similar”. Selling an existing home, does not reset the property basis. Adding to a home, the new section will be priced higher, but not the entire property. 100% rebuilding due to fire or “just because”, resets as if a new home build. Property it sets on stays prior value, but the building is new. Plus, at least for us, we’d suddenly become a city* lot. We are in what is called the “city urban growth boundary”.

            *That happens we automatically triple our taxes, without revaluation to “market value”.

          • ehh, a lot of them were imports anyway

        • I’ve heard it will take to some time in spring to clear the debris and deal with the various hazmat horrors. BIL’s mother lost everything in that fire; she’s trying to figure out if she can afford to buy a place near some of the family. (Tough; the current housing bubble is pricing her out.)

          IMHO, the rebuild situation in Paradise will be exacerbated by the fact that it was largely a retirement community. (Has been for years.) In addition, with so many businesses destroyed, it’s going to be pretty much starting from scratch. It’s not going to need much foot dragging for people to say fuggetaboudit. How much enthusiasm can one expect an 80 year old widow to rebuild in place?

          Even without the incompetence/malice/bureaucratic crap, I don’t think Paradise V2.0 will bear much resemblance to the original. (Chicoer dot com has aerial photos of the mess. Lots to do to get close to rebuilding.)

          • To add to the complications, this year the contractor shortage in southern Oregon was acute. It took 7 months for a contractor to get to me to do a 2 day job. He’s been waiting the same for plumbing and septic people for his own rebuilding project. No reason to think it’s any better in California.

            I suspect the 30 month timing is optimistic right now.

          • I don’t know about Cali laws, but for Washington laws– “rebuild” by putting up a prefab-shed of some sort.

            Then sell it.

            That means that folsk aren’t BUILDING on the land, they are REMODELING.

            Much cheaper.

            • San Jose used to have a “one corner” rule. If that corner were left intact, it was a remodel. The houses I’ve seen, a few might have enough. Lots of them, just a badly damaged foundation.

              • most CA houses are build on concrete slabs, not foundations.

                • Depends on the area. Bay area houses frequently were foundation, though the townhouse where I lived was (probably) slab. Soils, at least in San Jose, were pretty expansive, and you ran into a bit less trouble with foundations. Infrastructure is a bit easier when there’s an “infra” to the structure, too. Basements aren’t that common, but there were a few with them; mostly houses built in the 1920s.

                  (Notable exception to foundations were the Eichler houses. Alas, these tended to use radiant heat, and the heating pipes tended to develop leaks.)

                  Some of the houses (intact and otherwise) at the Camp Fire also use foundations.

            • FWIW, for my BIL’s mother, if she does nothing, she gets 50% payout. If she rebuilds OR buys another house, she gets 100%. Apparently, the city will handle demolition and removal (take that with a dumptruck load of salt, and I don’t know fees–not my circus), but she’d be free to sell the land with or without a house.

  10. No, we do have an overpopulation problem. There are too many Leftists.

    I’ll add that both Americans and Europeans have a warped view of each other. Americans think of Europe as being mega-cities like London or Paris, while to most Europeans, the USA consists of official Washington, Manhattan, Hollywood, and the Orlando theme parks. Get outside those bubbles, and the place (Europe or the USA) is very different.

    • Heh. When I visited three years ago and drove all over rather big parts of the place – from San Fransisco to Los Angeles to Denver to Las Vegas and back, and then from Cincinnati to Chattanooga to Chicago – yes, quite a lot of those stretches when all you could see from the car looked totally unpopulated (unless you counted the highway you were on). More of that on the west though, even California which seems to have a rather high population – hey, deserts, seems most humans are in the cities there – than between Cincinnati, Chattanooga and Chicago.

      And while I am used to long distance driving because Finland is one of the bigger countries in Europe when it comes to square kilometers, close to half the size of Texas, just a bit smaller than Montana, the distances were still quite impressive. Especially when you think how much I DIDN’T see.

      • There’s a reason the American West is sometimes referred to as “miles and miles of miles and miles”.

        I’ve ridden in the car (was too young to drive) from Cincinnati to LA and back twice. It’s definitely an experience.

        • Try the Alaska Highway, Cassiar Highway, or Dalton Highway. They make the highways in the western Lower 48 look like Singapore by comparison.

          Not to mention the extremely large sections of Canada and Alaska where there simply aren’t any roads at all.

          • Lots of empty space along I-90 between the Mississippi and the Cascades. Problem is, a lot of that space is too arid to grow much of anything useful to humans. Often too cold, or too hot. And damn sure isn’t walking distance to anything. And things don’t get any better going south to I-80, I-70, or I-10.

          • Even in populous states, there are vacant stretches. I’ve driven from Bishop CA to Hawthorne NV without seeing a single other vehicle. For the entire length of CA167/NV359, I’d usually have the road to myself. But one night there was a massive traffic jam… a bicycle, a pickup truck, and an 18 wheeler. 😉

        • My state has a lower population than a small city (only about 600k). We like it that way, though it does mean one has to drive at least an hour to get anywhere, including decent grocery shopping…

        • Then there’s driving across the various middle states such as Kansas, Illinois, Indiana, ect, where there’s noting but miles and mile of cornfields.

          • To a smaller extent, the same thing happens going from Cincinnati to Columbus. The first time I drove that stretch, this boy from the hills of Kentucky looked at all that flatness and boggled, even though I knew it was just a small sample of what was to the west.

        • Yeah. I’ve done enough trips from Cincinnati to points on or west of the Continental Divide to see just that. Out west, you can go miles in the plains between minor towns, and hundreds of miles in the mountains and deserts. Staring out across the seemingly-endless plains and not glimpsing any signs of civilization other than the road you’re on and the distant sight of the next town’s grain silo can be humbling. Gazing from atop a mountain out over a vast stretch of sparsely-populated plains is gives a similar feel – and a far more spectacular view.

        • It’s not quite this, but close. Yes, there are more trees than that.

          And this is just Iowa.

          • My folks lived in Iowa for about 15 years (Ames; Iowa State), and one of the bits of local lore they passed on to me was the political cycle of making sure all the major highways ran east-west or north-south. It seems that every four to eight years some energetic Johnny out of Washington would arrive in Des Moines all hot under the collar to drive some diagonal highway across the state. And the farmers, from all over (not just the ones in his way) would turn up at the Statehouse to explain that, not only “no” but “Hell No!”, with an undertext of “we came without guns….this time”. And the idea would die for another four to eight years.

            • Highway 218 and I-380 do seem somewhat exceptional – and while I quite understand the desire to keep to a proper grid, I’ve made use of those enough that I am grateful for that peculiar exception. Anyone wondering about I-380 and why it stops where it does should should consider the Collin Radio company – and what it took (takes?) to keep a Collins out of enemy hands.

    • I have a brother-in-law who is an Engineer from Berlin, Germany. He came to visit his sister (my brother’s wife) in Utah some years back. They drove him across Nevada to see Northern California and Oregon. I heard that as they drove for hours…and hours… across the Great American West, he couldn’t wrap his head around the fact that yes, nobody lived in many of the places he saw. He also was under the impression that Americans had cut all their trees down. He had no idea that our forests were still so broad, and that our trees were so tall (and that, yes, nobody lived there!), unlike what he knew from Europe.

      And looking at Korea, many Americans don’t get outside the bubble of Seoul (25 million people). It’s easy to do — public transit works really well in a country the size of Indiana. Get outside the large cities and the satellite cities and there are places that are reminiscent of rural America, isolated and separated by mountains.

      • Mountains in South Korea aren’t all that tall, but they certainly are steep. I was stationed at Kunsan about halfway down the west coast. Countryside reminded me of the farm lands in Europe; clusters of small hamlets surrounded by fields.

    • To be fair, most Americans don’t really grok just how Uuuuge Australia is as well. I once planned to rent a car in Cairns to make a quick drive down to Brisbane, and was dissuaded by my Aussie friends. It would have taken a couple of days.

      • It might be easier if we were told “Australia is basically the same size as the continental US”, or saw a map like this one:

        • If they turned the Australia continent over, they’d show a better weather relationship as well.

        • Please do not superimpose Australia over the US again .
          Spiders, snakes, and salties will get transferred over, and The World As We Know It will cease to exist. I just found a poisonous duckbill platypus in my sock drawer.
          Thank you.

          • Shoot, Australia’s critters aren’t any more deadly or numerous than Florida. Not only does Florida have similar deadly snakes, water reptiles, and spiders, but they also have the bears, panthers, giant pythons, Florida Man, and other deadly wildlife that Australia lacks.
            And yet most of the USA still wants to vacation or retire there. Go figure.

            • Because some of the Florida women look good in bikinis?

              • I had a conversation with an acquaintance once about the total disconnect from reality that was (is?) the TV show “Miami Vice.” He said something like “The beaches only look like that during the two week College Bird mating cycle. The rest of the time, it’s people that just prove the evilness of the man that invented Speedos.”

            • The critters are of but minor concern. Florida Man, however…. look, MY kind doesn’t mess with him. Powerful and tough is one thing. That’s a worthy foe or a great ally. But full-on crazy? Might as well be juggling nitroglycerin snowglobes. It just ain’t a good idea.

              • I think Florida Man tried juggling nitroglycerin snowglobes once… while riding a motorcycle over 130mph the wrong way up I-75.

    • …the USA consists of official Washington, Manhattan, Hollywood, and the Orlando theme parks. Get outside those bubbles, and the place (Europe or the USA) is very different.

      I still smile when I remember a conversation I got to observe, flying in to SeaTac from Japan.

      Roughly:
      Cute girl: “Whoe whoe whoe, why is the plane going down? There’s nothing but trees as far as I can see!”
      Calm, self-assured guy: “We’re landing.”
      CG: “But I thought the airport was in Seattle, a big city! Space Needle and stuff.”
      CSG: “It is. We can ride the rail right into down town Seattle.”
      CG: “But I CAN’T SEE ANYTHING BUT TREES!
      CSG: “No, look, there’s a road over there. And some houses under the trees.”
      CG: “This is a city!?!?”

    • There’s even a lot of space in these “dense” urban areas. My commute (Santa Rosa to SF) takes me through enough park land and “green space” that even mid-size (three to four story) apartments would probably cut my commute distance and Bay Area rents in half.

      I don’t think we have an overpopulation problem…we have a problem where more people want to live in one place than the place can hold, and it becomes a seller’s market to sell that space, which drives up costs for everything else. It’s cheap as (YAY!) to live in Minnesota. But, unless you have a particular fondness for Minnesota, why would you live there? And, the secondary issues, which is something that my Dad’s friends have been finding out about. You live in the middle of (YAY!) all anywhere and it’s an hour away from the nearest town that’s more than a wide spot in the road? Awesome when you’re in your 30’s or 40’s, but 50’s? 60’s? 70’s? And when specialized care that you need is a three, four hour drive away? An ambulance call has slightly better odds than a few rounds of Russian Roulette with two of the six chambers loaded?

      And, what happens when you have to move back, closer to an area where you can live without a car for the most part and selling your property won’t get you enough money to live anywhere reasonably decent?

      • As I do happen to live in Minnesota at the moment, it was the job (previous, anyway) that brought me here. I do recall one fellow looking out the window one cold (-er than normal, yes for MN..) Winter day and complaining, “That damn fertile dirt! If stuff didn’t grow here nobody would’ve bothered with this place!”

        • You really have to wonder what the Somalis thought during their first winter in Minneapolis.

          • We have them in Finland. Cold, and DARK too.

            And during the summer – I think they have some sort of deal for the Ramadan when it happens during the summer. Otherwise they’d have to fast the whole month at some parts of the year, especially if they moved further north. However right now that months seems to be moving towards the winter months. Will be easy in midwinter, further north the fasting period would be just a few hours if that. Unless there are some special rules for that too now.

          • Winter? Try fall. Co-worker from India was talking about how cold it was when I was still wearing sandals.

            After a cold snap where it went sub zero more than once, he was talking about how it had warmed up when the highs were lower than the lows of the days he had complained of before.

        • And, your population is only about the same population as the SF Bay Area. As much as I hate the crowding and the NPCs and the idiots here, just that much distance between people would drive me mad.

          • The distribution is not uniform. I live in a “small” town of about 11,000 while $SISTAUR lives in the Twin Cities. As for size and population density… I’ve visited NYC and while can visit there, I expect it would be less than a week that I would get a full GET-ME-OUTTA-HERE! reaction to it.

  11. This reminds me of an idea I toyed with for an SF dystopia. The Great Plague wiped out 90% of the population. 95% in the Third World.

    Except when you run the numbers, you realize the population of the USA is still over 30 million – the population of the 1860s. So we’re not talking Mad Max here, but a working nation. Although the social, cultural, and emotional issues for the first 20 years afterward would be…interesting.

    • Yes, we are 1860, but with 2010 infrastructure.

      A 50% die off in the US would have terrible consequences depending on distribution of death.

      If nothing else, efforts to stop a plague at that level would risk famine, among other things, because of the food distribution network of the present US. The 1860s US had lots of farm labor and a lot less farm tech that was at the end of a complex supply chain. We couldn’t magically feed ourselves on that population unless it was distributed perfectly.

      Now apply that to everything.

      You can still write one hell of a disaster novel and possibly a dystopia arising from it, on that premise.

      • What I had in mind were the issues of piecework families. Men, women, children who had lost every relative patching together something. Plus the salvage business.

        OTOH, I prefer happy futures. Heinlein was right, there’s enough misery in this world.

        • “The Last Centurion.” Obviously, don’t let that stop you from writing it. If everyone had to come up with something completely new for every book, we’d maybe have one or two published in a year – and those would most likely be lousy reads.

      • The 1860s US had lots of farm labor and a lot less farm tech that was at the end of a complex supply chain. We couldn’t magically feed ourselves on that population unless it was distributed perfectly.

        *hand wiggles*

        Depends on a lot– part of what our complex supply chain does is let us get a lot out of land that just isn’t that great; if there were enough folks around with enough knowledge to manage to limp through fuel, pesticide, seed and fertilizer bottlenecks, a lot of other imperfections of death distribution could be bypassed, and the stored supplies could cover that if people die quickly enough, or folks could panic and work their rumps off to MAKE stockpiles. It’s the middle ground that would be nasty.

        • It is possible. That is why I said the distribution of dead and living, both geographically and in terms of skills, was important. As a writer, you can design it to match your needs.

          In the real world our “betters” would probably try to prioritize their highly credentialled over “easily replaced and low skilled” farmers and truckers then wonder why the store shelves had no bread.

          • It’s more likely the plague would hit the high density population areas hardest and firstest. Those surviving wouldn’t have enough potential force to force the farmers and truckers to do much of anything before they just plain starved to death.

            • Truckers are highly mobile and a key part of what keeps urban areas functioning by driving to them.

              What portion of the over-the-road trucking population will be infected before we realize Atlanta or New York or LA is a hot spot. How many truck stops will they have spread it to.

              Farmers might be safer, but I’m hard pressed to not see early and high casualties among truckers and those in supporting jobs.

              Look at models of how STDs spread via truck stop prostitutes/cruisers and then replace sex with sneezing. It isn’t encouraging.

              • Note, hardest and firstest, not that the rural areas would totally avoid it altogether.
                However, Bob Commuter on the subway gets far more exposure to potential pathogens, as he’s face to face with far more people for far longer than Jim Trucker getting a bite to eat on his way west.
                Not to say that it’s impossible, but his exposure is far less.

                • Yeah, it’s another trade off thing. Bob Commuter meets more people and has more exposure time, but the geographical spread of his contacts is lower.

                  Mike Milkrun who does Hartford to Newark twice a day and is home by five gets less exposure but more spread. He might be in the worst position personally with broad area but still high contact times.

                  Joe Overtheroad has a lot less exposure, but if he does get infected he has a shot at everyone from NYC to St. Louis.

                  Also known as, I’m glad I do financial market models and not epidemiology.

                  • I’ve not looked into the whole epidemiological spread of disease thing, nor am I any kind of expert, but I do know the commuter world out here, so just thinking off the cuff:

                    Where that commute is happening matters – Sally Semiconductor out here spends her 100-minute-each-way solo commute sitting in her car inching along in heavy traffic. The same time span of commuting by Bob Commuter heading in to his NYC/Boston/DC job on the train basically exposes Bob for hours daily a large and varying vector pool, while Sally only gets exposed to the smaller pool of her coworkers in her cubical and out at lunch or in the supermarket after work.

                    The only cross-vectors for Sally and her coworkers would be via kids not homeschooled. As everyone knows, kids are germ megafactories, with the schoolroom being the viral shop floor.

                    So If Sally has somehow not yet found Mr. or Ms. Right with whom to cohabit and impute offspring, her relatively limited work pool and any socialization pool would constitute the majority of Sally’s exposure, which has to make a difference in the rate of infection in a major endemic/epidemic scenario.

                    And once the news hits, I happen to know Sally (who is a smart cookie) would wisely choose to work from home.

              • a good chunk of OTR drivers will never enter CA, and if they do, avoid L.A.. Wouldnt be surprised if they avoid NYC too (specifically, Crete drivers i know)

          • Mostly got to thinking about how perishable farming/ranching knowledge is, then realized this would mean basically one in ten farmers/ranchers dead, which would HORRIFICALLY SUCK but could be recovered from mostly via focusing on better farmland. With a really nasty learning curve.

            • This might be a place where the third world does better.

              I was typing some reasons then I remembered one thing: Zimbabwe went from the breadbasket of sub-Saharan Africa to needing food aid in less than a decade.

              Why, a highly targeted plague which wiped out those with farm management knowledge while leaving the urban populations and much of the farm worker population intact.

              Yes, it was a man made plague, but still, it shows how important that knowledge is and how fragile. A bacterial/viral plague would not be so selective and would release a lot of the urban population pressure, but would that be enough.

              I’d rather not find out.

              • You and me both on that.

                *********

                Complexity:
                Compared to Africa, we don’t have farm-workers.

                There are some folks who are just muscle, yes, but it’s maybe a third of the full-time force. (I’m probably estimating a bit high to try to compensate for stuff like “harvesting strawberries” that I don’t know about.)

                Even the apple-pickers have to know about things like the weather required, and HAVE to be more than muscle, to do their jobs.
                (That’s part of why the yearly “college kids try to be pickers and are horrible at it” puff pieces are so annoying– of course someone who doesn’t know a dang thing and nobody tells them there’s anything to know does badly.)

                We’ve already been winnowed down, by manual workers not being an option that can compete with at least half-trained workers on machines.

                • The USSR’s agricultural planners regularly turned out urban populations to “bring in the harvest!” and sing kumbayah. Most of them didn’t want to be out of the city, didn’t know what they were doing, and wound up destroying as much as they picked.

                  Which was why the Soviet Union bought kept having to buy food from the USA. Other than the times we were feeding them for free…

          • Story I started then back-burnered (other higher priority projects took precedence) where I took one of the deadlier versions of bird flu and made it human to human transmissible and really contagious, creating a really nasty pandemic. Only I realized that at a certain point I realized that the fatality rate will go up because you won’t have enough well left to care for the sick. Then infrastructure goes down–power and water. There are no fuel deliveries so road transportation grinds to a halt. Desperate people turn to violence and…

            It’s not an unrecoverable disaster–that was part of the point of the story–but it gets really bad–as in “not enough left to bury the dead” bad–remarkably quickly.

      • A 50% die off in the US would cause far more deaths then that in the rest of the would just due to us very quickly not being able to grow and ship out as much food as we do.

      • Thing is when does the die off happen? Winter? Well survivors have a whole couple seasons to get things together. What about summer? Just as the survivors get over the nasty dead stuff, winter hits. That 90-95% just got larger. North American supply chain collapse would destroy everything pretty quick.

      • 1860 still had mostly horse and buggy transportation. The long distance food supply chain wasn’t anywhere near what it is today.

  12. Even Florida, the favored destination of tourist & retirees, has some seriously underpopulated areas, and that includes desirable bits on the ocean & lakes.
    And note that this is after almost a century of developers doing their darnedest to subdivide and sell every possible inch of the state.

  13. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    On “bad futures which didn’t happen”, since the late 1970’s (when I first remembered hearing of them), I heard of dozens of “the coming disaster”.

    From economic collapses (several), from the “coming ice age”, from the “population explosion”, from the massively polluted future, and so forth.

    I’ve heard almost every sort of “bad future” and yet they haven’t happened.

    So yes, not only do I not believe in Harrison’s “Make Room Make Room” future (his 1999 never happened), I don’t believe in the “coming climate disaster”.

    • Sometimes, genuine disaster is honestly on the way. People would look at signs in nature, and prepare ahead.
      But, humans being humans, we figured out long ago that one can get plenty wampum if you foretell fake disasters, while just happening to have the solution right here.

      • Is like how I have this annoyance with those who go, “Oh, the Y2K thing? That was such a non-event. Why all the panic about it? Feh.” Well, there reason it was a non-event was because a helluvalotta folks put in some serious effort to make it be a non-event. And at least one of the fixes bothers me, and I expect that in 2049 there will be some serious concern about patching it all back.. and pushing the problem to 2099. Oh, you think such ancient code will be long gone? Yeah, some folks ‘back when’ figure that by 1999 nothing so ancient would be running.

        And then there’s 2037 or 2038. Sometimes I consider that maybe I need to get a wind-up clock and get familiar with the slide rule again. Just in case, mind. Just in case. And yes, I do have a few candles and matches, even though I have a good many LED lights of sorts and USB output Li-ion batteries. I don’t expect to have to ‘go all the way back’ for any length of time, but if I have to ‘go all the way back’ I can manage for a bit – as things get cobbled together to pull things back into the 19th, then 20th centuries – assuming things have truly gone to hell. And then I wonder about places that we hope to pull into the 19th century before the 22nd begins – sure, they have some 21st century trappings. But pre-vacuum tube minds in a microcircuit world and all that. Excuse me, I think I might need an ‘807’.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        Ah yes. I remember it but forgot to “write it down”.

      • Acid rain WAS a problem (probably not as bad as it was made out to be), but we fixed that problem and went on with our lives.

        • That is what tends to happen. When we notice problems we solve them. That is why many of the bad futures never happened.

        • A large part of the “acid rain” problem–leading to acidification of streams and lakes–wasn’t pollution, as they told us, but fighting forest fires. The runoff from a forest is generally slightly acidic. That from a burned area, however, is alkaline (after all, running water through wood ash is the traditional method of making lye). Fewer burns. Less alkaline runoff to counter the acidic. More acidic streams and lakes.

          • Not even that. Turns out the healthy forests themselves are sulphur dioxide emitters, and that downwash from evergreen forests is normally acidic.

            • downwash from evergreen forests is normally acidic

              That’s what I said. Okay, I just said forest rather than “evergreen forest”. The thing is, when you have the occasional burn, the _ash_ makes the runoff alkali. We got aggressive about fighting fires so there was less than the “natural” level. That put less alkali in the runoff. And that caused a net shift in the acidic direction. Waters were getting more acid than previously, that much was true, but a big chunk of the cause was the lack of burned vegetation to put alkali into it to counter the entirely natural acids.

              • What I’ve read about had nothing to do with fires — this was from live forests. IIRC the study was done in upstate New York… someone thought to look upwind of the supposed source of the acid rain, and lo and behold, it wasn’t the factories.

                • Yes, forests are a significant source of the “acid”. That would appear to be as far as what you read went. I’m not disputing that, merely pointing out that it’s incomplete. Since the rivers and lakes were getting a bit more acidic than they had been previously the reason for the change was a reduction in alkali runoff–i.e. runoff that had filtered through ash, just like great grandma used to do to make lye which is a strong alkali indeed.

            • Feh, you and Ronald Reagan.


              Sorry – couldn’t find the clip on youtube.

            • Biochemistry is NOT just Embden-Meyerhof and the Pentose Phosphate Shunt and oxidative phosphorylation. (Ox not fully understand all, or perhaps any of it, but slow not mean never get there. Take time. Might not have quite enough. Have you thanked a biochemist today?)

    • The only coming disaster I give any serious credence is a large scale pandemic. We are roughly due based on historical periods between them. The question is do modern factors that hamper the spread outweigh the ones that speed it.

      I don’t know, but being able to work from home and not have to leave for food while being able to fend off people whose infection status I don’t know is my second biggest disaster prep scenario. Significant shutdown of Atlanta Metro due to a snow/ice storm or hurricane staying strong coming inland is first, because I have experienced forms of those already.

      All the rest? Be prepared for my two and you’ve bought yourself time to think instead of just running around setting yourself on fire for the others.

      • Any biology student can create a plague in a highschool lab for about 10k. So, yeah. It’s coming.

        • I’m more inclined to think it’ll be by accident than by intent.

          Creating the perfect bioterror pathogen deliberately — something easily transmissible by air or contact, with a sufficiently long asymptomatic period to permit rapid spreading but a sufficiently quick mortality cycle to make treatment as difficult as possible, while being as dissimilar as possible from existing pathogens to maximize the development time of any counter-agent, and ideally no ability to survive outside a human host so that plague zones become immediately safe and recoverable once every victim is dead — strikes me as one of those things that would simply take too long to develop to interest anyone who’d want to use it immediately (especially if, in the interest of said plague not spreading back to your country, you want to develop your own vaccine or cure for it first). IEDs are quicker, simpler, cheaper, and more easily controllable, and less likely to cause collateral blowback if someone screws up. Plus, the number of people you’d have to kill as part of your testing process would be hard to hide.

          A fluke mutation in the common cold rhinovirus that turns it into Cap’n Trips without anyone intending or planning it, on the other hand, and then escaping confinement because nobody quite realized what they had on their hands until it was too late, I find a lot more plausible. (And scary.)

          • Hon… I WISH it would take too long. Just.. don’t hang out with bio researchers if you value your sleep at night…
            The words “half trained grad student” and “I can design three in a couple of weeks” will be uttered.

            JUST be glad our enemies like big and showy explosions and don’t trust Allah to protect them from the blow back of whatever they infect us with. JUST trust me on this.

            • If you try to fit ALL the points he made, that would be very difficult. On the other hand, a pissed off grad student could do something pretty horrible if he wasn’t too concerned about surviving the process.

            • Herbert’s “The White Plague” comes to mind.

            • In fact, ideally such a plague would be both multiple pathogens (preferably unrelated) and with variable impact. Basically make it so you don’t know what you’re treating until the lab report comes back. Overwhelm the med facilities while leaving some people walking around contagious but asymptomatic. Minor pathogens can act as gateway disease for lethal pathogens (we used to see this a lot in dogs, where first they’d get corona, then parvo). Toss a few of the historical nuisances into the water supply. And so on. No need for a tidy scenario featuring one perfectly-engineered virus; you can create a lot more chaos with a dozen haphazard varieties, especially if they’re unstable and subject to rapid mutation. All that’s truly necessary is a lack of broadly-distributed pre-existing immunity.

              • yes on the gateway pathogens. I used something similar in Darkship Revenge, and asked a friend who is a full time bio researcher if it would be possible in the future. HIm “It’s possible NOW.”

            • I don’t distrust you or the bio researchers, but at least one paper on the topic has a rather more cautious take: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4139924/

              I firmly believe in keeping threats in mind but I also firmly believe that the Law of Unexpected Consequences (which includes the lesser-known Law of Unexpected Obstacles, Delays and Reversals) applies to dangers as well as promises.

              • The problem with that is the NIH, and the government in general, have a built in bias to minimize the perception of risk. Partly because they want to discourage any nefarious types reading it from pursuing that course; partly because they don’t want to communicate to the public just how powerless they really are to defend them.

                You’re going to get a closer approximation of the truth from the non-government bio-researchers.

          • I’m more inclined to think it’ll be by accident than by intent.

            I think it’ll happen by mother nature.

            Despite the claims of environmentalists she kills off whole species and summons up events to rearrange others in a few generations at a rate that make human hunting and habit remodeling look like a spring rain.

            I’m not saying it won’t be intent or accident by humans, just I suspect a real hard core die off will be nature inspired. She might start with a human created pathogen, but I have faith she’ll have her own twists on it. Call it, “I will gladly mutate by Tuesday any virus you create for me today,” plagues.

            • I had an environmental history prof who swore that Africa would do humanity in with some disease. Not certain if the continent was supposed to have a grudge, or because humans have been there so long that the pathogens got really good at going after us. The comment was an aside in a larger discussion about something else.

              • Strikes me as likely that any disease evolved to prosper in the African environment would by definition not be suited to survive in the northern halves of Europe or North America, which is still where the lion’s share of the world’s money, information and technology is.

          • I recall in the weeks/months following 9/11 there was some Serious Concern and even some Actual Research on this issue. The results of one study were scary (perhaps to get more funding, but.. still). If a determined knowledgeable wanted to go into production of Something Nasty, it was figured it would take under $30,000 (less many cars nowadays) and a few weeks. Now, that’s not to get the Ideal Bioweapon, but you don’t NEED that. Even a really lousy one will cause enough panic and worry to be far too effective as far the the ‘target’ population is concerned. Heck, ponder the USA just had a minor bit of panic over (romaine) lettuce. Killer Lettuce! (We were only ready for tomatoes, evidently….) And that was likely simply unintended minor (cross?)contamination. Even a pretty lousy “we meant to do that” event will be more effective than that.

      • I’ve been reading about the Congolian cluster-copulation with respect to Ebola in a badly war-torn area. Current guesses is that it will become endemic to some areas, with occasional outbreaks like Dallas had. Not a good situation.

        • At least America hasn’t signed on to the UN suicide pact

          • We may not need to sign on.

            That’s my part about will the modern things that help the spread overwhelm those that hamper. Ease of travel, which Africa has a lot more than advanced public health quarantine techniques, could get enough carriers in motion to make entry stopages a question of closing the door after the horse got out (came in?).

            Also, just because we haven’t signed on doesn’t mean do gooder fools wouldn’t smuggle refugees who “weren’t sick I picked them up” into the country to virtue signal. At least they’d probably kill themselves and their kids as punishment for their stupidity, but the rest of us would suffer just the same.

          • However, our idiot neighbor to the north is all too eager… I used to think having a controlled US/Canada border was downright insulting (when I was a kid it was smile and wave at the token guard, assuming they were on duty). Now… starting to look like a very good idea indeed.

            • Hey — I didn’t vote for our current figurehead PM or his party’s policies. And we’re almost certainly going to be getting rid of him next year, well before you guys got rid of your idiot progressive Chief Executive. 🙂

              (Whether his successor will dial down the immigration policies, on the other hand, I don’t know. Expecting a politician of any stripe to actually do what you voted him into office for is generally a pipe dream. 😦 )

            • Last time we went to Canada (planning to again) it was more difficult coming home than going north. Canada border was all about bring in guns, particularly handguns.

              “Do you have any guns?” Ans: “No.”
              “Why don’t you have any guns?” Ans: “Because taking them into Canada is not legal.”

              Asked/Answered about a dozen ways.

              We had a dog with us (with proper paperwork then), plus a full truck & towing a trailer. Didn’t ask us to open anything.

              Coming back. Insisted on seeing dog. Wanted us to open canopy to do so (why? she was on the back seat; black dog, black seat). We did. Had us open trailer. Cursory search, but still had us open up. Asked about prescriptions. Yes, we had them, no they weren’t in their original bottles with source on them. They could of confiscated what was left (2 days worth-ish, I think, he uses the daily dispensers). What we use, the expense isn’t worth a Canada run. There were a good dozen cars pulled over for more extensive searches or other reasons. They had to move some of them because of the way they had them parked. Trucks with trailers in tow (40′ over all), don’t make sharp corners coming out of an open corridor/tunnel system.

              Small border station on 2 lane highway on mountain pass. Not the best route to take a truck/trailer combo, safe, just slow. Got asked about that too. Answer- fastest route back to US Gas prices … Canada was running around $6/gal equivalent, almost double the US rate.

        • Yeah. Peter Grant has been ringing the alarum bells on this over at his bayourenaissanceman blog; most recently here:

          https://bayourenaissanceman.blogspot.com/2018/12/ebola-ok-its-crunch-time.html

    • Doesn’t matter. The CORRECT solution is to humanely euthanize liberals. Ice age? Global Warming? Overpopulation? Underpopulation? Rain on your picnic? Dispose of a slew of Leftists, and the problem will go away!

      (as opposed to the solution the Left was always proposing, to put the economy under their control…and gut the standard of living of the common man)

  14. “People are still terrified of overpopulation, though…. I have this theory that it is because subconsciously we think our environment is a lot more densely populated than it is.”

    I think you’re right, and I suspect it’s for the same reason so many people in the MSM still believe in global warming: When you’ve grown up, lived and worked in a major North American city for the largest chunk of your life (and the majority of media workers still operate out of New York and L.A. for the most part), and the gut-deep experience of all your daily life is the perception of your own city getting larger, and denser, and probably economically worse (barring occasional sporadic bursts of renewal), and getting less and less of anything resembling real winter thanks to the UHI effect (except for occasional whomp-storms borne of fluke pressure waves), it becomes remarkably easy to believe that one’s own experience reflects what must be happening in the rest of the world.

    Ironically, the saying is, “Think globally, act locally,” but too often it turns into “See locally, think globally, panic everywhere.”

    • I’ve lived in one huge urban center, and now due to quixotic stupidity, I live near another huge urban megacity. When you’re here, you can *feel* what Calhoun’s rats felt. Maybe the world isn’t like that. But parts of it where too many of us live *are* like that. I hope to return to my home state/city at some point, which has a sane population density.

      I wonder if trying to make your life there does something to you psychologically: Never being anything but a rentier, never having surplus because the rent/taxes/food is carefully calibrated to take it all, never having a hope of owning anything of your own, having your privacy constantly intruded upon. Maybe urbanites lean socialist because, living in a teeming hive, they simply can’t conceive of any tiny corner of the world ever being *theirs*. It would drive me mad if I had to spend my entire life in one of those cities.

      • YOU feel that way because you’ve been conditioned that way, probably early on. I don’t feel that way. I feel more alive, organized, etc while living in a larger city. Weirdly not in suburbs (I think because people there take more interest in their neighbors. I’m still an introvert.)

        As for socialism in the cities, will you stop buying that, please. Sure, some number of people mostly because young and stupid tend to go to the bigger cities. But mostly? the difference is fraud. Fraud is UNCOUNTABLE in cities. the larger the city the greater the fraud.

      • I know some ponder careful use of subsonic caliber arms on cameras. Being just a bit odd, I ponder a rod of synthetic rube, a nice power supply, and a good flash tube. George Orwell, meet Buck Rogers.

      • I’ve lived in one huge urban center, and now due to quixotic stupidity, I live near another huge urban megacity. When you’re here, you can *feel* what Calhoun’s rats felt.

        No, you feel that way.

        A lot of the appeal of Calhoun’s Rats is that the story “works” for a lot of people. It is one hell of a story, and I think that Calhoun honestly believed what he wrote, and honestly just really needed a loyal opposition, or devil’s advocate.

        Given that you’re posting here, you probably feel that way in part because those are not your people. At least not the noisy ones!

        When I was on the ship, it was less stressful than sharing a room with just one room-mate like at my prior assignment– because that roomie was totally nucking futs, though in a relatively quiet way, while the gals in berthing were all AIMD– even the normal ones were fairly geeky, we were all…at least as similar as folks inside of a family where you’re not an abject black sheep. (in school, found a similar dynamic– the room shrank when there was conflict)

  15. I enjoyed being able to stay in Sasebo when I was in the Navy, and I know it was pretty densely populated…but it didn’t “feel” as city as Seattle, at least not when I was walking around Seattle proper. (Mostly the international district, for those interested; I’m not suicidal.)

    And I know part of the feel of crowding was because I was sleeping in Navy racks at the time. 😉

    The Navy can fit multi-thousand-person cities in a single ship, which while huge is still a ship. (and as a bonus actually manages to look sort of like some of the dystopias)

    We’ve got a LOT of room.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      Ooooh.

      Part of the deal of Picard’s Enterprise was the families and children aboard.

      Imagine a supercarrier or a hypercarrier upsized and upstaffed when converting the concept to a space role. The story opens on one coming back from a longer, worse than usual deployment. So what the story establishes early on has some of the features of yet another future dystopia. But then the teenager or teenagers get off the ship.

    • When my mom went on a tiger cruise her comment was that the ship was obviously a machine and the people were sort of crammed in around it wherever they would fit.

    • I think you’re the first person I’ve ever seen say that they actually *enjoyed* Sasebo. Everything’s relative, though. Their NEX, while smaller than the one in Yoko, is better than the one in Yoko, especially their book section and selection.

      (I was there last week to certify a minesweeper.)

      • I was there about a decade back, had an apartment about two blocks from the shopping district– really miss being able to wake up at one in the morning and just go for a walk, grab a rice-ball at the 7/11, and just WATCH stuff.

  16. Sarah, the diversity of the solar system is impressive. Most of the big differences we see between Mars and Earth are due to size (gravity)–something about the escape velocity of small atmospheric molecules IIRC–and the lack of a magnetic field (and presumably molten core) on Mars which may also be a function of gravity.
    As to Venus, I laugh at people who compare our increase in CO2 (from .03% to .05% at the most drastic estimates) to Venus which is 96.5% CO2. But that’s too rational for most of those hotheads tm. I usually just tell them that if they think CO2 is destroying the planet, to just quit breathing. That would make everything better.

    • PARTICULARLY the lack of a magnetic field. Seriously, that issue of SA got walled SO HARD.

      • It’s part of terraforming Mars. 🙂 Build a magnetic field generator to prevent the solar wind from stripping off atmosphere. Build orbiting mirrors to get the temperature up. Plants start working on the CO2. Sell land.

        • We don’t even need to know how to build a planet-scale magnetic field generator – I saw a proposal somewhere (and head-slapped “why didn’t I think of that”) to build a much smaller solar-array-powered magnetic shield generator thingee and park it out at the Mars-Sol L1 point so it would divert just enough solar wind. Just a little bit of shielding would go a long way.

    • We know that CO2 levels have been 3-5 times higher than they are now without triggering a runaway greenhouse effect. There are a lot of similarities between Earth and Venus, but there are just as many differences. To think that the only important one is atmospheric CO2 concentration is laughably idiotic.

  17. > So when the peddlers of nightmares try to encroach on you or prescribe (somehow they always do) socialism for “overpopulation”

    Oh, yes. Overpopulation, pollution, global warming, school shootings, misogyny, racism… whatever the current bête noire might be, the solution is always MOAR COMMUNISM! Funny, that.

    Although, to be fair, communism has been pretty good at reducing the population in most areas where it’s been tried. More than 100 million murdered, and counting.

    If the United States had the population density of the Netherlands it would have over 4 billion people. If it had the population density of Macau (the current champion) it would have an astonishing 169 billion people.

    • Communism as the cure for environmental issues is like trying to cure trauma by bleeding. The environmental record of communist nations is super horrific.

      • Oh, yeah. How far is that cloud of coal smog from China reaching out into the Pacific now? And of course the former Soviet Union was practically Ferngully, what with them doing stuff like just dumping old sub reactors into the Arctic Ocean whole.

        • I have a vague recollection of people finding Chinese smog traces in Oregon.

        • Dumping old sub reactors into the deep ocean is as good as any other way of disposing of them. Honestly. Especially if you’ve taken the old fuel out to recycle. Spent nuclear fuel has a lot of fuel left….

          • Oh, I agree. You couldn’t measurably increase the level of radioactivity of the oceans on a global scale even if you ground up up to dust and scattered them. But just imagine the screeching rage if we tried to do something like that here.

    • Both socialism and communism are PROVEN solutions for overpopulation.

    • The silliest one I remember was the threat of HIV becoming a global pandemic and infecting everyone. Given how HIV is transmitted, this struck me as exceedingly unlikely. And nothing like it happened, save in parts of sub-Saharan Africa that were dysfunctional even for that continent.

      • Huh. It was “politics” for some value thereof.

        We were all supposed to simultaneously believe that anyone could get AIDS at any time so that it was personally terrifying enough that people would fund research, and also we were evil haters and bad if we worried about catching AIDS because everyone knew that it was nearly impossible to catch it from some kid in school with yours.

        • You might remember when the CDC’s official stance was that AIDS could only be transmitted between males. That was their stance for a couple of years before it unhappened.

          While there probably are some sex-linked communicable diseases, the CDC’s outright denial of clinical data made me distrust them forever. How they’re shilling for gun control… they’re another agency that needs to be de-funded.

  18. “And are we really hurting anything, or is the fact that species encroach on suburbs (not the other way around. Check) just a show of the wildlife doing better. Also, when should we intervene when one species threatens another?”

    Tell me about it. I got to have a major career change in the early ’80s & wasn’t the only Forester to have to do so. Thanks to the Spotted Owl. Now with the Barred Owl moving north, which is a better adapted (more varied “known” habitat), slightly larger version of the Spotted Owl. The Barred Owl version isn’t out competing the smaller Spotted Owl, they are cohabiting, & interbreeding, producing viable offspring. On top of all this there are the fires with accompanying habitat loss. Now the environmentalists want Barred Owl “removal”. No. Hell No. Just No. You set the rules. Live with them.

    • Hold on…if the owls are breeding, producing viable offspring, and the offspring are themselves fertile, I would challenge the entire notion that they are separate species.

      • That’s why they’ve now gone to focusing on “and don’t generally interbreed” to divide species.

        Turns out a lot of species can and will breed just fine, given a chance.

        • Hmmmmm … European-Americans and African-Americans “don’t generally interbreed” nor do Asian-Americans and [Whatever]-Americans, nor Hispanic-Americans and any of the others.

          Does that mean these are all separate species?

          • BobtheRegisterredFool

            Insert insane social darwinist ranting based on ‘facts’ like the lack of intermarriage between Catholics and Mormans proving that they are entirely different species.

          • *toothy grin*

            Oh, it gets more fun.

            Different mating rituals are also signs of different species (to justify wolves, dogs and coyotes staying different).

            So book worm geeks are different species than gamer geeks are different species than jocks….

        • And now I recall a biology teacher (not professor) who liked to use the examples that dogs were one single species, but if all the middle breeds disappeared and only the biggest and smallest breed remained, they would be two species due to lack of ability to interbreed. I wonder.. had this fellow met earth life? The unlikely happens and natural selection happens. The void left would be filled as wolf-sized things are what ‘canids’ seem to wander back to. Look at any stories of feral canid populations – you do NOT see Saint Bernard’s and miniature poodles. The mutts are… roughly wolf-sized.

          • I knew puppies (uggliest, smartest dogs ever) whom I saw be conceived. Daddy, a chihuahua, hopped on the edge of the washing tank, and when we saw them mommy (a boxer) had backed up to the tank. They were going at it pretty good.
            You see, my friend’s parents made money from breeding the female, so when she was in heat, they double-secured the walled in backyard until they could bring in an appropriate male. But the chihuahua squeezed in under the gate…

            • Earth life (no other examples to draw from.. yet). Found in most frigid ocean depths. Found in ‘boiling’ hot pools. Found in acid. Found in boiling hot pools of acid. Found in nuclear reactors. Fences? Gates? Ahahahahahahaha!!!

              I expect we will eventually find life on Mars… and trace it (or much of it) to one lander or another.

            • I see we know the same kind of people…..

          • That guy needs to get out even more than the folks who insisted that coy-dogs don’t exist, because coyotes will eat dogs if they meet when a female isn’t in heat.

            They have finally admitted that yes, they can and will enthusiastically interbreed. Just like the various cats…. (bobcat/domestic crosses, genetically confirmed what folks knew forever.)

          • Had my pup’s DNA done. She’s a 18# Great Pyrenees (1/8) / Pom/Chi (7/8). Charts show great-grandmother Great Pyrenees had a Chihuahua beau. Vet said she has had what she calls an 80# Chihuahua, looked like a lab, mutt. Size means nothing. They can & will breed.

          • Someone also hasn’t dealt with the ingenuity of the canine. We know several dog people, and one ended up with puppies from a ShiTzu father / Malamute mother because there was a picnic bench in the backyard the ShiTzu could jump on and mama Malamute could back up to. Caught on outdoor security camera……

          • Eh, there are indeed “ring species” where the outliers can breed with the same subspecies but not with each other.

            • In nature, they can’t…but it got a little messy when they were put in zoos and some of those darn birds weren’t aware they can’t make fertile offspring and went and did it!

              I don’t know how many of the ring-species have been tested, I only found out about the birds because of zoo management write-ups.

              • Nope. There are ring species with habitats that overlap in the wild — around the Artic Circle or a mountain range — where you couldn’t get in the zoo anything that wasn’t happening in the wild.

                • Can you remember where you read any listings on them, or key words I could use, or similar?

                  The herring and lesser black-backed gull were given as a text-book example (literally, a textbook’s website) and two seconds of searching brought up a cross, it’s not just COMMON– and the salamander given as a golden example of a ring species at the textbook site, the PBS science show page and such have several breaks in the gene-flow and still can interbreed successfully. (Counter-argument given at site, they’re still a ring species because the hybrids can’t hide as well as the parents. Which seems like it explains why folks thought they couldn’t interbreed, if the results tend to get eaten quickly…..)

                  • Poking around, a LOT of the new disproving of traditional ring species consists of DNA checking the mDNA, and finding it where it ‘shouldn’t’ be, and generally the appearances matches isolated populations, not failure to reproduce.

                    Mostly collected on religious sites, of course

                    *looks at the gull pictures* Even when the different species are clearly labeled, they all look like freaking seagulls….

      • Depends on “the offspring are themselves fertile” part.
        If yes, should be downgraded to subspecies, indeed.
        If not, it’s likely to become a problem for one of the species, even if competition for food between these two isn’t a big threat on its own. Oh, and it won’t be clear for which one until too late, because it’s on the background of natural population cycles (that already can raise and drop pretty high), and since these are now locked via several more feedback loops than vs. other raptors in the area (who are probably still present), data from separate habitats becomes mostly useless for this context.
        If so, the only reliable way to make sure they both stay around is to give up there and focus on populations in separate habitats: if mixed ones are unpredictable until there’s a lot more of statistics specific to them, messing with them now is just blind waving of hands for the sake of “activity”. The only real result of which is that these perturbances can contaminate said valuable data.

      • I don’t disagree. But apparently Barred Owls are invasive from the Eastern Side of the continent …

        https://www.oregonlive.com/environment/index.ssf/2011/02/make_this_call_in_the_wild_sho.html

        • *pokes around a little*

          *starts laughing*

          OK, TXRed, wasn’t it you who pointed out at one point that the Great Plains were from deliberate human action?

          Well…guess what the official barrier between the hoot-owl and the spotted owl was, best guess?

          The tree-free Great Plains.

          Which, if the theory that the spotted owl is just a recessive form of barred owl is right, means that the population was artificially isolated– so it’s like objecting to wolves breeding with dogs as “wiping out” dogs.

        • For what it’s worth– I didn’t even know we HAD flying squirrels!

        • Hm…and I just got to the part about how “preserving habitat” didn’t do jack for the owls.

          Which…being the nasty, suspicious person I am… makes me think the issue wasn’t habitat. It was that a previously isolated group was interbreeding with the better adapted, more common group, and wasn’t visually identifiable as a pure example anymore. Which would make them appear extinct, when they’d actually joined a larger group.

          • In fact…the “habitat protection” for the spotted owl looks a heck of a lot like exactly when the barred owl’s population, quote, “exploded.”

            • So it’s like with tortoises and polar bears… these campaigns to “save species” for some reason avoid the risk of actually improving the statistics on extinct species in case they’ll succeed despite the best effort.

              • The Supreme Court fell down on the job recently True, they did send the case back to the lower court with a severe comment that by definition “critical habitat” must be “habitat” and certainly can not mean acreage that can not support a population without extensive modifications — but any sane person would have just overruled the lower court without giving it a second chance to get it wrong, and waste more of the owner’s money.

              • Or opposition to hunting of rhinos, when making them a valuable resource is why white rhinos hopped up to “near threatened”– yes, you read that right, white rhinos are only “near threatened.”

                It’s the difference between the Northern (two females still living) and the Southern White Rhino (over 14k now living); they’re in countries where they’re hunted, or they’re poached.

    • I’ve seen a fair number of owls setting up housekeeping in store signs. (Both in photos and real life.) The “A” in a foo-Mart sign ain’t a bad place to nest, if you’re an owl. (Does that mean we’d have to bail out Kmarts in perpetuity alive to keep owl habitat?)

      • Well, for bumblebees the unreliable habitat problem was solved via mini-hives with some cotton wool. Since they prefer squatting in old mouse holes (already dug, got some fibre stuff to work with, and dry enough), entomologists figured passing cotton wool through hamsters’ cages (rodents chew it for some reason) will also give it a smell attractive for the intended tenants.
        Now you made me wonder what the foo-Mart/owl equivalent could look like. :]

    • The latest research I read pointed out that spotted is simply the recessive form (thus less common) of barred, and that calling them separate species is like insisting that black Labs and yellow Labs are different species.

  19. I was in the more rural parts of Germany last summer and this past summer. The Odenwald, the area around Hämeln and Bad Pyrmont, swaths of Swabia in south-central Germany, the area around the Harz… Lots of territory with not so many people. The Odenwald felt almost empty. Once you get away from major transportation hubs and the Rhine, there’s a lot of relatively empty space. Not “Wyoming on I-80 with the gas gauge on 1/4 tank” empty, but sparsely populated by European standards.

    • Bavaria is like that. In ’02 the rail line from Munich to Wasserburg am Inn was down, and the drive was about like upstate Illinois. South of Wasserburg, you’d see a tiny town every mile or two, maybe a church, a tavern and a store in the larger ones, less in others.

      OTOH, where we live, from the city to our town, we pass through a tiny town before we get to ours. 40 road miles. And that’s before eastern Oregon gets sparse. Lakeview, OR to Winnemucca, NV is 180 miles with maybe one public gas station on the way. (At Denio Junction. Don’t know if it’s open in winter. I’m not that crazy enough to take that route if weather is iffy.)

    • Do you go to Germany every summer?

  20. Got two words for them: Suburban. Bears. They were becoming a right nuisance south of Denver when I lived there. Also mountain lions. (The wee sibs were kept in more than once at recess while attending school in one of the outlying towns, on account of lions prowling around the playgrounds.) And foxes in many parts of the world are downright urbanized, and thriving. (Also raccoons, the little horrors.)

    And then there’s the latest ‘endangered’ species du jour: the Greater sage grouse. I work at the BLM–the fed agency, not the activist movement–and lemme tell ya, things are about 1:3 divided between the lefty types who MUST SAVE the grouse, and everyone else, who know a few actual facts: 1.) the sage grouse is dumber than a bag of rocks (but pretty, I’ll grant you), 2.) the major source of population damage to the grouse *isn’t* humans, but crows/ravens/other corvids. Which populations we also cannot reduce, on account of them being protected by the Migratory Bird Act. Nevermind that the corvid species are hella invasive, and incredibly destructive to all kinds of native critter populations. (And I say this as someone who thinks crows and ravens are fascinating, because they’re so smart. Not magpies, though, those bastards can all die in a fire, in my book. But also smart. And the smart is why they’re all so damn destructive, sigh.)

    And yet, oil and gas development has been ongoing in Wyoming for more than a century, and the Greater sage grouse is still here…so they can’t be all THAT fussed about that well pad over there, at least not once construction is done and humans only come out to it once in a while.

    (Honestly, having worked in the field, I find invasive plant species to be of far greater concern than most anything else. For one thing, they’re a lot harder to kill off, and fires–while we desperately need more of them in the mostly-dead forests–only make the weeds extra happy.)

    • Here’s a fun Tweeter thread:

      [X] Other (please specify): Bear at Door

      • There’s a great picture of a bear sitting at a picnic table (waiting for dinner I guess). Personally I enjoy living in a suburb. You’re halfway between city and country. Cars and the ability to drive one are essential! Personally I like pick up trucks better.

      • Or that video I saw floating around of the Canadian politely asking the bears to leave his backyard because he had to go to work now, and they did. (Granted, he was smart enough to do that from the safety of his own house, not walking out where the mama bear and her cubs actually *were*.)

        Moose are becoming an issue in my town. Now, I grant you, my town’s population is only about 450 or so (we’re officially a ghost town, heh), but still. Fact is moose have few reasons to be bothered much by humans in general (and tend to be a good deal more aggressive than the average bear, unless said bear is used to raiding human garbage and gets uptight about being denied access to it). Bears are terrifying, but so are moose!

        (I was also inordinately amused to discover that the latin name for grizzlies translates to “horrible bear bear.”)

        • At one time in our house in Manitou I was about to step onto front porch holding younger kid’s hand when I saw a baby bear standing there. I retreated into the house, locked and opened the library window (facing the porch) a tiny crack. Then I started singing.
          Baby bear and mommy (who was right behind) skedaddled.
          For years Marsh told everyone my singing scared away bears.

  21. Reporting in after receiving a foot or more global warming and losing power for fifteen and a half hours. I will have something more irrelevent to comment once I’ve caught up with the day’s activities.

    • I’m so glad you guys are okay. I meant to email, but this is the day that Murphy hath made, starting with computer trouble, spreading to cat trouble, etc.

      • ‘Twould have done no good. Thanks to the glorious benefits of bundling, when we lose power we also lose cable, phone and internet, so no receipt nor response to emails occur. Sure, we could own smart phones and have the work around but I resolutely remain restricted in my desires for dumber phones. Had the good Lord intended us to do email with our phones He wouldn’t have given us modems!

  22. My little town has deer. Another town not far away is infested with rabbits. I have read recently that 50 years ago, there were no deer sightings in town. Deer do NOT look both ways before crossing a street.

    • Ahhhh, town deer.

      If ever we get the Big One (snowstorm) like the one that happened back in 1947 and food can’t get to the stores, the town deer are in for an extremely rude shock… Of course, they’ll also have lots of terrible things in them, because they eat garbage. But hey, they’re fat.

      (It’s also eyebrow raising how, on the first day of hunting season, the population of ‘town’ deer suddenly triples. Deer are stupid about cars, but not about other things.)

    • Deer do not look, period, before crossing a road.

    • New York City has deer in Central Park off and on the last few years. This is because the whole of Westchester and Putnam counties, which used to be farmland, are now forest. The deer travel down the parkways, cross the bridge onto the island, and end up in Central Park.

      Or you pass a Toyota with a deer sticking out of it on the way to work. Every week, another road-kill.

      Why? Hunting deer is prohibited. That’s why.

      • “Do you hunt?”

        “No, but don’t think I am against it.”

        “Oh?”

        “If you bag a deer and get venison, that’s better than me hitting it with my car.”

        “Ah.”

      • There are bleeding hearts who want the deer to be tranquilized and shipped elsewhere.

        • I know, I’ve met some. Tranqed and shipped, because it is so -easy- to ship a deer, right? Just like a cow, or a horse, right? Geniuses.

          There is within that group of geniuses hiding a smaller group, who thinks -we- should be tranqed and shipped elsewhere so the nice deer can wander in peace.

  23. Sometimes cities/burbs do encroach on wildlife. The wildlife tends to adapt pretty quickly. Deer and coyotes love cities with all the abundant food. Many cities even have hunting seasons. But as always, some species thrive there while others dwindle.

    • In SF the predators returning to the urban landscape come with swelling musical scores:

    • There was a story a couple of decades ago about birds in London who had learned how to use the subway system. More recently, stories about foxes using the Moscow subway.

      I’m still not sure if I believe them…

      • Depends on the type of bird. If it was crows or similar, I’d totally believe that–and also that they’ve figured out how to read the maps. 😉

      • Crows drop nuts on walkways so the cars will crack them, and then are one of the pedestrians when the signal’s on, to avoid being hit by cars.

        • I read an article some months back about how they have what amounts to funeral rituals when one dies. And they have individual names for each other. And even though one has to mutiliate a crow’s tongue to enable them to speak human, they’re considered to actually be able to *speak* if they learn a language, not just mimic.

          I mean, I know crows can be a serious problem for other species (like the dumber-than-rocks grouse)…but damn, they’re fascinating!

  24. Possible other route for the impression that the population is huge:
    public schools.

    No, really, I mean on a gut level– a school that has 15 person classes is tiny, but that would be a freaking HUGE tribe/clan.

    Say, average age of mother at birth as 27*, three kids per couple, that’s roughly one kid per 9 years per couple, I’ll set age 21 as a calculation cut-off for “families with kids,” 21*15=315 kids, that’s 105 couples with kids. Say a third of that many for couples too old to have kids. That’s another 34.

    About 600 for your clan/village/extended family.

    That’s…pretty big.

    Now consider my high school class of four times that size was considered “kind of small”…..

    No wonder people want bigger houses they can’t hear anybody near them in.

    *for ease of calculation and aimed at getting a low number.

  25. Reluctant though I am to disagree with our Esteemed Hostess (although of late she has seemed more fried than esteemed) I must step forward in my confidence that the world does, indeed, have too many people. We need to commence reduction of what, in this season of the year, is commonly termed surplus population.

    In fact, I’ve got* a little list. They’d none of them be missed.

    *Sorry, pressures of time preclude writing it out at present, but be assured that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez would be on it, as would Congressman “We’ve the Nukes” Swalwell, if only I could make them scan.

    • In lieu of song parody …


      10K words

    • I have a new question to ask people like Occasionally-Cortex and Rep. Swalwell.

      https://phantomsoapbox.blogspot.com/2018/12/whats-your-comfort-number-lefties.html

      Comfort number is how many people they’re willing to see die so they can get what they want.

      • As usual, you have put more actual thought into it then they have.

        • I really want to see somebody look Occasionally-Cortex right in the eye and ask her how many dead she’s willing to accept to get her socialism. That would be one for the ages.

          • She would probably laugh at you being so “absurd and dramatic”, because her brain isn’t currently in the place where she’s pondering how many eggs she needs to break to make her socialist omelette..

            • Knowing what comes out of her mouth, more like how many omelettes she needs to break to get her socialist eggs.

            • Of course she’d not have an answer – because they’ll get it right this time! And everyone knows that socialism is like Sweden, and nice, and Volvos, and paid vacation and two years paid family leave.

              OK, so maybe Sweden’s not such a great example any more. Or maybe it is…

      • The answer for that is simple: they’re always willing for “just a few more” to perish.

        • More likely they’d follow the communist ignoramus (really, he had a hammer and sickle as his Facebook picture) on the ILOH’s Facebook page and say that anyone who died under socialism deserved it.

          • A rainbow hammer and sickle. I mean… I WAS foaming at the mouth.

            • Funny that the fact Communist governments are extra oppressive towards gays never entered his little pea brain. Kind of like the fact that a number of “artistic” types never glom onto the fact that Communism isn’t exactly arts friendly.

          • I have literally seen a guy commenting that Stalin probably failed only because he didn’t kill enough people.

            (Objecting to this is moralism. But it’s WRONG to let a society like pre-revolutionary Russia last.)

  26. Europeans (or people raised in a huge metro area on the Coasts) have no concept of the wide-open spaces in the middle of the country or the really bare open spaces of the West. Where people will run a quick errand, 7 hours one direction. Or take a quick day trip for a two or three hour event, 5 hours away because you’ve got to be back in time for work Monday. It may not happen often, but if the need or want is strong enough, we’ll do it. Got to do your shopping? Go to the town 20 minutes away for the fresh stuff and the urgent things. Plan a trip an 1 1/2-2 hours away for the rest. Or commute that far for your job (and not because you are stuck in rush hour traffic).

    • Even in Florida, an hour drive is fairly typical for a commute to work, or to do some social event.
      I’ve had European friends drastically change travel plans because the airport would be an hour drive away.
      As the old saying goes, in Europe 100 miles is a long way, while in the US a hundred years is a long time.

      • Donald Stephens

        When I was young, we met a couple from Germany on one of our annual trips to Algonquin Park (Ontario). They had flown into Mirabel (for the discount airfare), rented a car like the one they had back home and drove to the park.

        They drove or six hours. They told us that they would never do that again – the next time they would get a more comfortable, larger, car. (“We didn’t understand how far apart everything is here.”)

      • “But.. it’s 100 miles away!”
        “Just how bad are the roads?”

    • Most people don’t even have a concept of how open Europe is. If you ask most people what it would look like if the entire population of the world was packed into Germany you get wide eyes and a description of people packed on top of each other 10 deep. But the truth of the numbers is “about the population density of Paris”.

      • Yes… but the flaw in all of these “how much area can we cram people into” scenarios is, people take a lot more than just the space they’re standing on.

        Unless you’re packing them in and waiting for them to die, they need their *stuff*. Waterworks and aqueducts and dams and pumping stations, somewher else. Sewage treatment stations, reactors or coal or oil fired power plants and all their widely dispersed mining and processing infrastructure. Farming, or some place to put your hydroponic plants. Some way to get rid of the trash. Mining and manufacturing and transport for all the *stuff*.

        And that’s just what you need to keep them watered, fed, and not drowning in their own waste.

        You can have places like Singapore and Macau because most of their *stuff* comes from somewhere else. If you interdicted the flow of *stuff* they’d come to a short bloody stop.

        • That’s the next step beyond getting folks to understand that no, New York City’s skyrises are not normal– they’re not even in the range of normal, world-wide.

          The “everyone would fit in Texas” thing also ignores that many people don’t mind living in multi-story buildings. Heck, even Elf and I lived in a 700sqft apartment for a year or so, and then for several months with the Princess; we’re now in a 2000sq ft house with 8 people.

          For anybody wondering about calculation figures, I’d highly suggest about 350 square foot of house space per person– that is basically a one bedroom apartment per couple, but families take up less space– you don’t need two kitchens when you’ve got two kids, living rooms, dining rooms, garages, yards, playhouses etc don’t scale neatly.

          *************

          Dang it, now I’m picturing a beautiful spiral sky-scraper, which is basically houses with yards– the house is a central column and the yard, with three stories worth of empty space above it, because the yards above or below are to the left or right.

          Then interlock that strand with others… it wouldn’t be for everybody, but the rest of my homeschool group, who thinks I’m nuts for living “so far away” from everything, would adore having both more living space, more yard space, and yet being able to quickly visit others and go to the store, etc.

          • I love that design idea. this will now appear in a story. You’ve been warned.

            • Welcome to it!

              Heck, if anybody wants to try to draw it, do so– I’m picturing the wind going through the spirals, whistling slightly, and various folks having arguments on the value of natural vs artificial where they mean setting your house to mimic the outside, or setting your house to do what YOU want- a sunny day, or rain, or partly cloudy, or….

    • back when I worked the graveyard shift at the convenience store (in Fargo) there was a guy that came in every morning for his coffee around 0530 on his way to his job at UND (in Grand Forks). I commented one time that 75 miles seems like kinda far to drive each way. “Meh, it’s only an hour. I used to drive longer than that each day when I lived in CA, and that was less than half as far.”

      • I’ve mentioned before that when I lived a bit north of Merrill, WI and worked in Rothschild another fellow had the same commute time as I had, but he lived in downtown Wausau – much closer. BUT… my drive was two stops signs, *A* traffic light, and miles of open road. His drive was many traffic lights (always red) and no matter what time he left home, (the same) Mr. Slow managed to ‘tragi/magi-cally’ pull out in front of him – every. last. time. I had the more pleasant drive.

    • richardmcenroe

      Last time Deb and I were in Vegas we stayed at a hotel with a Swiss motorcycle club. They were gobsmacked by the distances American bikers ride. Actual quote, ” It’s like being on the ocean!”

    • Just this last summer I drove four hours to go to a concert. (I did get a hotel room, but only because I really hate driving at night and it wasn’t worth hitting deer/elk in the mountains on the way home, and they are especially dumb at night.)

      Hell, once my car is fixed I plan to semi-regularly drive three hours to attend a church congregation that’s made up of single people my age (because it’s the closest one of its kind). I drive an hour just to get to work every day. Folks in “live on top of each other” countries really have no idea…

  27. If your entire job is screaming about humans doing this or that, you’re not an environmentalist.

    That’s why Delingpole (or was it someone else before him?) named them “watermelons”. 🍉 On the surface, green coating, but it’s not all that thick and hides something more juicy and easily fermented, of a very different colour.

    • I read the term in a review of Bjorn Lomborg’s _Sceptical Environmentalist_, and that was er, 2001. Not certain if that predates Delingpole or not.

  28. Sarah said: “People are still terrified of overpopulation, though, even though we demonstrably are nowhere near the world say of Logan’s Run.
    Why? I have this theory that it is because subconsciously we think our environment is a lot more densely populated than it is.”

    I have a slightly different theory. I think propaganda works, and we are the most propagandized people in human history.Science fiction writers are in some respects the very worst offenders with this overpopulation thing.

    Until you mentioned on this blog that the UN was probably lying about the human population, it never even occurred to me that might be true. They really do lie about every other damn thing from migration to guns to climate, why not this?

    Because Phillip K. Dick and Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke and who the hell knows who else programmed my brain that overpopulation was REAL, that’s why. I never thought to question it. Never. Overpopulation was baked in to my worldview.

    Couple days ago I happened to watch a couple of those Philip K. Dick stories on Amazon Prime. Electric Dreams. Completely nails the whole thrust of PKD’s “everything is forever fucked, there’s not going to be any AIR left, and Humans SUCK!” philosophy. I remember reading lots of stories like that back in the 1960s and ’70s, its been a constant theme.

    Needless to say, never been a fan.

    Now, if somebody were to try and do a global census, even a rough estimate, a whole lot of people like me would be suddenly, “Wait, what?! We’re NOT all gonna die because the air/water/food ran out?”

    Then they’d all put on yellow safety vests and run to NYC to burn down the UN. Kind of like what’s happening in Paris right now.

  29. David Goldman had a good take on population trends in his book, “How Civilizations Die: (And Why Islam Is Dying Too).”

  30. Christopher M Chupik

    On an ironically related note . . .

  31. Overpopulation is largely a local condition. For me, a place is over populated if I can look out my windows and see someone else’s house. Other folks are fine in a 100 sq ft room with 15 people in it.

    What kind of living conditions or standard of living are we talking about? We can easily get more people living at the poverty level. But we’d be lucky if we could double the number of people in the world living at the American standard of living.

    • depends on how much those people produce. We’re nowhere near at capacity. It all depends on productive people.

      • Socialists hate productive people. They promote increased consumption and despoliation of the environment.

      • John Wright wrote one of the best formulations of this point on his blog: “[O]verpopulation is not a number, it is a ratio between the productive capacity of the individual and the drain that individual represents.” I’ve kept that in mind ever since.

        Unfortunately it has now been replaced as a question of dread by the question: “How can we maximize the productive capacity of the individual within the limits of his abilities, if the abilities needed to be productive are simply not sufficiently distributed?”

      • For all that’s holy, don’t get my dad started on China.

        If he wasn’t incredibly quiet and laid back, he’d start foaming at the mouth; they could massively increase their output on even just rice by going up to northern/central California and talking to their rice farmers.

        Instead, freaking yaks are still important to planting.

    • The problem is that most of the world is still trying to get economic results by the economic equivalent of watering their crops with Brawndo.
      The reason they have a low standard of living is because they want their government to give them their standard of living for nothing. And if not their government, hopefully someone else’s government will do it instead.

  32. Malthus didn’t think people would limit fertility because, as a clergyman, he thought nearly all the practical methods of doing so were morally unacceptable. No nonvaginal copulation, no manual stimulation, no French devices, and silphium has been extinct for a long time now. He did accept a role for “moral restraint” but he was a realist and didn’t think that many people would stop consummating their marriages. Given those assumptions you had to expect that people would breed up to the limits of the food supply.

    • Put it plainly:
      He thought “those” people were too stupid to manage the rhythm method. Stupid f*bunnies that they are.

      Which is a far cry from even natural fertility methods, but folks (mostly those with predictable cycles) made it work for YEARS.

      • Yep. and about fifty percent of women have predictable cycles the other 25% are “predictable enough.” People like me are miracles, one way or the other.

        • My mom and I are in a similar state, even with training our fertility signals are EXTREMELY weak, and there’s probably some hormone issues, too. (It’s a “probably” because there really isn’t common treatment of female hormone issues, it’s all one hammer.)

    • meh, even in the village, before contraceptives, people did limit families. Granted, mostly through early abortion via herbal tea, but they did.

      • Dad’s family has such a broad objection to anything with a whiff of witch-craft that I’m shocked they’ll use aspirin or drink tea, but they still avoided huge families.

        I suspect in large part because they’ve got very…specific fertility. My dad’s family, kids after 30 are really rare just because they ARE, predates the pill, but they got pregnant rather easily before that point. Very, very strong tradition that delaying marriage meant you’d be childless or next to it, and the youngest son was to take care of the parents.

        Hm….considering how the out-marriages went, I think there may be a pretty hefty decline in sperm quality tracking strongly to age, possibly with a less hospitable environment in the woman, because it usually was a son that was born last– that’s much more likely when the sperm only encounter the egg very near the womb as opposed to the ovary. (X sperm are slower, but tend to survive longer; Y sperm are smaller and faster, but ‘burn out’ sooner. This is also why dairy cows can now have vastly more female offspring via artificial insemination– a simple centrifuge can mostly sort the sperm.)

        • Our family runs heavy to boys and… weird? fertility. 10 to 20 years between kids isn’t unusual. Dad’s family, I should say. The family I come from is small and 10 years apart because mom didn’t want any. We’re the ones who made it.

          • There’s just so dang much we don’t know….and now we probably won’t ever find out.

            • Re: Malthus, he must have known that just a few generations back, everybody in Europe was fasting from sex on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays right before Mass. (Also the night before feastdays, during Lent and Advent, on Ember Days, and sometimes on Mondays and Wednesdays.)

              I mean, violating “continence” fasting was just a venial sin, unless you were a priest doing it the night before saying Mass. But there were enough fluctuations in birth records to show that a lot of people did fast from sex during Lent and Advent. (And if you ever wondered why it used to be a no-no to get married during Lent or Advent… well, that’s why.)

              It’s still a thing among the Orthodox, although it got gradually phased out by the Latins, during the early modern period. (Still don’t have any precise answers as to the whys. It’s such a big change in social order, that you’d think there’d be more documentation.)

  33. I still remember that one absolutely stupid Star Trek episode “The Mark of Gideon.” Kirk beams down to a planet and discovers he’s trapped on a perfect copy of the Enterprise (good for saving on sets, I guess), with one woman on board. The long and short of it is that the planet is literally SWARMING with people because the people are long lived, and keep breeding, so they need human germs to introduce a fake plague to kill people off.

    One immediately questions why if they can build a duplicate of a Constitution class starship, they can’t go somewhere else, even putting aside the ridiculousness of there being so many people they’re constantly in a press like the planet is one giant snake pit. Also, the entire situation struck me as a bit too ‘Arthur C Clark’ with the masses being willing to essentially take on dying of meningitis for the good of the species.

    • Christopher M Chupik

      They certainly don’t lack room to build a replica of a big starship . . .

      • Are we sure it wasn’t done in miniature? I mean, we all just assumed that the transporter reassembled people to original scale …

        • He pretty much runs around the entire ship. They were playing up the ‘fear of isolation’ against the ‘fear of massive crowds,’ thing.

          Its still hard for me to take ‘our planet is overpopulated, our only choice is to commit suicide by disease,’ as a fair assessment when you can literally go into space.

          Its like deciding to resort to cannibalism because its just too much work to drive to the supermarket ten minutes away.

          • I have more faith in the lack of pathogens in the meat in my local Market Basket than I have in my neighbors.

            • umm…. pathogens in your neighbors? Look, don’t eat your neighbors unless they’re very well cooke– oh, never mind.

              • Considering one of my neighbors, not even then. Not even after a gamma-ray burst for that one. Just no. See also: no. Did I mention no?

              • And here I was looking forward to some French food later . . .

              • Cooking doesn’t destroy prions.

                Of course I haven’t been able to donate blood since the 1980s because the government thinks I (and about 1 million other GIs) are all potential mad cow disease carriers. Never mind that if we did have it, we’d have come down with the symptoms within a year, and been dead less than 6 months later.

    • Uff da.

    • Star Trek is revered all out of proportion to its actual merits. There are episodes with quite decent writing, and some with great acting (‘Balance of Terror’ springs to mind), but the shows rep benefits greatly from the poor standard of SF on television at the time. Let’s face it LOST IN SPACE isn’t stellar competition for the ‘Best SF show’ category.

      Mind you, I like the original series, despite Roddenberry’s inclination to preach unsubtly. And some of the novels published with the original characters are favorites of mine. I wouldn’t have discovered the late Janet Kagan had it not been for UHURA’S SONG and Diane Duane’s Trek novels are a source of warm pleasure.

      But, when you get right down to it, very little real SF (as opposed to Fantasy, and it’s kin Space Opera) has made it to television, and most of that fairly recently.

      I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, but the very best SF television I have ever seen is the GHOST IN THE SHELL STAND ALONE COMPLEX and it’s sequels. And there is supposed to e another season in the works. YAY!

      • To paraphrase Dr. Johnson: “Sir, Science Fiction on television is like a dog’s walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.”

      • I preferred Babylon 5 to Star Trek for being more ‘faithful’ to science.

        • Star Trek was a turning point series. Look at what else was on the air around that time. Television Science fiction was largely dominated by the various Irwin Allen shows: Land of the Giants, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, and yes, Lost in Space. Sure, we also had The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits that did some really good stuff, but they were a different format from ongoing series with continuing characters.

          Has there been better stuff since? Of course there has. But in many ways Star Trek paved the way.

        • Well, and I personally always found B5 to be vastly better written, and rather less preachy (barring one or two episodes that I usually skip).

          Though part of that might have been the “epic fantasy plotline translated into scifi”, so it hit all the right beats, heh. I guess that says there just isn’t enough epic scifi plotlines out there.

          (That being said, I’d *love* to see a Miles Vorkosigan tv series.)

          • I’ve said it before, I will say it again: Miles Vorkosigan = Peter Dinklage!

            The role and the player must meet!

            • Yeah, he’d be about perfect. Pushing into “too old” for the role, at least for the early adventures (and yeah, Miles looks older than his actual age, but) but Dinklage is an amazing enough actor I’m not sure I’d care 😀

          • Actually, Babylon 5 was no more epic fantasy than the Lensman books, which it greatly resembled.

    • Maybe they just meant it like The Rediscovery of Man where Cordwainer Smith had the people dancing in the street for joy at the reintroduction of typhoid, because they did not have to be safe and protected any more.

  34. richardmcenroe

    But… but… Zero Population Growth! https://youtu.be/RLVrtfQ6Udk

  35. richardmcenroe

    Most message science fiction is a genuinely searing look into last Thursday…

  36. Ah, I see that there are already 380+ comments. Perhaps this point has already been made, or perhaps it will be lost in all the comments already made, but I want to make it anyway.

    When I first learned about Calhoun’s mouse experiment, I couldn’t help but be disturbed by two things: First, that socialists actually *want* to force us into cities, which strikes me as forcing us into the conditions of the mice in Calhoun’s experiment, even when there’s still plenty of room for everyone. Second, the same socialists have actively, and continue to actively, undermine and destroy the institutions of family, Church, work and community, all of which give us roles in society — again, they are actively trying to seek to emulate the conditions that lead to the pathologies in Calhoun’s mouse experiment.

    Look, I appreciate the warnings and the food for thought the experiment produces, and the warnings it gives us. Too many people, though, want to use it as a how-to manual!