Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Are We Overpopulating Our Mothership?

This article takes a very different yet simple approach at explaining overpopulation by employing one of the most important laws of nature -- the law of conservation of energy. A litmus test is also provided to prove that overpopulation is a very real crises. And lastly, a case study is illustrated that can put this topic into a proper perspective.

Seven Billion Lost Souls

I was only about ten years of age when my elementary school class first focused on the crises of a growing world population. The population then was at about 3.5 billion people. It has now doubled some 39 years later and it is still on the rise.

Struggling for finite resources and overcrowding humans leads to a whole array of pressing problems: overpopulation is often the direct cause of famines, scarcity, epidemics, oppression, war, extinction, and irreversible damage to all ecosystems.

We Are Destroying Species At a Very Rapid Rate

Natural history has witnessed at least five mass extinctions and not all were caused by wayward asteroids. One of the earliest occurred about 250 million years ago during the Precambrian period. It wiped out an astonishing 95% of all life. Yes you heard it right. The Earth appeared to be a vast desert wasteland for a whole of a duration of about one million years. Extinctions from natural causes are not avoidable. Eventually all species will die out including us even if technology advances to a point where we can safely colonize other star systems or galaxies. This is nature’s way.

But during the last 100 years or so humankind has brought many species to extinction and many more are marching steadily toward it at alarming rates. Forget all the land animals that are in peril. We are even endangering many marine species due to our over-harvesting the seas and leaving behind an ecological mess with our industrial activity which the earth cannot naturally cleanse fast enough. At this pace it is believed that beginning from about a hundred years ago and ending about a hundred years from now almost half the living species will have perished due to our neglect and over-consumption.

The fact that human activity is largely responsible for the extinctions of so many species and earth’s fragile ecosystems unable to naturally cleanse themselves at a rate fast enough at which we pollute it is very convincing evidence that our species is overpopulated and our growing numbers are not sustainable. Something has to give and this usually means plants and animals will first bear the burden (die out) because after all we are the apex predator.

However, we are not immune to this. Nature has a law appropriately named the law of conservation of energy. This means that all resources are finite and consumption must be balanced because mother nature is a very meticulous accountant. She never forgets to keep well balanced up-to-date books. This reminds us that we cannot print resources out of thin air like we do with our fiat monetary system. Eventually most human beings will also be compelled to pick up the tab by becoming disposable so that our species can live on. It is the only way.

What is War and What is the Root Cause?

Current population trends suggest that our near future will witness mass deaths perhaps whole populations due to severe droughts, sudden changes to the ecosystems which technology cannot reverse or keep up with, or energy shortages all of which will result in food shortages. And, what is food? It is energy and there we have that pesky law of conservation of energy again. And of course there will be badly needed mass genocides (yes needed because nature works in cruel and mysterious ways) as a consequence of a world war that is more devastating than world wars I and II combined.

For now forget all the cultural differences and geopolitical quests for power and greed which world leaders are famous for. Yes they do spark conflicts for such reasons but they are only symptoms of an even more fundamental crises. World Wars I and II occurred because the technology at the time could not meet the demands for energy (and resources) of a growing regional and world population. Thus as explained before, nature is indifferent. It has naturally devised a plan for (through war) reducing our numbers when they become unsustainable. At the most fundamental level all major wars are really just a struggle for resources and we cannot avoid these conflicts if we overpopulate the earth and mismanage our finite resources. We have already reached this point twice before.

Modern technology has exceeded that of World War II by what seems like a milestone. Combine that with all casualties due to all military conflicts since then and it has reduced the human population “safely” back down to a sustainable level which technology and resources can meet at least for now. However our growing numbers will eventually outpace that of technology and this will spark another vast struggle for resources which will lead to another world war. The United States colonizing the oil rich middle east and other continents (in fact most of the world) is a symptom of this. Eventually World War III shall witness the greatest mass genocide in all of history combined.

The next film, The Crisis of Civilization, examines many of our habits of over-consumption, mismanagement of resources, and the resulting degradation on all ecosystems and the struggle for resources which ensues paving the way for terrorism, war, financial meltdown, dwindling oil reserves, and food shortages which are all converging symptoms of a single, failed global system. The second documentary is a similar film which presents a hypothetical case of what the world may look like in 2100 if we continue with our selfish and irresponsible ways.

Five Point Litmus Test: Are We Overpopulated?

A state of overpopulation occurs when the carrying capacity for a species is exceeded in an ecosystem. For foxes this means that a particular environment is not producing enough hares to feed on. This also means that the environment must be healthy with enough insects to cultivate the land and greens to feed and attract foragers.

For human beings a state of overpopulation exists when food, water, and energy are in short supply or environmental degradation is leading to ecological disasters. Please consider the following litmus test. An answer of “yes” to any of the following is strong evidence of overpopulation.

  • Are we expending resources (forests, clean water, clean air, food, energy, etc.) more rapidly than they can be replenished? This is what we are witnessing in forests and jungles throughout the world. This is especially true not only in Madagascar and the Amazon rain forest but also in the United States.
  • Is the planet becoming polluted at a faster pace than it can be naturally cleansed? Although the U.S. has many clean water and clean air regulations, the overall content of pollutants into the North American and world environment is always growing.
  • Do droughts occur resulting in millions dying from famine during such dry seasons or years? We witness this frequently in Africa and sometimes on other continents.
  • Are animal species becoming extinct at a much faster rate than would have occurred naturally? We are now seeing this with Cod and Tuna from over-harvesting the seas. Despite regulations for protecting them, many other land and sea species are now in peril.
  • Are there perpetual wars somewhere in the world? Although much of this is driven by geopolitics or a quest for power, at its most fundamental level it is really just a struggle for resources, energy, and land.

The following two are an outstanding BBC documentary and a great talk by the Sixth Annual Barbara L. and Norman C. Tanner Center for Nonviolent Human Rights Advocacy Foruma.

Case Study: Why Hunger Is Not The Problem in Africa

Famine hits third world or developing countries the hardest because this is where regional overpopulation often occurs. Some of the driving forces behind it are illiteracy, religion (especially Catholic or Christian) which usually declares all forms of contraceptives a sin, peer pressure to raise a large family, or a large family is needed to work the fields or the farm.

However this presents another problem in that people in underdeveloped nations often multiply far beyond their ability to produce food or offset droughts, have access to clean drinking water, or beyond their capabilities to build real shelters such as modern homes with utilities like plumbing and electricity. In desperate times some even resort to cannibalism. As it is now it often seems that they all still live in grass huts or cardboard and plywood box homes.

A hypothetical solution often suggested is to divert all grain now produced for livestock to African nations facing famine. This is only a temporary fix because hunger would eventually grow exponentially as more people live to the age where they too would procreate beyond their (and ours) sustenance. Permanent reliance on the generosity of Western nations would occur for their nutritional needs. This would also lead to a growing crises of overcrowding which always spawns wars over resources especially land, water, and food.

Overpopulation also results in high death rates due to disease especially if they do not have adequate sewage systems. More raw sewage than ever would flow into their groundwater, streams, or reservoirs. Hence producing another crises of foul drinking water which would generate even more mass epidemics.

Take the African nation of Liberia for example. Many people there live in their own excrement as they defecate and urinate just outside their primitive shelters. Many of them now fall victim to illnesses originating from these living conditions. See The Cannibal Warlords of Liberia (Full Length Documentary) (also embedded below) for documented video evidence of this.

Although many would perish in an epidemic it would not offset their population growth because Western nations would probably continue to feed them and even send in Doctors Without Borders to rescue them from the ecological damage they generated and we enabled. They are even still dependent on the West to provide them with mosquito nets to shelter them from airborne pathogen carrying insects which transmit diseases like malaria. Imagine that, they cannot yet fabricate their own nets.

Unlike most people in other parts of the world planning ahead to offset periodical droughts or anemic harvests seems to be beyond their capacity. Even simple strategies like birth control are not practiced. Regardless, their immediate needs are often so weighing that they can only live for the here and now.

Three Strategies for Stabilizing Our Population

As promised here is how to fix overpopulation in a very humane way that of course would not practice war or genocide. I am certain there are other humane ways but these were off the top of my head. And finally, I do not endorse feeding people in Third World nations but I include them as a strategy with stipulations because it is going to happen regardless.

  • It begins with you. It takes a man and a woman to have a family. Keep it down to no more than one or at most two children to replace you both. It really is that simple.
  • Yes do feed the poor and the hungry in other countries but only under one condition. All adults must be spayed or neutered to receive such a sustenance. Children would not need to be “fixed” but should be. Why do some people have a problem with this? It really does make sense.
  • Similar to prior point, do provide clean water filtration systems and agricultural assistance to the world but only under some minor conditions. Have all adults, despite the number of children they have already had, spayed or neutered to recieve this clean water or assistance. Children would not need to be “fixed” but should be.
  • Bonus: Provide condoms, other contraceptives, and educational material (especially exposing the Catholic Church for reasons already known to you) to third world countries. These are places where overpopulation is having the greatest impact.

Words to Remember

The current world population is unsustainable therefore something has to give. We can either take the humane but politically incorrect high road or we can take the low road and witness people dieing horrific deaths from disease, famine, or war. The option is yours.

Further Viewing and Reading

The next film examines the consequences if the world's population grows to twice its current size which is projected to occur sometime in the 22st century.

The following videos are far more sensible in that they focus on over-consumption of finite resources and the consequences of our mismanagement of the Earth. They suggest good ways of stabilizing our population.

And finally, the following reading sources either support or oppose overpopulation. All points of view are presented to bring you a more balanced treatise of this very important topic. Wikipedia marks the point between cons and pros because it is considered a neutral source

Top image courtesy of fairyfarmgirldigest.

© 2013 Jules Manson — All Rights Reserved


  1. Thank you so much for your research. Very much appreciated.


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