Sunday, May 25, 2008

A Bad Attitude Day

A recent article disturbed me deeply. The author attacked those who claim that human overpopulation is damaging the environment and depleting resources as being anti-human naysayers. The more people, the better, he ranted. Even the founder of Earth Day, Gaylord Nelson, was included in the smear.

How do you respond to such disjointed logic? How does he possibly equate wanting a future for our grandchildren as being anti-human? It’s perverse! The author wants to run the good Earth into the ground, and then accuses those who want to slow matters down as being against the good of society?

I pondered this for many days and all thoughts led me deeper to the conviction that those espousing a slower population growth are, in fact, the true humanists. To stabilize population requires, at its most fundamental, empowering women and reducing poverty. This is a moral high ground that, sadly, has escaped most of modern society and is truly humanistic.

The author’s attitude is just the opposite and seems hooked on continuing to let the good times roll and to hell with everyone else. Stabilizing population, on the other hand, is intimately wrapped in developing our social skills: caring, sharing, helping, loving. Is he blind?

Have you encountered attitudes like this? Where do you stand? Send me your comments.

(You can watch CARE Canada's amazing "I Am Powerful" video on empowering women at

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Human Population and Animal Rights - A Guest Blog

Life on Earth is disappearing fast and will continue to do so unless urgent action is taken.
The extinction crisis is escalating. But how is this crisis related to human overpopulation?

Too many human beings doing so many destructive things on the planet is the cause of the 6th mass extinction. THIS IS AN ANIMAL RIGHTS ISSUE - THE ULTIMATE ONE.

Reviewing the global destruction of ecosystems, plummeting wild populations and species losses makes it obvious our industrial consumer culture has to stop the destruction NOW.
All life on the planet is going and going fast.

We have got to this point because we (people in our culture) think we are the only life deserving rights. People have to decide: Do they want all animals on Earth to die out? Right now they are deciding: Yes.

There are 4 things that have to happen NOW if animal life on Earth is to survive. (And I'm using the lay -- not scientific -- meaning of animals. Many people forget, ironically, that humans are animals.)

1. STOP EATING FLESH - animal and fish and fowl

It is very clear that it's too late to think just doing less of these destructive activities will prevent the extinction of life. The Earth is already in ecological melt down. Action must be DRASTIC and it must be NOW to stop the destruction of life from becoming irreversible.

Our industrial consumer economy is converting the Earth into an uninhabitable planet at breakneck speed. We are already beyond some planetary tipping points. If we don't give the organic living Earth a space to recover and replenish, the entire biosphere will crash in a matter of decades and all animal life will die out over the next century.

To stop these insanely destructive activities, we must stop denying any life but our own the right to live. This means:


So, what do you think? Is it time to start reducing human populations to ensure that the rest of nature survives?

For the Earth, the Children (of All Species), and the Future,

Peter D. Carter, MD

Thank you to Voices in the Wilderness: A Prayer for Wild Things for their beautiful mosaic.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Technology has Advanced but Social Development has Regressed

Approaching seven billion (they say the world's population hit 6,666,666,666 people yesterday, May 10/08), human numbers are finally pushing into the territory of which Malthus so direly warned. Oil production has passed its peak and the price has soared over $100/barrel. World grain production is decreasing and the prices of rice and wheat have skyrocketed, even setting off riots. The ocean's fisheries are being depleted, global temperature is rising grimly, and I could go on in this vein for a long while.

It's all about the tragedy of the commons. Live for the moment. Grasp as much as you can, and to hell with the others. We just don't care about the common good and, hence, about the future.

A century ago, thinkers felt that with a new era of cheap energy and mass production, a golden age of enlightenment would surely follow. Those dreams quickly ran onto a reef.

Today our society is characterized by conspicuous consumption, superficiality, vanity, materialism and mindless entertainment. Those are the icons we worship. Instead of kindness, we have apathy. Instead of charity, we have greed. Instead of planning, we have instant gratification. Instead of caring, we are self-absorbed. Instead of sharing, we grasp for more. Instead of consideration, we have vanity and narcissism. Instead of ethics, everything is condoned. Instead of honour, we have "who cares."

Technology has made astonishing advances over the past 100 years. But we humans have not progressed one iota in improving society and how we interact with each other. We should be ashamed. Our outlook needs to change, for without that we will not be able to grapple with the huge problems we face; the Malthusian Devil will swallow us.

(Thanks to Rick Audet for his photo, posted at

Sunday, May 4, 2008

More Food Leads to More Hunger

Just read Steven Earl Salmony's take on some recent population research in Environmental Health Perspectives. This research shows something that not many of us have the stomach to contemplate.

"According to the empirical research (Hopfenberg 2003), human population growth is a rapidly cycling positive feedback loop in which food availability drives population growth and this growth in human numbers gives rise to the mistaken impression that food production needs to be increased even more."

The more we increase food production, the more the population grows, and the more hungry people there are. So we increase food production, which leads to an increase in population, and again there are those who go hungry.

In other words, if the population grows, then the population of hungry people grows, too.

"The evidence suggests that the remarkably successful efforts of humankind to increase food production to feed a growing population results in even greater increase in population numbers."

According to Salmony, the researchers call the perceived need to increase food production to feed a growing population "a misperception, a denial of the physical reality of the space-time dimension. If people are starving at a given moment in time, increasing food production cannot help them. Are these starving people supposed to be waiting for sowing, growing, and reaping to be completed? Are they supposed to wait for surpluses to reach them? Without food they would die. In such circumstances, increasing food production for people who are starving is like tossing parachutes to people who have already fallen out of the airplane — the produced food arrives too late."

But this does not mean that human starvation is inevitable, says Salmony. Living within the Earth's carrying capacity is the secret.

"We do not find hoards of starving roaches, birds, squirrels, alligators, or chimpanzees in the absence of food as we do in many civilized human communities today, because these nonhuman species are not annually increasing their own production of food.

"Among tribal peoples in remote original habitats, we do not find people starving. Like nonhuman species, 'primitive' human beings live within the carrying capacity of their environment. History is replete with examples of early humans and other ancestors not increasing their food production annually, but rather living successfully off the land for thousands of years as hunters and gatherers of food.

"Before the agricultural revolution and the production of more food than was needed for immediate survival, human numbers supposedly could not grow beyond their environment's physical capacity to sustain them because human population growth or decline is primarily a function of food availability (Hopfenberg 2003; Hopfenberg and Pimentel 2001)."

I'm not sure I've wrapped my head around the ramifications of this research, but it certainly says something about unintended consequences.