I’m talking about bringing up overpopulation every time there is a discussion about global warming, alternative energy, carbon emissions, extinction of species, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the ozone layer, acid rain, or the melting polar ice caps.
That’s right… “overpopulation.” Too many people.
And, trust me, it will clear the room. There is a reason why activists and politicians never bring it up, even though it’s the biggest “duh” on the planet.
And then, the conversation was dropped. For fifty years.
What happened? Well… For starts, not all of Ehrlich’s predictions came true. Death rates did not rise. India did not starve.
On the other hand, some of his predictions did come true. When the book was written, there were between three and four billion people in the world. In 2012, that figure reached seven billion, having nearly doubled.
Several voices criticized Ehrlich’s book. Biologist and politician Barry Commoner was one of them. He had a theory that social and technological development would lead to a natural decrease in both population growth and environmental damage. Needless to say he was wrong.
Talk of population control also threatens the ruling elite… right down to their toes. To quote the words of Venezuelan sociologist Edgardo Lander:
"Capitalism is an unlimited growth system. There can be no such thing as a steady-state capitalism, or capitalism with negative growth.”
Endless breeding and doubling populations spell more consumers, or, as the economists would put it, “expanding markets.” And that means greater Gross National Product, more jobs, more investment capital, more prosperity. Who wants to put the kibosh on that?
But let me state the obvious: While human populations have doubled, planetary resources have not. While human waste products have doubled, places to store them have not. And, quoting Lander again, “Unlimited growth is not possible in a limited planet.” Capitalism, like any pyramid scheme, will run its course.
The reality is that burgeoning population growth is the cause of the environmental crisis. (Can’t wait to the read the comments on this blog.) Yes, poor distribution, mismanagement of resources, racism, colonialism, endless war, etc. etc. have not helped, but there are limits to what the planet can sustain. Some are saying we have already passed those limits.
Um, because most folks don’t care to be branded racist, facist, childhating, misogynist, ignorant, colonialist, and anti-spiritual.
Fair enough, but let’s look at why we should take that risk anyway…
Because nature bats last. Because reality always wins. Because nothing gets to the root of the problem except getting to the root of the problem. And because the plants and the animals dying for our sins do not have a voice. And if they did, they would say, “It’s the overpopulation of one exceptionally short-sighted, avaricious and filthy species, stupid!”
The conversation will not be easy and the solutions are offensive. But let’s do it anyway. We can take it, but the planet can't.