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Old 14-06-2008, 04:24 PM
TMM TMM is offline
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Default Singapore's Population to Plunge by 90 Percent?

http://sgentropy.blogspot.com/2008/0...nge-by-90.html

Quote:
Originally Posted by Albert Bartlett
Can you think of any problem, on any scale, from microscopic to global, whose long-term solution is in any demonstrable way, aided, assisted, or advanced, by having continued population growth at the local level, the state level, the national level, or globally?
If you have been following the news, you should be aware that Singapore ministers keep harping on the fact that our birth rates are too low, and that our population needs to keep growing for us to prosper economically. I wonder, do they have any understanding of the term "carrying capacity"? If we need more people to maintain economic growth, what happens when we hit 6.5 million people in 20-30 years? Do we aim for 10 million next? And when we reach 10 million, do we target 20 million? Our government's blind and relentless pursuit of growth is shortsighted; Nature is not going to accommodate all of us.

Singapore's ruling party, the PAP, prides itself on being far-sighted:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Young PAP
We operate with a very long-term horizon. No problem is too remote just because its effects may only be evident in the future. We CAN SEE AHEAD to guide our people along the best way forward.

http://www.youngpap.org.sg/abtus_vision.shtml

This statement is laughable. How can they operate with a "very long-term horizon" when the subjects of peak oil, energy depletion, carrying capacity and limits to growth are absent from their publications and speeches? The word "sustainable" may be used quite often in the government's publications, but they are merely paying lip service to true sustainability as their policies betray their line of thought. Our ministers’ lack of understanding of sustainability is a serious problem.

What is carrying capacity?

Quote:
Ecologists define 'carrying capacity' as the population of a given species that can be supported indefinitely in a defined habitat without permanently damaging the ecosystem upon which it is dependent.

http://dieoff.org/page13.htm
Due to peak oil production, our foreign food sources will become increasingly unreliable in years to come. Industrial farming will peak and their outputs will be greatly reduced. Our food transport systems will be disrupted by soaring fuel prices, protests and strikes. What do we do? We need to grow more food here at home. But the question is, how many people can we feed on our own?

Here is my feeble attempt to calculate the carrying capacity of Singapore. As there are many complex variables (water, food, pollution, sanitation, soil fertility, etc.) which affect the carrying capacity of a habitat, I have greatly simplified my calculations and will only touch on the food production/consumption aspect of it. My method is simple: divide Singapore's land area by the minimum land area required to feed a person.

Singapore land area: 682.7 sq km = 168,698 acres

Acres per person needed for a standard American diet: 1.2 acres to 2.11 acres

Acres per person needed for a largely vegetarian diet: 0.3 acres to 0.6 acres

If Singapore adopts a standard American diet, our carrying capacity would therefore be between 80,000 and 140,000.

If we adopt a largely vegetarian diet, then our carrying capacity would be somewhere between 280,000 and 560,000.

In reality, if we attempt to pursue self-sufficiency, our true carrying capacity is probably much lower than the numbers given above since most of the land in Singapore is not fit for crop cultivation because of our tropical soil and high degree of urbanization.

The possibility of Singapore's population plunging by more than 90% in the years ahead is not out of the question. Rome, the largest city of the ancient world, had a population of one million at the height of the Roman empire and dropped to 20,000 by the 14th century - a plunge of 98%. Thomas Homer Dixon argued in his book, The Upside of Down (available at the National Library), that the ultimate cause of the Roman Empire's collapse was due to diminishing energy returns on investment, or as Joseph Tainter put it: diminishing returns on investments in social complexity.

Likewise today, Singapore is disregarding the axioms of sustainability outlined by Bartlett and others by exhausting critical resources foolishly in our pursuit of economic and population growth to keep Singapore "dynamic, vibrant, and beating" - all of which are unsustainable in the coming decades.

Quote:
(Tainter’s Axiom): Any society that continues to use critical resources unsustainably will collapse.

(Bartlett’s Axiom): Population growth and/or growth in the rates of consumption of resources cannot be sustained.

To be sustainable, the use of non-renewable resources must proceed at a rate that is declining, and the rate of decline must be greater than or equal to the rate of depletion.
In 1989, Isaac Asimov, when asked about the population problem, said it well:

Quote:
Moyers: What happens to the idea of the dignity of the human species if population growth continues at its present rate?

Asimov: It will be completely destroyed. I like to use what I call my bathroom metaphor: if two people live in an apartment and there are two bathrooms, then both have freedom of the bathroom. You can go to the bathroom anytime you want to stay as long as you want for whatever you need. And everyone believes in the freedom of the bathroom. It should be right there in the Constitution.

But if you have 20 people in the apartment and two bathrooms, no matter how much every person believes in the freedom of the bathroom, there is no such thing. You have to set up times for each person, you have to bang at the door, "Aren't you through yet?" and so on.

The same way democracy cannot survive overpopulation. Human dignity cannot survive it. Convenience and decency cannot survive it. As you put more and more people into the world, the value of life not only declines, it disappears. It doesn't matter if someone dies. The more people there are the less one individual matters.

Issac Asimov, quoted in A World of Ideas by Bill Moyers (1989)
We have to accept the fact that we are entering a phase of economic and societal contraction. The sensible question to ask is, do we contract in orderly fashion or in anarchy? Judging from the daily news and our ill-preparedness, my hunch is that it will be chaotic and ugly.
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Last edited by TMM; 14-06-2008 at 05:15 PM.
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Old 14-06-2008, 07:46 PM
Pishon Pishon is offline
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Grow potatoes anyone?
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Old 14-06-2008, 11:45 PM
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TMM,
Not surprising. Politicians may say whatever their audience wants to hear or think that their audience needs to hear. Why let a little inconvenience like facts and reality get in the way.
Singapore has managed to sustain such a large population so far due to its position as a transport and logistics hub. In the future, when oil is scarce, sustaining the import of food will become more complicated. We would probably not see a sudden die off as foreigners and people with the means will first flee - reducing the resource demand. Moreover, for some powers, to control the Malaccan Straits, they may continue supporting the SG base and its auxiliary civilians. We could see it drop to 19th century population numbers (abt. 750K) as that was the maximum load before the advent of the oil-powered machines.
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Old 15-06-2008, 07:22 AM
TMM TMM is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by et2cetera View Post
TMM,
Not surprising. Politicians may say whatever their audience wants to hear or think that their audience needs to hear. Why let a little inconvenience like facts and reality get in the way.
Singapore has managed to sustain such a large population so far due to its position as a transport and logistics hub. In the future, when oil is scarce, sustaining the import of food will become more complicated. We would probably not see a sudden die off as foreigners and people with the means will first flee - reducing the resource demand. Moreover, for some powers, to control the Malaccan Straits, they may continue supporting the SG base and its auxiliary civilians. We could see it drop to 19th century population numbers (abt. 750K) as that was the maximum load before the advent of the oil-powered machines.
Hi et2cetera, do you mean 75k? Population in 1860 was 80,792 according to http://www.usp.nus.edu.sg/post/singa...ry/chron2.html

A drop to 19th century numbers would mean a decline of 98% from our current population.

According to http://www.populstat.info/Asia/singapoc.htm population in 1900 was 220k.
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Last edited by TMM; 15-06-2008 at 07:27 AM.
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Old 15-06-2008, 03:02 PM
qq1 qq1 is offline
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Default Is there hope?

As far as oil, I tend to believe the solution is there. Anyone subscribe to alternative energy or renewable clean energy sources?
The problem is whether human greed and money politics will allow it to happen.
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Old 15-06-2008, 05:49 PM
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GoldBull5000 GoldBull5000 is offline
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Very interesting and provocative hypothesis regarding carrying capacity of a city state like Singapore.

Perhaps you can do a similar calculation for Hong Kong, Tokyo, Seoul, NYC and Mexico City?

I have not done any detailed calculation regarding the true carrying capacity of SG, but I would like to argue that city states like Singapore is like the giant water tank of an artificial aquarium.

Theoretically, a sea water aquarium would never work since we can not replicate the size of a mini ocean in a man made tank. But if you visit the best oceanariums around the world, you would see that the creatures are quite happy inside. Those fishes in a giant tank do not need to worry about food, shelter or change of weather. The one and only critical thing that keeps all alive in a small container is "THE SYSTEM".

What is "the system"?

"The system" is the difference between Bintan and Singapore. Both tropical islands with little resources. But one can attract billions of USD of investments a year and the other can hardly move forward.

"The system" will keep attracting billions of dollars of direct foreign investments and bring in new blood into the society.

"The system" is the difference between social chaos and peaceful coexistence when crude will be trading at $300/b in 4 years.

Watch the TV news, how many countries are in the very early stage of social disintegration now? Another $50 jump in oil price and you can start counting on civil unrests in USA already.

The natural carrying capacity of a particular place is not important as long as you have "the system" in place.

Want proof? looking to the sky..... The carrying capacity of the vaccum space is ZERO. But there are humans living in space since 20 years, now even on permanent basis.

With the further improvement of "the system" in SG, I see no problem for another million people living on this tiny island.
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Old 15-06-2008, 09:06 PM
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Hi Goldbull5000,

I like your analogy of the "system". I agree on that point. SG has in majority has it's 'act' together.

However, moving forward our Minister Mentor & Prime Minister (aka Lee family) will no longer be around in the longer term. I guess we can attribute the "system" to them and other dedicated and 'driven' ministers.

As an outsider (who is now a PR) I must say, I do not have full confidence in the new ministers who will "administer" the system. Is there not the high chance that new leaders who administers our small SG eco-system are more interested in themselves, in ministry salaries and perks than, first and forthmost, continuing and refining this 'system'?

Just posing a question here. This is my concern for SG long term.

Last edited by coolmax; 15-06-2008 at 09:47 PM.
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Old 15-06-2008, 09:41 PM
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et2cetera et2cetera is offline
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Default Can't close the windows

Quote:
Originally Posted by TMM View Post
Hi et2cetera, do you mean 75k? Population in 1860 was 80,792 according to http://www.usp.nus.edu.sg/post/singa...ry/chron2.html

A drop to 19th century numbers would mean a decline of 98% from our current population.

According to http://www.populstat.info/Asia/singapoc.htm population in 1900 was 220k.
Yes, 75K. Apart from people leaving, food riots might break out on top of general starvation. At that time, I'm not so sure how well our system can keep up.

Ironically, our reputation as a well-stocked city could also bring in another problem - refugees. How? Either through hearsay or a deliberate attempt to divert problems from themselves, our neighbours could direct their hungry multitudes to Singapore to grab the foodstocks (along with rhetoric about how selfish Singapore is to them etc.). I'm not sure how we are going to keep away millions of refugees from hitting our shores.

So this is one more complication. Unlike the space station or the aquarium, we can't stop people from coming over if they are truly willing to risk life and limb to drive, walk, sail or swim over here and disrupting the balance. New Zealand begins to sound more appealing.

Hate to sound so pessimistic but when it comes to the crunch, we humans tend to make our own lives nasty, short and brutish.
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Old 15-06-2008, 10:55 PM
siginah siginah is offline
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TMM,

Suppose tomorrow there is a plan to eliminate 90% of the population in Singapore. Will you volunteer to be one of those to be eliminated?
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Old 16-06-2008, 02:28 AM
TMM TMM is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GoldBull5000 View Post
Very interesting and provocative hypothesis regarding carrying capacity of a city state like Singapore.

Perhaps you can do a similar calculation for Hong Kong, Tokyo, Seoul, NYC and Mexico City?

I have not done any detailed calculation regarding the true carrying capacity of SG, but I would like to argue that city states like Singapore is like the giant water tank of an artificial aquarium.

Theoretically, a sea water aquarium would never work since we can not replicate the size of a mini ocean in a man made tank. But if you visit the best oceanariums around the world, you would see that the creatures are quite happy inside. Those fishes in a giant tank do not need to worry about food, shelter or change of weather. The one and only critical thing that keeps all alive in a small container is "THE SYSTEM".

What is "the system"?

"The system" is the difference between Bintan and Singapore. Both tropical islands with little resources. But one can attract billions of USD of investments a year and the other can hardly move forward.

"The system" will keep attracting billions of dollars of direct foreign investments and bring in new blood into the society.

"The system" is the difference between social chaos and peaceful coexistence when crude will be trading at $300/b in 4 years.

Watch the TV news, how many countries are in the very early stage of social disintegration now? Another $50 jump in oil price and you can start counting on civil unrests in USA already.

The natural carrying capacity of a particular place is not important as long as you have "the system" in place.

Want proof? looking to the sky..... The carrying capacity of the vaccum space is ZERO. But there are humans living in space since 20 years, now even on permanent basis.

With the further improvement of "the system" in SG, I see no problem for another million people living on this tiny island.
Hi GoldBull5000,

HK, Tokyo, Seoul, NYC and Mexico City are not city states. Their inhabitants have hinterlands to run to, whereas Singapore is on its own, unless we consider a remerger with Malaysia, which is almost impossible now given our political and economic differences, and the fact that we have been apart for 43 years. How I wished Singapore was still a part of Malaysia.

Your analogy of Singapore as a “giant water tank”, and your reasoning of “the system” are seriously flawed. I don’t know what exactly this system you are talking about is, but it seems to me that the reason we don’t see eye to eye is because you view the world in monetary or economic terms, whereas I see the world and all its activities in terms of energy and matter.

You need to stop thinking “economically” and start thinking “thermodynamically”. What do I mean? Let me explain.

I infer from your posts that you believe that the world and our lives are driven by money or capital. This is partially correct from the social-economic point of view, but it misses the broader fundamental picture - it is not money but energy that makes work and therefore economic growth possible. In other words, without energy there can be no money since money as a medium of exchange requires work to be done, and work requires energy. Axiomatically, energy is the cornerstone, the foundation, the organizing principle of all life systems.

Now that we are entering a phase of terminal decline in oil production, the amount of useful energy that we can utilise for work is diminishing. Your analogy is flawed because those fishes (people) in the tank (Singapore) need to be fed, and they won’t be fed if there is not enough energy (oil) to produce and transport food to the tank (Singapore). The “system” (socialist democracy, free market capitalism, free trade, etc.) that Singapore has will not survive if there is no energy to keep it running. You can have the most efficient car (the “system”) in the world, but if you have no energy (oil) to run it, it’s as good as dead.

Here is a more fitting analogy of the money vs. energy debate: Imagine yourself locked in a prison cell with a stranger. Both of you will be locked in the cell for an indefinitely long period of time. You have an infinite supply of money (or gold/silver) and nothing else. The stranger has only a finite amount of food and water and nothing else. Both of you want to make it out alive. Tell me, do you think the stranger will trade his food for your gold? Likewise, we can attract billions of dollars of foreign investments, but when food and oil become scarce, do you think our billions will matter then?

The USA is one of the largest food producers in the world. If they disintegrate, our food prices will rocket like nothing seen before. Perhaps you may be able to afford food at those prices, but most Singaporeans won’t and they will rampage your sanctuary.

The “system” you have in mind runs on energy, not money, period. Without energy, we die.

For those of you who believe that alternative energies (nuclear, wind, solar, biofuels, etc.) can easily and conveniently substitute for oil, you most probably have not taken into account their questionable net energy returns, scalability and versatility. Please read:

http://dieoff.org/page132.htm
http://www.countercurrents.org/po-goodchild240906.htm
http://www.oilcrisis.com/youngquist/altenergy.htm


Quote:
Originally Posted by coolmax View Post
Hi Goldbull5000,

I like your analogy of the "system". I agree on that point. SG has in majority has it's 'act' together.

However, moving forward our Minister Mentor & Prime Minister (aka Lee family) will no longer be around in the longer term. I guess we can attribute the "system" to them and other dedicated and 'driven' ministers.

As an outsider (who is now a PR) I must say, I do not have full confidence in the new ministers who will "administer" the system. Is there not the high chance that new leaders who administers our small SG eco-system are more interested in themselves, in ministry salaries and perks than, first and forthmost, continuing and refining this 'system'?

Just posing a question here. This is my concern for SG long term.
Hi Coolmax,

Our MM Lee Kuan Yew and current cabinet ministers do not understand sustainability. I won’t count on them to rescue us. At least not until they change their economic and population growth policies.

http://sgentropy.blogspot.com/2008/0...t-dynamic.html
http://sgentropy.blogspot.com/2008/0...le-growth.html


Quote:
Originally Posted by et2cetera View Post
Yes, 75K. Apart from people leaving, food riots might break out on top of general starvation. At that time, I'm not so sure how well our system can keep up.

Ironically, our reputation as a well-stocked city could also bring in another problem - refugees. How? Either through hearsay or a deliberate attempt to divert problems from themselves, our neighbours could direct their hungry multitudes to Singapore to grab the foodstocks (along with rhetoric about how selfish Singapore is to them etc.). I'm not sure how we are going to keep away millions of refugees from hitting our shores.

So this is one more complication. Unlike the space station or the aquarium, we can't stop people from coming over if they are truly willing to risk life and limb to drive, walk, sail or swim over here and disrupting the balance. New Zealand begins to sound more appealing.

Hate to sound so pessimistic but when it comes to the crunch, we humans tend to make our own lives nasty, short and brutish.
et2cetera,

Or it could be the other way round - thousands of Singapore refugees hitting Malaysia and Indonesian shores.


Quote:
Originally Posted by siginah View Post
TMM,

Suppose tomorrow there is a plan to eliminate 90% of the population in Singapore. Will you volunteer to be one of those to be eliminated?
Siginah,

An interesting question. If it’s a quick and painless death then theoretically the answer is yes. The last thing I want is to do violence to another human. Of course this is just talk; when your primal human instinct for food overcomes you, then nothing is impossible.
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