Addressing Over-Population as Climate Change’s Root Cause
Over-population's key role in causing climate change [ark] is again emerging as a central component of the debate on global warming solutions [search]. Too many people, many of which consume to dreadful excess while others live on $1 a day, are the root cause of virtually every global ecological crisis [search] including food and energy. I agree with Paul Ehrlich and James Lovelock that “we have grown in number to the point where our presence is perceptibly disabling the planet like a disease.”
Seven billion people now, when a bit over a century ago there was one billion — and each needing to be fed, housed, and clothed — and virtually the whole world embracing democratic conspicuous consumption as the way of life. How could this not possibly be the root cause of ecosystem loss [search], ocean dead zones [search], scarce water [search] and an increasingly inoperable atmosphere? And of course, one American is equal to the environmental destruction of many in the not-yet-over-developed world, as it is not just raw numbers, but aggregate consumption (population x per capita consumption) that matters in terms of resource over-use and resultant ecosystem loss.
Thankfully common sense is finally breaking through social taboo, and discussion regarding how to stop and reverse population growth is once again central to efforts to achieve ecological sustainability. The fact that dire famine and death predicted from Malthus [search] to the Population Bomb [search] have not yet happened globally (but are well along regionally in Haiti, Darfur and elsewhere), because of technologies that have delayed the inevitable while ensuring the collapse will be all the more severe, does not mean people and inequitable consumption can grow forever. Indeed, in a world of ecological overshoot, if any of us and life itself is to survive, there is no such thing as the right to have a baby [ark].
It is absolutely crucial that population controls [search] that respect human rights are embraced immediately, with a goal to shrink the human population over a few generations to one billion — the best estimate of human numbers that can live well forever. We know what works: educating women, free contraception and community advancement. Much more can be done to promote one and two children families including tax incentives and preferential access to education and social services. This will ensure a long-term future full of plenty for the human family, and anything less will assuredly ensure the population bubble bursts hailing in apocalyptic global ecological collapse [search].