21 Responses

  1. barry January 17, 2010 at 11:02 pm |

    safe to say most of the above posts are written by people living in and are beneficiaries of the civilization that many people escape to.socialists should be asked where else would they prefer to live? their beloved utopia can’t exist without brainwashing the human race into becoming a star trek like “borg collective”.
    the alternative (which they accuse private corporations of scheming on)is the use of forced labor gulags and concentration camps to suppress dissidents.the term soviet means”socialist citizen”btw.

  2. John Pope December 13, 2009 at 1:29 am |

    S. Butler: “…populationist theories shift the blame for climate change onto the poorest and most vulnerable people in the Third World.”

    Wrong.

    Let’s be logical:

    1. Developed countries are trying to increase their numbers of prosperous citizens (to grow their economies).

    2. Prosperous people create a greater carbon footprint than poor people.

    3. As the overall population grows, so does the number of prosperous people.

    4. The number of prosperous people increases as the economy grows.

    5. The increase in the number of prosperous people increases carbon emissions, and contributes to climate change.

    6. Therefore: policies in developed countries, which try to increase their population, are contributing to climate change.

    It is wrong to accuse those concerned about over-population of blaming the poor.

    John Pope

  3. Juan Santos November 22, 2008 at 10:19 am |

    Most of those in this discussion – not everyone – but most, seem to be in a “business as usual” mode.
    The actual point, though, is that business as usual is over. That’s what unsustainable means – it means “can’t be sustained anymore.” Translate that: “It’s over.” One way or another, it’s over. Either fossil fuels area over because they are running out, or they’re over because their continued use means planet- wide extinction on the scale of the Great Dying at the end of the Permian era. Either way, the population boom that arose from the fossil fuel boom under industrial capitalism and socialism is simply _over_. Human population is going to contract, and what none of us have to say about it is going to change that.

    The “Green Revolution” that is credited in large measure with enabling the population boom was a fossil fuel boom, from fertilizers to the industrial farming machinery to transport. Has anyone stopped to wonder exactly what the underlying connections might be between the evolving Food Crisis and the fact that, at a minimum, Peak Oil is on the horizon? Who among us has questioned their premises closely enough? I can only claim to have tried to do so. And yourself? Socialism pre-supposes a proletariat. A proletariat presupposes an industrial system. An industrial system pre-supposes “resources” and the means of production – including as a key element of that – the energy to fuel the means of production. That means oil, coal and gas, just s industrial agriculture pre-supposes oil and gas for machinery, fertilizers, pesticides and transport.

    All of that is over. Capitalism is over. Industrialism is over. Socialism is over. If Lovelock is right, by 2049 there will be 9 billion humans, but by 2100 only 500 million will remain – that’s a 95% reduction. Do you think for a moment that one’s “correct line” on population vs econonmic structure will change that. No. Not if you are spinning your wheels in debates the over what you think the correct position for the boo-zwa- zee to adopt may be. You are the _last_
    people the ruling class is heeding. So, then, you want state power? Then _that_ is the single most pressing issue- how to get state power so that what you are saying _means_ something. But will your particular splinter group of socialists having state power put more oil in the ground? No.
    Will it mean that the Green revolution, and thus current population levels, are sustainable – that they can _last_? No. Is global warming the key environmental issue before us? Yes. Because if the tipping points are reached it over-determines all other issues. Is population the main cause of global warming? No. That would be CO2, according to conventional “wisdom.” And what is the cause of CO2 emissions? Capitalist industry (there is no socialist industry now to speak of – so let’s not). In California, arguably the most car intensive spot on earth, 95%of global warming gasses come from 800 specifically identified industrial plants? So, is population the main cause of global warming No. Almost by definition the intensity and extensiveness of population growth is centered in the less developed world. Less developed means less industry, means less money. less consumption, and, of course, less CO2 emissions. On its face, population in the less developed world ( if we call “less developed” now less developed than the emerging powers of Brazil,Russia, India and China) is not the key source of global warming gasses.

    But while the emission of such gases is one side of the dialectic, it’s only one side. Emissions only matter because there are no adequate sinks to absorb them from the atmosphere. They _were_ sunk – within the Earth- whether we’re talking about coal, oil natural gas or methane. Now they’re loose and there’s no means to sink them.

    Which means part of what we’re talking about is _forests_. And forests are being profoundly impacted by population. Brazil is behind only the US and China in global warming emissions, I’ve read, because of rainforest destruction. The sinks are being destroyed for agriculture, herding and other purposes related to both population/ land pressures and economics in the context of the global market.

    Forest destruction also means habitat destruction. Since socialism is a product of the Enlightenment, the human-centric biases of much of the commentary thus far has been predictable. But _Mass Extinction is underway on a planetary scale, even though the impacts of global warming have reached only the relatively early stages. The potential is that _millions_ of species will be eradicated. Not just humans. With or without global warming it’s already underway.

    Gus Speth, Dean of the School of Forestry at Yale University, notes in his book “The Bridge at the Edge of the World” that:

    “Half the world’s tropical and temperate forests are now gone.[2] The rate of deforestation in the tropics continues at about an acre a second.[3]About half the wetlands and a third of the mangroves are gone.[4] An estimated 90 percent of the large predator fish are gone, and 75percent of marine fisheries are now overfished or fished to capacity.[5] Twenty percent of the corals are gone, and another 20percent severely threatened.[6] Species are disappearing at rates about a thousand times faster than normal.[7] The planet has not seen such a spasm of extinction in sixty-five million years, since the dinosaurs disappeared.[8] Over half the agricultural land in drier regions suffers from some degree of deterioration and desertification.[9]Persistent toxic chemicals can now be found by the dozens in essentially each and every one of us.”

    In other words, your debates on population vs economics is strictly academic. I mean irrelevant to the key issues at hand. The only solutions lie in the collapse of industrial capitalism _and_ population, if viewed from a biocentric and biophlillic standpoint. – And its good thing that that’s the solution – because that is what is going to _happen_, no matter _what_ we think of it. Since you don’t seem to be getting ready for revolution, you might as well be getting ready for that. Look at Cuba’s response to Peak Oil. Look at their urban gardens. Get real, not abstract. To paraphrase the Hopi traditional elders; That’s an interesting philosophy: Does it grow corn? Stop telling the ruling class what it should be doing, and stop talking about what you would do with a power you are not serious about taking. Check your premises, Think, As John Trudell puts it, clearly and coherently. _Do_ Something. Grow some corn. Plant some trees. Form your community. Locate some water. Listen to traditional indigenous elders. Otherwise its like this:

    “He is blind,” as one Hopi elder put it, “So he destroys himself when he tries to save himself.”

  4. Juan Santos November 22, 2008 at 10:12 am |

    Most of those in this discussion – not everyone – but most, seem to be in a “business as usual” mode.
    The actual point, though, is that business as usual is over. That’s what unsustainable means – it means “can’t be sustained anymore.” Translate that: “It’s over.” One way or another, it’s over. Either fossil fuels area over because they are running out, or they’re over because their continued use means planet- wide extinction on the scale of the Great Dying at the end of the Permian era. Either way, the population boom that arose from the fossil fuel boom under industrial capitalism and socialism is simply _over_. Human population is going to contract, and what none of us have to say about it is going to change that.

    The “Green Revolution” that is credited in large measure with enabling the population boom was a fossil fuel boom, from fertilizers to the industrial farming machinery to transport. Has anyone stopped to wonder exactly what the underlying connections might be between the evolving Food Crisis and the fact that, at a minimum, Peak Oil is on the horizon? Who among us has questioned their premises closely enough? I can only claim to have tried to do so. And yourself? Socialism pre-supposes a proletariat. A proletariat presupposes an industrial system. An industrial system pre-supposes “resources” and the means of production – including as a key element of that – the energy to fuel the means of production. That means oil, coal and gas, just s industrial agriculture pre-supposes oil and gas for machinery, fertilizers, pesticides and transport.
    All of that is over. Capitalism is over. Industrialism is over. Socialism is over. If Lovelock is right, by 2049 there will be 9 billion humans, but by 2100 only 500 million will remain – that’s a 95% reduction. Do you think for a moment that one’s “correct line” on population vs econonmic structure will change that. No. Not if you are spinning your wheels in debates the over what you think the correct position for the boo-zwa- zee to adopt may be. You are the _last_
    people the ruling class is heeding. So, then, you want state power? Then _that_ is the single most pressing issue- how to get state power so that what you are saying _means_ something. But will your particular splinter group of socialists having state power put more oil in the ground? No.
    Will it mean that the Green revolution, and thus current population levels, are sustainable – that they can _last_? No. Is global warming the key environmental issue before us? Yes. Because if the tipping points are reached it over-determines all other issues. Is population the main cause of global warming? No. That would be CO2, according to conventional “wisdom.” And what is the cause of CO2 emissions? Capitalist industry (there is no socialist industry now to speak of – so let’s not). In California, arguably the most car intensive spot on earth, 95%of global warming gasses come from 800 specifically identified industrial plants? So, is population the main cause of global warming No. Almost by definition the intensity and extensiveness of population growth is centered in the less developed world. Less developed means less industry, means less money. less consumption, and, of course, less CO2 emissions. On its face, population in the less developed world ( if we call “less developed” now less developed than the emerging powers of Brazil,Russia, India and China) is not the key source of global warming gasses.

    But while the emission of such gases is one side of the dialectic, it’s only one side. Emissions only matter because there are no adequate sinks to absorb them from the atmosphere. They _were_ sunk – within the Earth- whether we’re talking about coal, oil natural gas or methane. Now they’re loose and there’s no means to sink them.

    Which means part of what we’re talking about is _forests_. And forests are being profoundly impacted by population. Brazil is behind only the US and China in global warming emissions, I’ve read, because of rainforest destruction. The sinks are being destroyed for agriculture, herding and other purposes related to both population/ land pressures and economics in the context of the global market.

    Forest destruction also means habitat destruction. Since socialism is a product of the Enlightenment, the human-centric biases of much of the commentary thus far has been predictable. But _Mass Extinction is underway on a planetary scale, even though the impacts of global warming have reached only the relatively early stages. The potential is that _millions_ of species will be eradicated. Not just humans. With or without global warming it’s already underway.

    Gus Speth, Dean of the School of Forestry at Yale University, notes in his book “The Bridge at the Edge of the World” that:

    “Half the world’s tropical and temperate forests are now gone.[2] The rate of deforestation in the tropics continues at about an acre a second.[3]About half the wetlands and a third of the mangroves are gone.[4] An estimated 90 percent of the large predator fish are gone, and 75percent of marine fisheries are now overfished or fished to capacity.[5] Twenty percent of the corals are gone, and another 20percent severely threatened.[6] Species are disappearing at rates about a thousand times faster than normal.[7] The planet has not seen such a spasm of extinction in sixty-five million years, since the dinosaurs disappeared.[8] Over half the agricultural land in drier regions suffers from some degree of deterioration and desertification.[9]Persistent toxic chemicals can now be found by the dozens in essentially each and every one of us.”

    In other words, your debates on population vs economics is strictly academic. I mean irrelevant to the key issues at hand. The only solutions lie in the collapse of industrial capitalism _and_ population, if viwed from a biocentric and biophlilic standpoint. – And its good thing that that’s teh solution – because that is what is going to _happen_, no matter _what we think of it. Since you don’t seem to be getting already for revolution, you might as well be getting ready for that. Look at Cuba’s response to Peak Oil. Look at their urban gardens. Get real, not abstract. To paraphrase the Hopi traditional elders; That’s an interesting philosophy: Does it grow corn? Stop telling the ruling class what it should be doing, and stop talking about what you would do with a power you are not serious about taking. Check your premises, Think, As John Trudell puts it, clearly and coherently. _Do_ Something. Grow some corn. Plant some trees. Form your community. Locate some water. Listen to traditional indigenous elders. Otherwise its like this:

    “He is blind,” as one Hopi elder put it, “So he destroys himself when he tries to save himself.”

  5. Damon Hoppe November 19, 2008 at 1:57 pm |

    Population is just one of those questions that one wishes we could avoid not because it is NOT part of the real problem but because it is used by the right to obfuscate the true nature of the problem.

    Simply put capitalism requires, in order to exist, an abundance of people to be exploited and a scarcity of resources for humans to use. The higher the population and the greater the scarcity, the greater the profits!

    Therefore NOT breeding is a revolutionary act which will destroy capitalism. Breeding is a reactionary act which prevents the achievement of socialism.

    What?! I hear you cry.

    Lets step back and understand the motor of capitalism and therefore the driving force behind populaton.

    Capitalism functions by having two markets ‘resources & production’ and ‘consumption’. The capitalist needs the resources as cheap as possible and therefore produces as much as possible.

    This is also why capitalism is so technological driven and energy intense.

    People are a resource (human labour) and therefore anything to encourage their breeding to lower their market value is good. Hence anti-birth control, etc.

    This massive surplus of production means that food commodity prices (in the commodity market) are at 1930’s levels.

    So how come people are starving?

    The second market is the ‘consumer’ market. This functions on the exact opposite principal, scarcity is better.

    {This is the ground of the concept of property. No scarcity means no property, hence we do not currently charge for air, but thanks to the wonders of pollution this could soon be an emerging market (I believe they now have oxygen bars in japan!)

    The more scarce a ‘product’ is, the higher the market value. Increased population also means increased demand and therefore more profit.

    You may have noticed that the right-wing people who talk about population control (normally leading to some rascist/anti-immigration policy) are also the same people who are anti-birth control and population control.

    We are simply being manipulated to see the problems as being either:
    a) population is the problem and therefore nothing to do capitalism.
    or that
    b) population is the problem not capitalism!

    It is all to do with capitalism and population, they are inseperable.

    Whether you believe that capitalism demands population growth and increased consumption, or that capitalism is the inevitable product of increased population and resource use there is no escaping the fact that we must reduce our population and consumption in order to destroy capitalism and to save the planet.

    That is why non-breeding is not just environmentally sound but also a revolutionary act.

    Damon

  6. John F. November 17, 2008 at 10:09 pm |

    Fred Meyerson, assistant professor of demography, ecology, and environmental policy at the University of Rhode Island provides some other reasons why addressing population is key to dealing with climate change:

    http://www.peopleandplanet.net/doc.php?id=3159

  7. John F. November 17, 2008 at 9:15 pm |

    “Because of the short amount of time the world has to deal with global warming, population control is not a solution”

    Yes it is, for two reasons:

    1) *Any* reduction in fertility rates today means fewer emissions tomorrow. In the long term is means far fewer.

    2) If we fail, in our current actions, to account for *either* the near term or the long term, we are just as dead in the latter.

  8. Milton Takei November 17, 2008 at 7:14 pm |

    Because of the short amount of time the world has to deal with global warming, population control is not a solution, unless the plan is to kill off millions of people. For an example of how a poor country has reduced its birth rate, see Cuba.

  9. Dave Gardner November 15, 2008 at 11:13 pm |

    Okay, Simon. Let me try again to make this understandable, for I agree that we only have one lifeboat. So let’s borrow that Spaceship Earth metaphor. We only have on spaceship. We are complete idiots to have put 6.7 billion people on it. So now the atmosphere has its problems.

    Yes, we should do all we can to minimize per-capita CO2 contributions to the atmosphere. And we cannot euthanize some of the passengers, so it will indeed take awhile to address the number of crew-members part of the equation. So much more heroic must be the per-capita reduction. And you are correct, we cannot rely on population reduction to be of significant help in the short term (though it cannot hurt).

    However, let’s be intellectually honest about what per-capita CO2 emission level we can (and should) get the crew down to. And let’s be honest about whether the spaceship can support 6.7, 7, 9, or 2 billion crew at that emission level. Can we keep feeding them and processing their waste? If we cannot, then I see no reason to dance around the population issue. The sooner we all admit that we have too many crewmembers, the sooner crewmembers will make more responsible decisions about procreation.

    I personally don’t see this as a North vs. South or has vs. has-nots issue. I did my part by stopping at two children. Though now I recognize I should have stopped at one. Now I ask every future father and mother to do their part. It’s that simple.

    Dave Gardner
    Producer/Director
    Hooked on Growth: Our Misguided Quest for Prosperity
    Join the cause at http://www.growthbusters.com

  10. Robert November 14, 2008 at 7:53 pm |

    Simon

    “In my view this very real threat makes it necessary to shift as fast as possible to a zero-emissions economy based on meeting environmental and social needs…”

    The flaw in your argument is that the planet can only sustain 6.7 billion people by continuing most of the industrial and agricultural practices that are causing our current environmental problems. We have expanded the human carrying capacity of the planet by drawing down fossil fuels and pumping up agricultural yields through fossil fuel fertilisers, pesticides and agricultaral machinery.

    In the natural order humans sit close to the top of a food chain pyramid, and under natural conditions you would therefore not expect the human population to be more than a few hundred thousand. By artificially (but temporarily) boosting the carrying capacity we have inverted the pyramid, yet convinced ourselves that this is somehow the new natural order of things.

    It won’t make any real difference whether we have an extreme left or an extrame right system of government – 6.7 billion people is a completely unsustainable number. Irrespective of climate change, fossil fuels will deplete to nothing over the next century or so and we will be back to living on our daily dose of sunshine. Factor in soil depletion and a host of other human-driven environmental degradations and we are heading for real trouble.

    One way or another the global human population WILL reduce to a more manageable size – probably below 1 billion. We can get there the hard way or the easy way.

  11. Simon Butler November 14, 2008 at 6:23 am |

    David G wrote that he disagreed with Barry Commoner’s sinking ship metaphor that I quoted in my article.

    David wrote: “Let me offer a more meaningful metaphor. A populationist solution to environmental destruction is actually more like being in one of the lifeboats of a sinking ship, and refusing to take on so many passengers that you sink the lifeboat!”

    I think this sums up the populationist approach fairly well… and it also graphically reveals its false basis.

    In all of his ecological writings Commoner was very sensitive to the fact that the the ship we’re travelling on – the planet – is the only one we have. Make no mistake, we travel on a ship with no lifeboats! If we don’t ‘repair’ our ship then we all go down with it together.

    The lastest research from climate scientists like James Hansen and others reveals that the warming of the planet is occuring at a drastically faster rate than previously thought. Key climate tipping points – such as the melting of the Arctic ice caps, release of methane from melting permafrost, warming oceans etc, are upon us already or are desperately close.

    It is more than extremely unlikely that a human population of any significance (however uncrowded the imaginary ‘lifeboat’ may be) will survive in a 6 degree world – not to mention the extinction of most plant and animal life.

    In this context, advocating long term population reduction as a way to deal with this very immediate danger is ludicrous.

    In my view this very real threat makes it necessary to shift as fast as possible to a zero-emissions economy based on meeting environmental and social needs. Ecosocialists hold that this task will require a break with capitalism itself. A new, sustainable model of development will need to be developed to replace the free market if humanity has a chance. The further challenge of carbon drawdown will likely occupy humanity for centuries to come if we are to achieve a safe climate.

    Of course this is far easier said than done. But success is unlikely unless we can build the greatest mass movement the world has ever seen.

    One of the biggest mistakes population theory makes in this regard is that it relegates the billions of people in the global South to being just a part of the problem.

    For ecosocialists the exact reverse is true. The masses of the global South are what Walden Bello has described as “the pivotal agent in the fight against climate change”. The people of the global South – the world’s majority – are actually the biggest hope we have.

    Environmentalists in the North need to pursue a strategy of solidarity that links up with people of the global South – not draw up plans to reduce their numbers.

    regards
    Simon Butler
    http://www.greenleft.org.au

  12. John F. November 12, 2008 at 8:12 pm |

    Andrew proclaims:

    “Population hysteria is a depoliticizing balm…”

    There is nothing more arrogant than the knee-jerk notions that (a) in the last moment of our history, the human population has not exploded at tremendous cost to other species, and (b) that its continued growth, so grossly beyond the population of any comparable species, is not a dire problem for the biosphere.

    By the way, most serious population activists agree the “global north” has the worst population problem in the world.

  13. Robert November 12, 2008 at 6:10 pm |

    Andrew

    Have you ever asked yourself why the global population has grown by a factor of 10 in the last 200 years? It is surely that those in the poorer countries live off the “crumbs that fall from the rich man’s table”. It takes very little food to simply survive – far less than most of us in the rich west throw away – and because of that poor populations can and do grow rapidly.

    Thus we have a situation where populations are growing fastest in the poorest parts of the world. Add to that the easy access to global information, porous borders and ease of travel and you find that, not surprisingly, much of this extra population is migrating to richer countries so that they can join our over-consumption bandwagon.

    The net result is both a growing global population AND a growing per-capita impact on the planet. None of it is planned. It is just an inevitable by-product of unrestrained growth in a (mainly) democratic industrial civilisation.

    Malthus will inevitably be proved right in due course. We live on a finite planet with finite resources. The so called “green revolution” was really just a step change in our efficiency in drawing down those resources or, if you prefer, a means to convert fossil fuel into food.

    I freely admit that I don’t know a whole lot about Marxism, or ecosocialism for that matter. If you guys think you have an answer to the above problem then I’m all ears.

  14. Andrew November 11, 2008 at 4:22 pm |

    The Malthusians as ever are completely unhinged from social *and empirical* reality.

    According to the World Bank’s 2008 development indicators, the wealthiest 20% of the world accounts for 76.6& of global consumption.

    A look at per capital CO2 emissions is equally stark. Sparsely populated Canada ranks 11th in per capita emissions, crowded India, 133rd.

    Population hysteria is a depoliticizing balm for the bad conscience of the global north, and one which doubles as a neo-colonial stick with which to beat the Majority world, who bear the brunt of climate change but not the blame.

    Latter-day Malthusians can fuck off.

  15. Pete Murphy November 10, 2008 at 6:39 pm |

    Roland, you said: “One fact that always contradict their theories is that the higher the standard of living — the lower the fertility rate. So the real solution, to their argument is for all to share the abundance of wealth and the problem will go away naturally!”

    Actually, economic development is the cause of overpopulation, not the cure. Undeveloped nations have both a very high birth rate and death rate. The introduction of modern technology causes a decline in the death rate much, much faster than the birth rate declines. Yes, the fertility rate does fall eventually, but only following an enormous population explosion.

    That’s not to say that we shouldn’t promote development, but that we need to recognize what will happen and simultaneously introduce measures to quickly bring the birth rate under control.

    Pete Murphy
    Author, “Five Short Blasts”

  16. Robert November 10, 2008 at 5:07 pm |

    Agree with all the comments. Disagree with the article. The deer on St Matthew island had the same problem:

    http://dieoff.org/page80.htm

  17. Dave Gardner November 10, 2008 at 2:33 pm |

    Roland,

    While it is true that improving standard of living does bring fertility rate down, that creates quite the conundrum, as the planet clearly doesn’t have the resources to support half the world’s population living at even modest American standards. China or India alone, consuming and polluting at U.S. rates, will be an ecological disaster.

    So, once again, we are simply going to have acknowledge that population level is a critical issue and the sooner we can all agree to that, the sooner and the more people will voluntarily limit family size and policy-makers will stop incenting larger families.

    We just can’t ignore it, and there is absolutely no moral, logical or scientific basis for doing so.

    Dave Gardner
    Producer/Director
    Hooked on Growth: Our Misguided Quest for Prosperity
    Join the cause at http://www.growthbusters.com

  18. Rick Shea November 10, 2008 at 2:32 pm |

    It is clear that the current “Sixth great extinction” of other species on this planet is human-caused. We are crowding them out of their habitat with our sheer numbers, and our economic activity is destroying their habitat. Our apparent “prosperity” and “abundance of wealth” are temporary bubbles supported by cheap energy (which, of course, is about to end) and by our willingness to accept a human monoculture on this planet. Promoting even more of this obscenity will only make the coming crash even worse — Ronald Wright’s worst fears made real.

    Malthus wasn’t wrong, he was just ahead of his time.

  19. Roland Sheppard November 10, 2008 at 12:37 pm |

    Those that think capitalism can be reformed always try to give population growth as a reason for unemployment, racist competition for jobs, the destruction of the environment ect.. They provide a fig leaf for capitalist pauperization and destruction of the world.

    One fact that always contradict their theories is that the higher the standard of living — the lower the fertility rate. So the real solution, to their argument is for all to share the abundance of wealth and the problem will go away naturally!

  20. Wolfger Schneider November 10, 2008 at 11:47 am |

    The author states:
    “But the fact remains that the real driver of climate change is not population growth but a market economy locked into burning fossil fuels for energy.”

    False: The fact is that the drivers of climate change are the size or the global population, AND our non-sustainable, carbon-based lifestyles practiced by the developed countries and aspired to by the undeveloped countries.

    The green revolution which allowed us to feed more people is based heavily on natural gas and petroleum products. Wheras we once produced a calorie of food with less than a calorie of energy, we now need in excess of ten calories to produce and deliver a calorie of food. With the slow disappearance of fossil fuels it will be difficult to feed even the current population numbers without doing great damage to other lifeforms in our competiton for more agricultural land.

    Just visualize how easy life might be with only 1 billion people and then ask yourself what is the benefit of 10 billion in another century?

    Wolfger Schneider
    Citizen

  21. Dave Gardner November 10, 2008 at 10:11 am |

    I’m disappointed in this writer’s near-blanket condemnation of sustainable population advocacy. It’s the all too typical bleeding-heart, save the poor, don’t think too hard about the problem, liberal response to some very sound arguments for including population as HALF the long-term solution to achieving sustainability on a finite planet. I do not dispute that economic justice is an important goal. I don’t believe you’ll find that Paul Ehrlich is indifferent to this problem.

    The writer shared US ecologist Barry Commoner’s comment that “populationist solutions to environmental destruction are “equivalent to attempting to save a leaking ship by lightening the load by forcing passengers overboard”. Let me offer a more meaningful metaphor. A populationist solution to environmental destruction is actually more like being in one of the lifeboats of a sinking ship, and refusing to take on so many passengers that you sink the lifeboat!

    Human impact on the planet equals population times per-capita resource intensity. They are equally important in achieving sustainability. If you reduce one while the other increases, the net effect is zero improvement.

    The writer suggests we should relax about population growth because global population is “only” predicted to rise 50% during the first half of this century and 11% during the second half. With nearly 7 billion on the planet today and most scientists (and the Earth) agreeing that we are in overshoot now, I would suggest that educating every man, woman, child – and especially policy-maker – on all aspects of sustainable population is critically important.

    This is especially true on a planet where many nations, regions and cities equate stable or declining population as a negative. Baby bonuses are in effect in many nations, and I wonder if UN population projections take that into account.

    Dave Gardner
    Producer/Director
    Hooked on Growth: Our Misguided Quest for Prosperity
    Join the cause at http://www.growthbusters.com

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