Population and Health: Not Just Our Own Health, But the Health of the Planet!

By Michael Jorrin, "Doc Gumshoe", July 11, 2017

[ed. note: Michael Jorrin, who I call Doc Gumshoe, is a longtime medical writer (not a doctor) who writes for us about medicine and health a couple times a month. He has agreed to our trading and disclosure restrictions, but does not generally write directly about investment ideas. His ideas, thoughts and words are his own, and you can see all his past pieces here.]

This is by no means a new concern. At the end of the 18th century, the Reverend Thomas Robert Malthus observed that population tended to grow at an exponential pace, while food supply grew only at an arithmetic pace. For example, if a thousand mating couples (2,000 individuals) had three offspring each, that would result in 3,000 children at the end of a generation, and 4,500 children at the end of two generations. In three generations, or about one century, that original population of 2,000 would have more than tripled to 6,750.

That’s more or less what has happened to global population in the past century. In fact, global population was estimated at about 2 billion in 1927, and is now somewhere around 7.5 billion, having passed the 7 billion mark in October 2010, about 12 years after it zoomed by the 6 billion marker. That’s closer to quadrupling in a century than to tripling.

However, the good Reverent Malthus thought that there would be offsetting factors that would prevent the planet from becoming impossibly overpopulated. Because food production could not conceivably keep up with the exponential pace of population growth, there would inevitably be famines. There would also be natural disasters, wars, and diseases. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse would keep the population in check.

Malthus was right about the exponential rate of population growth, but wrong about the factors that would offset that growth. Yes, there have been wars, natural disasters, and diseases, as well as famines, but it does not appear that those “Malthusian disasters,” as they are known, have had much effect on slowing population growth.

For example, the Chinese famine during the years 1959 to 1961 may have caused as many as 45 million deaths. (Recent conservative research puts the number at 36 million.) This does not seem to have slowed China’s increase in population by much. In 1959, Chinese population stood at 668 million, and it had increased to 682 million in 1960. Then, in 1961, due to the famine, it declined to 658 million. But by 1963 it had recovered all lost ground and increased to 691 million. The population of China passed the one billion mark in 1982, and now stands at 1.381 billion.

According to the UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs, global population is expected to hit 8.5 billion by 2030, 9.7 billion in 2050, and 11.2 billion by 2100. Those, by the way, are mid-range estimates. The high estimate for global population by 2100 is about 14 billion.

As of 2012, the UN’s projections for the regions of the world in 2100 were as follows:

Asia 4.60 billion
Africa 3.57 billion
Latin America 0.69 billion
Europe 0.67 billion
North America 0.57 billion
Oceania 0.07 billion

This puts the total for the Western Hemisphere at around 1.26 billion, while the Eastern Hemisphere is projected to have a population of 8.84 billion. The largest increase is projected to take place in Africa, whose population of about 1 billion today is projected almost to quadruple. By 2050, the population of Nigeria is expected to top 400 million, exceeding that of the US, making it the third most populous country on the planet after India and China. And it’s projected to reach 760 million by the end of the century. India is expected to be the most populous country on earth, passing China in about five years.

The perils of population growth have been the basis for a good deal of dystopian fiction. I recall a story by Philip K. Dick in which office workers essentially lived in their workplace, sleeping in the stairwells, and subsisting on weird artificial foods. A staple was “chicken little,” an immense rapidly growing mass of an edible substance resembling chicken meat into which artificial nutrients were pumped, and which grew enormous volumes of “meat,” which were daily harvested and fed to the workers.

And currently some nervous members of the super-super rich are already in the process of establishing (or at least planning) totally self-contained and self-sufficient “environments,” in which all necessities for life could be generated, and which would protect them from the surrounding hordes. Farming and raising livestock would be carried out in perfectly climate-controlled indoor environments. Or perhaps their inhabitants could dispense with actual food – liquids containing all the necessary nutrients would keep them fit as a fiddle.

But those solutions are only for the privileged few.

Population: total numbers versus population density

Nigeria is not a tiny country, but if its population shoots up to the 400 million plus marker as expected, it’s going to be pretty crowded. Nigeria’s land area is about 357,000 square miles – less than one-tenth of the US land area of about 3.8 million square miles. And as for India, by 2050 it’s expected to have a population in the neighborhood of 1.7 billion crammed into a land area of 1.269 million square miles, less than one-third of the US land area. In each case, that comes out to a population density about ten times that of the US.

So, what are the effects of population density on health?

There are certain clear advantages to living in urbanized areas rather than out in the wonderful middle of nowhere. I am not speaking here of the Black Hole of Calcutta or the shanty-towns of Lagos or the favelas of Rio, but in general of the metropolitan areas of the world’s large cities. One signal advantage, at least in the more developed world, is that the rate of accidental injury is much, much lower in the more urbanized areas. Yes, there are lots of automobile accidents in the big cities, but most of them result in minor injuries. The fatal crashes tend to be in the rural areas.

And once there’s an accidental injury, whether a car crash or something else, a key factor is how quickly the victim gets medical attention. Out in the sticks, if you fall off the ladder while you’re putting up your storm windows, it might be a while before the ambulance shows up, and another while before it gets you to the hospital. This results in about a 20% higher rate of death from accidental injuries in rural areas.

Also, in rural areas, people may have to travel considerable distances to see a physician that is able to treat their particular disease or condition. If a person living in a remote rural area relies on regular visits to a rheumatologist for the management of a condition such as rheumatoid arthritis, this may entail long trips and may simply be impractical for some people.

Survival after heart attacks or strokes is highly dependent on how quickly the ambulance arrives and how quickly the patient gets to the hospital. If you have a heart attack in downtown Seattle, you have a much better chance of surviving than if your MI happens out near the border with Idaho. In more developed regions, there are sometimes means to overcome the distance factor. For example, J. Walter Schaefer introduced an air ambulance service in California in 1947, for the specific purpose of quickly getting people in the rural parts of the state to hospitals, and similar services are now fairly common.

That being said, there certainly are health drawbacks in living in more densely populated areas. Perhaps the single health factor that is most strongly and obviously linked with population density is pollution. According to a 2012 report from the World Health Organization, air pollution was the cause of 3.7 million annual deaths, two-thirds of which occurred in India and China. In the more-developed world, we think of air pollution as resulting from factors like fossil-fuel-dependent electric generation and automobile exhaust, but in the less-developed regions the main sources tends to be home heating and cooking as well as waste incineration. In New Delhi, a study in about 11,000 children concluded that nearly half of that city’s 4.4 million children between 4 and 17 years of age had irreversible lung damage due to air pollution.

Some diseases spread much more rapidly in crowded conditions, for example, tuberculosis – there were 8.6 million cases of tuberculosis in 2012. Diseases carried by vectors such as mosquitoes spread more rapidly when those creatures find more humans to feast on – Zika and West Nile virus being good examples.

Polluted water is a threat to health regardless of population density, but if the source of the pollution is human waste, as is so often the case, the relationship between crowding and pollution is obvious. The source of the cholera outbreak in Haiti was almost certainly a contingent of UN peacekeepers from Nepal. But what has made the outbreak far worse is the extremely crowded conditions, and the scarcity of clean water, whether for drinking or cooking or for any other purpose.

…but will there be room for all of us on Planet Earth?

That depends on which region of Planet Earth you’re looking at. There’s plenty of room in Turkmenistan and in the steppes of Central Asia. Maybe there’s some spare space in Canada and Australia and parts of the US and South America. However, a few days ago I read in the paper that 450,000 people in Bangladesh left the coastal areas seeking higher ground because of a threatening storm. Where they wound up, the story didn’t say. But there’s not much room in Bangladesh. The population is close to 165 million, and the population density per square mile is 3,279. That’s more than 30 times the population density of the US, which is about 90 per square mile. I remember that about 20 years ago, there was a cholera epidemic in Bangladesh which quickly killed something like a quarter of a million people. The rate of population growth in Bangladesh at that time, close to 2% annually, meant that those quarter of a million departed souls would be replaced by a quarter of a million newcomers to our planet in the space of about six weeks.

(Here I must introduce a positive note: the treatment of cholera in Bangladesh has improved to the point where the great majority of patients survive. Take that, Malthus!)

The population growth rate we have been seeing lately is on a collision course with two other major global trends: resource depletion and climate change. The resource people were most worried about was oil, but concerns about oil have eased. However, other resources may be much more important: water and arable land. Take water: DeBeers (the diamond company) did a study in 2006 which predicted that water in rivers in Africa would decrease by about 40% by 2050. Lake Baikal, in Russia, the largest body of fresh water in the world, is estimated to hold about 20% of the total fresh water on the entire planet. It was thought to be too large to become seriously polluted, but evidence is mounting that industrial pollution, particularly from paper mills, is severely damaging the lake.

Clean water issues are endemic, and not only in Flint, Michigan. New artesian wells in India, drilled with the help of international organizations, have been found to contain dangerous levels of arsenic. The Chinese have attempted to convert marginal land to agriculture, but the desert keeps reinvading it. Here in our country, the Rio Grande hardly reaches the Gulf of Mexico, and almost all Colorado River water has been used for irrigation before it reaches the Sea of Cortez. Wherever humans live, there’s a demand for water, and the more humans, the greater the demand.

As for arable land, the UN projects that in the densely populated parts of the world, there is about 0.1 hectare per person. That’s about a quarter of an acre – a small suburban building lot. What is meant by arable land? The rain forests in South America, forests in the US and Canada and Eastern Europe, and African jungles, are all possible arable lands. But much of that land is not really suitable for crop-growing. The soil is subject to a process termed “laterization,” meaning that the organic matter quickly degrades, and the soluble minerals are depleted, leaving a largely sandy substance that is not hospitable to plant life. Also, turning jungles and forests into croplands would have a large negative impact on the atmosphere, resulting in more carbon dioxide and less oxygen. A healthy planet requires forests and jungles.

Water and arable land are the irreducible essentials to sustain human life, and they are scarcest just where the population pressure is greatest. Consider Yemen. The population of Yemen was just about 5 million in 1950. It has quintupled since then, to 25 million, and is projected to reach 100 million by the year 2100. But as of 2006, arable land in Yemen was just 0.06 hectare per capita – about an eighth of an acre. If Yemen’s population should actually hit the 100 million marker, the amount of arable land per person would be about one thirty-second of an acre – about 1400 square feet, the footprint of a single house. However, that calculation does not take into account the amount of room that 100 million people require just to live, even if they are crammed into very small quarters. So the overwhelming likelihood is that if Yemen’s population continues to grow at the current rate, lots of Yemenis will have to go elsewhere.

Speaking of Yemen, that country is at this time in a state of impending famine, with 6.8 million people (according to the UN) at risk of starvation, and another 10.2 million “in crisis.” That adds up to 17 million hungry people out of a population of 25 million – about two-thirds of the population. Similar conditions persist in Somalia, South Sudan, and Nigeria. Self-proclaimed experts insist that the underlying reasons for this are more political than otherwise – the actions taken by the Saudis against the Houthis in Yemen effectively prevent the nation from importing the food that is necessary to feed the population. But what this demonstrates is that even under stable conditions, Yemen cannot feed its population. Food has to be imported from elsewhere.

Another area where population growth has a major effect is the global economy. In fact, globalization and population growth are at odds in one particular way. Populous countries have what is known as an “absolute economic advantage” in that they have a labor surplus, and can therefore undercut less populous countries with regard to the price of many goods, especially goods that are labor intensive. More developed regions perceive this and look for ways to oppose it. Viewed from a distant perspective, globalization makes a certain amount of economic sense: goods should be made where it’s cheapest. But this can cause economic dislocations. People in developed countries lose jobs, and put pressure on government to take more protectionist positions. In the short term, this might be seen as okay: people in developed countries shift to more skilled jobs and buy cheaper stuff from the less developed world. Meanwhile, wages in the less developed parts of the world rise to levels approximating those in the better developed countries, and everyone is more prosperous.

But it doesn’t happen that way. What is happening, instead, is that the population of poorer countries continues to grow. The result is that there is a huge global labor surplus. Everybody works for less. It’s a race to the bottom, and basically Wal-Mart doesn’t care!

But aren’t birth rates declining, at least in some parts of the world?

Demographers have been counting on something they call the “demographic transition” or the “fertility shift.” It had been assumed that global population would top out at about 9 billion in the year 2050 and then level off or decline slightly. A fertility shift has been observed when the infant mortality rate declines to the point where families can trust that their children will not die in infancy. Also, in agrarian societies, children are an undeniable asset – they can be put to work doing something just about as soon as they can walk. But when children need to be fed, clothed, and, in particular, educated before they begin to contribute to the family’s support, families tend to be more careful about having lots and lots of them. For example in one Chinese province where the authorities have not enforced the one-child policy, Chinese families are still only having one child, because they perceive that the best opportunity for the child lies in receiving a good education, and one child is all they can afford. The fertility shift has already taken place in most of Europe and North America – sometimes even among groups whose religious orientation would seem to oppose the concept of family planning. However, it has not happened in many parts of the world, where population growth is still unchecked.

What will this mean? We, in North America, might think we don’t have a whole lot to worry about. We have plenty of land, and if we avoid being really stupid, we can probably manage our water resources. However, we should not turn a blind eye to the geopolitical problems that will likely come with this kind of population growth.

The refugee crisis that has literally upended the European Union is not a direct result of population pressure, but a result of the civil war in Syria. Most of the people trying to get into Europe, by whatever means, are (probably) legitimately refugees, however that term may be defined.

But here’s an example, recently in the news, although no one has linked this particular issue to population growth. We have heard about the people fleeing Libya who have landed on the Italian island of Lampedusa, with the hope of making it somehow to Europe. The EU is nervous about granting them blanket refugee status, because of the probability – or likelihood – that the current trickle of such migrants will swell to a flood.

Most of the migrants who landed on Lampedusa were not Libyans, but sub-Saharan Africans, who had previously made their way to Libya in search of some kind of decent existence. No one can possibly blame them. There were interviews with migrants who had come from cities such as Lagos, in Nigeria (a very long way from Libya), who said that they would absolutely not go back home voluntarily. Lagos, by the way, (at least according to some authorities) is the fourth most densely populated metro area in the world, where 13 million people live in an area one tenth the size of greater New York.

I do not think it is an overstatement to say that Yemen cannot possibly sustain a population of 100 million, nor Nigeria a population of 760 million, nor Africa a population of more than three and a half billion. Where will they go?

Some – a few of the more resourceful and the more fortunate – will make their way to this side of the planet. We can certainly accommodate some immigrants, but not billions. More will try to go to Europe. European nations may be willing to accommodate a few immigrants. Some commentators are quick to point to “anti-immigrant” sentiment in Europe (as well as here), frequently from the human rights perspective and within the context that immigrants – worthy, brave, hard-working, individuals – have made great contributions to every region that has received them.

However, we are not talking about moderate numbers of worthy, brave, hard-working individuals. We are talking about a human tsunami. Europe has every reason to be extremely nervous. This has contributed to, among other things, the UK’s departure from the EU.

A spokesman for the Population Council here in New York was quoted as saying, “Can we feed 10 billion people? Probably.” It may be possible to create more arable land, by clearing forests and jungles, and possibly also by irrigating deserts, but both have potentially disastrous environmental consequences. And rising sea levels, a likely result of climate change, will submerge low-lying coastal areas and result in salt-water incursions of estuaries. Futuristic schemes have been floated for building gigantic vertical farms, where food crops will be grown indoors under artificial light and nourished with chemical fertilizers. Meat substitutes, grown from non-animal substrates, are being tested. Growth enhancers of all types are already in use, such as those which speed chicken growth from the egg to the supermarket in just a few weeks. And you may have heard about the Chinese farmers that sprayed their watermelons with forchlorfenuron to accelerate their growth. They may have used a bit too much; thousands of the watermelons exploded.

Yes, we can probably somehow feed 10 billion people, although there will likely be famines from time to time. And there will be more disease, as people are crammed together with unreliable water and sanitation. And there will be violence, as the people in village A (or region A, or nation A) notice that the people in village (or region, or nation) B are just a bit better off and decide to even the score. Some economists think that that’s what happened in Rwanda – the Tutsis had more than twice as much land per capita as the Hutu, and the Hutu took the redistribution of land into their own hands. Currently, several nations with concerns about feeding their own populations have acquired huge tracts of land in Africa – South Korea, for example, has bought 1.7 million acres in Sudan, about the size of Rhode Island, to grow wheat. This will place immense demands on Nile water, on which, in turn, the downstream Egyptians depend for life itself.

The spokesman for the Population Council also said, “Will this be the end of the world? No.” No, I agree it will not be the end of the world, or the end of human life on planet Earth. But I worry that it may be the beginning of the end of civilization.

Civilization is expensive. Civilization only emerged when human beings no longer had to dedicate all their resources and all their efforts to keeping alive. Civilization is the fruit of surplus resources. What we have created, as a species, has required huge expenditures of labor and money, as well as imagination and ingenuity. Keeping 10 billion people – or more! – alive on our tiny planet is likely to require all the resources we can muster, leaving precious little for the arts and sciences.

Is this to be the destiny of our kind – to eke out a bare existence on a crammed planet? I don’t believe that anyone wants this to be our fate. I am enough of an optimist to believe that at some point in the coming years, more and more of us will realize that our population trends have got to do a U-turn. This means family planning. An encouraging statement from the UN population division points out that when women in some of the poorest countries are offered information and voluntary access to birth control, they have chosen to have fewer children. However, global aid to pay for birth control has not increased in the past decade, and we in the US are not doing our part.

I realize that a position such as the one I have outlined here is sometimes characterized as being racist and xenophobic. Some would say that it is based on fears that a non-white population will overwhelm people of European descent. I point out that those who will suffer the most are the African and Asian populations. The Americas will likely accommodate some immigration, but its distance from the most overpopulated parts of the world will insulate it. Europe will try to fend off immigration by whatever means. The developed world – Europe and the Western Hemisphere – will fare much, much better than the rest of the planet.

What we and the rest of the developed world cannot insulate ourselves from is the effects of population growth on the underlying health of our planet. Currently, there are about 620 million people in Asia who do not have electricity, more than 300 million in India alone. And 600 million more in Africa, including 97% of the population of South Sudan, 85% in Congo and Madagascar, 81% in Kenya, and so on. What people in India want more than anything else seems to be air conditioning. This is not surprising, given the increasing temperatures that have been recorded in those parts. A high of 123⁰ F was recently recorded in New Delhi. Humans cannot long survive at those temperatures. So, regardless of the best intentions, it seems likely that electricity will be generated by whatever means and at whatever cost to the environment.

I ask myself why this matters so much to me. It is extremely unlikely that our little patch of land will ever be taken over to raise food for 32 or 64 unfortunates. It is also unlikely that our town, or the tiny island where we vacation, or even New York City, where we sing and go to concerts and museums, or indeed, that anywhere that we are likely to go, is going to become unsustainably overpopulated any time soon. So why do I care? Because we need to live on this island earth for a very, very long time, and we need to be able to go on doing the things we do best. Our mere survival as a species, to my view, counts for very little. What counts is what we have created: Civilization. We can only continue to do that if survival is not our sole objective.

So I ask you, my friends, to keep this in mind. People everywhere surely want what is best for their own descendants. Given the means and the opportunity, most people will behave in such a way as to improve their chances. Most people would welcome family planning assistance. We should press our leaders to help make it available. Not less than everything may depend on it

* * * * * * *
I recognize that this piece is something of a departure for Doc Gumshoe, and I will be grateful for any and all comments, including from readers who strenuously disagree, for whatever reason. I will also acknowledge that this piece, more than any I have sent your way, relies on a huge amount of data that I have no conceivable way of verifying. For example, with regard to the figures I have cited regarding the population density of various countries and cities, I have picked what on first inspection appeared to be the most reliable. But there are wide disparities, sometimes depending on the definition of a city: just what is a city, and where does it start and leave off? Those of us living in the so-called Greater New York area are accustomed to thinking that New York consists of the five boroughs, but also recognizing that Greater New York takes in parts of New Jersey (including Newark) and parts of Connecticut. But I have read that the Chinese have plans to enlarge Greater Beijing so that it attains a population of well over 100 million.

However, no matter how we slice and dice, the overall picture, I solemnly promise, is true. Our planet is getting overcrowded, and the effects – for us, mostly long-term, might be genuinely dire. So I thank you for reading my screed and thinking about it.

Doc Gumshoe will be back before long with a piece reporting recent developments on the medical front that I hope will be of interest to you. Best to all, Michael Jorrin (aka Doc Gumshoe)

Share your thoughts...

85 Comments on "Population and Health: Not Just Our Own Health, But the Health of the Planet!"

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Susan
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Susan

Sounds to me like population control is a big part of the answer. Family planning.

carbon bigfoot
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carbon bigfoot

The waste of Trillions of $$$ by government mandated ” Renewable Energy Schemes” and its negative impact on the environment, e.g., the 40,000,000 acres in the US dedicated to unnecessary corn-produced ETHANOL previous used for world food supply is far more impacting as described in the link
https://wattsupwiththat.com/2017/07/05/monumental-unsustainable-environmental-impacts/. All the information that is hidden from the public by the agenized Environmental Extremists and their willing counterparts in the media.
CHEAP ABUNDANT ENERGY PROVIDED BY CARBON FUELS, OIL, COAL AND NATURAL GAS IS THE WORLD’S ANSWER TO POPULATION CONTROL.

arch1
Irregular
6521

I agree and would add that te greatest use of energy will be needed in providing potable water for direct consumption but even more in growing food. There are huge areas of potentially arable land in present day deserts if there was only water available. This Earth could possibly support 50 billion with existing technology and methods. Humans are good at problem solving when needed for survival. Our greatest problems are in overcrowding some areas.

gordon
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gordon
Archi, do you really want 50B people on this plant?….l don’t so. And the point is to stop population growth, in my view. Better that it’s done in a controlled way through quality of life attitudes and sane pubic polices, than through fatalistic views that someday this planet is going to end, or be catastrophically reduced. I care about this today and about quality of life today for everyone, because it might take eons for man to be cut down. In other words, if the end is approaching, I rather it be a pleasant one, than a miserable one, grinding… Read more »
arch1
Irregular
6521
What I, or you, want is meaningless. I was merely pointing out a fact. In all likelihood the population is likely to have a mass die off before long, not eons. Like it or not we are only a part of nature and nature has ways of taking care of overgrown populations. Famine, wars and pandemics are what is usually thought of but natural disasters could easily wipe out people by the 100’s of millions. such as the impending great quake and tsunami overdue on the Pacific coast of N. America. A super volcano could occur at any time that… Read more »
Lulu
Irregular
808

I thought I read over n over that western people are having less than 1 child per couple……and other poorer countries are having many children. I say, we were born with two arms to hug two children. With a third, one is left out. Have as many as you like just stop asking me to pay for them.

Jeff
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Jeff
Steve
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Steve

Doc’s views are quite out of date. Excellent post Jeff.

jcolby
Irregular
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jcolby

I understand where the declining-population crowd are coming from, but it seems to be a purely First World view. Sure, the US, EU, Japan and likely South Korea are peaked or declining in population, but that is by no means the norm in Second and Third World countries. The speculation in New Scientist is just as speculative as any other forecast. I wouldn’t say Doc and his views are outdated, just realistic based on the reality that is taking place today.

arch1
Irregular
6521

You are correct. The most advanced countries have a sustainable population and must work to help less advanced gain control of growth or face being over run by invasion. As we see in Europe now.

777stock777
Irregular
3
777stock777

Actually many do not. The Northern European countries are getting desperate to re-establish sustainability for a number of reasons.

Enginer
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Enginer

If you or I needed to provide a necessity for our family, we would simply go out and purchase it, because for most Westerners our economic output exceeds the production cost of those goods. However we have not enougb excees to supplement the almost, zero output of the rapidly breeding families in, for example, Nigeria.

bluesharpbob
Irregular
69
I’d be skeptical of relying on info in articles in New Scientist & it’s website. From Wikipedia- In September 2006, New Scientist was criticized by science fiction writer Greg Egan, who wrote that “a sensationalist bent and a lack of basic knowledge by its writers” was making the magazine’s coverage sufficiently unreliable “to constitute a real threat to the public understanding of science”. In January 2009, New Scientist ran a cover with the title “Darwin was wrong”.The actual story stated that specific details of Darwin’s evolution theory had been shown incorrectly, mainly the shape of phylogenetic trees of interrelated species,… Read more »
markmc
Irregular
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markmc

It’s good to be skeptical, but I would be skeptical of Wikipedia as well. Pure Science (not politicized science) is a method of theory formulation subject to peer review. But even after peer review, it’s still just a theory.

arch1
Irregular
6521

The bomb has not gone away,,, only delayed.

Dan
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Dan

Trends from post-industrial societies such as Japan and Germany doesn’t mean much for Africa, whoever wrote that article has not actually lived in e.g. Lagos, I can safely say that

gordon
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gordon

Most predictions on human population point up, not an implosion down. If you have something to say, say it, don’t turn to articles. But if you do, then at least be so kind as to paraphrase the article and why you think what you think. (I couldn’t access it without subscribing).

D
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D
Population implosion is coming. It’s already here in the developed world. We’re well into the era of the “inverted demographic pyramid” and the conditions that will doom Western welfare states and contribute to low or negative economic growth for years to come. All that keeps it going now is money printing and borrowing against non-existent increases in future income. The Doc is right about certain poorer countries, but only certain ones. The rate of population growth has slowed everywhere, including sub-Saharan Africa and most of the Middle East. Many such countries already have below-replacement birthrates. You can check the most… Read more »
James R. Ottesen
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0
James R. Ottesen

Excellent presentation. Honestly, I had no idea of the risks we face on our planet. I will share your thoughts
with my children. While there is not a lot we can do, perhaps our children can start a mission of understanding
that will lead to efforts to minimize the ultimate risk. Hopefully, their efforts will bear fruition before North
Korea does its damage to the world.

Thanks for your thoughts.

JIm Ottesen

Al L
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0
Al L
When it comes to food production there is a simple solution. Food is a commodity and all commodities act is a somewhat similar way. When the price goes up, the availability tends to go up, often with some time lag. Note crude oil for example: when the price went up about 5 times what it was for several years, production went up. New methods were introduced that were cost prohibited at lower crude prices, but became profitable as prices rose and became very profitable as prices rose even higher. Then as prices came down again they were able to reduce… Read more »
Rusty Brown in Cda
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0
Rusty Brown in Cda

Your comment brings up the question of “how will those people pay for the food they need?” If they are to buy it from the Western Hemisphere countries, they will have to find some way to pay for it, otherwise our farmers will be expected to work for nothing as a kind of vast international charity to feed the rest of the world.

Proudly SA
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Proudly SA

Well, supply and demand may not always work, at least not in extreme situations. Where would the poorest and hungriest people get the money to pay for food?

Alan L.
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Alan L.
What is so sad (and so unchageable) is that, although the cognitive equipment necessary to understand the population and environmental problem exists in almost all of us, the egocentric drive (me first, me first) always triumphs. Much of the current administration’s environmental actions today are good examples of allowing (even promoting) short term gains to overide longer term realities. For many years I have stated that, if a button existed that would vaporize 2/3rds of the earth’s human populations, I would push it—but that’s silly, as the problem would rejuvenate itself within a few years. Frankly (I’m 83) there’s a… Read more »
Nikki Odegaard
Irregular
4
Alan, I am “only” 62 and I agree with everything you say here. I thought this was an excellent and very depressing article. Depressing for the reason you state, that the “me first” attitude is so predominant in our society and those who have WAY more than they can ever need or consume largely don’t appear to care about the less fortunate in their own countries, never mind those out of sight, out of mind in Africa or Asia. Heck, the current administration is even cutting NASA’s budget, so we’re unlikely to be finding another planet to destroy any time… Read more »
BJI
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BJI
The super volcano under Yellowstone National Park is OVERDUE to erupt again. When it does THE ENTIRE WORLD will experience winter for 5 to 10 years OR LONGER killing probably 99.44% of humanity not to mention most plant and animal life on the face of the earth! If a super volcano doesn’t kill us an asteroid a kilometer or larger in diameter will INEVITABLY strike the earth killing ALL LIVING THINGS on the surface of the earth! EVEN IF the above calamities NEVER HAPPEN, in 1 to 2 BILLION years the sun will begin to run out of fuel and… Read more »
Steve
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Steve

“The developed world – Europe and the Western Hemisphere – will fare much, much better than the rest of the planet.”

Actually no, Doc. As a result of views such as yours, the more northern one goes in Europe (and to a degree in North America), liberal whites are no longer having babies. The demographics are becoming swayed older and older. This is happening to a degree that many cultures in Europe are in danger of imploding because of this alone.

jcolby
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jcolby

Not sure what Liberalism has to do with having children. The metric seems to be more along the lines of education and financial independence. People understand that it is in their family’s best interest to optimize the number of children they have. I know plenty of Conservatives having smaller families. This is not a left/right leaning issue.

Steve
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Steve

It’s a demographic fact. Draw your own inferences.

Chuck Burton
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Chuck Burton

Earth has several times killed off most of it’s organic life forms, usually by means of global warming. and the release of sulfur dioxide. It seems to be in the process of doing so again. Mankind seems to be accelerating the process. Scientists say that human life may become very iffy by the end of this century.

Ron Joseph
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Ron Joseph

Join the discussion Global Warming? omg, EVEN HERE THE CHICKEN LITTLES
PROSTHELIZE! almost every die off has come from planetary winters started by volcanism or asteroid impact. Where do you get it was global warming? When the earth was sub-tropical at the poles the equator didn’t burn up. In fact the fossil fuels were created by the lush growth taking place then.

traydon
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traydon

Add to the steady increase in the world’s population the rising per capita use of the world’s resources and you will see even a bigger problem. Yes, we make things more efficiently over time, but as millions of people move from third world economies to more modernized economies in China, India and elsewhere, they are demanding more luxuries than before.

alpha2
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alpha2
Hi Doc, thanks for writing about this. If I can correct one of your estimations about the refugees arriving on our shores. You surmise that most of them are probably legitimate refugees fleeing from the strife in Syria. If only this were true. It is estimated that of the one million immigrants that Germany, at the behest of Mrs Merklel, gave sanctuary to, no more than 25% were legitimate refugees as we understand the word. The rest were ‘economic migrants’. These are mostly form sub Saharan Africa and the other failing states of the middle east and North Africa. There… Read more »
Jeff
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Jeff

Germany needs immigrants from Turkey, Syria and really anywhere else to prop up their socialist programs. So does the U.S. (which by the way was founded entirely by immigrants, including the “native” Americans who immigrated from Asia). Eventually the Ponzi scams that are socialism do collapse under their own weight. See the Illinois, California, and other state government budgets. They’re largely taxpayer-funded pension plans for government workers. We all work for them.

arch1
Irregular
6521

They don’t need just more people,,, they need good skilled workers who can support themselves with extra left to fund social programs.
Most immigrant/invaders will be a further drain on resources.

arch1
Irregular
6521

True

Peg Palmer
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Peg Palmer

Thank you. Someone needed to spell it out.

William Farkas
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A difficult but critical topic. It always amazes me the way we humans seem to deliberately turn away from bad news, even making it unsocial to broach the topic. In the book War and Peace Tolstoy says that as the French were gathering outside Moscow savouring the moments before their final assault, the people of Moscow had never seen such merriment. We are not programmed for collective rational decision making in times of gathering clouds. About the only mechanism we have for pulling together is a call to arms, ” a war on poverty”.

Frank
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Frank

Doc,
Has there been any discussion of living underground and in submersed cities in the ocean? Of course there is always Mars.

Steve
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Steve

The land has been quite capable of supporting the people, except where there is war. Power and greed is the acute issue in view here.

Astrid
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Astrid

thanks. pop conn, the successor to spg is a worthy place to donate

Maxx
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Maxx
It is so wonderful to have a piece on “THE” issue that will eventually either destroy this planet or make it a place where quality of life is reduced to the point where it won’t be worth having a life here at all. If we could just put aside the political, economic, and religious pressures that keep us from actually doing anything about over population. We will soon live on a planet without wildlife, or wilderness. There will only be people and vermin. If we would just stop the madness of having so many children this planet could still heal.… Read more »
Jeff VerHaar
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Jeff VerHaar
The fact that the main world population issues are coming from countries that islamic death cults have murdered any non muslim that did not convert! Within s few generations the sick death cult ships out it’s sick seed to infiltrate blind stupid countries! Even the islamic world terrorist leader Erdogan tells his followers to have at least 8 children! This death cult has been planning the takeover of all non muslim countries for centuries! These islamic do nothing but suck host countries dry of their culture and money! I feel this article was to PC and lacked the obvious observations… Read more »
carbon bigfoot
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carbon bigfoot
I respect your medical literary prowess but you have penned an article which is not supportable by the information I read. For starters I recommend a trip down the factual highway in ” The Merchants of Despair” by fellow engineer, Robert Zubrin. Subtitle Radical Environmentalists, Criminal Pseudo-Scientists and the Fatal Cult of Antihumanism. He dispels all the conclusions drawn by the flawed, unscientific references you cite. As an engineer who has studied FAKE SCIENCE for the last 24 years, that espoused by Faux Scientists on all subjects especially those in Climate Studies, I recognize the players. CO2 is greening the… Read more »
Trevor
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Trevor

Thanks for your courage and honesty. That lets you go against the radical element, to give us your views. I look at the places where the sea used to cover etc and see areas where the sea gains area again. This planet is a living moving mass. The climate changes with the moves. And no wrries about overpopulation too much. The nature of this planet will control that in time to come.

gordon
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gordon

Take a drive on LA freeways if you think the population has “leveled off”

Ron Joseph
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Ron Joseph
Join the discussion Gee, if you can read the Handbook of Chemistry and Physics it is very easy to debunk Global Warming based on Co2 levels. HOWEVER take this into consideration. The increase in CO2 is a symptom of our use of stored energy. Overall the suns output is fairly constant as it is a 1% variable. Still, 1% change can do a lot. Anyway, I digress. The rise in CO2 reflects our turning the suns stored energy almost purely into heat. Add the electricity generated from Hydro sources. Again, almost 100% turned into heat. Nuclear energy, same, but the… Read more »
carbon bigfoot
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carbon bigfoot

Hey Doc: World Population by an expert who we lost early this year:
http://principia-scientific.org/hans-rosling-science-population-decline-immigation/

carbon bigfoot
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carbon bigfoot

Monster Quieting of our golden globe entering another Maunder Minimum which precipitated the Little Ice Age. More people die from cold weather than heat —-thousands die in Europe this past Winter I’ll get the figures in time. https://wattsupwiththat.com/2017/07/11/monster-solar-minimum-approaching/

Ron Joseph
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Ron Joseph

Umm, bigfoot, I was there in Europe, it barely snowed in the Alps. It barely even froze for more than a few weeks total in the Alpine.

loving10
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loving10

I read a very well documented piece by James Dale Davidson on why he thinks global cooling is more likely. Did anybody read his book The Age of Deception?

brown7228
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brown7228

U.S. News Elon Musk: The world’s population is accelerating toward collapse and nobody cares Elon points out that there are area of the world like Germany and France will be half of what it is now in the next 60 years. Japan’s woman fertility rate is 1.4 children per woman.

Lewis Nicholson
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Lewis Nicholson

Thanks Doc….but sadly mankind now has no answer to this problem, we see it, we read about it, but will we do anything about it…I believe not. A big nasty black swan event is not far down the pike ladies and gents…hang onto your hats

Random
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I agree that more resources into family planning in developing countries would help. In Uganda, the developing country I’m most familiar with, the issue is mainly a rural one; in towns families are around 3 children each, in the countryside 5 children, down from 6 a few years ago! The rural figure would at least drop to 4 with good access to contraception.

MCGILTON98846
Irregular
-8

Rheumatoid Arthritis is something I have been living with for many years,something that helps reduce the pain is Green Lipped Mussel Oil from New Zealand it cuts the inflammation and in turn the pain.The cheapest is from Swanson 1-800 437 4148 item#E7SWE079 $20.99. So if you got pain from Arthritis try it and tell me what you think. Groundhog

Gordon
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Gordon

Hi HO Hi HO it’s off to Mars we go.

sunriverjoe
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sunriverjoe

Thanks Doc! Excellent well written discussion of a serious topic. Appreciate all the work that went into researching it.

Uncleowl
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Uncleowl
Personally I have a very different world view and perspective. As I sat in my ophthalmologist’s clinic studying a chart on the wall showing how the eyes work. I just could not bring myself to believe that those incredibly complicated and beautifully designed human eyes could be the product of an evolutionary process! Guys, there is a God who created this unfathomable universe including the eyes we use to read these posts! He is still in control of this planet and everyone on it. You can trust Him to fulfill His purpose and His plan for this earth and all… Read more »
uudsligar
Member
1
uudsligar

If you are right, I can’t help thinking He (She?) must be very disappointed to see how we’ve not used our even more complicated and marvelous brains to keep from fouling our beautiful planet.

hullevad
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It is hard to predict, especially about the future. But Michael Jorrin is correct in his analysis apart from some of the numbers regarding migrants. Only about 15-20% are from Syria, the rest are economic migrants.

Martin
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Martin

Good post, thank you. I suspect Mother Nature will devastate the population with an incurable disease before we reach peak forms of famine and war. Or am I wrong and Donald is the Last Trump?

harpswell
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harpswell

It is interesting that our president recently stated his mission to be preservation of civilization. I wonder whether he would agree with Doc’s definition of civilization.

Olya
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Unfortunately, the reflection of a profound global consciousness of this humanist text will not be shared in a constructive way by the predatory greediness of the dominants of the tribe adoring the “golden calf”.

John
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John

You left out South America particularly Brazil and Argentina. Lots of arable land and space although population growth is an issue in Brazil. There is also the unknown next pandemic…H7N9 flu waiting in the wings.

hillga
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hillga

For those who would like more perspectives, reading Jay Forrester’s “System Dynamics” and the Meadows’ “Limits to Growth” from the late ’60s and early ’70s as well as the deluge of reports and publications that follow, may be of great interest.

Andrew
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Excellent article, on the topic of renewable the Chinese are moving so fast, building giant floating solar farms, and even solar farms in the shape of Panda’s trying to educate kids, interesting info http://eqibeat.com/top-10-chinese-renewable-stocks-by-market-cap/

Ron Joseph
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Ron Joseph

And solar farms? They turn solar energy into heat. Plants do a more amazing thing. They take that solar energy and convert it to chemical energy. They provide shade. Ever walk through a forest on a hot sunny day? It is 10 deg cooler under the forest canopy. Want to bet you’d fry in a solar farm?

robertsjim
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robertsjim

Excellent article. Lots of ways to affirm there are too many of our species on this planet. Three unconventional ways are (1) the mass of swirling plastic trash in the oceans of the world where each gyre of trash surpasses in size the USA. Another measurement is (2) the number of indestructible plastic bottles now besmirching the planet. They now exceed one trillion; we’re fast on our way to two trillion. (3) A third is the ever increasing loss of tree canopy, which allows more carbon dioxide to remain uncaptured thereby exacerbating the greenhouse effect.

Ron Joseph
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Ron Joseph

Read my reply to Carbon Bigfoot. Don’t worry about the CO2.

John Malloy
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John Malloy

Thanks Doc, another very interesting and in depth article. My son sent me this article the other day which fits this discussion. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/food/wp/2017/07/07/this-shipping-container-farm-could-someday-solve-the-food-desert-problem/?utm_term=.69fb0c6c1daf&wpisrc=nl_draw&wpmm=1

gordon
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gordon
Your observations on human population and the planet are one of the most pressing issues for the world. We may argue about climate change, whether it’s real or not, but there is no arguing that our planet for a fact is becoming degraded with over population. Unfortunately we are not debating that overpopulation is our biggest problem. So politicians and others debate global warming, and how to solve that. For me the solution to both of these issues is a simple one, but is not one that most people want to hear: REDUCE THE POPULATION OF MANKIND. I have not… Read more »
Lulu
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808
No politician/leader wants to go down in history as the ‘one’ who caused WW3, so the plan is to create such hatred amongst us that we create war amongst ourselves. Which world zones will be the killing fields this time? When enough killing has left us defeated, starving and without, those left are easily controlled…..all the survivors get back on the hamster wheel working, paying taxes for the elite and ever so happy to do it for some food and TV. ‘the plan was to keep the west fed and happy so we comply, but it’s no longer working…..I will… Read more »
uudsligar
Member
1
uudsligar

I have to agree!

harry
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harry

Anyone who doubts this very wise essay should visit India, as I did two years ago. Yes, 4x the U.S. population in 1/3 the area. Constant crowding, trash everywhere, people completely inconsiderate of others (driving, waiting in line, etc.), horrible smog. Do we want to be like India?

Chuck
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Chuck

We need to change government and u can not by voting.

tony
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tony

As long as free immigration acts as safety valve to over population, there will never be a serious discussion or plan. the problem will come when there is no place for people to expand to. At that time the invisible hand will solve the problem, man cannot control nature- extinction has happened before and will happen again

enuhfer
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enuhfer
Nice thorough analysis, Doc, but you will be savaged for it. Our economy has depended upon exponential growth for so long that we believe it can and should go on forever and that no alternatives are possible. Question that belief, and you threaten most investors and corporate wonks. They will go ballistic reading this. It is hard to comprehend exceeding a planet’s capacity to sustain human population growth, given the fact that half of the planet is still open at the start of the final doubling that will exceed capacity of the planet to support it. As I recall, that… Read more »
David Sligar
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David Sligar
Hello, Michael — Thank you for making the effort, writing this rather long and very heartfelt piece. While each of your data points is subject to discussion, the overall conclusion is inescapable. Population growth is the single greatest issue humans face right now, in my view giving rise to all the other issues we face, e.g. climate change, war, water scarcity, and so forth. While you point out that the US and Europe might be less effected in the near future than, for example, India and Africa, still population growth just in the US, even discounting immigration, continues at an… Read more »
hedy1234
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hedy1234

For those of you worrying about the population issue, I urge you to watch the PBS series Year Million. 6 parter.

jimbecker
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jimbecker

There is still one stubborn fact that refute the zpg folks. The fact is that the entire population of the world could fit into the state of Texas.

hedy1234
Irregular
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hedy1234
$ZPG Jim- I assume you were just being facetious as this would be true only in a theoretical sense. Thinking about this for just thirty seconds leads you to ask yourself what part of the available space of land would first have to be set aside for: 1. roads and highways 2. Buildings for making stuff 3. Buildings where folks go to be provided services 4. Buildings where folks go to buy stuff 5. Waste disposal 6. land for farming 7. All the stuff folks own that is not inside their living space. and this is just the tip of… Read more »
buranyi
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buranyi
Good article. There is not any one thing that will address the threat we face. We have to work at slowing population growth, global warming, better farming methods just to name a few. And, sadly when people and countries do not have the money to buy the essentials of life it is going to result in wars and terrorism. We in the West are partly insulated from that but it will still reach us and increasingly so. This means we cannot ignore the problem and have to invest resources in solutions. Our political and social system however seems gridlocked in… Read more »
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