Tag: Global Population Speak Out

Discussing the effect of many people . . .

January 2, 2010 | By | 93 Replies More
Discussing the effect of many people . . .

Since writing a recent post where I joined the tiny chorus of people who are asking why we don’t ask whether we have too many people on the planet, I’ve been noticing quite a few articles in which the authors could have, might have, suggested to some of us that the resource depletion/crowding/degradation/contamination considered in the article had something to do with sheer numbers of people. Here are two examples.

The first one is from the May, 2007 edition of National Geographic. It is a story of Mumbai (formerly Bombay) India. More particularly, it is about a slum within Mumbai called Dharavi,

the teeming slum of one million souls, where as many as 18,000 people crowd into a single acre (0.4 hectares). By nightfall, deep inside the maze of lanes too narrow even for the putt-putt of auto rickshaws, the slum is as still as a verdant glade. Once you get accustomed to sharing 300 square feet (28 square meters) of floor with 15 humans and an uncounted number of mice, a strange sense of relaxation sets in—ah, at last a moment to think straight.

Dharavi is routinely called “the largest slum in Asia,” a dubious attribution sometimes conflated into “the largest slum in the world.” This is not true. Mexico City’s Neza-Chalco-Itza barrio has four times as many people. In Asia, Karachi’s Orangi Township has surpassed Dharavi. Even in Mumbai, where about half of the city’s swelling 12 million population lives in what is euphemistically referred to as “informal” housing, other slum pockets rival Dharavi in size and squalor.

The other article is actually part of a “Special Advertising Section” promoting the newest Ken Burns documentary featuring America’s National Parks. I found this article in the September 2009 edition of Harper’s Magazine. It was written by Robert F. Kennedy, who reminisced that his dad took him to the Grand Canyon in 1967. Based on his 2006 return trip to the Grand Canyon, things have changed dramatically:

Today, National Park Service employees are kept busy policing small infractions while our political leaders forced them to turn a blind eye to major abuses by powerful private interests. In 2006, I returned to paddle the Grand Canyon with my daughter, Kick. I was sad to see that the beaches where I camped with my father were gone; the sands that fed them are now trapped above the Grand Canyon Dam. The river itself, once a dynamic and specialized ecosystem, has been transformed into a plumbing conduit between the two largest reservoirs in the United States. The water, which should be warm and muddy, is clear and the frigid 46 degrees. Four of the eight native fish species are extinct, and the canyons of beaver, otter, and muskrat populations have disappeared. The reservoirs themselves are emptying to quench reckless developers and big agriculture, and the Colorado no longer makes it to the sea or feeds the great estuaries in the Gulf of California that once teamed with life. Instead, it dies ignominiously in the Sonoran Desert.

Kennedy never mentions that these “powerful private interests” are driven by the needs of large numbers of people to have direct or indirect access to water, admittedly oftentimes in wasteful amounts.

Neither of these articles address overpopulation by name, and this is typical of most article that comment on stressed resources. People who dare to bring up this topic of overpopulation get crucified from all angles of the political spectrum. To mention this word suggests that we need to actually consider whether we have too many people on the planet, and that raises the specter of admittedly terrible actions that have been taken to limit population in the past. To avoid this criticism, though, it’s only a rare writer that will dare to mention that we need to consider this issue. In my opinion, we need to consider the possibility of overpopulation and its effect on every square mile of land on the surface of the earth, from Antarctica, to Florida, to Great Britain, to Indonesia. If our goal has been to wipe out most of the biodiversity of this planet by shoving once-common plants and animals off of their native habitats with ever more humans, we are doing a great job of it.

If we don’t consider this issue, we will never able to deal with it. The current situation reminds me of many of the characters in the Harry Potter movies, who dare not refer to the character Voldemort by name. To mention that name would mean that they would have to risk dealing with the problem.

Whenever we think about buying or renting a house, we consider the capacity of that living space. How many people will it comfortably hold? We consider the same things when buying a car. How many people can safely use this vehicle at one time? I think it’s time that we consider the same basic question with regard to the entire planet. It is time to consider this issue to cause it’s already difficult to think of a basic natural resource that has not been degraded, depleted, contaminated or put at risk. If it’s not pressures put on these resources by increasing numbers of humans, it’s hard to think of what the cause might be. And for those who insist that it’s only our unsustainable lifestyles that are the problem, we are well past the point of making that argument. It is only thanks to our unsustainable use of water, fertilizers and fuel that have allowed the population to get to this point where humans fill every nook and cranny of the planet.

For more information on this topic, see this prior DI post and the website of the Global Population Speak Out.

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What if there were far too many people, but no one had the courage to talk about it?

November 30, 2008 | By | 73 Replies More
What if there were far too many people, but no one had the courage to talk about it?

What if there were far too many people living on planet Earth, but no one had the courage to talk about it?

According to Global Population Speak Out, that is exactly our situation.

Consider that we repeatedly see news reports about scarce and dwindling resources (e.g., water, food, fish, fuel, topsoil), but these news reports rarely consider the exploding population on Earth as a major contributor to these problems. This refusal to consider the carrying capacity of Earth is truly staggering. As a thought experiment, consider how our “environmental” issues would be altered if each country had 25% fewer people than it currently does. Or 50%. Instead, we the human population of earth is at 6.5 billion, headed toward at least 9 billion by 2050.

When it comes to discussing sex, reproduction and birth control, we freeze up, even when out-of-control population growth threatens our way of life.

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