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Is Overpopulation a Green Myth?

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Is Overpopulation a Green Myth?

By Brian Merchant, TreeHugger

We hear it all the time, and have heard it since Malthus: That overpopulation is the primary cause of the world’s environmental ills. It makes sense in simple logical terms: The more people there are consuming natural resources, the greater a threat humanity poses to exhausting them. Hard to argue with that. But the issue is of course more complex — and there’s an interesting back-and-forth over at Grist on the subject to prove it. One writer argues that fears of a rapidly expanding population are overblown — constituting a “green myth”, even — and that those fears should be redirected towards consumerism. Is that right?

Related: Too Many Children?

Here’s Fred Pearce arguing that population isn’t the problem it’s cut up to be:

A green myth is on the march. It wants to blame the world’s overbreeding poor people for the planet’s peril. It stinks. And on World Population Day, I encourage fellow environmentalists not to be seduced …

For a start, the population bomb that I remember being scared by 40 years ago as a schoolkid is being defused fast. Back then, most women round the world had five or six children. Today’s women have just half as many as their mothers — an average of 2.6. Not just in the rich world, but almost everywhere.

He goes on to argue that fertility rates are dropping, and that even in developing nations, mothers are having children roughly equivalent to the ‘replacement rate.’ He notes that population will likely stabilize at 2 billion more people, around 2050, as many other economists and scientists have projected. And he says that obsessing over population issues removes the focus from the true threat to greater worldwide sustainability: Consumerism.

Related: 5 Mental Habits for Cutting Consumption

In a rebuttal piece, Robert Walker, vice president of the Population Institute, counters that population growth is still very much a problem:

Earth to Fred: 2 billion more people is a lot of people to a world that is already struggling to feed 6.8 billion people. It’s a lot of people to a biosphere that is threatened with what leading biologists refer to as the Sixth Mass Extinction. And it’s a lot of people to a planet that is already threatened with the effects of climate change.

He notes that though fertility rates are down in many places, they’re up in others, and many poor nations still face severe problems over resource access. And he says that every person born in a rich nation — regardless of whether the birth rate has declined — still consumes a disproportionate amount of resources and energy.

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4:08AM PST on Jan 31, 2014


5:54PM PDT on Oct 13, 2013

every ecosystem has a carrying capacity.......we will reach ours soon and then no one knows how many will be left after that....

2:04PM PST on Dec 31, 2012

since people aren´t interested in living more frugal lives, then there is overpopulation.

2:14PM PDT on Sep 30, 2012

Thank you.

2:14PM PDT on Sep 30, 2012

Thank you.

10:18AM PST on Jan 26, 2012

Our overpopulation is threatening the rain forests, the oceans and all of the creatures that live there. Enough already!

11:33AM PDT on Jun 25, 2011

Overpopulation is just one part of the equation. Certainly we in the industrialized world have created a great deal of the problem through demand and unsafe practices. Fracking certainly comes to mind as does the Tar Sands. Then you have people who desire to apply this same principle to acquire a certain type of stone popular in construction presently in Ontario. It doesn't matter that it could possibly damage a major aquifer, contaminating the water supply for Southern Ontario and affect the lives of millions.
Secondly you have two thirds of the world's population who live in Africa, India and China. Many of these people cook using carbon based fuels with no controls. Many of the cars and trucks and manufacturing establishments have no environmental controls either. Water contamination in major water sources such as the Ganges or the Mekong due to no sewage control or just indiscriminate dumping of industrial or waste is also a factor. Dam projects such as the Three Rivers could become a future huge environmental problem. Nuclear power needs to be looked at. There are alternatives such as solar or scalar wave energy but we humans are greedy creatures who want it now and to hell with everyone else let alone the planet.

4:37PM PDT on May 20, 2011

It is not about not having enough resources for the people we have. It is about greedy people and evil governments who deprive their people of what they need and the ability to help themselves.

Sorry, but I don't buy into the overpopulated earth idea.

8:14AM PDT on May 1, 2011

The idea of growth and expansion at any cost is the real issue, it includes both overpopulation, and over-consumption of resources. The mainstream religious hatred of this "ungodly" world is at the root of this nastiness.

10:42PM PDT on Apr 3, 2011

Enough human beings that people are living on meagre diets, doing without fresh water, living in marshes. Let's encourage contraception, education, and allow for celibacy.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

people are talking

These are some great advice. Gonna check now!

continued from below In fact that was very rarely the case but people are easily led and nasty ta…

thank you

This is so stupid, I didn't even finish reading it. I'm in the middle of the second book right no…

Too late, we are going to pay big time for our ignorance and greed.


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