# Logical argument to consider

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This will be accepted without question by biological scientists in particular.

Bacteria cannot multiply infinitely in petri dish or test tube - sooner or later the resources are exhausted and the population crashes.

Bacteria in a test tube is a biological system in a finite space

Humans on planet earth is a biological system in a finite space.

Therefore human population and economic growth cannot grow indefinitely - sooner or later the resources will be exhausted and our population will crash.

Is there anyone in here that rejects this as a logical fallacy?????

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A human population could asymptotically approach some maximum value which is still ecologically sustainable. Asymptotic growth, while constrained, will result in indefinite growth -- though that growth will never result in a population exceeding a certain value.

For example, in this graph, the line asymptotically approaches the upper boundary, and will continue to approach it without ever reaching it:

But that's a pedantic argument. The practical argument goes like this: As humans advance, they consume more resources. However, they also devise ever more clever methods to use existing resources more efficiently; genetically-modified and specially-bred crops have made possible our population of seven billion, and further research promises further advances. We certainly cannot reach an infinite size, but a naive assumption that "growth is bad" will fail, because growth is countered by innovation.

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This will be accepted without question by biological scientists in particular.

Accepted without question? Then it wouldn't be science.

Bacteria cannot multiply infinitely in petri dish or test tube - sooner or later the resources are exhausted and the population crashes.

Bacteria in a test tube is a biological system in a finite space

Humans on planet earth is a biological system in a finite space.

Therefore human population and economic growth cannot grow indefinitely - sooner or later the resources will be exhausted and our population will crash.

Is there anyone in here that rejects this as a logical fallacy?????

As Cap'n points out, the fallacy here is a type of false attribution. You are applying the attributes of bacteria and their resource systems to humans and their resource systems and forming a conclusion based on that.

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Bacteria cannot multiply infinitely in petri dish or test tube - sooner or later the resources are exhausted and the population crashes.

Bacteria in a test tube is a biological system in a finite space

Humans on planet earth is a biological system in a finite space.

Therefore human population and economic growth cannot grow indefinitely - sooner or later the resources will be exhausted and our population will crash.

This completely oversimplifies the ideas of population growth. There are numerous models for various populations, and to simply say that humans are like bacteria due to the fact that there is finite space complete over simplifies so many things. Although not necessarily fallacious in my mind, your argument is incredibly flawed by its incredibly oversimplifications.

As for the economic growth I am not sure how you pulled that out.

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As Cap'n points out, the fallacy here is a type of false attribution. You are applying the attributes of bacteria and their resource systems to humans and their resource systems and forming a conclusion based on that.

Similarly it ignores that we aren't restricted to this one planet. Both Venus and Mars are candidates for terraforming, requiring only the technology and will to do so. Similarly there is an entire asteroid belt available for the mining of resources. (As well as a number of planet sized moons.)

These things have to be allowed for if projecting into a far and indefinite future.

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We certainly cannot reach an infinite size, but a naive assumption that "growth is bad" will fail, because growth is countered by innovation.

Never the less the time WILL come when no further growth is possible regardles of improvements in efficieny and technology.

And we also need to remember than improvements in efficiency are themselves finite in many areas and I will give the most obvious and intuitive example I can think of - water.

To remain alive every human must consume 1-2L of water per day. Consumption of less water will eventually result in dehydration and death. Water consumption can simply not be any more 'efficient' than 1-2L of water per person per day.

There must be minimum electricity consumption for electronic devices, i.e. the semi conductor components must have a minimum current required, fixed by the laws of quantum mechanics etc, below which they will not function as designed. Time the total electronics consuming population = the minimum possible electrcity generation that is necessary......short of banning the use of electrical devices for sections of the population.

Accepted without question? Then it wouldn't be science.

As Cap'n points out, the fallacy here is a type of false attribution. You are applying the attributes of bacteria and their resource systems to humans and their resource systems and forming a conclusion based on that.

The rate of usage varies, the types of resources used varies, bacteria cannot innovate and switch to alternate resources like humans can.........

But regardless of all these differences in detail, the fundamental truth remains unchallengable.

Accepted without question? Then it wouldn't be science.

As Cap'n points out, the fallacy here is a type of false attribution. You are applying the attributes of bacteria and their resource systems to humans and their resource systems and forming a conclusion based on that.

I am not so sure you can claim false attribution here.

Both humans and bacteria use DNA is a means of transmitting physical characteristics to our offspring.

Both humans and bacteria share many of the same metabolic pathways.

Both humans and bacteria occupy the same global ecosystem.

.

.

.

So I don't believe that your argument, that we share no attributes with bacteria, stands up at the fundamental level.

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To remain alive every human must consume 1-2L of water per day. Consumption of less water will eventually result in dehydration and death. Water consumption can simply not be any more 'efficient' than 1-2L of water per person per day.

But desalination and water treatment can become more efficient. If desalination were cheaper, massive water consumption would not be a huge problem.

But yes, putting 600 billion humans on Earth would likely be unsustainable. Fortunately, most countries are nowhere near their maximum sustainable population sizes.

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Fortunately, most countries are nowhere near their maximum sustainable population sizes.

And the tables turn......

On what supporting evidence do you base that claim?????

But desalination and water treatment can become more efficient. If desalination were cheaper, massive water consumption would not be a huge problem.

If we could just make deaslination more energy efficient and if we could just get fusion power to work and if we could just colonise the other planets and if this and if that..............

We don't base our spending on if we can just win tattslotto or if we could just win the jackpot on the pokies.

At least those humans with at least half a brain don't

How about we base our judgment on what is a sustainable human population on what is possible now and what we have now!

We can make adjustments if and when miraculous new technologies arise at some point in the future.

Edited by Greg Boyles

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But desalination and water treatment can will become more efficient. If desalination were cheaper, massive water consumption would not be a huge problem.

Fixed that for you. In fact, this is an ongoing development right now.

Old-fashioned water treatments used energy. Modern water treatment plants actually generate energy (through anaerobic digestion of waste). Through all our technological advances, poop has turned from being a health risk to an energy source.

Likewise, desalination is still getting cheaper. There is a fundamental (thermodynamic) limit to the energy use. But the factory itself can get cheaper, and the generation of (sustainable) energy is becoming better and better.

More general:

It's strange that I agree with the core of Greg's issue: population growth is quickly becoming the #1 problem on this planet. I also agree that the growth as it is now is unsustainable on the long term. But because of the fallacies (linking the wrong things, oversimplifying, exaggerating, etc), I just find myself disagreeing. In this thread, the economy was brought up, and I do not see the direct link there. It was not explained, and if it would be, I am pretty sure I would disagree with it. The economy as we have it now is not directly linked to resources and people (although there is a correlation between economy and energy). A single person in our economy can generate more money while using exactly the same resources as someone else who is less efficient. If everybody becomes more efficient, then the economy can grow without the need for more resources.

On this forum, I think it's more important that an argument is built up correctly than that it fits my personal political ideas. Especially the last couple of days, I've been fighting my allies, but so be it.

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Fixed that for you. In fact, this is an ongoing development right now.

Old-fashioned water treatments used energy. Modern water treatment plants actually generate energy (through anaerobic digestion of waste). Through all our technological advances, poop has turned from being a health risk to an energy source.

Likewise, desalination is still getting cheaper. There is a fundamental (thermodynamic) limit to the energy use. But the factory itself can get cheaper, and the generation of (sustainable) energy is becoming better and better.

More general:

It's strange that I agree with the core of Greg's issue: population growth is quickly becoming the #1 problem on this planet. I also agree that the growth as it is now is unsustainable on the long term. But because of the fallacies (linking the wrong things, oversimplifying, exaggerating, etc), I just find myself disagreeing. In this thread, the economy was brought up, and I do not see the direct link there. It was not explained, and if it would be, I am pretty sure I would disagree with it. The economy as we have it now is not directly linked to resources and people (although there is a correlation between economy and energy). A single person in our economy can generate more money while using exactly the same resources as someone else who is less efficient. If everybody becomes more efficient, then the economy can grow without the need for more resources.

On this forum, I think it's more important that an argument is built up correctly than that it fits my personal political ideas. Especially the last couple of days, I've been fighting my allies, but so be it.

You have still not provided any evidence for your claim that So now you have made two statement that "countries are no where near their sustainable limits".

Desalination plants may become cheaper and more efficient but never the less humanity's fossil fuel energy consumption will increase for the forseeable future.

We are supposed to be reducing our fossil fuel consumption to reduce global warming.

Hence it is more logical to put all our efforts into reducing our numbers rather than facilitating further increase in population, energy consunption and water consumption.

I suspect the underlying premise of your argument is that you agree that growth must come to an end, but just as long as it does not happen while you are still around to bear any of the burdon. That big drunken buffoon John Elliot mounted the same argument on ABC QandA one night. It is analagous to the NIMBY phenomenum - Not In My Back Yard.

"The economy as we have it now is not directly linked to resources" you say......I assume you are referring to the service economy. Well how do they render their services Captain? With telekinesis and mental telepathy?

Whether economic activity is directly or indirectly linked to resources is irrelevant.

All economic activity consumes resources or the goods made from them and resources are finite. Therefore the service industry is also subject to ecological limits despite the fact that it is not involved in selling manufactured goods.

Even if the service is rendered without vehicles, without telephones or computers and without manufactured goods of any kind. Even if the person rendering the service runs around naked and sleeps on the ground in the open. The business still consumes resources - food. Food production is subject to ecological limits and therefore the afore mentioned type of service is subject to ecological limits......ultimately.

Edited by Greg Boyles

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Greg - as a biologist, your assumptions are incorrect. Occupation of a new ecological niche, either by geographic expansion, phenotypic or behavioural adaptation can allow for "sustainable" (I hate that word) population growth at a rate of exponential decay. Thus indefinite growth is theoretically possible.

The caveat being that if you could prove that human consumption of resource stocks outstrips their replacement and that no new niches are being exploited, you could in turn support the unsustainability of current population levels/growth. The onus would then be on the proponents of growth to suggest where additional resources would come from, as the "we'll think of something" argument is not compelling.

Edited by Arete

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Also note that the world population growth rate has been dropping since the 90s or so. That is Capn's model is more in tune to observations of the human population rather than bacterial batch cultures which have a very specialized set of problems.

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Greg - as a biologist, your assumptions are incorrect. Occupation of a new ecological niche, either by geographic expansion, phenotypic or behavioural adaptation can allow for "sustainable" (I hate that word) population growth at a rate of exponential decay. Thus indefinite growth is theoretically possible.

The caveat being that if you could prove that human consumption of resource stocks outstrips their replacement and that no new niches are being exploited, you could in turn support the unsustainability of current population levels/growth. The onus would then be on the proponents of growth to suggest where additional resources would come from, as the "we'll think of something" argument is not compelling.

Alright Arete, I will be more specific.

Infinite monotonic growth is impossible on a finite planet and ecosystem at all levels and in all ecological niches. It is a universal and unchallengable 'rule', on planet Earth at least.

'Infinite growth' is theoretically possible if it is part of a cycle of boom and bust. But then over the long term there is no net growth so 'infinite growth' is moot. There can only be perceptible growth over short period, e.g a human life time.

But then you have the issue of successive boom phases often degrading the long term carrying capacity of the ecosystem, so that each boom is a little smaller than the last one. Of course over geological time scales all degraded ecosystems will be renewed through volcanism, tectonic activity and local climate change etc.

E.G. Rabbits population booms, strips all the vegetation, erosion sets in and takes away all the top soil, rabbit population crashes, all subsequeny regrowth is more sparse and less luxurient and can sustain fewer rabbits in the next population boom.

Also note that the world population growth rate has been dropping since the 90s or so. That is Capn's model is more in tune to observations of the human population rather than bacterial batch cultures which have a very specialized set of problems.

Regardless of differences in detail, bacteria and humans share a common ancestor.

We share the same fundamental biological processes and are subject to the same ecological 'rules'.

So I reject the proposition that I cannot compare bacteria and humans at the fundamental level!

Besides the bacterial growth in the soil is equally restricted. It is just that the test tube scenario is easier for the non-biologically literate to grasp.

Edited by Greg Boyles

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In this thread, the economy was brought up, and I do not see the direct link there. It was not explained, and if it would be, I am pretty sure I would disagree with it. The economy as we have it now is not directly linked to resources and people (although there is a correlation between economy and energy).

Seriously? One of the reasons why (as a BSc in chem/biochem) I feel economics is not too difficult to fathom, is that my understanding of ecology seems to apply to economics. Energy flow, exchange across trophic levels, and resource utilization and allocation seem to cover the basic parameters of any complex system. Supply and demand equilibria, and adjustments to concentrations of reactants, such as QE1 and QE2, are useful analogies between chemistry and economics.

The problems describing economic theory come from a lack of understanding about the parameters of the economic system, and of the limits and scales involved with those parameters... imho.

Ecology provides a good guide for evaluating an accounting of parameters, and for estimating the limits and scales needed for judging potential.

...or words to that effect.

===

So...

Really!? You don't think the study of a subject (ecology) is relevant to devising a system for management of that very subject (economy)?

{...the study vs. the management of... oikos = eco}

It seems intuitively obvious that the study of something would lead to a better understanding of the management of that thing, but I suppose it is more complicated than that.

===

BUT!! Y'know, now that I re-read that quoted comment, I think you are right; our present economy is not linked to resources or people. Hmmmmmmm!

Yep, that insight may help explain many of the difficulties we encounter in trying to fix our present economic problems.

That would suggest tweaking the parameters of "our present" economy will not have much effect on our resources or people, eh?

~

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Seriously? One of the reasons why (as a BSc in chem/biochem) I feel economics is not too difficult to fathom, is that my understanding of ecology seems to apply to economics. Energy flow, exchange across trophic levels, and resource utilization and allocation seem to cover the basic parameters of any complex system. Supply and demand equilibria, and adjustments to concentrations of reactants, such as QE1 and QE2, are useful analogies between chemistry and economics.

The problems describing economic theory come from a lack of understanding about the parameters of the economic system, and of the limits and scales involved with those parameters... imho.

Ecology provides a good guide for evaluating an accounting of parameters, and for estimating the limits and scales needed for judging potential.

...or words to that effect.

===

So...

Really!? You don't think the study of a subject (ecology) is relevant to devising a system for management of that very subject (economy)?

{...the study vs. the management of... oikos = eco}

It seems intuitively obvious that the study of something would lead to a better understanding of the management of that thing, but I suppose it is more complicated than that.

===

BUT!! Y'know, now that I re-read that quoted comment, I think you are right; our present economy is not linked to resources or people. Hmmmmmmm!

Yep, that insight may help explain many of the difficulties we encounter in trying to fix our present economic problems.

That would suggest tweaking the parameters of "our present" economy will not have much effect on our resources or people, eh?

~

Oh joy.......oh breath of fresh air........

Finally another rare moment when some who can see the big gaia picture, and how humans and our economies fit into it rather than the inverse, steps forth from the mob.

If only there were more of us.

But there probably are many of us, just few who are prepared to defy the mob and risk their popularity, social status or job.

Have you heard of GPSO Essay?

Global Population Speak Out: http://www.populationspeakout.org/

Perhaps you might consider making a pledge and raising this issue at any and every opportunity until enough people on this planet change their mind about the current direction we are collectively headed in.

Edited by Greg Boyles

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Before we can have unlimited growth of human populations we have to solve this problem.  Nothing short of assuring everyone will get plenty of phosphorus will do, if you want to argue  that unlimited growth of human populations is possible.<br><br>

<br>  " Every living cell must have two elements, potassium and phosphorus.  Phosphorus tend to get locked in mineral compounds form quite easily instead of freely circulating.  Bones and teeth are calcium phosphate.  Simply to build the bones of 1.2 billion Chinese takes a lot of phosphorus.  It has been suggested that lack of phosphorus accounts for the typically small-bone structure of many Asians.  Keeping phosphorus in circulation so that all people can get their needed share is somewhat of a problem already.  It may be more so in the future.  <br><br>Luther Tweeten, Professor of Agriculture Marketing at Ohio State University, at the 1995 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science stated that the world "currently uses about 150 million metric tons of phosphorus rock a year."  This use is now increasing at the rate of four percent a year.  There is an estimated 34 billion metric tons of phosphate rock in the world reserve.  Phosphate is used as fertilizer for almost all food crops and thus into the human system.  But if the current usage trend continues, the world's supply of phosphate may be depleted by 2050.  If world population growth can be slowed to just one percent annual increase (compared with present 1.7), the phosphate supply would last 82 years.  Tweeten further noted that phosphate is a basic building block of plants and for which there is absolutely no substitute. "  From GeoDestinies by Youngquist.
<br><br>Okay, those of you arguing unlimited growth is possible, what do you think will happen when we exhaust our know supply of phosphate?<br><br> Edited by Athena

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I think we have updated figures on phosphorus, as in 290 billion metric tons of rock and 60 billion metric tons of "concentrate", whatever that consists of. Seeing how its biggest use is for fertilizer, I have a hard time seeing how it's a problem, since only a small fraction of fertilizer gets absorbed into the plants.

http://www.ifdc.org

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/peak_phosphorus

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Before we can have unlimited growth of human populations we have to solve this problem.  Nothing short of assuring everyone will get plenty of phosphorus will do, if you want to argue  that unlimited growth of human populations is possible.<br><br><br><br>Okay, those of you arguing unlimited growth is possible, what do you think will happen when we exhaust our know supply of phosphate?<br><br>

I am not so sure there are to many in this forum that are naive enough to believe that infinite growth of the human population and our economy is entirely plausible and possible.

But the problem is that there seems to be a fair number that think growth is sustainable for another 500 year or what ever.

The problem arises because every generation that comes along says the same thing.

It stems from NIMBYism.

Most recognize that growth must cease, but no ones wants shift to a steady state economy/population in their life time because it will require serious individual sacrifices that they will have to share in. No one wants to sacrifice their lovely retirement lifestyle with ocean cruises or round Australia camping trips etc for example.

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Who actually does believe that? I think we'll have to make some changes a lot sooner, but it won't be because of immigration. Let's not mince words. The main reason we support immigration is for the cheap labor, right? (Seriously, not in all circumstances.) I would be more inclined to support tightening our borders (something we've supposedly started doing) for its effect on our unemployment rate (even if it meant a nominal increase in wages), rather than because of its nominal effect on the costs of living for everybody else. We have lots of jobs available in Texas (at least Dallas), which is likely a result of the slowdown in crossings reported.

Who actually does believe that? I think we'll have to make some changes a lot sooner, but it won't be because of immigration. Let's not mince words. The main reason we support immigration is for the cheap labor, right? (Seriously, not in all circumstances.) I would be more inclined to support tightening our borders (something we've supposedly started doing) for its effect on our unemployment rate (even if it meant a nominal increase in wages), rather than because of its nominal effect on the costs of living for everybody else. We have lots of jobs available in Texas (at least Dallas), which is likely a result of the slowdown in crossings reported.

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Who actually does believe that? I think we'll have to make some changes a lot sooner, but it won't be because of immigration. Let's not mince words. The main reason we support immigration is for the cheap labor, right? (Seriously, not in all circumstances.) I would be more inclined to support tightening our borders (something we've supposedly started doing) for its effect on our unemployment rate (even if it meant a nominal increase in wages), rather than because of its nominal effect on the costs of living for everybody else. We have lots of jobs available in Texas (at least Dallas), which is likely a result of the slowdown in crossings reported.

Who actually does believe that? I think we'll have to make some changes a lot sooner, but it won't be because of immigration. Let's not mince words. The main reason we support immigration is for the cheap labor, right? (Seriously, not in all circumstances.) I would be more inclined to support tightening our borders (something we've supposedly started doing) for its effect on our unemployment rate (even if it meant a nominal increase in wages), rather than because of its nominal effect on the costs of living for everybody else. We have lots of jobs available in Texas (at least Dallas), which is likely a result of the slowdown in crossings reported.

You know what pies me off the most about this whole thing?

Most scientists will privately acknowledge that population and economic growth must cease ASAP if the Earth is not enter the next and biggest mass extinction event in Earth's long geological history, including possibly of our own species at our own hands.

And yet day in day out scientists continue to develop the technological tools that enable fwit politicians to 'spin' their fairytale of 'growth is good' to the naive masses.

Why are scientists not taking a moral and political stand and REFUSING to develop any technologies that will faciliate further expansion of the human population, e.g. GM food crops that will slightly increase crop yields.

Are their careers and personal prestige more important than god damned biodiversity on this planet, more important than our current civilisation, more important than the survival of their own species.

Politicians and businessmen with this attitiude I can understand, but scientists??????

Why is their not a global scientific union that dictates which technologies will be worked on and which wont and that generally wields a little political muscle that can rival the political muscle of big business?

Imagine the message that would be sent to the world if all scientists took a wider moral stand and simply refused to carry out any further work on GM crops or any other technology that would facilitate the global population from blowing out to the expected 9-10 billion, unless the western governments simultaneously massively fund a global family planning program.

Edited by Greg Boyles

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This will be accepted without question by biological scientists in particular.

Bacteria cannot multiply infinitely in petri dish or test tube - sooner or later the resources are exhausted and the population crashes.

Bacteria in a test tube is a biological system in a finite space

Humans on planet earth is a biological system in a finite space.

Therefore human population and economic growth cannot grow indefinitely - sooner or later the resources will be exhausted and our population will crash.

Is there anyone in here that rejects this as a logical fallacy?????

Yes. It's a failure of basic syllogistic logic. It looks like a fallacy of the undistributed middle.

Socrates is human. I am human. Therefore, I am Socrates.

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Yes. It's a failure of basic syllogistic logic. It looks like a fallacy of the undistributed middle.

Socrates is human. I am human. Therefore, I am Socrates.

Then perhaps I should re-arrange it into an inductive form of reasoning!

Edited by Greg Boyles

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Bacteria can, to a degree, modify their behaviour in response to the environment. Some for example, form spores and/ or drop their growth rate to near zero when resources are scarce.

However their normal pattern of behaviour is unrestrained growth.

So far as I can see, thus far, humanity has always acted like the bugs in a Petri dish.

Discussing the finer points of logical discourse is rather like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

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Discussing the finer points of logical discourse is rather like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

AGREED

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Shouldn't this logical argument be less abstract and more concrete? Unlimited growth is not possible, and we will have a mass die off in about 40 years. Of course, I will be very glad if you convince me I am wrong, because this information and the link are wrong.

" Every living cell must have two elements, potassium and phosphorus. Phosphorus tend to get locked in mineral compound form quite easily instead of freely circulating. Bones and teeth are calcium phosphate. Simply to build the bones of 1.2 billion Chinese takes a lot of phosphorus. It has been suggested that lack of phosphorus accounts for the typically small-bone structure of many Asians. Keeping phosphorus in circulation so that all people can get their needed share is somewhat of a problem already. It may be more so in the future.

Luther Tweeten, Professor of Agriculture Marketing at Ohio State University, at the 1995 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science stated that the world "currently uses about 150 million metric tons of phosphorus rock a year." This use is now increasing at the rate of four percent a year. There is an estimated 34 billion metric tons of phosphate rock in the world reserve. Phosphate is used as fertilizer for almost all food crops and thus into the human system. But if the current usage trend continues, the world's supply of phosphate may be depleted by 2050. If world population growth can be slowed to just one percent annual increase (compared with present 1.7), the phosphate supply would last 82 years. Tweeten further noted that phosphate is a basic building block of plants and for which there is absolutely no substitute." From GeoDestinies by Youngquist.

So we will realize an end to phosphorus in deposits large enough for commercial use and the at same we hit this wall...

http://dieoff.org/page40.htm

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