Frosty Wooldridge


More About: Environment

Part 2: What Americans Think About Population Debate

Part 2: Rational to Outlandish Controversy


With all the environmental damage reported around the planet from human population overload, you cannot help but wonder if some people employ a pickle for a brain or love to defend their own ignorance with more of it.

At long last, the Economist Magazine offered a debate on its website that garnered thousands of responses.  John Seager, president of Population Connection (formerly ZPG), promotes population stabilization and long term decline.  He proposes that Americans live within the carrying capacity of the land. Opposing him, MICHAEL LIND, Policy Director, Economic Growth/Next Social Contract Program, New America Foundation, promotes population expansion. Lind encourages unlimited expansion of human population.




Readers from around the world weighed in with their ideas on what our civilization faces:

Rick A. said, “Margaret Thatcher writes "I am astonished by the large number of neo-Malthusians and Luddites voting and commenting here. History makes it crystal clear that Thomas Malthus was completely wrong. Not just wrong in the early 1800's, but he's been completely wrong ever since."  History makes it crystal clear that Malthus was only wrong about his time frame. Given the millions dying of starvation every year right now, the advent of Peak Oil, and so on, you don't have much more time to make statements like that one.  Personally, I am quite encouraged by the number of deep ecologists posting here, and by the number of people who care about our children and their future, and people who care about organisms other than themselves.”


Jack said, “History clearly proves Malthus, Erhlich and Bartlett ahead of their times by centuries, but human leaders and average citizens cannot and do not understand their own dilemmas so clearly spelled out by those three great thinkers.”


Kevin G. wrote, “I voted "yes" because all I have experienced, seen and heard and read about through 75 years of life on this tiny speck of dust in the universe we call "Earth" convinces me that population growth is a great evil. Our top priority should be institute world-wide policies to *decrease* the world's population. Sadly, this cannot happen because there are so many, even in high places, who believe, without a shred of evidence, that some supernatural force (or forces) will somehow solve the problem for us.”


King C. said, “In the present we suffer from many problems worldwide and I will point out one of the most common issues, the global warming. Several millions of dollars are spent every year doing research trying to find an eco-friendly way to minimize pollution, but as population grows the problem is far from being stopped or even minimized. If we take into account our individual footprint for greenhouse gas emissions we will find that even if it can be lowered by half in the next ten years the overall result for gas emissions would be much more than double, this is, divide by half the individual footprint and then multiply by the total population of the world in ten years.”


PG K. said, “Comparing the readership's reaction to the proposal with what one saw 40 years ago I was initially very pleased. Throughout the week, however, I became less and less optimistic. If an audience like the Economist’s can only achieve 80% for this proposal then what results would the broad public achieve? Admittedly, some of the arguments that one heard decades ago (“God will take care of us”, “I love children, I want as many as possible”, “More people makes us stronger”) had mostly disappeared, but still a substantial number of people have not yet grasped the restrictions imposed by a “closed system” or the effects of entropy, That namely, with these boundary conditions science, technology and innovation can only provide us temporary relief, but never a solution.  I am afraid that the ultimate result will not be the prevention of catastrophe through intelligent action, but rather that Mother Nature, with some help from the darker side of Human Nature, will make “corrections” after we have crossed the point of no return.”


Al N. wrote, “Endless growth is not a sustainable concept. Nothing in nature, no animal, no system--grows endlessly. We, as a species cannot 'endlessly grow’ either.  More cars don't make a better freeway. More sickness doesn't make a better doctor. More garbage doesn't make a better dump. And, more people will not make a better planet.”


Tyson said, “This is a long overdue reminder that the only environmental problem the world faces is overpopulation. For many environmentalists this represents an even more inconvenient truth.”


RJ W. wrote, “Congratulations to both John Seagar and Duff Gillespie for their excellent analysis. The debate is not about how many people can the earth contain; it's "How many people can the earth sustain?" John Beddington, the United Kingdom’s chief science advisor, warned earlier this year that the world is approaching what he calls a "perfect storm." Between 2008 and 2030, Beddington foresees population rising by 33 percent, demand for food and energy by 50 percent, and demand for fresh water by 30 percent. That rising demand will collide head on with emerging supply limitations, including peak oil, falling water levels, and the effects of climate change. And when 'demographic push' comes to 'economic shove', the world's poorest population will pay a terrible price.”


Poucel said, “Quality of life is a subjective appreciation of a changing reality. As thinking primates, we can perceive the effect of our actions on the environment and predict the world we are leaving for our children. Unchecked population growth is crippling our ability to improve the quality of life for future generations. The only reasonable means to lower population growth is through education and raising standards of living, especially for the populations of third world countries. And these means cannot be made available at present with the self-seeking policies of today’s nation states, which put national security and domestic policies concerns for present constituencies above future challenges and international cooperation. Political selfishness and shortsightedness continues to rule the world and ruin the future.”


As you can see at the Economist web site, a whole bunch of folks pitch their ideas, some good and some ridiculous!  In the final analysis, the human race must come to terms with its overwhelming numbers and advance them toward sustainability with this planet’s resources. How can you kills a planet and still live on it?  You cannot!




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