Humans exist because they found a niche in the ecosystem that allowed them to live. Humans have exploited this niche and expanded their presence for a 100,000 years.
This expansion may be at an end because the niche is fully exploited. Or worse humankind may be near collapse because the niche is contracting due to:
Trend in human footprint determines predicament
Moderated by technology, the trend in human footprint (the product of "population" and "per-capita-footprint") determines humankind's path toward filling its niche. Certainly when total human footprint, overshoots the carrying capacity of this niche population or per capita footprint must contract.
The Roman civilization provided an example of a regional niche over-filling-process. They were a civilization with cutting edge technology that overshot supporting resources and failed.
In 1968 the Club of Rome showed that the present global human community was mimicking Rome's rise and fall. Humankind was depleting to exhaustion fossil resources (like water and oil), consuming renewable resources to extinction (like forests and fish stocks,) and filling the environment's sinks with waste (like CO2 and Freon.)
Others reported that total human footprint approaching carrying capacity would produce civilization crushing social conflict. This extreme level of conflict would occur because the wellbeing of individuals had risen above subsistence. Instead of scarcity producing just death to the weakest (as it would in most species) it increases redistributions of wellbeing and conflict.
Since conflict itself consumes resources, this creates more scarcity and more conflict.This feedback loop, once triggered, creates the civilization crushing conflict. Even stopping the growth of population and per capita wellbeing will not prevent it.
Rapid improvement of wellbeing, experienced by the developed world in the past 100 years, hides this "trend-toward-limits" view of the human predicament. The abundance of fossil fuels, and their ever increasing delivery rates, have blinded us to the potential for diminishing deliveries and rapidly rising prices.
Few expect a resulting reduction in wellbeing. For people living close to subsistence this reduction will cause death. For those that don't perish conflict will be their only survival option.
Old solutions are too little too late
Redistribution of wealth, green behaviors, technological substitutions, technological increases in efficiency, and zero population growth, have never reversed human-footprint's-trend toward filling our niche. Today, even extremely successful implementations of these efforts would be too little too late. Most people would still lose wellbeing. The middle class could disappear. Many people will starve. 1 billion or more could die because they can not afford to eat. Anarchy could erupt. If governments fail to control it, another billion could die of neighbor-to-neighbor conflict.
There could be pockets of surviving peaceful gardeners. Then again, these pockets could be overrun by starving hordes. Groups with resources will perform genocide to protect their stocks from outsiders. Groups without resources will perform genocide to acquire stocks. In the end the survivors will cannibalize each other.
The alternate society
What alternative form of society would not contain trends toward tragic ends and still allow universal advancement of individual wellbeing? This society would require a total human footprint far below carrying capacity. It would have to remain far below even when fossil resources exhaust, climate changes, and all individuals continue to improve wellbeing.
What process creates this society?
The process is rapidly decreasing population (RPD.) The alternate society would have to experience a population that got smaller fast enough to reduce footprint enough to continuously decrease scarcity and conflict. The needed rate of decline is probably greater than half the total population every 25 years.
This rate of decline would be caused by many people choosing to have no children and the rest choosing to have at most one child per family (OCPF.) Global population would settle to a level where people are so scarce that another random individual in the human community is more value able than the costs of that person joining your household.
Too little too late declines in population
Ideas or behaviors that haven't or cannot produce fast enough rates of population decline include, educating women (too little reduction too late,) improving economic wellbeing (too little reduction too late,) and institutional policy changes allowed by a majority of the existing constituency (too little reduction too late).
Activities that implement adequate rapid population decline besides very low birthrates -- genocide -- I won't go there. Which leaves us with a project of building a constituency so powerful that non-members will be forced to its will. Using a democratic process, 2 billion voting believers can implement-globally a OCPF law.
50% of the voting population in a democracy can coerce the rest to have a maximum of OCPF -- no matter what they believe. For example, George Bush (representing the 50% of the voters that elected him) stopped federal support for: stem cell research and family planning even thought the other half of the voters wanted to continue support.
How long to implement RPD?
How long does it take to build an RPD constituency of 2 billion, if I recruit one person a month and each recruit recruits one a month? During this process the group doubles each month, for example, 2,4, 8, 16, ...... It reaches 2,000,000,000 in only 30 months.
Who should be recruited first? Certainly not the pope, president, or existing representatives. Each of them have responsibilities to non-RPD constituencies. Each will have a very hard time changing his or her beliefs. Each will have a hard time changing policy to match any changed belief that runs counter to their constituency.
The first recruits should be the easiest targets, e.g. people who represent only themselves. For example, grand parents and parents who worry their children and grand children are going to live in a tragic future.
Grandparents are easy targets because they are done having their children. They don't have to deal with their hormones. They don't have to change their own personal procreation behavior. They just have to change their personal belief and then vote their belief.
How powerful can a constituency be?
How powerful can these recruits be - if they are believers in RPD. Consider, 60 million people formed the majority that elected the last U.S. president. There are 80 million mothers in the U.S. Those mothers could have elected mickey mouse if he was the only candidate that supported RPD and they thought RPD was what their children needed - to have a good future.
Which brings us to what I hope will be the focus of further discussion to improve the human predicament. It is, "What transpires in this discussion between a recruiter and a candidate?" "What information and presentation will flip a candidate from believing, 2- 4 children per family is wonderful to believing none or not more than one child per family is wonderful?"
One possible recruitment model
One of the many possible mini conversations is,"The world is like a plate stacked so full of human bodies, every wiggle by anyone pushes a person near the edge off the plate to his or her death.
The discussion follows this path.
Using this view, everyone living, no matter what their wellbeing, is a higher bidder relative to those individuals pushed off the plate. If you are alive, and thus wiggling, you have involvement in the killing process.
Increases in the stratification of wealth and declining supporting resources contribute to larger wiggles. Green behavior and redistribution of wealth contract some wiggles. Technological efficiencies and substitutions effectively make the plate bigger reducing the effects of any wiggle.
However, the existing trends in population and per capita footprint dominate the process for pushing people off the plate. At least one of these trends must be reversed. Since part of being human is to improve one's wellbeing, the trend in population must be reversed.
Thus the full plate image of the human predicament is one way to show why
rapid population decline is required to assure every
living person a safe distance from the plate's edge .
The only way each of us can extract ourselves from this manslaughter predicament is to reduce the total human footprint so far below the carrying capacity that even increasing per capita consumption does not kill someone. And this means a much smaller population -- maybe as small as 1 or 2% of the present global population.
The faster we can get to that population the fewer people will be killed. Implementing RPD (not using genocide) means none or at most one child per family. The challenge is to get a majority of the constituency to see this, and pass one child per family law for everyone to obey.