"Your coverage of the issue is
well-informed, balanced, and wide-ranging--I hope you manage to get the word out
Resources for Understanding and Taking
The ecosystem's capacity for humans has
been exceeded by a factor of ten, according to the logic of Overshoot by
William Catton: the amount of stored energy from the sun (including fossil
fuels) humans use is the equivalent of ten earths' intake of usable solar energy for
If one tenth of today's population is
what thereby could survive sustainably, that would have to be in a healthy
ecosystem. But when the ecosystem has been poisoned, trashed
and depletedóe.g., millions of tons of topsoil are lost daily due to modern
agricultural practicesóthen the survival rate would only be perhaps one tenth of the one tenth! Intrinsic is the role of petroleum,
which is going to "be history" early this century.
World population growth has slowed down
a little in recent years, like a runaway train dropping down to 90 miles per hour from 100 miles
per hour. Unfortunately, the world's biggest polluter, the U.S., has a
hidden policy for population growth through massive and mostly legal immigration.
The U.S. is headed for over 300,000,000 people before 2010. No other
industrial nation is growing in population, besides the UK. Perhaps the estimate of 1/3
the world's present waste being generated by the U.S. is too low by now.
|Stabilizing U.S. population
size is more important to energy conservation than discontinuing the production
In a new study on population and energy use, Leon Kolankiewicz estimates that 88
% of the increase in energy use from 1970 to now was due to population growth,
the United States were entirely dependent on renewable energy sources, it would
still not be able to support an ever-growing population indefinitely.î
Growthóthe Neglected Dimension of Americaís Persistent Energy/Environmental
Legal immigration levels are an obstacle to
sustainability in the U.S. From the Culture Change Letter "We Came
Down from the Trees - The New Transition to Sustainability" (#38, October
2003) by Jan Lundberg, read a passage on population
growth and overconsumption.
According to Virginia D. Abernethy, Ph.D., author of
Population Politics, former director of Sustainable Energy Institute, who
said on July 11, 2003:
"U.S. population growthó87.8% due
to immigrationódrives the United States' increasing demand for energy as well
as its emissions of greenhouse gases."
The more we grow, the less able we are to feed ourselves
by Geoffrey Lean, The Independent
Book summary: Paul and Anne Ehrlich's One
with Nineveh: Politics, Consumption, and the Human Future - go to summary.
All-out local action
Take the Pledge for Climate Protection,
which addresses population growth and what we can do to vastly reduce its
Study Finds Population Growth Key Reason
for Sprawl, Despite "Smart Growth" Policies
The report by Center for Immigration Studies does not say that more people are
the only reason for sprawl, but the reader can take measure of the influence of
population growth. This report appears excellent, and shows also that
legal immigration promotes urban sprawl in U.S. To see the 122-page new
report on the connection, click
population was projected to be almost 6.4 billion by the end of 2003, according
to the U.S. Bureau of the Census.
The Census Bureau just came out with figures
that the U.S. population is 291 million. One of their projections is for its
reaching one-half billion by 2044. Ninety percent of the growth would be
immigrants since 1970 and their descendants.
SALMON SHORTAGE OR PEOPLE LONGAGE?: At the World
Summit on Salmon the "overall mood was bleak," as researchers warned
that "the biggest danger to the survival of wild salmon is the population
juggernaut that will see the Pacific Northwest's population surge from today's
15 million to 50 million or more by century's end" says the Seattle
Post-Intelligencer 6/13. One University of British Columbia ecologist
pointing to Columbia River salmon, where a third of the stocks are already
extinct and a fifth are highly endangered, said the decline is "emblematic
of humans' inability to recognize that they are overwhelming ecosystems that
from GREENLines, June 17, 2003, www.stopextinction.org
Commentary by Culture Change
population continues to grow along with the dangers caused by (and in some cases
causing) overpopulation. Petroleum dependence comes to mind, especially
at Sustainable Energy Institute. As clear as that basic fact is, you will
not find this connection among environmental groups or research groups such as
Worldwatch Institute. Some population oriented groups have a partial
understanding of petroleum, but trying to get them to
echo Culture Change's message is not our strategy. Rather, we bypass failed movements
and entrenched organizations in order to reach the largest number of citizens.
Climate change could
be irrevocably getting out of
control. Yet, the solution favored by government and the mega corporations
is not to have honest public debate or integrity, but instead start wars and
keep the juggernaut of the world economy rolling along without deviation. One
response to this is to derail the present economy and replace it, as discussed in Shutting Down
the WTO Economy, a recent Culture Change column on this website.
Transitioning to sustainable, ecological economics is a non-issue to our "leaders," while
some of us pursue sustainability and
justice, almost invisible to the mass media. Hence, we must now address:
Petroleum-based agriculture and
oil transport have enabled the largest economy and population
the world has ever seen. Many of our archived Culture
Change Letters discuss the connections and point to solutions. Read about Citizen
The fall of petroleum civilization is
the same thing as the bubble of overpopulation bursting with a loud, messy bang.
The masters of the economy have
frantically tried to extend growth and stave off a correction or
shake-out. The Story of B by Daniel Quinn made clear that population
growth is only accommodated by boosting the food supply. Because
pro-growth policies are so dominant, and the destruction when the bubble
bursts will be beyond management, it has been argued that shutting today's
economy down sooner rather than later is advisable. - see Culture
Change Letter #25.
Alternatives and solutions to
Few people around the world will be immune to the coming oil-deprived, wrenching
adjustment to a post-petroleum civilization. Agriculture will be
affected along with transportation, in a final energy crisis that will see us
all reaching desperately for conservation
and renewable energy alternatives. It will
not be the techno-Utopia pushed by mainstream environmental groups: Instead, visualize depaving,
car-free living, hauling local produce via bike
cart, and Food Not Lawns, to name a few
requisites of sustainability.
Roads = More Traffic, Studies Say" appeared in Auto-Free Times issue
And, fighting road construction is essential to hem in the sprawling human
population and limit population growth. The fact is that more roads
mean more people. Jan Lundberg and Virginia Abernethy explored this in
The Road to Overpopulation is Roads in
the Auto-Free Times issue #10.
Letters to Culture Change on population
July 20, 2003 - Dear Friends,
Thanks for your letter calling attention to the new website on
population. I thought the website was excellent. Focusing on
population is the correct thing to do, but it is politically incorrect. Of course
you know this
I am attaching some papers of mine dealing with these
problems. In the paper on sustainability you will find the Laws of
Sustainability. The First Law of Sustainability is: population growth
and / or growth in the rates of consumption of resources is not sustainable.
Many thanks for focusing on the heart of the problem.
THOUGHTS TO REMEMBER:
Every increment of added population, and
every added increment of affluence
invariably destroys an increment
of the remaining environment.
Population growth and increases in affluence
make it impossible for reasonable increments
of improved efficiency in the use of resources
to enhance or even to preserve the environment.
You cannot preserve the environment
by accepting the population growth
and the increased affluence
that are destroying the environment.
ALBERT ALLEN BARTLETT
Professor Emeritus of Physics
of Colorado at Boulder
DR. BARTLETT'S PAPERS ON
Population Trust, London, has extensive data on overpopulation issues, including
Ecological Footprint calculations by country. OPT campaigns for a lower
population in the UK. They reported to Culture Change on July 16, 2002:
"We recently had revised figures for UK births, deaths and migration for
2001 which showed that our population grew by a staggering, and disastrous
236,800 (on OPT's website, 'UK Pop Figs'). And this whole country is smaller than
The largest archive of essays and studies on energy,
agriculture, and population is dieoff.org.
Another helpful and more political site is oilempire.us.
Gaia Watch in the U.K. is "an educational charity which
explores the multifarious implications of continued human population
growth." See population-growth-migration.info
Negative Population Growth
advocates a smaller and truly sustainable US
population accomplished through smaller families and lower, more traditional
Redefining Progress utilizes the
"ecological footprint" approach to sustainability. See their
website at http://www.rprogress.org
Balance is committed to stabilizing U.S. population in order to safeguard
the country's carrying capacity.
Fred Elbel offers this well linked
California's population has been
increasing by over half a million per year. It is one eighth of the
nation's people. For facts on how population
growth affects Californians, click
Read Daniel Quinn's
great books, widely available. See Ishmael.org.
Change Letters on
overpopulation and related issues:
culture versus Earth living ó The fallacy of the technofix
The following includes Jan Lundberg's letter to the New York Times
4-18-03 dealing with huge population:
False prosperity from oil: It
is the obedient workers who will eat ó for now
Culture Change Magazine
Issue 20 (unpublished): Why conserve, when
expansionist policies destroy? by Virginia Abernethy.
Issue 19 articles
Book summary: Paul and Anne
Ehrlich's "One with Nineveh: Politics, Consumption,
and the Human Future" (Island Press, 2004).
Exposing the three elephants in our proverbial living room -- overpopulation,
over-consumption, and political and economic inequity -- that are increasingly
shaping our future, the authors explore the ways that these factors influence
each other, and how we can begin to create a better and more lasting world if we
pay attention to them. Paul Ehrlich, as you may remember, is the author of
"The Population Bomb."
Through lucid explanations, telling anecdotes, and incisive analyses, the
eminent scientists Paul Ehrlich and Anne Ehrlich here spotlight the three
elephants in our global living room--rising consumption, increasing world
population, and unchecked political and economic inequity--that together are
increasingly shaping today's politics, undermining the planet's ability to
sustain us, and determining humankind's future. The result is a book that
brilliantly puts today's policy debates in a larger context and makes a
compelling case for the critical discussions that we should be having. One
with Nineveh takes its title from Rudyard Kipling's "Recessional"
("Lo, all our pomp of yesterday / Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!"), his
famous 1897 poem alluding to the pride and arrogance that went before the fall
of ancient Mesopotamian civilizations. Their undoing, in addition to
warfare, was deforestation and unsustainable irrigation, practices whose
destructive effects were ignored by the elites at the time.
In One with Nineveh, the Ehrlichs suggest that the hubris of our own
civilization could be leading us to an end similar to Nineveh' s--whose ruins
lie near the Iraqi city of Mosul--if environmental trends such as loss of
biodiversity and acceleration of climate change are not halted. Unlike the
regional ecological collapse of Mesopotamia, this time the collapse could be
global. Both a cautionary tale and a call to action, One with Nineveh is
remarkable in its sweep and in the range of solutions it proposes, from local
actions to reform of national government to international initiatives.
Grounded in science, economics, and history, the Ehrlichs' forthright discussion
of the underlying issues of our time gives cause for considerable concern yet
reason to hope. (courtesy Rentch Associates
more we grow, the less able we are to feed ourselves
Rain may be ruining crops here,
but globally there are record harvests. Yet it's still not enough to meet demand
By Geoffrey Lean, Environment
Editor of The Independent
29 August 2004
The world is consistently failing to grow enough crops to feed itself,
alarming official statistics show.
Humanity has squeaked through so far by eating its way into stockpiles built
up in better times. But these have fallen sharply and are now at the lowest
level on record.
The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation's (FAO) latest report on global
food production says that this year's harvest is expected to fall short of
meeting consumption for the fifth year running.
Even a forecast record harvest this year is failing to ease the crisis. This
suggests that rising demand, through population growth and increasing affluence,
is outpacing production, fulfilling the gloomy predictions of Thomas Malthus
over 200 years ago.
Warnings of increasing scarcity of two other key resources came last week.
Mark Clare, the managing director of British Gas, said: "The era of cheap
energy is over." And experts at an international symposium in Stockholm
foretold an imminent world crisis as underground reserves of water are
increasingly pumped dry.
A major UN-backed conference in London this week will attempt to revive a
global effort to tackle population growth. Countdown 2015 will assess an
international plan of action agreed 10 years ago and make recommendations for
the next decade.
Between 1950 and 1997 the world's grain harvest almost trebled to around
1,900 million tons. But then production effectively stagnated: since 1999 it has
fallen behind consumption every year.
The FAO report - the latest edition of its quarterly review, Food Outlook -
predicts "a substantial increase" in the harvest, to 1,956 million
tons, by far the biggest ever. But it warns that even this level of output would
not keep pace with consumption, causing "a fifth consecutive drawdown of
global cereal stocks".
Experts say that recent good weather in almost all the main growing regions,
in contrast to Britain where August rain has devastated crops, has boosted the
bumper harvest even further. But even optimistic estimates do not expect any
recovery of stocks - now at their lowest level ever, well below the 70 days'
supply needed for world food security.
Lester Brown, president of Washington's Earth Policy Institute, says:
"There has been the odd bad year or two in the past. But this is the first
time in history that we have had such an extended period where the world has
failed to feed itself.
"This year's harvest is going to be extraordinarily good. It is striking
that even in such an exceptional year we are unable to rebuild stocks."
The situation is particularly serious in China, where the grain harvest has
fallen in four of the past five years. In 2003 it grew 70 million tons less than
in 1998 - a drop that is equivalent to the entire production of Canada, a
leading grain exporter.
Before 1999 China built up large stocks but has since eaten its way through
half of them. Experts say that if the giant country has to start importing
grain, its massive needs will increase scarcity and drive up food prices
China's harvests have partly fallen because it is rapidly losing fertile land
as cities spread and soil erodes through overcultivation - and because the
groundwater needed to irrigate crops is drying up.
It is the same story worldwide. Population growth and the loss of land have
cut the amount of fertile land available to feed each person in half since 1960.
And more than half the world's people live in countries where water tables are
falling rapidly and wells are running dry.
Experts at the Stockholm Water Symposium last week warned that millions of
wells throughout Asia were rapidly depleting supplies; the amount of irrigated
land in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, for example, has shrunk by half in the
Rising affluence is partly responsible. As people become better off they eat
more meat: animals consume several pounds of grain for every pound of meat they
But population growth is even more significant. This week's conference,
partly organised by the London-based International Planned Parenthood Federation
and Ted Turner's United Nations Foundation, marks a particularly important
staging post in the world's attempts to tackle overpopulation.
The meeting can celebrate considerable success. The rate of increase in human
numbers has slowed dramatically - from 2 per cent a year in 1970 to 1.3 per cent
now. Forty years ago, on average, every woman in the world bore six children:
now that figure is below three.
The doom-mongering predictions of the 1970s - that, for example, the
population could grow to 60 billion, nearly 10 times the present level - have
long been abandoned.
But there is still a crisis: 76 million people are born each year - about
240,000 a day - adding to the demand for food, water and other resources. The UN
does not expect word population to stabilise until it has risen from today's 6.4
billion to 9 billion.
Nearly half of the world's people are under 25, and mostly able to reproduce.
And the greatest growth is expected in the countries least able to cope with it:
the UN estimates that the population of the world's 48 poorest countries could
treble by 2050.
Ten years ago 179 countries agreed a practical plan of action at the
International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo. It included
increasing the availability of contraceptives but also other measures that have
a dramatic effect on population growth, especially improving the lives of young
women through providing schooling and healthcare.
This has shown results, but the world has provided less than half the funds
needed to implement it. And the programme is now being sabotaged by the Bush
administration, which has cut off its contributions to the UN Population Fund
and crippled national programmes because of its opposition to abortion.
(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C.
Section 107, the above material is distributed without profit to those who have
expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research
and educational purposes. Culture Change has no affiliation whatsoever with the
originator of this article nor is Culture Change endorsed or sponsored by the