Global Population Speak Out

Having pledged to write a little essay for, I have meanwhile been overtaken by reality: Riot and revolution in Tunisia and


So, no need to write much: Egypt looks like a paradigm of population overshoot. Here’s just a little rundown of facts.

Whilst Egypt’s total fertility rate has fallen from 7.2 children per woman in the early 1960s to 3 in 2005, there is now a huge population momentum, adding ca. 1.5 million each year. Total population has risen from 3 million when Napoleon invaded the country in 1798 to 19 million in 1947, 50 million in 1985, to 83 million in 2010.

What once was the Roman empire’s bread basket is today the world’s largest importer of wheat. What will be the fate of many countries is meanwhile reality in Egypt: Exports don’t match necessary imports any more. Until recently, Egypt was a net exporter of oil. These times are gone forever. Average Egyptians spend most of their income on food:

Now the FAO Food Price Index has risen above the last record in 2008 which then had sparked riots all over the world, particularly the 2008 Egyptian bread riots:

This won’t be the last peak, with climate disruption getting worse, Peak Oil (and other resource peaks) unfolding, and ever more countries turning into food importers…

Egypt is particularly threatened by one consequence of global warming: Sea level rise. Being mostly desert, farm land exists only along the Nile river and its delta. In parts of the delta sea water will seep into underground water and degrade farmland.

Next revolution possibly in Mexico: They also had food riots in 2008, and also will soon run out of exportable oil.

Some sources:

AFP, Feb. 13 2011, Food, population growth fueled Egypt uprising: analysts

the Atlantic, Jan. 31 2011, The Economics of Egypt’s Revolt

Seeking alpha, Jan. 31 2011, Mexico Will Follow Egypt Into Collapse

Reuters, Nov. 14 2010, Sea level rise threatens Alexandria, Nile Delta

Joe Romm, Aug. 27 2010, The Coming Food Crisis: Global food security is stretched to the breaking point, and Russia’s fires and Pakistan’s floods are making a bad situation worse

Population Reference Bureau, Dec. 2001, Population Trends and Challenges in the Middle East and North Africa


3 Responses to Global Population Speak Out

  1. Phil Henshaw says:

    Even Hillary Clinton said affirmatively that our declining water and fuel resources were a direct cause of instability in the populous poor countries…

    You’d also like the more recent posts!

  2. Phil Henshaw says:

    Flori, fyi I have a rather good new post on the global “planet change” of food and fuel resource demand now apparently permanently exceeding supply.

    It also fairly clearly explain the environmental changes that make it more profitable at the limits of growth to invest in your environment rather than expanding your demands on it, and other stuff you might like.

    It’s very frustrating to try to bring up the critical questions on Azmuth, with Baez so regularly censoring my best comments, as if just plain banning the subject of how environmental systems behave independent of our explanations, that I can easily show to be so profitable if tolerated.

    I keep challenging him to publicly explain why my comments on how to anticipate the need to make math adaptable to fit changing realities isn’t permitted. Why do people in what masquerades as an open scientific explorer’s forum tolerate that anyway?

  3. Florifulgurator says:

    Some of your Azimuth comments are perhaps a bit too “meta”. And John Baez loves “real math” instead. (Here real math means not numbers but relevant abstract structure.) Well, I find your general systems epistemology very important. But I understand John reacting allergic to meta criticism of his stuff. You haven’t yet been of much help in his quest for “green math”.


    Apropos cash cows. Perhaps you remember my crazy idea of an epireligious quasimonastic order to anthropogenicly sequester anthropogenic CO2. That requires land where to generate and bury char coal (The only known technique to live carbon negative.) And that requires riches to aquire the land… I’m thinking of smart investors as cash cows. (In fact I’ve heard of one who is investing his surplus riches in agricultural land.) These investors might lend the land to the order for temporary settlement. They will get back soil that is more fertile and more resilient against climate extremes.

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