Wednesday, November 30, 2005

 

Population: A Dose of Reality

A dose of reality is always a good thing, even though it may expose painful truths. Politicians, whose election strategies involve telling voters what they want to hear instead of what they should hear, are especially adept at avoiding the mention of reality.

So it is always refreshing — and perhaps even a little hopeful — when someone comes right out and says the obvious. Pointing out that the emperor wears no clothes, so to speak.

A number of articles have appeared on the Worldwatch site as free PDF downloads, and two of them in particular caught my eye. One is titled “World Population, Agriculture, and Malnutrition.” The best part about this one, in my opinion, is that it recognizes the impossibility of raising agricultural production any higher, especially because the fossil fuels that underpin modern agriculture are getting more expensive. Fuel to manufacture and run farm machinery, and the raw materials and energy sources to make pesticides and chemical fertilizers, are going to become progressively more expensive and hard to get. And that means lots more people are going to be performing manual labor in the fields, or starve.

The other article is “ Global Population Reduction: Confronting the Inevitable.” It acknowledges right at the outset that the Earth’s sustainable human carrying capacity is far less than its present population. “[P]rudent and increasingly reliable scientific estimates suggest that the Earth’s long-term sustainable human carrying capacity, at what might be defined as an ‘adequate’ to ‘moderately comfortable’ developed-world standard of living, may not be much greater than 2 to 3 billion. It may be considerably less, particularly if the normative lifestyle (level of consumption) aspired to is anywhere close to that of the United States,” says the article.

Cornucopians will of course disagree. And so will politicians. But the longer politicians put off dealing with this issue in the open, the greater the chances that governments will embark on secret “population reduction” programs entailing induced epidemics, mass starvation, or other draconian and inhumane methods. It is imperative that the population issue be brought out in public quickly to galvanize vigorous, open debate and to lower the world population in ways that both developed and developing nations can agree on.



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