Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Overpopulation: The Making of a Myth [infographic video]


  1. Complete and utter nonsense. Whether various specific predictions about demise on a certain date were accurate or not does not negate the fact that a fixed system cannot support perpetual growth. Just because there *seems* to be enough space for our houses (what about our trash, and farms, and the elk, pandas, horned toads and giant sequoias?) does not mean this is the case. In fact, if you actually *do the math* (see ecological footprint, net primary production, etc.), rather than post nonsense on YouTube, it becomes pretty clear there definitely is not enough room.

  2. My favorite aspect of this video is that it first says, "this old guy's math (which we won't show you) is wrong," and then goes on to say, "we're obviously right, and if you did the math (which we won't show you) you'd understand."

    Overpopulation is not a myth. Consider the example of the special Bacteria A, which divides and doubles every minute. If we start with one bacterium in a giant glass bottle, all it takes for the bacteria to go from filling half the bottle to filling the entire bottle is one minute. That's exponential growth.

    And saying, "the population of Earth will peak in 30 years and then start to go down" is completely fabricated, unsubstantiated nonsense. There is absolutely NO evidence that this will be true, given that the human population on this planet has *never* gone down, except with plagues or natural disasters. Is this video producer telling us that he's going to unleash a plague in 30 years?

  3. This is a WEAK presentation. Here's some more formal mathematics to possibly explain why population can (and probably will) overwhelm our fragile, limited ecosystem because of resource consumption:

  4. They give more explanations about what they present in the video here:

    Any case made in 1 to 2 minutes is going to have to be less than complete.

    Now we can each go and get both sides of the story and decide for ourselves.

  5. And then it turns out that PRI (the org behind the video and the site) are a pro-life/anti-abortion organisation who take most of their funding from a right wing foundation (who also fund global warming skeptics) - quelle surprise...

  6. Remember guys, I'm not advocating any particular message in the blog, just sharing good examples of infographics. Kudos to PRI for an effective use of infographics that gets their point across.

  7. Good infographics, sure -- but dead wrong on putting everybody in Texas. You'd have about a square yard per person, maximum -- and that's not enough for a house and a yard.

  8. I'm sorry, but not only is this not "good infographics", but this isn't even "infographics", even by the loose standards used generally for that word. This video uses some of the iconography and tropes from information graphics to tell a story with animation. It *looks* superficially like information graphics, but it is no more information graphics than a Bugs Bunny cartoon.

    The comparison of the definitions of "incrementally" and "exponentially" at about 00:15 was the only part where graphics were used to communicate actual information. The rest was a combination of propaganda, fiction, and slapstick comedy.

  9. Also: "Kudos" for using infographics to distort the truth and proliferate nonsense? Come on.

  10. Not to beat on a dead horse (and not to pick on you, Randy, because I do enjoy your blog!!) but here's a beautiful and simple illustration (not an information visualization, though) of how the idea that "everyone can fit in Texas" is so silly:

    How do people living on 66x66 foot plots of land get food and water? How do they move around to work and socialize?

    People need far more space than a house and a yard. Each individual's footprint must be understood to include their place of work, the common areas we need to travel through and recreate within, the businesses that feed and provide for us, our schools, hospitals, military bases, government institutions, etc. We need wildlife preserves and wide open spaces. We need places to clean our water and to recycle or bury our waste.

    The information presented in this cartoon is patently ridiculous.

    Okay, I'll shut up now! :-)

  11. I don't mind getting picked on, and I love the feedback. I didn't make the video, so I'm not bothered if people disagree with it. I even disagree with it.

    In my own defense, the whole point of the blog is to share good examples of how visualization can communicate information better than numbers or worlds.

    In my opinion, this video does a good job using visualization to give viewers an idea of big the world population really is (using the Texas visual). That's why I posted it.

    The flaw. It totally ignores the space required to grow and produce food for those people, room to move around, and generally space to live (schools, work, stores, hospitals, etc.) Then again it wasn't proposing everyone move to Texas, just trying to show the scale of world population.

    I did do the math by the way. The area of Texas is 268,820 square miles, which is about 7.5 Trillion square feet. Spread that space over the current world population estimate of 6.775 Billion, and each family of four gets 4,428 square feet.

    The rest of the video is mostly illustration, and not really infographic.

  12. It also misrepresents Malthus' argument.