Large stick-figure family on SUV window

What He Said (Curb Population to Calm Climate)

Today I’m glad to honor on the Wall of Fame a pediatrician who, instead of promoting the growth of his market (more births), has written this beautiful commentary at the Huffington Post Blog:

Curbing Population Growth and Climate Change

Dr. Sean Palfrey starts with an important idea:

“The River Parable teaches us that when we see babies floating down a river we must search upstream to find where and why they are falling in, and act up there to address the fundamental problems. Our world is waking up to the disaster that is climate change, but a key upstream cause is unsustainable population growth.”

He is correct, we expend too much energy on downstream symptoms, robbing the upstream cause of needed attention. It’s great to replace fossil fuels with clean, renewable energy, but on a planet where the scale of the human enterprise refuses to stop expanding, that will not be enough. It’s time that contracting human population make its way to the top of the list of climate change responses.

“Over the last few centuries, human scientific knowledge and technology have become so effective at thwarting nature’s attempts to control our rising populations, countering disease outbreaks, and altering food and water supplies, that our human population has spiraled out of control. We are creating physical and social imbalances of enormous proportions. Our success has put our world, not just ourselves, on a rollercoaster toward crisis.”

I could nitpick a few things here, like giving men a little bit of a pass on taking responsibility (just because we are too irresponsible), but there is so much good here that I am not worried about that. Palfrey offers a humane and sensible approach to human overpopulation. Please read his commentary and share it widely!

“We have been seeing our babies in the river for years, but have refused to act upstream.”

I’m reminded of the excellent book by Karen Shragg, Move Upstream: A Call to Solve Overpopulation. The image for this post was originally created to represent this video created by one of our long-time volunteers and occasional staff member to illustrate a song by Beans on Toast:

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Dave Gardner

Producer of the documentary, GrowthBusters: Hooked on Growth. Dave writes and speaks regularly on the subject of growth addiction, including the pro-growth media bias that perpetuates prosperity-from-growth mythology.

Comments (2)

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    Brian Sanderson

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    Indeed, ’tis truly a wonderful to read (your minor reservation accepted).

    He also makes a the minor mistake by repeating that old myth about lemmings committing mass suicide. Yes, there are irruptions of wandering lemmings following successive seasons that favor population growth. No, they are not committing suicide. Rather, when their populations levels are high, lemmings move around. This makes sense. Local extinctions are to be expected given the often harsh conditions on the “arctic steppe” — so moving around, even though it is risky for the individual — is a sound strategy for survival of the species when bad times come. Paul Colinvaux discusses the matter in a more depth (providing context for human behavior) in “The Fates of Nations, A biological Theory of History”.

    PS There is movie/TV footage of lemmings jumping into the sea. They were being pushed. Pushed by humans, that is. Some members of our species make a habit of bending the rules of nature…

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    • Avatar

      Dave Gardner

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      Yes, I flagged the lemming myth, too, but just lumped that in with the minor nits. The whole lemming myth and the story of that footage (I believe for a Disney film) is fascinating. Thanks for bringing that up.

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