Population Experts Weigh In On the Heart of Population Issues

Thank goodness we are seeing smart pieces shooting holes in Jonathan Last’s recent baby bust scares. John Seager, President of Population Connection, does just that in a recent post on sustainablog.org. What does he think of Last’s contention that if we don’t get birthrates back up we’re in for a “spiral toward doom?” Seager characterizes it as the “perfect articulation of Ponzi demography – Check it out…

…Ponzi demography meaning the idea that we need never-ending population growth to support the people already here.”

I agree with Seager that Last is right when he says there is a growing number of older people in the U.S., and “we will need to make adjustments in order to have a healthy economy in the coming years. But running out of people? That’s crazy talk. The United States population is expected to pass 400 million by 2051. That’s 85 million more people who will need good jobs, sufficient space, clean water and energy.”

He asks, “..what would happen if the world population – including in the United States – just kept growing to feed the Ponzi scheme?”

The answer takes us to what some population experts say we continue to be in denial about-the issue of resources. Here are some main resource issues areas Seager lays out why that we can’t “hide under their pro-growth rug:”

Water Resource Scarcities: One in three people around the world are already being affected by water scarcity, and that number will only grow along with our global population.

Food production will have to raise 70 percent to feed 9.3 billion people in 2050.

Wildlife Habitat Loss: The fact is we lose and will continue to lose creatures and plants as a result of taking over land to grow food, extract minerals and build more roads, houses, shopping malls, and the list goes on.

In recently talking with David Paxson, President of World Population Balance, about some of the demographic trends, he goes to the issue of resource depletion as well. In response to baby bust scares, he thinks that what is not talked about is how society is blind to the resource consequences of not just an increasing population, but overpopulation, and we need to start using that word again, because that is what it is.

Are we concerned enough about the continued gobbling up of resources and how more people will only perpetuate that? Are we really in tune with facts like – we lost 75 million acres of land to erosion and sprawl last year? And we’re on track to lose the same amount this year?

Paxson claims that “in our hubris,” we still think there’s plenty of land..but the data, the facts, are overwhelming to the contrary.

Rather than perpetuate the ponzi, we need to wake up to the psychology of denial on resource scarcity.

The answers lie in speaking truths, like Seager and Paxson do. One of the bravest is Madeline Weld, President of the Population Institute of Canada. You want your socks knocked off, read her bold thoughts on “deconstructing the dangerous dogma of denial” when it comes to population issues.

Why do you think there is a denial about the role of population in many of the world’s problems?

3 thoughts on “Population Experts Weigh In On the Heart of Population Issues

  1. Hi Laura,
    In my opinion the reason there is so much denial about the role of population in many of the world’s problems is simply because people don’t want to change. They don’t want to make sacrifices for the greater good and instead they keep their heads in the sand and feign ignorance. It’s the epitome of selfishness and self-centredness which is sadly the default position of many humans nowadays.

    This Ponzi scheme argument reminds me of a conversation I had with my father once about my decision not to have children. He really does not agree with me about this life choice and this particular time I was trying to make him understand the reasons behind my choice because he asked me ‘why’ and said he didn’t understand… I mentioned the population problem as one of the reasons for my decision and he splurted out ‘oh don’t be ridiculous, you can’t live your life worrying about silly issues like that, just don’t worry about that and do what you want with your life!’ Of course the fact that I don’t want children anyway is still not a good enough reason not to have them for him, but that’s beside the point. His response to my concern over the population issues we are already facing and that can only get worse before they get better, if they ever do, is to me, typical of many people’s beliefs on the matter. Even if they can admit that there is an overpopulation problem, they don’t think that they should make any changes to what they want from their life in order to make a difference to the world.

    I am very saddened by this view, particularly from my father, because he was the one who gave me the passion for animals, science and the environment that I have today, he taught me to be inspired and amazed by the wonders of the natural world and so I do feel very sad that he still thinks that humans should do whatever they want despite the damage they cause to our beautiful planet. It is this human superiority complex that has gotten us to where we are now and unfortunately I don’t think it’s going to be going anywhere any time soon.

    1. Kat, What a great answer. Your thoughts also bring to mind how the view you describe looks the other way to how it affects the very children who are already here. If “doing what you want with your life” includes children I know I harp on it, but one way to do that And take into consideration the larger issues of our world is to Adopt. ~L

  2. I keep feeling reminded of that famous statistic about tobacco companies, where they have to find 3000 new smokers every day in order to maintain their profits. (I don’t know if that’s true, just that it’s a popular statistic.) That sounds like a perfect metaphor to describe the pro-growth crowd. How can we grow our customer base if customers don’t reproduce as quickly as they used to?

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