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  1. Image Source: Pexels According to The US Census Bureau, the current population in the United States includes more than 323 million people, with over 70% of those people living in dense urban environments. As the US population is steadily growing at a rate of about 0.7% annually, it is expected that our society will increasingly rely on population-dense cities to continue providing a quality standard of living. To accommodate this changing future, it is crucial that our society adequately plan to accommodate this ever-growing population, and prepare to integrate that growing population into our existing cities. There are three key areas of focus that, if improved today, will facilitate this critical integration in the future. Infrastructure Development and Investment Developing urban infrastructure is the single most valuable investment that can be made for future generations. To accommodate growing populations, high-density housing buildings can be constructed, which allow increasing numbers of people to live in the same geographic footprint of an existing city. However, increasing numbers of people living in one area demands advanced water treatment solutions to manage increasing quantities of wastewater. There are many people exploring the disadvantages of current wastewater treatment options and proposes new possible solutions for future exploration. Finally, improving mass transportation choices to serve the growing population will enable cities to keep high numbers of people moving without choking surface streets in an endless gridlock of personal vehicles. Integration of Emerging Technologies If population growth is trend that is viewed as unending, so too is advancing technology. As our technology continues to improve, it is important that we begin integrating smart devices into the daily management of our society. One of the most critical areas where technology can improve efficiency is in the field of food production. Already, shrinking numbers of farmers are responsible for producing increasing quantities of food to support our expanding population, and the continual integration of new technologies into their daily work can ensure that their harvest is able to keep pace with the population growth rate in coming years. Education of Future Generations While our reliance on sound infrastructure and advancing technology is a critical factor in our ability to adapt to population growth, it is impossible to understate the importance of human intelligence in that struggle. Specifically, future growing generations will need to have the education and skills to meet the increasing need for data analytics, health care delivery, and ethical business management. There are many educational programs, like this mba online no gmat, This type of education program is a perfect example of how investing in the critical thinking skills of the future generation of leaders will foster the human intelligence needed to manage our growing population. As our population continues to grow and is expected to continue doing so, our ability to integrate those increasing numbers of people into our society will be dependent upon the investment we make in the future. Investing in infrastructure development and advanced technology integration can provide the tangible resources needed to house and feed increasingly dense population centers. Most importantly, investing in the education of our future leaders will ensure that critical thinking and human intelligence will always be available to solve the future problems those growing populations will encounter. By recognizing the trend in population growth and properly planning to integrate larger numbers of people into our society we can maintain a quality standard of living and give our future generations the tools they need adapt to their changing world.
  2. CARE International, one of the world’s largest and oldest humanitarian aid organizations, has condemned programs that promote birth control as a means to reduce climate change. CARE, which strongly supports “rights to sexual and reproductive choices and health for women and girls worldwide,” warns that efforts to link family planning to environmental objectives are undermining those very rights: “These challenges have become entangled in conversations on climate change in ways that conflate these rights with narratives of natural resource scarcity and population control. Such narratives are more likely to compromise, than to achieve, equality and just outcomes for women living in poverty who are adversely affected by climate change.” In a strongly worded paper titled Choice, not control: Why limiting the fertility of poor populations will not solve the climate crisis (pdf), CARE makes two fundamental arguments. First, that population reduction programs target people who are not responsible for climate change, and direct attention away from those who are. “Action on climate change hinges on tackling inequality and the consumption patterns of the wealthiest far more than on the reproductive behaviour of people living in poverty.” Second, that family planning programs motivated by population objectives focus not on giving women choice, but on pushing for specific outcomes, even if that violates human rights. “Decades of experience of population and environment programming have shown that rights and choices are too easily undermined when misguided natural resource management concerns drive reproductive health service provision.” The CARE paper makes four recommendations for policies and programs related to climate change, economic development, and women’s rights: Reproductive rights must be a singular goal in their own right. Subordinating these rights under other objectives, such as the protection of natural resources, poses problematic and dangerous incentives which can undermine human rights, and must be avoided. Efforts to promote gender equality need to safeguard women’s rights and social justice in discussions on population and the environment. Programs should not use the language of gender equity and reproductive rights to legitimize policies and actions aimed at controlling the fertility of poor populations. Responses to climate change need to avoid victim-blaming and increasing the burden on the world’s poorest and most vulnerable populations, including the women within them. Action on climate change should draw attention to inequalities, e.g. in the global food system, carbon emissions and wealth. Work on family planning carried out in a context of environmental degradation and climate vulnerability must include strict safeguards for human rights, in particular reproductive self-determination, and rights to land and other natural resources. Such work should also draw attention to inequalities in the access of women and girls to the information, services and supplies they need to make reproductive decisions and choices. Needless to say, Simon Butler and I are very pleased that arguments we made in Too Many People? have been confirmed and extended by an organization with so much experience working with the world’s poorest women, and we’re honored that CARE several times cites our book as a source.
  3. Rich country advocates of third world population reduction like to present their programs as benign efforts to offer humane support to poor women who want birth control pills or devices but can’t obtain them. It’s all about filling “unmet demand” they say. There may have been abuses in the distant past, but that’s behind us now. But when we move from the liberal-sounding fundraisers in the North to actual activity in the South, very different pictures emerge. The population controllers are still imposing their ideology on the very poorest women, denying them choice and control, and killing many. In India, populationism is official government ideology, and campaigns to reduce the number of poor people are official government policy. Government programs pay per capita bounties to doctors who sterilize women en masse. Unsafe operations are performed by ill-trained doctors, using poor equipment in unsterile conditions. So-called health-care workers get just over $3 for each woman they persuade to be sterilized, creating a strong motivation for clinics to process large numbers as quickly as possible. As Simon Butler and I discussed in Too Many People, when birth control programs are motivated by population-reduction goals, the inevitable result is a focus on meeting numeric objectives and driving up the totals, regardless of the desires or needs of the ‘targets.’ Blackmail, bribery, and coercion target the very poorest women. In India today, women who agree to the operation are paid the equivalent of $23, which is more than most rural women earn in a month — if they can find work at all. As Kerry McBroom, director of the Reproductive Rights Initiative at the Human Rights Law Network in New Delhi, says, “The payment is a form of coercion, especially when you are dealing with marginalised communities.” Yet another tragedy, caused by just such population reduction programs, is reported this week in the Guardian. “Eight women have died in India and dozens more are in hospital, with 10 in a critical condition, after a state-run mass sterilisation campaign went tragically wrong. “More than 80 women underwent surgery for laparoscopic tubectomies at a free government-run camp in the central state of Chhattisgarh on Saturday. Of these, about 60 fell ill shortly afterwards, officials in the state said. … “The Indian Express daily said the operations in Chhattisgarh were carried out by a single doctor and his assistant in about five hours.” The death-toll has since risen to ten, and 14 more women are reported to be in serious condition. This is not an isolated incident. The health ministry admits to paying compensation for 568 deaths resulting from sterilization between 2009 and 2012, a figure that independent observers believe substantially understates the number of women who have actually died to help state officials meet arbitrary population quotas. Similar programs, with similar results, have killed or maimed poor women on every continent. As David Harvey says, “Whenever a theory of overpopulation seizes hold in a society dominated by an elite, then the non-elite invariably experience some form of political, economic, and social repression.” Ecosocialists support unrestricted access to all forms of birth control. We defend women’s absolute right to choose whether to use birth control, and which kinds to use, free from all forms of coercion. We oppose birth control programs based on populationist ideology because they consistently violate those fundamental principles.
  4. The least-discussed factor in climate change and resource depletion On average we currently need 1.5 Earths to sustain our consumption of resources. That's the global average and in developed countries like the UK we probably need around three. This is clearly unsustainable, but it gets worse. We will need more Earths as the population grows, currently at 7 billion but expected to increase to around 9 billion by 2050. This is a situation that cannot continue. More people inevitably means more mouths to feed, more energy needed, and more resources turned into goods for these people to use, as well as greater deforestation and biodiversity loss. Population growth is probably the least-discussed factor causing climate change and other significant environmental impacts such as resource depletion. The latest IPCC report (AR5) says, “It is extremely likely that more than half of the observed increase in global average surface temperature from 1951 to 2010 was caused by the anthropogenic [human created] increase in greenhouse gas concentrations and other anthropogenic forcings together.” This report, comprehensive in other areas, scarcely touches on the population aspect of climate change. Simon Ross, Chief Executive of the charity Population Matters says, “The more people there are the more emissions there are, and the greater pressure on resources. That depends on how much each individual is consuming, so if when are more Americans or more British people that has a bigger effect on a per capita basis, than the poorest countries, where the population increase is growing the fastest. In middle income countries like China and Brazil the per capita consumption is rising, so we are seeing growing numbers and growing consumption at the same time, so if you take all of that it is a major driver for climate change, and what’s behind pressure on food and water, energy, and some minerals, fish and so on. It's a combination of more people and rising consumption.” How does population growth affect everybody's lives? Simon Ross continues, “As there are more and more people, they have to live somewhere. They are forced to live in places that are risky, on the coast for example, where they are prone to rising sea levels, high tides and tsunamis, or where flooding is likely. In the UK recently people who live on floodplains have suffered from inundation. People are only living in those places because of population pressures - they have find somewhere to live, and that may be not where they would choose because all the best places are taken already.” What options can be taken to reduce population induced climate stress and reach a sustainable population for the globe? According to Population Matters the approach should be non-coercive, and involve both the developing world, and the developed countries where the people who consume the most and have the biggest environmental footprint live. It is also important to focus on the global South where over two billion people live on less than $2 per day and where health, education, low-cost family planning can make a significant difference to the quality of poor peoples' lives. Education for women, and campaigns against child marriage and violence against women and girls, as well as action on biodiversity loss and promotion of appropriate technology can be beneficial. See here for a previous blog on solar power in the Sunderbans. Simon Ross says, “What we really want to promote is smaller families. Over time that will lower population growth, and over time slow it and then reverse it. The benefit of that will be over time more space, lower congestion in terms of transport, fewer housing builds. You won't be paying so much for utilities and food and other things. Otherwise prices are going to go up and up and up as there is more demand for everything. So generally peoples' quality of life will be better if there were fewer people, for the relatively well-off West. For people in the developing countries, it could be a matter of life and death – the difference between having enough food and not having enough food. A lot of people do not have enough food already, so if we slow or stop climate change that will relieve pressure on resources.” Simon Ross continues, “We want to encourage quality family planning, women’s' rights, education and healthcare which in turn means smaller families, and less pressure on the environment. At Population Matters we see the way forward in terms of good policy and advice, rather than any form of coercion which we see as negative and counterproductive.” Climate change, and its associated factors are real. Reducing population growth is one of the ways we can address the issue. If we fail to do that, we are limiting our responses to probably the greatest problem that humanity has faced in its existence. This blog first published on Julian Jackson is a writer about environmental subjects
  5. This is the final part of a series of articles that have taken a closer look on the relationship between increasing human population levels and the food production system that sustains human livelihoods. This part examines current and future food levels as well as summarizing all the previous parts. Despite the predictions from populationists, the global agricultural production has grown and even exceeded the population growth rate. Global crop production has had an average annual growth rate of one percent for the past 20 years. This can be exemplified in the slow, although steady, increase in average food per capita availability, which has increased from around 2220 kilocalories per person/day to about 2790 kilocalories between early 1960 and 2006. The largest increase can be seen in developing countries where food availability has jumped from 1850 kilocalories per person/day to over 2640 kilocalories. In 2010, the global food system produced more than 13 quadrillion calories; on a per capita daily basis this equals 5359 kilocalories. Globally, food production has increased by 18 percent over the past two decades and for the past 50 years crop production growth has seen a threefold increase. Interestingly, arable land has declined, at an accelerating rate, with about 40 million hectares since the 1980s in developed countries. At the same time arable land has increased with around 107 million hectares in developing countries. This has resulted in a global increase of 67 million hectares of arable land. Therefore, the increased growth in crop production in the developed world can be attributed to yield improvements and more intensive farming methods. Only a smaller part of the increase can be attributed to an expansion in arable land. FAO believe that the potential to increase crop yields further is substantial and that a future peak yield seems unlikely. FAO's future predictions are hence more positive than the estimates from UNEP earlier. According to FAO there remain significant opportunities to increase food production in developing countries. Especially in Africa which is far behind other regions in its food production capacity. But they also stress the importance of "considerable" public intervention and investment to be able to reach the required yield increases. The majority of these investments are needed in agricultural research, but more are also required to mitigate environmental damage and prevent further environmental degradation. With all this talk about yield levels and ratios it's easy to forget that yields aren't everything when it comes to increasing global food availability. There are other ways that can help improve global food security. Because overall population growth is slowing down FAO predicts that total global food demand will decrease. Unfortunately, deep-rooted poverty plays a large part in this slowdown in global food demand. However, FAO expect that the demands from the bio-based economy, such as the production of biofuels, will continue to increase. This development is a double-edged sword. The further expansion of the bio-economy will offer "considerable growth potential" for the agricultural sector and supply farmers with new income possibilities. But it will also create rising food prices and put pressure on an already strained environment and natural resource base. The topic of biofuels has been covered in previous chapters, so it won't be delved into further here. But another large part of our total cereal production is being diverted away from our plates. While only having around 18 percent of the world's population, OECD countries in the rich world consumes 37 percent of the total global production of cereal. The reason for this large share is mainly due to the high levels of meat consumption in these countries. More than half of the total amounts of cereals consumed are being used to feed our livestock and animals in the meat industry. So by reducing our consumption of meat and biofuels we could increase the availability of food worldwide. But the production of biofuel is estimated to expand and the demand for meat shows no slowing down. Current models show that by 2050 an additional 550 million tonnes of cereals are needed to just feed our livestock. That same amount could have instead fed as many as 3.4 billion people. Another way is to reduce food losses and waste. It's estimated that approximately one-third, or about 1.3 billion tonnes every year, of the food produced for human consumption is being wasted or lost in the production process. Consumers in Europe and North-America waste between 95-115 kg per year/capita, while consumers in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa only waste around 6-11 kg per year/capita. In developed countries with medium- and high-incomes most food is wasted at the consumer level. This is food that is being wasted even though it is still suitable for consumption. In low-income countries in the developing world most of the food is lost in the production process before it even reaches the market. FAO takes this matter seriously. The UN agency considers food losses to be a "significant cost" to the world economy and serious threat to global food security and availability. Population or Environmental Food Crisis? In the beginning of this series, Population or Environmental Food Crisis, I asked if it's possible for organic agriculture, in the face of intensifying environmental degradation and fears of rising population numbers, to reach global food security and sustain human livelihood. The previous parts has shown that Malthus and other populationists have been wrong in their doomsday predictions and that they have misjudged the possibilities of technological advancements to increase our food production. But just as I've shown, this technology has unfortunately created environmental problems that now threatens valuable ecosystems, our resource base and our very ability to sustain more people. It's clear that a different approach to agriculture is needed so that a smarter food production increase can take place. I've been able to conclude that the claims from populationists that we would somehow face a population crisis to be unfounded and excessive. Demographic data shows that global population levels are increasing, but they aren't increasing exponentially and nowhere near those levels that populationists are warning about. The data compiled in the previous parts shows how human population growth is actually starting to slow down and that the growth is expected to stabilize by 2100 with around 10 billion people. In fact, this development has sparked fears about a potential ageing crisis with severe implications for developed countries such as Japan. If the population theories from Malthus-inspired thinkers like Ehrlich were to be true we would see a global population that is just getting younger and younger. But instead the global median age is increasing and data shows that people aged 60 or older is the group that is growing the fastest today. The food price crisis of 2008-2009 has been explained as the result of an energy crisis and that it didn't take place because of uninhibited population growth, like populationists have claimed. A closer look was also taken on undernourishment and malnutrition. While large portions of people around the world are still undernourished we are now experiencing a nutrition transition characterized by overnutrition and obesity. Overweight people has now actually surpassed the number of undernourished people in the world. We could also see how global food production is growing and how it has even exceeded population growth rate. But if we are to satisfy the projected food demand from a growing population we need to increase our global food production with 70 percent by 2050. This is no easy task, and it doesn't help that food prices are expected to rise and become more volatile from escalating environmental degradation. To avoid this we need to make changes to our food production system as well as re-thinking our own consumption patterns. Theoretically it's probably possible to increase yields and make the global food system more productive by further intensifying the use of external inputs such as pesticides and chemical fertilizers, which Borlaug among other advocates. But this could potentially have devastating effects on our environment, food prices and population levels. Even populationists, such as Kaplan and Ehrlich, warn that such practices could do more harm than good. Instead organic farming has been put forward as the solution to our growing environmental problems and broken food system. But populationists are opposing this alternative agriculture method as they believe it will be unable to adequately sustain human livelihood on a global scale. In an effort to find an answer to this, several studies on organic and conventional yield levels have been explored. The result is far from unanimous, but a large part of the studies shows promising results for proponents to organic agriculture. Several side-by-side studies seem to support the claims that it's possible for organic farming to sustain current and even future population levels. Considering the findings in this thesis, it's no surprise that national and international bodies are now seeing organic agriculture as a viable option in food security discussions. It's obvious that the potential for conventional agriculture to be converted to organic farmland around the world is vast. As can be seen from developments in Europe, this conversion is taking place, albeit to a varying degree and speed, with a few countries having done more progress than others. Despite this, organic farming still plays a shockingly tiny role in the global food production system. It's clear that the easiest way to safeguard food availability for current and future generations is to reduce the production of biofuels and our consumption of meat "“ both being responsible for taking away considerable farmland from crop cultivation. So, the answer to the question, if it's possible for organic agriculture to sustain human livelihood, is a probable yes. Organic farming seem to be capable of sustaining global human population levels while lessening the negative effects the agricultural sector has on our environment. It also seems that organic agriculture can withstand the effects of climate change much better than their conventional counterparts. But organic farming has a long and difficult road ahead. Considerable conventional farmland need be converted to organic land. Furthermore, a substantial increase in investments into research and development of alternative agricultural practices and yield increasing methods are also needed. But there's no question about it, we need to increase our food production in a smart way, with or without an imminent population crisis. Luckily for us, this seems to be possible.
  6. I often hear people saying that overpopulation is the main problem to our environmental and ecological problems. Some people even claim that it's responsible for global warming. I also agreed with this idea before. But after reading more about the subject over the years I have changed my mind. The rich countries in the "North", i.e. the West, have a "rapidly decreasing" population which is "expected to decline over the next forty years." Developing countries such as India, China and most of Africa on the other hand is where we will see future population numbers increasing. And yes. It seems so easy to blame countries with an overwhelming rising population for being responsible for wrecking our planet, climate and environment. Because surely more people must mean more pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Right? Not really. The West is responsible for about 80% of the worlds CO2 increase. An average person living in Great Britain will in only 11 days emit as much CO2 as an average person in Bangladesh will during a whole year. And just a single power plant in West Yorkshire in Great Britain will produce more CO2 every year than all the 139 million people combined living in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique. As Fred Pearce from the Yale Environment 360 blog notes, only a small portion of the world's people are using most of the planets resources as well as producing the most of the greenhouse gases. And those are living in the West: "The world's population quadrupled to six billion people during the 20th century. It is still rising and may reach 9 billion by 2050. Yet for at least the past century, rising per-capita incomes have outstripped the rising head count several times over. And while incomes don't translate precisely into increased resource use and pollution, the correlation is distressingly strong. [...]By almost any measure, a small proportion of the world's people take the majority of the world's resources and produce the majority of its pollution. Take carbon dioxide emissions - a measure of our impact on climate but also a surrogate for fossil fuel consumption. Stephen Pacala, director of the Princeton Environment Institute, calculates that the world's richest half-billion people - that's about 7 percent of the global population - are responsible for 50 percent of the world's carbon dioxide emissions. Meanwhile the poorest 50 percent are responsible for just 7 percent of emissions." According to Pearce overpopulation in the developing countries is not the problem. Instead the increasing overconsumption among the planets 7% richest people and countries is to be blamed. And he is not alone in claiming this. George Monbiot, Europe's leading green commentator, also agrees with this viewpoint. As Monbiot notes in a recent published article on the Guardian: "As one the graphs King displayed demonstrated, and as the UN and independent scientists predict, the world's population is expected to peak at around 9 billion by 2060 and then to decline to around 8.5 billion by 2100. Of course the bisophere can ill-afford to carry these numbers, and they will load an extra 40 or 50% of pressure onto every environmental constraint. It's an issue, in other words. But the issue? Until the recession struck, the global rate of economic growth was 3.8%. The world's governments hope and pray that we'll be back on this track as soon as possible. Population, of course, is one of the components of economic growth, but the global population growth rate is currently 1.2%. It's responsible, in other words, for one-third of normal economic growth. The rest is supplied by rising consumption. Consumption, on this measure, bears twice as much responsibility for pressure on resources and ecosystems as population growth." Let's take a look at the ecological footprint between developing countries and developed countries in the West. An ecological footprint is the estimate on how much land is required to provide you and me with food and other resources as well as cleaning up our pollution. The global average ecological footprint is 2.7 hectares per person. Sweden, my own country, has an ecological footprint of 5.1 hectares. The UK is on 5.3. Australia has 7.8 and Canada has an average of 7.1 hectares. The United Arab Emirates and the United States of America are on the top spot with an ecological footprint of 9.5 and 9.4. Developing countries such as China only has an ecological footprint of 2.1 hectares while India is on 0.9. And most countries in Africa are around or below 1.0 hectares. Pearce gives even more examples of unfair consumption between the rich and poor countries: "Americans gobble up more than 120 kilograms of meat a year per person, compared to just 6 kilos in India, for instance." "Just five countries are likely to produce most of the world's population growth in the coming decades: India, China, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Ethiopia. The carbon emissions of one American today are equivalent to those of around four Chinese, 20 Indians, 30 Pakistanis, 40 Nigerians, or 250 Ethiopians." "A woman in rural Ethiopia can have ten children and her family will still do less damage, and consume fewer resources, than the family of the average soccer mom in Minnesota or Munich. In the unlikely event that her ten children live to adulthood and have ten children of their own, the entire clan of more than a hundred will still be emitting less carbon dioxide than you or I." Just like Monbiot and Pearce claims overpopulation is not the problem. Even if we were to get a zero population growth around the world it wouldn't help us against the climate crisis. Instead the overconsumption among the rich few in the world is the main problem which we must deal with. Climate Progress writes: "To avoid catastrophic global warming impacts, the rich countries need to cut greenhouse gas emissions 80% to 90% by mid-century. The developing countries (not including China) mostly must slow emissions growth, peak by mid-century, then decline - while ending the vast majority of deforestation by 2020. China must peak its emissions by 2020 and then reduce after that, first slowly, then quickly by mid-century." Overpopulation is only seen as a major problem because it's the only thing we in the West can blame the developing countries for.