Is Overpopulation at the Root of More “Popular” Problems?


This is a response to those who believe that problems such as “corrupt politicians” or “global warming” are the most important problems we face today.  I’m not contending that these aren’t problems, but that we have a bigger problem.  I believe the problem of overpopulation is far more important than the problems currently getting the most attention in the western media, such as immigration, pollution, and global climate change. In fact, I believe overpopulation can be seen as the root cause of many of the problems that do get the attention of the main stream media. It is unfortunate they are apparently unwilling to say anything that might lead people to make the connection.  The logic, however, seems simple.

Climate change and pollution: If we had less people, there would be less people to burn fuel and carry on the activities that generate greenhouse gases.  Similarly, there would be less people buying products that are driving the rapid expansion of markets in places like China, and leading them to produce massive amounts of carbon gases.

Immigration: If there were less people there would be less pressure in many of developing and underdeveloped nations, where people escape the crowded, poverty-stricken areas and try to immigrate into the more developed countries where they can find jobs and better conditions.

Food supplies:  Certainly problems of distribution, including corruption and political issues, are of key importance to the food shortages in many of the underdeveloped countries, but those shortages would not be as bad if they had less people, whatever the political or corruption problems.

It was instructive that China publicly recognized that overpopulation would inhibit their economic growth when they established their 1-child-per-family law 30 years ago.  I believe it can now be demonstrated mathematically that they were right. They now claim to have avoided 300 million births – a tremendous savings for the environment (even if you believe the number was much smaller). Whatever the number, it represents a huge pollution and greenhouse gas avoidance.  Yes, China is producing huge amounts of pollution today, but with 30% more people, it would be even worse, and not just in China.  A smaller Chinese population also represents a lot more natural resources left in the ground, stretching their availability farther into the future. 

I am not in favor of mandated family sizes or other draconian measures to control population.  Interestingly, where China applied education, family planning, and economic assistance, they saw population growth rate reductions similar to that in areas where they strictly enforced the one-child-family law.  This supports the notion that education and family planning, supported by economic assistance (and I’m thinking the “teach a person to fish” concept rather than “give a person a fish”) can work.  Certainly education and family planning are a great deal cheaper than other ideas I have read, and would be easy for almost any of the developed countries to provide, had they the will to do so.

We in the developed countries have the ability to help other countries not only understand the issues and legislate their way to a better situation, but also to adopt cleaner technologies now so they can avoid the cost of changing over again after they have already polluted the environment, as China inevitably is.  We can do a great deal to help, without “breaking the bank”, and help ourselves in the process, but we need to get busy. 

We need to learn as much as we can about overpopulation and its effects, create clear explanations of the situation we’re in and use them to spread awareness and understanding, demand that our government officials make a high priority of addressing the situation, and look hard at our own lifestyles to see how we can prepare for the changes we will face in the coming decades. It IS scary, but the future always is, and it will be far less so if we plan and prepare. 

Tell your elected representatives what you are concerned about, and what you want them to do. If they don’t hear from you, they may never know.

As always, I appreciate your comments.

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3 responses to “Is Overpopulation at the Root of More “Popular” Problems?

  1. We have some re-evaluating to do as a race. Too many of us and the earth has already made it clear that population growth can’t continue much longer.

    http://pacificgatepost.blogspot.com/2008/04/overpopulation-earths-challenge.html

  2. Pingback: Will Human Overpopulation Eventually Cause Lemming-like Mass Migrations? « Tim Prosser’s Futuring Weblog

  3. Pingback: The Wilberforce Award: The Population Puzzle « Neuroanthropology

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