THE COMMON OBSERVER UNCOMMON OBSERVATIONS

Why does the myth of overpopulation persist?

I just published a controversial article over at 3 Quarks Daily. I ask why the myth of overpopulation persists. The idea that human population is growing out of control is in factual disagreement with the numbers that show the growth rate of humanity is now slowing. But of course, the subject is complicated and it is hard to predict the future. And what about as one commentator puts it the elephant in the room: ecological limits on the sustainable human population?

An image from page 52 of England's recent progress : an investigation of the statistics of migrations, mortality, in the twenty years from 1881 to 1901 as indicating tendencies toward the growth or decay of particular communities(1911). Image from the Internet Archive of Book Images, no known copyright restrictions. Humans have existed for a brief time no matter how you count the eons. Ten thousand years ago there were perhaps some three million humans on earth. Today there are  seven billion. It was only in the last century that population growth seemed unbounded, but in reality the average rate of population growth per year in the twentieth century was only a few percent. Quite frankly overpopulation is a myth. It is a dangerous idea that is demonstrably wrong. In developed countries it is actually population decline that presents social and economic challenges. In some underdeveloped nations the population is indeed growing extremely rapidly, however, the situation is ameliorated by humanist efforts such as education (particularly for women), access to contraceptives, and general economic and social empowerment of the population. Overpopulation isn’t a problem, but even if it was, the solution would be to give people, particularly women, choices about their own destiny

You can read the rest of this over at 3 Quarks…

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