We humans are clearly overrunning the planet, but few understand or will face what is happening. As population hits an all-time peak later this century, life on the planet will get much tougher and there will be no simple answers to the problems that will arise or simply increase in severity. While it is hard to see ahead with any detail, past experience says there will never be a single crisis that challenges humanity like overpopulation does (barring an asteroid impact, a global volcanic surprise, or the sun doing something unexpected). This is because human nature drives us to want to live better and have more children. Can we successfully change ourselves to have less offspring and live more sustainably? Continue reading
Tag Archives: immigration
(This is a reprint of a recent posting in my personal blog that I think is quite appropriate to share here. Please comment if you like . Thanks for reading. – Tim)
Why is overpopulation taboo? It is incredibly frustrating to see so many people and organizations thrashing around over climate change and related issues when none of those problems would exist if we weren’t overpopulating the planet. The problems of epidemic and famine that will emerge over the next two or three decades will compound our relatively new problems with weather and increasing sea levels, and it is likely that at least a few billion people will die untimely deaths before the end of this century, all attributable to the human population explosion. Isn’t a focus on reducing birthrates worldwide what we really need? Are we putting ourselves at risk by addressing the more superficial issues and ignoring the root cause? Continue reading
Falling birthrates a problem? Someone has lost their sense of perspective. NY Times op-ed columnist David Brooks’ recent piece “The Fertility Implosion” cites falling birth rates in many countries and discusses the difficulties faced by societies in which elderly will significantly outnumber young people. Certainly there will be challenges. While in the US the Social Security program (SS) is expected to continue another 25 years, with relatively small changes needed to change that time to “indefinite”, and most developed countries have better systems for caring for the elderly than the US does, there is still much concern for how the young people are going to foot the bill for those older than them. But how does this stack up against the effects of the current population explosion itself? Continue reading
The Population Connection (a. k. a. Zero Population Growth) paints a clear picture of the world situation in its quarterly publication, The Reporter. Please read it for very interesting information on humanity’s biggest problem and what is being done (or not being done) about it. Power politics, greed, and ignorance are big factors in how this is being handled in the U.S., unfortunately.
Humans are diverse and complicated beings. When I was in high school biology class we learned that bacteria, placed in a petri dish with an ample supply of food, would multiply until either the food ran out or they polluted their little environment so badly that their numbers fell back to be equal to or below their original population. Eventually, without additional food input, they would all die. This model, while instructive, is an extremely simplistic model of life on earth. Unlike the bacteria we have constant energy input from the sun and a wealth of mineral and energy resources which will sustain us and the other life forms for a long time to come, though how many of us will be sustained will vary, and the out-of-control increase in population we are currently experiencing is, by far, our biggest challenge yet.
Human diversity and the complexity of the global economy present non-catastrophic options. As we climb the steep curve of the population explosion we get a clearer view of the events and changes that will occur as population reaches a peak and we begin the journey down the other side of the curve. Many of us often think about the possible (probable) calamities that will reduce our population – wars, epidemics, and famine. Natural and man-made disasters in recent times have not made much difference to the global population, however. We also don’t often think about the less disastrous scenarios that could occur, perhaps because in the media the “doom and gloom” stories bring more attention, higher ratings, and better sales. From movies, books, and documentaries about planetary-scale disasters, written from both scientific and purely fictional angles, it is clear our society is more and more fixated on apocalyptic events, but reality is rarely so extreme, and recent events of huge size have still made virtually no dent in world population. What kind of changes are we already seeing that do not involve specific disasters and yet have real potential to measurably reduce population? Continue reading
My childhood fears of nuclear war have come to pass, but not the way I expected. When I was a kid I had a great fear of nuclear war. At school we drilled, hiding under our desks, in case Russian missiles with nuclear warheads should wreak terrible, radioactive firestorms on us. One winter night around the age of 6 I woke up from a dream and looked out the window to see the sky glowing yellow – I was immediately convinced that either a nuclear attack was creating the incredible light in the sky, or that the nearby Fermi nuclear power plant had blown up, and in either case the radiation would soon get us. As it turned out, it was just a full moon illuminating a light snowfall, but I will never forget the terror of those moments. These days, with nuclear war seeming to be a much more remote possibility, I don’t even think about it. The other night, however, I noticed the sky glowing orange most of the way around the horizon, and realized that, if I didn’t know it was street lights illuminating the falling snow, I would have thought a nuclear war had broken out. The lights were like those of an explosion frozen in time. Then I realized that this IS an explosion – a population explosion. This extremely long, slow-motion explosion started over a century ago and the echoes won’t die out for decades, or maybe centuries, to come. Unfortunately this explosion has consequences potentially more devastating than even a global nuclear war. So what are we doing about it? How can we mitigate the effects of this very-slow, long term explosion on ourselves and our descendants? Continue reading
Animal populations migrate to find food or better living conditions, often in huge numbers, when populations become too large for available resources. For the caribou, whales, birds, and other creatures an annual migration is part of their ritual of survival, but some other species, such as lemmings, only migrate when under pressure. Humans have managed to remain more sedentary as we invented shelter, clothing, and technology to keep us comfortable and well fed. How will this change when the cheap energy we use to sustain our food production and comfort becomes too expensive for most people? Will we see larger and larger “migrations” from the poorest and most overpopulated countries to the most developed? Have the migrations already begun? Continue reading