Overpopulation Still Taboo For Most

There are many people – some of them well-respected scientists – who have been talking about overpopulation for decades. 
Dr. Albert Bartlett, even Isaac Asimov – intelligent men who see through our complex social structure and boil it down to the simplest form, so it can be seen for what it is.

Overpopulation Stork

Most people in modern society don’t like talking about overpopulation because they don’t want to admit that not every single human life is precious and worth saving – which denies the simple reality that death happens; either at old age or infancy, it’s inevitable. It can happen under tragic or not-so-tragic circumstances.  The most profound part of our existence is the fact that it ends, and yet we still can’t really grasp it. If every human life isn’t worth saving, the thinking goes, then maybe my life isn’t worth saving, and this is unacceptable to just about everyone. Instead of simply admitting that we are a society of narcissistic morons who parrot about individual rights and entitlements while hoarding and consuming all available resources, though, we project that thinking into, “no one’s life is anything but precious, therefore anything that reduces or limits anyone else’s entitlements is a direct attack on humanity and life itself.” Of course, this is silly as it relates to overpopulation, because the simple fact of the matter is that the less people we have, the more resources there are for everyone.

The point that’s being driven home by those who believe overpopulation has and will continue to be a real problem in our world, can be expressed in this equation:

Number of people * Average resource consumption per person = Total resource consumption

The simple beauty of this equation really begins to shine when one considers what humanity can control and what makes sense to control: the average consumption per person, or the number of people on planet Earth? The answer is obvious, but cutting through social norms proves a bit more difficult:

This is a column I don’t want to write. Its subject is ugly; it makes me instinctively recoil. I have chastised people who bring it up at environmentalist meetings. The people who talk about it obsessively have often been callous about human life, and consistently proved wrong throughout history. And yet … there is a grain of insight in what they say.

The subject is overpopulation. Is our planet overstuffed with human beings?

Are we breeding to excess? These questions are increasingly poking into public debate, and from odd directions. Phillip Mountbatten — husband of the British monarch Elizabeth Windsor — said in a documentary screened last week: “The food prices are going up, and everyone thinks it’s to do with not enough food, but it’s really (that there are) too many people. It’s a little embarrassing for everybody, nobody knows how to handle it.” He is not alone.

[+|SeattlePi.com]

overpopulationFurther complicating this issue is the manner in which overpopultion is becoming a problem for everyone. Of course, planet Earth is still a big place, so the problem isn’t evident everywhere, and many people are now used to the idea of living in crowded cities so they scoff at the idea that infrastructure could collapse if yet more people were added into the fold. This is another layer of our social reality that most people refuse to see through, but when you look at the facts from a birds-eye view, you realize that something unpleasant has to happen – even with the first-world relief valve of immigration (legal or illegal) continuing to allow populations nearest the equator to continue to grow:

In 2008, world population is 6.7 billion: 1.2 billion people live in regions classified as more developed by the United Nations; 5.5 billion people reside in less developed regions. “We will likely see the 7 billion mark passed within four years,” said Carl Haub, PRB senior demographer and co-author of this year’s Data Sheet. “And by 2050, global population is projected to rise to 9.3 billion. Between now and mid-century, these diverging growth patterns will boost the population share living in today’s less developed countries from 82 percent to 86 percent.”

“The differences between Italy and the Democratic Republic of the Congo illustrate this widening demographic divide,” said Mary Mederios Kent, co-author of this year’s Data Sheet. “On one side are mostly poor countries with high birth rates and low life expectancies. On the other side are mostly wealthy countries with low birth rates and rapid aging.”

Worldwide, women now average 2.6 children during their lifetimes, 3.2 in developing countries excluding China, and 4.7 in the least developed countries. Lifetime fertility is highest in sub-Saharan Africa at 5.4 children per woman. In the developed countries, women average 1.6 children. The United States, with an average of 2.1 children, is an exception to this low-fertility pattern in the world’s wealthier countries.

[+|2008 World Population Data Sheet]

Interestingly, my perspective is one of a father-to-be. People grasp at straws when it comes to the supposed “irony” of my reproducing vs. my feelings on overpopulation.  What they don’t understand is the process by which this problem is shared by everyone, and that fertility rates are higher in places they have no business being high at all (whereas, in places where fertility rates are low, average resource consumption tends to be high). The overflow comes home to roost in places like Portland, Maine when developed nations provide the aforementioned relief valve for overpopulation, when it would be better to simply reject massive waves of immigrants into towns and cities that not only don’t want it, but certainly don’t need it.

Since our economies are based on the idea of ever-expanding growth, though, we once again hit the wall of social reality and have a hard time saying “no”. The simplicity of Dr. Bartlett and Asimov, among others, states that it’s about time we say no not only to more immigration waves, but consumerism as well.  The first step is admitting there’s a problem, as the saying goes, and for society to admit world overpopulation is a concern would be a great first step.

10 Comments

  1. Berserker says:

    Some hyper-socialists tried to paint me as a paranoid schizophrenic recently. Then an absolutely hideous transexual nurse said I was antisocial because I didn’t want to participate in a ‘lick barney the purple dinosaur’s pussy’ style circle jerk discussion about how ‘universal health care is our only hope’.

    Fucking pansies. Glad to see you guys are still keeping it real. I plan to do my part.

    I’m a fascist?

    Here’s my boxers and some rice papers. Have a smoke.

    Much as I try to convince myself, I’m not a nihilist. It is, however a very useful tool I utilize frequently. I’m actually a Gnostic Catholic, and I enjoy it very much. I’m also Bisexual, Autistic, OCD, Epileptic (Simple and Complex Partial Seizures) and Dyslexic.

    I’m also a fully self actualized Anglicized Germano Celt and a third year HVAC Apprentice (Universally EPA Certified).

    Thanks to the GNAA, Corrupt and Amerika staff for all the moral support.

    Scientology MUST BE STOPPED. As soon as I have a decent supply of Trileptal I plan to travel back to Florida, get the rest of my property and move to Texas. If I ever get a learning disability scholarship, I might even go to College someday. They still say I’m bipolar and not autistic. If they did, a ton of Physicians and former employers would have to admit they got me all wrong.

    To the Socialist majority: Any time you feel like tasting that foot of yours.

    Freedom of Speech. Ain’t that a bitch? I don’t think it is, but many people do.

    They can all perch and spin for all I care. I love the Earth, I love myself, and I love all my friends in every part of the World.

    Come join the fun, wherever you are.

  2. Sorry, Berserker’s my slave name :)

    Great Article. No raindrop believes it is responsible for the flood.

  3. Pete Murphy says:

    Environmentalists shun the subject of overpopulation because it erodes their support, especially among the religious right. They’ve found it much more popular to attack consumption, forgetting that reduced per capita consumption only makes room for more consumers, and not realizing that reduced per capita consumption equates to reduced per capita employment, resulting in rising unemployment and poverty.

    It’s the government’s role to adopt policies that encourage a stable or, in the case of overpopulated nations, a declining population, through reduced rates of immigration and economic incentives that promote a lower birth rate. Unfortunately, governments won’t adopt such policies as long as economists promote the idea that population growth is a vital component to a healthy economy.

    If and when economists ever emerge from the fetal position they assumed following the beating they took over the seeming failure of Malthus’ theory, and once again consider the ramifications of population growth, they may come to see the relationship between population density and per capita consumption and how excessive population growth actually becomes cancerous for the economy. Only then, when people understand how overpopulation is hitting them where it really hurts – in the wallet – will they change their attitudes toward the subject.

    Pete Murphy
    Author, “Five Short Blasts”

  4. highduke says:

    What’s the point of talking about this? Indian & African gov’ts dont want to lower their populations, insane growth is their group strategy because that way they get more aid from the UN, charities & 1st World states and these funds sustain their population well beyond these countries’ capacity to sustain them independently while enabling them to build up their military, as the amount of aid = buying of political loyalty & economic perks by the aid-provider. Worry about our birthrate instead.

    1. It affects us all, as those of us in developed nations are the relief valve for overpopulated, “developing” nations. If our developed world gov’ts had any sense they’d punish countries for overpopulating and sending their cheap labor over here, but Pete Murphy will tell you why that won’t happen any time soon.

  5. thanks pete – always a pleasure to hear from you and you pointed out something I could have hit on a bit harder re: per capita consumption and how reducing it only makes room for others to fill that void.

  6. Elle says:

    Right, so I’m of the belief that overpopulation is a social problem as well as a product of ignorance. The sooner babies are de-mystified as the greatest triumph of womanhood the better. We’re always going on about women having control over their bodies and rights but then we encourage breeding as a symbol of love.
    It’s a biological instinct, nothing more. For as much as we humans are animals, we’re unique in that we can choose. Unfortunately, I think the wrong choices are being made again and again.

  7. Prof Bob says:

    According to an article in Science Daily (April 20, 2009), a survey of the faculty at the State University of New York, which has a very strong environmental science department, the planet’s major environmental problem is overpopulation.. Climate change is second. This echoes the theme of the popular free ebook series “And Gulliver Returns” –In Search of Utopia—(http://andgulliverreturns.info) As one professor at SUNY said “With ten million or even a hundred million people on the planet there would be no warming problem.” It is both the technology and the number of people using it that create so many of our planetary problems.
    There is no question that China’s one child policy has helped the world and the Chinese economy. Whenever a country attempts to reduce its population it can expect a two or three generation period of problems while deaths reduce to equal births. I hope that China will recognize this fact and keep its own population on the path to reduction–which should begin by 2050. China’s actual fertility rate is not 1.0 per woman, but 1.8–the same as Norway’s.
    China’s Platonic-like oligarchy is far more efficient than modern democracies. The self-centered desires of each of us to have as many children as we want; the pressure of some religions and most businesses for more converts and customers; and the need for more soldiers to defend each sovereign state– each fight the obvious solution to the problems of the world: warming, illegal immigration, the use of irreplaceable natural resources, waste disposal along with air and water pollution, starvation, and the lack of fresh water. But countries commonly encourage more births to enlarge the tax base and pay for the elderly. Then each generation will contain still more elderly.
    As one commenter wrote ‘the earth is self correcting’, and it is, but the correction will cost billions of lives that could have been saved with intelligent action now.

  8. ProfBob says:

    I find in reading those sites that say that population problems are a myth that their evidence is very sparse and inconclusive. Recently I read Book 1 of the free e-book series “In Search of Utopia” (http://andgulliverreturns.info), it blasts their lack of evidence relative to their calling overpopulation a myth. The book, actually the last half of the book, takes on the skeptics in global warming, overpopulation, lack of fresh water, lack of food, and other areas where people deny the evidence. I strongly suggest that anyone wanting to see the whole picture read the book, at least the last half.
    The outdated fertility replacement rate of 2.1 is also clarified.

  9. Dora says:

    My entire life I have heard that there will not be enough, space, food, etc
    as populations expand. Rachel Carson’s book ‘Silent Spring’ was the 1st eye
    opener of a book, way back when.
    Only recently has it felt like collectively ‘we’ (humanity)
    has reached the place where not everyone has a job, an affordable house, or
    other necessities. Compared to the 1970′s such basics are increasingly difficult
    to procure in North America.
    Can’t help but wonder if people will continue to deny over population until being deprived of water, food, or shelter hits them personally over the head as: OMG, over population is real & it is affecting me ! Will we change as a species or be like deer who kept breeding until they ran out of habitat, only to starve ?
    It certainly seems to be “The great experiment” –this over breeding and
    non-discussion of earth’s carrying capacity with respect to humans. Don’t even
    get me going on about the topic of how animals, birds, fish, and all other forms of
    life including plants, coral reefs, etc DESERVE to have a place on this beautiful planet we all call home.
    This entire discussion of over population and what to do about it MUST remain
    in everyone’s radar. We can not afford to shut up about this. Keep talking, everyone, about this subject. Awareness and then change will grow out of talking.
    Future generations will thank those of us who did not shut up about over population.

Leave a Reply

41 queries. 0.915 seconds