The Most IMPORTANT Video You’ll Ever See
there are some very rich and topical issues in the link you’ve given me. I’m going to post a few to liven interest back into the thread. They belong here :-
Dr. Albert Bartlett: Arithmetic, Population and Energy. An ad from 1975 asks "Could America run out of electricity?" Our need for electricity doubles every 10 or 12 years. That’s an accurate reflection of a long history of steady growth of the electric industry in this country, growth at a rate of around 7% per year, which gives you doubling every 10 years. Did you realise that 7% growth per year could give an incredible consequence? That in ten years you’d use more than the total of all that had been used in all the proceeding growth? In the summer of 1986, the world population had reached five billion growing at the rate of 1.7% per year. More recently in 1999, we read that the world population had grown from five billion to six billion The world population today is increasing by about 75 million additional people every year. If this current modest 1.3% per year could continue, the world population would grow to one person per square meter on the dry land surface of the earth in just 780 years, and the mass of people would equal the mass of the earth in just 2400 years. Well, we know this couldn’t happen. Zero population growth is going to happen. Today’s high birth rates will drop; today’s low death rates will rise till they have exactly the same numerical value. So maybe you’re wondering then, what options are available. Some of those things that we should encourage if we want to raise the rate of growth of population and in so doing, make the problem worse. Everything in the list is as sacred as motherhood. There’s immigration, medicine, public health, sanitation. These are all devoted to the humane goals of lowering the death rate and that’s very important to me, if it’s my death they’re lowering. But then I’ve got to realise that anything that just lowers the death rate makes the population problem worse. Then there are some of the things we should encourage if we want to help solve the population problem. Abstention, contraception, abortion, small families, stop immigration, disease, war, murder, famine, accidents. It’s obvious nature is going to choose and we don’t have to do anything—except be prepared to live with whatever nature chooses. Or we can exercise the one option that’s open to us, and that is to choose first from the last list. How long can growth continue? You don’t need arithmetic to evaluate the contradictory statements that we’ve all heard and read from experts who tell us in one breath we can go on increasing our rates of consumption of fossil fuels, in the next breath they say "Don’t worry, we will always be able to make the discoveries of new resources that we need to meet the requirements of that growth." Bill Moyers asked Isaac Asimov, "What happens to the idea of the dignity of the human species if this population growth continues?" and Asimov says, "It’ll be completely destroyed. In the same way, democracy cannot survive overpopulation. Human dignity cannot survive overpopulation. Convenience and decency cannot survive overpopulation. As you put more and more people into the world, the value of life not only declines, it disappears. It doesn’t matter if someone dies, the more people there are, the less one individual matters." We must recognise that population growth is the immediate cause of all our resource and environmental crises. Can you think of anything that can get better if we crowd more people into our cities, our towns, into our state, our nation, or on this earth? The late Reverend Martin Luther King Jr said, "Unlike the plagues of the dark ages, or contemporary diseases which we do not yet understand, the modern plague of overpopulation is solvable with means we have discovered and with resources we possess. What is lacking is not sufficient knowledge of the solution, but universal consciousness of the gravity of the problem and the education of the billions who are its victims." April 27, 2008 Global Public Media
Africa: The Population Emergency. The report of a demographic study was published recently, the work performed by a joint team from the IRD and academics from Belgium, Cameroon, France and the Ivory Coast. They examined the population trends in Sub-Saharan Africa and the relationships between these and the development of the region. This review demolished some accepted ideas, in particular that Sub-Saharan Africa is underpopulated. Today, 2 of 3 inhabitants are under 25 and, with 32 inhabitants per km2, Sub-Saharan Africa is more densely populated than Latin America (28 inhabitants/km2). Two-thirds still live in rural areas, but migration to the towns and cities is under way. In 1960, only Johannesburg had a population of over one million; Africa now has 40 of them. At the present rate of rural exodus, half of Sub-Saharan Africa’s population would be urban dwellers by 2030. This should be met by investments in wastewater drainage and treatment and refuse reprocessing, whose management threatens to become more and more problematic. Intra-regional migration is disrupted by the conflicts and crises affecting several host countries. The possibilities for emigration to industrialized countries are increasingly subject to control. The risks of population decrease linked to AIDS appear to be receding, due to more effective prevention campaigns and improved access to health care. The latest assessments brought the proportion of the African population infected by HIV to about 5%. No country will see its population decrease owing to the AIDS epidemic. Fecundity is two to three times higher than the rest of the world, as four out of five African women live in countries where there is little access to contraception. Less than 20% of women use contraception, as against 60% or more in Latin America and Asia. The use of contraception is progressing very slowly, yet the control by women over their fecundity remains the essential lever by which Sub-Saharan Africa might achieve its demographic transition. The overall trend points towards a stabilization of world population, with Africa continuing on a substantial rise. The area is behind in the development process. In 2004 only six countries out of 48 obtained a growth rate equal to or greater than 7%, the threshold essential for halving of poverty between now and 2015. This population growth in Sub-Saharan Africa is a major handicap to economic and social development. If the African nations want to take up the challenge of demographic transition and reduction of poverty, development policies must be completely rethought. It is by the implementation of policies education, prevention of mortality, equitable access to health care and to family planning that bring advances and improved living standards. This makes it imperative to place the population question at the core of their development policies. January 19, 2008 Centre Population et Developpement (CEPED)
Australia: What Kind of Future Will Our Kids Inherit?. Respondents to the Sunshine Coast Daily’s recent survey expressed concern about the rate of growth and the impact on their quality of life. A study pointing out the appropriate population distribution for Australia, including impacts of climate change and peak oil, must now become a priority. There is no escaping the limits of the world’s resources. The laws of physics trump the laws of economics every time. Global demands on natural systems exceeded their sustainable yield by an estimated 25%. With some exceptions, policy makers have allowed sustainability to be an environmental issue away economic development. Yet we have drawn upon the Earth’s non-renewable resources as if they were limitless, and create an economy that demands cheap energy to sustain the movement of food and goods and water and people in ever greater numbers. Queensland government Minister for Sustainability, Climate Change and Innovation Andrew McNamara called for the building of a new economy powered by renewable energy, backed by a transport system, and that uses and re-uses everything. And he warned of the dangers of exponential population growth. "The rampaging monster loose upon the land is over-population. In its presence, sustainability is but a fragile theoretical construct." Let’s throw away the notion that Australia is an empty space waiting to be filled up. Our rivers, our soils, our vegetation won’t allow that to happen without an enormous cost to those who come after us. The conservation of soil, forests, stream flows and natural biological is one of the most important and urgent tasks which faces us today. March 11, 2008 Sunshine Coast Daily
US Oregon: Treading on a Taboo. The greenest of the green, my city styles itself. The sad fact is that unless we do something drastic, out-of-control population growth will wipe out the gains made by the most ambitious recycling and conservation programs, across the planet. Portland’s efforts to stave off global warming by reducing carbon dioxide began more than two decades ago. And how much progress have we made? None. Why? Because at the same time Portland’s population has grown by 42%. Projections say the metro population will grow by another million by 2030, even double to 3.85 million by 2060. A strange taboo keeps us from talking about the actual cause of global warming and a deadly smorgasbord of other environmental problems. In this supposedly plain-talking era, a former presidential candidate will tell us how Viagra cured his ED, but hardly anybody will talk about what’s trashing the Earth. The taboo afflicts most media, including this newspaper. The Oregonian’s Earth Day editorial urged support for politicians who back energy -efficient buildings, wind power, public transportation and so on. Everything but population control. Portlanders may have reduced their per-capita driving by 5% over five years, but the metro area’s population grew by 8% over the same period. When it comes to global warming, we’re ignoring one simple truth: The Earth doesn’t care about per-capita greenhouse-gas production. It’s the total amount of CO2 in the air that matters. When my grade-school teacher quizzed me about the world population total, the correct answer was 2 billion. Now the world’s cities are growing by 1 million people a week. A century from now we’ll clog the planet’s pores with something between 9 and 14 billion human beings. 1 billion bodies and increased the average amount each one pollutes. China’s now pouring out more than 2 tons of CO2 per person annually, and the United States cooks along at nearly 20. Experts predict that by 2050 global energy use could increase fourfold. We fixate on global warming, while our rampaging population mows down the rest of the planet’s inhabitants behind our backs. The World Wildlife Fund just issued a report announcing that "human activities are causing the most rapid decline in species since the extinction of the dinosaurs." The impact of population growth reaches way beyond obvious environmental problems. Half the items in today’s newspaper are population related. The paper that arrived the morning led with a battle over Willamette Valley development but neglected to mention that population growth fuels 94% of Portland’s suburban sprawl. The front-page story on soaring gas prices overlooked the soaring population that drives up demand. A political story focused on health care, which has become a problem in part because population growth is overwhelming the existing system. Nearly 40 years ago, Richard Nixon asked, "How will we house the next hundred million Americans? Will we educate and employ such a large number of people? Will our transportation systems move them about as quickly and economically as necessary? How will we provide adequate health care when our population reaches 300 million?" Population threatens political stability, too. Countries that grow too fast just can’t get ahead of their problems, and eventually everything comes crashing down. Mexico, quadrupled in population between 1933 and 1980. The only way it could avoid collapse was by flooding the United States with the excess. Projections call for countries such as El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua to double their populations every 20 years, and many of those people will inevitably find their way to the United States. Ninety -one percent of our population growth over the next 40 years will come from post-2000 immigrants and their descendants. The quality of American life will be forever damaged by the arrival of 100 million immigrants, whether they’re Mexican or English. Let’s quit deluding ourselves by thinking that technology alone can save the world. Five ways to help the planet: Eliminate the taboo that keeps us from talking about the overpopulation that is not racist, communist, sexist or biased against the Third World. We all have a stake in this. Quit mistaking per-capita pollution numbers as a sign of progress. Reward politicians who support population control with your votes. Keep your own family small. Stop treating growth as not only inevitable, but also positive. Karen Gaia says: We can take ‘control’ out of the phrase ‘population control’ and accomplish more. Freedom to choose one’s family size results in a lower fertility rate. June 15, 2008 Oregon Live
Firstly, this is a link to a transcript of a speech by Dimitry Orlov that is only a few days old. Chris Kresser, who is eminantly readable here put this thread up. I think it has a wealth of information that relates to your last post to me and is a damned good read to boot :-
I’ve already written down everything I wanted to say here once and then my old computer popped a gasket on one of its valves and backwound 6000 1’s and 0’s, so I’m now struggling on reflection to what I’ve already said. Simply put, John Holdren may have been thrown to the wolves for his statements of famine back in the 80’s but, he wasn’t wrong, just a couple of decades short is all. The fact that world population should have been doing something at the combative stages set around the 5.1 billion mark would have put him right where we needed him then. Such as human nature is, I find the loudest shout is usually the winner of any discussion and not the quiet squeak of reality from the back row.
John Holdren is also at the very best place for getting things done theoretically. Ideally though, I feel that government has become such a sightless dinosaur, unable to even sense the weight and destructive power of its own lagging-behind tail, with the beurocratic nightmare of paper-shufflers and red-tape and 3 year contestable voting, it is a wonder it hasn’t already ground to a complete and wasteful halt already.
Media intervention and a face that could beckon angels from the sky is the only answer to the problems we are now facing today, not the tomorrow or the next elected members problem in 4 years time. We need someone with the power to command the quickest turnaround in human history. A front man that could alley the dissenter heckler that generally pulls the debate to an early death with backers such as the dear but odious Pope who abhors the idea of the second fastest religion in the world being capped by a bit of ribbed rubber, lubricated with nonoxinal nine(tm).
The tonnage and percentage of world grain shortfall can only become a greater and greater problem evident now, with the British government already retracting free money for fallow farms into implementing a quick food production turn around for 2009. I think this ‘Just In Time’ ideal is going to be the undoing of the species don’t you?
I think the only way to verify whether or whether not John Holdren still holds the enthusiasm of his youth is if he is personally cornered on the issue, and really publically. After all, in light of the study by Chris Martenson, it almost feels as though the government ‘Wants’ to starve out the planet with the way it appears to be acting.
As you say, and now in my own words to clarify, there isn’t a single issue that we’re facing as a species, over fishing, rain forest destruction, animal habitat destruction, human suffering et al- that couldn’t be resolved better than zero human population growth.
I keep hoping that new people will comment on this paste of wikipedias take of Thomas Malthus. I think I’ve added it to around three threads since the start of writing on this site. Thomas Malthus and Albert A Bartletts ‘Malthusian’ roots are the backbone cause of every social disaster, even to climate change. We sit down after our sunday roast with our full bellies (as I have done), with no reflection of the 24,000 human beings that died from preventable starvation – every single day….
"…in all societies, even those that are most vicious, the tendency to a virtuous attachment is so strong that there is a constant effort towards an increase of population. This constant effort as constantly tends to subject the lower classes of the society to distress and to prevent any great permanent amelioration of their condition."
"The way in which, these effects are produced seems to be this. We will suppose the means of subsistence in any country just equal to the easy support of its inhabitants. The constant effort towards population… increases the number of people before the means of subsistence are increased. The food therefore which before supported seven millions must now be divided among seven millions and a half or eight millions. The poor consequently must live much worse, and many of them be reduced to severe distress. The number of labourers also being above the proportion of the work in the market, the price of labour must tend toward a decrease, while the price of provisions would at the same time tend to rise. The labourer therefore must work harder to earn the same as he did before. During this season of distress, the discouragements to marriage, and the difficulty of rearing a family are so great that population is at a stand. In the mean time the cheapness of labour, the plenty of labourers, and the necessity of an increased industry amongst them, encourage cultivators to employ more labour upon their land, to turn up fresh soil, and to manure and improve more completely what is already in tillage, till ultimately the means of subsistence become in the same proportion to the population as at the period from which we set out. The situation of the labourer being then again tolerably comfortable, the restraints to population are in some degree loosened, and the same retrograde and progressive movements with respect to happiness are repeated."
"The power of population is so superior to the power of the earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race. The vices of mankind are active and able ministers of depopulation. They are the precursors in the great army of destruction, and often finish the dreadful work themselves. But should they fail in this war of extermination, sickly seasons, epidemics, pestilence, and plague advance in terrific array, and sweep off their thousands and tens of thousands. Should success be still incomplete, gigantic inevitable famine stalks in the rear, and with one mighty blow levels the population with the food of the world."
Why Population Matters
February 02, 2009
The trend is to reduce personal resource consumption. But it’s only half the solution and the other half has faded from prominence – that is the need to end population growth. This received a good deal of press in the 1970s, but since then, it’s become a taboo subject. Pressure from groups who saw the population issue as a distraction from their preferred causes saw to that. Over a decade ago an article by John Holdren shows us precisely what determines our total energy consumption. It says total energy consumption, equals population size times the average per capita energy use. So if E * total energy use, P * population size, and e * energy use per capita, we can say E * P x e. It means we have little chance of tackling our energy and environmental challenges if we ignore both per capita consumption and population. Today’s "ecological footprint" measure is an elaboration of Holdren’s equation. The equation above shows comparing population growth to the growth in total energy or resource use is to compare one factor in the equation to the product. In the US, per capita consumption is higher than in developing countries. Holdren’s equation tells us it’s never wise to ignore either population or per person consumption. With regard to oil use, for example, adding one person to the US population is like adding about 15 in China. Ignoring population growth in the US is perilous. Solutions include programs to reduce unplanned pregnancies, lowering fertility rates to the sub-replacement levels and assistance to Mexico to improve economic opportunities so they’re not forced to come to the U.S. to earn a subsistence wage. Consumption levels in the developing world are growing fast, in line with economic growth. Without attention to population, rising per capita consumption multiplied by large and growing populations puts the Third World on a course toward disaster. We can assist with humane programs to hasten lowering fertility rates. Developing countries need to increase girls’ educational opportunities and women’s economic and health care options. They must increase family planning services and improve child survival rates. Having overshot the earth’s capacity to sustain our current numbers, we must act now to avert catastrophe. If we fail to reduce both per capita consumption and to halt the growth of our population no new technology will prevent an unimaginable loss of life.
Our civilization is being squeezed between advancing deserts and rising seas. Mounting population densities, once generated by the addition of over 70 million people per year, are now also fueled by the advance of deserts and the rise in sea level. Expanding deserts are primarily the result of overstocking grasslands and overplowing land. Rising seas result from temperature increases from the burning of fossil fuels. China is losing productive land at an accelerating rate. From 1950 to 1975 China lost an average of 600 square miles to desert each year. By 2000, 1,400 square miles were going to desert annually. Satellite images show two deserts in north-central China expanding and merging to form a single, larger desert overlapping Inner Mongolia and Gansu provinces. To the west in Xinjiang Province, two even larger deserts–the Taklimakan and Kumtag–are also heading for a merger. Further east, the Gobi Desert is within 150 miles of Beijing. Chinese scientists report that over the last half-century, 24,000 villages in northern and western China were abandoned as they were overrun by drifting sand. Kazakhstan, site of the vast Soviet Virgin Lands Project, has abandoned nearly half of its cropland since 1980. In Afghanistan, with a population of 31 million, the Registan Desert is encroaching on agricultural areas. A UNEP team reports that up to 100 villages have been submerged by windblown dust and sand. In the northwest, sand dunes are moving onto agricultural land, from the loss of stabilizing vegetation due to firewood gathering and overgrazing. Iran, which has 70 million people and 80 million goats and sheep, is losing its battle with the desert. In 2002 sand storms buried 124 villages in the southeastern province forcing their abandonment. Drifting sands had covered grazing areas, starving livestock and depriving villagers of their livelihood. The Sahara Desert is pushing the populations of Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria northward toward the Mediterranean. In countries from Senegal and Mauritania in the west to Sudan, Ethiopia, and Somalia in the east, the demands of growing human and livestock numbers are converting land into desert. Nigeria is losing 1,355 square miles to desertification each year. While Nigeria’s human population grew from 33 million in 1950 to 134 million in 2006, its livestock population grew from 6 million to 66 million. The food needs forced the plowing of marginal land and the forage needs of livestock exceeded the carrying capacity of its grasslands. Nigeria’s population is being squeezed into an ever-smaller area. In Mexico, the degradation of cropland forces some 700,000 Mexicans off the land each year in search of jobs in nearby cities or in the United States. Rising seas promise to displace greater numbers in the future. During the twentieth century, sea level rose by 6 inches. During this century seas may rise by 4 to 35 inches. Since 2001, record-high temperatures have accelerated ice melting making it likely that the future rise in sea level will be even greater. If the Greenland ice sheet, a mile thick in some places, were to melt entirely it would raise sea level by 23 feet, or 7 meters. A one-meter rise would inundate many of the rice-growing river deltas and floodplains of India, Thailand, Viet Nam, Indonesia, and China. A one-meter rise in sea level would cause some 30 million Bangladeshis to migrate, internally or to other countries. Hundreds of cities would be at least partly inundated, including London, Alexandria, and Bangkok. More than a third of Shanghai, would be under water. A one-meter rise combined with a 50-year storm surge would leave large portions of Lower Manhattan and the National Mall in Washington, D.C., flooded. If the Greenland ice sheet should melt, it would force the abandonment of thousands of coastal cities and communities. Rising seas and desertification will present the world with an unprecedented flow of environmental refugees and the potential for civil strife. We must deal with rapid population growth, advancing deserts, and rising seas. Growth in the human population is accompanied by a growth of livestock populations of more than 35 million per year. The rising concentrations of carbon dioxide that are destabilizing the earth’s climate are driven by the burning of fossil fuels. Reverse these trends or risk being overwhelmed by them.
The Population Reference Bureau’s latest projections show that by 2025, Uganda’s population will almost double to 56 million, and in 44 years its numbers will grow by nearly as many as China’s. In Uganda more than a third of all women say they would like to stop or delay having children, but reproductive health experts say a lack of information and female contraceptives plays a major role. Donors must share in the blame, said the International Planned Parenthood Federation. Donors have shifted their focus to HIV and nobody is talking about it any more. Population is off the development agenda and that’s a tragedy for Africa.
The population of the US is projected to reach 300 million by October – a population growth rate comparable to that of China. Because of immigration, the number of people in the US could reach 400 million by 2050. About 76 million people are being added annually. This year’s world grain harvest will fall short of consumption by 61 million tons. That’s the sixth time in the past seven years that production has failed to satisfy demand. The world carry-over stocks of grain will fall to 57 days of consumption by the end of this year, the shortest buffer since a 56-day-low in 1956 doubled grain prices. Despite continued growth in world food output, the developing world had 815 million hungry people in 2002, 9 million less than in 1990. Population pressure in Mexico, Central America, and elsewhere has encouraged the flood of illegal immigrants in the US. Warren Buffett recognized population-related problems in announcing last week plans to donate $37.4 billion of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. stock to several foundations including some he’s created that emphasize family planning, abortion rights, environmental and conservation issues, and education for low-income children. Human beings are similar to other animals. As food availability increases, the population will grow. And some animals regulate their fertility if food gets scarce. In the case of humans, there must be recognition that population growth is a function of increases in food availability. Otherwise, increased disease and death rates may ultimately control population growth. Other factors will brake population growth, including environmental changes, resource restraints, and a decline in the quality of life. World oil output is predicted to peak within 15 years. Fresh water in some areas is in short supply. Farmland is being chewed up by suburbia. Global warming will force hundreds of millions of people out of coastal regions in the next century or so. One way to boost the world’s food supply would be if people ate more grains and vegetables and less meat, the world could then feed another billion people. The average American consumes 20 times as much in natural resources as the average African and if all the people consumed at the level of high-income countries, the planet could support only 1.8 billion people, not the actual 6.5 billion. It is doubtful if measures to encourage family planning will restrain the world’s population. Leaders must come up with intelligent, creative, inventive measures to discourage births. Every 11 seconds another person is added to the US population.
As many as 400 million people are at risk of starvation because of drought and crop failure. Britain will face flooding through increased rainfall and parts of the coastline could be washed away by rising seas. Saving the environment is a top priority. The US has 5% of the world’s population but accounts for nearly a quarter of global emissions.
Re 54 & 55
I have just read Dimitry Orlov’s recent speech and I found it both frightening and a realistic assessment of the possible shape of things to come. I must say I had to laugh at his story about the specialist meat and fish shortage counters.
On the future of tranportation, I’m surprised he did not include the prospects for air travel, whose future in his scenario must be non existant. So much for the UK government pushing ahead with a third runway at Heathrow! and what about keeping USAF planes operational?
Turning to your comments in 55 it amazes me how it is possible that people who have any sort of intellect can look at the same facts and come up with such wildly different analysis of the problems, ranging from a minor, but global difficulty which will interrupt an assumed path towards a new golden age of prosperity for all, to an imminent total catastrophic collapse of the global economy..
I managed to see John Holdren in action on a you tube video being interviewed about his thinking on global climate change and the urgency for international action. As I watched I started to think that if he had replaced the term "climate change" with "world population" he would have made a very compelling case population control. He talked about the need to see actual reduction in CO2 emissions by 2020, and reducing from then on.How much more sensible it would have been if he had mentioned that getting population growth to zero by then would hugely improve our chances of success instead of relying on CO2 capture in coal fired power generation being fully developed and used in China, India and the USA.
I wonder if Chris has any ideas on how we might bend the Prof’s ear on this one.
One aspect on population growth we have not touched on yet is that as far as the world is concerned the poulatiion growth in any year is defined as
P = B – D, where P is population growth, B is number of births and D is number of deaths. If we want to have P=0, we need to balance births and deaths, so the more we improve the health of nations, and reduce death rates the more we need to reduce birth rates.
The equivalent equation for any one country or city or state has also to include net migration into and out of that area.
, so P=B – D + I – E, where I is incoming number and E is outgoing number.
In the UK the population is still rising although the fertility rate (babies per female} is well under the nominal replacement level of 2.1, due mainly to net immigration, and to a lesser degree by reduced death rate.
I looked up Laing on wiki and he was a nut job. The difference between a behaviorist and a psychiatrist is that one is called a behaviorist and the other a psychiatrist. All the well know behaviorist out there (Skinner, Watson, etc) were NOT psychiatrists. The behaviorist identifies the problem (after determining with a doctor it is not medical) and begins a functional analysis to manipulate variables to determine the problem. With the analysis, you can then move forward with a behavior plan.
I forgot to include the John Holdren reference., which is
Return of the Population Timebomb. Only since 1800, has the human population shot into the billions. Now at nearly 6.7 billion, few environmentalists seem to care. Yet our environmental impact, as gauged by total resource consumption is the product of population size and the average person’s consumption. Today’s crumbling environment, is evidence our total consumption has gone too far. We are destroying our life-support system. Our demand exceeding the planet’s absorptive and regenerative capacities. To avert catastrophe, we need to reduce our numbers and per person consumption. Ignoring that logic, most environmentalists today avoid half the equation. A typical assertion typical: "If everyone on Earth had consumed less, as they do in Mexico, we wouldn’t have exceed carrying capacity." It’s a simple notion that sidesteps the issue of population size and growth, a subject of much concern in the 1960s and 1970s but taboo today. Why taboo? Pressure from social justice activists who’ve insisted that any focus on numbers violates the right of women to manage their own fertility. China’s one-child policy notwithstanding, humane, successful population programmes in countries as varied as Thailand, Iran, and Mexico contradict that assertion. Nevertheless, the criticism has cowed environmentalists and NGOs which once championed the population cause. Most environmentalists suggest a reduction in individual consumption is all we need to solve our ecological problems. The work of the Global Footprint Network (GFN), points to the answer. Measuring consumption as the use of biologically productive land and sea, their data shows a global maximum sustainable footprint, at today’s population, of just under 1.8 global hectares (gha) per person. Currently, by drawing down nonrenewable resources, we’re a bit over 2.2gha, overshooting Earth’s limits by about 25%. What if everyone converged on Mexico’s level of per capita consumption? A drop to the level of Botswana or Uzbekistan would put us in the right range. But that’s not low enough. We’d next have to compensate for UN projections of 40% more humans by the middle of the century. That would mean shrinking the global footprint to under 1.3gha, roughly the level of Guatemala or Nigeria. While in overshoot, we erode carrying capacity. Once we’d got to some level of consumption on a par with countries living today in abject poverty, we’d find there were fewer natural resources on which to draw than there had been when we started. There are limits to how much we can reduce per-person use of resources it would not end our environmental woes. Our sheer numbers prevent it. We have no alternative but to return our attention to population. Already in overshoot, we must aim for population stabilisation followed by a decline in human numbers worldwide. Humane measures have documented records of success at reducing fertility rates. We have to provide easy access to family planning options while educating parents through the media in the benefits of smaller families and family planning. We must do these things internationally with a keen eye toward numbers, monitoring results and making adjustments accordingly. The stakes are too high to waste time evading the issue. Doing so is intellectually dishonest and a setup for global tragedy. It’s time environmentalists ended the silence on population. May 05, 2008 John Feeney