When it comes to controversial issues, population is in a class by itself.

Advocates and activists working to reduce global population growth and size are attacked by the Left for supposedly ignoring human-rights issues, glossing over Western overconsumption, or even seeking to reduce the number of people of color. They are attacked by the Right for supposedly favoring widespread abortion, promoting promiscuity via sex education, or wanting to harm economic growth. Others think the problem has been solved, or believe that the real problem is that we have a shortage of people (the so-called “birth dearth”). Still others think the population problem will solve itself, or that technological innovations will make our numbers irrelevant.

One thing is certain: The planet and its resources are finite, and it cannot support an infinite population of humans or any other species.

A second thing is also certain: The issue of population is too important to avoid just because it is controversial.



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From the Post Carbon Institute/Watershed Media Book:

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The Post Carbon Reader

Managing the 21st Century’s Sustainability Crises

Edited by Richard Heinberg and Daniel Lerch

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about The Post Carbon Reader

How do population, water, energy, food, and climate issues impact one another? What can we do to address one problem without making the others worse? The Post Carbon Reader features essays by some of the world’s most provocative thinkers on the key issues shaping our new century, from renewable energy and urban agriculture to social justice and community resilience. This insightful collection takes a hard-nosed look at the interconnected threats of our global sustainability quandary and presents some of the most promising responses.

Contributors to The Post Carbon Reader are some of the world's leading sustainability thinkers, including Bill McKibben, Richard Heinberg, Stephanie Mills, David Orr, Wes Jackson, Erika Allen, Gloria Flora, and dozens more.

Published by Watershed Media
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Reader Comments


Thank you for this

From: Jennifer, Sep 24, 10 12:20 PM

I blogged a little while ago about how stupid it was that we were dickering about which was more of a problem, overpopulation or overconsumption. Clearly both are major problems, and closely linked, too. I'd like to see some incentives for first worlders to have fewer kids as well as continued efforts to educate everyone and provide easy, affordable access to dependable contraception.

Overpopulation is the REAL Issue!

From: G, Sep 22, 10 12:39 PM

I do not think that it is unfortunate that I agree with you. I have been wondering if anyone was going to wake up and smell the coffee.

Conservation and recycling will not save this planet. Many of our resources will not replenish themselves; they are just consumed and will be gone for millions of years, if they are recreated at all.

If you start out a dinner party with 5 people and 6 steaks, there is plenty. If, over the course of the evening, the number of attendees increases exponentially every hour, no matter how much you cut up the steak, you will run out of food.

When it comes to our resources, you can't hop on out to the store and buy more.

Our planet was not meant to sustain the numbers of people that currently live on it today. We are dipping into capital.

When it's gone; it's gone.

Although I’m a man,

From: Gio, Sep 20, 10 12:11 PM

Although I’m a man, quite in its standard and consequently a male chauvinist, I have to agree with Sandy…..unfortunately.

Issues more basic than population

From: Dan Robinson, Sep 4, 10 09:45 PM

As a species, we've been so successful that we feel we're beyond nature, beyond the need to follow its laws. It's built into our memes to be over-confident, since we hear more from those who have survived well in past crises, telling us that we can do it also. We hear less or not at all from those who didn't do so well. In fact survivors among the latter may encourage us to go beyond our abilities to bring us down to their level. I try to look at both ends of the spectrum of imagined futures, utopias and oblivions.

Women and Overpopulation

From: Sandi, Aug 31, 10 09:06 PM

There is one factor in this controversy no one ever thinks of or discusses, not even you. It has been proven that the quickest way to reduce population growth is to educate women and elevate their status.

In the meantime, the number of slaves world wide is greater than any time in the history of humankind, most being women.