Whither the Life-Support System?

  • Eugene P. Odum
  • Eldon H. Franz


The human population of the globe has been increasing according to some superexponential law. One possible form of this relationship is: where N is the total population size, and t the time in years AD. This expression was derived by fitting a model, which assumes the rate of increase to be a weak monotonic increasing function of N, to 24 estimates of the human population of the world ranging over the last 2,000 years (Foerster et al., 1960). The time, t = 2026.87, was appropriately identified as ‘Doomsday’. The assumed relationship between the rate of increase and N was logically justified on the grounds that an increasing population would reduce environmental hazards to survival by forming coalitions to combat them. By thus invoking the ‘principle’ of ‘adequate technology’, the authors concluded, sardonically, that ‘our great-great grandchildren will not starve to death. They will be squeezed to death’. It is somewhat chilling to note that current population estimates are higher than would be predicted from the above equation. This particular version of ‘Doomsday’ need not concern us, however; our food and life-support systems seem likely to give out first.


Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Human Population Growth Tropical Moist Forest Adequate Technology Electric Toothbrush 
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Copyright information

© Nicholas Polunin 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eugene P. Odum
    • 1
  • Eldon H. Franz
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute of EcologyUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA
  2. 2.Environmental Research CenterWashington State UniversityPullmanUSA

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