Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Is overpopulation a current reality? (question 2 of 3)

I am neither competent to declare whether the world is currently in this situation nor whether it soon will be. Those in the sciences seem to be the ones best suited to answer this question. I will take a moment, however, to describe the situation as it looks from out here.

To start with, those in the sciences do not appear to be in agreement, as is typical in all disciplines, leaving those outside the discipline with clueless expressions on our faces. Well, in some cases, our expressions are smugly arrogant regardless of the subject being discussed, but that is another matter.

Speaking of intradisciplinary (to coin a word) disagreement, a reader pointed out that my comment about lemmings committing mass suicide to alleviate overpopulation is a disputed point. So it is. Scholastic unhesitatingly repeats the same old story: "The suicidal tendencies of the lemming to 'off' themselves in times of over-population is most assuredly the fact that characterizes this animal." Alaska Fish and Wildlife News, on the other hand, reports, "Lemmings do not commit mass suicide. It's a myth, but it's remarkable how many people believe it." This is actually an interesting article; I recommend following the link.

Enough of lemmings. As I’ve written, it is only possible to speak of an overpopulation of humans if the number of humans is depriving some of those humans of the necessities of life. As a fact, many many humans on this planet are deprived of the necessities of life. Hundreds of millions of people in the world do not have enough to eat. Millions die of starvation every year. That said, the same organizations that gather these statistics also tell us that the world currently has the resources to feed its entire population. It is not a problem of too many mouths to feed but a problem of too few hearts that care enough to feed them.

I believe it. According to, a study from the University of Arizona (UA) in Tucson indicates that the United States wastes forty to fifty percent of all the food it grows. According to The Guardian, the UK throws away thirty to forty percent of its food. I recommend Food for the Poor to any willing to help alleviate the problems of hunger and poverty in the world today. I also recommend a life less gluttonous and wasteful than the average American's.

It is worth remembering that there were people starving to death when the world was far less populous than today. Then, as now, the problem was not overpopulation but lack of compassion. There is no shortage of space. There is no shortage of air. There is no shortage of water. There is no shortage of food. There is no shortage of necessary resources. Yet, some claim the world is overpopulated. Those making that claim must either dispute the definition of overpopulation that I have provided or else they must know something I don't about resource shortages - which is entirely possible.

Overpopulation may be a fact of our near future even if it is not our present reality. The rate of world population growth has fallen every year since 1986, but even if it continues falling at its current rate, the world will reach more than nine and half billion people by 2050 - this according to the U.S. Census Bureau. 9.5 billion is a heck of a lot more than the 6.7 billion we have now. It may well be that 9.5 billion people will create a situation of genuine overpopulation. I don't know, as I stated at the beginning of this piece, but I will say that I doubt it.

I would like to know how many people the world can feed, clothe and shelter and I would like to assert that it is not until we have surpassed this number that earth will be overpopulated - however many inconveniences are brought about by the numbers of people, however few cars each person has to himself, however close the houses must be built, however little oil there is to run machines. I would rather see the world technologically reversed to before the industrial revolution than see one person's life sacrificed on the altar of convenience.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Is overpopulation a possibility? (question 1 of 3)

Mother Theresa once asked, "How can there be too many children? That is like saying there are too many flowers." While this is a loving and sweet perspective, it has always evoked to my mind images of vast fields of flowers choking all the crops and starving the world. There could be too many flowers, it seems to me. There could be too much of anything - even of a necessity like food - if the excess of one good led to the scarcity of another equal or greater good. The world operates on balance and it's occupants would do well to approach all things with moderation.

It strikes me as irresponsible, for example, for a man making $25,000 a year to keep a harem and father hundreds of children. There can be too much of a good thing.

That said, those children, once fathered, are good. Their humanity is equal to the humanity of any person. Wherever there is human life, all are obliged to love and provide for that life to the extent they are able, regardless of the circumstances in which that life was created. Which begs the question: is it even possible to speak of an overpopulation of humans?

We speak of an overpopulation of deer when the deer become so numerous they begin to strip other species of their livelihood, particularly if that species is human. We - humans that is - are mainly concerned with controlling deer population because of their potential threat to us and our livelihood should they become too numerous. A deer does not think that there are too many deer - nor is it willing to die to keep deer numbers down. We have to go out and kill them. Lemmings would be an exception to this instinct of self-preservation over and above species preservation, but humans would not.

You'll notice that those arguing for a reduction in human population are seldom volunteering to die for the cause. No, they want to kill other people or prevent them from being conceived. Makes sense - they're looking out for number one.

This fact does not make them wrong, however. It is possible, it seems to me, to speak of an overpopulation of humans. If humans became so populous as to deprive other humans of food, drink, clothing, or shelter, what else could this be called?

The human body is the greatest material good thing. Therefore, a number of human bodies could only be considered excessive when it reached the point of depriving life from human bodies.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Overpopulation continued

I have often heard a claim that all the people in the world could fit into Texas with room to spare. First in 1997 and then many many times since. A friend recently stated that he did not believe that those numbers were accurate, so I decided to check out this oft-made claim for myself.

According to the Texas Almanac, the state's area contains 261,797 square miles of land.

1 square mile = 27,878,400 square feet.

261,797 x 27,878,400 = 7,298,481,484,800 square feet of land in Texas.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the total midyear population of the world in 2009 will be 6,790,062,216.

7,298,481,484,800 / 6,790,062,216 = 1,074 square feet of land in Texas per person in the world in 2009.

So, there you have it. All the people in the world could fit into Texas with a fair amount of room for moving around.

Now, I doubt anyone intends this numerical exercise as a practical suggestion for what is to be done with the world's population. I suspect that if we piled the whole world into Texas most people would be dead within a month.

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