The Art of Graceful Collapses

On a recent post of mine at Climate Central, one reader left an impassioned comment that sounded as if he considered overpopulation to be the greatest threat to humanity. I’m going to break it up into three parts. Here’s the challenge, as he explained it:

An even more overlooked problem is overpopulation (defined as living unsustainably, whether due to a high number of people at a low level of consumption or a smaller number of people at a high level of consumption – basic human ecology). In most or all of the Arab countries undergoing civil unrest, unemployment is rampant due to a rapidly expanding number of people flooding the job market. Also, the fraction of the population that are children is enormous, meaning the problem will get worse very soon. Expect more countries to undergo this process, continued unrest, failed states, wars, and terrorism. Smaller families would have prevented this a generation ago.

I think he’s conveniently overlooking the venal corruption and oppression of the regimes in those countries as a major factor, and making a faulty assumption about smaller families. No matter. Here’s his solution–and because it will come too late, the consequence to humanity:

Now it will take 1 – 2 generations at one child per family just to stop growth, and a century or two to bring population down to a sustainable level. We don’t have that much time before we hit the wall of climate change, inadequate resources, and mass extinction. That’s true worldwide: we need smaller families everywhere, and drastically reduced consumption in developed countries. Since that won’t happen, expect collapse of modern civilization.

Now this final part, a riff on the nature of  “graceful collapses,” is what fascinates me most:

In principle collapse could be “graceful,” with preservation of knowledge and diversity and an orderly retreat to agrarian, nomadic, and hunter-gatherer societies as humanitarian calamities rapidly lower population and consumption through natural disasters, disease, and famine that we will be powerless to prevent or adapt to.

Graceful collapses have happened before, but the odds are against it now for two reasons. First, languages and cultural knowledge are already being lost at a rapid rate as cultures go under. Second, the powerful will try to maintain their own well being by force, leading to more unrest, wars, terrorism, and possible nuclear holocaust.

Ungraceful (“graceless?”) collapse would probably mean the end of our species, and millions of years for the world’s ecology to rebuild after the mass extinction – if climate change doesn’t sterilize the planet.

Jeez, that makes Soylent Green seem like a Disney flick.

So here’s my question: Does anybody know of examples of “graceful collapses” in human history?

As for the “orderly retreat to agrarian, nomadic, and hunter-gatherer societies,” well, good luck with that Flintstones/National Geographic mashup. For a nice tonic to such romanticism, see this recent piece, the main point of which you can glean from its subhead:

Pre-modern lifestyles were fraught with violence, disease, and uncertainty. We should be happy that indigenous societies are increasingly leaving them behind.

41 Responses to “The Art of Graceful Collapses”

  1. harrywr2 says:

    What’s graceful?
    The Roman empire collapsed and humanity survived. The British Empire collapsed and humanity survived. The Soviet Union collapsed and humanity survived.
    The ‘world as we know it’ is always collapsing and being rebuilt.
    Adapting is what humanity does. Sometimes it involves death and destruction and other times things change dramatically without any great social upheaval.
     
     
     

  2. PDA says:

    Does anybody know of examples of “graceful collapses” in human history?
     
    The Late Antique period springs to mind.

  3. Paul Kelly says:

    How about the graceless collapse of thinkprogress? They posted: “Storm kills over 250 Americans in states represented by climate pollution deniers” on the same day NOAA says climate change not the cause.
     
    How any shred of credibility can be ascribed to these boorish, monomanical ghouls is beyond me.

  4. Gaythia says:

    Maybe our choices are not an either/or between rampant growth and collapse.
    This seems to me to be a good post to point out that population growth is strongly connected to women’s rights.
    Just as in my own profession, we long ago dropped the “quality control” mindset for one of “quality assurance”, dealing with population issues is one of providing opportunities to succeed at doing well (for oneself and ones family in this instance).  We need to support the empowerment of women and their access to reproductive health care.  The current efforts in this country to defund Planned Parenthood are very concerning.
    As put by Dr. Nafis Sadi, Unitied Nations Population fund:  When We talk Population Today, We Mean Women’s Rights: http://www.populationpress.org/essays/essay-sadik.html
    “This is the key to the whole agreement: women everywhere want smaller families than their mothers had. If they can have the children they want, when they want, then families will be smaller and population growth will be slower. It’s that simple. ”

  5. Shub says:

    Yes, Gaythia,
    When mankind (or should I say humankind) is afflicted by ‘progress’, the first thing to be jettisoned is the reproductive responsibility that women have. So, ‘womens’ rights’ is just women not wanting to bear children. It is indisputably better to live the ‘productive, working’ urban lifestyle with full access to ‘all that life has to offer’ than to be giving birth to children. Who wants that?

  6. Hector M. says:

    Fertility is directly correlated with per capita income and the UN Index of Human Development. The rate of growth of world population has decreased from about 2.7% in the 1960s to about 1.2% nowadays, and it keeps falling. Current demographic projections suggest global population would peak shortly after mid century and start declining for a long time. The much feared “population bomb” has already been defused by people having fewer children, due to higher income and better education. This has also happened in developing societies, but to a lesser extent since many of them are still at low income levels and culturally more traditional (Arab countries included). Hence their outflow of emigrants towards low-fertility developed countries (where population would decline faster if it were not for immigration).
    The suggestion of a forced one-child policy, like in China, would probably be incompatible with democracy and human rights. Besides, it is unnecessary: give them economic and social development, and they will reduce their family size quite surely. Lots of countries in middle or high income countries are already at or below replacement levels of fertility.

  7. isaacschumann says:

    This kind of crap is the most debilitating thing to the environmental movement, short sighted malthusians have been making these same arguments for 200 hundred years. They sound exactly like my fundamentalist relatives telling me about the rapture, and just as credible. Its hard to engage people on climate change when they immediately associate you with tripe like this, it hurts our credibility.
     
    My plea: if you are convinced civilization’s collapse is imminent and there is nothing we can do about it, keep it to yourself. If there is nothing we can do, there is no need to bloviate.
     
    Gaythia,
    “This seems to me to be a good post to point out that population growth is strongly connected to women’s rights.”
    I completely agree, thanks for bringing it up. It is, IMO, the great issue of our time, I firmly believe that action on things like climate change will be infinitely easier with more empowered women around the world. Great comment!

  8. Matt says:

    False dichotomy. Here’s an alternative vision: stepwise decline with localised adaptation, shortlived recoveries, and a series of crises or ‘adjustments’ individually unpleasant but not necessarily catastrophic, cumulatively leading to lower population and eventually a society that looks and feels quite different from previous societies (including traditional agrarian or hunter gatherers).
    Re population: the commenter has clearly not heard of the demographic transition. If we can get through a difficult next 40-50 years the pressures will start to ease. It could go either way- Russia and Italy have both had major declines in natural population in the last 20 years (though immigration has compensated in Italy). While the experience has been bruising for Russia, it hasn’t for Italy, and in neither case has society collapsed- though Russia has had some difficult times.
    In short the model should be one of transition, not collapse. And cities, rather than rural societies, are key to the process- if urban living can be made substantially less resource intensive, we’ll be well on the way to getting the job done. And I don’t see why we have to lose vaccines, electric light, or television in the process.
    Re pre-modern lifestyles: while I mostly agree with the linked article, it kind of implies a polarised choice. It should be possible to maintain a unique cultural identity and a traditional-esque lifestyle with good medicine, electricity, and opportunity to join ‘mainstream’ global society if individuals and communities choose to do so.

  9. jeffn says:

    In China, one-child policies have resulted in selective abortion of girls- so perhaps “population control” is more of a “women’s rights” issue than you know or care to admit.
    The fact is that wealthier nations have lower birth rates- which stands to reason as they have more economic choices, don’t have to have kids to support them in their retirement years, can afford birth control, etc. Wealth comes from growth. So Gaythia is right- it is a women’s rights issue to press for free trade and pro-business policies (oooh, to be rich enough to even discuss whether to hand out millions for a special interest hobby-horse group like Planned Parenthood!). Of course we could have central planning- that has been known to reduce human populations very. very quickly.
    On another note- Keith, this “doomsday” stuff is hardly new, I’m surprised you’re surprised by it. Peak Oilers talk like this every day. Why do you think so many of us, when “confronted” by the latest “settled science” about the latest “catastrophic impact” of human beings, simply yawned?

  10. Jeff Norris says:

    Gaythia
     
    I do not doubt that” population growth is strongly connected to women’s rights”, but isn’t that putting the cart before the horse.  You have little help of achieving woman’s rights unless countries first have basic human rights and the rule of law.  It is sickly ironic that Dr. Nafis Sadik  celebrated the progress of the  1994  (ICPD)  conference in Cairo where it was not until 2007 that FGM ban in Egypt was enforced or the recent assault on a reporter by “pro democracy” men in celebration .
    Would you not agree that concentrating on the Macro issue would have more significant results than diplomats paying lip service to the Micro. 

  11. Tom Fuller says:

    There’s a lot of myth-making involved in the representation of population trends and a desired end-state to the numbers of humans on this planet.
     
    Population growth peaked in 1963 at 2.2% per year. It is now 1.1%. Population is expected to peak somewhere between 2050 and 2075 at about 9.2 billion human beings. Population now is about 7 billion.
     
    Most of those who think 9.2 billion is too great a number to sustain on this planet also believe 7 billion is too many. Population density on this planet in 2009 was estimated at 13.3 per km² (34.5 per sq. mile) . Leaving aside island nations, population density ranges from Bangladesh (2,919 per sq. mile) to Mongolia (4.4/sq. mile). One country that has the same population density as the entire world does at present is Norway.
     
    There are phoney arguments that proliferate rapidly when discussing the carrying capacity of the planet. We produce enough food now to feel 9.2 billion people. Sadly we let much of it rot or let insects and rodents get first crack at it. There is no shortage of water–we need to get almost as good as the Romans at distributing it. Nor is there a shortage of mineral resources (including fuel), although we will have to make substitutions more than once to accommodate changing levels of stocks.
     
    The only real argument, and it is a real argument, is what are we doing to the rest of the planet while we establish dominion, to get all biblical. We have already shown that for large creatures, their only hope is to either be attractive to us or domesticable. For smaller creatures, those with a limited geographic range that includes territory useful to us are in big trouble.
     
    We are having our way with this world. Fortunately, the biome is vast, with estimates of the total number of species skyrocketing as we speak, thanks to people like Craig Venter. We are also becoming more aware of what we’re doing and it looks as though, due to the efforts of many of the same environmentalists that I am happy to criticize about global warming, we may be able to moderate our destructive behaviour.
     
    The answer in a nutshell is that we can readily support present and future populations, but that we need to become better stewards of the environment. I submit that if we focus on that, the original and best purpose of the environmental movement, rather than sitting around stewing about exaggerated fears of 20 foot sea level rises and 10 degree temperature rises, it’ll all turn out okay.

  12. thingsbreak says:

    It’s true that population growth is not the dire issue that a subset of environmentalists and certain groups make it out to be. (I hesitate to lay the blame squarely on environmentalists, because there are other groups who fear monger about population growth for other reasons (dislike of the inhabitants of developing countries and their immigration to the US being one of them).)
     
    From a sustainability standpoint, it isn’t population growth that is the huge worry, but rather consumption/waste growth to American levels of existing developing populations as well as the additional ~3 billion.

  13. Tom Fuller says:

    Well, thingsbreak, it’s 2 billion, so that should make you feel relieved. Talking about consumption and waste is completely irrelevant unless you tie it to sustainability. Waste growth is a trivial issue, in all honesty, although nimbyism causes us to pay more to truck it out of sight.
     
    I can easily envision a world where the whole world consumes more than American do now without harming the planet. Others, perhaps including thingsbreak, are more likely to think of Smokers guzzling the last few gallons of gas and smoking the last few cartons of cigarettes.
     
    Decisions we make now and will continue to make going forward will determine the effects of consumption. There is no predetermined destiny ruling our fate.

  14. PDA says:

    I can easily envision sleeping with Scarlett Johansson. That doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.

  15. Tom Fuller says:

    If Sean Penn can succeed with the young lady, you need not abandon hope. But beware. She is a blank slate upon which you project your vision of femininity. And up your game–Penn is really a bright guy, and even a fair poet.

  16. thingsbreak says:

    @Tom Fuller:
    Well, thingsbreak, it’s 2 billion, so that should make you feel relieved.
    9-12 billion is the general range. I wouldn’t want to be accused of undue certainty, knowing this crowd…
     
    Talking about consumption and waste is completely irrelevant unless you tie it to sustainability.
     
    What I said: From a sustainability standpoint, it isn’t population growth that is the huge worry, but rather consumption/waste growth to American levels
    ??
     
    TF:
    Waste growth is a trivial issue, in all honesty, although nimbyism causes us to pay more to truck it out of sight.
     
    I was talking about wasteful consumption/production/etc., not specifically trash.
     
    I can easily envision a world where the whole world consumes more than American do now without harming the planet.
     
    Americans cannot consume like Americans do now without harming the environment. If we ensure more efficient consumption/production/etc., then certainly we can have 9-12 billion people living relatively sustainably, but they won’t be consuming like current Americans at that point…

  17. Tom Fuller says:

    Thingsbreak, I don’t know who is predicting population of 12 billion–citation and/or date of prediction would be most useful. Everyone from the World Bank to the IMF to the UN cluster around 9.2 billion for recent projections.
    I completely disagree with what you say about American consumption. I wish we would quit tearing the tops off of mountains to get coal, and I wish we would quit storing fly ash in vulnerable places, but those are choices, not necessities.
     
    Please refer to Matt Ridley or any one of the others you disparage as foolish optimists for more details. Bjorn Lomborg, Julian Simon, Jerry Pournelle, etc., etc.

  18. Gaythia says:

    @10 Women’s rights are basic human rights.
    Dr. Nafis Sadik is Pakistani, and after attaining medical degrees in Pakistan and the US,  has devoted her professional career to human rights issues, centering on health, for both men and women (including strong oppostion to FGM).
    For example: “Dr. Hiroshi Nakajima of WHO, Dr. Nafis Sadik of UNFPA and Ms. Carol Bellamy of UNICEF unveiled their joint plan to bring about a major decline in female genital mutilation in 10 years and completely eliminate this practice within three generations.
    http://www.unicef.org/newsline/fgm2.htm
    Dr. Nafis Sadik on the role of women:
    ” “Pregnancy is a part of a woman’s life but a woman’s life should not be defined by it. In many societies, however, the fact is that bearing and raising children does define a woman. She does many things in her life, but she is only given recognition for one of them.” Stressing the importance of the variety of roles women play in society, Nafis Sadik said, “When women are properly valued for all the things they do, then and only then, will their role as mothers be respected and the resources found to protect their lives and health.”
    http://www.jazbah.org/nafis.php
    @5 Perhaps this quote from Pope John Paul II would come in handy for you:
    ” The major disagreement centered on family planning. The Pope kept insisting that natural methods would suffice, and Sadik kept presenting him with the reality that most women who lack the means to control their fertility because their poor status impedes their ability to control their participation in marital intercourse. In response, the Pope asked Sadik, “Don’t you think that the irresponsible behavior of men is caused by women?”
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12178873
     
     
     

  19. thingsbreak says:

    @Tom Fuller
    I don’t know who is predicting population of 12 billion”“citation and/or date of prediction would be most useful.
     
    I thought I was giving the UN mid and high ranges by end-of-century, but the first ref I pulled (2003) actually has it as 9.1-14 by 2100, not 9-12. I thought the high range had come down.
     
    I completely disagree with what you say about American consumption.
     
    You completely disagree that American consumption is currently wasteful compared to other developed nations?
     
    Please refer to Matt Ridley or any one of the others you disparage as foolish optimists for more details. Bjorn Lomborg, Julian Simon, Jerry Pournelle, etc., etc.
     
    The only one of those whose work I’ve read first hand is Lomborg, and he blatantly misrepresents his sources and misuses statistics to force arguments. I’ll refrain from judging the others’ by Lomborg’s poor scholarship, though I’m of course familiar with Simon through others’ writings. I have to confess that I’ve never read any of Pournelle’s economic/ecology writing, though his involvement in Star Wars make it pretty clear where he stands on advocacy masquerading as science/engineering.
     
    I’m very interested to read what Ridley has to say about climate change- perhaps he has a solution that doesn’t involve “pixie dust”.

  20. David44 says:

    Gaythia –
    Regarding the Pope’s question, it seems no coincidence that the traditional habit of the Catholic nun is nearly identical to the ha-jib of Muslim women.  It’s purpose is clearly the same:  Don’t let evil, enticing Eve corrupt pure and pious Adam who musn’t be burdened with the responsibility to restrain his sexual urges when confronted with a couple of square centimeters of feminine flesh.  (Perhaps the same dress code could more reasonably be applied to Catholic children of both genders when in the presence of priests.)

  21. Tom Fuller says:

    Thingsbreak, the UN medium prediction of 9.1 fits right in with the U.S. Census Bureau and the World Bank and the International Insitute for Applied Systems Analysis. The UN also has a prediction of 143 trillion if you’re interested in pushing the boundaries, holding fertility levels constant.
     
    And I thought that when we talked about consumption we were going to talk about sustainability, rather than comparing American apples to European oranges. Perhaps I misunderstood.
     
    What metrics do you use as indicators of an unsustainable level of consumption in the U.S.?

  22. Jeff Norris says:

    Gaythia
    I agree that women’s rights are basic human rights but so are men’s right are too. 

    The top 20 countries on this list have a bigger problem than just valuing the role of women.  How about valuing the role of people in general.  I mean no disrespect to you or Dr. Sadik, but any society that tolerates police brutality, extrajudicial killings,  torture,  suppression of the press or open discrimination based on religion,  or ethnic identity will probably never recognize the value of women.

  23. Tom Fuller says:

    Jeff Norris at #22, I have seen cogent arguments that advancing human rights proceeds more quickly when the rights of leading edge subgroups (minorities, gays, women) are used as a spearhead. Quite often us slugabed white males are the beneficiaries.

  24. Gaythia says:

    @Jeff, I disagree that “The top 20 countries on this list have a bigger problem than just valuing the role of women. ”  I think that these countries have many problems, and that the role of women is one of the most highly significant ones, and central to the issues you mention.
    I think that in should be obvious that children start absorbing social attitudes about the surrounding world and how humans behave towards one another at a very young age.  Thus, if significant adults in their lives, their mother, for example, is treated in a way that is, at the very least not fully respectful, and not fully adult, that is bound to spill over into attitudes that get expressed as that child grows into an adult.  Also, mothers are quite often primary caregivers to children.  So if they are oppressed psychologically, and limited in terms of education and experience, they are not as able to give their children the same kind of rich upbringing that they would otherwise.

  25. Jeff Norris says:

    Tom
    I think the key word should be advancing existing Human Rights.  Look at this article on Libya from last year note that Libya has had equal rights since 1969.  Now compare that to this horrific news
    So the question is, have attitudes really changed in Libya?

  26. Tom Fuller says:

    Hi Jeff,
     
    I think the focus should be on changing behaviours. Attitudes will follow. Neither is likely in Libya at this time. But soon…

  27. Jeff Norris says:

    @Gaythia
     
    Your comment on social attitudes reminded how General Napier sought to change one of them.
     
    “You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours.”
     
    While he was not entirely successful even to this day, I would strongly recommend his approach. 
     

  28. Paul in Sweden says:

    “Does anybody know of examples of “graceful collapses” in human history?”

    Keith, I believe Pre-Colombian South American history will give you the “graceful collapse” examples due to Climate Change that you are seeking.

  29. Paul in Sweden says:

    Keith, there is also the “graceful collapse” of the agrarian Norse society in Greenland — also due to Climate Change.

  30. Paul in Sweden says:

    Keith, on a micro-scale you can look at the towns where mines have been abandoned and only ghost towns remain. You can look at the collapse of the US Steel industry and the death of steel towns. I remember watching the South Bronx burn and reduced to a moonscape and gladly watch as it rises like a phoenix from the fire.

    When the well goes dry, people pull up stakes. It is told time and time again through out history. Keith, even in Sci-Fi(Mad Max, etc…) when society collapses, it reforms again somewhere else where the water is sweet.

    Unless,all but a handful of mankind is eliminated from earth, we will never as a species revert to hunter gatherer.

  31. Jeff Norris says:

    How about Atlantis?  Seriously the Minoan civilization would count, they even had Climate Change if you include volcanic eruptions and tidal waves.

  32. Paul in Sweden says:

    31. Jeff Norris Says:
    April 29th, 2011 at 9:50 pm

    How about Atlantis? Seriously the Minoan civilization would count, they even had Climate Change if you include volcanic eruptions and tidal waves.

    Jeff, Some people,like myself would not consider, volcanic eruptions & tidal waves which have destroyed cities and civilizations in the past in near moments, to be “graceful collapse” examples.

    In contrast, Pre-Colombian & Norse Greenland agrarian civilizations “graceful collapsed” due to our ever changing climate. I believe there are also examples of “graceful collapsed” in Africa but I cannot at this moment pull those recollections out of my head. There most probably are examples in Asia of”graceful collapse” of societies in Asia. Couldn’t the gradual decline of the Hun empire which left a noticeable vacuum be considered a “graceful collapse”. Are there no anthropologists that read this blog?

    In response to Keith’s earlier posts, are we now not witnessing due to the widespread utilization of the Internet the “graceful collapse” of the distributed Leftist Mass-Media Politbureau?

    Regardless(or Irregardless for Mid-Westerners) the posibility of human beings reverting to some hippie notion of Garden of Eden hunter gatherer is absurd unless there is an extinction event.

  33. Jeff Norris says:

    Paul
    You are correct; I got carried away with sudden and dramatic collapses.  WRT the Hunnic Empire was it not a collection of subjugated nations and tribes, that absent the central authority, as represented by Attila’s bloodline, reverted to their local and former leaders.
    I am not sure the Leftist Mass-Media Politbureau will ever truly die and maybe that is a good thing ,but it is clearly in decline and that surely is.
    Regarding the results of extinction events, have you ever read Lucifer’s Hammer by Pournelle and Niven?

  34. Paul in Sweden says:

    Jeff, I just did a query to find out what Lucifer’s Hammer was all about. Maybe it is good maybe it is bad but I cannot dig myself out of the non-fiction hole I have dug for myself. Years ago I said, I would set myself the impossible task of reading the Gutenberg.org library and allow myself the pleasure of the world’s treasures of fiction. Darn it there are so many history books and science collections that have got me diggin to China instead of just digging a non-fiction hole.

    I will however consider putting Lucifer’s Hammer or something like that on my amazon.uk wish list, which I consider every time I place an order(based on your recommendation 🙂 ). Heck,I am also going to see if Keith Kloor has written a book and put that on my wish list also. Judy Curry’s books are too darn expensive and would most likely be lost on me. I did get the Rodger Pielke Jr. Climate Fix,he really pisses me off but he does talk sense(he is in no way a Global Warming Skeptic and for unfathomable reasons he drives the true Global Warming faithful insane).

  35. Tom Fuller says:

    If you’re going to read Pournelle and Niven, I would submit that The Mote in God’s Eye is the superior book. Not an ELE involved, but who cares…

  36. Dave H says:

    @Jeff Norris
     
    Interesting you mention Lucifer’s Hammer – my immediate thought when reading this thread was The Mote in God’s Eye, also by Niven and Pournelle 🙂 The notion of a civilisation preparing for an inevitable collapse and safeguarding pieces of its history to advance a post-collapse era of rebuilding is definitely an interesting one.

  37. harrywr2 says:

    Gaythia Says:
    April 29th, 2011 at 7:26 pm @Jeff, I disagree that “The top 20 countries on this list have a bigger problem than just valuing the role of women. ”
     
    Well the only problem I can think of for the the top country on the list, UAE (By CIA Factbook ordering) is that it is prosperous and has a large number of ‘guest’ workers. The fertility rate is 2.4 which is higher lower then global average.
    The reason for the ‘population growth’ is it has the 3rd highest inward migration rate in the world.
    It also has some other good thing going for it, an average school life expectancy of 14 years for females.
    The UAE makes the case that if one offers woman an education and opportunities to make their way in the world other then ‘motherhood’ many will voluntarily choose a lifestyle other then motherhood.
     
     
     
     
     
     

  38. laursaurus says:

    “Regarding the Pope’s question, it seems no coincidence that the traditional habit of the Catholic nun is nearly identical to the ha-jib of Muslim women.”

    Except that becoming a nun is a vocation they have freely chosen. When have you seen a nun covering her face? The garb was never determined by men, like the ha-jib, either. These are women who’ve chosen a life that couldn’t be more different than mere baby producers. They have no man in their lives to submit to. Instead, these women have personally decided their paths in life. Of course, they probably wouldn’t describe it that way. I believe it is considered a personal calling. Depending on the order of nuns, only a few still wear the traditional habit. Does Islam offer any role for the women who wants to dedicate her life to her faith?
    How can you possibly equate the life of nun to that of a violently oppressed Muslim woman. Nuns have opted not to be mothers or wives. AFAIK, there is no role for women in Islam. Plus a nun is free to change her mind while remaining a devout member of the Catholic Church. When’s the last time you’ve seen a nun in real life? You probably have seen plenty and had no idea because she wasn’t in the costume that conforms to your stereo-type. 

    But anti-Catholic bigotry is perfectly acceptable. Gaythia can misquote the pope by twisting his words. He is doing something that feminists don’t do. He’s holding men acountable. It is a rhetorical question because obviously he and the rest of the clergy are capable of controlling their own sexual behavior. (Please, no! Pedophilia is NOT ok. I know people just can’t wait to promote that hateful stereo-type.)
    Why is anti-Catholic bigotry acceptable? What happened to my post pointing out how there is only one family in our parish with more than 3 children? Or about Octomom’s reproductive health care choice to have as many kids as she wanted when she wanted them-no man or freebies from PP necessary. Medi-Caid(Medi-Cal) in my state (Calif) covers birth control, abortion, and prenatal care.  Planned Parenthood already receives plenty of reimbursement from the state. 
    What has slowed population growth in the US? Free abortions or opportunities for women?
     

  39. thingsbreak says:

    UN mid-range is now for continued growth past mid-century (9.2 billion), to 10.1 billion by end of century.
     
    The high range is now for 10.6 billion by mid-century and 15.8 billion by end of century.
    http://esa.un.org/unpd/wpp/index.htm

  40. Tom Fuller says:

    I’m not sure I’d call a range of between 6.2 billion and 15.8 billion a useful forecast. Any more than I would call sensitivity estimates of 1.5C to 4.5C very useful, either.

  41. PDA says:

    I’m not sure I’d call a range of between 6.2 billion and 15.8 billion a useful forecast. Any more than I would call sensitivity estimates of 1.5C to 4.5C very useful, either.
     
    OK, but does arbitrarily picking a value in the middle of the range somehow make a more useful estimate?

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