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Overpopulation is Still the Problem

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In a recent blog for The Huffington Post, Stanford University's Alon Tal addresses the recent deluge of overpopulation related Op-Ed’s in his piece, Overpopulation Is Still the Problem.  We spotlighted many of these recent stories that he refers to on Growth Bias Busted but Tal seems to address all the major issues and arguments concisely, bluntly, and eloquently here.  “To make progress in the most recent round of the age-old debate between technological optimists and Malthusian realists, it's important to establish criteria and characterize consequences.”

“Overpopulation remains the leading driver of hunger, desertification, species depletion and a range of social maladies across the planet.”  This frankness, while becoming more common, is still very taboo in the media and I commend Mr. Tal for his insight and honesty.

His critique of Erle Ellis’s recent article would have fit in very well with the one we posted on September 16th.  Like us, Tal seems to wonder what history or science Ellis bases his theories on.  “If food security is the criterion, it is particularly ironic that arguments are based on China. Anyone with a teaspoon of historic sensibilities about the country's environmental history might want to mention its long litany of famines which occurred precisely because carrying capacities were consistently outstripped by a growing population.”  He goes on to admit that China’s one-child policy is flawed and difficult but that it helped the country avert the next famine.  I don’t personally believe it is an advisable policy but I appreciate someone willing to have a conversation about it without making wild and rash accusations as well.

Alon Tal also takes a less anthropocentric view on the subject of overpopulation than most other progressive minds.  “Overpopulation is not just about food shortages and human suffering. Ecologists explain that the collapse in global biodiversity is also linked to overpopulation.”  He goes on to explain it as basically as possible.  “The equation is simple: more people means less wildlife.”  We grow and grow until we irreparably encroach on nature, threatening biodiversity and sabotaging ourselves.

In his final paragraphs he makes one of the best cases I’ve ever read; true, slightly optimistic, and powerful.   “The good news is that public policy matters and can reduce overpopulation. Many countries… adopted policies that incentify small families, make birth control available, provide better social security and most of all -- empower women. The results are remarkable, showing that trend need not be destiny… It is time to realize that there is a tradeoff between "quality of life" and "quantity of life." In a planet with limited resources -- sustainable growth is an oxymoron… There is much we can do to reduce the suffering caused by human population growth. But recognizing that overpopulation is a perilous problem constitutes a critical first step.”  Now who can argue with that?  Well clearly someone can but I sure wish they'd stop.

(Photo by H. Armstrong Roberts/Retrofile/Getty Images)(Credit: Retrofile/getty Images)

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Guest Friday, 24 October 2014

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