Use access key #2 to skip to page content.

Petri Dish Planet



December 16, 2007 – Comments (10)

How much have you factored population growth into your economic beliefs?

In first year biology one of the items of study was contrasting world population to bacteria population in a petri dish.

The lesson went something like, this is a graph of the world population:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

This is a graph of bacteria in a petri dish:

The lesson ended by showing how the graph ended.  I could not find such a graph, but I found one of E. coli grown in a glucose solution:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

The graph I remember of the petri dish did not have much of a stationary phase, but peaked and went straight to the death phase.

The lesson has always impressed upon me that the Earth is finite in its resources.  Human population is still growing, however, we have evidence that our current consumption levels are exceeding our renewable resources.  The petri dish was a closed system whereas the Earth is replenished with energy from the sun.

But that doesn't mean that resources are being replenished as fast as we are using them.  Take water for instance.  My recent readings on water include that ships traveling the Great Lakes have had to reduce loads by 10% to prevent scraping on the bottom of the lake.  Some northern lake lost 60% of its water in one year.

My travels to the US and my personal visits to the Mt Shasta region and Hoover Dam dating back to the 70s and recently also to the Grand Canyon gave me a personal view of water issues.  I have memories of a commercial for Mt Shasta pop and I remember the strong association of the white caps of Mt Shasta with clean, cold, refreshment.

These are two images I found on the web, both summer pictures of Mt Shasta.  There used to be a glacier on Mt Shasta and that contribution to the water supply is pretty much gone now.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

I took pictures of the enormously declining levels of the water reserves, but they seem to have lost. The water supply from Mt. Shasta is important to California.

Lake Mead is also important to California and much of the agriculture.  I visited Hoover Dam in 79 and again this year.  I don't know how well the picture shows it, but the water level is disturbingly down.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

In that second picture my memory is that the water level was close to the top of the dam in 79.

Information I've seen on Florida indicates that the height of continental Florida is going down because the underground water reserve is declining so drastically.  The water reserve was restored due to the swamp land and everglades.  Swamp lands have been drained and the everglades have been shrinking.  The ability to restore that underground water supply has been cut by more than half.

Everything that we have and know about our economic data is based on a planet that had not yet shown us its limits, however, that is changing.  Our food supply has declined since the year 2000.  Water and food are pretty damn important.  Yes we have ways to make it go further, less resource intensive food choices as in grains compared to meats.

And what of our air quality?  Carbon dioxide levels in the world are increasing through a warming period.  Historically a warming period, as in after an ice age, has more plant growth that binds the carbon dioxide and it declines.  We are living a warming stage that has carbon dioxide levels increasing.  We've cut our trees and dramatically increased the release of carbon dioxide by the burning of fossil fuels.

Look at the data and you have to ask, just how good is our economic growth in comparison with the growth in human population?  I think the data is telling us that things will be changing and in the process so might our beliefs in economic growth.

Population information.
Bacterial growth.
Bacterial growth data.

I just know my pictures aren't going to show up.  One the comments on one of my posts tells me how to, but do think I can find it?  I don't understand why it works no problem on my other blog, yet it doesn't work here.

Remember, December is 2c worth month and the Fool is donating 2c for every blog post and for every blog reply. 

 Petri Dish Planet

10 Comments – Post Your Own

#1) On December 16, 2007 at 1:52 PM, dwot (29.16) wrote:

The link at the bottom is my other blog that doesn't change the rules wrt how to insert images, so they actually work there.

 As soon as I published I got these links,

The limits of the petri dish called Earth is starting to show. 

Report this comment
#2) On December 16, 2007 at 2:17 PM, dwot (29.16) wrote:

I failed to mention that they are desperately building lower intake pipes for Lake Mead.  They are concerned that the water level behind Hoover Dam shall fall below the level of the existing pipes.  I forget what the time line is on the construction, but I believe it is exceptionally important for Las Vegas.

Report this comment
#3) On December 16, 2007 at 2:19 PM, dwot (29.16) wrote:

I actually see my pictures in my post...

Report this comment
#4) On December 16, 2007 at 2:22 PM, GS751 (26.89) wrote:

"fool levels have been declining since 2000"  Therefore they are going to want to make the most out of land.  Another reason why I love the stock POT.  For the record I don't smoke the stuff.

Report this comment
#5) On December 16, 2007 at 2:25 PM, dwot (29.16) wrote:

Did you check out the last two links, I think the decline is more related to water than fertilizer...

Report this comment
#6) On December 16, 2007 at 2:26 PM, abitare (30.13) wrote:


A new subject being covered? I thought you were a mathmatician? 

The greatest enviromental problem is overpopulation. There is no greater issue that affects the world enviroment then the growth of the human population and the resource demands of individuals in the 


I understand there are 30000 people in Japan over 100 years old.  

Multiply that life span out to all the first world and emerging countries and you have a real resource scarcity problem.

FYI - Jim Rogers has been dicussing the water shortage problem in 

China and others are talking about how to capitialize on the issue.  

Report this comment
#7) On December 16, 2007 at 2:36 PM, dwot (29.16) wrote:

Math was always my favorite subject so when I went into teaching that is where the passion came, but I actually have a science degree and I had the opportunity to work at a few different science related jobs, coating and polymers, oil and gas research, xerox, pulp and paper, drug testing, specialty chemicals.

Report this comment
#8) On December 16, 2007 at 5:41 PM, dude59 (24.46) wrote:

Food, water, energy. These are and will continue to be the linch-pins of our survival. failure to recognize this will be terminal for some people. The new saying is peak everything: peak population, peak oil, peak resources.

The situation is MUCH worse in the poor countries, as there is less that can be done with the few excess resources to mitigate the situation.

 World problematique

Report this comment
#9) On December 16, 2007 at 6:13 PM, devoish (70.50) wrote:

How much have you factored population growth into your economic beliefs?

Alot. But localized. I passed on a building supply co because they were predominantly in the Southeast USA, and Southwest, and Southern California, with about15% in the Northeast USA. The theory is that they are a good company that can ride out the downturn and emerge stronger afterward when their competitors have failed. I am waiting on three things. The housing glut to go away and some of their competitors to fail. And rain. Because Atlanta is not an attractive place to live if you cannot shower. Based on Floridabuilders posts, I think the first two problems would take care of themselves in 1-2 yrs. But not if it doesn't rain.

Report this comment
#10) On December 16, 2007 at 6:27 PM, dwot (29.16) wrote:

Wow on that site.  I had read the decline since 2000, but that one is saying back to 84...

Report this comment

Featured Broker Partners