Population growth is a choice, not an inexorable force of nature.
If we wish to, we can keep our population at sustainable levels. If we don't, the forces of biology, technology and economics will keep us growing. Our descendants will not see the stars at night, have the prosperous lifestyles we can aspire to today, know farms and forests, experience wilderness and the incredible other species on the planet.
More than 7 billion people currently inhabit the planet, compared to only 3 billion in 1967. Every year about 135
million people are born and 55 million people die, adding 80 million to our global population. That's about one United States every 4 years, or 1 billion more every 12 years. Almost half of the global population is under the age of 25 and their decisions during their reproductive years will determine whether we have 6 billion or 14 billion people by 2100.
Each person uses far more land than the few feet they actually occupy. We use cropland to grow food, grazing land for meat and dairy, oceans for fishing and oxygen generation, forests for lumber and carbon sequestration, and developed land for habitation, transportation and commerce. This is our Global Footprint. For an average European or American lifestyle, it is 10-20 acres per person.
These range from life-threatening to simply disruptive. They include:
Over 1 billion people do not have enough food and safe drinking water.
Global warming is disrupting our ecosystems and threatening billions of people
Energy sources, from wood to oil, are becoming
scarcer and harder to reach or extract.
Due to population pressures, people now live in areas that are basically unsafe. Hundred of thousands of people died in 2010-2011 because they lived on floodplains in Pakistan or by the tsunami-prone coast of Japan.These regions were sparsely populated 30 years ago.
Population growth shares complex ties to poverty and inequality, exacerbating the gap between the wealthy and the poor, and complicating access to Earth's finite resources.
In the U.S.alone, sprawl destroys 2.2 million acres of farmland,
ranchland and forest every year.
Americans spend an average of 55 workdays (2200 hours) per year stuck in traffic.
The solutions are things we should be doing anyway:
As Martin Luther King Jr. said: "Unlike plagues of the dark ages or contemporary diseases we do not understand, the modern plague of overpopulation is soluble by means we have discovered and with resources we possess. What is lacking is not sufficient knowledge of the solution but universal consciousness of the gravity of the problem and education of the billions who are its victim."
Here are 5 things that will reverse population growth nationally and worldwide.
Empower women and families to plan how many children they want. About 200 million women in the world would prefer to delay having children
but do not have access to contraceptives and reproductive healthcare. With modern life-saving medicine has come modern contraception. We need to provide services and accurate information to the people who really want it, and elect politicians who promise to do so both in the United States and worldwide.
Education and job opportunities, especially for women. These are critical components for alleviating poverty, gender inequality and overpopulation. Studies have found that when
women have more education and job opportunities, they choose to have
smaller families, and are able to invest more in each child which helps break the cycle of poverty. Ask our politicians and international organizations to help provide education and jobs worldwide.
Awareness of environmental and social cost of overpopulation. Our
population is already above a sustainable level, and in many regions well above a
safe and prosperous level. As people became aware of this in the 60's and 70's many people chose to have smaller families. Kids are truly wonderful, and caring for them is a challenging and rewarding experience. But parents can keep in mind that every person must be cared for within the constraints of the local and global environment.
Refrain from pressuring people to have children if they are not ready or prefer to remain childless. Some cultures value large families. This often suited a sparsely-populated
farming or pastoral region, and sometimes remains as a holdover from those
times. Measures can be taken to model and emphasize the benefits of smaller
families. Let's not glorify teen pregnancy with TV shows and tabloid magazines. Additionally in affluent countries, we need to shift away from a culture of excess and unsustainable consumption.
Economic forces. Most people take their economic situation into consideration when planning their families.
If they do not have housing and jobs they delay starting families. Birthrates
rose during the housing bubble begining in 2002, but when the bubble burst and the 2008 recession began, birthrates dropped.
Better economic policies in conjunction with slowing population growth worldwide, can help increase global prosperity. Our usual measure of economic progress, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has a built-in tie to population growth (i.e. more people means more economic transactions). This means GDP can rise with population while median household income (and well-being) actually declines! With the wrong measures we set the wrong goals.
Help spread the word & support the cause!
Donate to support our efforts to tell people we can slow or stop population growth: donations of any size are welcome.
“Slower population growth is part of a 'virtuous circle' that can help promote equality. Where family planning is available, where couples are confident their children will survive, where girls go to school, where young women and men have economic opportunity, couples will have healthier and smaller families – and the gaps that divide men and women, rich and poor, will diminish.” – Laurie Mazur (A Pivotal Moment: Population, Justice & The Environmental Challenge, 2010: page 11)
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The Earth is Full
June, 2011 - Thomas Friedman - The title says it all. Maybe now that Friedman has broken the ice,
a few others can also say that the Emperor (of endless, thoughless growth) has no clothes!
Ruling on Contraception Insurance
January 29, 2012 - Obama admin.
finalizes ruling that insurance companies cover contraception without a broad religious
exemption. Half of pregnancies in U.S. are unintended.
[New York Times]
Resisting Dickensian Gloom
by Tony Recsei. Forced high density policies don't reduce our carbon footprint or
energy use. This is a very well researched article summarizing many studies. It
was posted on a "smart growth" blog and many people have commented.
Smart Growth: The Worst Kind of Sprawl?
Studies find that urban construction is no better for the environment
than the suburban. People have pretty much the same
global footprint either way. Transportation is a small part of it, and is offset
by extra resources to build high rises.
Tikopia: Living within Limits Feb, 2011 -
The history of the Pacific island Tikopia shows that when humans are confronted with
obvious limits to
our resources, we are smart enough to constrain our population and enjoy
comfortable, prosperous lives.
Overpopulation at its worst?
In the Congo's capital, parents only feed their children every other day.
Demand U.S. contribute
to U.N. contraceptive program!
- Jan 10, 2012
Japan's economy stronger than USA's
This is usually obfuscated by using total GDP to measure growth, but per-capita GDP is stronger
- Jan 3, 2012
Conjectures on Human Growth Limits, Jan 2004 -
Ross McCluney's classic survey of ways to address the question of the best population size
for our Planet. Hint: it depends on how we want to live...
300 Years of Fossil Fuels in 300 Seconds, Jan 2011 -
Great(!) video on the history and effects of humanity's use of fossil fuels. As supplies
dwindle relative to our population, what will we do?
The Critics Deconstructed Intersting article about the attacks against population activists,
and the need for population awareness
U.N.Predicts 10.1 billion people by 2100 May -
This article corrects some common mis-perceptions about population. It is growing rapidly, but
can be slowed by easy access to contraception, better education for women, and
changing social norms.
Mother: Caring our Way out of the
Population Dilemma, Jan 2011 -
The film follows Beth, an American mother who comes from a Catholic family of 12 and has adopted
an African-born daughter as she
travels to Ethiopia where she meets Zinet, the oldest daughter of a desperately poor family
of 12. Zinet has found the courage to break free from thousand-year-old-cultural barriers,
and their encounter will change Beth forever.
The Moral Right to Set Limits, Dec -
It seems right for us each to protect the positive qualities
of our own region, the only place where we have even a modicum of
the political ability to do so. But there is always a nagging question
Opposition to Power Line at Fjord Runs Deep, Nov 11 -
A beautiful place. Why run a high-tension power line with 125
foot towers through the middle of it? Another toll of increasing population.
Nobody Ever Dies of Overpopulation, Garret Hardin
or do they? Much of the Pakistani land which
flooded in 2010 is floodplain which was marshland that was
only settled in the last 30 years...
The Last Taboo What unites the Vatican, lefties, conservatives,
environmentalists and scientists in a conspiracy of silence?
The Last Taboo
by Julia Whitty in the June 2010 issue of
Mother Jones: "Who's to Blame for the Population Crisis?"
Calling Planet Birth
Family size is the great unmentionable in the campaign for more environmentally friendly
Having 1 less child in the US would reduce carbon emissions 19 times more than
all the E.P.A.'s recommended actions combined. -
Drop in Birthrates in 2008 is Linked to Recession -Apr 2010
Population growth is not inevitable. When incentives favor postponing having children,
many people do.
Smart Growth? the smart alternative is No Growth
Although city planners are trained to call some patterns of growth 'smart',
in many areas the only truely smart alternative is No Growth
Parting the Waters - mid-East wars over Water Rights - March 31, 2010.
30 of the 37 Wars over Water in the past 60 years involve Israel and its neighbors.
Fewer people living in these desert regions would leave more water per person. This should
inform the population policies of all countries involved.
A Pivotal Moment: Population, Justice & The Environmental Challenge
Dec 23,2009 This new book compiled by Laurie Mazur discusses environmental issues as they affect
equality, justice and sustainability. Regarding the UN's low and high estimates for World
population in 2050 "if we take seriously the twin imperatives of sustainablilty and equity, it
becomes clear that it would be easier to provide a good life - at less environmental cost - for
8 rather than almost 11 billion people."