Category Archives: Sustainability

Are environmental writers choosing avoidance over truth?

See no evil

It is indisputable that population size and growth are among the fundamental drivers of today’s ecological crisis. There’s no getting around the math that population size multiplies with per capita consumption to determine total resource consumption. Additional links between our numbers and ecological degradation are impossible to dismiss. Once one accounts for population, consumption rates, and corporate economic growth, one is hard pressed to identify any equally powerful contributors to environmental destruction. [1]

What are environmental writers thinking?

You may wonder, therefore, why the topic of population does not appear in nearly all media coverage of environmental problems. The population topic is, in fact, actively avoided by many environmental writers. The history of how it’s become a taboo subject is worth a few future posts, but Grist staff writer, David Roberts, recently summed up the thinking of some current writers. (more…)

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If I’m right, do I win a Nobel Prize?

Nobel Medal

It’s not easy trying to spread the word about population growth. Part of the trouble is that others, sometimes highly respected in their fields, spread contrary information. Nobel prize winners go around telling people population growth is a good thing; bring it on! George W. Bush regretted saying such a thing and said so. But the population growth cheerleaders haven’t yet expressed any remorse about their destructive pronouncements. One can only hope that in the end the truth will out.

Gary, we need to talk

While we’re waiting for the truth to win the day, let’s take a quick look at one attempt to convince us we should welcome continued population growth. (more…)

The UN population report: misunderstood and misused

UN Flag

[The follow-up to this essay is here.]

In 2004 the United Nations issued a report titled World Population to 2300. (Large pdf) In it, the demographers who authored the report offer “projections” concerning world population growth through this century and all the way to 2300. The following graph, based on the UN’s, shows the three scenarios or projections for which the report is best known. As you can see, their medium scenario, the one on which most people focus, shows what might appear to be a near peaking of population growth around 2050:

Graph of UN data

I had occasion last year to sit in on a college class in which the students were discussing the issue of world population growth. One student asked the question, “Why should we worry about population growth when the UN says world population will stabilize around 2050?” That’s an important question, and one the student is not alone in having asked. The UN report is cited from time to time by mainstream economists and others who dismiss concern over population growth. (Sometimes those on the far right voice instead a kind of corporate concern about the slowing of population growth in developed countries. That is a topic for a future post.)

Do they have a point? Should we take comfort in UN report? Should we see it as reason to dismiss, at least to some extent, population growth as a serious concern? (more…)