Posted by: Paul | 09/22/2009

“Overpopulation”? Overblown

Things have certainly changed on the “overpopulation” front. Back in the 1970s, they were warning of global catastrophe. Mass starvation, climate change, war and unrest would reign from pole to pole if we didn’t drastically curtail the number of children being born, they claimed. A bleak, apocolyptic future awaited us all.

Today, however, they’re saying … well, pretty much the same thing. “Unchecked population growth is speeding climate change, damaging life-nurturing ecosystems and dooming many countries to poverty, experts concluded in a conference report released Monday,” as an AFP article published on Sept. 21 put it.

Hmm. What are the odds they’ve got it right this time?

A big part of the problem is that overpopulation scaremongers consistently focus on only one side of the equation. Yes, people consume resources (as if that were some sort of crime, especially when you have sensible conservation efforts in place). And there’s no doubt that they can make a mess of things.

But people also create resources. In many places, they save forests, rescue species and clean their environment. They find solutions to problems, both man-made and natural (when they’re not shackled by intrusive governments) — solutions the scaremongers can’t begin to see.

Consider a problem trotted out in the 1800s, when overpopulation fears began to catch on after “An Essay on the Principle of Population” by Thomas Malthus was published. What shall we ever do, it was asked, about all the horses we’ll need to transport so many people? How will we handle all the manure that will be piling up in our streets?

They couldn’t foresee a future in which “horseless carriages” were not only possible, but commonplace. Even if you regard that as a bad thing, the point remains: Their predictions were useless in light of future events. By the same token, the folks who, decades ago, were warning of mass starvation had no idea that technology would make it possible to feed millions more people on less land than was typical when their predictions were made.

President Clinton used to say, “There’s nothing that’s wrong with America that can’t be fixed with what’s right with America.” Well, the same is true when it comes to population. The problem isn’t people. It’s the people who think there are too many people.



  1. In the 70’s they warned of oil shortages–today we’re running out of oil. They warned us of polluted air and water. Today our ozone layer is developing holes and polar ice caps are melting, and in most cites people are forced to buy bottled water. They warned of ocean pollution–today the fishing industry in is trouble and our national reefs are threatened.

    Yes! things can be fixed, but they won’t be because of people like you who refuse to see the obvious. There will be no ‘fix’ because of the apathy within our nation and other rich nations like ours. I’m afraid that it will be too late by the time their eyes are opened.

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