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Thread: Return of the Population Timebomb

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    Return of the Population Timebomb

    Only since 1800, in the last 0.01% of the history of Homo sapiens, has the human population shot into the billions. Now at nearly 6.7 billion, with 9 billion looming 40 years away, few environmentalists seem to care.

    Yet the population-environment link is clear. Our environmental impact, as gauged by total resource consumption for a country or the world, is the product of population size and the average person's consumption.

    Today's crumbling environment, racked by climate change, mass extinction, deforestation, collapsing fisheries and more is evidence our total consumption has gone too far. We are destroying our life-support system. In ecological terms we are in "overshoot" of Earth's "carrying capacity" for humans, our demand exceeding the planet's absorptive and regenerative capacities.

    To avert catastrophe, we need to reduce both factors in the equation: our numbers and per person consumption.

    Or so it would seem. Ignoring that logic, most environmentalists today avoid half the equation. An emailer's assertion was typical: "John, if everyone on Earth just consumed less, as they do in Mexico, say, we wouldn't have exceeded carrying capacity."

    It's a simple notion: reduce per person consumption and end our environmental problems. And it lets us sidestep the issue of population size and growth, a subject of much concern in the 1960s and 1970s but taboo today.


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