An Existential Crisis

Jun 10th, 2011 | By | Category: Youth Blog


There is an issue in environmental education that is not usually discussed as much, but it is very important. I consider it to be the core of the crisis humanity is facing. The issue is population. Five hundred years ago, before the Global Era, the world population was just a few hundred million. Two hundred years ago, the population of the world was one billion. Now, it is nearing seven billion. It is due to the globalization which started five hundred years ago. With food resources from all places being distributed around the world, and developments in healthcare and nutrition, (happening along the past two hundred years), world population is increasing rapidly on a gigantic scale. The rate of population throughout most of human history before the global era has been stable. Before the invention of agriculture, humans were somewhere below five million for hundreds of thousands of years. With the invention of agriculture, the population grew a little faster until it reached a few hundred million people worldwide at the beginning of the global era. It is quite obvious that the new population rate means catastrophe for our planet.

Sure, certain human activities like throwing plastic into the oceans, emitting pollutants into the air, and spraying toxic pesticides is harmful to the environment, but if the world population was two billion, one billion, or hundreds of millions right now, and they all still did it, such human activities would not harm the planet much. That is, consumption  (consumption of plastic results in its discarding into the planet, for example) is as big as the population, and would be smaller if the population was smaller, leading to less environmental damage.

Even non toxic, normal human activities like eating animals and causing deforestation, which has been happening throughout human history, damages the environment today far more than it did historically due to over population. The biggest problem of overpopulation is caused by our distinct habits of consuming resources so we may survive better.

Don’t get me wrong when I say that overpopulation is underestimated in media and environmental literature, including that of children. It is labeled a huge issue in environmental debate. But, while we all talk about how to help the environment by conserving paper, imposing bans on hunting endangered animals, trying to create reusable and clean energy, etc., etc., we don’t talk that much about ways to counter the population problem. There is probably one simple explanation; there is no legitimate solution acceptable to all stake holders in society. A fascists mind would want to reduce a population by killing a large section of it. A scientific mind would choose something medicinal to artificially reduce the number of children a couple could otherwise have. A religious mind would find such a method against the will of God, therefore horrible.  However, it is equally horrible to have the world population growing until everybody in the world starts to starve due to lack of resources, like sub-Saharan Africans.

Environmental lobbyists should take on the project of curbing world population in two phases. In Phase One, they should spread awareness about the horrible consequences to the planet if the world population is not curbed. In Phase Two, they should make the birth control methods available in every nook and corner of the planet. The world population is growing at a rapid rate. We must either try to keep it at its present rate, or try to lower it. If we don’t act decisively now, human population would ultimately become catastrophically large. Right now, a population of over six billion people, with its accompanying activity, is already harmful for the planet. If we don’t try to control the rate of population with rational methods now, in the future, the attempts to do so might become increasingly violent.

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