brettbh

The Population Problem

In 1860, the world's population stood at 1.5 billion. In 1960, it stood at 3 billion. Today, there are 7 billion people in the world. By 2060, there shall be 10 billion. Each week, the world's population increases by 1.5 million. And we wonder why the earth is becoming a dirtier place!

This explosive growth creates a real problem. How can we possibly reduce our emissions when we need to provide energy, food, clothing and transport for so many additional people? You care about the environment and have taken some modest steps to reduce your energy consumption, and maybe you've even managed to go completely off-grid. Great! But will your actions really make that much difference when there are an additional 1.5 million people coming onto the grid each week? Do the math here. To keep energy consumption at today's levels, we'll each need to be using a third less by 2060. Could you use a third less electricity than you do now? Could you use a third less gas/petrol? And we need to reduce our energy consumption, not simply cap it at today's levels. The option of using renewable energy provides some light at the end of the tunnel - but, unfortunately, it's an extremely long tunnel. How many years do you think it will be before we can build the infrastructures that will enable us to transition to renewable energy? In developing countries, the process will be even slower - they simply do not have the money to spend on the necessary "upgrades". And can we even produce enough energy from renewable sources to support the needs of 10 billion people? Then there's the problem of 78 million extra cars going onto the roads each year and the fact that, come 2060, we'll need 50% more cars, trains and planes and be producing 50% more garbage.

In short, unless we do something major soon, the baby steps that we have so far taken towards reducing our environmental footprints will count for nothing and our planet will be set to become a dirty and overpopulated cesspit which will, if the scientists are correct, be considerably warmer than it is today.

So, questions:

1. Why does the population problem get so little attention from the green movement?

2. What do you think we should do? Do you think that we should sit back, cross our fingers and hope that our governments get to grip with problem and that there are some major technological advances? Do you think that we should reduce the population by exterminating the Americans and the French? Or do you think we should ... ?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

>>Not politically correct subject<<

But it needs to become PC. The fact is that we cannot hope to reduce global energy consumption while the population is expanding so rapidly. We are producing more and more of our energy from renewable sources, but we are not transitioning fast enough (see attached IEA statistics). Furthermore, renewable energy sources are not without their own sets of problems - for example, hydroelectricity production damages the surrounding ecosystems and there is debate as to whether geothermal energy production leads to increased seismic activity - which act as obstacles to being able to substantially increase production.

In short, there is no way that our current technologies can meet the energy needs of 10 billion people without a substantial environmental impact.

>>Teach people what causes babies since they clearly have not figured it out!<<

But that, of course, is not the case. When you actually think about the effects of the population increase, the realities of the situation start to hit home. The population is growing at a rate of 1.5 million per week. To put that number in perspective, in order to house all those people in a single place you'd need to build a city the size of Phoenix each and every week, or a city the size of New York every 5 weeks. Before the end of next month, the world's population will have increased by more than the current population of Sweden. Before the end of the year, it will have increased by more than the current population of the UK. Before the end of 2013, it will have increased by more than the current population of the US.

Such growth is completely unsustainable. The reality is that there is no way that we can meet the energy and transportation needs of so many extra people without substantially increasing our emissions. But emissions/global warming are not the only problems associated with an explosive increase in the size of the world's population. Simply meeting the food, manufacturing and waste disposal needs of so many additional people will radically change our landscapes (with woodland being cleared to make way for agriculture, etc., etc.) and place a possibly catastophic strain on the health of the environment.

Will we be able to make the changes that would be needed in order to avoid making the world a much less pleasant place to live (if not completely destroying it)? There isn't much reason to be optimistic. Government action has been pathetically inadequate. They are relucant to take any form of action to substantially reduce emissions as doing so would be economically damaging - the EU's new climate deal and the US's refusal to sign-up to Kyoto being prime examples - and act like ostriches when it comes to the population problem. Their investment in R&D has been - and continues to be - way below where it needs to be. Government is not prepared to act at even the most basic of levels - for example, why the heck haven't places such as Las Vegas been made to switch off their light displays? Government needs a push, but is anybody going to provide it? Seemingly not. The green movement also chooses to bury its head in the sand when it comes to the subject of population control and, instead of encouraging people to become activists in order to force their governments into the sorts of actions that are needed to substantially reduce emissions, prefers to talk about environmentally-friendly coats for chihuahuas and eco-beer.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The green movement also chooses to bury its head in the sand when it comes to the subject of population control and, instead of encouraging people to become activists in order to force their governments into the sorts of actions that are needed to substantially reduce emissions, prefers to talk about environmentally-friendly coats for chihuahuas and eco-beer.

But is is so much safer to talk about environmentally-friendly coats for chihuahuas and eco-beer! The problem with population control as a serious topic, is that many of the areas where it is the most serious issue, are populated by non environmentally-friendly people who will scream racism at the very suggestion.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

>>But is is so much safer to talk about environmentally-friendly coats for chihuahuas and eco-beer!<<

Yup, indeed it is. And it also provides people with an easy way out. They can string up their LED Chritmas lights, drink their eco-eggnog, wrap their presents in recycled paper and then smile with self-satisfaction, thinking that they've done their bit to help the environment and that the planet would be oh-so much better if only everybody were to be as responsible. Well, sorry to disappoint you, but even if everybody else was as responsible as you, it really wouldn't count for much. The world would still be on the road to becoming a stinking and crowded cesspit because we had to build 3 new cities each as big as Pittsburgh during the week between Christmas and New Year in order to accommodate an extra 1.5 million energy-using, car-driving, product-using, garbage-producing people.

Unfortunately, because nobody is talking about the population problem, not many people really understand the extent of the problem. Put that to the test and ask your buddies. See whether they can tell you how many extra people are coming into the world each week. I can say with some certainty that hardly any will know, and that the majority of them will grossly underestimate the number.

People need to realise that there is no easy or painless solution to our problems. Scientists tell us that if we do not reduce our emissions, the earth will warm with potentially catastophic consequences. But, realistically, we cannot reduce emissions while the population is increasing by 1.5 million each and every week. Renewable energy provides us with some hope, but transitioning shall not be a speedy process (renewable energy accounts for only 7% of US consumption) and is not without its own set of environmental concerns. Governments are unwilling to make radical changes and people are unwilling to make radical changes and sacrifices.

Dilemmas, dilemmas ...

>>The problem with population control as a serious topic, is that many of the areas where it is the most serious issue, are populated by non environmentally-friendly people who will scream racism at the very suggestion.<<

Yup, it's an exraordinarily emotive subject which upsets people for a whole variety of social, religious and racial reasons - and understandably too - nobody wants to be told how many children they are allowed to have - which is probably why it's so conscientiously avoided (when did you last hear it discussed at a climate change conference). But it nonetheless needs to be addressed. We cannot hope the reduce mankind's environmental footprint when each week there are 3 million new feet in the world!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

And you do make excellent points but:
1) Renewable energy provides us with some hope, but transitioning shall not be a speedy process (but, the current economic environment is speeding the process up) - this is true and the transition speed is different from country to country. I think it has been speeding up in the US due to the oil crisis and will see a jump after the election (maybe, if obama can overcome the democratic parties current do nothing attitude)
2) Governments (and people) are unwilling to make radical changes and people are unwilling to make radical changes and sacrifices. - Always have been and most likely always will. But the good news is that the perspective of "radical change" is in itself changing. Clearly solar and geothermal power are within the reach of the average person within the next few years due to advances in technology that have lowered the entry costs.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

>>I think it has been speeding up in the US due to the oil crisis and will see a jump after the election (maybe, if obama can overcome the democratic parties current do nothing attitude)<<

Yup, but not fast enough. And there are, as I mentioned, enormous problems associated with renewable energy. The solar power plant that you mentioned in another post covers a considerable amount of land, but can meet the energy needs of only a relatively small number of people. To supply the weekly population increase (1.5 million) with solar energy, you'd need to construct a plant which was roughly 250 times bigger than the plant in Nevada. And, to keep pace with the population increase, you'd need to build a plant of that size each and every week. To meet the current energy needs of the US, you'd need to completely cover an area the size of Connecticut with solar panels. And a similar problem exists in relation to wind energy. To meet the needs of the population increase, you'd need to build about 60,000 very big turbines each and every week. To meet the current energy needs of the US, you'd need to completely cover an area the size of Texas with turbines. To put it simply, with our current technology, it simply is not possible to substantially increase renewable energy production without drastically changing the landscape and causing enormous environmental damage.

>>Clearly solar and geothermal power are within the reach of the average person within the next few years due to advances in technology that have lowered the entry costs.<<

Yup, but there are substantial problems associated with micro-generation too. For example, the costs, no matter how much they decrease, will still act as a deterrent to adoption, especially in developing countries. Furthermore, studies have shown that micro-generation does not always offer a carbon payback - in other words, more carbon is produced during the manufacturing process than is saved during the life of the unit. While people may get a cash payback from micro-generation, whether they'll get a carbon payback (and, if they do, over what period) is a completely different matter and not so easy to calculate.

We are told that modest actions - such as reducing our energy consumption slightly - can help the environment, but that simply is not the case. The modest actions that we take count for almost nothing when the world's population is swelling by 1.5 million energy-using people each week. We are told that recycling will help. But how much will it really help when the expanding population is producing an additional 70 billion pounds of garbage each year? We are told that wind energy, etc. is a solution to GHG emissions, but the fact is that we cannot substantially increase renewable energy production without damaging our ecosystems. We are already seeing an extinction crisis (from Wikipedia: The 2008 Red List was released on 6 October, 2008, at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Barcelona, and "has confirmed an extinction crisis, with almost one in four mammals at risk of disappearing forever." The study shows at least 1,141 of the 5,487 mammals on Earth are known to be threatened with extinction, and 836 are listed as Data Deficient). How much worse will that crisis become as we start erecting more solar panels, more wind turbines and diverting more waterways? And how much worse will it become as our cities and agricultural areas expand by 50% during the course of the next 5 decades? How long can our already depleted oceans supply fish for a population that is increasing by 1.5 million per week?

The fact is that we are headed for an ecological catastophe. Global warming is a real problem, but it's certainly not the only problem. The world of tomorrow will probably be very different - and much less diverse - than the world we know today.

We may be able to avoid the catastrophe, but need to take radical action in order to do so - action that is way, way beyond the baby steps we are taking today.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The fact is that we are headed for an ecological catastophe. Global warming is a real problem, but it's certainly not the only problem. The world of tomorrow will probably be very different - and much less diverse - than the world we know today.

We may be able to avoid the catastrophe, but need to take radical action in order to do so - action that is way, way beyond the baby steps we are taking today.

So, how many people do you propose to kill off to solve this problem?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

French, Germans and Americans - they'd be the least missed ;-) But seriously, we need to:

  1. Enforce some form of population control;
  2. Replace coal-burning plants with nuclear plants while we work on a better option. Realistically, this is the only way that we can achieve a substantial reduction in our emissions in the short-term;
  3. Make massive investments in R&D in order to discover cleaner - and viable - alternatives for energy production and transportation. For example, enormous sums should be committed to projects such as ITER;
  4. Disregard economics. We need to start doing what's best for the environment, not what's best for the budget.
  5. Legislate to reduce energy consumption (goodbye Las Vegas!).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think someone wrote a book about this, ah yes it was called Rainbow 6. Seriously though saying we need to stop people from producing does smack of racism because you immediately thought of the 3rd world where they are already suffering from the organic movement (no pesticides mean more malaria) rather than say the 1st world which has done more to ruin the enviroment then any 3rd world country. There are fish enduring sex changes though to all the women in 1st world countries trying to beat back hot flashes with estrogen pills. Most of those new cars coming online every year are in 1st world countries. And of course there are many fertility clinics and treatments in the 1st world leading to miracles like octomom.

Stepping away from that I have to say that presenting your stance like this is what generally turns people away from the conversation. If the Green movement is going to be seen as more than a bunch of hippies or lunatic treehuggers it might help to be diplomatic or at least tactful. It might also help to realize that changing the minds of that many people requires time and patience rather than what seems like an unending river of negativity and demands.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The main problem is not the size of the population, but how resources and production is managed under the current economic system. We could live sustainably under a system based on a rational plan of production, harmoniously with earth. Trying to combat climate change by addressing the 'population problem' is like trying to treat cancer with a plaster.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

they are already suffering from the organic movement (no pesticides mean more malaria)

Huh, what!? :wacko:

The main problem is not the size of the population, but how resources and production is managed under the current economic system.

I agree. We don't have a population problem. But we do have a consumption problem.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think trying to curb the population problem has been done before but it didn't work (or was that from movie?). I don't think the answer is to kill off people, (I hope you were kidding when you made the statement) but yes, somehow this problem needs to be addressed because it isn't making our planet any greener or healthier.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I feel that the population problem has been going on for such a long time and no one has addressed this because they feel that having children is our right as humans. I don't agree. I really feel that parents should have to take a test before they are allowed to have children. Why is it that I have to jump through hoops to drive a car, but I don't to have another human being. It's insane. Did anyone see that viral video about the young parents who put their kid in a washing machine? My point exactly.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I feel that the population problem has been going on for such a long time and no one has addressed this because they feel that having children is our right as humans. I don't agree. I really feel that parents should have to take a test before they are allowed to have children. Why is it that I have to jump through hoops to drive a car, but I don't to have another human being. It's insane. Did anyone see that viral video about the young parents who put their kid in a washing machine? My point exactly.

I am pretty sure it wasn't his parents who did that. But anyways, while I don't really agree with you I do understand your reasoning.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I feel that the population problem has been going on for such a long time and no one has addressed this because they feel that having children is our right as humans. I don't agree. I really feel that parents should have to take a test before they are allowed to have children. Why is it that I have to jump through hoops to drive a car, but I don't to have another human being. It's insane. Did anyone see that viral video about the young parents who put their kid in a washing machine? My point exactly.

The problem is that the populations are concentrated in the cities, this could be overcome with a rationally planned economy.

Did you know that the entire world population could fit into Texas with 1000 square feet of space per person?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is where the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill comes in. If people are educated well on dealing with conception, I don't think we'd have a problem with population which could lead to poverty and other related chaotic problems. Teach them to be responsible and eventually, this will be sorted out. This is just my 2 cents.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Politically Incorrect fact is that unmanaged and unplanned humanitarian aid is causing an artifical population rise in the developing world. SImply handing out food alone is only going to raise the fertility of the recipients. Without proper education and contraception food aid alone will merely raise the population and cause unnessecery suffering in the long term.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think there are some very good reasons it doesn't get much attention, and they all come down to it being an issue that is very hard to solve at home. We can all conserve energy, change our food choices and shopping habits, recycle, and make a difference in countless small ways in our own lives, but overpopulation is a problem that rests primarily in the developing world. Plus there are a lot of religious and cultural influences upon fertility and reproductive decisions that make it a thorny area to address without disrespecting anyone's core beliefs. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My signifcant other and I cannot figure out why this does not get more attention, either. We live in a rather conservative state, and breeding large families of children is highly encouraged around here. The focus is entirely on families. Newsflash: The planet has enough people destroying it, already!

 

Our local circumstances aside, I feel that both the local and the national media pay virtually no attention at all to the overpopulation problem. Why is that?

 

I don't wish to offend anyone either, but I think certain topics need to be brought to the attention of the public. We are losing all of our open space to urban sprawl, and that is frightening to me.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The thing is, most of the overpopulation is in relatively poor, undeveloped countries.

In countries like UK there has been a decrease of the original population (excluding the newcomers, the immigrants), most people have one or two children. 

Overpopulation happens in countries like India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, China. For instance, India alone now accommodates 1.27 billion people. It's mind-blowing. 

 I agree that overpopulation is a huge problem - but even if you reduce population in the West, the poorer countries will reproduce more, and those people will just emigrate to richer countries.

I feel very strongly about overpopulation. But it is almost impossible to implement a population decrease program globally. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My signifcant other and I cannot figure out why this does not get more attention, either. We live in a rather conservative state, and breeding large families of children is highly encouraged around here. The focus is entirely on families. Newsflash: The planet has enough people destroying it, already!

 

Our local circumstances aside, I feel that both the local and the national media pay virtually no attention at all to the overpopulation problem. Why is that?

 

I don't wish to offend anyone either, but I think certain topics need to be brought to the attention of the public. We are losing all of our open space to urban sprawl, and that is frightening to me.

 

The problem is that you can't really address population issues without offending people. Trying to change behaviour on that front is essentially telling people that they're making the wrong choices regarding one of the most personal and most intimate decisions any human being makes. In addition, we can't address overpopulation by looking at our neighbors in the Western world, even if those neighbors are quiver-full fundamentalists, because even when you include those outliers the overall fertility rate in the US (as in other developed nations) is at or slightly below replacement. The real battle, for lack of a better word, against overpopulation has to take place in the parts of the world where education, contraception, and culture have not yet reached a level where family size is a conscious choice rather than a biological question. 

 

Urban sprawl in the US has far less to do with population than it does with consumption habits. We aren't building our cities ever outward because there isn't room for everyone; we're doing so because of the American dream of bigger and better. In the 50s and 60s it was trading city centers for ranches in suburbia, and now it is trading up from those ranches to gated subdivisions in the exurbs. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If you rip a sheet into two equal parts, overlay them and then rip and overlay them again you’ll get a pile of sheets high four times than the initial sheet. If you repeat this action for 50 times you’ll get a pile which height can reach the moon. This is an example of exponential growth, the same behavior human population has. Quote from “Inferno” of Dan Brown.

There are 7.08 billion people on Earth and the number rises every day exponentially. The number of people rises, so the number of cars, CO2 emissions, water demand, energy demand, temperature and many other factors. The attempts made to try to contain the problem are to reductive and it’s easy to seem crazy when you criticize overpopulation.

Overpopulation is similar to cliamte change: they're uncontrollable growths. The only way to contain them is to change the minds of everybody. It's not really working with climate change neither with overpopulation.

hr7w.jpg

Students in China (Reuters)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't think there is any one way to look at this. No - it isn't considered a politically correct topic, but it really should be. Can you imagine the outrage if a political leader stepped forward and announced plans to introduce population control measures? But that doesn't mean they shouldn't be brought into practice, and ideally alongside environmental practices that would aim not only to slow the growth of the population, but reduce energy consumption for each person. 

 

Personally, I think we need to push for more technology and environmental education subjects in our younger generations, to encourage more scientists, engineers and developers who are going to go on to produce more energy efficient solutions, as well as better education for youngsters when it comes to having children. Not just teaching them about avoiding providing more information and resources for avoiding pregnancy in youngsters, but better outlining the costs and negatives of raising children, to discourage young people from starting families very early in life - this would help to reduce the size of families. 

 

Regardless of what measures a implemented the progress would be very slow, and it would most likely take many generations before any progress is seen. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now