ECOfreak: So Many People

January 31st, 2012 by Desiree Parker


In my mind, most of the biggest environmental issues such as deforestation, overuse of natural resources, water quality and scarcity, really boil down to one problem we need to face: overpopulation.

I was reading this story on Reuters explaining a report from the United Nations Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel of Global Sustainability issued Monday that touched on the problem of overpopulation (Read the overview of the report here). Really, it’s a tough issue and most governments don’t seem ready to tackle it.

“Even by 2030, the world will need at least 50 percent more food, 45 percent more energy and 30 percent more water, according to U.N. estimates, at a time when a changing environment is creating new limits to supply,” according to the article.

Whenever I think about the problems of our growing population, which recently reached 7 billion globally, I remember a story my college sociology professor told us, which (if I recall correctly) was based on this case study of a reindeer herd on St. Matthews Island.

The island was home to a small group of reindeer that were brought to the island by the Coast Guard. The population grew and grew, and happily chomped through all the available food; they continued to breed until the original group of 29 ballooned to 6,000 in just over 10 years.

The year after that peak, the population starved and died off, leaving only about 50 survivors.

This is a simplified analogy of what happens when you have a population (think: people) confined in a limited space with limited resources (Earth) who have offspring at rates higher than can be sustained by the resources at hand.

According to the article, there isn’t enough headway being made on sustainable development and there’s not enough political will to do what needs to get done.

“There are 20 million more undernourished people now than in 2000; 5.2 million hectares of forest are lost per year – an area the size of Costa Rica; 85 percent of all fish stocks are over-exploited or depleted; and carbon dioxide emissions have risen 38 percent between 1990 and 2009, which heightens the risk of sea level rise and more extreme weather,” the article says.

The U.N. group suggests some courses of action to support sustainability, including having governments agree on sustainable development goals, working on increasing productivity and reducing resource use, avoiding the continued loss of biodiversity and lots more.

Call me a pessimist, but I don’t think all the world’s governments will be able to coordinate the action needed to control the problem, especially since people often don’t like the idea of government controlling personal freedom. I feel like this is an issue that will lead to some horrible consequences. I hope I am proved wrong.

I suppose until then, we should all at least do what we can – recycle, reduce our consumption, support sustainable practices – and just wait and see what happens.

Website for the week:

I will stop being a Debbie Downer for a minute and direct you to a website that offers all kinds of eco friendly items: I’ve found lots of useful stuff here, and they have a great selection. Add it to your bookmark list.


5 Responses to ECOfreak: So Many People

  1. kbar

    January 31, 2012 at 2:36 pm

    At some point, Malthus will be correct.

  2. Reality Calling

    January 31, 2012 at 9:12 pm

    Overpopulation is primarily an issue in concentrated populations centers, and third world states with very poor governance. We (USA) for example have huge portions of the country that are quite sparsely populated. People don’t migrate there because there is no economy to support them. The Government is not ready to “tackle” the probelm because it is not the Govt.’s problem to tackle. Food is scarce, yet our Govt. pays farmers not to grow, or subsidizes the use of food to make fuel while leaving fuel resources untapped in the ground… Take care what slope you step out onto Eco-Freak, do you really want the Govt. in charge of managing the population? Visit China some time before settling on an answer to that question.

  3. A Rare Conservative

    January 31, 2012 at 9:18 pm

    Malthus was correct for his time in history because by 1914 and World War I the British could not even feed themselves since they imported everything. However in the world today there is ample food that can be grown, even in our own country, that can feed many more people than are on earth now. However, politics and human nature what it is, there is not a lot of altruism permeating the world today, meaning that food may be produced but not allowed to go where it is most needed. Case in point is the current situation in Somalia, and years ago in Rwanda, in which starvation was used as a political weapon. I don’t feel it is a lack of resources, but the will and humanity to use them.

  4. norge

    February 1, 2012 at 5:48 pm

    The RARE CONSERVATIVE is absolutely correct. there is enough food to go around in this world. Getting food to those who need it through unstable governments or warlords is the biggest problem. One only needs to go just slightly west of Richmond to see that this is indeed a vast and underutilized country in terms of its agricultural resources. Check out the Dec. 2011 issue of National Geographic and read the article on Cities for a refreshing, realistic and non-nehilistic point of view.

  5. Country Boy

    February 14, 2012 at 9:54 am

    After being born and raised on a farm, I ended up here in Virginia. As a Nebraska born son, I have tended to remember
    all of what my father told me 60+ years ago. He said that I
    would live to see the day that fresh vegtables would not be available at the store!! Guess what? I have a very big garden!!

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