By John Feeney:
To many, it’s obvious population growth is a key factor, arguably the key factor, in environmental degradation and resource depletion, contributing heavily as well to poverty and human conflict. Unfortunately, some environmental groups and writers, and some fighting for social justice, deny or consciously avoid the obvious. Often they realize population growth is a fundamental driver of ecological and social problems, but choose deliberately to avoid the topic. Their reasons vary, but fit generally under the heading, “politics.”
There are, for instance, women’s groups with whose concerns I sympathize, but which have decided the population issue distracts from their work promoting the rights of women. There are environmental writers who carefully skirt the topic of population growth in the belief that the notion of “population control” has become associated with totalitarian or eugenic measures, making any environmentalist who utters the word “population” vulnerable to easy criticism.
In both instances, activists or writers have opted to play politics rather than speaking the truth. (more…)
Posted in Cairo conference, Ecology, Economics, Ecosystem, Environment, Overpopulation, Population, Population growth, Population-environnment, Sustainability, United Nations, World population
For the next ten days I’ll be taking a summer break. GIM will be less active, but look for another guest article by Jim Lydecker. I’ll post that in a few days.
Soon I anticipate receiving Russ Hopfenberg’s responses to readers’ questions and comments following his first set of remarks. If all goes as planned, watch for a post announcing those later this month or in July.
I’m working on an overdue article concerning evidence and expert opinion that the past decade’s neglect of the population issue has been a major setback to both environmental and social causes. That should appear in early July.
As a prelude to that you might try these looks at population politics:
Posted in Albert Bartlett, Ecology, Environment, Jim Lydecker, Overpopulation, Population, Population growth, Population-environnment, Russell Hopfenberg, Sustainability, This site, World population
If this site is to be of some help in the world, it will be by providing information, through essays and discussion, of which others make productive use. With that in mind, at one time or another you’ll be in a position to try to convince someone of the urgent need for action on the environmental crisis we face. One of the most contentious issues, of course, is population. In working on the “All Links” page I mention in the sidebar (It really is coming!), it occurred to me I should share right now a few population links you might find particularly useful in making the case for addressing population growth.
Their value is in their clout. They are all statements or more extensive resources on population from important scientific organizations or, in one case, from world leaders. If you’re talking with someone who denies the importance of population toss a couple of these references their way. (more…)
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. 
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…)
Posted in Consumption, Ecological collapse, Ecology, Environment, Overpopulation, Per capita consumption, Population, Population growth, Population-environnment, Sustainability, United Nations, World population
Those of us concerned about population growth and economic growth on a finite earth often feel we’re in a small, lonely minority. This feeling is intensified by the discussion of climate change. We hear plenty in that context about the need to reduce consumption. That tackling climate change will necessitate also stopping growth — both population growth and economic growth as we’ve come to know it — is the elephant in the room. It’s the huge topic we can’t avoid, but which, for now, the mainstream media hesitate to touch.
One cannot think about this without being troubled. It means the mainstream media, and in fact most of the alternative media as well, are avoiding coverage of the most destructive activity in which humans are now engaged. (No, I’m not discounting the destruction or tragedy of war at all.) So it’s always a pleasant surprise to come across an exception to this unofficial media ban on these topics.
My most recent surprise of this sort comes from the New Zealand Herald. There, Allen Cookson, a retired science teacher, offers a guest column which reads like a condensed version of The Growth is Madness! Story. (more…)
Posted in Betsy Hartmann, Climate change, Consumption, Ecology, Economic growth, Economics, Ecosystem, Global warming, Overpopulation, Population, Population growth, Sustainability and the Big picture, World population
Consider this a working paper of sorts. It adds to the last post here which discussed the relationship between population and consumption. But it’s only a snapshot of an initial bit of online and library research. I hope to flesh out the topic more fully in the future.
At the end of that post I mentioned two issues I had barely touched on, which deserved more attention. They were (a) the question of whether, even hypothetically, we could ignore population growth and count solely on advances in clean energy technologies to escape ecological catastrophe, and (b) the implications of the observation that over the last century global energy consumption has increased more than population numbers. In my view, the former question is the simpler one, and I’ll get to in the near future. In this post I’ll provide some of what I’ve found concerning the latter issue.
The consumption argument
It’s a common observation that, over the last half century or more, resource consumption rates have increased at a faster pace than population size. I’ve seen this observation used to support the view that population growth isn’t as serious an environmental problem as our growing rates of consumption. Sometimes a proponent of this argument presents data showing that the magnitude of growth of total world energy consumption, or of total consumption of a specific resource, is considerably larger than that of population. (more…)
Posted in Consumption, Ecological footprint, Ecology, Environment, John Holdren, Overpopulation, Paul Ehrlich, Per capita consumption, Population, Population growth, Sustainability and the Big picture, World population
[The follow-up to this essay is found here.]
“Overpopulation is a serious problem getting worse every year.”
“Overpopulation is a myth.”
“There is no population problem.”
“There’s overconsumption, … but not overpopulation.”
“[The problem is] overpopulation in the South and overconsumption in the North.”
That’s just a sampling of the kinds of conflicting statements about population growth you can find on the Web and elsewhere. Is it any wonder the topic confuses people? Readers here should have little doubt which of the first three views I share. I would suggest, as well, that statements dismissing the population issue are often disingenuous and politically motivated.
But what about about the population versus consumption question? (more…)
Posted in Albert Bartlett, Climate change, Consumption, Ecology, Jeffrey Sachs, Overpopulation, Per capita consumption, Population, Population growth, Population-environnment, Sustainability and the Big picture, World population
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…)