Can anyone not see the images of tens of thousands of people crowding the streets and squares of Middle Eastern cities and not think: OVERPOPULATION??? Walk down the street of any large city in the world during rush hour and experience the crush of people and cars. (This is especially profound in third world cities.) Listen to the never-ending statistics on CNN about unemployment and the number of people looking, or not looking, for jobs and think “Where on earth are there enough jobs enough to cover all the people looking?”
I heard Bob Edgar the CEO and President of Common Cause speak this week and he mentioned some numbers that I had to verify because they were seriously scary. In round numbers, this is what he said, and what I found was true: In 1830, there were about one billion people on earth. One hundred years later, by 1930, the population had doubled to about two billion people on earth. Thirty years later, in 1960, we saw three billion people on this planet. In fifteen years, 1975, we had added another billion to make four billion people.
Now it gets really scary! Every twelve years since 1975, we have added another billion individuals to the world’s population.
1987: five billion people
1999: six billion
2011: seven billion.
More than half of all people who have ever lived on this planet are alive on this very day. Any rational person can deduce that this cannot go on or civilization as we know it will surely collapse. In his amazing award-winning book Collapse, Jared Diamond discusses the different ways that whole societies have disappeared from the earth. Especially interesting are the tiny islands that must control their populations in correlation with the limited resources that they have to support that population. Their boundaries enclose them narrowly. In a sense, these are a microcosm of what we are facing today, but now we are looking at the entire planet’s limited resources and trying to correlate it with a population of humans that is burgeoning way, way out of control. Our planet’s boundaries enclose us. We are like an ant colony in a glass box that has nowhere in which to expand. When it grows too large, it can only implode and expire. What can be done? We are long past the idea of infanticide as a control measure as certain earlier peoples did. Killing babies already born is not within our ethical framework. Preventing fetuses from being born is so contentious an issue that it is unlikely to be part of the solution either. So we are left with only one direction in which to look: Preventing pregnancies from happening. A network of individuals within the Sierra Club is working toward such a solution. China has already implemented such a policy with its one child per family program as the overpopulation in that country has been having a major impact on its environment and its ability to provide an acceptable standard of living for its people. The first thing that you and I can do is to talk about the problem out loud. To one another. Then we can join with those who are actively working to bring stability to this planet’s human population crisis. It’s a worldwide problem and requires a worldwide solution. Let’s help to solve it.