Another gap in writing, and I again have a huge backlog of articles. Writing just feels pointless at times as few want to acknowledge that human overpopulation is a major problem – certainly not those with influence.
A new and horrifying report was released in September that predicted the world’s population could climb to 11 billion by 2100 – rather than peak and decline as has previously been the accepted scenario. That is just over one-and-a-half as many people as today.
Another analysis was also released last month by the WWF stating that Earth had lost half of its wildlife in the past 40 years (as contrasted to domesticated animals, which are also in plague proportions). However the report only mentions human consumption as the culprit, not our growing numbers also.
Despite the implications – ultimately far more alarming than the terrorist scaremongering currently occupying governments – the extinction article barely recieved a mention in the mainstream press, as the letter below points out (Herald-Sun, 3/10):
I READ with great interest the snippet, “Wildlife plummet” (HS, Oct 1), stating that wildlife numbers have plunged by more than half in 40 years as the Earth’s human population has nearly doubled.
Given that humans are consuming natural resources that would require L5 Earths to sustain, I cannot comprehend why this was on page 21. This is an extremely serious threat to life as we know it. Granted, it doesn’t appear to be as immediate or sensational a threat as terrorism, but this has the potential to be a planetary disaster. Every day I am further convinced of the truth of the underlying message in Dan Brown’s novel, Inferno, in which the problem of overpopulation is the central theme.
– Geoff McKeon, Huntly
Given these two factors, the Earth of 2100 (when I will be dead, barring access to any life-extension technology of then) will be a far less biodiverse planet. The few wild animals left will live out restricted lives in nature reserves or zoos. Megacities of tens of millions will sprawl over the various continents like grey cancer cells. Big forests such as the Amazon or Siberian taiga will have all but vanished. Global warming will wreak havoc. Aside from the mega-wealthy, many humans will likely also have miserably restricted lives, seeking to escape from their bleak reality into the virtual world with whatever technologies have evolved then. In fact that is not too far off the Earth presented in the movie Avatar.
A recent book by Paul Hanley on the topic of eleven billion was featured on io9. He seems to be optimistic that humans will find ways to cope, but I find such optimism dangerous – it is a complacent feeling of “No worries, things will work out” rather than take measures now to prevent the population getting to such a huge number in the first place (prevention is preferable to the cure).
Well, we can look at 11 billion as too many people, or look at the population as huge potential to do things like reclaim deteriorated ecosystems. There are some 3 billion hectares of deteriorated ecosystems by some reckoning (see Rattan Lal) Restoring those lands, which would require a huge amount of work, would be like adding a new continent to the world. It would also ameliorate climate change by capturing huge amounts of carbon in plants and soil. But in rick areas where people have more than we need, we will have to look at shorter work weeks, more job sharing, lower income and consumption, but more time to do things like hang out with family and friends, be creative, garden, etc.
We may be able to restore the natural world, but I think there will be a net loss of biodiversity what ere we do. But ecological function can be prioritized, leading to better incomes for the rural poor. I talk about an outstanding large scale example of this on China’s Loess Plateau.
I don’t find the prospect of such loss of biodiversity at all acceptable – humans don’t own the Earth, but share it with other lifeforms. We as a species should not let things get to such a condition in the first place – this should be considered a moral imperative.
“It is not primarily the number of people that’s important in population policy, it’s what they are capable of, their level of education, and their health.”
– Wolfgang Lutz, director of the Vienna Institute of Demography
A quote from the first “11 billion” article which I strongly disagree with for reasons previously stated.