They say we are rushing at full speed towards the population Apocalypse and that there is a line, overcoming that, we will come inevitably to mass starvation and the whole planet will be like the Moscow metro during rush hour. These thoughts instilled fear and sold books for over a century. This whole topic seems so toxic that it even do not want to take. Looking around, everywhere we see people: and not very happy, hungry and thick, large and no. But they are everywhere. Whether the planet is bursting at the seams?
The problem of overpopulation
Jesse Ausubel, Director of the program for the human environment at the Rockefeller University
“In most animal populations, the niches in which these populations all have a constant size. Animals companies growing in this niche, have a dynamic, well-defined equations with constant limit or ceiling. In short, niche point of view, resources are the limits. But access to resources depends on technologies. When animals learn to invent new technologies — for example, bacteria produce a new enzyme that to stir up the sleepy component of their broth, born problem. Suddenly, there are new impulses of growth, growing more than ever.
Homo faber, the tool manufacturer, invents constantly, so our restrictions are gradually removed. And these floating constraints do not allow us to predict longer-term dimensions of humanity. The expansion of niches, access to resources and overriding them — all this happens with people all the time.
Thanks to the invention and spread of technologies, people change and expand their niche, redefine resources and violate predictions about the population. According to estimates by a leading demographer of the 1920-ies Raymond pearl, then the world could support two billion people, but today it is home to about 7.7 billion people. Many observers of the Land today seem to be stuck in his mental bowls Petri. Elastic resources around us.
The biggest threat to the future well-being is a rejection of science. Going so far as 7.7 billion people can’t go back. Without science we will bounce back like a stretched rubber band”.
Where to get food in a crowded world
Matthew J. Connelly, Professor of history, Columbia University
“When people ask whether our overpopulated world, I ask them in response: in what sense? Do you know someone who shouldn’t have born, in your opinion? There may be large groups of people — millions of people — which, in your opinion, should not be here? Because I think that if you just take the number of people in the world, it won’t tell you about what is really important. If you want to get specific information about what people are really worried — is there enough food? a lot of carbon dioxide? — then you really need to ask those who exactly consumes this food. Do we really not have enough food? And when talking about global warming, where does it come from?
Since the days of Thomas Malthus, people concerned about overpopulation, worried about whether enough food for everyone. The good news is that Yes, eating a lot. Actually, calorie consumption only increased with each passing decade. If we ran out of food, it would be difficult to explain why people eat more and more, despite the fact that most of us live relatively sedentary lifestyles.
When it comes to CO2 emissions, you have to ask yourself: who is making the most of these CO2 emissions? Four years ago, Oxfam published a study according to which 1% of the richest people in the world probably emit 30 times more carbon into the air than the poorest 50% planet.”
Betsy Hartmann, Professor Emeritus of Hampshire College
“For some people the world was overpopulated for centuries, Malthus wrote about the “problem” of population in the late 1700s, when the world population was about one billion. Many people are still afraid of overpopulation — they are concerned that this leads to the deterioration of the environment and to the lack of resources, be they environmental, economic or social.
But this approach has a lot of problems. He ignores the fact that everyone is different: for example, it is important to determine who actually causes damage to the environment and why. There is a big difference between a poor peasant who cultivates land and head of the Corporation running on fossil fuel. The talk about overpopulation is trying to cram all people into one broad category, without distinguishing between their various impacts on the planet. Focuses on negative impacts, not taking into account the positive role that technological innovation and sustainable use of resources can play in restoring and improving the environment. All of this is fueling an apocalyptic mood, especially in the US where many people believe in the approaching end of the world. The United States is most afraid of overpopulation — which is funny, considering that they have so much land and resources.
And although over the past century, we have significantly increased the population, and in this century, the growth rate dropped significantly, worldwide the average family consists of 2.5 children. The birth rate remains relatively high in some countries, especially in Africa South of the Sahara, but this is mainly due to the lack of investment in health, poverty eradication, education, women’s rights, and so on. Other countries have seen a decline in population, the birth rate falls below replacement. In the United States now give birth on average less than two children. In Russia, for every three babies born die four.
I think people are very nervous — and understandably — when you see the numbers: we now have 7.6 billion people, and this figure could rise to 11.2 billion by 2100. But what people don’t understand is that the demographic momentum built into these numbers that is associated with the distribution of the age: currently among the population, especially in the global South, a significant proportion of people of reproductive age, and even if they have only two or fewer children, this means an absolute increase in population. We must understand that the population is likely stabiliziruemost or even reduced in the future with the ageing of the young generation, and this pulse will be depleted. Meanwhile, the real challenge that we face is how to plan population growth is environmentally sustainable and socially equitable ways. Since most people in the world now live in cities, greening urban spaces and transport is vital.
Talk about overpopulation as the cause of climate change may be convenient for some people — they allow you to ignore other more powerful forces that in the past and now contribute to the accumulation of greenhouse gases.
We live in an era of tremendous concentration of wealth: worldwide 50% of adults own less than 1% of the world’s total wealth, while the richest 10% own almost 90% of the wealth. And the very top 1% owns 50%. These numbers are staggering. Let’s talk about serious world issues and not about the fact that the poorest people in the world too many children.
Whether to fight overpopulation?
Warren Sanderson, Professor Emeritus of Economics at stony brook University
“There is the question better: do not throw away if we have too much CO2 in the atmosphere? The answer to this question is: discharged, Yes. Another interesting question: do we treat our groundwater? The answer to this question: wrong, fragile and unstable. The goal should be to put the planet on a sustainable basis. Should we do this by sterilizing women who have more than two children? If it helps to reduce carbon dioxide emissions? Of course not. Do we need to spend more money on education in Africa? This will reduce the birth rate, but a more educated generation will be richer and therefore will be more to pollute the environment. It is necessary to put the planet on a sustainable basis. Attempt to bring the planet to a sustainable path by reducing the population of dangerous rhetoric.
Kimberly Nichols, Professor of Sciences sustainable development research Centre sustainable development, Lund University
“Recent studies of the IPCC tell us that in order to avoid more dangerous climate change we must reduce today’s climate pollution by half in the next decade. This means that it is extremely important to reduce emissions today. The biggest system changes will include the fast phasing out of fossil fuels and the reduction of livestock that we grow”. Currently, higher income tends to correlate with higher climate pollution. This is a relatively small number of people, which accounted for a large part of climate change. About half the world lives on less than $ 3 a day; they cause very little climate pollution (15% worldwide). Those of us who are in the top 10% of world income (I live worth more than $ 23 per day or $ 8400 per year) are responsible for 36% of global carbon emissions.
The fastest way to reduce emissions today — that those of us who are responsible for high emissions, to reduce them. Our study showed that three important choices that will help to reduce carbon emissions is to give up meat, and less flying. These elections will be also useful for health and society. We must strive at least to reduce the use of these three options.
In particular, the flight is fraught with great emissions. For comparison, you would have to recycle all the garbage in the next four years to equalize the climate benefits of giving up meat for a year, but only one flight can equate to two years of eating meat or eight months drive”.
The threat of overpopulation: fact or myth?
Rawat Deonandan, associate Professor of health Sciences, University of Ottawa
“It all depends on what you mean and how do you measure these things. The region is generally considered overpopulated when it exceeds its capacity, i.e. the number of people that can support the resources of the region (usually food). But this will depend on what you eat these people and what they would like to eat. For example, it is well known that a vegetarian diet is easier to maintain than a carnivore. The abundance of products also will depend on our ever-changing ability to produce food.
And it’s not just about the food. It is also whether there is sufficient energy, water, jobs, services and physical space to support people. With the innovation of architecture in the city the issue of space can be solved. Depending on the level of development of society will vary in energy requirements. Softer factors such as jobs and services will depend on political leadership and global socio-economic factors that are difficult to measure and predict.
How we define the population density also depends on where to consider it. The population density around the world is about 13 people per square kilometer, if you take the whole surface of the globe. But if you just calculate the earth’s land (nobody lives in the ocean), the density is 48 people per sq km We call it the arithmetic density. But there is also a “physiological density”, which takes into account only the amount of arable land on which to live. And with rising sea levels and desertification with each passing day it becomes less of arable land. Perhaps it would be wiser to look for the “ecological optimum”, the size of the population that can be supported by natural resources of the region. According to some estimates, so everyone can live in the comfort of the American middle class, the Earth could support about 2 billion people. For the more modest European lifestyle, this number will exceed 3 billion. With other changes in lifestyle that number will rise again, perhaps radically. What is the reduction in lifestyle we are willing to tolerate?
When we talk about “overpopulation”, we’re really talking mostly about food, because it’s all about. Food shortage will be noticed faster than ecological collapse. When in the 1970-ies began to fan fears about overpopulation, the forecast was such that soon we will all die of hunger. But even in the poorest areas of the world the supply of food usually exceeds 2,000 calories per day. This is mainly due to the improved production of food and technology. 1.3 billion tons of food produced for people is thrown away each year. It is about a third of all produced food. Most of the losses caused by improper storage and transportation. This means that we have a huge buffer of calories for greater growth of the population, provided that the management of food chains will be carried out correctly.
However, given the exponential growth of the population, you probably think that soon we will exceed that threshold in the food, right? Actually, no. There is a so-called demographic transition, according to which the richer a society is, the fewer children it produces. Now poverty is lower than ever in human history, and all trends show that in the foreseeable future we are waiting for consistent progress in the fight against poverty. In other words, we expect that the growth of global wealth will manifest in slowing down population growth and ultimately reducing population. Estimates vary, but most of them shows that the population will peak in 2070-ies at the level of 9-11 billion and then begin to decline.
Will we manage to achieve overpopulation officially before it will subside? Nobody knows. Because the problem is not the number of people. The problem is how much these people eat. With the growth of welfare people get more harmful to the environment products such as meat. We may be smaller, but each of us will leave a larger footprint in the environment. Another way to look at overpopulation — the question is not about whether you have enough resources to support the existing number of people, and whether the existing population unacceptable environmental damage. A poor man in a developing country with low income level produces one ton of CO2 per year. A rich person in a developed country with high income can produce 30 times more.
In other words, significant population growth in countries with low income, probably not as destructive as the moderate growth of the population in countries with high income levels. Perhaps we could provide many more people, if people in rich countries consume a little less. Relatively speaking, it is better to lecture the people of the First world about how wasteful they live, than to twist the arms of people in large families with low income.
If you want to hear a straight answer, no, the world is not overpopulated. I say this because: 1) most people in the world do not overeat; it is the richer people in groups with low fertility are more damaging; 2) the largest increase has occurred in those populations who are the least responsible for environmental damage; 3) we have in fact enough food for everyone and more, but lacks the organizational and political acumen to make it publicly available; 4) population growth in the world slowed down, and by the end of the century is waiting for us reduction.”
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