Sunday, July 12, 2009

Population Ignorance

"July 11 is World Population Day, as declared by the United Nations in 1989 to raise awareness of global population issues. Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of awareness out there. Of the 6.77 billion people on the planet, too few have either the courage or the awareness to weigh in or do something about the subject. Overpopulation is the proverbial elephant in the room, and it is a big one.

There is widespread agreement among scientists that we are in overshoot. According to Global Footprint Network, 1.3 planet Earths would be required to sustainably meet the needs of our current population at present levels of consumption and waste. If we continue current upward trends in consumption and population, by 2035 we’ll need 2 Earths. This means we are not acting sustainably. We are using up stuff that we, and/or future generations, are going to need.

The rate at which we use up stuff is commonly represented in the famous IPAT equation developed by Paul Ehrlich and John Holdren. Simplified, it states that human impact = per capita consumption X population. It doesn’t take a mathematical genius to figure out from this equation that perpetual increase in either consumption or population would require a like decrease in the other in order to avoid increasing human impact on our ecosystems and resource base.

Or maybe it does. Because all too often we do ignore population’s role in the equation. It’s not politically correct to suggest humankind and the world we live in would benefit greatly from stabilizing or even reducing our total population. We will do anything to avoid addressing that subject. We’ll flush our toilets every other day, breathe toxic air, destroy fisheries, and take our chances with nuclear power or "clean" coal. We’ll pour millions of dollars into efforts to restore rivers and streams, protect endangered species, or develop alternative energy sources. But we won’t even spread the word that voluntarily limiting family size would be a prudent and effective way to move toward sustainable equilibrium. That is a shame."

No comments:

Post a Comment

I get spam comments every day now, so I now require word verification to post something. I apologize for the minor inconvenience.