In my very first blog post, ‘Major Challenges to Sustainability‘, population tops the list. I’m back to square one. If all of us stopped consuming like we do, will we still run out of resources? Will we have alleviated poverty and famine? Will we have eliminated all other issues just by tackling this one? Is population, the most significant challenge in the world?
I’m pinning two works of thoughts that go against the grain to try and answer these questions. First is from a review of a book called Poverty and Famines: An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation by Amartya Sen and second is from a book It’s Better Than It Looks: Reasons for Optimism in an Age of Fear by Gregg Easterbrook.
Are we running out of resources? We have a lot of resources, but we are not managing them well. Are we running out of time? When it comes to climate change, yes we are. Climate change could cause a lack of access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.
Above all, is population control the panacea? I don’t think so. If we could only manage our time and resources well, we could do a lot better. Just think about how much time and resources we waste and how much we could save by working together – through efficient management and knowledge transfer.
What are your thoughts?
5 thoughts on “Is population control overrated?”
Every organism increases its population until it can no longer increase. Where humans differ from every other species is that we continually adapting our behaviour and creating new resources to sustain ever greater populations. First we used wood as fuel; the coal; then oil; then gas; now nuclear, solar, wind and hydro. We have developed a vast array of tools that enable us to use resources more productively. Transport, energy, communication, food and computing power are growing exponentially. And as we have become more aware of the value of conserving and recycling, we are doing those things too. So I don’t see limiting populations as a solution to any “problem”. Our challenge is to continue to innovate and develop new resources. I don’t see that slowing down – it is accelerating more than ever before in human history.
It is good to hear you discussing such matters on this blog.
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Thanks Steve. We humans have always managed to find solutions, the spirit of which I like. Although now we are questioning who the solutions serve: us humans, other species, nature in general. I think we are opening up to serving all of these instead of just ourselves. It’s a challenge but we shouldn’t lose our spirit.
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Thank you for the link. I wish this debatable topic comes to a concurrence ,so that every one could start working on the solution. I look for more information that can enlighten me that human population growth is not that big problem as it is viewed to be. I wish I am wrong in my belief about human population growth, as it gives me lot of concern. I consider there is always balance in ecosystem like more herbivores population will be controlled by carnivores and lack of herbivore population will control carnivores. I sense this balance in every species except us who like to dominate others. I see general thought of people like we have more rights to resources than any one. We can let some animal species to go off for our benefits.
I think may be mosquitoes or bacteria or fish may be higher than us. I dont think it could be mamals as most of them are in thousand numbers and are in verge of extinction.
Since I am little cynical about human population growth, i look forward to learn about positive impacts of it from u:)
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Thank you for writing about the topic which is running in my mind for some time. I was instinctively thought of conveying my concern about growing human population and need for its control. Then I took time reading through your blog and its previous reference blog. I kind of still have same thought upon immediate need for human population control. I am sharing my thoughts based on my observation and not from deep research. So please correct me if I am wrong in anything.
I agree with you that we need to improve our resource management. We have been wasting precious natural resources beyond our need. Earth has enough for our need but not for our greed. We need water conserving techniques in agriculture.Got to follow reduce-reuse-recycle habit to decrease our exploitation rate of natural resources. Even in this modern age, if people are still suffering from poverty, then the blame goes to corrupted and misfit politicians who eats up lion share of resources and depraving the resources for common people.
I think I need to find out more how much resource we have left inorder to relate with its availability for existing population. How long those resources would be available even if we started managing sustainably? For how much further human population need those resource will suffice? I read about earth overshoot day which says about the time in a year within which we consumed the resources meant for whole year. Every year this overshoot day keeps moving on to earlier years. I need to find out more abt what kind of resources are being consumed and are getting exhausted earlier in a year.
When I see extinction of other species, I can’t help but put the blame on ourselves. Loss of habitat is main cause for animal species extinction. Our population growth expands our habitat and reduces other species habitat. I started seeing politicians claiming for population control for animals or even destroying their population for the sake of human causes. Our atronomical pooulatiom growth will make politicos to take that inhumane step for their vote bank politics. We can survive with change in our food habit or even resort to nutrition tablets for satiating our food demands. But what about animals?
I am not sure whether we need further research to find the negative impacts for population growth. I think earth can accommodate increase in billion number of population but not the poor animals. I want earth with animals too.
Also I find from your previous blog about challenges to sustainability that increase in human population is having detrimental effects on resources.
Thank you for writing blogs on topics which makes me to spend time reading ,learning and sharing my thoughts.
This a debated topic which I see no end to in near future.
You might find this resource helpful, it’s called Global Resource Check – http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20120618-global-resources-stock-check. Earth Overshoot Day as you mentioned also gives an idea about the scale of resource depletion – good find!
We are one of the many species on this planet. We are one of the connections among the interconnected connections on this planet. We all influence each other. Take eutrophication for instance, excessive richness of nutrients in a body of water, frequently due to runoff from the land, which causes a dense growth of plant life (good for the plants?) and death of animal life from lack of oxygen (bad for the animals?). Every species has a different ability to survive on this planet, every species has different ways of manipulating the planet. Humans have evolved to manipulate at a far greater scale than any other species, which puts us in a position where it seems we have a greater responsibility to handle this ‘gift’ of evolution.
Which species on the planet has the highest population? Hint: It is not humans. :D
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