In 2015 Minnesota had a population of 5.3 million people (Shragg, 2015, p. 34). If Minnesota was as dense as Haiti, Minnesota would have 79 million people (Shragg, 2015, p. 34). Although this may be taken with a sigh of relief, despite the difference density, both places are contributing to climate change in one way or another, one in poverty and the other in comfort. Although living in the Twin Cities may be more comfortable than Haiti, there is a larger carbon footprint due to consumerism, which would increase if the poor, more populated nations became larger consumers, and climate change would get worse. Climate change is no longer debatable, and overpopulation is to blame for the destruction of the planet.
Ten thousand years ago, at the start of the agricultural revolution, the human population was about 5 million. Next came the Malthusian leap, which was up to 300 million by the birth of Christ; in 1800, 1 billion; by 1927, 2 billion; 3 billion by 1960, 4 billion by 1974; by 1987 there were 5 billion; in 1999, there were about 6 billion; and more than a whopping 7 billion in 2017. There’s predicted to be 10 billion by 2050 and 11 billion by 2100 (Frances, 2017, p. 25). The common Malthusian understanding is that this increase has caused poverty and hunger Darwin incorporated this principle into his work to revolutionized modern thinking. Malthus pessimism suggests this growth is a bad thing because it leads to poverty and hunger, and it’s true just like there are other negative consequences to overpopulation (The American Journal of Economics and Sociology, 2016, para. 5). Poverty is just one result of over population, the more detrimental consequence is the warming of the planet.
With this population growth, there has been a massive spike in the Carbon Dioxide in the air. CO2 has increased from 280 parts per million (ppm) at the beginning of the industrial revolution to 400 ppm just recently in 2013. In the book, Ten Billion, Stephen Emmott (2013) says, to keep the temperature down, the people of this world would have to limit our CO2 intake, but the world will not meet the target of keeping concentrations between 425-450 ppm because people and corporations are not cooperating with environmentalists (p. 34). Not only has the carbon dioxide in the air been increasing, but the temperatures of this planet have been as well. That includes the ocean climate (Emmott, 2013, p. 40), and that is another thing that is no longer debatable, but the reason is still ambiguous to some.
The truth is that too many people prevent this planet from living sustainably, which means “living in a way that does not put a heavy demand on the environment and resources” (Shragg, 2015, p.4). Sadly, the rising number of people has created so many more demands out of the resources Mother Earth has to offer.
This planet is not just dealing with more people, the world is dealing with more of a need for land, which means deforestation (Emmott, 2013, p. 64). Land is a true commodity, as the 40 percent of the ice-free land areas are being used for farming (Emmot, 2013, p. 49). Emmott writes that the rest of the land is made of up of the Sahara and larger parts of Australia, which are both unsuitable for agriculture; the places in urban and suburban areas; protected areas, like national parks; land where the extraction of finite resources take place; and managed forests for timber production (Emmott, 2013, p. 49). All this land isn’t going to sustain a growing population comfortably, which is why it is not sustainable just like the future populations.
Bini Irwin, Steve Irwin’s daughter, said something along the lines of, “[Overpopulation] is a lot like having a birthday party for 15 people and 70 people show up. You have 15 party favors, 15 cupcakes and when 70 people arrive they expect their fair share, but there isn’t enough to go around” (Qtd. in Shragg, 2015, p. 38). Shragg (2015) reported that in 2013, the US State Department, under Hillary Clinton, was the one that censored Irwin’s essay (p. 27). When the neglect to inform the citizens of populations that have consequences of a result of overpopulation (which is all of them), this presents what Trevers and Sailer call a “democratic defect.” This is a democratic system or government that has acted in a way that has neglected to look after its citizens in a way that is in their best interest (Trevors & Saier, 2008, para. 1).
Frances (2017) argues that while the world discusses things like “war, refuge crisis, famine or pandemics,” the debates seemed geared to focus on the political and economic precipitants, almost always avoiding the main root cause, which is overpopulation” (p. 24). The world is afraid of the awful connotations that population control has, which are “Hitler, eugenics, killing babies, restricting reproduction, and destroying the primacy of family life” (p. 24). Frances says, “Everyone is afraid to talk, or even think, about the population bomb, because we would then have to face the urgent, but delicate and difficult, problem of defusing it” (p. 24). That’s not an easy task, but birth control is a start.
In the book Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth, Wiesman (2013) writes that 1934 was the year that the US began its first governmental birth control program in Puerto Rico (p. 68) Puerto Rico didn’t have much room to expand considering that it is only one hundred miles wide and thirty-five miles side. It didn’t have much room to expand, but it was expanding. Speculation has it that they tested on Puerto Rico because of their skin color, but it could also be said that they needed to test on somebody, and with a climbing population and less land, Puerto Rico was a prime candidate (p. 69).
The Puerto Rican’s were taking high-dosage pills and experienced “nausea, dizziness, headaches, blurred vision, bloating, or vomiting” there were some Puerto Ricans that suffered blood clots and strokes (p 29). They were not the greatest side effects, so this is one of the contributing factors that gave birth control a bad name. Years later, in Costa Rica has been one of the fastest-growing populations in the world. Families averaged between seven and eight children per household (Weisman, 2013, p. 68). The birth control programs that the US started in Costa Rica successfully slowed down the population growth, making Costa Rica into the popular destination that it is (p. 68).
In American society, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is one of the organizations that get it, says Shragg of World Population Balance. According to Shragg, the foundation does very “commendable work” as they try to break down the cultural barriers that prevent people access to birth control. This is to an estimated 220 million women in third world countries (Shragg, 2015, p. 20). The reason this is so important to Shragg is that “overpopulation prevents a good quality of life for anyone struggling to live where resources are stressed” (2015, p. 20). Frances (2017) also says that birth control is important. He says that Planned Parenthood is the “world’s most effective solution to the challenge of the Malthusian population dyscontrol.” He also explains the history of it: It was found a century ago by Margaret Sanger. This was in one tiny clinic in Brooklyn, New York. Now it runs 650 clinics in the United States. They provide reproductive, educational, and women’s health services. They have affiliates in twelve other countries (p. 28). Certainly, commendable work—worth funding.
Despite the sensibility of programs like Planned Parenthood, it has been subject to a lot of scrutiny, mainly from the religious Republican politicians and voters. They are more concerned about getting babies born than creating programs to make sure those babies have a good, quality life (Frances, 2017, p. 28). Trevors and Saier (2008) asked the reader if fascism look familiar in today’s society (para. 4). Although this was written twenty years ago, in today’s society that has been a question that a lot of people have been asking after noticing certain trends. Racial superiority of a certain group or nation is the key theme in fascism, which Americans are seeing in the Donald Trump presidency. It seems like increasing the American population is a political scheme for dominance, especially considering the rise in the Chinese population in China, our competition.
When people think population control, often times China is thought of. China has a one child policy for a long time, but according to Yang, Wang, and Zhang, there are three things that people should know. The first is that the one child policy was not East Asian. Two, it was created out of pressure from the United Nations. And three, the high levels of fertility that happened from the adoption of the one-child policy came because of the Great Famine of 1958-1961, which killed 30 million people (Yang et. al, Qtd in The American Journal of Economics and Sociology, 2016, para. 12). There is a question of how effective it is because birth rates were already declining. Also, since there were less young people, there were not as many people to support aging populations. More men ended up being born than women, leaving more men single and without a household. This effected the quality of life in China (Yang et al, 2016, para. 13). China’s population continues to rise, and that is a threat to the US, which could be one of the reasons that people deny it.
Nevertheless, activists like Shragg continue to try and spread the world that population is the cause of global warming, poverty, hunger, and the overall discomfort of certain groups. Labeling this idea as “population sanity,” Shragg (2015) suggests that groups like Feed My Starving Children would be better off making sure starving people do not reproduce because it only creates starving children (p. 36). Although it’s a good thing that this world has groups like that, it’s not a good thing that developed nations can’t help out more by ending the cycle of impoverished people reproducing to create families that cannot provided for themselves.
To add to the list of problems, Madeline Weld, the President of Population Institute of Canada, says that, “It is not just a religious right that hampers access to family planning…so does the feminists and social justice left…They derailed any direct targeting of population growth by linking it to indifference to women’s rights, racism, and eugenics” (qtd. in Shragg, 2015, p. 39). All overpopulation activists struggle to get their message out in competition with all the naysay.
There are stereotypes of overpopulation activist that are hard to break, and the Catholic church has been re-enforcing these stereotypes in their teachings. They also hold the view the human fertilized egg is sacred and should not be aborted (The American Journal of Economics and Sociology, 2016, para. 24). What they really think about population, as quoted by Pope Frances, is that “demographic growth is fully compatible with an integral and shared development” (para. 24). This just means they want to put it in the hands of God equally, that Catholics don’t want to tell certain people not to reproduce or prevent it of anyone. These expectations are having a very negative effect on an increasingly populated world.
It’s not just climate change that is no longer debatable, over population is too. The problem is that it’s not debated enough. It’s a topic that rarely comes up, but scholars have been trying to make it known. It’s a petrifying reality that there 2.6 billion cars produced between 1900 and 2012, and that by 2050 there are predicted to be 4 billion more, as reported by the International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers (Qtd. in Emmott, 2013, p. 110). That’s not looking good for the melting of icecaps, which releases a “significant quantities” of methane from the Artic Ocean (Emmott, 2013, p. 118). There is no end to the argument…population must be humanely reduced, and the next few generations will have to be the ones to do it.
The American Journal of Economics and Sociology. (2016). Editors Introductions: Is Overpopulation a Problem? Multiple Perspectives on this Perennial Question.
Emmott, S. (2013). Ten Billion. New York. Vintage Books.
Frances, A. (2017). Twilight of American Sanity: A Psychiatrist Analyzes the Age of Trump. HarperCollins.
Shragg, K. (2015). Move Upstream: A Call to Solve Overpopulation. Minneapolis, MN. Free Thought House.
Trevors, J. T., & Saier, M. H., J. (2010). The democracy defect and our polluted, overpopulated biosphere. Water, Air and Soil Pollution, 205, 73-74. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11270-008-9768-y
Weisman, A. (2013). Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope For a Future on Earth? New York, NY. Little, Brown Company
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