There Are Too Many of Us

It took humanity 50,000 years to reach 1 billion people. It then took about 200 years to go from 1 billion to 7 billion.  The world’s population is growing at the rate of 1.1 percent per year; if this rate continues, we will have over 9 billion people on the planet by 2050. There are about 4 babies being born and less than 2 people dying every second.

There are too many of us. boomer warrior

There Are Too Many of Us

In Overpopulated (BBC documentary), Hans Rosling who is a statistician shows our world in a new way. He’ll tell you how the world’s population is changing and what today’s data tell us about the future of the world we live in. Professor Hans Rosling will show you how things really are.

Seven billion people now live on this planet of ours. When some people think about the world and its future they panic. Others prefer not to think about it at all. We undeniably face huge challenges, but the good news is that the future may not be quite as gloomy and that mankind already is doing better than many of you think. (Hans Rosling)

Overpopulated

Published January 2014
BBC Documentary
Standard YouTube Licence

Exponential Population Growth

There is an absolutely crucial mathematical reality called exponential growth. If population grows at  1 percent a year, it will double in seventy two years, 2 percent a year, it’ll double in thirty five years, 3 percent a year, twenty four years. You get the idea.

In this video, David Suzuki uses a 60-minute growth cycle to show how exponential population growth is “ultimately suicidal.”

Our home is the biosphere. It’s fixed and finite. It can’t grow and we’ve got to learn to live within that finite world. Every scientist I’ve talked to agrees with me. We’ve already passed the 59th minute of a 60-minute growth cycle.

David Suzuki Speaks About Overpopulation

December 2010
Standard YouTube Licence

Everything Is About Growing

In a recent radio interview, Dr. Glenn Barry (environmental advocate, writer, global ecological visionary) spoke openly about the grim prospects of an overpopulated planet.

It is not possible to go from 1 to 7 billion people in 135 years – while still growing exponentially – without profound impacts upon natural ecosystems that provide air, water, food and livelihoods….Merging climate, food, water, ocean, soil, justice, poverty, and old-growth forest crises – all which are to some degree caused by inequitable overpopulation – are destroying ecosystems and threaten to pull down our one shared biosphere.

Earth has lost 80% of her old-growth forests, 50% of her soil, 90% of the big fish – and many water, land, and ocean ecosystems, as well as atmospheric stability – as human population has soared more than sevenfold. The human family is living far beyond its means, devouring natural capital principal and ravaging its own ecosystem habitats, which can only end in ecological, social and economic collapse.

Earth’s carrying capacity has been exceeded, and we must equitably and justly bring down human population and consumption inequity or else face global ecosystem collapse. We can start the necessary social change or an angry Earth will sort it out herself by killing billions, as we possibly pull down the biosphere with us, ending most or even all life, during a prolonged collapse. (Source: Glen Barry Blog)

Dr. Glen Barry radio interview


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Rolly Montpellier, founder of BoomerWarriorRolly Montpellier is the Founder and Managing Editor of BoomerWarrior.Org. He’s also a  Climate Reality leader (Climate Reality Leadership Corps), a blogger, an activist and a Climate Change presenter. You can also follow him on Facebookand Twitter.
He has been a contributor to the Climate Change Guide, The Canadian, ClimateMama, The Hill Times, World Daily, Georgian Bay News, The Elephant, CounterCurrents, 350Ottawa and MyEarth360.

26 Responses to There Are Too Many of Us

  1. Overpopulation is a problem, but without overconsumption by a tiny fraction of the world’s population there would be much less ecological damage. Not to mention destructive practices such as fracking and unnecessarily wasteful ways of fishing. Also, if we raised less livestock and in particular if we engaged in less factory farming there would be a lot more food (vegetables and fruits) and a lot more water for everyone.

    • Jackie – the article points out that overpopulation is a problem but it’s much more complex than that of course. You point to lifestyle issues such as over-consumption and other destructive practices we do sometimes without considering the consequences.

      Great dialogue with Colette – the two of are insightful and creative. I will certainly refer back to this dialogue for my next post on Population – sometime down the road.

      Thanks for your interest.

    • One of the great current fallacies is that we currently do not grow enough food to feed the world and that this is a direct result of raising too much livestock. What we have is an inequitable distribution of food, which is a political-economy issue.

      We do, particularly here in the U.S., eat too much meat, but that is an environmental burden unrelated to the availability of food worldwide.

      • Jeffrey – thank you for your response to this article. I will be doing other articles on overpopulation down the road.

        Now about your comment – I agree that one of the major problems with shortages of food relates to distribution. Perhaps we grow enough to feed the world but large regions are suffering due to droughts and food famines.The other issue of course is that we’re growing the wrong kind of food or using it to feed cattle which we then consume. If all the cereals used to support a world-wide beef industry were used to feed people directly, there would be more than enough to feed the current population of 7 billion plus.

  2. I agree Jackie (to a degree), I am largely vegetarian and agree with some of your ideas. However, there are very few people in the world that think this way. The majority of populations are poor, uneducated, pushed into dogmatic regimes by unscrupulous and ruthless dictators. They know little about the rest of the world or the fact that human population growth is out-of-control.

    I do think that nature herself will rebalance our population in rather unsavoury ways – war, pestilence, disease and starvation. While that sounds like Biblical prophecy and many will “pray” that they will not be party to that particular destruction, it will simply be unavoidable and has nothing to do with a vengeful “Creator.”

    We could avoid this scenario, but only with an immediate re-think on having children, resisting the desire to prolong old-age, and making some real change in how we use Earth’s resources.

    I can’t see a way forward with our corrupt governments, greedy dictators and general dishonesty in a Human population hell bent on “Development!” So there has to be a major shift in society. History has proved this has only previously happened after a Civilization falls!

  3. Then the answer must be education. People have less children when they are comfortable and educated. Also, I would like to point out that America, the richest country in the world, is the largest consumer of meat.

    People must be convinced that they are being conditioned into buying garbage when they could buy the same thing only more durable and better for the environment. In short, this is the fault of the large companies. Waste, waste, waste so you can buy more!

    I find the concept of not continuing to improve medicine so that the elderly do not live longer to be morally repugnant and distinctly ageist. By not prolonging life what you are proposing is tantamount to promoting illness.

    How do you suggest this rethink of having children. I think it would be much easier to convince people not to eat meat than to go childfree. Should governments implement a one child policy, like China. Do we really want forced abortions.

    If people can’t be convinced to eat less meat there is also the in vitro meat option which is being developed by large numbers of scientists as I we speak (or write in this case).

    I disagree, civilization’s falling have never produced any kind of positive shift in society. They’ve just ended society. Things like the printing press do, things like the internet do, and sometimes things like wars do.

  4. Ah Jackie – the answers are complex and of course need the involvement of many. It is easy to point out the problems – if the answers were easy, we wouldn’t be in the mess that we are in.

    Education is the key and should be the primary focus of all governments worldwide. But, with so many different belief systems, what is that education system supposed to look like?

    When Ugandans propose antiquated and quite honestly, racist and homophobic ideas, what is the rest of the world supposed to think of it? (I am using Uganda as only an example – there are many ideologies out in the world that are in direct opposition to our own Western idealogies).

    As for reducing the number of children or not looking for answers to promoting longevity – that has to come on an individual basis (free choice). The problem of over population will not go away with the promotion of euthanasia (by any name) through governmental policy. I am not suggesting abortion or leaving people to die in pain and immoral circumstances. It is merely a point that most people will avoid because it sound repugnant to them. It doesn’t change the fact that our population growth is out-of-control. Left to increase, we are all doomed to die as the earth just simply won’t be able to support us.

    In richer nations (America, Britain, Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and so on), we are the only people who can make free choices. This makes us very fortunate.

    I understand and also agree that factory farming, fracking, oil sands, mineral mining and so on, leaves our earth poisoned, depleted and struggling to survive. I am an animal lover and hate to even kill mosquitoes because I believe all life has a purpose, and not necessarily to feed us, but how else do we eat??. Before you answer that with a Vegan or Vegetarian proposal – which certainly works for some. It doesn’t work for everyone. I’ve met people who have been on vegetarian or vegan diets that had to return to consumption of at least a little meat – their prognosis by doctors was that they would die if they didn’t. Not everyone can afford to buy expensive supplements needed to support the amino acids required by the body. However, it is certainly true that Western diets incorporate far too much animal protein (to the detriment of our own health).

    In short, our world is full of unsafe practices, simply to keep our human consumption going.

    We must look at the trends – we buy cheap so we can have as much of everything as possible. It is human nature. Of course there are people who will buy “expensive” options for everything so free trade, equal opportunity, green living can occur… generally they can afford to make that choice. There are many more people who can’t.

    The answers must be suitable for all, must be economical and must look to a better future for all life on the planet. It is a tall order. Our dialogue on the matter is a start to proceedings. Without communication on the problems to hand, our governments have little to go on. They usually sway with the masses (eventually) – they are as fallible as the rest of us and we all know some of the huge mistakes they have made – the road to success is often littered with bodies. We must change this – and it takes moral decisions that can only come from each and every individual.

  5. Boycotting is important. Creating a strong social movement for regulation, something sorely lacking at this moment in history, is also a big thing. Make the government stop subsidizing environmentally damaging ways of producing food. Red meat would be astronomically expensive without the government subsidizing ranchers.

    The unsafe practices are not there to maintain over-consumption, they’re there to promote it. As I said before, most people do not want things in excess, they just want to live. If the government wasn’t funding oil exploration and factory farming and unsafe fishing practicing and the selling of unsafe materials I really think people would just buy the correct things because on a fair playing field they would be cheaper anyway. It is about overconsumption, but just like with our current financial slump, it’s not about ours.

  6. And regarding education, I think you misunderstand something. It’s very very very easy to convince someone who’s continued existence depends on the land to safeguard it, particularly in somewhere like Uganda where their isn’t the psychological disconnect between ‘us’ and ‘the environment’ that their is in a lot of developed countries. Also, I have never heard of them particularly environmentally unfriendly there.

    Their are charities that build wells in small African Villages. What does this have to do with education? Girls often have to walk for hours to get water from the well for their families, it can take all day. Once their is a well nearby it takes maybe one hour. When this happens the parents often send their children to school. More educated girls = lower birth rate. This costs around six hundred dollars a well. Educating girls goes a long way. Fighting poverty saves the world in more ways than one. It also has the added benefit of fighting homophobia, racism and antiquated ideas. I would also like to add that the people who have slaughtered their way to the top may be cruel and prejudiced but I rather doubt the entire population is.

    In conclusion: it’s very easy to convince people to do something if you can convince people it;s in their best interest already. I don’t think most of the world needs that much convincing.

  7. If I may change the subject for a moment. This is deeply disturbing and I feel the need to spread the word and so have been posting it in the comments sections of several different websites.

    http://motherboard.vice.com/read/if-we-release-a-small-fraction-of-arctic-carbon-were-fucked-climatologist

    On a similar note, the massive holes in Siberia that people have been talking about seem to have been caused by exploding methane. One wonders how this changes the numbers on how far we much carbon dioxide and methane we can put into the atmosphere without causing a cataclysm.

  8. Jackie – I am on your side… don’t take offense at my comments (they are my opinion only). I do believe education is the key. It is how to implement it that is not quite as easy as it looks….I’ll say more about that below.

    Thanks for the great article on Motherboard… yes, it is a very scary scenario and it is not really off topic to population either. I was fortunate enough to visit the high arctic research station in Ny-Ålesund, Spitzbergen, Norway, last June. While I was only a visitor there – the lack of sea ice was worrying. I have seen the huge meltdown first hand.

    Russia has led a manic race to develop oil exploration in the high Arctic and the ramifications are enormous. But how on earth do we stop such dangerous and corrupt people from raping the earth to fill a few more gas tanks and power a few more electricity plants? The major political wranglings in the Middle East always revolve around the power mongers who control the oil supplies…. and for Russia, well it is about Gas supplies too. They will surely wear down the Ukraine. lt will split and new borders will arise. I have a friend with a Ukranian wife… he speaks Russian and he predicted two years ago that there will be a split. So the news was pretty old when it hit the airwaves about the invasion – it had been coming for a long time. Everything moves around strategic development of resources and their control. We must not be naïve about how dangerous going against these corrupt and powerful people can be.

    Population explosion creates more demand for housing, energy and food…. all three have created such a demand that governments can’t keep up… they sign bills for suspect ideologies like the XL oil pipeline from the infamous Alberta Tar Sands or for Fracking contracts to companies who promise it is all “clean” energy. While I think our governments are sorely misguided and many politicians might succumb to corrupt practices (we can all name names!), I do not believe our Governments are deliberately sending us on the road to hell with some idea of exterminating humanity and poisoning the earth. They are trying to stop the “lights from going out!” After all, if governments can’t keep us in jobs, with adequate food and housing (and all the infrastructure required to do that), they wouldn’t be doing their job and we might as well not have them at all. Unfortunately, all governments suspect other countries of “land grab” tactics (often they are right) and it creates secrecy, mistrust and lack of cooperation on many fronts. It is a difficult thing to sort out…. again we have not managed that for millennia.

    You mention the idea of charities leading the way to build wells and educate poor villagers in Africa. It is a noble idea and one with some merit, but historically, it hasn’t gone as well as it should. Ever since I was born (in the 1950′s), people have collected money for the starving in Africa. The billions of dollars that have been donated have not changed things very much.
    I myself donated $300 Canadian back in 1980 for providing a well – but I sent my money with a stipulation that I didn’t want the charity to bombard me with literature or spend it on any other cause. I don’t have to tell you that for two years, I received videos, books, and more fundraising literature than my kitchen bin could cope with! I was disgusted that my money had contributed to nothing more than a marketing machine.

    I know someone who has volunteered in Africa’s Aids camps, South America’s homes for the homeless and Romanian Orphanages. Her dedication is extraordinary as she has always had to pay her own way in each country, but she is now disillusioned by the hopelessness of these places and how little they value her contribution. She now volunteers in wildlife rescue situations instead because she finds it more rewarding to see the difference she can make.

    As far as education – well that is more difficult than you’d imagine too. Old belief systems die very hard in some countries. Many parts of Africa still practice female genital mutilation (FGM), a ritual conducted on girls as young as 8 years old, where the clitoris is cut off – usually by a Grandma, or Great-Grandma. It is conducted in the family home, with no anesthetic and with kitchen knives (often rusty). It is believed that the girl will not be eligible for Marriage unless she goes through this procedure and men will think her unclean! It is a horrendous practice that made its way to Britain and other countries. Hidden from view, the girls are sent back to Africa for this – often being told they are going on holiday! Despite education in Western countries – advice from Western health professionals – the families continue in this false practice to create the illusion of a clean, marriageable Virgin! Britain has recently decided to prosecute and jail any parents who put their children through this practice. Hardly an education and more of a deterrent, but perhaps even that won’t change it either. Old belief systems are one of our biggest hurdles in re-educating the world.

    While my examples are rather negative sides to your arguments, I use them only to portray the enormity of what needs to change. It can be done – but all of society has to be on board with the solutions. Until that day… we can only recruit people of like-mind.

  9. Peter Bourdelle Reply

    Put succinctly in graphical form, see “Limits To Growth, The 30-year Update” by Donella Meadows, et al. Their World3 computer model allows thinking people to see the comparitive effect of Population, resources, water, arable land, etcetera, and a 9th iteration, that illustrates the possibility of a sustainable future. Our response to the Freon CFC’s and the Hole in the Ozone Layer allows their optimistic view that some future catastrophes may be averted if we act in time. The slow acting events like CO2, Oceanic & Air pollution & Groundwater depletion, may have painful effects by the time we react. Communication, Education, and Empathy are key. When I read the first Limits to Growth in 1973 at Rutgers U, MBA program, one student reaction embodied today’s business attitude:
    “I’m in the Business program, so if the manure pile is going to roll over, I want to know how to End up on the Top of the Heap!”
    You know where that puts the rest of us.

    • Peter – thank you for your response and for reading the article. I will be doing more posts on over-population in the coming months and will consult the references you have shared. I particularly like the quote re a student reaction back in 1973 – “I’m in the Business program, so if the manure pile is going to roll over, I want to know how to End up on the Top of the Heap!”

      Your observation about slow acting events is right on. By the time we find out about them, it may be too late.

  10. Huh, look at this. The New York Times just wrote an article on exactly this subject.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/06/business/economy/population-curbs-as-a-means-to-cut-carbon-emissions.html?_r=0

  11. Ah – great article Jackie… the world is definitely beginning to wake up to the problem… but I never see any proposed answers in the articles… my guess is that we need some brilliant inventions right about now. Having said that, I wonder at the logic of quick fixes such as GE crops, Fracking, Oil Shale and Arctic oil exploration – all touted as the miracle we are looking for to keep the economy going!

  12. Even with the bad title and the fact that I have problems with the website, this is a good article.

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/06/27/1103441/–We-re-doomed

    (it’s two years old)

    • Gloom and Doom scenario is inevitable according to this article. Rolling over and giving up on mitigation and adaptation is not the answer. Although the challenges are gargantuan, I refuse to accept the so-called inevitable. I’m not a denier but neither am I a quitter.

      Thank you Anonymous for your contribution to BoomerWarrior.

  13. In regard to Anonymous’ post:

    “In other bad news.

    http://apps.seattletimes.com/reports/sea-change/2013/sep/11/pacific-ocean-perilous-turn-overview/#.U9wlCUgR4VI.twitter

    there is a quote within the article…

    “There’s a train wreck coming and we are in a position to slow that down and make it not so bad,” said Stephen Palumbi, a professor of evolutionary and marine biology at Stanford University. “But if we don’t start now the wreck will be enormous.”

    I personally agree with the worrying research that something should be done NOW – not TOMORROW! Time is running out.

    In the book “The Sixth Extinction” published this year by New York Times/National Geographic writer, Elizabeth Kolbert, a whole chapter is dedicated to the acidification of the seas by excessive emmissions. It is truly scary reading and gives all the more incentive to cut our greenhouse gas production before it is too late.

    Unfortunately, our media is all caught up in the current slew of human conflicts and Ebola outbreaks – in themselves, it all makes miserable reading. But if we do not get a handle on how we continue to ignore the poisoning of our Earth, we are going to see this sort of misery 100-fold in a very short time!

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