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Overpopulation is the Real Cause of Climate Change – It’s Killing Us All Off

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Joe Barry of the Irish Independent is not optimistic. But he’s not necessarily wrong either. “Despite all the warnings of global warming and imminent disaster, it is unlikely that we will change our ways until a real catastrophe actually occurs.” It’s sad but true. And this isn’t to say that real catastrophes aren’t happening right now but our natural human myopia apparently is making it difficult to connect the dots and see the big picture. Barry blames our refusal to adjust our way of living for our inability to accept our role in climate change and therefore do anything about it. Shoot, we can’t even talk about what the root of the problem is!

“The remarkable thing is that the real cause of global warming is rarely mentioned. It is the elephant in the room. Everyone can see it but no one wants to speak about it, presumably because this subject is a contentious one and challenges the core beliefs of many religions. The undeniable fact is that we, the human race, are the cause of our own difficulties and unless we reduce our numbers, we will self-destruct.”

Exactly. This is what we’ve been saying but we get so excited when someone else says it too. Especially people with a readership. Across the globe no less. Barry goes on to basically say we look at micro causes for climate change (ie livestock) but never the macro cause (too many people consuming). But we are incredibly anthropocentric and that obsession could very likely be the end of the human race. He does admit that we are slowly realizing that our actions are having a profoundly dangerous impact on the planet, so I mean, it’s not totally hopeless.

But to get anywhere we need to help people realize that the human population does need to decrease and then ensure that everyone has the tools necessary to live that. “We send money to poor nations to help sink wells and buy livestock but do little or nothing about helping them control their rate of reproduction, which in turn creates further famines.” And there it is again. Treating symptoms rather than causes. But that’s all short term and the symptoms only get worse.

He also quickly addresses agriculture, industry, deforestation, importing, exporting, production…the whole axis of resource depletion. Basically, the situation is dire and we need to start doing something about it immediately. “[I]f we ignore the threat that overpopulation presents to all of us, we ignore reality.”

AP Photo

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  • Mike Hanauer
    Mike Hanauer Thursday, 24 April 2014

    Oh yes! So true.

    This is way BIGGER than climate change, which is just a symptom of our escape from honest sustainability and toward the stupidity of eternal growth.
    If all we do is try to mitigate symptoms like climate change, we still NEVER attain honest sustainability. That means the oceans still die, the fish are gone, the planet’s diversity of life disappears with all its habitat, the traffic, sprawl, heaps of trash, and economic inequality only gets worse, and we still need franken foods to feed the growing population. In fact, just mitigating climate change will only allow us to further escape sustainability and worsen all the symptoms. Eternal growth overwhelms all else, including carbon emissions. Population and Economic growth is the overarching issue. We must get to a steady state economy.

    Our culture of looking to (eternal) growth is the SOURCE of most of our problems, NOT the solution. The USA doubles its GDP every 40 years and doubles its population every 60 years. Growth overwhelms all else we try to do to help the environment and our society. Climate Change is one of the many symptoms.

    Population is the great multiplier!

    “Anyone who believes in unlimited growth is either a madman or an economist”. -Kenneth Boulding

    Reply Cancel
  • Kai Mikke Forlie
    Kai Mikke Forlie Thursday, 24 April 2014

    Not a fan of the photo and the subsequent connotation that the problem is India (or some other country in the Majority World). The problem is ALL of us. I've included an example of a more appropriate (and less racist) photo.http://www.thenewstribe.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/PML-N-Government%E2%80%99s-initiative-for-Sindh.jpg

  • Dave Gardner
    Dave Gardner Friday, 09 May 2014

    Forgive my long-winded reply to this comment about racism, which you'll find here: http://www.growthbusters.org/2014/05/5-ridiculous-reasons-overpopulation-is-politically-incorrect/

  • Guest
    Brian Sanderson Friday, 09 May 2014

    What on Earth is the "Majority World"? Does being numerous bestow some sort of special exemption from fair comment?

    Speaking of India, that nation has done much to reduce it's fertility rate. But still it's population is too large and grows too quickly and many of it's people are underprivileged because of that.

    Similarly, in the USA continued population growth has turned the "American Dream" into nostalgic nonsense for an ever increasing proportion of it's citizens.

  • Dave Gardner
    Dave Gardner Thursday, 24 April 2014


    The photo on this post is of course the photo chosen by the Irish Independent to run with the commentary. I see no inherent racism in showing overpopulation wherever it occurs. If India were singled out all the time, I'd have a problem with that. Joe Barry definitely failed to make clear that overpopulation is universal. It is in Los Angeles or Dallas or New York as much as it is in Mumbai. I wouldn't be too quick to label Barry or the commentary as racist. We don't really know. He is correct in pointing out that we do too little to support family planning. At GrowthBusters we are doing our best to be equal-opportunity family planning advocates, recommending smaller family sizes in the industrialized world as much as in the Global South. WE are definitely a huge part of the problem, and I'm sure Lynsey would agree. I HOPE Joe Barry would agree, as well.

  • Francesco Turco
    Francesco Turco Monday, 28 April 2014

    Unfortunately livestock is definitely not a "micro cause" of climate change. According to a United Nations report called Livestock's Long Shadow (1) livestock contributes to 9% of total carbon dioxide emissions, 37% of methane and 65% of nitrous oxide. Also, humans are not the only overpopulated mammal. This diagram (2) based on a book by Vaclav Smil clearly shows that livestock total weight in tons is way bigger than other mammals total weight. For these reasons if you want to fight overpopulation (at least livestock overpopulation) and climate change I recommend to become vegan.
    (1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Livestock%27s_Long_Shadow
    (2) http://xkcd.com/1338/

  • Mike Hanauer
    Mike Hanauer Friday, 09 May 2014

    Meat, fish, low-yield vegetables, shrink wrap,
    paper, autos, and personal computers are not morally
    wrong. The higher the population, the more personal
    choices we must give up and the lower the resulting
    quality of life. I think the big picture is so important -- get
    to honest sustainability. Growth is a huge and under considered
    issue here.

  • Francesco Turco
    Francesco Turco Saturday, 10 May 2014

    I think that meat and fish are morally wrong. SUVs are also morally wrong (for different reasons). Jewerly are morally wrong (do you know that one gold wedding ring requires the production of 20 tons of waste?). I could continue almost endlessly...

    For gold, see: http://nodirtygold.earthworksaction.org/

  • Guest
    Brian Sanderson Friday, 09 May 2014

    Compare the gut tract of a Gorilla to that of a human and you will see that we are evolved to be omnivores. Even if we were to all become vegan, the problem would not be solved if population growth was not reversed. Our biggest single impact on the natural environment is farming --- for which commandeer most of the fertile land on the face of the earth for our exclusive use, to the detriment of our planetmates.

  • Francesco Turco
    Francesco Turco Friday, 09 May 2014

    I don't think we evolved to eat meat or drink cow's milk, but it's offtopic here. Also, I'm not saying we shouldn't fight (human) overpopulation. Finally, farming takes much more land if you grow crops for making animal feed instead of directly producing food for humans.

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