# How overpopulated are we?

...we spend paltry sums for population planning, even though its spontaneous growth is an urgent threat to life on our planet.

There is no human circumstance more tragic than the persisting existence of a harmful condition for which a remedy is readily available. Family planning, to relate population to world resources, is possible, practical and necessary. Unlike plagues of the dark ages or contemporary diseases we do not yet understand, the modern plague of overpopulation is soluble by means we have discovered and with resources we possess.

What is lacking is not sufficient knowledge of the solution but universal consciousness of the gravity of the problem and education of the billions who are its victims.

--Martin Luther King, Jr., 1966

Just something to consider. If you took all the people on Earth,

and you spread every one of us -- men, women, and children -- out as sparsely as possible over the entire land area of Earth, including land like Antarctica, Greenland, and Siberia,

how much land would everyone get? How far away would your neighbors be? The answer may shock you. Let's see what your best guess is, first.

Now, let's do the math together. At the current moment (October, 2009), the world's population is 6.79 billion people. That seems like a huge number, of course, and it continues to get bigger every day.

But the Earth's land area doesn't increase over time in the same way, of course. The Earth's has a radius of about 6,370 km, and about 30% of the surface is land. While not all of the land is habitable, we can pretend that it is, and we find that the total land area of Earth is about 149 million square kilometers.

This means that each person gets about 22,000 square meters of land. That might be a lot if you live in a city, but it's only about 5.4 acres per person. That's about two soccer fields. If you were to divide all the Earth's land into a grid,

your square would be 148 meters on a side, which is less than 500 feet. If everyone built their home in the middle of their land, you'd be able to hit your eight nearest neighbors with a golf ball (more if you're John Daly).

So that's it; that's all the land you'd get. About 10% of you would live in Antarctica, and despite its status as the smallest country in the world, 20 of you would live inside Vatican City.

Just a smidge under 150 meters to your nearest neighbor. Looks like it is a small world after all.

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Nice warm-up problem for an astronomy class! :)

That's.....not bad? I mean, I'm looking for a house, and I'll be lucky to get an acre for the (so far) two of us.

I don't really believe the world is CURRENTLY overpopulated, and most experts don't, either (we just need to use our resources more efficiently). The problem certainly is looming, though, and growth rates need to fall off. In fact, if it does become truly unsustainable they WILL fall off. We should just try to make sure that occurs by falling birth rates rather than increasing early-age death rates.

Almost 6 acres, not bad. Right now, I could probably hit my nearest 50 neighbours with a golf ball, though of course I've only hit 2 or 3. It would be interesting to see how the numbers work out if once were to remove land considered virtually uninhabitable.

By Raj Dhuwalia (not verified) on 16 Oct 2009 #permalink

We have to get our population growth under control and enact policies to discourage large families while also encouraging dense urban development rather than more sprawl.

The habitable land on Earth is about 15,641,597,556 acres (63,299,300 sq km). That leaves 2.3 acres (0.009 sq km) per person, or about half of the estimate you posed assuming the whole Earth's land was available. Note that Mars has about the same total surface area as the land area on Earth, so if we all moved to Mars, we'd have the same amount of per capita space as we do on Earth.

I hope you registered your blog with Blog Action Day, since overpopulation dovetails nicely into the climate change problem.

Not bad?! Not "overpopulated" yet?! When I do a quick tally of just the food I eat in a year, I don't know if it would be possible to grow on 6 acres - wheat, rice, vegetables, corn, sugar, land for grazing livestock, etc. etc... And that's just the food. What about the mineral resources I consume, the paper and other wood products, the petroleum products? If everybody lived the way I (and most others in Europe and the US) do, there wouldn't be near enough land to support us - especially considering that a large fraction of the land in the world is not suitable for most uses. I think we're already way beyond a sustainable population.

By Eric Johnson (not verified) on 16 Oct 2009 #permalink

W00T! Got it in one! 1-5-0 meters! I win!!!!

(Thinks a bit)

Oh, we lose...

Yes, we are definitely overpopulated.

You can find places in the world where rural population densities exceed one person per 5 acres: portions of central Africa, India, and China come to mind. But these places boast some of the world's best agricultural land, and the people who live there are frequently dirt poor, or even aspire to rise to that status. Most places in the world cannot sustain a rural population density anywhere near one person per five acres, let alone the surplus that their urban cousins need to eat. To achieve that population density you need ample rainfall, a long (effectively year round) growing season, and large quantities of good soil. The place where I live (New Hampshire) has only the first of those three; our growing season is already over, and there's a reason we're known as the Granite State.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 16 Oct 2009 #permalink

Need to get bet at doing this stuff in my head (and memorise logarithms).

My estimate came out at a bit over 300 m, so I rounded up to 500 m.

Ah well.

But the correct answer to the question is "too".

I don't really believe the world is CURRENTLY overpopulated

Funny, I just read this morning an article about the 1 BILLION people who are starving as we type...

So the plan is to get rid of the 8 contiguous neighbors and take their land which give me about 50 acres and...

By NewEnglandBob (not verified) on 16 Oct 2009 #permalink

Eric @5 beat me to that one. Spread everybody out and we all become responsible for everything we consume because there is no possibility for economies of scale or division of labor.

An alternative analogy for the population growth: read John Brunner's masterful "Stand on Zanzibar". When the novel opens it was possible to stand the population of Earth shoulder to shoulder on the dry land of the island of Zanzibar. As the story progresses the newcomers find themselves in the water. That is but one thread of the novel. Be prepared to divide your brain into at least 5 separate but braided trains of thought, and it has the all out best tie everything together twist in the last sentence. DO NOT PEEK unless you already know what it is.

By GrayGaffer (not verified) on 16 Oct 2009 #permalink

I voted 150 (sqrt((4/3*pi*r^2)/6B)) but that includes the oceans of course. At times of year the ocean is too treacherous to live on so we need to modify that. The available area is only 1/3, so the revised number is a mere 86m - less than 0.75ha or a mere 3 acres.

Rob @9,
Being the dirty communist that I am, I'd say the 1 billion starving people are a result more of uneven distribution of wealth amongst all people, than of overpopulation. Those billion starving people would be much more effectively fed by unrealistic altruism from 1st world nations, than by increasing our habitable land mass.

Luckily for BenHead, it's his descendants that will have to solve the problem of using our resources more efficiently, not him. They will also be the ones having to take drastic measures to reduce population size (forced sterilizations and abortions come to mind; or maybe they'll just come up with a new outgroup and commit genocide to take over their resources) because when people are allowed reproductive choices, they choose to breed almost universally. And that's just what BenHead is going to do, with his head planted firmly in the sand, being 100% sure that he is not contributing to the problem at all.

41 years after its publication, Stand on Zanzibar is still the most chillingly prophetic novel ever written.

Not currently overpopulated? Only if you think Homo sapiens is the only species worthy of regard.

The problem isn't how much space there is for that land, it's:

1) How much arable land is there

2) How much CO2 and other Greenhouses Gases are they producing

3) How are the resources shared out

If everyone consumed as much as Americans we'd need nine extra planets

And of course they tie into each other, like Climate change will reduce the amount of fertile land.

By The Pink Ninja (not verified) on 16 Oct 2009 #permalink

Jared Diamond, in "Collapse", made the point that the Rwandan genocide wasn't caused by tribal tensions. It was overpopulation, plain and simple. We might be battling on OK at the moment, but we don't have much of a buffer in case something goes wrong (and it needn't be global warming; a sufficiently large volcanic eruption like Tambora in 1815 would be enough).

By Wayne Robinson (not verified) on 16 Oct 2009 #permalink

Just a wee little interjectin, if I may.

Don't forget that we each also need to share our 5 acres with every other terrestrial (and almost all bird) species on the planet.

Y'all seem to be making the mistaken assumption that since we each get 5 acres, that the only rightful use of every square inch of that 5 acres is to take care of me. Some of it needs to be left over to take care of the rest of the biosphere too, y'know.

If you don't care about what is happening with regard to human overpopulation and the environment you simply do not care about your grandchildren and children, you quite simply do NOT LOVE them.

It is impossible not to laugh at those who state that humans aren't overpopulated. Careful management of and/or redistribution of resource will not fix the problem at this point, if those efforts are combined with a continuation of the overzealous human birth rate.

Christianity is a big part of the problem because it fosters the idea that the planet is temporary. Christians have changed, do change, and can change how they relate to and believe in their god-idea. It is time for the christian to take some responsibility for its disgusting actions.

Lee, you are so right. Just looking around my tiny house - 2 cats, a dozen mice, a turtle, a frog, a handful of fish, two bunnies...and outside, in the yard, countless squirrels, birds, bugs, deer, fish (in the pond, not the yard :). Each uses/requires resources just like we do.

@Notagod #20: Not only christianity but mohammedanism as well. Back to christianity, in the Philippines I got to know one of the ministers for health; the guy pushed for sex education and family planning and promptly lost his job thanks to the catholic church. The catholic church wants people to breed like roaches with no regard for the ability of the parents to provide for the family; unfortunately the folks in the Philippines are brainwashed very well indeed. One hilarious thing though is the increasing presence of the baptists; I asked a baptist missionary what the hell they were doing in that part of the world and he said he had come to christianize the barbarians; I told him he must have it all backwards and has come to barbarize the christians because the Philippines had been considered a catholic nation since Spanish occupation some time around 1560. Of course catholicism isn't christianity so the baptists have a job to do ...

@Brian: You're exactly right, and it has nothing to do with communism. Europe can feed its own population easily. The Americas can feed their own population. Australia can feed its own population. China can feed its own population. It's that it's not practical, probably not even possible, to ship in enough food for the 1 billion + hungry people in Africa and some parts of South Asia from the rest of the world.

*Earth* isn't overpopulated; more than enough food is produced to feed everyone. Some specific *regions* of Earth are overpopulated.

The US's farmland alone is absurdly rich. Remember that the US government actually pays farmers to produce less ... because if all the farmland was producing to full capacity, food would be too cheap to make a living selling.

I'm convinced that if we get off fossil fuels, the Earth could support twice the current population with less environmental damage than currently is occurring. The ecological damage is mostly from the current system of industry and not population itself. The climate crisis is already upon us; reducing population won't be quick enough to help. And once we get off fossil fuels, other energy sources will allow desalination of water and thus irrigation and restoration of desertified lands, etc.

(Quick thought experiment: China is a net exporter of food. Its land is not particularly good for farming: Tibet and Xinjiang compose more than one-quarter of the land area, and are nearly worthless for farming and very thinly populated; much of the southwest, toward the Himalayas, is rocky highlands; further, China has no vast areas of temperate-grassland farmlands as the US does. So China is probably worse on average for farming than the Earth as a whole. If the entire Earth's land area had China's population density, that would be 20.75 billion people.)

Also, most civilizations that have ceased increasing population (Sparta, Rome, etc.) have suffered serious problems due to this. The eventual goal should be expansion off Earth...

By intercostalwaterway (not verified) on 17 Oct 2009 #permalink

"Christianity is a big part of the problem because it fosters the idea that the planet is temporary. "

Um, actually science fosters the same idea. Hmm, maybe science is to blame!

Um, have people forgotten about families, and multi-layered buildings like houses, skyscrapers etc???

I'm sure Ethan hasn't, as this post was a simple thought experiment, but some of the above comments(e.g. #5 saying that we're overpopulated because we can't possibly produce enough food on 5.4 acres etc) have.

We may well be overpopulated in actuality, but this is independent of Ethan's calculation.

@Alex #25: Ethan was just pointing out that if we spread humans across the entire surface of the earth we would only get about 5 acres per person because there are that many of us. A single number like that is not proof that the earth is overpopulated.

However, the earth is in fact overpopulated. With current consumption rates, industry estimates perhaps only another 70 years of oil and gas, and perhaps between 200 and 600 years of coal. The catch is the "current rate of consumption"; all nations are increasing consumption and as China in particular modernizes, consumption is increasing rather dramatically. India is also developing rapidly and putting pressure on resource extraction. The development is also necessary to avoid or postpone a natural collapse such as observed in Africa over 200 years ago and which we are once again observing in various parts of Africa. The USA and much of Europe had become absolutely dependent on fossil fuels and mechanization well over 50 years ago. Without the intensive agriculture (which does damage the environment) cities will collapse.

In much of the developed world there is also a water shortage; this is not due at all to the environment and climate but due to far too large a population. Over 100 years ago the population had already presented us with water shortages and we have been able to ameliorate that with the construction of numerous dams (many of which remain among the largest human-made structures in the world). The population continued to boom and soon the run-off from the dams became too small to support the river systems that fed them; entire ecosystems downstream of the dams have been devastated. More dams need to be built just to support the current population and yet there is so much resistance to building more dams - nor does building more dams fix the underlying problem of overpopulation.

So when do you say the earth is overpopulated? When it is far too late to do anything and there are riots in LA and New York because there isn't enough food? Is it really a good thing to live like cockroaches crammed into tiny boxes in mega cities? Folks in the cities also tend to be highly delusional about how a city is supported; where the food, fuel, water, steel, concrete - in fact, where any resource comes from and how it is produced. As far as most city folk are concerned, that stuff comes magically. What actually goes on behind the scenes is quite amazing and in fact quite impossible only 100 years ago, and it is all tied into oil, gas, and coal.

Isabel, that's funny, you think 4 billion years is temporary? We've got at least 3 billion years before we should even consider that as temporary. Ha! Then you think it is acceptable to compare that to the christian process of declaring "the end is near" usually suggesting a very short time and extending to a maximum of 50 years. You are wrong by many orders of magnitude.

Is it possible that evolution invokes homosexuality to reduce the birthrate and to discourage certain groups from transferring their genes?

intercostalwaterway,

The planet is currently, that is now, experiencing one of the worst mass extinctions ever. The reasons are strictly related to human causes. The planet you envision by your comment would be woefully deprived of diversity and there is no reason to suspect that life on the planet would not collapse.

Even at that though, to me, it is about having respect for the quality of life we leave to future generation. Your vision is centered around stuffing sardines into a can until the can explodes.

However, I would still be interested in a more detailed view of your future world view. Including but not limited to; what will you do with the human organic waste, human solid waste, industrial waste, toxins, poisons, pollution, societal problems associated with super dense species population, etc., etc., etc. Additionally, we are currently doing great harm to the oceans due to the over-extraction of life and using harmful methods, will you let them fail as well?

Do you realize that life isn't all about you?

There's not too many people. There's just too many White people. 20% of humanity lives in the First World. About 85-90% of those people are White. If you look at a Gini of the distribution of resources within those countries, Whites have about 95-98% of the resources. The average First Worlder has ten times the footprint of the average human (that's including First Worlders); this comes at the expense of the other 80% of humanity. Thus, for every White person eliminated, ten people have their standard of living effectively doubled. There are somewhere between 700,000,000 and 750,000,000 White people in the First World, making up the bulk of White people in the world. That means eliminating all white people would allow 7 to 7.5 billion people to double their standard of living. This would all but eliminate extreme poverty. Including Whites in places like South America that live far above the average standard of living for those countries and regions (as compared to mestizo, indigenous, and African-descended people), the effect is even more pronounced. Taking into consideration how even a moderate increase in standard of living induces social conditions that raise the standard of living even further (i.e. a decrease in family size leading to an increase in amount of resources devoted to each child, leading to more education, leading to better living standards, leading to smaller family sizes...) The elimination of White people would mean the elimination of poverty.

And just to counter the initial arguments about to be made, I'll give you this. Non-Whites in the First World suffer disproportionately at the hands of Whites. Including but not limited to less money, less resources, less education, less political power, less access to medical care, shorter lives, more likely to suffer from environmental hazards (more likely to live near power, chemical, and industrial plants; more likely to be employed in mining, meat-packing, and other jobs likely to incur mortality and morbidity; more likely to live in a flood plain...), more likely to be imprisoned, more likely to be falsely imprisoned, more likely to be murdered. Thus, non-Whites can be said to be held hostage by Whites in the system of Euro-centric dominance that has existed since colonialism first began. Also, Japanese are the exception, as a country full of non-White First Worlders; they should go too. Think about this next time someone starts talking about overpopulation; in order to maximize the efficiency of population reduction, we should always start by reducing the population of White people.

Jonathan, WTF? Do you seriously believe that if all White and Japanese people were eliminated, all non-whites and non-Japanese people would just live happily together in an idyllic, bucolic paradise? Some other race or ethnicity would take over the niche that industrialized nations and their dominant inhabitants now occupy, and make the rest of humans (and other animals) their bitch. C'est la vie. Study world history, and you will see that colonialism and imperialism are by no means unique to Whites or the Japanese. I'm all for voluntary human extinction, but what you are advocating is just racist nuttery. Now, a point could be made that people (including women) in industrialized nations have a greater access to contraception, abortion, education, and honor killings are not considered cool there, and thus it's easier for those people to curb or cease their reproduction. I agree with that. But thinking that eliminating certain groups will eliminate the lifestyle they practice is downright naive and ignorant.

Given how literal-minded our host here is, particularly when numbers are concerned, I'd thought this post was going to address our planet's estimated long-term carrying capacity: what would be the number of people that Earth can sustainably support?

Others have tried answering that; iirc, the highest figure was about 2-3 billion, and that included a lot of optimistic assumptions. Whatever the number, it's dropping steadily, as the existing 6.8B gnaw away at the resource base and add to the toxin load.

Jonathan - just who are you getting your (mis)information from?

By Pierce R. Butler (not verified) on 18 Oct 2009 #permalink

I'm aware that the current extinctions are due to human causes -- but the simplest and most effective way to solve that problem isn't the reduction of population but the use of clean energy (and eventual expansion into space).

@Pierce R. Butler: All those estimates assume that our resources are limited to 'Earth'. We are at the technological point where that is no longer necessary.

Anyway, I see no reason to believe that, with desalination and irrigation of deserts, 15 billion+ wouldn't be entirely sustainable.

Malthusianism has always proved wrong in the past, and it will continue to. Clinging to Malthusianism and rejecting nuclear power are the two things that environmentalists do that actually hurt the environment in the long run. With technological development, there is no contradiction between environmental conservation and human population growth.

By intercostalwaterway (not verified) on 18 Oct 2009 #permalink

intercostalwaterway @ # 33: All those estimates assume that our resources are limited to 'Earth'. We are at the technological point where that is no longer necessary.

We (i.e., the combined efforts of all the industrialized nations) can barely keep a funky orbital station hosting half a dozen people going, and you think we're ready to mine the solar system (and presumably export our toxic wastes to space as well)?

As for hurting "the environment in the long run", read up a bit on the half-life of nuclear wastes and the bubble-gum and baling-twine nature of existing and proposed storage systems before you continue evangelizing for the General Electric/Westinghouse "solution" to energy shortages.

By Pierce R. Butler (not verified) on 18 Oct 2009 #permalink

#31

I never said anything about paradise. I said that poverty would be eliminated due to the rise in standards of living from having more than half the worlds resources freed up by eliminating the tiny proportion of gluttons.

You can't compare European Colonialism with any other system in history. The size, scope, duration, and destructiveness outstrip any other system by orders of magnitude.

The point of my comment was that the carrying capacity of the Earth is quite high, as long as you don't live the gluttonous and hedonistic lifestyle of Whites. The fact that 20% of the population uses 50% of the resources distorts the system and the ability of humanity to sustain itself.

#32

I welcome you to disprove any of my claims.

#33

Yes, if only we had cheap, clean, abundant energy with the ability to easily and efficiently store it, all are problems would be solved! Stupid entropy, keeping us from being gods.

More seriously, yes, we have to tech to do basically anything as long as we can supply the power. However, our ability to deliver power is limited, and pointedly a big part of the problem of sustainability. To effectively utilize space to solve these problems (space-based solar and mining, for example), we would have needed to invest in the infrastructure starting years ago in, like, the seventies. Now, using the two lower stages of the Saturn V as a heavy-lift booster, this was wholly possible. But sadly, like everything wrong in America in the second half of the twentieth century, Richard Nixon happened. He canceled the Saturn V program which crippled NASA, irreparably so. Unless we go the Manhattan Project route and give 1/3 of our industrial system over to industrializing space.

I think the reason christians want a theocracy in the United States is so that they can start their holy wars. They are secretly jealous of the holy wars in Iraqi. The christians want to show that they are willing to kill other christian cult members for their god-ideas too.

intercostalwaterway,

Well here's something you can do to help then. A tourist 'space port' is soon to be built in New Mexico. You can get a ride and have them drop you off at your nearest approach to the moon. From there, you just float on over to the moon and warm, you're nuts, by the fire while you plan your colony.

Jonathan @ # 35: I welcome you to disprove any of my claims.

How you define "white" is pretty arbitrary, of course. Does your definition include, say, the ancient Assyrians, or pre-Conquistador Aztecs? Mao Tse-Tung & Chiang Kai-Shek?

Do you think Tamerlane or his role model Genghis Khan were "white" or Japanese? What about Milton Obote, Jonas Savimbi, Idi Amin Dada, Joseph Kony, Mobutu Sese Seko, or their role model Shaka? The list could be continued indefinitely...

By Pierce R. Butler (not verified) on 18 Oct 2009 #permalink

Don't people live in groups called "families"? This naive calculation might worry some who consider 5 acres/person cramped -- or just dislike being able to see their neighbors' homes, but
many might be less alarmed at the prospect of, say, 25 acres per 5-person household.

I think uncontrolled population is a big and real problem. But so are naive calculations.

This is all pretty old school, the population problem was solved decades ago by accident of culture and hormone-in-a-pill technology. The total fertility rate of almost the entire population north of the tropic of cancer is below replacement right now. Russia, Japan, and most of Europe are shrinking already. The US is barely at breakeven not counting immigration, and China's growth will go negative just as soon as life expectancy increases level off. As those trends move south, so will the fertility rates there.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Fertility_rate_world_map_2.png

It's my guess-ti-mate that, in the time it took to type this, perhaps 500-600, 'children, under 5' as the W.H.O.-demographic is lableed, have starved.
...As long as their is 1, ('one'), child starving to death each & every day, it can safely be said there are too many humans.
Has everyone forgotten ANOTHER 2-4 Billion humans will be with us, within my projected lifespan, aka another 25-35 years?
I'd like the individuals/groups referred to below to explain, COHERENTLY, how THEY propose we feed, hydrate, clothe, educate, house, employ & police all these 'unborns',
when we're doing such a #@%%\$#-terrible job managing the needs of the mere 6.79 Billion we presently have!

A 'pro-lifer' is responsable for twice as many dead Americans as O. Bin Ladin; He has been allowed to crawl back under a Crawford Tx.-rock, presumably to write his nonsense & crap laced memoirs.
Herr Ratzinger, when not welcoming home nazi-apoligist bishops, continues promoting what SHOULD BE considered his most embarrassing blunder, (the contraception discouragment policy!), and the genocidal demand for "No Condoms"!!

Christianity sheds little light on It's sub-sects whose goal is to have as many children as possible, which was breiefly the theme of a 'reality show' about a family w/ 17-18 children & unabashedly, "hoping for more, A.S.A.P.!"
Did mass amnesia & collective consumer obediance cause us all to forget the saga of Andrea & Rusty Yates, who practiced this sort of 'family (non-)planning'?
Unless so-called religious & political 'leaders' wake up & smell the baby-poo, human society may yet imitate the star-trek, original series - episode: Enterprise is lured to a planet where it is literally unavoidable to move without rubbing against others, (like a rush hour PATH train), to introduce a culling disease...as this society shuns birth control, (in fiction) the way humanity shuns it in reality!
Perhaps some 'Christian soldier' will give the world a real, (...version of S. King's culling disease...), 'Capt. Trips'!
BTW: I've put my '\$\$-where-my-XXXXXX-used-to-be'...via 'vasectomy w/o reproduction'!

By R.G. Frano, A-… (not verified) on 19 Oct 2009 #permalink

Wow, agree that there's a problem, and agree to the solution, and get told you're sticking your head in the sand! God, I love Web 2.0. Seriously, though....

Overpopulation will soon be a problem if something isn't done. Fortunately, a quick glance at the Wikipedia article on it shows that something is being done. "For the world as a whole, the number of children born per woman decreased from 5.02 to 2.65 between 1950 and 2005." "In 2050, the projected world number of children born per woman is 2.05." Exponential growth is scary, but it's no longer being maintained. And not that it's anyone's business, but since Marzipan @15 made mention of my "contributing to the problem", I'll note that my wife and I are planning on having 1 or 2 children, and may well adopt one of them.

Climate change is a far more pressing issue than overpopulation, looking at current trends in both human population and atmospheric CO2. As vast portions of the world's populations (India and China chief among them) move from agrarian societies to modern societies, it's important that we help them do it sustainably, and clean up our own act while we're at it, for two reasons. One, people in advanced societies have fewer children (also noted, with source citations, in that Wikipedia article), so it's the best, most humane way to limit further growth. Two, even if the current population is sustainable (note the mention that the median of expert estimates on the planet's carrying capacity is 10 billion people - I don't know but tend to doubt that that takes into account still little-used advanced farming practices like hydroponics/aeroponics, GM foods, etc), it may not remain so if the climate goes to hell.

So while I don't think overpopulation is a crisis, I also don't disagree with Ethan's point that it's worthy of consideration. At the same time, I don't think telling residents of modern, wealthy nations, who already have the lowest birth rates, "Have less babies!" is a really effective way to prevent it from becoming a crisis. But get third-world nations the help they need to modernize, and you'll both prevent a great deal of suffering in the short term and see birth rates drop like a stone in the long term. At the same time, start using resources more efficiently, and ensure that as more regions develop, they do so as well, and you'll find that there's more than enough to fill 7 billion plates with food (and homes with warmth, and lives with fulfillment, etc).

#38

How Whiteness is defined is arbitrary because it doesn't exist in reality. There is no biological basis for race. It's a social construct, much like nations, and is thus defined by society, not reality. There is no fixed definition for Whiteness. An example of this is that, in the '60's in America, Catholics, such as Irish, Italians, and Polish, were not considered White, the same with Jews. It was only later that these groups were assimilated into the notion of Whiteness. If you go back to the nineteenth century, German immigrants were not considered White. Think about that, in America in the 1800's, fucking Germans weren't considered White enough! If you go to a country like Brazil or China today, their conceptualization of race is going to be different than the conceptualization of race in America. In South Africa, people from India and China are considered Black. To borrow a quote, "[Whiteness] is what we point to when we say [White]." Since race is a human concept, it's definition is bound to human conceptualizations of it.

#39

The point remains, that is not enough land to support our current population long-term at anything above subsistence levels. Maybe not even then.

#40

Yes, but the consumption rates of those countries isn't shrinking. In fact, it's growing. And doing so at a pace that outstrips the country's growth due to immigration. Basically, even though there are fewer people, those people simply consume more. This Orwellian behavior reinforces my point that we have not too many people, just too many White people.

#41

Cool story, bro.

#42

Climate change and population are linked. The single biggest thing you can do to reduce your carbon footprint is to have fewer children (or none).

When people talk about advanced technology to increase food production, they usually ignore the fact that those technologies need shit-loads of energy. Hydroponics/aeroponics, desalination, fertilizers/pesticides, and irrigation all have incredible energy requirements; energy requirements that can currently only be met by burning fossil fuels. Unless we massively switch over to a solar/wind/tidal power generation system, none of those technologies would work; their increased use of fossil fuels would accelerate global warming, undoing any progress they made.

I think the only real long-term solution to the food problem is solar desalination, plus my earlier suggestion (#30). Use solar-thermal mirrors to heat mineral oil to 700C. Use the oil to boil sea water. Use the steam generated to spin turbines. Then pump the condensate to fields for irrigation. The water has been distilled, so you don't have problems with soil salination like you do with well water or runoff. 2,788,000 km2 of land is currently irrigated. According to the CIA World Factbook, 17,292,000 km2 is farmed. That means only 16.12% of land is irrigated. Irrigation increases the yield of land 400-500%, depending on the length of the growing season. That means, with the nearly limitless fresh water provided by sun+ocean interactions, we can produce enough food for all. Plus, any energy produced by the solar-thermal plants not consumed in pumping the water is a net increase in the amount of clean energy being produced. Two birds, one stone.

Al these calculations leave out entirely the resources that can never be replaced again, and the space required for all the other species on the planet. Given that a very large part of the planet is inhospitable, the 15 metre figure looks more accurate. Anyone who thinks that we aren't already way over the top population-wise needs to wake up pronto.

#44

What resources are you talking about that can't be reused? All metals can be recycled. Bio-matter can be composted and grown again. Water is renewed in the water cycle. Oil is limited, but if we stop burning it, our current proven reserves will last 10,000 years. That's basically as long as civilization has existed.

Why has no one mentioned yet that families living in poverty have the most children by far? Given a decent level of living, families overwhelmingly choose to have fewer children.

So why all the talk of eliminating Whitey, or of governments requiring their citizens to have fewer children? Is this just banter?

The elimination of poverty would be a humane and powerful way to begin to bring human populations under control, and might even do the job all by itself.

#46

Did you even read my comment? The point of my post was threefold. One, White people use too many resources. White people are around 20% of the population. Yet, they use 50% of Earth's resources. Two, the removal of White people would effectively double the standard of living for the non-White portion of humanity. People in the First World have a footprint ten times the size of world average. Thus the removal of the 750,000 Whites would double the average standard of living for 7,500,000,000 non-Whites. Total world population is currently 6.8 billion. Third, the positive feedback caused from raising a person's standard of living would lead to the elimination of poverty. So you can see, I wasn't ignoring poverty. My point was that eliminating White people would eliminate poverty and be a major step in reducing environmental depletion.

#43: Yes, well, I'm 100% in favor of mass conversions to renewable sources such as solar, wind, tidal, etc. I wish it had been an earlier focus of Obama's administration than health care. But reducing our collective carbon footprint through population control would require a generation or two, if not more, even if you somehow convinced everyone on earth to limit their reproductive output starting today. Based on current climate models, that'd probably be too late. But converting to zero-carbon, renewable energy sources is something that can be started right now, and could have tremendous impact within a decade if government would just have the balls to stand up to oil and coal lobbies and mandate this stuff. You say, "Unless we massively switch over to a solar/wind/tidal power generation system, none of those technologies would work," in a discussion about overpopulation, which implies that you think changing how people think and act with regard to something every species in the animal kingdom has done since its inception is going to be an easier task than building new power plants. I just don't buy that.

#46: Actually, that was the focus of my last paragraph at #42. Clearly I suffered from "too long, didn't read" on that one.

#47: Oh, had I read this sooner, I might not have bothered with my well-reasoned response above. But at the time I didn't realize I was dealing with someone rational enough to advocate genocide. Idiot, the western world also PRODUCES most of that wealth that makes our standard of living high, so no, eliminating us wouldn't double every one else's standard of living. Increasing the paltry amount of development aid we provide to third world nations (and our government in the US is among the worst, as far as aid as a percentage of GDP), however, would help greatly, and wouldn't involve death camps. Looking back at your earlier comments, though, I see it's not even western culture that you take issue with, it's literally just white people. In which case I have no more to say to you except, take your racism elsewhere. No one wants it here.

#48

No one said anything about genocide. Whiteness is an artificial construct, which I discussed earlier at #43. You can end Whiteness without killing anyone. If you go back and check my numbers, never did I remove Whites from my calculations of how the world would benefit from and with to White people. I advocated for eliminating White people, not killing them. You just assumed that I was advocating murder, when what I was advocating is a shift in the geo-socio-political landscape. How very White of you.

One way or the other if we are using any of the earth's natural resources over what is sustainable we are stealing from our children and grandchildren. That may be something but it ain't love. Anything else is similar to throwing your children out on the craps table. That is christian love at its finest, not worth much is it?

We witness the immense struggle of wildlife to survive in an increasingly hostile, modern world, invaded and destroyed by the human species

The Human race is guilty of conservational, ecological and environmental crimes. What we are doing to all other species is murder! It is ecocide!

In less than 100 years of so called civilisation using technology, we have managed to destroy what took more than 3 billion years to evolve. Entire species are being wiped out. We kill everything we touch,have run out of space, land, soil, air, water and landfill sites. The only thing we haven't run out of, unfortunately, is people. 7 billion and rising fast !

The main culprit of this ecological disaster is religion, Christianity being the worst, as it keeps the prolific uteruses busy, spitting children out at a fast rate. And when they can't procreate naturally, in-vitro fertilisation is there, readily available, speeding up the breeding process, revving it up to turbo breeding.

http://helpingthem.co.uk/index.php/topic,114.0.html

I find in reading those sites that say that population problems are a myth that their evidence is very sparse and inconclusive. Recently I read Book 1 of the free e-book series "In Search of Utopia" (http://andgulliverreturns.info), it blasts their lack of evidence relative to their calling overpopulation a myth. The book, actually the last half of the book, takes on the skeptics in global warming, overpopulation, lack of fresh water, lack of food, and other areas where people deny the evidence. I strongly suggest that anyone wanting to see the whole picture read the book, at least the last half.
The outdated fertility replacement rate of 2.1 is also clarified

Do you want to contribute something to solve the biggest problem of humankind? Then sign our petition under the world's largest platform change.org:
http://www.change.org/de/Petitionen/weltweite-geburtenregelungen-verbin…

Would you like to spread these informations on your homepage, on TV and radio stations, in social medias etc und support this campaign., if possible?

The German physicist, aerospace physician, writer and television presenter Heinz Haber wrote in 1973 that a planet the size of our Earth should not be populated with more than 500 million human beings in order to maintain a harmonious balance between human beings and nature. Today (June 2013 ) we have, with (officially listed ) 7.2 billion human beings, reached more than 14 times this guideline value, and an end of this population growth is not in sight! A huge mass of unemployment and the collapse of our prosperity will be further consequences. A worldwide, mandatory birth control for all countries of Earth is urgent, if we want the impending climate catastrophe to weaken somewhat.
Even the UN IPCC has recognised the danger in its fifth World Climate Report, but played it down by only predicting a higher sea level rise than previously prognosticated. The world however is in store for an unprecedented climate catastrophe which will bring us human beings - even in Europe! - primeval conditions. According to a current campaign at the world's largest petition platform "change.org", the reasons for this are obvious, but are ignored and tabooed as a result of ignorance, cowardice and lust for might.

Quote from a proponent of the petition:
"The overpopulation of Earth is a huge disaster and shows the picture of an egoistical thinking human being who doesn't care the slightest bit about his/her environment and who has raised the fulfilment of his/her desires to be the supreme principle of his/her life. The quality of the future life of all human beings is inseparably connected with the state of nature. The unrestrained plundering, exploitation and the therewith accompanying destruction, devastation and poisoning of the soil, air and water, caused by the huge demand for foodstuffs and goods of all kind of a still explosively growing population, presents the human beings with unsolvable problems. Overpopulation is not a taboo word, rather the exact term for an excessive number of human beings brought about by an irrational and irresponsible procreation of children, and which nature can no longer cope with. There should only be as many human beings living in a country as it can also sustain from its own resources. In addition the fauna and flora must also have enough space to expand in order to fulfil their vital functions in a good functioning ecosystem. This shows that all countries of Earth are overpopulated and need to do something about it. The control of the overpopulation does not mean that human beings have to leave, and it also has nothing to do with racism, but rather it demands of the human being, regardless of his/her colour, that a reasonable birth regulation must be strongly striven for and carried out for the benefit of all human beings and all life on our planet."

With best regards from Germany
Achim Wolf

By Achim Wolf (not verified) on 21 Oct 2013 #permalink