How much is too much?

After receiving my new C&EN (Chemical and Engineering News, the flagship of ACS Publications) every week, the first thing I do is read the editorial. Then I flip through, stopping wherever I see something that interests me [sometimes, not much] until I get to the jobs section. After perusing through everything except academic positions, I land on the back page for the light side of science. This is my formula. And I tend to stick to it, unless I’m having a really bad day – in which case I turn directly to the back page and read the magazine backwards.Today, the editorial is about overpopulation and Rudy Baum gives me pause for contemplation with these words:

“The fact is that many of the problems we face today-water and energy shortages, pollution, climate change-have at their root one common element: There are too many people on Earth already, too many more are coming, and they all very reasonably want to live like people in the developed world. The idea that a decline in population is a “disaster” proves only that the world’s economic system is unsustainable.

…[A]n economic system that is based on an ever-increasing number of consumers is, by definition, not sustainable. At some point, the carrying capacity of Earth for any species will be exceeded. And while we are still a long way from reaching that carrying capacity for humans, the cost of even coming close-in environmental degradation and species loss-would be catastrophic. We must, at the very least, at some point in the near future stop world population growth.

And we must develop a new economic paradigm that provides Earth’s stable population with goods and services that make life worth living. That is one of the most fundamental challenges we face in the coming century.” (emphasis mine)

Wow. “Stop world population growth”. How would you recommend we do this? Continue reading

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