The Economics of 7.5 Billion People On One Planet

GR: Joe Bish of the Population Media Center directed my attention to this story published last week. It is a clear, short exposition of the population problem that I highly recommend. Note that the best solution to overpopulation is freedom, the freedom to choose. Are women just maids and baby producers or are they individuals with rights of their own?

“The most disheartening story in today’s Seattle Times is about the 38 million pieces of trash, almost all plastic, strewn on remote and uninhabited Henderson Island in the Pacific Ocean. When some future alien starship discovers post-apocalyptic Earth, their first impression will be, “What a bunch of slobs once lived here.”

“This story can be told in many ways: A runaway consumer culture, globalization and the 10,000-mile supply chain, more affluence even in developing nations, environmental catastrophe from polluting the oceans. But don’t forget the latest estimate of the planet’s population: 7.5 billion. At the turn of the 19th century, it was only 1 billion. It took more than another century to add another billion. Since then, the billions have been piling on with astonishing speed. The world held “only” a little more than 6 billion in 2000.

“Virtually every major problem, from climate change and wars to mass migrations and resource scarcity has its root in too many people. Economics are not immune. The lowered prospects of the politically potent white working class, for example, have much to do with millions overseas who can do the same jobs for a fraction of the cost. When you hear about theories of “secular stagnation” and the like, think 7.5 billion.

“The enormous and growing costs of human-caused climate change are juiced by those 7.5 billion. Globalization has created large middle classes in nations such as China and India — and its members want the sprawly car-dependent “American lifestyle” and the rights to their share of the atmosphere to heat in order to get it. The greatest deprivation, and lost economic potential, happens in countries with the biggest population overshoot.” –Jon Talton (Continue reading:  The economics of 7.5 billion people on one planet | The Seattle Times)/

Call For Population Papers: Spring 2018

GR: The European Journal of Literature, Culture, and Environment recently issued a call for papers to appear in a special section of the Journal. I’ve reproduced the call here because of its useful summary of the recent history (since 1970)  of attitudes toward overpopulation. Joe Bish of the Population Media Center brought the call to my attention. Bish’s weekly essay is essential reading. This week he points out that those who argue population is not a problem “. . . completely fail to acknowledge the existence of any other creature on the planet.” Let me illustrate the population problem and its impact on nature with a few words about population trends in Arizona, the U. S. state where I live.

Arizona urban growth.

From 1970 to 2016, Arizona’s resident population grew from 1.78 million to 7.0 million. Much of the growth is due to immigrants from colder states in the upper midwest and the crowded east and west coast states of the U. S. The total growth rate from this simple formula, Rate = births + immigrants – deaths / current population has decline from 3% in 1970 to1.5% in 2016. According to the U. S. Census Bureau, the rate has been fairly stable for since 2010. If Arizona’s population continues to grow at this rate, the population will double by 2063.

In Arizona and other regions to the north and south, people have replaced portions of the wild vegetation habitat with cities, roads, and farms. Much of the undeveloped landscape has been grazed by cows and cleared by loggers. The result has been a decline in wildlife.

During the 44-year period from (1970-2014), the research by the World Wildlife Fund and others found that the total number of wild animals on Earth had declined by more than half. According to the Arizona Game and Fish Department, the same is true for Arizona.

Only the narrow “growth-at-all-costs” philosophy of corporations (including cities and towns) in Arizona and the U. S. can explain the continued disregard for the effect of the human population on nature. Here are a few more thoughts on the consequences of continued population growth.

Call for Population Papers

Population growth is accelerating in China despite the almost insoluable pollution costs.

“Overpopulation has become the ‘third rail’ of contemporary environmentalism: no major organization wants to touch the issue anymore. While it had been one of the driving concerns of early environmentalism up until the 1970s, exemplified by such seminal texts as Fairfield Osborn’s Our Plundered Planet (1948), Paul Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb (1968), and the Club of Rome’s The Limits of Growth (1972), concern with population control has since dropped off the list of popular environmentalist causes. One of the primary reasons for this is undoubtedly that the discourse of overpopulation was found to be freighted with unsavory political associations: in many cases, concern over population seemed like a threadbare cover for racist and classist resentments, or just plain misanthropy, as when James Lovelock famously diagnosed the planet with a case of “disseminated primatemia,” likening humans to pathogenic microbes. Concern with overpopulation was impugned as the expression of a neocolonialist mindset, one that implicitly dehumanized the peoples whose population was said to be in need of control. Environmental problems, it was argued, were not an issue of overpopulation in the Third World, but rather of overconsumption in the First. Famine and poverty were not effects of resource scarcity, but of a failure to distribute properly what resources were available.

“However, recent years have seen a quiet resurgence of Neo-Malthusian thinking, and of the apocalyptic scenarios with which it has been so often aligned, that makes it imperative to revisit these debates. Since the turn of the century, a growing choir of political and military analysts has been prophesying an imminent era of resource wars. Anxiety over economic competition from migrants has fueled nativist movements around the globe. Stephen Emmott’s incendiary pamphlet 10 Billion (2013) closes with the response of one of his colleagues to the question how to best prepare for life on an overpopulated, ecologically degraded planet: “Teach my son how to use a gun.” Such developments seem to bear out the dire warnings of historian Timothy Snyder: in Black Earth (2015), he argues that just as Malthusian fears were an important ideological driver of Nazi Germany’s genocidal warfare in Eastern Europe, they might once again be used to justify the abrogation of basic human rights. Yet all of this only makes it more pressing to find responsible ways of addressing the issue. Even if one does not consider population growth as a primary cause of ecological degradation, there is hardly any environmental problem that is not compounded and aggravated by it. While it is true that overconsumption in the “global North,” where populations are shrinking, must bear most of the blame for climate change and many other large-scale problems, it is also clear that rapidly expanding human numbers in poor countries produce problems of their own. Often, traditional methods of resource extraction and land cultivation which were sustainable while the human population was small have become ecologically destructive simply because more people are now practicing them.

“The aim of this special section is not only to re-assess the long-standing debate on overpopulation in light of these developments, but more importantly to examine the cluster of tropes, narratives, and images which have become attached to this idea, and which we propose to designate as the “Malthusian Imagination.” Even while the issue of overpopulation disappeared from mainstream environmentalist discourse, it continued to flourish in the realms of literature and popular culture. The “mad environmentalist” hatching a secret plan to rid the world of surplus population became something of a stock character (e.g. in Lionel Shriver’s Game Control, 1994; Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys, 1995; Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake, 2003; Dan Brown’s Inferno, 2013; or Dennis Kelly’s TV series Utopia, 2013-14). Many of these texts and films engage in complex balancing acts, acknowledging the legitimacy of the concern even while they disavow the violent means by which it is pursued.

“The questions we would like contributors to address include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • “How do particular works of literature, film, or visual art deal with the representational challenges posed by population growth? How do different representational strategies relate to the ethical and political stance these works take? How do they dramatize a Malthusian “lifeboat ethics” (Hardin 1974), and to what extent do they articulate alternative positions?
  • “How can a concern over population growth be reconciled with an emancipatory politics? How do gender equality and female education figure within the discourse on overpopulation, or the pro-natalist views advocated by many of the major religions? How do recent concerns over the “refugee crisis” intersect with the issue?
  • “What theoretical framework should we adopt in order to conceptualize the problem of population growth? How can, for example, theories of biopolitics, postcolonial theory, critical feminism, queer theory, actor network theory, object-oriented ontology, or social systems theory help us to get a better grasp of the issue? –Editors (Continue reading:  CFP: Spring 2018).

50th UN Session of Commission on Population & Development

GR: The growing human population is the source of most of the environmental destruction that is threatening the biological diversity and stability of the Earth. Here’s some information from Joe Bish of the Population Media Center (PMC) that will help you stay updated on critical issues (Fertility projections). Bish is reporting on the latest United Nations nonsense about sustainable development.

Travel by train in India (anonymous).

“Welcome to Population Media Center’s Weekly News. Click here to review an on-line newspaper filled with population and sustainability related stories.They provide a good summary of international developments and population-related news-flow during the past week.

“It is debatable as to what was the biggest news in the field this week: the 50th session of the Commission on Population and Development was convened in New York City — and the current U.S. administration cut off American funding for UNFPA. Normally, I would say the latter was a much more meaningful news-item, after all, the cut-off of funds will lead to the suffering and death of multitudes of women and children. On the other hand, you will likely join me in disbelief and consternation to find the official news release from the UN (see below) has a headline that states “population… decline” is a key focus of the 50th session.

“Bear in mind that during the 5-day work week of proceedings at the UN, global population will have increased by roughly 1.1 million people. Also, you don’t need reminding that since the Commission was established in 1947, world population has risen by well over 5 billion people. Yet… “population… decline” is the headline?

“We all know what this headline is referring to are a score of countries that are thought to be experiencing natural decrease. These include Japan, Spain, Puerto Rico, Serbia, Portugal, Greece, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Ukraine, Romania, Moldova, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Belarus, and Georgia. Nonetheless, while some attention may be required to help these countries adopt a sustainable economy that does not require perpetual population growth to function, surely it seems not quite right that the 50th session of the Commission is being dedicated to the relative distractions of aging and “population decline.” –Joe Bish

3 April 2017 – The United Nations advisory body on issues related to population and development today kicked off its annual session, with a focus on changing population age structures and sustainable development.
“Population ageing and population decline have now become key issues for a growing number of Member States,” Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Wu Hongbo told the opening segment of the Commission on Population and Development’s fiftieth annual session, which will run at UN Headquarters through 7 April.
He also noted that with global fertility at, or even below, fertility [sic] level, international migration “is becoming the main driver of population change for a number of countries.” –United Nations (Continue:  PMC’s Weekly News: 50th Session of Commission on Population & Development).

We Can Keep Our Open Spaces by Limiting Population

Human Overpopulation

GR:  Human overpopulation results in

  • burning more fossil fuel for energy,
  • conversion of more natural habitats to farms,
  • more destruction of life with pavement and concrete,
  • more toxic pollution,
  • more wildlife lives being taken for food,
  • more noise and light,
  • more crime,
  • more hunger, and
  • more war.

    Why not work on making birth control a free choice for every man and woman on the planet.

Photo credit: Cristina Gottardi

“When the ball recently dropped in Time’s Square, heralding the new year of 2017, the population of the U.S. stood at 324.3 million. That total marked a net gain of 2.5 million people from New Year’s Day 2016. We keep growing and growing, as we add a new person every 17 seconds.

“Another measure of our startling growth is to compare our population today with the total of just 45 years ago. In 1972, U.S. population was only 210 million. Thus, in that relatively short period of our national life, we have added approximately 115 million people. To appreciate the magnitude of this addition, consider that it is not a great deal less than the entire population now living west of the Mississippi River.

“The year 1972 is significant because it was the year when the U.S. Commission on Population Growth and the American Future – often called the Rockefeller Commission – issued its final report. That report stated that “after two years of concentrated effort, we have concluded that, in the long run, no substantial benefits will result from further growth of the nation’s population, rather that the gradual stabilization of our population through voluntary means would contribute significantly to the nation’s ability to solve its problems.”

“If that was the case then, surely it would seem that this verdict would be much truer today with our much higher population. Some may say not to worry because America has always had a high level of population growth. Yes, that is true, and no doubt it was a good thing when we had a pretty much empty country to fill. But why does rapid growth need to continue when we are a developed country, one with the world’s third largest population?” –John Vinson (Continue reading: We Can Keep Our Open Spaces | Californians For Population Stabilization.)