Population biologists Paul R. and Anne Ehrlich have been beating the overcrowding drum for nearly five decades, claiming that the human population's mushrooming size is too large for the continued health of the species and the planet. Now the couple has a new thematic review of the sorry state of our world, and they suggest a plan for how to avoid a total collapse of civilization. The keystone of their argument: Giving women equal rights worldwide is a crucial first step in the preservation of our species.
The key reason is that when women have greater rights, they have fewer children. Rights include ready access to birth control and emergency abortion, but they also include greater access to education and nutrition. This could be a humane way to reduce the world's expected population growth to 8.6 billion rather than 9.6 billion. This will not be a simple task, the authors admit: "After all, there is not a single nation where women are truly treated as equal to men."
Along with that depressing truth, the Ehrlichs dole out a bunch of other doleful facts:
- To continue supporting today's population of seven billion with current standards of living, we would need roughly half an additional planet.
- If everyone on Earth consumed resources the way Americans do, we would need four to five more planets.
- Humanity must keep global warming well below 5 degrees Celsius, which the Ehrlichs call "a level that could well bring down civilization."
- We must forbid antibiotic use in livestock, stockpile drugs and vaccines, and mitigate possible triggers for global conflict.
They also discuss geopolitical problems and the global economy. Relationships among countries are somewhat useless constructs: "The loose network of agreements that now tie countries together, developed in a relatively recent stage of cultural evolution since modern nation states appeared, is utterly inadequate to grapple with the human predicament," they write.
The good news is that technological improvements in agriculture and energy could meet future society demands, the Ehrlichs note. But as Paul Ehrlich told Stanford News, "you can't save the world on hope alone."
The article notes a heady endorsement of all these ideas from Britain's Prince Charles, who is apparently a vocal environmentalist (who knew?) and who discusses the "degradation of Nature's services" in a commentary on his website. "We have to see ourselves as utterly embedded in Nature and not somehow separate from those precious systems that sustain all life," the Prince of Wales wrote.
Despite all the doom and gloom, the Ehrlichs believe humanity is capable of saving itself--if everyone starts trying right now. "Modern society has shown some capacity to deal with long-term threats, at least if they are obvious or continuously brought to attention," they write. The review appears in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
These people are insane. 1000 year ago the world was over populated, 500 years ago the world was over populated. today and tomorrow the world is and will be over populated (unless large numbers die off). With the growth in populations comes the growth in population sustaining technologies.
You know we over fish? Did you know that fishing is one of the last hunter-gather actions we still do? Did you know it is now cheaper to set up fish hatcheries (a farm for fish)?
We know how to take down forests at amazing speed, we can also learn to put them back up just as fast.
We have thousands or more years of technology built to rip off our natural world, it may take a few more to learn to get along with it or even save it.
This article's look is VERY short sighted. In fact it is trying to keep things the same. It is not the same for us as it was 1000 years ago and it will not be the same for us 1000 years from now, get over it. The plot to kill of people and populations never ends well. If you cut births in the US Mexico will own the US in a few years time.
The most basic desires of species is to procreate, to counter this would not be the first time and all those of the past ended badly. You think we are overpopulated or about to be? more people means more people to solve the problems that will come up. Trust me, they will solve them.
well said bro ^^
(Type 0.72) = We are still just cleaver monkeys!
Well said, but what some people believe is they need a crisis to get their agenda done.
According to the very good, but often misunderstood research of John B. Calhoun, over population is, of course, a threat to any species living in a state of over abundance, which doesn't have sufficient roles in that society of all its members and hasn't sufficient space to grow into.
Ehrlich and his ilk distorted the message of Calhoun's work and framed it as an issue of population in relationship to the availability of food. In fact, Calhoun's research suggested it's not food availability that's a primary cause of societal collapse in over populated conditions, because in his experiments, even with sufficient food, test populations collapsed. The big factor was the availability of societal roles for all its members -- Research John B. Calhoun for more details.
All that said it's very important for us to look at the issue of sustainability of a population given the natural resources available, so with that thought in mind, lets examine just how much land area is actually available for uses other than human habitat?
I could spend a lot of time, going country by country, computing population densities in relationship to land area of said country, then average the results on a global scale. Since that would take a lot of time, lets simplify it by looking at the world's 7 billion people on a whole. Now let's assume New York City, with it's population density at 27,012.5/sq mi, is at or near ideal population densities for sustainable human development and progress. Now if you were to take the world's population and then compute the land area necessary to create a huge mega city with the entire world's population living it, just how much land area would that city occupy?
The math for population density is straight forward and simple: Population / land area = population density per land area unit.
So, 7,000,000,000 / 27,012.5/sq mi = 259,139.2874 sq mi, which is roughly the size of Texas at 268,581 sq mi, and that would leave the rest of the planet for food production or any other use we saw fit.
In the end, the Ehrlich argument is specious, and relies on the ignorance... abject ignorance... of the people who subscribe to their thinking, and it turn, the Malthusian world view the Ehrlich's and their ilk prosthelytize only serves to reinforce and insure a coming societal collapse, by making people feel hopeless to the point they withdrawal from being a productive member of society.
Longterm solution of population problems = Colonize outer space. This includes orbital space stations, the Moon, Mars, our solar system, and perhaps beyond in a century or two.
Shorterm solution of population problems = Build deeper into the Earth or build higher.
Of course these are my opinions, but I seriously think expanding into space is a great solution, but is a ways off as we are bound by technological limits.
Some nations are going to disappear in a couple 10-100 years anyway. They don't reproduce enough to sustain themselves. heck, Japan just sold more adult diapers last year than infant.
You're right, people need a crisis.
The point is at the current rate of consumption humans will exhaust the planet of its resources. Can we always find a way to accommodate more and more people? Maybe maybe not. But if you think today's wars over oil have been bad, just wait until the wars over water start. The more resources we use the more expensive it becomes to gather more resources. In the case of water, we have to tap less excess-able aquifers/ aquitards and then move onto oceans or icebergs. Sure the oceans have a lot of water but it takes enormous amounts of energy and money to make the water fresh on a large scale.
Then personally, I know I enjoy having space and freedom. The more people there are the less space I have, the more I have to share, and the less freedom I have. A life packed in a supercity with miniscule living spaces and laws governing every part of your life is not something I want for myself or my children.
They are right that birth rates fall as countries industrialize. Population bottlenecks like india and china need some different solutions. On the hope side, perhaps we can ship an extra half billion or so humans to mars. People forget that the ocean could be colonized too, undersea cities arent beyond the reach of our technology, and are largely immune to tidal waves and earthquakes if properly designed. We aren't overpopulated, the resources are just poorly distributed. Too much is spent on war, darpa , surveillance , anti-terrorism , and too much emphasis is placed on material gain. 10% of the annual US military budget would feed the entire world for a decade. There are no shortages , just a lot of waste. Efficiency is the key to a better world.
People seem to forget that our cushy modern lifestyle has been due to fast economic growth. And economic growth has only 2 main drivers: population growth and productivity increases. Take one away and you're looking at serious economic difficulties.
Most of the people who I know that call for population decrease are the ones who live the high-life that is the most unsustainable under decreasing population.
All species do their best to find a way to thrive. Not just survive, but thrive. Our species happens to be the most intelligent and capable species on the planet, and can most affect its own situation. Humanity will find a way.
Back in the 60's, before people like Norman Borlaug and the Green Revolution, people were fretting that places like India had run out of resources. People were starving to death in droves in places like India. Mothers in the US would tell their kids, "Eat all your dinner, there are starving kids in India." And they were right! Yet, we had the green revolution, and since then the population of India has tripled! In the mean time, India has gone from starvation to actually being a net exporter of wheat. In fact, wheat production is 9 times higher now than in the 60's in India. Humanity will find a way.
As was said above, people need a crisis to push their agenda. But we don't have to actively try to do anything. Things will adjust and change on their own in billions of little ways. Making big changes on the scale of governments often results in many very bad unintended consequences. If the planet really does get to a point where there are too many people, humanity will slowly adjust.
People are natural. Everything we do is natural. Just because we're more advanced than a bird that builds a nest doesn't mean it isn't natural. We need to let nature run its course in terms of trying to affect population control. Governments are simply hindrances to allowing the natural order of things to take care of itself.
bob clemintime said, "But if you think today's wars over oil have been bad, just wait until the wars over water start."
There's that ignorantly formed Malthusian view I was talking about.
Mr. bob clemintime, can you actually name one war over oil?
I bet you can't. I bet what you'd give is a politically inspired list where your actual knowledge goes no deeper than talking points.
There are a list of wars, including World War 2 and recent Middle East conflicts, where one of the casus belli for the war was the unrestricted access and free flow of oil, but I can only think of one war in the last 100 years where one country wanted to take oil from another country, and that was during WW2. At the Battle of Stalingrad Germany fought to take Russia's oil fields, and the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor and across the Pacific were to facilitate the seizure of the oil fields in the South China Seas. You see, Germany and Japan wanted the oil to fuel their war machines, but of course that's not what WW2 was about, yet it played a factor.
As for water, simple economics dictate as water become more scarce, the per unit price of water will increase, and when that per unit price is equal to the ever reducing per unit cost to desalinate ocean water, then that's when it will be economically feasible to extract potable water from the ocean.
Your Malthusian views are illogical... and provably so.
Obviously there is rarely a single reason for a war to take place, but often the primary reason is for more resources. Oil is only on factor albeit often a major one. As is the case for water. I do not claim wars in the future will depend solely on access to fresh water, but I do claim there is a good possibility water will be a large factor in future wars.
As for your economics you are only further supporting my point. Yes as the costs of water go up then things such as desalination make economic sense. There are large desalination plants in Australia today. What is your point? Is still costs a lot more to desalinate water then it does to take water from most aquifers. If Australia did not have to money to pay for the water desalination then it would not matter if it makes economic sense. And water being a resource critical to human survival, people are forced to take action so that they can drink. Maybe other more wealthy people/ countries would pay for it, but if not what would they do? What you do if you needed water to drink but did not have the money to pay for it?
Animals do not consume more than they need. The Neanderthals were largely unchanged for 150,000 years, and then comes along our comic friends that need resources from Earth. Eventually they got tired of doing all the digging and thought hey lets tweak these humans’ genes to be a little wiser and gather for us. This is all written down thousands of years from the GODS who made humans and then finally educated them. This history is taught to the Sumerians.
So with our tweaked DNA what do humans do after the GODS\Aliens above have left, we gather and consume all we can, concurring to gather more and more, use our extra smart to gather, concur and continue the exploration, all for the built tweak program we have in our DNA that sets us apart from the animals.
This enhancement to our DNA will consume Earth, over populate Earth and pollute Earth to our final doom. This desire is program in our genes and we cannot stop ourselves.
The only thing that will save us, if the GODS return and resume control of our future and the Earth, otherwise humans existence will end with ever wanting\gathering\desiring till our doom!
To respond to the Ehrlich's latest diatribe and point out where they are wrong is to dignify it as having merit. Paul Ehrlich's pronouncements and predictions have been famously proved wrong so many times in so many ways he is on the verge of becoming a verb, like "borked" (ehrliched?), or an adjective like "malthusian." Ehrlich's malthusian view of humanity borks progress. I offer this contribution to the modern lexicon: ehrlicher - a person who is serially and unapologetically wrong despite overwhelming evidence of his wrongness. Most people learn from their mistakes. Ehrlichers do not.
In addition, in case I was being unclear, I believe the human population can continue to grow (perhaps almost indefinitely), but the negative things that may happen because of untamed population growth are unwanted.
Finally, I am no economist, but I think that the past trend in GDP growth through population increase may not continue due to the increasing presence of robots and their ability to do more and more jobs that a human can.
Pray to Annunaki or the GODS to be saved. And remember, some of the GODS are bad too. Pick the right one to pray too. ;)
By the way, I am for societal female empowerment and equality!
I'm not really seeing where reducing global conflict is going to reduce over population, in fact common sense would have the argument going the other direction.
I'm all for equal rights for women though, I'm just saying, saying reducing global conflict will reduce overpopulation is a pretty asinine statement to make.
We're not going to consume less, we're going to consume more, much more, people always want more, it's normal. Everything will be eaten, and resources used and reused. Only science can help, we have to reach into space else we'll eat each other in a barren planet. I think the recent frantic search for habitable planets is also the search for a solution, although I pity the inhabitants of some of the planets we'll eventually choose.
The Ehrlichs and their followers are a bunch of simpletons. Women have had equal rights for at least the past 50 years in every modern country. The only societies where women are still treated as second-class citizens are those with Islamic theocracies.
In fact, in the US, women currently have legal and civil rights above and beyond those of US males. In the US, according to federal law, women receive preferential consideration when it comes to employment, financial benefits, etc. It is also rather pathetic for the author to claim that women having ready access to free abortion or birth control is a major factor in earth's long-term survival. It would cost humanity nothing if women would finally decide to assume personal responsibility for their actions, and decide to keep their knickers on.
After reading the article I am sure that “Population biologists Paul R. and Anne Ehrlich” should be quite satisified with the situation in Europe.
In Germany a law is being debated in the government that will require the companies listed on the DAX stock exchange to have their top management positions consist of 20% women. If they do not meet this quote by a certain time, they get fined.
Also, the birth rate in Germany (and all over Europe) is well below replacement level.
“Demographics and family policy experts are divided over the reasons for the apparent reluctance to have children, as well as the ways to tackle the situation. What they generally agree on is that Germany's demographic future looks gloomy. With many more Germans dying than being born for 40 years, the obvious results will be a shrinking workforce, lower growth and a struggle to pay for a rapidly ageing population. Britain's population is forecast to exceed that of Germany by 2040. “
Isn't it pretty arrogant to say "it will fix itself like it always have". I'm pretty sure there are people outside your western bubble that would already disagree with you. The world is already over populated, we are living on borrowed time.
When i listen on the discussions here it sounds like a lot of white western males yelling "it's allll OK!".
-I dont want to live on this planet anymore
Sure giving all women rights and opportunities equal to men would help slow global population growth. All you have to do is fundamentally change the cultures of several billion people, including the women themselves. Easy.
Birth rate has nothing to do with women rights. Nations where people have no social security and where child mortality is high have the highest birth rate. Start paying them retirement money and make medicine awailable for everybody, and they will stop making kids. But this will not reduce global consumption of resources. The problem is that most of resourses produced in the world are consumed by little fraction of world population. And this gluttonous population has already very low birth rate.
Fix itself? what?... Western males saying "it all OK!"??. You need to open your eyes. You have misunderstood me or more precisely, you failed to even note me from some person in your head.
You may see too many people, but that is just because you don't want to see them.
Ehrlich's statements conflict with reality.
"....The key reason is that when women have greater rights, they have fewer children. Rights include ready access to birth control and emergency abortion, but they also include greater access to education and nutrition....After all, there is not a single nation where women are truly treated as equal to men."
Women in the US have full access to taxpayer-funded birth control and abortion. US women actually have greater civil rights than US men, and under federal EEOC laws they receive preferential treatment over men in employment and educational opportunities. As for US women with children, the US legal system has long given preference to the mother over the father in matters of custody or financial support.
Lastly, regarding educational opportunity, I'm a single male with no children, but I'm forced by the state government of California to hand over 10% of my annual income that mostly goes to pay for the education of children of single women.