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Climate Change -Earth’s Carrying Capacity -Population Question- and the Pied Piper

Every day scientists are coming up with new ideas to deal with climate change. Most everyone acknowledges we must act now to stop the destruction of planet earth. The American Clean Energy and Security Act, now moving through Congress, is one very small step in the right direction, but even that has been chiseled away and is being fought by powerful interest groups.

But what I don’t get about the Climate Change debate is the BIG ISSUE no one seems willing to address. Yes we can turn out lights and reduce energy consumption generally and come up with all kinds of “green” alternatives. And yes I support all those measures so that each of us can reduce our “footprint” on this fragile planet. But the real problem is the earth as a human habitat has already exceeded its carrying capacity and still the world's population is skyrocketing.

By overpopulating the earth we are destroying the viability of our habitat, not just for our own species but for most other species as well – save perhaps for cockroaches. Why are we not passing legislation to encourage birth control and provide incentives for birth control initiatives in developing countries in all nations.? Why do we give tax credits to parents with more children rather than expecting those with larger families to pay higher taxes? It is as if no one sees the inherent link between excess population and the climate change crisis.

We don’t even talk about overpopulation as a major issue in the climate change debate. Why don’t we discuss this human carrying capacity issue with any objectivity? Is it simply because we humans consider having children a private and divine right? Well folks such arrogance will be the pied piper leading us to certain catastrophe.


This cartoon Reprinted from "The Reporter" June 2009 published by Population Connection


Gotta take an alternative view on this.

The number of people on the planet clearly cannot rise forever. There truly is a carrying capacity and the resources that remain on the planet cannot support an ever-increasing human population consuming and otherwise exhausting resources at the rate that resources in aggregate are being consumed and otherwise exhausted.

In fact, the number of humans on the planet is on a definite path to max out by about 2040; and only 15 years ago, the max out date was expected to be even further off to 2050 or beyond.

So, population is not "skyrocketing" -- it is increasing at an ever decreasing rate.

The damage being done to this planet is not, in the main, about the number of people, so much as the behavior of a portion of those people. Just as much or more damage could be done with fewer people and less damage could be done with more people.

Thank you Margaret for mentioning the taboo item - overpopulation. I recently followed a presentation called "The Natural Step". This vastly (apparently) known group that offers sustainable solutions to big businesses (we're talking McDonald's, IKEA, etc.) features in its presentation a funnel (http://www.naturalstep.org/en/natural-step-funnel): going "down", a line delimiting "declining resources" and another line going "up" for "increased demand for resources". Though I find the approach very sound, it is only directed to solve one side of the funnel - it's too taboo to talk about the fixing the other side of the funnel...you know which side I am talking about! I believe there is no way we'll ever control births - Europe's economy depends on a system where the younger population feeds the aging population - thus Europe pays women to have more children! Only Germany seems to stand out: Germany recently saw its birth rates drop drastically, especially in the educated, upper class - isn't Germany today the leaders in sustainable practices? I like your ideas...definite food for thought!

Great post on the population taboo, Margaret. I think the cartoon does a pretty good job of summing it up, but I am digging into this topic as much as I can for the documentary I'm producing. Perhaps I'll come up with some additional scientific thinking about this population topic taboo. Meanwhile, I just love the cartoon. Thanks so much for bringing it to my attention. And keep up the good work!

Dave Gardner
Producing the documentary
Hooked on Growth: Our Misguided Quest for Prosperity
Join the cause at http://www.growthbusters.com
See our Population Solution PSA at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XXyyCY5IM6Q&fmt=18