How Many People Equals Too Many People? 


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From GENE LOGSDON

Agriculture’s most earnestly held article of faith is that if farmers can continue to increase production to meet the ever-rising demands of population growth, future food shortages and the upheavals that so often follow can be avoided. If you care to look at the situation from a somewhat different angle, the opposite is truer. The more food an agricultural system produces, the more it encourages population growth, and the more the population grows, the greater the chances that social stress, war, genocide and famine will follow. One would think that after elegantly feasting on good food, humans would just want to lean back, belch and enjoy their good fortune. Instead they haul off and procreate more people to join the feast.

I used to brandish Farmers of Forty Centuries as the ultimate last word in sustainable food production and the best answer to avoiding world hunger. I was wrong. That book describes farming in Asia in the early 1900s when more food was being produced  there per acre than anything the gene manipulators or the organic producers today have come close to imitating. All it did was keep population growing so that more food had to be produced. China, especially during its wars with Japan in the 1930s, suffered horrendous genocidal depopulation which in turn disrupted its highly refined and intricate garden-farming agriculture. Hunger followed genocide, did not precede it. North Africa, culminating in the destruction of Carthage, suffered the same kind of fate. It had developed a remarkably productive agriculture in what was mostly a somewhat desert-like environment. The success of that agriculture encouraged population increases that brought social instability, wars, and the collapse of its agriculture. Then came the decline of its civilization.

Looking at how genocide has become a regular occurrence these days, I wonder if it isn’t time to open up that can of worms, limits to growth, again. I do so hesitantly because no one except very contrary farmer types (and not many of them) will argue that there really are too many people in the world. The welfare of the whole human circus depends on continuing population growth. Farmers want more eaters. Generals want more soldiers. Preachers want more parishioners. Car dealers want more drivers. Governments want more taxpayers. Politicians want more voters.  Writers want more readers.  Entertainers want more fans.  Dentists want more teeth. Funeral homes want more corpses. Zero population growth, or anything close to it, would mean economic debacle.

Nevertheless I am obstinate enough to insist that there are too many people in the world or at least in parts of it and it doesn’t have much to do with food supplies. Even more obstinately I say that most people secretly agree but because they fear economic debacle more than death, they just go along hoping that the limits of growth and the genocide that accompanies it doesn’t catch up to them personally.

Limits to growth is a many-splintered notion. In this case it refers to more than just our relationship to food and energy supplies. If our smartest scientists could get over their fixation over how technology can always stay ahead of population increases and would quit wasting their time trying to think of more reasons why Malthus was wrong, progress might come. Unrest, war, and genocide precede food shortages.  Starving people do not have the energy to hack 800,000 of their fellow humans to death with machetes and if they did they would eat the dead bodies. Genocide is somehow triggered by spatial and mental relationships between human beings in ways we don’t know how to interpret adequately yet. We must work at this concept until science can come up with ways to predict when one group of people is suddenly going to resort to mindless mass killing of another group of people and then try to avoid that situation. Supplying humans with more food is not the solution. That just gives them more energy to kill each other. It is not as simple as this example, but as we discussed two weeks ago, when you crowd strange chickens together in the same space, they start killing each other even though they have plenty of food to eat.
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43 Comments

Bottom line–we all want the same thing! A decent life for ourselves and our children and grandchildren. Let’s just get to work and go there!

I cannot share the gloom of so many people here: a study of current demographics shows women across the world are having dramatically less children as their opportunities for education and other freedoms increase, and they have access to contraception. Visit Demographymatters blog and read some of the discussions. It appears that once a society drops below 1.5 replacement rate for childbearing, they find it very difficult to bring it back up again. There also appears to be a social effect: if a woman sees children everywhere, there is a tendency for having more children. However, if a culture does not glorify large families, then 1 or 2 children are the likely size, and women also have children later as their education and opportunities increase, which also has a fertility effect.
Eastern Europe, Italy, Spain, Russia are all below replacement fertility and have “lost” millions of people. In rural Bulgaria, the villages are empty and the wild is coming back, along with the animals. In my rural South Dakota, from a childhood with 7 farm homes in my view, there is now only one. As a result, we have pronghorn antelope, hawks, eagles, cougers, and even an occasional moose from western Minnesota. Farm boys with .22 rifles or farmers with chicken flocks would pretty much kill everything that could possibly predate when I was a child. Now the wildlife is flowing back in, even without the sheltering fencelines of smaller fields.
Africa is the only continent where multiple children (above 5) are the norm. However, the entire continent is moving into cities and leaving the land. Once there, we can expect that the number of children per family will begin to drop, just as it has in other places. If the entire world dropped down to 1.5 or less, most of our pressing problems would be solved in 50 years. There is hope and expectation for this to occur as women gain in education and access to family planning. The shift from a consumer/youth-based economy to one with a declining workforce and rising retiree numbers will be an economic shock (which Japan is going through right now), but it looks more like an extended recession, not mass social upheaval. Old people who just want their pension checks are not so likely to run wild in the streets.

    Even in some African countries the population growth is starting to slow. There’s no inherent reason why all countries can’t get themselves to zero population growth. It doesn’t even need much to do it; a little health care, a little family planning, and a little economic improvement.

Squirrels have always been plentiful here — gray squirrels, fox squirrels, and even the occasional flying squirrel. A few years ago, we had a hard freeze in late spring followed by an usual period of drought. Hickory nuts, walnuts, and acorns did not emerge to dot the trees and feed the squirrels. The squirrels died, and I did not see another one for 2 years.

Preparing for Scarcity

So goes nature, feast and famine, flood and drought, plenty and scarcity. As industrious as the squirrels are at preparing for winter, they can’t see what’s coming in these long-term fluctuations and are pretty much at the mercy of these cycles. In good years, they will eat all the mast, grow fat, and have lots of little squirrels. In lean years, starvation will whittle their numbers down to what is sustainable.

And so it is with humans, except that we have the capacity to see the changes that are coming and to alter our behavior accordingly — if we choose. And change is coming. We have spread out over the inhabitable Earth and thrived on its bounty of natural resources. In our current age, we are squeezing/fracking out the last drops of our “mast.” Gas and oil power our civilization and have allowed our numbers to expand.

Unlike acorns and walnuts, new oil is not being formed fast enough to sustain us at our current population level, much less support future growth. If you believe God wanted us to replenish the earth, believe me we’ve done it, and our children, like the squirrel babies of a few years ago, are in for a world of hurt. The best thing we can do for ourselves and the natural world that we are a part of is to control and limit our numbers – now, willingly and of our own accord.

Conflict Over Resources

When resources become scarce, people fight over them. The old are sent off on figurative ice floes, the young die in real wars, and the wealthy grab what’s left and “outlaw” the poor to the far margins of life, eventually pushing them over the edge. The children of the poor will be seen as a scourge – as worse than secondhand smoke, interfering with quality of life for the elite. Human life becomes cheap.

It doesn’t have to be this way, but it’s going to take more than recycling and conservation of resources. It’s going to take decreasing our numbers through voluntary population control. We can control our numbers consciously to preserve quality of life for all or we can continue on and it will happen naturally – starvation, disease, war.

Who will survive? and will these people make the kind of neighbors we want to live among? After a long period of hardship and starvation, of watching one another die, we like the squirrels might come back to “replenish” the Earth.

Read more: http://www.motherearthnews.com/nature-and-environment/what-squirrels-can-teach-us-about-population-control-zbcz1407.aspx#ixzz3C0QOIYSn

If you have seen any of Hans Rosling’s blogs; [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=meR5Z1UAswY&feature=em-hot-b-vrecs ] you will see that population is being self limited by not the amount of food but the education of the women. So it’s quite believable it will top out at 9 billion or so before 2050.
However this number is still far too large for our planet to sustain and it will still have to decline. Why? The planet’s resources are being consumed unsustainably. There are so many issues we cannot yet tell which one’s will start tipping the future into decline. However the sooner it happens the more resources will remain available to power the future simpler world. In which case a financial collapse might be the best option.
Our whole world economy is in debt creation mode, which means consumption without wealth creation. Decadence today, that’s what we are doing. Conspicuous consumption; new stadiums, new skyscrapers, new luxuries etc. even new uninhabited cities in China. These are all a drag on the future, a debt we cannot repay but which is a cost on the environment.
If we continue BaU we will exhaust resources and lose any chance our civilization will survive.

    I highly recommend that anyone interested in population issues (regardless of POV) should watch at least one of Rosling’s marvelously clear, entertaining and DATA BASED videos on what’s happened worldwide to population over the past few decades. Most opinionating (including here) run hot, cold, weird, depressing, sideways, hopeful, fantastical. The good news is that the data are clear. educating women, making contraception available to them, letting them earn a living wage has been key to having reduced population growth rates. That and reducing childhood mortality rates.

    But the issue of resource limitations and the viability of the planet (whole planet & its biota, not just humans) remains very serious indeed. Humans may be the 2nd species in earth’s history to wipe itself (and most other life on the planet) out by changing its atmosphere by over-populating without control. Know what that species was? Cyanobacteria, back millions of years ago (described in The Sixth Extinction, by Elizabeth Kolbert)

    Yup. We’re second in stupidity only to … bacteria!

So much for coming by for my weekly dose of sanguinity. Ha! What am I even talking about? I come by here for Gene’s bracing take on humanity’s pleasure ride to Crapsville (and to talk about chickens). I certainly agree that humanity has exceeded Earth’s carrying capacity for us. But, before I decided to comment, I figured I’d go see what the theorists say about Earth’s carrying capacity for us. What I learned is we have too many theorists. I’m knackered.

It is interesting to me how this whole “reflective sentient being” condition complicates our lives. All other species that I am aware of exist in the present procreating and populating whenever they get the chance. They do so in unsustainable trajectories that eventually collapse but as far as I can tell, they do it without regret or guilt. From a purely evolutionary standpoint, I find it difficult to find moral imperatives compelling. But being able to consider the consequences of our actions and its possible effect on unborn generations makes living only for the present a whole lot less carefree. I find the possibility that perhaps something outside my self besides the endless (dis-and-re)assembling of matter is involved in these responses to be even more intriguing. Life is a “many-splintered” thing. ( I really liked that one.)

“I am obstinate enough to insist that there are too many people in the world or at least in parts of it and it doesn’t have much to do with food supplies”

Let’s see. Food is absolutely necessary for people. The more people exist, the more food those people need. Pretty simple, should not be debatable
Is it also sufficient to have people? That must be the tricky question, right?
Observation shows that it is sufficient, but it is not obvious to everybody, except to those who notice that if a surplus of food exists, soon enough there will appear enough people who will consume it. It has happened every time, so it must be so, even if it not that obvious, there are no contrary examples, except if contrary farmers can offer some.

I look at it this way if the World with the people in it right now was condensed down to a field of cattle and percentage wise there were as many starving cows as there are starving humans and there were as many dying calves as there are dying children and if most of the cattle had little water and what water they had was filthy as sewage the owner of those cattle would be charged and jailed.And what little food and water they could get they had to fight for every bit of it.Folks like PETA would use it as an example of animal neglect and all concerned would say that obviously the field had way too many cows for its size and the owner was totally stupid to let the situation get that far out of hand.

what i personally find interesting is how so-called “first-world” countries are experiencing declining birth rates (most glaring example : Japan), while the so-called “third-world” countries are experiencing rapid explosions in populations.

perhaps this phenomenon is due to an inverse relationship between “quality of life” and quantity of life, in the maslow’s hierarchy of needs sense. when people have the basic needs (food, water, shelter), they have less of an instinctual desire to have babies to make sure that the genes pass on. (case in point: the large families in the first-generation immigrant populations in America at the turn of the 20th century and in the ‘Depression’).

and when a society has a critical mass of individuals who have the leisure time to fully consider such topics (whether consciously or unconsciously) since as Gene described above, you see the birth rates begin to decline dramatically with each generation (and sub-generation x,y,z).

bankers and their ilk of course see this “first-world” decline as a “problem”, since the “first-world” is saddled with ungodly amounts of debt, and more specifically, interest on that debt that is compounded (i.e. interest charged on interest). their answer to this problem is to go into the “third-world” and saddle them with all kinds of debt to make sure their societies never reach the position in Maslow’s pyramid that would allow most of them the leisure time to consider the bigger picture.

until we are collectively willing to tackle an economic paradigm that requires constant exponential growth to pay the constantly expanding compounded interest payments on ever expanding debt (which is the way modern money is created), i’m afraid we’s doomed to the inevitable.

just a couple federal reserve notes to add to the fire.

    as a p.s. so as to more clearly sketch the full vicious circle : modern money being created as debt for the purposes of stimulating the exponentially expanding growth in order to service the compounding interest payments on the ever expanding debt load.

    when that fails to provide the adequate stimulation, one can always use their power to persuade people to focus on their competitive instincts to the point of feeling they have degrade, denigrate, defame, destroy another human being in order to survive.

    which brings us to the question of whether survival is dependent upon competition or cooperation. it seems to me that anyone who makes a living managing productive life cycles on a seasonal basis – farmers of all stripes – are the ones who are on the front lines of that question and who could potentially bring much insight to the debate and discussion.

    It ain’t just 1st world countries. That’s a common error. To learn what solid data actually show, ‘oogle “hans rosling population youtube” and watch a couple of his brief, entertaining & highly information and myth-busting videos.

      very interesting ted talk.
      thanks for sharing.
      excuse me while i go chew on my foot and noodle on the insights.

But the problem is, people self aware enough to see there is a population problem and then limit their reproduction are not the problem. The people who are the problem are not the ones reducing their population. I have no idea how to express this in non racist terms so I will now shut up…

thetinfoilhatsociety August 27, 2014 at 6:46 pm

I commend you for speaking your mind on a very difficult and emotionally charged subject. You are right, of course, as you usually are.

If, as many religious texts tell us, we are to be stewards of the earth, we’ve been very poor stewards indeed. Hopefully those that follow us will not hate us too much and learn from our example what NOT to do, and how to live a truly good life – not a filled life.

Another very interesting post. Overshoot was a big topic when I attended OSU, but none of my professors thought that they themselves were also a part of the problem. They preached as if they were messengers sent from above.

    Exactly my point. It is obvious that the parents of these professors were NOT thinking of “overpopulation” as they were shagging each other. Think of all that wisdom we would be missing out on if these professors had never been born!😉
    Ludicrous…..to say the least.

I like Robert Heinlein’s thoughts on the subject:
“No man is an island — ” Much as we may feel and act as Individuals, our race is — a single organism, always growing and branching — which must be pruned regularly to be healthy.
This necessity need not be argued; anyone with eyes can see that any organism which grows without limit always dies in its own poisons. The only rational question is whether pruning is best done before or after birth.
I also agree that water is probably going to be the defining issue, because without water, you can’t do much of anything…

Great column Gene, and I couldn’t agree more. For most of my life, I’ve been concerned with population growth, though now I’d have to say I’m less concerned. As we’re now finding out, food is no longer the “lowest stave in the barrel” limiting our growth. The atmosphere’s ability to absorb our carbon emissions is. It’ll take a few decades to respond to our excesses, but the problem of our exponential population growth will undoubtedly be solved soon based on the current trends. We can see the some of the first solution in California’s climate right now. Unfortunately for us and our children, mother nature’s solutions aren’t nearly as nice as those we should’ve taken voluntarily.

As always spot on, Gene. Has it something to do with your first name, or what?

Unless we come to realize that a ‘good life’ is not defined by our accumulation of ‘stuff’, we are doomed. Many of today’s problems are a result of a desire of all people to life an American lifestyle. Such excess can not be sustained. Food supply will not be our downfall, in my opinion, but safe, potable water will. Polluted ground water in many agricultural and industrial areas has already prompted expansion of public water systems to try to eliminate the problem but eventually, as in the Toledo area, there is no lasting fix. Many areas of drought- ravaged California have ample ground water but it is not drinkable due to fertilizer pollution.
As a very dedicated Grandpa of nine, I have a real hard time with the population control argument. Living smarter, within the means of a healthy Earth, makes more sense to me and, God willing and if I can live long enough, I hope to impress upon all nine the need to live responsibly and cherish this fragile planet.

We’re already in overshoot. The sober ecological evidence for that is copious. But it also makes clear that the global human population will decrease dramatically over the next few decades, and we don’t have to do a thing about it! It’s going to happen anyway, whatever we do, or fail to do.

The fact seems to be that, practically, we were unable to do anything to control it when it was on the upshoot, which is now coming to its peak; and we won’t be able to do anything about it now it’s about to turn down again. In fact, it may have begun to do so already, below the global statistical radar. Malthus was clearly correct; just a bit hazy in his timescales.

Since his time, our knowledge and understanding of the intricacies of ecology have grown mightily; and it’s become unmistakably clear that we can’t buck the multitude of natural negative feedback loops of the biosphere, which allow nothing at all to grow exponentially for long, before applying correctives.

The more we study it, the clearer it gets: that we insanely narcissistic humans are not at all exempted from those natural processes, despite out stunned awe at our own indescribable brilliance and mastery. It becomes clear too that we’re not even in control of these biogeophysical processes, and show no sign of ever being able to gain such control.

But our capacity for wilful blindness, and for believing any damnfool tosh we really want to believe, trundles on steadily; and will trundle us over the lemming cliff, probably without most of us even noticing that it’s happening.

As usual, Dmitry Orlov has a mordant observation about this: In the time when the Soviet Union was collapsing, and its population took a sharp downturn, mostly there was no particular sign that anyone apart from workers in hospitals and morgues could see that made it clear what was happening. It wasn’t at all apocalyptic. It was just, as Dmitry puts it, that one morning you woke up and realised that half the people in your high-school year photos were now dead. Not with a bang; not even with a whimper; just silently, invisibly.

There’ll be some spectaclar famines and epidemics, without doubt; much chaos, exceedingly lethal wars, and on. But what mainly happens is that the death-rate quietly, unobtrusively, switches places with the birth-rate – by just a few percentage points. And so it begins.

Interestingly, both ‘The Limits To Grow’ and ‘TLTG – The Thirty-Year Update’ show human population plunging quite sharply, beginning sometime around the late 2020s/early 2030s both the death-rate AND the birth rate rise sharply (sic! Dmitry has interesting observations on why the birth-rate does that when times get really hairy). But the key point is that the death-rate is well ahead the birth-rate, and stays there; and the total world human population comes down drastically to a much lower level than the overshoot where we are now – as populations do in all these corrections, whichever species is going through them.

It’s interesting too that, despite the near-universal trashings by the guardians of othodoxy which – supposedly – annihilated TLTG and buried it ‘permanently’ when it came out, The Thirty Year Update makes it unarguably clear that the original 1972 projections have proven to be remarkably accurate, in the upshot. And the Update can now add much greater computing power, and a much more refined model – both of which point to the same conclusion of close accuracy again, for the near future.

And of course there are now masses more studies and statistics sequences which make it clear in many disciplines that these are big, natural, ungovernable process, which will play out to their ancient, usual ends; correcting the deviations of Mam Gaia’s self-sustaining, planetwide ecosystem; what Ted Hughes calls, in ‘October Salmon’: “…Earth’s beauty dress/ Her life-robe…”

And we too, like the spent salmon, are caught, inexorably, in what Ted calls, in the last line:

“the machinery of heaven.”

Gene, you are right. To succinctly sum it up and to bastardize Sartre, “Hell is too many people.”

This theory is in the book “The Story of B” written in 1996. It makes sense to me.

Very interesting take on a well known problem. This article seems very similar to the sentiments expressed by Daniel Quinn in his books “Ishmael”, “The Story of B” and “My Ishmael”.

If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting what you’ve always gotten!

Gene, this view, while unpopular among certain segments of the population in rural areas, is extremely popular in urban areas, in universities and particularly where ever wealthy white people reside. It is also very easy to sell. Life is 200% easier without children (and 500% less interesting), and you can go on having fun and doing whatever the hell you like with almost nothing to worry about except whether you can find a dog-sitter when you want to tour Europe without Fiffy. But…

The world will not get better with less children. Greed will increase. Irresponsibility and selfishness, the root of so many troubles, will increase. It is easy to forget how much of being a mature, thoughtful adult happens only after you hold an infant in your arms and realize the full weight of the responsibility before you. Not to say that everyone who has kids becomes a better person, or that everyone without kids is more selfish–there are always exceptions. But for a large segment of humanity, children are the beginning of waking up to the world. They are the beginning of waking up to the reality that all your actions affect the people around you for generations to come.

Also, it seems that overpopulation will never be a problem in the face of our current dietary habits. When you have cared for livestock you soon realize that much of fertility is based upon good feed, and the stuff most humans in the western world are shoving in their faces will sterilize their family lines in just a generation or two. Imaginary problem solved.

    Carmine, so much of what you say is wrong that i don’t know where to start but someone needs to answer you, lest you think your arguments hold water.
    1) Life without biological children is not less interesting, except for people who are only interested in themselves and their own children.
    2) Normal people don’t need to have children to learn to act responsibly. Normal people learn responsible behavior when they themselves are children. If you haven’t learned not to be selfish by the time you are of childbearing age, the chances are good that having your own kids is not going to make you less selfish. In fact:
    3) Having your own children, and even being a loving parent doesn’t make you a good person, it just enlarges your circle of selfishness to include your child or children. When you have kids, you are willing to do anything to protect them, including depriving other people’s kids of what they need.
    4) Overpopulation is not an imagined problem. every day over 300,000 new babies are born. about 100,000 people die. the net growth is over 200,000 new additional humans every day. that is unsustainable. we could change it by increasing the death rate (unacceptable) or decreasing the birth rate. Deliberately having more than one child in todays world is at best thoughtless and at worst irresponsible.

      My argument holds just as much water as your rebuttal, since neither of us used anything besides arguments from anecdotal, personal evidence. You didn’t say where you got those numbers or what part of the world you were talking about, so they don’t help your case much.At best, you seem to have known a lot more obnoxious children and selfish, small minded parents.

      My children’s children will look back on arguments like this as a waste of time when there are more productive things to do like making hay, planting fall crops, and milking the cows, and nothing much will have really changed between now and then. Technology will continue to rob our time and focus, bad food will continue to poison large segments of the population, war, famine and disease will come and go, and comfortable white folks will continue to complain that poor colored people make too many babies. It’s been that way since forever and our little discussions wont make much difference.

    Very good , plan on passing a few of your lines onto family members! Good thinking !

The book to read on this topic is William Catton’s textbook “Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change.” He wrote it back in 1980 and it’s as relevant today as it was then. The science at this point is really inarguable. We can calculate with great accuracy what the carrying capacity of any square meter on the planet is. We know how much sun, rain, how many plants, what the biological capture and conversion ratio is, how many animals can be supported by that particular patch. All the data is there. We are so far into overshoot there’s not a chance humans won’t crash. We have seen it with owls and voles, reindeer and lichen, yeast in sugar water, on and on, dozens and dozens of other example populations. It’s well understood that population always expands to the limits of food production, not the other way around. For the last two hundred years we have been converting oil directly into food. Any disruption in that supply and we’re screwed bigtime.

This issue is also directly related to climate change by the way. Everybody thinks that climate change from anthropogenic warming is the problem. It’s not. It’s a symptom of the catastrophic environmental degradation from human drawdown and takeover. We have co-opted so much of the planetary surface that we have damaged the natural resilience of the entire biological system for the whole world.

This is not a trivial issue. And it’s very clear, we will either figure this out and figure out how to fix it and make it work or within a hundred years there will be less than a half billion humans left. If we are lucky and don’t just go completely extinct. The math is just laying about in plain sight. Frankly I think most humans are just too fractious and contentious to get along very well so I’m rather pessimistic.

I keep seeing people freak out when 50,000 little kids come across the border. I’m really curious how those same folks will react when there are 40 million Americans displaced from 7 southwestern states because there’s no water there any more and no one can survive. What are they gonna do, try building another useless fence? Everybody needs another new phrase in their lexicon. Can you say “climate refugee?”

    Well put. Makes sense. I think they will probably have to build desalinations plants and pipe in water from them rather than have them move to areas that are food producing and take those areas out of food production.

I commend you , Gene, for having the courage to talk about such a controversial subject. It seems obvious to me that at some point we will have to start controlling population growth and it would be so much more desirable for that to be voluntary. But there’s a certain very large, world-wide organization that would have to come on board with that first and I simply don’t see that happening. If there is a solution it is definitely beyond my ability to perceive.

I was just wondering if the Ebola outbreak is related to population pressure. A Nigerian medical student I spoke with recently said they knew that patient zero was a young girl. Until she got sick, there were no cases of Ebola in that area. Ebola is a virus, so it must be dormant in the environment until something triggers it. Could that something have been population pressure?

Another thought…if people were required to produce a percentage of the food they ate, we’d see a lot fewer kids born…or maybe not…didn’t farmers have large families for access to free labor?

Right on Brother Gene! Here is a link to a blog I recently wrote on this very topic for Mother Earth News:

http://www.motherearthnews.com/nature-and-environment/what-squirrels-can-teach-us-about-population-control-zbcz1407.aspx#axzz3Bc0r6On3

Comments were 3 to 1 against my views on the subject, but hopefully they don’t know where I live!

Too many people/souls/pure energy on Earth?? If one looks at it from a purely materialistic point of view then I suppose one could look at ‘population growth’ in such a superficial light.
But, what if being ‘born’ was about spiritual progress? What if this current period is as an opportunity for tremendous spiritual growth=evolution for billions of points of light? Would it matter how many corporeal bodies manifested at any given time if this thing called ‘living’ is really about evolution? I would hardly think it would matter at all when contemplated in such a profound manner, but, if we are constantly bombarded with images and teachings of shallow, materialistic pursuits then we just might think that there are “too many ‘people’ ” on Earth at this time.

Years ago I remember reading about a certain professor pushing this theory onto his students and even going so far as advocating depopulation. What I never understood was his irrational ( if not de mented ) thinking. If he truly thought that there were too many people on Earth then why not be the first to volunteer to leave?

I think we should be very careful to examine what we think and even more so in disseminating those unexamined thoughts.

    Something tells me that you are not a biologist, Jamie. Humans are not the only energy/ life form on earth. 7 billion people crowd out other life forms. at the moment, more than 200,000 additional people join us on earth every 24 hours. at the same time, we are losing forests and also messing up the oceans. I love wildlife and open space and it makes me sad to think how humans are destroying so much. I also like people (as individuals) and that is why I wish we could learn as a species to stop reproducing so fast –because our population growth guarantees suffering for so many.
    I don’t *believe* there are too many people on earth, I *know* it. However, I don’t advocate depopulation, instead, I advocate birth control. Jamie, follow your own advice and examine what you think about this a little.

      “Birth Control” is no substitution for profound understanding of creating life and a healthy environment that supports such profound life. Ask my daughter-in-laws, my sister, me and millions of other women who have practiced this irresponsible “birth control”. Popping a pill into one’s mouth is no substitution for self control/direction nor does it guarantee the effects desired. The more pertinent question would be ‘why do we risk bringing life into this world through sexual intercourse’?
      Mindless copulation ( the “biology” of “overpopulation” ) seems to be the root issue of “overpopulation”…so, Barbara, I have given this a great deal of examination. Next, we would need to examine our immature and shallow views on copulation and child rearing. Just look at the film industry. It appears that they cannot make a movie without introducing sensual elements to the story that add no intrinsic value to the story line itself. They even put on film simulations of sexual intercourse. Why? I have no desire to watch simulations of sex much less watch it in person. So, why do they do that? Why are music videos nothing more than the same? There must be 40 publications of magazines depicting women as nothing more than sexual objects for a man’s personal gratification. Would any of these things that I mentioned have anything to do with “overpopulation”? Let us not leave out religious teachings that have compounded the misery of all women and children, marginalizing them and denouncing them as less than men. I can remember 30 years ago I was not allowed to make any profound decisions regarding my body. Men did that for me.

      What is at the root of this word “overpopulation”? Examine it and you might find your answer.

Gene, this is a fascinating take on an old problem, and I appreciate your mentioning 40 Farmers of 40 Centuries, of which I hadn’t previously heard. Your conclusion – that hunger follows, not precedes, cultural disaster and decline, is tantalizing, but I wonder how supported by data it is. Do you know of any books/studies that might flesh this out more (besides the one you mentioned, which I’m certainly going to check out)? I’m sure it’s more complex, but the overall dynamic sounds right. In the case of some of the ancient Chinese peasant farmers – there were long periods of relative peace and stability, no? Same goes for Europe in the Middle Ages, where for centuries peasants worked the land and fostered “the commons” with an effectiveness that should put our selfish, short-sighted times to shame. There is some other variable, or variables, that leads to the kind of mania that leads to decline, and we’ve got to get a grasp on that problem before it’s too late (which it might already be. I hope not!)

All of humanities minor problems have turned into major problems due to overpopulation.
People used to be annoyed when a car came down their road & spooked the horses. Now, the roads are overflowing, and when they build a larger one to carry more traffic, it only attracts more people into the surrounding countryside seeking space,, and they quickly clog the bigger & better highway. I used to live on a quiet little two lane country road outside of the city. (SR 54 nearTampa) Now it has six bumper to bumper lanes during rush hour. Small wonder I mover back west.

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