28th December 2007 | Draft
Challenge of Nonviolent Population Decimation
Reducing effects of overpopulation on resources
and climate change
by major reduction in the height of people
- / -
Characteristics of radical technical remedies for global warming -- as currently
Of "fig-leaves" and "cover-ups"
Catastrophe-engendered miniaturization: the "Lilliput effect"
Case for conscious human evolution?
Population decimation: clarification of terminology
Earlier versions distributed under the titles:
Effects of Overpopulation by Reducing the Average Size of Members of the Population
Shorter People: Reducing effects of overpopulation on resources and climate
by major reduction in the height of people
This is a preliminary exploration of the merits of reducing the average size
(body mass) of the population -- thereby reducing the human biomass -- as a
means of reducing the effects of overpopulation (notably on climate change).
It follows from an earlier exploration that argued for a radical response to
human settlement-related issues through thinking "voluminously" rather
Lateral Thinking to Voluminous Thinking: unexplored options for subterranean
habitats in dense urban areas, 2007). The purpose is to reframe the
question asked by Ross McCluney (How
Many People Should the Earth Support? 1999) in a manner that has not
seemingly been previously considered.
It is assumed that many major problems of current global strategic concern
would be significantly reduced if the global population itself was reduced.
Such problems include: energy resources, food resources, water resources, global
warming, non-renewable material resources, immigration pressures, etc. The challenge
has been characterized by Warren M. Hern (Why
Are There So Many of Us? Description and Diagnosis of a Planetary Ecopathological
Process. Population and Environment, 12, 1, Fall 1990) in
the following terms:
The human species is a rapacious, predatory, omniecophagic species
engaged in a global pattern of converting all available plant, animal, organic,
and inorganic matter into either human biomass or into adaptive adjuncts of
human biomass. This is an epiecopathological process that is both
immediately and ultimately ecocidal.
All the above-mentioned problems call for imaginative solutions if humanity's
response to them is to be capable of reducing their ever increasing impact.
Characteristics of radical technical remedies for global warming -- as currently
In a BBC interview (Molly Bentley, Guns and sunshades
to rescue climate, 2
March 2006), the chief scientist for climate change projects at the Climate
Institute in Washington DC indicated that: "Humans
are changing the Earth, and it's a big effect we're having,... To really
stop climate change in its tracks, you have to go to virtually zero emissions
in the next two decades.,,, So the
question is, is there a silver bullet that can help us to limit the amount
of climate change?"
A number of technically radical solutions have been proposed to achieve rapid
reduction of such problems as global warming.
- reflecting solar space shield (parasol) proposals of various kinds are
currently the subject of a NASA study. They include::
- James T. Early (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory) proposed
siting a 2,000 km-wide glass deflecting panel at the "inner Lagrange
the Earth and the sun (Space-based
Solar Shield to Offset Greenhouse Effect, 1989)
- the U.S. National Academy of Sciences proposed in 1992 launching 55,000 "solar
sails" or "orbiting mirrors" into
orbit around the Earth, each with an area of 100 square kilometers, the
sails collectively producing the same effect as Early's single glass
panel and would together reflect enough sunlight to counter about half
the doubling of carbon dioxide; any larger than 100 sq km would need
a manufacturing plant on the Moon.
- creating a
cloud of 16 trillion miniature reflective parasols -- each just 60 cms
in diameter -- to shade the Earth from the sun, requiring
an estimated 20 million separate space missions to get them up into orbit
- creating an artificial
planetary ring around the Earth composed of passive particles -- estimated
to cost $4-6 trillion.
- Roger Angel, a physicist at the University of Arizona, and others,
have proposed using millions of small spacecraft to create a solar
sunshade or "umbrella" -- a network of tilted mirrors in orbit --
would deflect about 10 percent of the sun's light from the Earth. It
would take 25 years and several trillion dollars to build. [more]
- the creation
of a (less costly) stratospheric solar shield, notably proposed in 2006
by Paul Crutzen (winner of the 1995 Nobel Prize for Chemistry), using
sulphur particles -- given the degree of solar reflection
following major volcanic eruptions. One of the problems of putting sulphate
particles in the stratosphere is that it would destroy the ozone layer;
so that solving the global warming problem would probably also destroy
the human population. [more;
- Ken Caldeira (Carnegie Institution Department of Global Ecology
at Stanford University in California) has investigated the possibility
of moving the Earth itself, cooling the planet by shifting its orbit
further from the Sun. He found it would
require the energy of five thousand, million, million hydrogen bombs
to move Earth's orbit 1.5 million km out, which would compensate for
doubling CO2 in the atmosphere.
- painting all the world's roads white
to reflect sunlight back out into space and so lower the Earth's temperature.
- creation of artificial "trees", as advocated by Klaus Lackner
of Columbia University, namely air filters that capture carbon dioxide from
the air using chemical absorbers and then compress the carbon dioxide into
a liquid or compressed gas that can be shipped elsewhere; they would be
some 60 meters high, and some 100,000 might be built near wind turbines.
- 'fertilization' of the world's oceans with iron so that, as they grow,
would absorb carbon dioxide from the air for photosynthesis, eventually sinking
to the ocean floor after they die, thus "sequestering" the carbon
on the seabed. Experiments are already under way by a private corporation
Planktos Inc [more].
At least nine national governments and the European Union (EU) have supported
- some dozen countries are involved in experiments at modification
of stratospheric weather, notably by bombarding clouds with
seeding") to trigger production of rain [more].
- Craig Venter, who
mapped the human genome, is committed to creating a new life form -- a synthetic
construct based upon simple microorganisms -- that could be designed
to clean up pollution, carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases.
- Australian scientists are exploring the possibility of using genetic engineering
to give kangaroo-style stomachs to cattle and sheep in a bid to cut
the flatulent emission of greenhouse gases [more]
Such "geoengineering" and related options -- labelled by some as
"wacky ideas" -- are considered to be largely speculative and with
the risk of unknown side-effects. Nevertheless the Technology
the Economist (Plan
B for global warming? 8 March 2007) also presents them as the only
alternative to cutting carbon emissions -- without envisaging any other. It
notes that "Although most climate scientists do not
like to talk about it, cutting greenhouse-gas emissions is not, strictly speaking,
the only way to solve the problem of climate change".
|Can the ecohackers save us?
(Danny Bradbury, The Guardian, 29 May
One of the biggest worries... is that such tinkering could
produce complicated outcomes. For example, spraying sulphur into the atmosphere
might reduce the sunlight by 2%... but what will it do to the
Some would-be ecohackers... may have been over-optimistic,
but most of today's geoengineers are more cautious in their studies...[and]...
would be horrified if we did this for any reason other than as a last
potential side-effects of geoengineering and the cost of doing it in
space would be inhibitors to doing this unless we felt desperate,
The simplest thing
is to stop putting in the gases that cause the warming... When
it comes to preventing the conditions that might make governments take
geoengineering projects seriously, we all have our hands on the climate
Of "fig-leaves" and "cover-ups"
Since these proposed remedies by distinguished scientists
are a response to a symptom rather than a cause it would appear that there
is also a case for radical thinking regarding overpopulation and
the consequences of population
overshoot in relation to resources. None of
the above solutions addresses the fact that continuing exponential growth
in population will rapidly undermine any such short-term remedies to global
warming. They are in fact conceptually ill-founded from a systems perspective
-- as first demonstrated by the Limits
to Growth study in 1972. Ironically, given the root of the population
issue, such climate change remedies are well-caricatured as a "fig-leaf"
to avoid recognition of the underlying issue -- a dubious "cover-up".
As asystemic remedies, initiatives to reduce global warming can
be justifiably recognized as intellectually dishonest and irresponsible in
the face of planetary emergency. Any "silver bullet" response
may then be credibly proposed from that mindset -- provided it does not address
the issue of overpopulation.
As dubious forms of "value exchange", global carbon
trading and carbon
offsetting initiatives may well come to be judged by history as systemically
analogous to the medieval sale of papal indulgences which
were the subject of Martin Luther's Ninety-Five
Theses on the Power of Indulgences (1517) -- considered to be the
catalyst for the Protestant
Reformation. This comparison regarding "sins of emission" has
already been strongly made (Carbon
3 August 2006; George Monbiot, Selling
18th October 2006; Carbon Trade Watch, The
Carbon Neutral Myth: offset indulgences for your climate sins, 2007;
Saul Gomez, Offsets:
the indulgences of today? Policy
Innovations, August 24, 2007). The comparison is discussed separately
in Indulgences: extending the carbon trading model to other value-based
Clearly it is an environmental analogue
to the "protestant reformation" which is to be anticipated -- although
lessons will hopefully be learnt from its failures. The policy mindset
from which the strategy has currently arisen could promote application
of the model to other forms of "sin", including criminality, violence,
and the like -- and may well be seen to have effectively
done so already in the case of human rights abuses.
It is curious, if not symptomatic, that most of the technological
fixes should emanate from the country widely recognized to be least prepared
to constrain the exploitation of resources associated with its lifestyle. Curiously also, in the light of the painful difficulties in
establishing any consensus on the Kyoto
Protocol, the purportedly "scientific" proposals fail
to address the issues of the political consequences of a technocratic group
of nations undertaking such geoengineering unilaterally without seeking the
consensus of other nations of the world.
argued by Gregory Benford, professor of physics at the University of California
with respect to the "suspension of tiny, micronized harmless particles" in
the stratosphere, this could take place "outside national boundaries":
High-altitude trials over the open ocean are little constrained by law or
treaty, so show-stopper politics may br avoided. These first stages will
be scientific experiments, not vast engineering projects... As economist
Robert Samuelson recently said, 'The trouble with the global warming debate
is that it has become a moral crusade whenn it is really anengineering problem.
The inconvenient truth is that if we dont't solve the engineering problem,
we're helpless'. (Save the Arctic -- Now, 2007).
As reported in a helpful summary of the above initiatives by
Pat Mooney (Global
Warming: The Quick Fix Is In, Foreign
Policy In Focus, February
20, 2007), the US government has been lobbying the UN Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change in support of such geoengineering options. Experimentation
by governments and corporations, notably on weather modification, has
long taken place in the absence of public discussion. As Mooney notes,
the political and ethical dimensions of such climate modification are huge.
Seemingly with little recognition of the unpredictable consequences of the
introduction of species (to which Australia is so sensitive, with reason),
Alun Anderson, former editor-in-chief of New Scientist, advocates
a genetic engineering approach to the energy challenge of global warming, namely
"reprogramming the genetic makeup of simple organisms so that they directly
produce usable fuels -- hydrogen, for example" (The
2007). The technological fixes proposed within the current techno-optimisitic
mindset take no account of disastrous consequences, considered to be of "low
probability", that may be associated with them -- as so ably documented by Nassim
Nicholas Taleb (The
Black Swan Effect: the impact of the highly improbable,
With healthy frankness, Ross
the Point of No Return, Grist,
11 December 2007) remarks:
As the pace of global warming kicks into overdrive, the hollow optimism of
climate activists, along with the desperate responses of some of the world's
most prominent climate scientists, is preventing us from focusing on the survival
requirements of the human enterprise.
The environmental establishment continues to peddle the notion that we can
solve the climate problem.
We have failed to meet nature's deadline. In the next few years, this world
will experience progressively more ominous and destabilizing changes. These
will happen either incrementally -- or in sudden, abrupt jumps.
Perhaps such frankness is to be considered a characteristic of the "protestant
reformation" -- a "naturist" response
to the "cover-up"?
The rate of global warming is now recognized to be directly related to the
activity of a human population of increasing size. Other increasing resource-related
challenges are also associated with the size of the human population.
It is widely assumed -- to the point of avoiding debate on the matter -- that
population growth cannot be restrained in any significant manner. The possibility
is considered fundamentally unacceptable according to current political norms
and values -- to the extent that the possibility is even raised. The role of
religions in avoiding any significant form of global family planning strategy
is discussed elsewhere (Root
Irresponsibility for Major World Problems: the unexamined role of Abrahamic
faiths in sustaining unrestrained population growth, 2007). The
point is notably made there that from a systemic perspective the current appeals
"action now" on climate change are usefully to be understood as a "fig-leaf"
designed to cover up the challenging underlying issue of population overshoot.
The language used in denying the implications of population even has a freudian
quality, as illustrated in the argument of Gregory Benford (2007): "The main
thrust is to carefully use our ability to attack warming at its roots -- incoming
sunlight now, carbon dioxide later". There is even ill-considered enthusiasm
for increasing human lifespans, despite the existing challenge to social security
safety nets for the elderly (Leo M Chalupa, We Will Lead Healthy
and Productive Lives Well Past our Tenth Decade, 2007; Marvin Minsky,
New Prospects of Immortality, 2007).
Clearly any deliberate
effort to reduce the population by mass termination (or even voluntary euthanasia)
is unacceptable, although the "inadvertent"
reduction of population numbers as a consequence of natural disasters, epidemics
and war may well be seen as having some "positive" consequences --
however much the suffering is to be regretted (as in the case of the so-called Great
Famine in the Ukraine, 1932-33).
Much emphasis is placed on arguments that appropriate economic development
would lead to a natural reduction in fertility rates. This argument would seem
to be inadequate in the face of the rapid increase in world population in past
decades accompanied by only a very partial reduction in the level of world
poverty -- and with little prospect of any future reduction impacting significantly
on issues of population overshoot. Faced with probable
demands on resources, the optimism of some is unbounded, as for the science
editor of The Economist, Geoffrey Carr (Malthus was Wrong,
However, it is impossible to argue with the facts, and the facts are that
the rate of population increase is dropping and that the drop is correlated
with increases in pesonal economic well-being.... None of this means that
the eventual human population of say, 10 billion, will be easy for the planet
to support. But such support will not be impossible, particularly since economic
growth in rich countries is less demanding of natural resources for each
additional unit of output than is the case for growth in poor countries.
In the spirit of thinking "voluminously" (From
Lateral Thinking to Voluminous Thinking, 2007), it is appropriate
to recognize that many of the problems caused by so-called "overpopulation" are
primarily due not to the ever increasing absolute number of people but
rather to the ever increasing total volume of people. The
latter is to be
understood in terms of size or body mass of the human population as
The issue discussed here is not primarily one of individual obesity, as evaluated
by the body
mass index, but rather in terms
of the total mass of humans and the resources required to sustain it.
A radical possibility that merits some consideration is therefore one in which
the total volume (or mass) of humans is reduced within a foreseeable period
of years -- commensurate with the predicted impact of the consequences of unrestrained
population growth. Given the above constraint, a basic design requirement for
any viable remedy is one that does not constrain fertility rates nor accelerate
It is therefore proposed that consideration be given
to reducing radically the average size of human beings through administration
of growth inhibitors or retardants.
The biochemical products for growth acceleration of both plants and animals
have long been studied and marketed. In the case of animals consumed by humans,
growth hormones are a common product used to increase farm productivity --
and contribute directly to the increase in human body mass (cf Causes
of Obesity: Animal Growth Hormones). Growth hormones are available
to enhance human growth, especially if this is inhibited by some inherited
It is therefore clearly possible to develop growth inhibitors, as used in
deficiency treatment, to reduce the average size of an adult
human. This can be achieved over one or two generations -- within the time
predicted for the full problematic impact of some of the resource-related problems,
including climate change.
|Average human height as a measure of wellness of individuals
and as a measure of the degree of threat to the planet
height and growth have long
been recognized as a measure of the health and wellness of individuals.
Average height is increasingly used as a measure of the health and wellness
(standard of living and quality of life) of populations. However this
narrow focus takes no account of the progressively increasing impact
on restricted environmental resources associated with such growth in
height. Average height increase is therefore a measure of the damage
of populations to the environment. Would ever taller people make for
both ever increasing wellness and for an environment of ever improving
Family planning: The recommendation avoids the problematic
issues relating to family planning and the constraints of religious injunctions
forth and multiply" (Genesis
1:28) -- providing
that such injunctions are not interpreted as applying in terms of increasing
the number of cells affecting individual size (cf
challenges and responsibilities of overpopulation, 2007). Theologically
it might therefore be considered as a creative reconciliation of multiplication
Right to life: The proposal avoids the fundamental concerns of the "right
to life" advocates
concerned at the "murderous" termination of a foetus through abortion
-- or even the use of contraceptives. It should not therefore engender opposition
amongst such constituencies.
Nonviolence: The proposal is essentially nonviolent, little
different from the current use of other forms of remedial medication. As such
it should in no way be compared with the much-cited proposal of Jonathan
Modest Proposal, 1729) -- although his fictional account of the
constraints on his excessive size, as considered necessary by the Lilliputians ("not
six inches high"), is of some
Dissemination of growth inhibitors : Growth promoters have
been successfuly, if inadvertently, disseminated through the growth hormones
used in the meat selected as food of choice in the fast food outlets that proliferate
in countries exposed to the western economic growth model. Deliberate choice
has ensured the successful dissemination of sexual enhancement drugs (Viagra
and analogues) -- a surprising growth industry. Water
fluoridation has been successfully introduced in some
regions on the assumption that it reduces tooth decay, by analogy with fortifying
salt with iodine, milk with vitamin D and grape juice with vitamin C. With
respect to any such dissemination of growth inhibitors, careful review of
to water fluoridation and to beef
hormones will be required.
Existing size variation: One concern would be any apparently discriminatory
application of size reduction medication given the differences in average sizes
of peoples and ethnic groups around the world. This matter therefore merits
careful exploration. There is a case for recognizing the extent to which the
anchoring of an extraordinary proportion of resources within the human biomass
has also effectively been accompanied by a form of "gigantism"
-- of which growth in average height over past centuries could then be considered
Trading body mass credits: The concern of the previous point
might well be approached in the light of the various innovative policy initiatives
now being developed for carbon
credit trading and emissions
trading -- however that is understood. In this case
however the "carbon" is
that tied up in human body mass -- suggesting another connotation to personal
carbon trading. There are however clearly challenges to be resolved in
any initiative enabling the "fat to get fatter" (or larger) by paying the "thin
to be thinner" (or smaller) -- although it might be argued that this is effectively
currently in place between "developed" and "developing" countries.
Impact of size reduction: A comparative investigation is clearly necessary
into the precise relation between body mass and ecological
footprint -- and
how this would be affected by the reduction in the average size of an adult
human. How would such figures aggregate nationally, regionally and globally?
What degree of individual or collective (average) size reduction would have
what effect on various resource demands? How significant would this be and
over what period of time?
Measurement framework: Of specific
interest is the relation between calorie
intake and ecological footprint (cf Ecological
Footprint Calculators), notably in relation to industrial output
(cf H. A. Kraut and E. A. Muller, Calorie Intake and Industrial
Output. Science, 1946) in the light of estimates that, despite
their achievements, American pioneers had only half the calorie intake of
their descendants today. These three together create a triangular measurement
framework within which viable individual size(s) for a sustainable society
might then be determined. This approach should take account of the reframing
of industrial output as gross
domestic product (GDP) and current interest in what lies "beyond
is especially significant in that a study has shown that high population
growth, depletion of natural resources, and low savings now pose
new risks to development prospects (UNEP, Beyond
GDP: new measure of wealth shows that many developing countries are in the
|Smaller people -- Much smaller
foot height people -- Very small footprint guaranteed !
footprint calculators enable people to understand the beneficial impact to the
planet of much smaller children? If not, why not? Do they enable understanding
of the lower ecological footprint of populations of lower average height?
If not, why not?
Would there not be great merit in enabling people to understand their
cumulative ecological footprint through their children and grandchildren
-- allowing them to experiment with decisions they might make on both the
number of children and their average height as adults. How
does the size of the family (envisaged) over one or more generations get
factored in for consideration? One could be very "light-footed" in the
first generation but have a very heavy footprint through one's grandchildren!
Impact on infrastructure requirements: Any envisaged further
study (and simulation model) would need to distinguish the impact of individual
size and human biomass reduction in relation to: food requirements, space requirements
(housing), transportation requirements, energy requirements, etc. For example,
at what point does it become feasible to:
- adapt buildings by
splitting every floor into two levels, or by cutting every floor area in
- reduce the size of plots of land required for the construction of family
- split every road lane into two or more lanes (for vehicles half the size)
rather than increasing the number of lanes?
- increase the carrying capacity of airplanes rather than
increase their numbers and airport size?
- expect that average calorie (water, energy) requirements for one individual
will be adequate for two?
A particular issue is at what point such effects will impact usefully on
urgent problems such as carbon emissions and the like
Psychosocial sensitivities: Given current experience and concerns relating
to discrimination based on obesity and various measures of size, further study
would need to clarify sensitivity on these matters -- especially during a period
in which a younger generation would be of smaller average size and facilities
would have to be maintained for those of the passing generations of elders
of much greater size. There may indeed be real challenges to positioning the
strategy appropriately given the cultivated mindset that "size does matter" and
despite the unexplored connotation of the seminal study of E
F Schmacher (Small
is Beautiful: Economics As If People Mattered, 1973)
Assumptions regarding size and development: There is a case
for exploring any psychological associations between socio-economic development
and physical size -- and the implicit assumption that the pursuit of the conventional
development growth model is in any way correlated with expectations regarding
growth in physical size. Is a "developing country" in effect assumed to be
one in which the body mass of individuals is expected to increase, whether
or not the total body mass of the population increases? Of particular
interest is the extent to which the dominant economic "growth" model
in society is "incorporated"
or "embodied" in individuals, whether physically or metaphorically
in some way.
Overuse of resources and size: There is a
need to clarify whether relative overuse of resources by a society is directly
correlated with excessive increase in average size, and how increase in average
size may be inappropriately associated with status or age. Societies with people
of smaller average size might then usefully be reframed as "more developed" (rather
than "less developed") -- in relation to the challenges of size reduction
in order to meet the conditions of environmental carrying capacity.
Discriminatory sizeism: The previous point clearly calls for a new focus on
both within societies and between societies around the world -- notably in
relation to pygmies and dwarfs (and
the vital genetic potential they may represent).
Relative brain size: The ratio of brain weight to
body mass is correlated with intelligence. Brain
size offers a rudimentary indicator of intelligence. The brain
is however a metabolically expensive organ, and consuming some 25% of the
body's metabolic energy. Smaller brains might be advantageous from an evolutionary
point of view if they are equal in intelligence to larger brains. Any reduction
of body mass might therefore be usefully associated with a relative increase
in skull size to accommodate brains of proportionately greater size.
Impact of greater range of sizes: The above clarification
may be vital in the light of the increasing spread in size of individuals in
any population as a variety of approaches to size reduction are developed within
societies or within families. The challenge evident in the range of clothing
sizes currently required would be expected to be considerably increased..
Dynamic adjustment of optimal size: Given
the vaunted possibilities of genetic engineering, it may be a matter of ensuring
that average size of members of the human population is adjusted dynamically
in response to resource availability. As resources become less readily available,
the average size might then be progressively reduced -- as has tended to occur
naturally in times of food scarcity.
|Viability of size reduction
through animal-human genetic combination?
As reported by Nic Fleming (Britain
Signals It Will Allow Creation Of Animal-Human Genetic Mixes, The
Daily Telegraph, 2 March 2007), scientists are to be allowed
to create part-human, part-animal embryos for research into potentially
life-saving medical treatments. The government:
proposes that the law will contain
a power enabling regulations to set out circumstances in which the creation
of hybrid and chimera embryos in vitro may in future be allowed under
license, for research purposes only.
Whilst initial research will focus on hybrids involving larger animals,
including rabbits, there is presumably no reason to oppose genetic mixes
involving smaller animals -- such rats or mice -- in order to meet the
decimation challenge -- surely of "life-saving" merit. Consideration
could also be given to human-cockroach mixes, especially since the latter
are much more efficient in converting foodstuffs into bodymass and energy.
Such possibilities have been extensively explored in terms of "human
enhancement", as understood within schools of transhumanis, posthumanism or transformational
activism -- notably as reprogenetics (a
reframing of eugenics).
However consideration has not as yet been given to "enhancement" as human
miniaturization to reduce ecological footprint.
Regulatory focus on total family body mass: For example, if some families
remain committed to having many more children, there may be no
politically unacceptable need to discourage this (in violation of religious
injunctions) when it is instead a simple matter to require that the
children of such families then be of proportionately smaller size. This suggests
the possibility of elaborating a norm for the total body mass of a single human
family as a basis for ensuring appropriate resource requirements -- possibly
resulting in newer additions to that family being of smaller size to meet those
Degree of size reduction required by planetary carrying
capacity: Any study
of the feasibility of this recommendation should clearly consider just how
small it might be appropriate for humans to be in order to ensure a sustainable
pattern of use of resources by the total human biomass. The widespread recognition
of the future impact of nanotechnology may offer implicit recognition that
humanity can be suitably "downsized" in phase with such developments.
Fiscal implications: Given the fiscal ambiguities associating size with adulthood
and the consequent call on public resources, careful investigation is required
into how fiscal incentives might be used to provide early encouragement of
size reduction. Such investigations might fruitfully be associated with issues
relating to costs of transportation, housing and use of utilities in the light
of the diminished use of resources following significant body mass reduction..
Miniaturization of security forces: Given the great military interest in
future miniaturization, whether for battlefield robots or for remotely controlled
airborne devices, it is to be expected that defence research might take the
lead in exploring size reduction of military personnel. As stinging insects
continue to demonstrate, size does not matter in controlling behaviour of those
of greater size. Given the deadly capacity of modern weaponry, even when miniaturized,
much larger security forces could be maintained with a much lower call on resources.
Body mass of role models: This proposal raises interesting challenges for
future leaders and role models who may be expected to be of relatively smaller,
rather than larger, size to exemplify their credibility in response to the
challenges of diminishing resources (cf Dan Harbord, Heights
of Famous People).
Implications for sport: Related adjustments may be appropriate
in sporting activities in which physical size is a factor. Categories for smaller
sized people could usefully be created (as in "flyweight"
for boxing) and appropriately valued above those of (an increasingly obsolete)
larger size -- in contrast with current practice. This could lead to team sports,
such as football or basketball, either being based on teams of different sized
players or, alternatively, having a mix of players of different sizes such
as to constitute together a permissible total body mass.
Infrastructure implications: Aside from the advantages of
size reduction, the transitional spread of sizes may necessarily impact
significantly on urban planning, architecture and furniture design -- beyond
that confronted by current requirements to facilitate access for the "disabled" (eg Small
People's Huge Problems, Russia Today, 19 December 2007).
Aesthetics of size reduction: Consideration could be usefully
given to the aesthetic standards associated with the art of bonsai, especially
in the process of repositioning small as beautiful.
Miniaturization as an evolutionary process: As argued by
J. Hanken and D. B. Wake (Miniaturization
of Body Size: organismal consequences and evolutionary significance, Annual
Review of Ecology and Systematics,
Miniaturization, or the evolution of extremely small body size, is a widespread
phenomenon in animals. It has important consequences for organismal biology
and phyletic diversification above the species level. The miniaturized phenotype
is a complex combination of ancestral and derived traits, including reduction
and structural simplification, increased variability and morphological novelty
Some of the implication were later explored (P. J. Miller (Ed.), Miniature
Vertebrates: the implications of very small body size. Zoological Society
of London Symposia, 1996) as reviewed by Graham Stone (On
Being Very Small (Like Piglet!), Journal of Biogeography,
Fictional anticipation: Miniaturization is an option already
explored in some "world
computer games and simulations. It has been explored as a science fiction
possibility by Kurt Vonnegut (Slapstick,
1976) which was an inspiration for the Human Reduction Institute's Very Small
People Project (Ion Zwitter, Expectations
Shrinking for Very Small People Project. Avant News, October
2005). Slapstick (adapted into a movie Slapstick
of Another Kind,
1982) usefully explores the possibility of competitive miniaturization between
nations, initiated therein by the Chinese to the point that they become so
small that they cause a plague among those who accidentally inhale them, ultimately
destroying western civilization beyond repair.
Cultural heritage: It is appropriate to note that many cultures have traditions
recognizing the existence of (races of) "giants" in former times
(cf Easter Island). It is possible that humanity has already been faced with
a somewhat similar resource overshoot challenge and the need to respond to
it. Some myths (as in Ireland and Cornwall;
A Guide to Little People)
suggest that racial miniaturization (possibly accompanied by a form of dematerialization or virtualization)
may have been one option to ensure a higher quality of life.
|Will size matter to future world leaders?
Jon Henley asks the question Who
is the Shortest World Leader (The
Guardian, 4th March 2008). Using the resources of Short
Persons Support, which maintains a checklist (Who's
Who of Short People), he notes that the leader in size reduction
is Kim Jong-il (Great Leader, PDR of North Korea: 5.25 ft
/ 160.02 cms), followed on the list by Nicolas Sarkozy (President of
France: 5.42 ft / 165cms) -- although recently overtaken by Dmitry Anatolyevich
Medvedev (President, Russia: 5.31ft / 162cms).
Stuart Jeffries has provided a comparative review (Does
Nicolas Sarkozy have short-man syndrome? The Guardian,
9 September 2009), distributed in print verion as Who are you calling
If the recommendation here for much shorter people is followed, it is
to be expected that size will indeed matter, and that voters around the
world will expect their leaders to be exemplars in this respect -- just
as they expected larger size to matter in the past when great stature
was a measure of great competence. Leadership capacity for a resource-challenged
future will no longer be associated simplistically with great height
The shortest adult noted in the Who's
Who of Short People is Gul
Mohammed (1957-1997): 1.87 ft / 57 cms.
|Penis-sized leaders would make a world
of difference !
Catastrophe-engendered miniaturization: the "Lilliput effect"
Toba supervolcano: A measure of reality
has been given to the legends of the previous point by the discovery
in 2004 of traces in Indonesia of Homo
a 1 metre high human species ('Hobbit'
joins human family tree, BBC News, 27 October 2004). John
Savino and Marie D. Jones (Supervolcano:
the catastrophic event that changed the course of human history,
2007) discuss the impact on the evolution of Homo sapiens of the Toba
(Sumatra) supervolcano of
some 70,000 years ago. It has been postulated by Stanely H. Ambrose (Volcanic
Winter, and Differentiation of Modern Humans, 2005)
that the Toba
catastrophe reduced the human population to 10,000 or even a mere 1,000 breeding
pairs, creating a bottleneck in human evolution. The question raised by George
Volcano) is whether Homo
floresiensis was in some ways an adaptive consequence of that catastrophe.
Even more astonishingly, Homo floresiensis,
were alive and well at least 12,000 years ago.... The "Hobbits" probably
knew and were known by fully modern Homo sapiens for tens of thousands of
years. There certainly are tales of "little people" among the inhabitants
of Flores and these will now have be collected with a completely new sense
of urgency and scrutinized from a completely new angle. It is much too early
to say whether and how how the two species interacted, whether they avoided
contact or traded or warred. Nor we do have any idea when and under what
circumstances these astonishing pygmy people have become extinct - if they
Pygmy evolution: Notably as a consequence of the debates resulting from the
discovery of Homo
floresiensis, it has
been recently postulated by Andrea Bamberg Migliano, et
al. (Life History
Trade-offs Explain the Evolution of Human Pygmies,
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 10 December 2007)
... that human pygmy populations and adaptations evolved independently
as the result of a life history tradeoff between the fertility benefits of
larger body size against the costs of late growth cessation, under circumstances
of significant young and adult mortality. Human pygmies do not appear to
have evolved through positive selection for small stature -- this was a by-product
of selection for early onset of reproduction.
"Lilliput effect": This term has been adopted by paleontologists
to indicate the significant reduction in size of organisms that survive mass
extinctions. The phenomenon was discussed in a meeting sponsored by the Paleontological
a recent annual meeting of the Geological
Society of America (Philadelphia, 2006). Reasons for size
reduction include volcanic activity (as noted above), asteroid strikes (thought
to have killed off the dinosaurs 65 million years ago), and the peculiar evolutionary
pressures exerted by islands. As noted by Moises Velasquez-Manoff (Scientists
ponder 'the Lilliput effect', The Christian Science
Monitor, 16 November 2006), it is not that the species
that survived became small, but rather that smaller species often have shorter
reproductive cycles, enabling them to quickly recover from population losses.
|In thinking of your children, make a small contribution to the future
of the planet
-- or, better still, an even smaller one
Case for conscious human evolution?
In the light of the probability of the collapse of planetary civilization
(Thomas Homer-Dixon, The
Upside of Down: catastrophe, creativity and the renewal of civilization,
2006; Jared M. Diamond. Collapse:
how societies choose to fail or succeed, 2005), the above arguments
regarding human evolution would seem to highlight the merits
of anticipatory human size reduction through a consciously adopted strategy.
This would increase the probability of surviving social collapse or the predicted
mega-catastrophes. In the terms of Homer-Dixon, it would enable human systems
to "degrade gracefully" through the next phase of the adaptive
cycle -- as required
Curiously a form of size reduction has long been envisaged in science fiction
through the dissemination of human genetic material across the galaxy -- often
as a last step in the face of imminent disaster. This is of course well within
the scope of current technology. The envisaged possibilities of genetic engineering
can also be understood as a deliberate effort to intervene in the processes
of human evolution.
A subtler and more complex case might also be argued if "size reduction"
was partly to be interpreted metaphorically to include a form of "ego size
reduction", especially given the challenge of "ego size" to the viability of
human remedial initiatives (as with the response to global warming) and the
consequent survival of human societies. Such an argument might even be reconciled
with biblical prophesies regarding the survival of the meek and any rapture "technology"
required to "beam them up" (But the meek shall
inherit the earth, Psalm
37:11; Blessed are the meek:
for they shall inherit the earth, Matthew
Related concerns have been explored in connection
with "uploading" personalities, or mind
uploading, into electronic storage systems -- "virtualization" -- as
a means of ensuring survival independently of the physical body.
|Termites as indicator of a viable
future human evolutionary pathway?
|Given the current possibility of human-animal
is it possible that eusocial
insects such as termites represent
a viable evolutionary pathway towards miniaturization (perhaps "chosen"
millions of years ago in response to environment challenges)? Their "colonies" are
analogous to human towns, numbering from several hundred to several million
individuals. They are a prime example of decentralised, self-organised
systems using swarm
intelligence in cooperating
to exploit food sources and environments that could not be available to
any single insect acting alone. They are well adapted to challenging arid
conditions and are capable of producing significant quanties of hydrogen
-- making them one of the planet's most efficient bioreactors. The challenge
rather than mind
uploading (or "downloading" personality) into a supercomputer,
is to do so into the genetically modified organisms of the future -- of
appropriate size and ecological footprint.
Population decimation: clarification of terminology
There are several ways in which the term "decimation" is used or understood:
- most commonly it is currently used in the sense of mass destruction, massacre
or annihilation, whether of people or animals (as in the case of the North
American buffalo). It is notably used in relation to the probable impact
of weapons of mass destruction or other forms of catastrophe currently anticipated
(shortage of food, etc). A reduction of the population to a tenth of its
original number may be inferred, but only in the loosest sense.
- it was used to describe a form of military punishment used
in the Roman Army whereby one soldier in ten was selected
by lot and killed by the other nine. In this case, decimation derives
from Latin meaning "removal
of a tenth". An obsolete non-economic, juridical
sense of "tithing",
bears some relation to this process.
- in digital signal processing, decimation is
a technique of "downsampling" to reduce the number of samples in a discrete-time
signal. The amount of that reduction, not necessarily a tenth, is precisely
defined by a decimation factor (the ratio of the input rate to the output
- in statistics, where "population" refers to the size of any data sample,
decimation operator" may be used to shrink the population size
(i.e. it "decimates" the
population). As with the previous case (of which it is effectively a
generalization), the degree of shrinkage is determined by a decimation factor,
that does not necessarily result in a shrinkage of any given percentage (whether
ten percent or ninety percent)
There are therefore three possible kinds of confusion regarding
as to whether it implies destruction of some lifeform or whether it has a more
general significance. Secondly as to whether it implies reduction by
ten percent of the original amount, or reduction to ten
that amount (namely the elimination of 90 per cent). Thirdly as to whether
the term is in anyway specifically related to "ten" or is merely used in an
Whereas the English language has a verb for reduction by half (halve),
no such verb appears to exist to indicate reduction to a third, a quarter or
a tenth. Verbs do of course exist to indicate splitting into thirds (trisect,
or quarters (quadrisect, quarter), but without any implication
that only one part would then remain.
No such verbs appear to exist for larger
numbers, notably to indicate reduction to a tenth (with a degree of exception
in the case of tithe). "Decimation" is
used to imply such a reduction in the first case, but it is primarily associated
with indiscriminate annihilation rather than any specific reduction in numbers.
In the second case, it is used extremely precisely but to indicate removal
of one tenth, leaving the remainder, namely a reduction of ten percent --
rather than ninety percent (as might have been inferred in the first case).
In both cases the focus is on killing. In the third and fourth cases, although
disassociated from violence to life in any form, "decimation" is
only indicative of a reduction that has then to be precicely defined by a "decimation
It is clearly problematic to use "decimation" to refer to any reduction in
the size of the human population, since it is readily assumed that this implies
the first case, namely involving violent killing in some form. The expression
"population decimation" might also be understood as a consequence of some form
of global birth control strategy. There is no clear term to indicate a reduction
in height by ninety percent. Even statistical use of "decimation" calls for
stipulation of the "decimation factor".
These somewhat confusing subtleties mean that the title of the above recommendation
as "Nonviolent Population Decimation" needs to be understood in context
to mean reduction in the average height of the population to ten percent of
the current size. Use of the qualifier "nonviolent" should preclude
any sense that deliberate killing is implied.
One of the advantages of the
recommendation is that it specifically provides for a continuing uncontrolled
increase in population numbers as required by many religions and human desire
-- irrespective of whether this results in catastrophic decimation in population
numbers. For example, climate scientist, James
Lovelock expects the traumatized planet to be capable of supporting less
than a tenth of its 6 billion world's population by
2100 (reducing it to some 500 million by annihilation of some kind), because
the necessary remedial measures will not be in implemented in time (Decca Aitkenhead, Enjoy
life while you can, The
Guardian, 1 March 2008; Jeremy Lovell, Gaia
Scientist Lovelock Predicts Planetary Wipeout, 2008). It is also
the case that many religions favouring population increase expect some
form of Armageddon long
before that -- and live in expectation of such
end times, supporting
faith-based governance to that end. Whichever the case, each is considered
as an inevitable, violent form of population decimation -- whether or not the
violence is understood as deliberately engineered (see
Initiation of Armageddon: a heartfelt response to systemic negligence,
In this nonviolent recommendation, however, it is not the number of people
that is decimated but their height. However, as implied by Lovelock and seemingly
intended by major religions, the current strategy could indeed be understood
as "nonviolent population decimation" since the violence of that decimation
is only a consequence of an essentially nonviolent strategy of avoiding the
issue of overpopulation.
|Human size reduction is a viable long-term response
to climate change
whether Warming OR Cooling
|Why aren't we gene editing people to be my size? (BBC News, 3 February 2017)
The actress Kiruna Stamell who has dwarfism. She tells the Today programme society should be working to make it easier for people to live with a disability and wonders why for global warming's sake we aren't gene editing people to be her size.
Anthony Watts, Where
have all the sunspots gone? (February 2008):
Given the current quietness of the sun and
it's magnetic field, combined with the late start to cycle 24
with even possibly a false start, it appears that the sun has slowed
it's internal dynamo to a similar level such as was seen during
Minimum. One of the things about the Dalton Minimum was that
it started with a skipped solar cycle,
which also coincided with a very long solar cycle 4
from 1784-1799. The longer our current cycle 23
lasts before we see a true ramp up of cycle 24,
the greater chance it seems then that cycle 24
will be a low one.
This explains recent discussion about global cooling.
type solar minimum would be very bad for our world economy and agriculture.
If the converging cycles are the proximate causal factors, there is
a real possibility of a "skipped solar cycle" or
an average sunspot maximum being the lowest
since the 1790s-1820s. Combine the effects of global cooling with "Peak
Oil", i.e., peak production of cheap fossil fuels, and the prospects
for the coming decades are rather grim, indeed.
The question is which of the above interpretations of
Nonviolent Population Decimation
is the more ridiculous as a "strategy" for humanity at this time?
Stanely H. Ambrose. Volcanic Winter, and Differentiation of Modern Humans.
Bradshaw Foundation, 2005
Anthony Barnett. Small People, Large Questions. Radio
17 November 2002 [transcript]
Yves Beauvois, Alexandra Poulain. Micro-mega: trend towards miniaturization
in the modern world. UNESCO Courier, July-August, 1993
Jared M. Diamond. Collapse:
How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, 2005 [summary]
Global Footprint Network. Ecological Footprint and Biocapacity. 2006 [text]
Allen Greer. Fewer people would mean fewer worries. The
Australian, 16 January
J. Hanken and D. B. Wake. Miniaturization of Body Size: organismal consequences
and evolutionary significance. Annual Review of Ecology
24, November 1993, pp. 501-519 [abstract]
Warren M. Hern. Why Are There So Many of Us? Description and Diagnosis of
a Planetary Ecopathological Process. Population and Environment:
A Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies, 12, 1, Fall 1990 [text]
Thomas Homer-Dixon. The
Upside of Down: catastrophe, creativity and the renewal of civilization,
Of Creatures Large And Small: size anxiety, psychic size, shame, and the analytic
situation. Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 1995, 64, pp. 672-690 [abstract]
Thomas Kneightley. The World Guide to Gnomes, Fairies, Elves, and Other
Little People. Avenel Books, 1978
H. A. Kraut and E. A. Muller. Calorie Intake and Industrial Output. Science, 29
Vol. 104. no. 2709, pp. 495 - 497
Andrea Bamberg Migliano, Lucio Vinicius, and Marta Mirazon Lahr. Life History
Trade-offs Explain the Evolution of Human Pygmies, Proceedings of the National
Academy of Sciences, 10 December 2007
P. J. Miller (Ed.). Miniature Vertebrates: the implications of very small
body size. Zoological Society
of London Symposia,
69, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1996 [review]
David L. Pelletier and Maike Rahn. Trends
in body mass index in developing countries. Food and
Nutrition Bulletin, 19, 3, September 1998 [text]
Dennis Polla. NEMS: The Next
Revolution in Miniaturization. DARPATech, 9-11 August 2005 [text]
John Savino and Marie D. Jones. Supervolcano: the catastrophic event that
changed the course of human history, Franklin Lakes NJ, New Page Books, 2007
E. F. Schumacher:
is Beautiful: Economics As If People Mattered, 1973 [summary]
- Small is Beautiful: Economics As If People Mattered: 25 Years Later...With
Commentaries. Hartley and Marks, 1999
J. Kenneth Smail. Confronting The 21st Century's Hidden Crisis: reducing
human numbers by 80%. NPG Forum Series, May 1995 [text]
Graham Stone. On Being Very Small (Like Piglet!). Journal
25, No. 1 (Jan., 1998), pp. 196-198 [text]
Nassim Nicholas Taleb. The Black Swan Effect: the impact of the highly improbable.
Random House, 2007
Moises Velasquez-Manoff. Scientists
ponder 'the Lilliput effect', The
Christian Science Monitor, 16 November 2006 [text]
Ion Zwitter. Expectations Shrinking for Very Small People Project. Avant
News, October 2005 [text]