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Is Elon Musk right in saying that we are too few people?



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Should we worry about overpopulation or, as Elon Musk has argued, should we worry more about underpopulation? How many people could live on our planet and how close are we to reaching the “Limits to Growth”? In this video we look at how much we know and what we can conclude from this.

The full interview with Elon Musk is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HZP67-DECVw

The paper I mention at 2 mins 50 seconds that looked at how good the Club of Rome predictions were is here:
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0959378008000435?via%3Dihub

The earth overshoot day website is here: https://www.overshootday.org

The paper about how much carbon dioxide emissions you save by not having children that I discuss at 5 minutes 30 seconds is this:
https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/aa7541

The website for the Simons Abundance Index is here: https://www.humanprogress.org/the-simon-abundance-index-2021/

Estimates for the carrying capacity of Earth that I mention at 10 minutes 30 seconds are from this report: https://na.unep.net/geas/getUNEPPageWithArticleIDScript.php?article_id=88

The 2020 Lancet study that I discuss at 13 mins 10 seconds is this: https://www.thelancet.com/article/S0140-6736(20)30677-2/fulltext

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Many thanks to Jordi Busqué for helping with this video http://jordibusque.com/

0:00 Intro
1:33 Doomsters
6:39 Boomsters
10:08 What does science say?
17:17 What do we learn from this?
18:32 Sponsor message

34 Comments

  1. Ahh yes, as a Filipino, I knew our overpopulated country would be mentioned in a topic like this. Another reason why we are overpopulated here is because many in the slum areas, the poorest of the poor, have 7-10 children while being unemployed and uneducated. The church supresses the release of free birth control handed to the poor cause they consider it as a sin. Then the middle class to upper middle class have less children, sometimes only one to two children, because they are more educated and more aware of the cost of having too many children. So the poor keeps having children while the middle class produce less. The church opposes the government from logical solutions and now Filipinos just voted the previous Dictator's son back to presidency. For you Americans out there complaining about how much of a mess your government and country is, I'm telling you, you haven't had the slightest idea of how bad a country like mine can get.

  2. No Elon Musk Is An Idiot – He Has 9 Children – Each One Of Them Gets An Electric Car And A 800 Volt Charger. We All Drive 300 Million Gas Cars. And The Air Pollution And Traffic Is Killing Our Children.

  3. Nicely put, I fully agree with what you said. A few months ago, I wrote this letter to a video that featured both Jordan Peterson and Elon Musk saying this very argument. I was pretty upset since I appreciate both of them, and thought about it for a while and wrote the following. I would live to hear anyone's opinion on this, because I have felt this way for over 40 years.
    These wealthy to-do's, Musk & Petersen, live a comfortable (in Musk's case, very privileged, which I do understand he earned) and high standard of living.. However, why dont both of you give up everything you have and live in the most poverty stricken, filthy, crime ridden places in Asia, Philippines, Africa, India, Mexico and South America where MOST people on this planet live, so many in shacks made of tarp and plastic sheets, and see then what you think of population. Running water and sanitation is unknown for many millions of people. How about all the garbage that is piling up everywhere, all the junk we produce that is designed to break so we make more junk, especially in all our oceans, every bit of fresh water on the planet is polluted or worse, fish stocks are declining, our farmland is turning more and more into deserts, MANY millions of people live homeless and begging for food out in the streets everywhere in the world, and the standard of living that these two enjoy is shared by a small fraction of the worlds population, most of whom work most of their entire lives for a pittance, barely enough to feed their families, just to make all the commodities these two so selfishly enjoy. I think these two are so out of touch with the realities of this planet.

    And they say that if our population declines, we will become extinct? Where the hell did that come from? I guess they lack all knowledge of human history, since 10,000 years ago there were maybe 4 million people on this planet living in the most harsh conditions imaginable. Funny, they seemed to do alright and didn't go extinct. Neither did that happen anytime in history with small populations, even after the black death. In fact, we lived much better in smaller villages than we do in big cities, which present far more problems for a society. When I was born, there was just over 2 billion people on the planet, and the economy (USA) was Booming!! There was less than half the number of US Citizens (not counting all the illegals). My father delivered groceries in Queens, NY, and bought a house in a nice suburb on Long Island and had 5 kids, my mother stayed home and raised us. On a salary without a college education! That's what is possible with LOW populations, today a small apartment will cost you $2000 – $6000 a month, and both parents now are forced to work full time jobs. We will never see how great it was in the 1960's & 70's, with the amazing freedoms we had, until our population comes back down. As the population increases, so prices rise, there is less and less to go around, we consume more and more of this planets non-renewable resources. Crowding promotes stress which leads to all kinds of mental and physical problems. Just look at what is going on today, people are losing it! Since my youth, I have seen all the changes that ever growing populations bring, and none of them are good in any way, other than to line the pockets of these kinds of people, and all the other rich people. That is all of the working class's worth, to be a number and do as you are told. I wish i could go back to a society like we had back then, it was sane and people mostly had respect and even most high schools, the kids came there to willingly learn. This world has turned into a prison planet, where you are all financial slaves to the small number of huge corporations that are taking over small businesses and your lives. Mr Musk & Mr Petersen, you really need to get in touch with this planet and see what these burgeoning populations are really doing to it, your wealth and privileges have made you blind and immune to the reality of the suffering and massive struggles the vast populations are enduring every second of every day. As well as our declining standards too.
    The globalists who built the Georgia guidestones, which says to maintain a world population of 500,000,000 in harmony with nature, actually got it right. I just don't agree with the way they are planning to achieve that. I think the work that you both do is absolutely excellent and goes way above the bar in everything you both have accomplished, but you need to rethink populations in a very serious and realistic way. Quality is far more important than quantity when it comes to peoples lives, and like most people, you both completely missed the mark there.

  4. haven't finished the video yet but i have to imagine that resource distribution and access is a substantially larger issue than global net supply and demand. it also seems very likely that future changes to climate will make this even more complicated.

    im most tempted to believe that anyone substantially concerned about global population almost certainly has their focus misplaced. obviously there are localized issues like ones involving elder care in societies where the average population is aging or supporting economic systems that require growth in the productive workforce. but the population folks rarely seem concerned with these sorts of particulars.

  5. The entirety of "OUR" Social norms is based on a stout consumer base. Educate the masses and they will buy. Until the atmosphere is tempered, we must do something to reduce the consumption exchanges around the planet. Money seemingly represents an infinite number of goods that don't actually exist. No one can get rich by all of us being killed by our own behaviors. Even if Climate change is fake, is it not prudent to be conserviative by nature? We must not allow systems to be the truth. Aristotle was a smart fella. Greatest good for the greatest number as a rule. Great health to all.

  6. Musk has a vested interest in seeing our beautiful planet fail. It's the only way his expensive overly ambitious space ventures make any sense, financial and/or logical.

  7. I think I disagree with the premise the final conclusion rests on. I don't think creating as many human brains as possible is the answer, I think nurturing the brains we already make is the answer. This notion that humans will somehow fix the devestation we are causing to the planet at the same speed at which we create it is not carried out by reality.

    Rewnewable resources are one factor. What of non-renewable resources? What of waste? What of disease cased by desnity? What of Capitalism and war over resources. Accelerated growth.

    The idea that we might be "underpopulated" is only terrifying to the people who are burning through employees too fast.

    The planet can host more of us, but we do not put our efforts toward making the planet hospitable for that. Until we do that, "underpopulation" is a conservative dogwhistle for "replacemnet theory" and anti-abortion nuts. If any of them actually believed we need more people, they would pay the ones they employ better, and let them unionize. They would fight for healthcare for women and children, they would back massive daycare or child rearing subsidies.

    But they don't. They are just liars.

  8. Can Ms Saidenhaden kindly explain what is the meaning and/or purpose of this SCANDALOUS map of Serbia (the land of Nikola Tesla) CUT INTO THREE PIECES? nothermost province is called Vojvodina. Southmost Kosovo ad Metohija. Would you mind me CUTTIN OFF swiss and/or austrian pieces of land into pieces here on me map?

  9. The more efficient a system is the more purposed it is, and the more purposed it is the more vulnerable it is to catastrophic failure of that purpose. So there's that. There is also the relationship between population density and quality of life. Quality of life is of course subjective and difficult to quantify, but it seems to me that there is a definite drop in quality of life in densely populated areas. Musk is wrong.

  10. Huh? I can't see the dip in the population graph reflecting the catastrophic covid epidemic.

  11. I think this was very optimistic. When the resources are depleted, China commands a higher birthrate, the temperature rises and destroys agriculture, the sea i polluted and the fish dies, we are not talking about a smooth transition. The war in Ukraine is about resources. At one point everybody is going to fight for their existence and destroy the resources of others to win wars.

  12. Academic Elites: Babies are reeeeeeally bad, we must get rid of them. Oh yeah, and there's no such thing as male or female. Men are women. Ther is no definition for what a woman is. White people are ALL KKK members, except the ones who currently run everything. Nuclear power is evil. Covid will kill everyone and Pfizer is a benevolent agency that loves you more than your mother loves you. The Media tells the truth listen to them. Karl Marx and Klaus Schwab are gods, worship them. Trudeau and politicians like him are geniuses "vote" for them. Freedom is very bad, surrender it to the elites, because they are smarter than you and you are not as valuable as they are.

    Sanguis Christi, miserere nobis.❤‍🔥

  13. Musk is wrong. I'd like to see us return to a population circa 1900-1950 at the most because automation is wiping out hundreds of jobs in factories and farmlands. And the white collar job market can only expand so much. That leaves the creative fields and the sciences, and they can only support a limited number of jobs. And the military, of course, but even it has its size limitations, and anyway as technology advances there will be less and less need for boots on the ground people. And then there's the damage overpopulation wreaks on the ecosystem, world resources, and space requirements. How do you feed them all? Where do you put them? What do you do with their waste? How do you support them in their old age?

  14. The pro-boomsters don't spend much time thinking about quality of life, for humans and non-humans. Now Covid and Russia help to illustrate how fragile the current world wide economy actually is. With the effects of climate change still not fully understood I think the Doomsters are mostly correct. We may very well be able to produce more food but at what cost?

  15. If only we had a way to diminish population in the entire planet with a thing that could spread quick and everywhere but mostly affecting old and sickly people. Mmm, what could it be, what could it be?

  16. How can you discuss Ehrlich and Simon without their infamous 1980 wager? It should also be noted John Holden — the Obama administration's science advisor — was involved on the losing side.

  17. If we mechanized the whole planet we might be able to get 100 Billion, but I'd much prefer keeping nature

  18. I don’t know why people listen to Elon as if he’s an expert on every topic. If anything, he’s wrong more times than he is right.

    On a side note: am I the only one who notices that she’s barely moving her jaw vertically while talking? I’ve never seen that before.

  19. The comfort of mathematics fades a bit when you have to actually live through the normalization periods of too few young to support the old. Watching that curve flatten will be slightly more traumatic in reality than on a graph.

  20. may I point out that natural selection, umm, somehow interferes with population decrease via fertility rate. those that aren't like too much into children, don't multiply; hence they can't pass on those genes potentially required to develop such trait.

  21. "..though, maybe by the time I've finished this sentence, he has a few more." Best burn ever, deserves 8 (or more) thumbs up!

  22. And stop calling him Elon, he is not your friend. He just want your money and admiration.

  23. 9:46 holy crap, what happened in Japan 53 years ago? I can see the effects of the atomic bombs in the upper dent, but dunno why exactly one single year also got quite noticable decimated.

  24. I hate to say it since I used to like Musk but I think he is full of $hit. Let me remind you of all the projects he promises and then quietly moves away from them as they fail. I would love to see a Mars colony, however, at our level of technology, a Mars colony is a pipe dream that will get people killed. And I say that wishing a Mars colony could be possible. He is smart, he knows this so either he again is using pipe dreams to boost his ego and stocks or he is completely mad. Mars, will kill those first pioneers. No, air, no protection from space radiation, regular dusk storms, freezing temperatures, no easy shelter, no easy way to get supplies, no easy way to leave if necessary, no easy way to get help in an emergency, no good soil to grow food, no easy accessible water, not much solar energy to live(Mars gets lets usable solar light than Earth since it is farther away from the Sun), and the possibility of unknown microorganisms that could wipe them all out with diseases that our human inmune system has never seen. Not to mention the low gravity effects on the human body and who knows what else could happen makes the whole endeavor a foolhardy.