Some of the world’s top scientists sent a message to world leaders this week: address human overpopulation and consumption or risk “potentially catastrophic implications for human well-being.” The urging came from the world’s 105 scientific academies, ahead of the United Nations’ Rio +20 summit on sustainable development that began on Wednesday.
The statement was released by a group representing the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and similar institutions around the world, including those of South Africa, Japan, Nicaragua, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. “We are delighted that the world’s science academies have chosen to come together to highlight two of the most profound challenges to humanity — population and consumption — and to call for urgent and coordinated international action to address them,” one of the group’s leaders said.
The message follows a study released this spring by the London-based Royal Society that population and consumption by rich countries present “profound” challenges to economies and the environment. It also included several recommendations, including support for voluntary family planning.
But you don’t have to be a member of a scientific academy to have your say about overpopulation. One of the best days to speak out is coming up soon on World Population Day, July 11. Write a letter to your local newspaper, start up a conversation at the coffee shop, or hand out some Endangered Species Condoms if you have them on hand.
The message is clear: with 7 billion people now crowding onto our planet, the animals and plants we depend on to keep our world livable have fewer places to raise their young, less food to eat and water to drink, more pesticides to suffer, more polluted air to breathe. Wildlife extinction rates are 1,000 times higher than normal background levels, and human population growth is playing a key role in driving that catastrophe. It’s time for overpopulation to be part of the conversation about the future of our planet. You can help by raising the issue in your own neighborhood — heck, there’s even a columnist in Arkansas who’s doing his part.