Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Conservation Conundrum

When skimming the websites of environmental organizations, I see virtually no mention of curbing population growth. These groups don't see population as a contributing factor to the world's ailments. The solution, so these environmental websites expound, is conservation: compact fluorescent light bulbs, bicycling, less packaging, bring your own bag when shopping, turn thermostats down.

Sadly, this only buys time; it does not solve the problem. You don't need to be an Einstein to calculate that if we all pitch in and cut energy consumption by, say, 10% per capita, this robust savings will be wiped out as soon as the population grows 10%, which will take about 7 years in the United States. Then energy demand will rise to new records again.

To make matters worse, people don't normally leave their home countries to emigrate to developed nations in order to become "conservers." Many have been attracted by the promise of unlimited everything, including energy.

To make meaningful progress - that is, to actually decrease energy consumption permanently - we must stop population growth. Why aren't we dealing with this issue? If well-intentioned environmental organizations don't recognize this, what hope is there for (short-sighted) politicians?

Conservation is not the answer. But it is important, very important, for it can buy us time to tackle the real issue of population.

How much time will that take? How much time do we have? What's your take?

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