Sustain in what conditions is what I always want to ask? Under what kind of economy too? Because capitalism will happily starve billions to death to allow some people to live various tiers of luxury lifestyles.

And what is an acceptable quality of life? No smartphones? Mandatory allotment of only 1 smartphone per 8 years or cost forcing same? What about computers? Graphics cards capable of gaming and other such components? What about furnishings, books, blankets, electricity for heat during the worst winters and for air conditioning to survive the worst climate change induced scorching summers. To have medical care in a timely fashion? To have a room with enough space for x amount of things and personal possessions?

If you want to talk about the necessary resources for the quality of life of the average member of the proletariat or peasant in the the year 1800 that’s a lot different than the answer if you’re talking about the resources needed for everyone to have the quality of life of the average European or university educated Chinese right now and that’s a lot different than your average wasteful American right now.

As long as we are able to progress as a species to socialism, meet people’s material needs, provide education for girls, combat the patriarchy we won’t have to worry about this in the long-run. It’s not some run-away thing that only goes up as we see now in China and the developed world.

it is possible, but requires continuing disruption to the nitrogen cycle to artificially fix nitrogen which has some potential long term ecological consequences. the haber-bosch process used natural gas to produce ammonia, so we need to modernize it to use electricity as the energy source for nitrogen fixation. mineral depletion of soil is also an issue, although probably not an insurmountable one.

it’s a whole lot easier to do all of this if we properly address climate change.

I would like to make a point that I think a lot of people overlook. Yes, we can sustain this number and it’s only an issue now because of capitalism. But even under a much more efficient system like communism, while the overall burden on the environment would be significantly reduced, I think caution should be taken saying we would have no problem with a significant increase to population.

My reason is simply that every extra farm, pasture, living space, recreational space, work space etc, takes away from a natural environment for other plants and animals. Of course there are also ways to design cities, towns, etc, to be more friendly to the local wildlife and fauna but even then it’s still putting more stress on the area.

I’m not saying we need to start reducing the number of humans or that the population needs to immediately stop increasing. Just wanted to make a point that I feel gets overlooked.

I also want to add a counter argument to the commonly made point of "we could fit all of humanity in [insert land mass that seems to be not all that large in comparison to the size of earth]. While there merit in this point there’s also a point to make that most of the time that calculation is made of how much space a human need in order to live. But what a human needs to live vs what they need to be happy and content are different. Humans need excess space. Not just in the direct living quarters but to go out and do outside stuff. Walk around, explore, exercise, work, etc etc. Sure the direct housing could fit in that space but what about everything else we go do? And those spaces outside the direct quarters are, again, taking away from the natural habitats, even if designed with those things in mind it’s till a lot of space where humans will be frequenting often, which is still a disruption of nature to a degree. Again, not arguing that the world can’t handle our current number but just that it’s not a black and while issue regarding increasing that population significantly.

So what’s the solution then? Reducing the population? Show me a nation that would agree to that

They never suggested we reduce the population, we can sustain what we already have easily with a rational planned economy, however we couldn’t have a significant increase, say 20 billion or something. Also, we probably won’t exceed 10 billion by much anyway since people have fewer children when their material conditions improve.

Also, we probably won’t exceed 10 billion by much anyway since people have fewer children when their material conditions improve.

Gonna have to disagree here. I know this is a generally accepted fact. Yet, ask around - people will say they are hesitant to have children because they “can’t afford them”. In socialist economy, many of the expenses and risks we’re currently having (i.e. education) will be relieved. Suddenly you have the incentive to have children

That is a good point. Could that be helped by a return to a more community based way of raising children? If people can feel the benefit of taking care of children without them all being biological to them we might have the pros of larger families without the cons of resource use.

I have always liked the idea of communal child rearing from a rational perspective, but even in the early USSR at a time when the revolutionary enthusiasm was at its strongest that was seen as kind of a radical proposal. A lot of people, even many who are otherwise solid communists and devoted to the socialist project will have a visceral resistance to the idea of replacing the traditional family with a fully communal model.

You need to think about how such a transition would be achieved and how to convince people to adopt it. I’m not saying it can’t be done or that it shouldn’t be done, but that it’s something that probably only a very stable communist society can achieve where the people have a great degree of trust in the communal way of doing things are are prepared to make a radical break with the traditional concept of the family.

Historically this was seen as an ultra-left idea and eventually fell out of favor entirely in all socialist states. It would have been too destabilizing politically as trying to make it happen would have provoked much resistance at a time when the situation was precarious enough already. Sometimes revolutionary enthusiasm gets ahead of what is possible given current conditions, and that is counterproductive and dangerous.

this is what i was trying to say in my original comment, that feeding one human isn’t about how much calories you can pull out of so many square meters of soil but of the soil biology, and the hydrology, the topsoil and the surrounding trophic systems that support the diversity of organisms necessary to balance land to be suitably arable, but also regenerative in it’s ecological capacity

the critical failure of supporting humans at any scale is not recognizing the importance of other living communities and their value, mutualness and biotic agency on earth. settler-colonialism has enough lessons for us to remind ourselves that reducing ecology to a numbers game is a fallacy.

The world ALREADY produces enough food, potable fresh water, and vital consumer goods to sustain the entire world’s population in quite literally utopian abundance. The only reason this is not the case is due to capitalism’s design of suppressing the working class and periphery. In fact, in a socialist world, you would most likely be able to feed even more people with significantly less land; since a socialist planned economy will not careen itself growing wasteful, space hogging, and high water consuming plants like almonds for example.

For example, enormous quantities of food are purposefully destroyed, ruined, or left to rot simply to maintain a high market cost and profit. It is also not profitable to distribute food and goods to certain areas, populations, or regions, so capitalist will simply avoid them, leaving the people there to suffer.

As for space, there is more then enough space in the world for 8 billion, and much much more then that. The extremely high density and vertical construction of Chinese and other Asian cities stands as a testament to that.


Communism no almonds

All almonds shall be eradicated under Gommunism.

They taste terrible to me and leave my mouth dry, so the world has suffered no major loss.

What about almond flour biscuits?

Someone once said the entire population could fit into Grand Canyon so maybe. There’s plenty of food wasted all the time, and if there was more well-funded local gardening and agriculture I’m nearly positive it’s possible

Surface area? Yes, there is enough space for 8+ billion, same with other resources. The only reason why it’s seemingly unsustainable is because capitalism makes it so.

China feeds 20% of its population with 9% of its arable land. So If the world average grain production reaches this level We can feed another 10 billion people

I’m in agreement that we can feed 8bn+ but I want to query those percentages.

Does that mean China uses 46% of it’s arable land to feed it’s whole population? And does this mean that 54% is (i) used for exports, (ii) used for crop rotation, or (iii) potentially arable but not yet farmed?

It’s only the first option that implies that a huge surplus is possible and sustainable. The second option imposes a severe limit on how much else can be produced without relying on significant quantities of gas to make fertilizer. And while that reduces the need for rotation, this is a short term fix and absolutely destroys the soil and the nearby waterways, so is unsustainable in the long term. If it’s the third option, does this mean deforestation of established forests? That’s equally unsustainable and will lead to more endemics and pandemics as humans get closer to pathogens they’ve never encountered before.

Or could it also be that 20% essentially live on rice and a few vegetables, with the other 80% requiring (far) more than 36% of the arable land (plus imports) to meet a more varied diet? If so, the important figure is how much land is needed to grow a varied diet for the whole population, plus a surplus to export and to counter droughts and avoid famines in China and abroad.

If any of these challenges are on the right lines, China would struggle to double food production (1) sustainably, and (2) in a way that lets humans live fulfilling, healthy lives. A varied diet is also a public health measure, making public healthcare more sustainable. This all suggests a much nearer limit on population.

Remember, the abundance of food in Europe requires a landmass the size of India devoted solely to farming. Also necessary to remember is that capitalist food production is so incredibly wasteful and chaotic, and we don’t need this kind of abundance.

The rest of this comment is not related to your comment, jlyws123, but is a counter to the challenge that I now expect having written the above text.

Before anyone accuses me of being Malthusian, we first need to challenge and unravel bourgeois consciousness. I reject Malthusianism. The flaw with Malthusianism is that it’s internal logic ‘works’ with a population of 10 or of 10bn.

If population did reach 20bn or more, it would be horrifically wrong to not try to feed everyone. In capitalism there would be no attempt to do so, just as there is no attempt to properly feed the world’s current population. Malthusianism is not the only lens through which to look at issues related to population, though.

I predict that a communist world would be far more willing to live in harmony with nature without simultaneously blaming all the problems on particular demographics and concluding that those people are using too many resources. This may mean facilitating a population rise to 20bn+. But it may also mean population controls, although these would look very different and would come from the people. Most issues (if any) relating to population would be resolved by increasing living standards along a communist model, anyway.

Not that this means we can triple population or anything, but increasing vertical and other urban farming is an option for a reasonable increase in food production with out significant increased environmental damage.

Vertical farming is more energy intensive because it requires artificial light and vertical water transport. There is also the question of acquiring sufficient fertile soil and nutrients. Fertilizer takes energy to produce. Ultimately this becomes not a question of surface area but of sustainable and large scale energy production. If you have sufficient energy and enough raw materials you can expand farming by many orders of magnitude. Without those things you need to keep clearing more and more land and rely on sunlight which is not as dependable at higher latitudes.

Those are good points. Wouldn’t it not be to hard to use sewage as an input for both for energy and nutrients? Also, if we vastly decrease energy use for shipping food and refrigerating it, it might be more sustainable for local vertical farming in cites.

I think regardless of anything like a perfect solution at this point, the fact that all these things are options that could be considered and worked through is promising. It means that a radical reimagining of farming is possible, which will be needed, whether it’s to make food production for 8bn or 20bn people sustainable.

There’s also the energy saved from reducing car use, increasing public transport, no longer heating the private and hardly ever used indoor swimming pools of the rich, and no longer making so many pointless commodities.

There are also things that individuals (🤢 liberalism, sorry) can do to feed themselves if they had the time and education. Growing mushrooms, tomatoes, garlic, herbs, etc. We’re so alienated from food production and time-poor (and poor-poor) in capitalism, though, that it’s hard to get started. The few things I’ve grown, I’ve not wanted to eat because of the bugs, etc. Ridiculous, I know, but this is the effect of a lifetime of all my food appearing sanitised in supermarkets. (That said, it’s going to take some serious un-alienating for me to eat food growing in my own sewage, never mind others’!)

Agreed, it will take a bit to convince people that it’s fine, but also plenty of people already eat food grown in sewage like the traditional fish ponds in places like Vietnam and India (there’s a great piece in low tech magazine on it, im sure people like the great people working on that will have a large place in dealing with environment and how we live after the revolution)

With the land in existence? Yes. If we started vertically farming? We could probs sustain double that, if not more.

We already produce enough food for 10 billion. The capitalists just refuse to share it equitably. And there’s plenty of land and better ways of building if we need another 2 billion homes. In capitalism, though, 8+billion is as sustainable as 1 billion.


Galeano, in the introduction to his Open veins of latin america, states that the only reason south america isn’t as densely populated as Europe, is intentional underdevelopment, and colonialism. The European powers intentionally depopulated the indigenous of many of these countries by turning their economies into mono-crop / mono-mineral mercantile export ones from the 1500s onward.

I’m sure someone has tried to figure out earth’s carrying capacity, but we’re not even remotely close to it. There isn’t even any vital resource whose production doesn’t scale with population growth.

The fear-mongering about population growth is really only coming from euro-amerikkkan capitalists and white supremacists like Bill gates, who are mirroring their 1800s counterparts with population control attempts in places like Africa. Bill Gates openly says he’s trying to stop “population increase in places we don’t want it”, showing his fear of the growth of potentially threatening non-white populations.

I recently learned that of the reasons for this neocolonial population control is to make sure that over-exploited regions don’t become problematic once their natural resources are fully extracted.

Over-exploited countries are essentially forced to be dependent on the US for food. They pay for that food with some of the money generated via resource extraction. They have no agriculture of their own beyond cash crops like cocoa or coffee, which obviously cannot feed people. So once those resources are gone, the money to import food is gone, and these countries will have to experience some pretty serious population reduction before local agriculture can sustain the remaining population.

It’s not just individual malthusian billionaires peddling this either, this has been official World Bank and IMF policy since the seventies at least.

The reason they do this is something that is completely overlooked in the general consciousness of the imperial core. A vast variety of products used there cannot be grown there. Most obvious examples are tropical products like fruits etc. If you read Patnaiks’ theory on imperialism, they posit that the point of the system is to suppress wages in the third world so that cost of the products that are grown natively remain low and the profit margins of corporations and the standard of living in the imperial core can be maintained. IMF and World Bank policies of cutting social spending are for this reason.

World Bank loans are dollar denominated for this reason as well. It forces third world countries to sell their produce and resources on the global market for dollars to pay back these loans with as you said. Turns out the whole Chinese debt trap thing was just projection.

Maybe I’m too much of a techno-optimist, but I see the possibility of a sustainable population in the tens if not hundreds of billions. That doesn’t require any technological breakthroughs either, we can do it with what we have already discovered and developed.

Of course in order to have a change at doing that we need a society where sustainability in all aspects is incentivised and kept in focus.

probably not with ecological holding capacity. it’s technically possible but human disturbance would be so high that we would eventually need technology such as climate modification to compensate for mass species extinction, and that’s only if we hypothetically achieve global communism. i’d still be highly skeptical

but even if climate and ecological collapse happens before then, there is never justification for overpopulation theory or ecofascist solutions like eugenics. as conditions improve for people, there is less need for social reproduction to be dominated by childbirth. children are born less as access to reproductive healthcare and socioeconomic opportunity increases. In dire capitalistic conditions, child bearing acts as security. children are exploited for labor, and are also used in marriage for exchange and acquisition of property, or may be groomed as an heir to maintain generational property claims

just to reiterate: overpopulation is a myth, and any argument leading to that is in bad faith from the outset.

Glad to see we are taking the genuine Marxist and anti-malthusian position on this sub (seriously, Marx and Engels had no respect whatsoever for Malthus and his ilk).

Wasn’t Malthus basically just some lackey academic who came up with his whole theory as a justification for continued and further oppression of the working classes?

yes, Malthus helped to justify the continual colonization of people, justify racism and violence against populations for ‘overbreeding’ and other heinous accusations, and to endorse eugenics as a necessary political policy


From what I understand, pretty much.

Our planet can produce food for 10 billion people. However this is not possible, if we keep the current waste of food under capitalism. As long as we continue to waste half of our food before it even reaches the supermarkets, doing intensive agriculture, deforestation, etc… There is just no planet that can sustain so much abuse.

Okay, that makes sense, but what about the energy it takes to perform those prerequisites the study mentions? Like sure, we need redistributed agriculture and more efficient water-nutrient conservation efforts. Where does the energy for that come from?

I’m not trying to be bad faith it just makes intuitive sense to me that there is a limit to the world population/that we’re close to it.

Nuclear power for starters. Look at the rate at which USSR was building nuclear power plants. Many of them are still operational (i.e. Zaporozhina in Ukraine). Energy usage under capitalism is also inefficient, as is the infrastructure upkeep - one of the worries about nuclear are various incidents, but those can be (and are) prevented by timely upkeep and maintenance.

After that, it is entirely possible for fusion to start being viable.

It’s unfortunate but I feel like the whole Chernobyl incident really scared people away from nuclear energy.

It was definitely one of the final nails in the coffin, in terms of public opinion at least. There was already a lot of anti-nuclear campaigning and sentiment leading up to that point in time (the sixties-seventies environmental movement was all against it But of course the anti-nuclear lobby (ie. oil companies) leveraged the existing anti-communist cultural context to make nuclear seem even more undesirable than it already was after Chernobyl. So much for “atoms for peace” and electricity “too cheap to meter.”

The population will continue to increase, and there isn’t much you can do about it. 10 billion seems to be the new consensus. After that the population will stabilize and will probably start to shrink. So you may as well think of ways to improve our energy efficiency.

There are a lot of places where we are wasting energy needlessly. Transport chains, cars, cities which are built in car-centric ways, overproduction, packaging. If we can fix all of these, I’m sure we’ll have plenty of energy to spare.

Yeah I obviously don’t support the typical solutions to this like letting mass death occur or whatever but it just seems like a dangerous situation. Planets have carrying capacities, straight up. Whether or not we’ve reached it is what I’m concerned about

I’m not sure about any of this still. Do you have any resources for me to look through?

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