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Talking Overpopulation: Signs of Coming Out of Taboo Territory?

Talking Overpopulation: Signs of Coming Out of Taboo Territory?

Today the San Francisco Chronicle has the biggest feature article on population growth I have ever seen it do. The article is titled, “As the World Grow, So Do Climate Dangers.”  In watching new nonfiction releases, I have also been noticing an excellent trend…

There are some hard hitting books just out – or about to come out – that relate to the perils of population growth and overpopulation. Here are just three:

Countdown by Alan Weisman 

From the Amazon summary: “Weisman traveled to more than 20 countries to ask what experts agreed were probably the most important questions on Earth–and also the hardest: How many humans can the planet hold without capsizing? How robust must the Earth’s ecosystem be to assure our continued existence? Can we know which other species are essential to our survival? And, how might we actually arrive at a stable, optimum population, and design an economy to allow genuine prosperity without endless growth?” Excellent questions.  This book is on its way to me and I can’t wait to read it.

Harvesting the Biosphere: What We Have Taken from Nature, by Vaclav Smil

Fareed Zakaria give two thumbs up to this one. When Fareed does this, I listen. While this book does not look at population directly, Dr. Smil examines what all of the billions of people are doing to the earth’s resources – how “the increasing extent and intensity of present-day biomass harvests are changing the very foundations of civilization’s well-being.” A serious read – Fareed says it is not for vacation reading – but well worth it.

Then there’s The Bet: Paul Ehrlich, Julian Simon, and Our Gamble over Earth’s Future, by Paul Sabin.

This books brings back “the time when “the iconoclastic economist Julian Simon challenged celebrity biologist Paul Ehrlich to a bet. Their wager on the future prices of five metals captured the public’s imagination as a test of coming prosperity or doom. Ehrlich, author of the landmark book The Population Bomb, predicted that rising populations would cause overconsumption, resource scarcity, and famine—with apocalyptic consequences for humanity. Simon optimistically countered that human welfare would flourish thanks to flexible markets, technological change, and our collective ingenuity…Drawing insights from both sides, Sabin argues for using social values, rather than economic or biological absolutes, to guide society’s crucial choices relating to climate change, the planet’s health, and our own.” I admit, I lean with Ehrlich, but there is no doubt both sides of this debate need some serious come back around.

The Chronicle article  starts with California – how “California also has 38 million people, up 10 percent in the last decade, including 10 million immigrants. They own 32 million registered vehicles and 14 million houses. By 2050, projections show 51 million people living in the state, more than twice as many as in 1980.” And how, “In the public arena, almost no one connects these plainly visible dots.”

The article goes on to connect dots on global population growth, the overwhelming evidence that we are damaging our ecological support system, and the kind of “crash landing” that can results if there is not a reduction in births – not just in developing countries, but globally.

Can this be an inkling of an indication that the public arena is ready to come back to the talking real talk about population growth and overpopulation? All I can say it I hope so.

In addition to articles and books like these, what else will really show we are ready to seriously have this conversation and do something about it?

Policies that encourage the reduction of births, not more of them. That, along with global access to birth control, will be the day of marking real change for the betterment of the planet’s future and all being on it. We can only hope.

4 Responses to Talking Overpopulation: Signs of Coming Out of Taboo Territory?

  1. Ladies and Gentlemen,

    Scientists warn of a rapid collapse of the Earth’s ecosystem.
    The ecological balance is under threat: climate change, population growth and environmental degradation could lead even in this century an irreversible collapse of the global ecosystem.

    –> http://newscenter.berkeley.edu/2012/06/06/scientists-uncover-evidence-of-impending-tipping-point-for-earth/

    The cardinal reason is the sudden development of human population that threatens to devour all our resources.

    Since 21 August there is therefore a petition at change.org for the introduction of global birth-controls, also in HINDI!

    If you want to support this or publish it on your website, here is the link:
    http://www.change.org/de/Petitionen/weltweite-geburtenregelungen-verbindlich-einf%C3%BChren-introduce-obligatory-worldwide-birth-controls

    Please continue to spread the link or the petition as possible to all interested people, organisations etc.

    Thank you and best regards
    Achim Wolf, Germany

  2. Here’s how the whole UK compares to California:

    http://mapfight.appspot.com/california-vs-gb/california-us-united-kingdom-size-comparison

    England occupies circa 130,000 sq km, that is just over half the UK. California is roughly 423,000 sq km At the last census in 2011 the UK had 63 million, of which 53 million live in England. Estimates for the UK for 2050 vary from 70-90 million, that would be 60-80 million for England. In 2008 ENGLAND (not UK) officially became most crowded major country in Europe, overtaking the Netherlands for the first time in history, on top of which we have one of the highest birth rates in the developed world. I despair.

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