Wednesday, December 14, 2005


More on Population

I’m glad to see the population issue getting more of an airing, and another article has appeared on this subject, in Grist. As sit points out, in some quarters “too few” people has become a rallying cry for having more babies.

But the idea of “too few people” is of course a serious mistake, because the illusion of “too few” people is created by a geographical imbalance that drains the countryside and concentrates people in ever-expanding cities. That imbalance, in turn, is created by the availability of cheap, abundant energy from fossil fuels, which allow a small portion of the population to grow food for the rest using pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and machinery. As a concomitant, the world population has grown far past the size that the Earth can sustainably support.

This is the crisis that the Grist article fails to mention. It’s good that fertility levels are falling around the world, but this trend is too little and too late. The question now is: How many people can we save from freezing and starvation in the coming years? Mass starvation and freezing are inevitable as fossil fuel supplies shrink.

But we cannot just save ourselves and let others die needlessly. Many can be saved by quickly reorganizing society to produce food locally with manual labor, and by changing our lifestyles so that we can get by with much less fuel.

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