Thursday, July 12, 2012

Over Population is Key to Understanding Our World

DATA DRIVEN VIEWPOINT: Over population is the elephant in the room than nobody talks about. Take most any crisis we face today, shrink it by 3 or 4 billion people and the problem goes away. Global population has doubled, and just about doubled again in my lifetime. It has fundamentally altered everything. It's been estimated that there are as many people alive today as have ever lived before. Given our reproductive success as a species, it is easy to forget that population constrain is an unavoidable force of nature. Every species that ever was or ever will be is brought into natures balance. This WILL happen to humans with or without our planning. If we don't take responsibility for a sustainable world the natural consequence could include human extinction. Natural consequences are seldom humane. Our intelligence has made us successful up till now, but if we don't apply our ability to reason on this problem we won't look so smart in the future. (selected reading below)

In the time it takes you to read this post there will be 2,000 more people in the world.

Graph of human population from 10,000 BC – 2,000 AD showing the unprecedented population growth since the 19th century


Work to curb world overpopulation must begin now

Published July 11, 2012

Tuesday morning, the world’s population stood at 7,025,367,636. Some believe that’s already a billion more than the planet can ultimately sustain, but the number is growing annually by 80 million people.

At that rate – about 9,100 new people per hour – the world population increases by roughly the size of Thurston County [Washington State] every day.

This morning, in London, on World Population Day, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation brought world leaders together to kick off a $4 billion fundraising campaign to provide contraceptives for 120 million women who do not have access to birth control, all of them in the poorest countries.  [snip]

One thing all humans on this planet need to survive is resources. Resources like food and water are bare essentials for life. The countries that are experiencing the highest growth rates are all developing countries, with the exception of the United States. This countries lack the technology that other developed countries have and therefore things we consider basic they have never used. We watch our televisions everyday while they may have never seen a TV before. They also lack the basics that we take for granted like indoor plumbing. Some countries water supply is the same as their sewage. India has one of the fastest growing populations in the world and the Ganges River shows their lack of resources available to the people of India. The Ganges is one of the most polluted rivers in the world.  It supports over 400 million people with a population density of 1,000 people per square mile. India is an example of developing country that has a rise in its population growth rate. It cannot support its population now, many of the people in India are forced to bathe in the Ganges because they have no access to any other water source. If this population continues to grow the river will continue to get more and more polluted making it unsafe for the millions of people that rely on it. This is not the only place in the world that the larger populations are supported by limited resources. Along with the people in India relying on the Ganges over three fifths of people in developing countries lack basic sanitation, one third have no access to clean water, and a quarter lack adequate housing.   [snip]

The World's New Numbers

by Martin Walker
“Here lies Europe, overwhelmed by Muslim immigrants and emptied of native-born Europeans,” goes the standard pundit line, but neither the immigrants nor the Europeans are playing their assigned roles.
Something dramatic has happened to the world’s birthrates. Defying predictions of demographic decline, northern Europeans have started having more babies. Britain and France are now projecting steady population growth through the middle of the century. In North America, the trends are similar. In 2050, according to United Nations projections, it is possible that nearly as many babies will be born in the United States as in China. Indeed, the population of the world’s current demographic colossus will be shrinking. And China is but one particularly sharp example of a widespread fall in birthrates that is occurring across most of the developing world, including much of Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. The one glaring exception to this trend is sub-Saharan Africa, which by the end of this century may be home to one-third of the human race.
The human habit is simply to project current trends into the future. Demographic realities are seldom kind to the predictions that result. The decision to have a child depends on innumerable personal considerations and larger, unaccountable societal factors that are in constant flux. Yet even knowing this, demographers themselves are often flummoxed. Projections of birthrates and population totals are often embarrassingly at odds with eventual reality.
In 1998, the UN’s “best guess” for 2050 was that there would be 8.9 billion humans on the planet. Two years later, the figure was revised to 9.3 billion—in effect, adding two Brazils to the world. The number subsequently fell and rose again. Modest changes in birthrates can have bigger consequences over a couple of generations: The recent rise in U.S. and European birthrates is among the developments factored into the UN’s latest “middle” projection that world population in 2050 will be just over 9.1 billion.
In a society in which an average woman bears 2.1 children in her lifetime—what’s called “replacement-level” fertility—the population remains stable. When demographers make tiny adjustments to estimates of future fertility rates, population projections can fluctuate wildly. Plausible scenarios for the next 40 years show world population shrinking to eight billion or growing to 10.5 billion. A recent UN projection rather daringly assumes a decline of the global fertility rate to 2.02 by 2050, and eventually to 1.85, with total world population starting to decrease by the end of this century.
Despite their many uncertainties, demographic projections have become an essential tool. Governments, international agencies, and private corporations depend on them in planning strategy and making long-term investments. They seek to estimate such things as the number of pensioners, the cost of health care, and the size of the labor force many years into the future. But the detailed statistical work of demographers tends to seep out to the general public in crude form, and sensationalist headlines soon become common wisdom.
 [snip]  Go to Full text PDF available here.


The world’s human population doubled from 1 to 2 billion between 1800 and 1930, and then doubled again by 1975. At the end of October 2011, it surpassed 7 billion. This staggering increase and the massive consumption it drives are overwhelming the planet’s finite resources. We’ve already witnessed the devastating effects of overpopulation on biodiversity: Species abundant in North America two centuries ago — from the woodland bison of West Virginia and Arizona’s Merriam’s elk to the Rocky Mountain grasshopper and Puerto Rico’s Culebra parrot — have been wiped out by growing human numbers.

As the world’s population grows unsustainably, so do its unyielding demands for water, land, trees and fossil fuels — all of which come at a steep price for already endangered plants and animals. Most biologists agree we’re in the midst of the Earth’s sixth mass extinction event; species are disappearing about 1,000 times faster than is typical of the planet’s history. This time, though, it isn’t because of geologic or cosmic forces but unsustainable human population growth.

Today’s global human population is over 7 billion. Every day, the planet sees a net gain of roughly 250,000 people. If the pace continues, we’ll be on course to reach 8 billion by 2020 and 9 billion by 2050.

By any ecological measure, Homo sapiens sapiens has exceeded its sustainable population size. Just a single human waste product — greenhouse gas — has drastically altered the chemistry of the planet’s atmosphere and oceans, causing global warming and ocean acidification.

In the United States, which has the world’s third largest population after China and India, the fertility rate peaked in 2007 at its highest level since 1971 before dropping off slightly due to the recent economic recession. At 2.1 children per woman, the U.S. fertility rate remains the highest among developed nations, which average around 1.6. The current U.S. population exceeds 300 million and is projected to grow 50 percent by 2050.

The mission of the Center for Biological Diversity is to stop the planetary extinction crisis wiping out rare plants and animals around the world. Explosive, unsustainable human population growth is an essential root cause of this crisis.

We can reduce our own population to an ecologically sustainable level in a number of ways, including the empowerment of women, education of all people, universal access to birth control and a societal commitment to ensuring that all species are given a chance to live and thrive. All of these steps will decrease human poverty and overcrowding, raise our standard of living and sustain the lives of plants, animals and ecosystems everywhere.

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