If there is a surefire way to make me think you are an idiot, right to the point where I want to throw my own dung at you, telling me that there is no such thing as overpopulation would be top of the list. Compounding that with badly-supported claims or pseudoscience is just icing on the cake so far as I am concerned. But in a conversation on a friend’s Fudgebook page, one person really went above and beyond the call.
The first and foremost thing to understand here is that contrary to what some will tell you, overpopulation is not only a very real and major problem, it quite seriously has the potential to make the Human species extinct.
In order to illustrate this point, I nicked the image above this paragraph from the Wikipedia. Even if you understand nothing about resource management or management in general, the massive spike shown on the right of the graph should tip you off to the fact that something has gone very, very wrong in recent times. But before I begin to explain what the problem is and all of that, it is important for me to explain exactly what was said in terms of overpopulation and what the problem with that is. You see, our guest idiot told me, seriously and with a straight face, that all of this overpopulation thing is just some conspiracy against women’s reproductive rights. How is that again?
Look, you will never find a greater champion of the right of a woman to make her own choices, informed and actual choices, concerning what she does with all of her most womanly parts. I thought you, the people out there in whateverland, could have worked that out from my biography? You know, the bits where I say that I was born to a mother who was too young and uninformed to be what many would call a good mother to an autistic child during a time when war had been declared on the basic rights of anyone making less than a hundred thou a year? But in order to have the right to make informed and adequate choices, people need to have proper information about everything, including the foreseeable consequences of each choice.
Another problem I had with this person’s statement(s) is the implication therein that overpopulation is somehow something far off that might happen. Nuh-uh. Overpopulation, that is there being too many of a singular organism in a given area for that area’s natural resources to sustain, is a problem in the here and now, and has been a problem for the lion’s share of the past half-century. The first major warning sign in terms of food stocks occurred during the 1970s, when fish catches began to stop growing in spite of ever-increasing demand. But if one really wants to see when the signs were beginning to go from whisper to scream, one need only look at Africa. Africa has had problems with famine to one degree or another for so long that even recorded history cannot remember much else, but famines in the twentieth century have entailed literally millions of deaths at a stroke. In 1980, Karamoja, Uganda experienced a famine that is among the worst in recorded history for mortality rates, with twenty-one percent of the total population dying, with the total number of deaths including no less than sixty percent of the infant population. How anyone can look at situations like this occurring and not conclude that Africa is not severely overpopulated relative to its available resources is a mystery to me.
And herein lies the rub. The biggest problem that currently exists with present-day population growth is that whilst resources do enjoy a certain rate of growth, said growth tends to be arithmetic in nature. That is, one food unit becomes two, two become three, three become four, and so forth. Populations, on the other hand, grow geometrically. Two Humans become four, four become sixteen, and on and on.
Oh, and another stupidity in this other person’s argument is that they believe a population decline is expected “soon”. Even if this was the case, the big question is when? Because it is true when you leave out all of the other unpleasant bits. One way or another, the number of Humans on this planet is going to go into a dramatic fall. The question is whether we make it happen ourselves, or whether we let nature do it for us. And if there is one thing that thousands of years of recording and studying history have taught us, or tried to teach us time and time again, it is that we can always count on ourselves to be far kinder to us than nature will ever be. Even at the height of famine being used as a tool of warfare in parts of Africa, or Pol Pot deciding his people can either be slaves or soldiers until they starve, the sheer inhumanity man displays towards his fellow man has nothing on the sheer cruelty that nature can impose.
Even today, we can see very serious problems as a result of overpopulation? Food prices increasing so fast that working families with two incomes need welfare to feed their children? Thank overpopulation. Workers on median incomes needing to work more hours than there are in a week just to afford “median” rent? Thank overpopulation. As I said, overpopulation is simply there being too many living organisms of a given kind and not enough resources to go around for them all.
One of the effects of overpopulation that is not displayed in the graph that I have pasted the image of into this text is that as one species demands more and more resources in order to feed and sustain its population, other species begin to suffer. In 1900, the number of animal species going extinct every day due to Human causes was only slightly above zero. Estimates by the United Nations in recent years put the rate at at 150 to 200. Calling this a dramatic jump in just over a hundred years is an understatement, and many scientists who have made careers studying the problem have stated very plainly that if the rate continues to climb in sync with the Human population, the result will be the worst mass extinction event since the dinosaurs. And considering that the fossil record has it that only five previous mass extinctions have occurred since the Earth was formed, not to mention that the last one was the extinction of dinosaurs, I think we should all worry about what will happen if Human populations are allowed to continue growing unchecked.
Doctor David Pimentel led a team of researchers who, using the most optimistic figures, studied Human consumption and resource growth trends. What they came back with should be sending chills up spines. If current trends continue, the year 2100 will begin with an Earth that will probably not be able to handle more than two billion Humans. Given that there are already seven billion and change Humans, the hope that a decline “soon” will solve all of these expected problems is, to be quite frank, delusional. For a natural, unsteered decline of Human population to avert the disaster that will result from this massive discrepancy between carrying capacity and population, it should have started occurring at least forty-five years ago. If not sooner.
As I said, if we do not start changing our habits and placing strict limits on our reproductions, nature is going to start doing it for us. Wars will erupt, diseases that we thought would never bother us again will come back with a vengeance, scientific progress will virtually be arrested, and famine will be a worldwide, constant problem, not just something that occurs in isolated pockets of the world over fluctuating periods of time.
As you can see from all of this, the belief that overpopulation is some sort of conspiratorial idea directed at controlling a woman’s reproductive freedom is not merely paranoid, it is quite frankly more than a little stupid. In the past, especially prior to the industrial age, control over the reproductive systems and rights of women has been aimed at one particular goal, and one particular goal only. Specifically, making women pour out endless amounts of children without regard to the consequences for their health, freedom of choice, or even their lives. The scientists trying to alert the world to the facts of overpopulation and the need to change the reproductive habits of our species have an entirely different goal in mind, and one that has far different side-effects in the bargain. Stripped of an obligation to birth 2.3 children or more, women all over the world will experience a greater freedom to not only choose when they give birth, but if they give birth at all. Given that motherhood has been used both as an obligation and an aspiration to restrict and curtail Woman’s fight for the same level of freedom that her masculine counterpart has more or less taken for granted since the beginnings of the species, a change in society to make motherhood more or less entirely optional is the way forward. Given that such will mean less battered children, less neglected children, less murdered children, and less mistreatment of children “with special needs”, it is the way forward for the Human species in general. How this even correlates with a paranoid conspiracy to assert more control over women, as opposed to averting a disaster of a magnitude that will make Chernobyl look like a tickling contest by comparison, has me utterly beat.
In previous writings, I have written about films such as Blade Runner or The Running Man, in which the world of the future is depicted as a wasteland in which the Human species is experiencing a massive decline as a result of inability to adapt to a worsening environment. In reviews on home video of one such film, the writer wrote that it was a “passing trend” in films to depict the future as bleak. Well, I am here to tell you that these films will seem like a party at Bob Guccione‘s place during the height of Penthouse magazine’s success by comparison if 2100 rolls around without some drastic changes to our species’ ways of doing things.
That brings me to another point of confusion on the part of denialists. It seems that people who want to deny the overpopulation problem, or rather its existence, like to make straw men. Often, when you tell them that Idiot Celebrity Who Is Only Famous For Having Fourteen Children sets a bad example and should have been told quit it or we will sterilise you after three, they go into overdrive with this. For instance, they will proclaim that your only proposed solution in terms of bringing the Human population down to sustainable levels (<2,000,000,000) by 2100 is organised mass murder. And that is baaad. Well, yes, murdering more than five billion in a systematic fashion would be very bad, but how is allowing at least that many (probably more like ten billion in 2100) to die randomly of starvation or disease will be worse. Because in such a situation, people left behind to reflect on the problem often have a habit of dramatising by saying that the lucky ones died first.
And like all options that have a certain limit on them (such as the one that led to the production of Hellraiser: Revelations), the time to choose a good, or even vaguely tolerable, outcome is running out. Reductions in the Human population are not needed “soon”, denialist(s). They were needed around the time when I was born, to be brutally frank about it. So make your choice, denialistic naturalists: either start being a lot more discriminating about who gives birth and when, or song titles like Legalize Murder are going to end up being used as campaign ads for public policy.
And then, of course, you are going to expect us to have the slightest sympathy for you when you come crying and moaning to us about how that displeases you.