Sunday, June 15, 2008

"We’ll Save the Planet Only If..."

A 15 February 2008 article in the UK's Independent and reprinted at, We’ll Save the Planet Only if We’re Forced To, by Johann Hari, doesn't mention "population" but certainly inspired a discussion of overpopulation as "the single biggest aspect of the problem."

Here's a summary of what some CommonDream responders had to say about runaway human population:

•Let’s quit avoiding the single biggest aspect of the problem and the hard solution to it: Global human overpopulation, and mandated population reduction. Pretty much everything else is coincidental to this, and will improve with the population reduction.
•Just as the author says that forcing people to make other changes will help climate change, forcing people not to procreate will produce the biggest changes of all. The Earth cannot sustain 6.6+ billion people, let alone projections of 10 billion or more.

•[E]vents will force a reduction in World population by Draconian means - war, famine, plague, and pestilence - if we do nothing to do it as fairly and rationally as possible.

•The hard truth is that unless we reduce World population to under 2 billion before mid-Century we will most certainly suffer a population crash that will take us there tragically. I want everyone under 25 or so reading this to look around at their friends and family of the same generation and ask themselves which 80% of them they want to lose prematurely? Probably even yourself! Those are the stakes we face. Unless you are among the fortunate 1% living in wealth in a gated community with private security forces, you face this fate as much as anyone living in Bangladesh.

•Overpopulation, not mentioned. How can we be so blind to the No. 1 threat? Sure, we all need to consume less and aim for sustainability. But as long as human population keeps growing, we should expect catastrophical, unwanted population reduction.

•Even if you manage (how?) to stop procreation, what good does that do the climate with the lifestyles we’re leading? Bringing procreation to a halt (how?!) will stop the already-greatly-worse global warming that is in existence once we’re all dead and gone, I suppose. But when people write that the “only” way to stop global warming is to stop having kids, I think maybe what is really being said is, “I’d like a far-off solution that involves me not at all, and lets me do what I want, while feeling virtuous.” Kind of like the population version of carbon offsets. How long until the last human dies, once you’ve managed to halt procreation (HOW?!) and what will the climate, being put through everything we put it through in the meantime, be like?

•The best contraceptive on a mass scale is female literacy. Once women become educated they begin to deny men control of their bodies. The developed world’s problem is not overpopulation; it’s that the population we have keeps increasing its energy and land use. Europe and Japan have leveled off in their population and may decline over the next 50-75 years. America continues to grow mainly because of immigration from Mexico and other poor countries. It could comfortably house and feed 1 billion people if we weren’t all so determined to live the lawn fertilizer, two-car garage suburban lifestyle.

•[P]opulation control begins with literate and educated women. Support organizations that work in this field.

•You say over-population is the problem and population control is the cure. But how would YOU institute such a control? Apply for permission to breed? Prove yourself worthy of procreation? By what standard would you choose? Imagine the political and societal upheaval over those topics! Your “solution” could well be far worse than that which you attempt to “cure,” no?

•Overpopulation is a huge problem - but when is the last time (hell, how about the FIRST time) you saw an article specifically talking about it?

Want to continue the discussion? Send me your comments.


NatureDiver said...

Bravo Hans,
Now how do we persuade politicians and religious leaders to talk seriously about this critical issue? The exponential population growth curve will surely collapse, just like a stock market bubble.
Derek said...

There are two questions I would like to ask.

As almost everyone knows but few openly discuss, wealth and power buy freedom. What is all too obvious but often cloaked in silence is this: A small minority of individuals in the human family with great fortunes and virtually all large corporations exercise their great wealth and the power it purchases in ways that allow all of these self-proclaimed masters of the universe to live lavishly as well as to willfully refuse assumption of the responsibilities which necessarily come with freedom.

1. How do rich and famous people, who live large and have huge ecological footprints, as well as corporate `citizens’ that cast giant shadows over the Earth today, so easily get away with socially irresponsible behavior?

2. The exercise of freedom without the requisite assumption of responsibility by citizens can lead to psychopathic behavior; the exercise of freedom by those individuals and corporations with great wealth who consensually-validate each others refusal to accept responsibility for their excessive, pernicious and amoral behavior is sociopathic, is it not?



Anonymous said...

No-one has mentioned when women have children. In primitive tribes women have children in their late teens and usually die in their forties before their great-grandchildren are born. Modern women survive until their eighties and see their great-great-great-grandchildren. If women have children in their thirties the natural order of 3 generations is restored. If all women started their families later it would give the earth some breathing space.