Cheap Seats 2018
De-Mystification - 08/29
By Rich Trzupek
As a fellow trained in the sciences, I am more and more dismayed by the way that science is increasingly and wildly distorted by the mainstream media (MSM) and political hacks. The world grows increasingly more complex. The MSM and the PR-professionals manipulate that complexity to advance messages that purport to sort out science, but actually muddle reality beyond understanding
Water filter companies immediately come to mind. Americans have access to some of the cleanest water on planet Earth. The reason a disaster like Flint stood out is because we are so used to being supplied with clean, germ- and toxin-free water. What happened in Flint is, sadly, typical of what much of the third world deals with. There, it’s reality. Here, it’s a scandal.
None-the-less, water filter companies shamelessly prey upon the fears of ordinary Americans who have neither the education nor the experience to understand how they are being manipulated by fear-mongering disguised as safety.
I digress. Let’s move beyond my obvious annoyance with companies like Brita and PUR, et. al. who – in my considered opinion – prey on public fear and ignorance. Let’s venture on to neutral ground: Planet Earth and its residents.
A frequent theme among alarmists of all sorts is that planet Earth is horribly overcrowded. The current number of inhabitants – about 7.5 billion – is way too large according to these hand-wringers. Humanity, they tell us, is doomed unless we find a way to stop the growth of parasitic human beings.
Let us consider this problem from a purely scientific point-of-view. Question #1: Do 7.5 billion human beings occupy a significant portion of planet Earth?
Envision a world in which every human being is standing side-by-side with every other human being, with a bit of personal space to boot. We’ll give everyone two square feet of space for this thought exercise. Two square feet multiplied by 7.5 billion equals 15 billion square feet, which is about 350,000 acres.
The total land area of plant Earth is about 37 billion acres. The current population of planet Earth therefore occupies, on a per-capita basis, 350,000 acres divided by 37 billion acres, or about 0.001 percent of all the land on our third rock from the Sun.
The 350,000 acres is about 550 square miles, which is – in turn – slightly smaller than the area of Houston, Texas. So, if we stood every single person alive today side by side, with generous space in between, the entire population of planet Earth could fit within the borders of the Lone Star State’s signature city.
Perhaps you don’t like that analysis. People don’t stand shoulder to shoulder in real life. No, they don’t. But, many also live atop one another in multi-story apartment buildings and skyscrapers, but let’s play out this particular objection. Let’s be generous and give every family on planer Earth one half acre of land on which to build a home and, should they wish, to tend a vegetable garden and/or raise farm stock.
How many people should we assign to “a family?” That’s a moving target. In the western world, a family is about 2.5 persons, and declining. In much of the rest of the world, a family is about 3.5 persons or more and increasing. For purposes of this intellectual exercise, let’s define a family as 3 people.
Given a standard three person family, the number of homes the world needs is 7.5 billion divided by three, or 2.5 billion. If we give each family one half an acre of land, that results in an inhabited Earth of 1.25 billion acres, which is about 3.5 percent of the land area available. We need to consider that some of the land area available is not fit for human occupation, such as mountains and desert. The non-habitable portion constitutes about 53 percent of the land area.
If we make that correction, we end up with a planet that is currently occupied by around 7 percent of its potential, inhabitable, non-ocean space. This analysis does not speak to the availability of resources, or to the renewability of necessary resources. Those issues are grist for future columns. For now, we’re just looking at space. There should be no doubt that we’ve got plenty of it.