Sunday, January 11, 2009

Frightened? Why?

I’m confused. For a recent article I interviewed two environmental experts, William Rees and David Suzuki. “The era of exuberant consumption is over,” said Rees pointing out that the human ecofootprint is 30-40% larger than what the planet can support. Both Suzuki and Rees feel North Americans need to reduce their environmental footprint by 80%. That’s a deep cut that can’t be achieved without also decreasing population growth.

Here are two typical responses I received from readers:
“It almost sounds as if Rees is advocating a form of genocide.”“The recommended solutions frighten me.”

I lie awake at night trying to understand what frightens these people. Are they worried about giving up the good life and having to be more frugal? Do they come from large families and feel they and their children should have the same right? Have they been brainwashed by the conservative right’s propaganda that global warming and the environmental movement are a fraud? Do they really think that Gestapo methods would be used? (Although the security measures implemented since 9/11 are worrisome.) Is it a religious thing, a worry that abortion would be involved? Or is it a fear of change, a disruption to the comfortable status quo?

I simply don’t understand. Can’t these people see that human population has surpassed the world’s ability to provide resources? We need to seek solutions … and none of them require draconian measures. Population can be restrained by totally volunteer and humane means. The most important step is to encourage couples to have no more than two children. This can be achieved through education, improved family planning and tax incentives/disincentives.

In third world countries, where the large majority of future population growth will occur, the same methods will be effective. But it needs help, encouragement and foreign aid from developed nations.

I’m still confused, but hopeful that by working together we can chase away these mythical monsters.

1 comment: said...

Special good wishes and congratulations to William E. Rees,

Thanks, Bill, for all you have been doing for many people over many years by speaking out loudly, clearly and often for the sake of protecting biodiversity from extinction, the environment from degradation, the Earth from wanton dissipation and the children from reckless endangerment.

Please note that not only does humanity face a challenge from human-forced climate destabilization, good scientific evidence of human population dynamics is also being all but universally ignored.

It seems somehow not quite right for the human family not to be actively encouraged to consider — and not to deny — the potentially profound implications of extant scientific evidence regarding the population dynamics of absolute global human population numbers. The research appears to indicate with remarkable clarity and utter simplicity that human population dynamics is essentially similar to the population dynamics of other species; that increases and decreases in absolute global human population numbers can be better understood as a function of food supply; and that human carrying capacity is primarily determined by food availability. The failure of able people with widely accepted knowledge of biology, population dynamics and the biophysical world to communicate openly, in an intellectually honest and morally courageous way, regarding the predicament presented to humanity by distinctly human-induced and -driven threats to human wellbeing, life as we know it, environmental health and Earth’s body from the unbridled growth of the human species now overspreading the surface of Earth is as unacceptable as it is unforgivable. The elective mutism of leading experts inside and outside the scientific community has to be replaced, I suppose, with more adequate, more reasonable, more sensible and readily available evidence of what could be real about the way the world in which we live actually works as well as about the “placement” of human beings within the order of living things. By so doing, the family of humanity can get about the necessary work of responding ably to the recognizably daunting global challenges which are looming ominously before us on the horizon.

Somehow, the human family will most assuredly find its way forward from “here and now” to a good enough and sustainable future for the children, coming generations and life as we know it in this wondrous planetary home we inhabit and call Earth.



Steven Earl Salmony, Ph.D., M.P.A.
AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population,
established 2001