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Population - August 14

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Population Bomb Author's fix for next extinction: educate women

David Biello, Scientific American
Human activity is responsible for a sixth extinction of thousands of species, so Paul Ehrlich and a colleague call for educating women to slow population growth
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It’s an uncomfortable thought: Human activity causing the extinction of thousands of species, and the only way to slow or prevent that phenomenon is to have smaller families and forego some of the conveniences of modern life, from eating beef to driving cars, according to Stanford University scientists Paul Ehrlich and Robert Pringle.

This extinction—the sixth in the 4-billion-year history of the Earth—"could be much more catastrophic than previous ones," says Ehrlich, author of the controversial Population Bomb, which predicted that hundreds of millions of people would starve to death in the 1970s. That fate was forestalled by the green revolution in Asian agriculture, in which new strains of cereal crops plus enhanced use of fertilizer and irrigation allowed farmers to grow enough food to feed a burgeoning population. But this is a new threat: "Anything in the vicinity of the previous ones," Ehrlich says, such as the mass extinction at the end of the Cretaceous that killed half of all species, including the dinosaurs, "would wreck civilization."
(12 August 2008)



Peak population

Morgan Winters, Utne Reader
... A recent report (pdf) by the Population Institute notes that global population could increase from 6.7 billion to as much as 12 billion by 2050. Most of this increase is expected to occur in developing countries. In spite of these bleak findings, the closest thing to population reform coming from the right amounts to, “If the world’s brown people would stop having so many babies, there’d be no crisis.” In other words: Population is not our problem. On the left, sentiment has been that if we ease poverty and increase education in developing countries, the trajectory of global population will even itself out.

Basically, solve two pressing problems and the third is a freebee.

For the sake of argument, let’s say that as global citizens, the growing number of people inhabiting the Earth is everybody’s problem. It’s also safe to say that, based on solid statistical evidence, there is a direct relationship between lower standards of living and larger family size. Yet there is no guarantee that addressing these quality-of-living issues will solve the population problem, in part because our definition of what constitutes a problem in population is fuzzy.

We are faced with a crisis not because there are too many of us for the planet to sustain, but because we are collectively using up more resources than the planet can produce. This isn’t just true with valuable commodities, like oil and ore. The most basic of resources are growing scarce as well—food, potable water, wood. While reducing consumption in first-world countries will go a long way in addressing this problem, a population that just keeps growing will eventually overwhelm the planet, regardless of consumption. And as formerly impoverished nations achieve moderate prosperity, their consumption grows, likely negating any environmental benefits from reduced population growth via poverty aid. Therefore, a two-pronged solution is needed: reduced consumption and staved population growth.
(12 August 2008)


Social Scientists Seek Answer To Exploding Population (Popular Mechanics 1959)
Popular Mechanics
October 1959, Page 40:

About 90 million people,equal to the population of Japan, were added to the earth's population in the last two years. This growth is unprecedented in human history. The populations of some underdeveloped countries are increasing at the rate of three percent or more per year as compared to a rate of 1.7 percent in the United States.

Social scientists say that even if fertility soon begins to decline moderately, the present 2.8 billion people on earth will have multiplied to five or six billion by the end of the century, only 40 years from now. In 600 years, at the present rate of growth, there would be no more than a square yard of earth per person. Something obviously will happen to prevent such overcrowding, points out a United Nations report.

The continuing baby boom is occurring at the same time that famines and epidemic diseases, two things which in the past have periodically decimated human populations, have been brought under increasing control. Food production, housing, schooling and hospital facilities have been improved on a worldwide basis but continue to lag behind the needs of the exploding population. The Population Reference Bureau, Inc., a nonprofit organization
that gathers and interprets population data, suggests that means must be found to check fertility so that social progress can catch up. For instance, the problems of chronic poverty and malnutrition, have not been solved. Half of the world's children of school-going age are not in school. Housing and its financing are matters of international concern, as are adequate hospital facilities. In short, the Bureau finds that substantial
reductions in fertility must occur, especially in underdeveloped countries, before living can be raised much above subsistence levels.

Today 55.2 percent of the people of the world live in Asia, 23 percent in Europe (including Russia), eight percent in Africa, 6.7 percent in North America, 6.5 percent in Latin America, and 0.5 percent in Oceania."
(October 1959)
Contributor John E. writes: Fifty years on, already!

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