By Barry Barnett
On Nov. 15, 2022, the human population reached 8 billion—sooner than predicted or expected.
It seems almost taboo to talk about overpopulation and the destruction the human species does to the planet and its inhabitants. Or it just doesn’t get talked about.
Really, along with climate change, it should be the most talked about issue. Yes, war and peace, food insecurity, wealth inequality and poverty, corporate and political corruption, gun violence, energy, inflation…(fill in the blanks)…are important subjects to address.
But the burgeoning morass of humanity, ever increasing, is more than a “force multiplier,” as I have written before. It is a cause of all of the aforementioned problems, and more.
Excessive greenhouse gas emissions, soil depletion, nearly 3 million tonnes of pesticides slathered on the planet every year, urban stress leading to violence, habitat destruction leading to animal population reduction and species extinction—especially affecting pollinators, which could cause widespread crop failures and even human extinction—this is a non-exhaustive list of multiple interacting serious problems, all caused by overpopulation, and seriously affecting all the population.
The United Nations predicts a world population of 9.7 billion by 2050 and 10.4 billion by 2100.
Fortunately, population increase is slowing, but not fast enough. People need to be talking more about limiting the number of children they have, popularizing it much more in all media and making it “cool” to not have many children.
I for one would be totally for the U.S. (and other nations) mandating a maximum two child per couple reproduction rate, with rewards and fines; even better would be a one child maximum until reaching stability, which China had (with some allowances). This was estimated to have prevented 400,000 additions to its already overwhelming population.
Of course, this would have to be considered fairly acceptable by many.
If the human species doesn’t want to replicate the fate of the island rabbits who out-reproduced the food supply and perished, and if humans want to have something left of the beautiful natural paradise that was the entire Earth before the species exploded and dominated nature, thinking humans are beyond her—humans need to control their reproduction. And their overconsumption.
Finally, someone is talking about mass population effects. As a 1981 grad of UCSB’s Envt. Studies Program, co-founded by population biologist Garret Hardin, the effects of human population on the envt were repeated discussed. Just in my life, I’ve seen our state swell, not only with people and urbanization but in ag as well the valley from south of King City to Salinas on Hwy 101 has almost completely filled in with ag since I was a kid on trips to see Auntie Rosemarie. Paso Robles/Atascadero has turned into a small city area from several ranches along the freeway. The Merced area has grown to support a new University of California. Santa Clara Co has plumped up and spread south to Morgan Hill. And then there are others areas closer to home and central urban areas. LA. I didn’t mention LA-the urban conglomerate. The water district down there has to pump fresh water into the aquifer to stave off salt water intrusion – the water demand is so high. Yup, too many people.