Let’s Talk About Population

This is the elephant in the room. This is the taboo subject that even most environmentalists won’t discuss. And yet, all of the other severe problems facing humanity stem from this one issue. We may discuss carbon footprint, but not the number of feet. We may discuss the risk of thermonuclear war but not the population pressure that increases both the size and severity of warfaring. We may discuss poverty and starvation but not the fact that reducing population automatically reduces poverty.

Please join in the Global Population Speak Out.

Why is it that we can discuss all of the symptoms of severe human overpopulation but not the root cause?

Is it religion? That is certainly an issue. There’s the misunderstanding in thinking that god said “be fruitful and multiply” when what s/he really said was “be useful and multiplex”. OK, I’m joking on this last bit, of course, being an atheist.

However, religion is probably not the whole picture. People are horrified by China’s one-child-per-family law. Even people who are not religious are often horrified by this. Even I have strong feelings against it and am an atheist and misanthrope. There has to be a better way. Right?

Of course, right.

However, in order to have a rational discourse on how to reduce human population in even the free societies of the world, we must actually start with a discussion. As yet, this is not happening. We still consider the entire topic to be taboo. If we do not discuss this topic and work toward peacefully and voluntarily finding ways to limit human population, it will be limited for us … and with a tremendous amount of pain and suffering.

Already, we have seen the world’s first Malthusian conflict, in Rwanda. Though this is controversial, it is the opinion of a mainstream, Pulitzer Prize winning anthropologist.

Already, we have seen the first climate change conflict, in Darfur. Though this too is an opinion, it is the opinion of the Secretary General of the United Nations. Climate change is not technically a problem of overpopulation. However, is there a reader out there who thinks that climate change would be an issue today if there were just 6 million people on the planet rather than 6 billion? Perhaps.

Perhaps I should avoid getting too sidetracked on climate change, however. The main topic of this post is still overpopulation.

So, who out there can name a major problem facing humanity as a whole today that would still be a major problem if the global human population were 6 million people instead of 6 billion?

Good luck. And, please talk about overpopulation with your friends and family. We need to make this a normal and mainstream topic for discussion.

And, if you’re considering breeding, please take the following test to see whether your intelligence level qualifies you.

Semi-Humorous Pre-Breeding IQ Test

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16 Responses to Let’s Talk About Population

  1. Misanthropic Scott talking about population control, people are going to start getting ideas about you.

    the china situation is a tricky one. Their policy of one child per family way regarded as a big breach of human rights by most people as far as I can tell. China is dealing with a n over population of males due to families favoring a boy over a girl for their only child.That being said, when they bumped the number up to two I had to groan a little. China is already the biggest country on the planet, and they have just given given way to, even encouraged the doubling of their birth rate.

    The problem with population control, birth control really, is that it is counter intuitive to most people. Just as we know over-eating is unhealthy it doesn’t stop people from hurting them selves. Why then could we hope to have voluntary action from enough people to cope with a problem well outside any ones immediate concern.

    More importantly its a deeply rooted instinct to both have kids, and to have empathy for those around us. Books like “Among the Hidden” depict the evils of population control by showing us the life of some one who “wasn’t supposed to exist”. Who are we to say that those potential people do not have a right to live? As illogical as this is, it may well be the root of emotional response to the issue.

    Lets face it, nature wouldn’t be where it is now if it were easy to stop a species from reproducing rapidly.

    • Misanthropic Scott talking about population control, people are going to start getting ideas about you.

      That and my views on religion and several other key topics are indeed why I blog anonymously.

      I agree with your point on China. I don’t know the right answer there. Infanticide is not something I advocate, nor is forced birth control. However, as the largest country in the world, and one with a government capable of starting such a regulation, it is a bit difficult to watch them go back on it. I have very mixed feelings about that.

      As for human instinct, I think I’m going to disagree with you on that one. An instinct is something we can’t overcome even on the individual level, like blinking. You may or may not have noticed my golden snip award on the right hand side. I, for one, am able to change my breeding behavior (or was able to do so before I finalized my decision). So, it can’t be a true human instinct unless I’m not truly human.

      Regarding empathy for the unborn/unconceived, my empathy goes as far as to imagine that I have given my children the greatest possible gift, that of non-existence. It will not be my children living through the time of the great human die-off, its associated huge reduction in population, and the pain that will come of it given our lack of any action directed at making it a voluntary occurrence.

      As for stopping reproduction, another option is a predator capable of reducing our numbers. Thus far, the best evolutionary possibilities for this appear to be extremely painful viruses and tremendous suffering. Famine, drought, sea level rise, and a number of other environmental catastrophes may also end up doing their share if we’re not careful … and thus far, we’re not.

      Funny how voluntary population reduction is a much happier topic than all of the alternatives. Would that we could learn to act on such knowledge.

      • Blinking is a reflex, sex is an instinct. Instincts can be overridden easily if one so decides, none the less one has to desire to do so.

        The point I’m trying to make is that voluntary birth control would be a lot more acceptable than government mandated population control. But that it is also a lot less likely to be widely implemented.

        that all being said, I’m a firm believer in finding the smarter approach. An interesting idea is that urbanization, having more of the population in cities rather than in subsistence rural or farming areas, lends its self well to lowering the birth rate.

        http://www.ted.com/talks/stewart_brand_proclaims_4_environmental_heresies.html

  2. H says:

    Educate the women. I’m not sure if it’s correlation or causation, but more education equates to smaller families.

    Of course, it’d probably help to raise the standard of living for most of the population of my planet.

    • The correlation between education and birthrate is some what discussed in that link to TED I put in my last comment. families in underdeveloped areas tend to have more children to help take care of the family.I think the reasoning is simply that families in developed regions, which you would need for education, need fewer kids for income.

  3. Tod & H,

    Should we also discuss that with the exception of the fact that children are actually not goods at all that they otherwise behave as inferior goods? As we make more money, most of us tend to buy fewer hot dogs. This is an example of inferior goods. Normal goods are those that as we make more money, we want more of them.

    Children are not truly goods. However, children do indeed have a negative correlation with income level. And, though we don’t talk about buying children, they sure as hell cost a lot of money. So, are children inferior goods? If not, they should stop acting like them.

  4. I wasn’t really planning on having kids (and I swear I was born without a biological clock, although I had an active sex life – still do), I was satisfied with my life and husband and my career in medical genetics. When I had my first daughter, and then my second 18 months later, we decided to limit our children to 2. Husband set up the appointment for his vasectomy. He was all set to go, took the day off work, and was about to go to get his vasectomy, only we found out his doctor made a mistake and was on vacation.

    We ended up getting pregnant that night with our third daughter. We were both surprised about that but felt that she was meant to happen. The very next month he got snipped.

    Our daughters are very conscientious children, and very bright, having a former scientist for a mother and an mechanical engineer for a father who works for a large metal recycling company. Perhaps our children will be able to contribute some good in the world. I don’t regret having my daughters, they are awesome little people and are already environmentally and socially conscious. Perhaps they will help change the world and make it a better place. Or maybe they’ll just go on to have babies. Who knows. Not I. That will be their judgment call to make.

    I do agree that overpopulation is a huge problem… though, I do believe nature will always find ways of limiting the population (disease, natural disaster) or we will just blow ourselves up and it won’t matter anymore.

    Have you ever watched the very bad movie called Idiocracy? So the intelligent people elected to not add to the overpopulation of the world by not having kids. But the unintelligent people did not feel the same way and multiplied. By the year 2025, the world was run by, well idiots. It was supposed to be funny, but it really was repulsive. So, yeah, only all the intelligent people stop having babies, we are going to have a problem eventually.

    As far as my religious “beliefs” go, I’m really a skeptic…not particularly religious, but I’m not a disbeliever either. Here’s where I fall back on something I learned as a forensic scientist: The absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence.

    Just my 2 cents…

    Thanks for commenting on my blog by the way.

    Casey

  5. Hi Casey,

    Yes. Nature will limit our population. IMNSHO though, if we let natural resource limits govern our population rather than doing so proactively, it will cause a tremendous amount of unnecessary suffering both in humans and the other species with whom we share this planet.

    As for Idiocracy, I saw it based on a recommendation by Neil deGrasse Tyson during an introduction to a lecture at the Hayden Planetarium.

    In my opinion, the movie had an excellent premise based on what we actually are seeing in the world today. They even did an excellent job on the first N minutes of it where they showed the interviews with people in the present day.

    As soon as they cut to the future, it’s time to turn that movie off immediately though. Wow did they make a really bad movie out of a really good premise.

    For anyone else reading this, netflix the movie, watch until they cut to the future, then turn it off, unless you like really amazingly stupid humor.

    Regardless of the movie, or whether you think that stupid people really are outbreeding smart ones today (and I do, at least in the U.S.), that doesn’t mean that the answer is for smart people to breed more.

    Perhaps Casey, your daughters will solve the problems of the world. Obviously my children will not. However, I take the attitude that if my own genetics have not been right for solving the problems of the world, I do not see why I would expect that my hypothetical children’s genetics would.

    I also don’t really want my children to have to deal with the problems of today’s world that I see as quite dramatic and immediate. I often wonder whether I will get to live out my own life expectancy before the fecal matter collides with the oscillating rotary turbulence generator.

  6. Yes, I agree, after the first N minutes, the movie was quite atrocious. I never did finish it, that’s how repulsed by it I was.

    I really don’t want my children to have to deal with the problems of today’s world either. The only comfort I take is that every generation had it’s share of problems. When I was growing up, it was the cold war, nuclear arms race and the threat of WWIII which was more of a imminent threat.

    The world is going to hell in a handbasket, that is for sure. We are going to die…either by disease or by getting hit by a bus or by doing something stupid on a grand scale.

    But humans are just getting complacent. Such is the nature of the life cycle of civilizations.

    “The average age of the world’s great civilizations has been 200 years. These nations have progressed through this sequence:
    1. from bondage to spiritual faith;

    2. from spiritual faith to great courage;

    3. from courage to liberty;

    4. from liberty to abundance;

    5. from abundance to complacency;

    6. from complacency to apathy;

    7. from apathy to dependence;

    8. from dependence back into bondage”

    We are in about stage 6-7.

    I think a good solution is for all the people older than say, 60-70 get pushed off a steep cliff (because of the cost of keeping them healthy once they start declining in health), all murderers get lethal injections, and all sex offenders get sterilized after their first offense, and legalize drugs and make them taxable and if people want to become addicted to drugs and OD on them, make it easier to do so. That way we can free up some resources, ya know?

    I wouldn’t mind some limits to how many children family’s can have. I am pretty irked about how the Duggar’s can justify having what, 19 kids. That’s just ridiculous.

    As far as my kids go…I see them doing some good for the world, but that’s because I’m raising them to think of others besides themselves. They already are very helpful around school, with their teachers and especially with their special need’s friends. When they get a little older, we’ll start looking for more active ways they can volunteer and make a difference. No reason why they can’t help work on some of the world’s problems while they are young. Perhaps it’ll only be a drop in the bucket, but it will be something, you know?

    Casey

  7. Hi Casey,

    I don’t personally believe spiritual faith is a requirement for civilization. Nor do I agree that a lack of civilization implies bondage. For 95% of the history of humanity we had far greater freedom living in the way for which we evolved, without having the food locked away by the powers that be. During that time, the degradation we were causing to the planet was still significant but far lower than today. The causes of environmental damage, as described by the HIPPO acronym were exactly reversed in the order of priority from where they are today. Today’s order is:

    Habitat destruction
    Invasive species
    Population growth
    Pollution
    Over-consumption

    For the 190,000 of our 200,000 years on the planet, over-consumption/over-harvesting was the biggest cause of environmental problems, largely extinction.

    Agriculture has changed the order significantly, especially the totalitarian agriculture we practice today, where virtually no arable land is left for nature and other species than ourselves or the species on whom we directly depend.

    It is only within the last 100 years, and even then, only in first world nations, where we have finally achieved and exceeded the life expectancy that we had as hunter-gatherers, which was typically around 65, barring death by tribal warfare or the odd unfortunate encounter with wildlife.

    This is not to say that the hunter-gatherer lifestyle was idyllic, merely that it was the lifestyle for which we evolved. We are still struggling with many of the problems of the agrarian lifestyle, not the least of which is that cheap and largely empty calories have given us abundant, though poorly fed humans.

    The other problem with your statement is that you are likely not considering the fact that this time, the civilization is global. When civilizational collapse happens in the near future, if you are correct about where we are today, and you likely are, it will be a global catastrophe rather than a local one.

    What will happen to the world’s tremendous population in the wake of global civilizational collapse? When the small green (and other colored) pieces of paper stop moving around the planet both physically and electronically, the goods and services they represent will also stop moving around the planet.

    The meal I eat in New York made of California vegetables, Chilean Fruit, midwestern corn, beef, and chicken, and other foods shipped or flown around the world will no longer be possible. If we can reduce our population voluntarily, perhaps we can hold onto our civilization with our smaller numbers and resultant smaller environmental impact. If we let the finite resources of our planet dictate our population for us, it will be extremely painful getting to a sustainable population. And, if we do so voluntarily before the total collapse, that sustainable population may be much higher than the population that we can sustain in the near total desolation of a severe environmental collapse.

    As for old people, I’ve tried to do the research, but it’s very difficult to get hard numbers. I strongly suspect that the total amount of society’s resources (private and public) to get a person from retirement to the grave is lower than the amount of resources to get a child from conception to productive member of society. If I’m correct (and I’m not sure either way) then a slowly declining population would actually be in better economic and environmental shape than one in which we have a slowly increasing population.

    Certainly, regardless of this consideration for the short term, infinite population growth on a finite planet is an obvious impossibility.

    You say that you would accept limits on how many children a family can have. What limit would you and your 3 daughters and your 9 granddaughters and 27 great granddaughters and 81 great great granddaughters accept? Would you accept a limit of one or two? What level do you find to be unacceptably high?

    I’m sorry to be a bit harsh. I tried not to be in my first reply to you and am still attempting to tone this down a bit from where my misanthropic mind really wants to take the topic, believe it or not. However, something in some of the things you say after having had above the replacement number of children, vaguely reminds me of this article from The Onion.

    We Must Preserve The Earth’s Dwindling Resources For My Five Children

    Yes. I do realize you are far more environmentally conscious than the fictional family in The Onion’s article. I also know that those of us who care must band together to take action. It just sounds a bit hypocritical for you to be talking about killing off old people so that your three daughters will have enough resources. Forgive me for being a bit harsh. But, it does sound a bit odd to be throwing away human rights, including the right to live out one’s life to the best of one’s ability, the right too a fair trial (the biggest problem with the death penalty has been its horrifically unfair implementation), and others to free up resources so that your three daughters can have enough resources to live out their lives, at least to the age of 60 or so.

  8. Hey, I’m a willing student. Thanks for the information. I learned something new today.

    I’m also not easily offended, nor easily riled. I have my children, I don’t plan on un-doing them or feeling guilty for having them. Perhaps my children might elect not to have children, perhaps they might be infertile. Who knows. Not I. My mother had 5 children, we have 11 children between us.

    I am glad for my nieces and nephews. I don’t particularly need a long life, just long enough to see my children to adulthood.

    We will destroy this earth and perhaps painfully so. I’m not particularly wasting my energy being terribly anxious about it. I’ll let you carry that burden.

    What I can do is teach my daughters to be conscientious, and do their part to help where they can for as long as they are able to. Beyond that, I really don’t have much control. I’m not losing sleep over it. I spent too much of my life doing that.

    Thanks for the conversation, I’ll be bowing out now.

    Best wishes.

  9. Hi Casey,

    I’m glad you’re not easily offended as offense was not my intent. I certainly didn’t mean to suggest the possibility of retroactive abortion on your daughters.

    I merely wanted to point out that when you suggest extremes like a Logan’s Run type scenario where people are killed at a particular age, that it sounds a bit hypocritical from someone with 3 kids.

    Personally, I don’t suggest such things even without having any. In general, the tried and proven method of population reduction is to educate women and get them into the work force. This often reduces birth rates from on the order of six births per thousand women per year to two in developing nations.

    However, we must also do some things that will offend the religiose among us, obviously yourself not included in that crowd, such as ensuring that once women have some education that they also have access to birth control.

    So, while I sometimes joke about implementing the death penalty for parking violations or littering, it is just a joke, at least for parking violations.

  10. As far as me being hypocritical, yes I probably am. I know enough to know I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about sometimes. ;)

    That being said, I’m not joking about implementing the death penalty for murderers or sterilization or even castration for rapists. I worked in forensics for 5 years and I have seen MANY repeat offenders. Obviously, our current system is NOT much of a deterrent.

    As far as a Logan’s run type of scenario, I honestly wouldn’t mind keeling over and making room for the next generation when I’m about say, 60 or 70. My own grandparents have lived into their 90s. I’m telling you, the last 10-15 years had been one long series of hospital visits and medication adjustments and heart surgeries and stroke therapy and diabetes monitoring. What’s the quality of life there?

    At any rate, it’s been a pleasure chatting.

    best wishes.

  11. We’re all hypocrites to varying degrees. I doubt anyone could truly reconcile everything in their brain without any inconsistencies.

    I have a number of problems with the death penalty, including but not limited to:

    1) Unfair implementations either based on defendants’ or victims’ race or economic status. There’s a lot of this.
    2) It’s not a deterrent either. Many people given life without parole request the death penalty and are disappointed that they can’t get it. More to the point, few people really think about the penalty when considering their crimes. Most are in the heat of the moment.
    3) It costs a lot more. Death penalty trials are so much more tedious, as they should be, that the trial costs more than keeping the person in jail for life. Besides, with the duration of time on death row, it probably doesn’t even cut much time from the sentence.
    4) Mistakes mistakes mistakes. One innocent person put to death outweighs a lot of criminals executed. Is Texas about to execute another innocent man?

    As for voluntary, doctor assisted euthanasia, I couldn’t agree more. We treat our pets better than we treat our parents. Anyone who has told their children that they had to “put the dog or cat to sleep because s/he was suffering” was either lying like a rug or is treating their pet better than we treat out parents and grandparents and other terminally ill patients in the U.S.

    It’s unconscionable.

    BTW, diabetes monitoring is not a big deal. Complications can be a very big deal. But, I’ve been monitoring since 1988 and plan to do so until death or an artificial pancreas obviates the need.

  12. ProfBob says:

    I find in reading those sites that say that population problems are a myth that their evidence is very sparse and inconclusive. Recently I read Book 1 of the free e-book series “In Search of Utopia” (http://andgulliverreturns.info), it blasts their lack of evidence relative to their calling overpopulation a myth. The book, actually the last half of the book, takes on the skeptics in global warming, overpopulation, lack of fresh water, lack of food, and other areas where people deny the evidence. I strongly suggest that anyone wanting to see the whole picture read the book, at least the last half.
    The outdated fertility replacement rate of 2.1 is also clarified.

  13. Thanks for the info ProfBob. That looks like a very good read. I’ll give it a try.

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