We Should Be Wary of Blaming Overpopulation for the Climate Crisis

The high-carbon consumption habits of the world’s richest people are harder on the environment than population growth in poor regions, says Heather Alberro.

Jane Goodall, English primatologist and anthropologist, addresses press conference, World Economic Forum, in Davos, Switzerland, Jan. 22 2020. (EPA-EFE/ALESSANDRO DELLA VALLE)

By Heather Alberro
The Conversation

The annual World Economic Forum in Davos brought together representatives from government and business to deliberate how to solve the worsening climate and ecological crisis. The meeting came just as devastating bush fires were abating in Australia. These fires are thought to have killed up to one billion animals and generated a new wave of climate refugees. Yet, as with the COP25 climate talks in Madrid, a sense of urgency, ambition and consensus on what to do next were largely absent in Davos.

But an important debate did surface – that is, the question of who, or what, is to blame for the crisis. Famed primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall remarked at the event that human population growth is responsible, and that most environmental problems wouldn’t exist if our numbers were at the levels they were 500 years ago.

This might seem fairly innocuous, but its an argument that has grim implications and is based on a misreading of the underlying causes of the current crises. As these escalate, people must be prepared to challenge and reject the overpopulation argument.

Dangerous Distraction

Paul Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb” and Donella Meadows’ The Limits to Growth” in the late 1960s and early 1970s ignited concerns over the world’s burgeoning human population, and its consequences for natural resources.

The idea that there were simply too many people being born – most of them in the developing world where population growth rates had started to take off – filtered into the arguments of radical environmental groups such as Earth First! Certain factions within the group became notorious for remarks about extreme hunger in regions with burgeoning populations such as Africa – which, though regrettable, could confer environmental benefits through a reduction in human numbers. [Earth First! says they did not editorially endorse the 1987 article.] 

In reality, the global human population is not increasing exponentially, but is in fact slowing and predicted to stabilise at around 11 billion by 2100. More importantly, focusing on human numbers obscures the true driver of many of our ecological woes. That is, the waste and inequality generated by modern capitalism and its focus on endless growth and profit accumulation.

The industrial revolution that first married economic growth with burning fossil fuels occurred in 18th-century Britain. The explosion of economic activity that marked the post-war period known as the Great Acceleration caused emissions to soar, and it largely took place in the Global North. That’s why richer countries such as the U.S. and U.K., which industrialized earlier, bear a bigger burden of responsibility for historical emissions.

The high-carbon consumption habits of the world’s richest people are more to blame for the climate crisis than population growth in poor regions. (Artem Ermilov/Shutterstock)

In 2018 the planet’s top emitters – North America and China – accounted for nearly half of global CO2 emissions. In fact, the comparatively high rates of consumption in these regions generate so much more CO2 than their counterparts in low-income countries that an additional 3-to-4 billion people in the latter would hardly make a dent on global emissions.

There’s also the disproportionate impact of corporations to consider. It is suggested that just 20 fossil fuel companies have contributed to one-third of all modern CO? emissions, despite industry executives knowing about the science of climate change as early as 1977.

Inequalities in power, wealth and access to resources – not mere numbers – are key drivers of environmental degradation. The consumption of the world’s wealthiest 10 percent produces up to 50 percent of the planet’s consumption-based CO2 emissions, while the poorest half of humanity contributes only 10 percent. With a mere 26 billionaires now in possession of more wealth than half the world, this trend is likely to continue.

Issues of ecological and social justice cannot be separated from one another. Blaming human population growth – often in poorer regions – risks fuelling a racist backlash and displaces blame from the powerful industries that continue to pollute the atmosphere. Developing regions in Africa, Asia and Latin America often bear the brunt of climate and ecological catastrophes, despite having contributed the least to them.

The problem is extreme inequality, the excessive consumption of the world’s ultra-rich, and a system that prioritizes profits over social and ecological well-being. This is where where we should be devoting our attention.

Heather Alberro is associate lecturer and PhD candidate in political ecology at Nottingham Trent University.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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52 comments for “We Should Be Wary of Blaming Overpopulation for the Climate Crisis

  1. Eugenie Basile
    February 16, 2020 at 11:32

    Heard some young people saying net zero doesn’t count ….. it must be real zero now.
    I am afraid to go out for a walk with my dog these days.

  2. jadan
    February 15, 2020 at 09:39

    The world’s rich are rich because the rest of the world’s population is buying what they have to sell. As an Amazon customer, I support Jeff Bezos’ 160 million dollar house. I do not like the idea that one individual accumulates so much wealth while those who contribute to this condition are themselves unable to afford to live without debt and the threat of bankruptcy. But Jeff Bezos and his ilk are not responsible for the extinction of other species and the loss of 70% of wildlife since 1970. Human population demands its lebensraum while denying the right to live to all other species. It is the demands of the mass of people that destroy habitat. Africa’s magnificent creatures are disappearing and not merely because Donald Trump Jr likes to shoot them. Jane Goodall is correct and you’re ideological justification just doesn’t fly.

    While it is true that human population growth is decelerating and that we can probably live amicably and sustainably on the planet with a much larger population than the mere 500 or so million alive 500 years ago if we could deploy the right technology and respect our environment, the hard fact is that there is a limit to planetary carrying capacity. Just what this is we don’t know precisely, but common sense indicates that rich or poor, excess human population is not sustainable, rich or poor.

    Ideology is not reality, dear.

  3. February 15, 2020 at 08:30

    One of the best refutations of Malthus is found in the first pages of “Progress & Poverty” by American economist, Henry George. Malthus blamed poverty on too many people; George had to clear that away before presenting his explanation: the world-wide speculative withholding of land. Since people don’t float around in air, access to land is always necessary for life itself and for the production of all material wealth. But land speculation’s enemy is the annual property tax on land values, which is quite healthy in the U.S. but much weaker in many parts of Latin America. Hence we in the US enjoy a wider distribution of adequate incomes, while Latin America is home to the few enjoying kingly riches amidst a poverty-stricken and suffering majority. ###

  4. Vernon Brechin
    February 14, 2020 at 20:56

    Like many, who insist that consumption and lack of resource distribution is the key problem, they are likely to be unaware of the following.

    It took around 300,000 years for the Earth’s population of modern homo sapiens to reach one-billion, at around 1803 CE. During my 73 years the Earth’s human population has more than tripled to 7.7 billion people. Those, who don’t see anything significant in this fact, must be living in a state of denial.

    The vast majority of the world’s still growing population of 7.7 billion people are likely to reject my and similar comments in favor of blind positivism. Most people have strong vested interests in doing so. It’s become increasingly clear that many people reject evidence that doesn’t support their existing deeply entrenched worldview. For them, maintaining these views is far more important than the trashed future our offspring will likely be inheriting.

    How the world went from 170 million people to 7.3 billion, in one map
    see: vox.com/2016/1/30/10872878/world-population-map

    The article mentioned a projected human population in the year 2100. I assume that the writer is oblivious to the following predictions.

    UN chief: World has less than 2 years to avoid ‘runaway climate change’
    see: thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/406291-un-chief-the-world-has-less-than-2-years-to-avoid-runaway-climate

  5. Jeff Harrison
    February 14, 2020 at 20:52

    Human population has grown from ~2.5Billion in 1950 to ~7.5Billion today. That’s 5 Billion more people producing CO2 27/7/365. That’s just the people, never mind whatever it is that they are doing. And you lot are worried about a few hundred million cows, pigs, chickens, etc? Spare me.

    The real problem is that CO2 has nothing to do with the disequilibrium we are experiencing today. Scientifically speaking, heat is the kinetic energy of motion of atoms and molecules. As such it is an attribute of matter, just like length, mass, viscosity etc. If you want to “trap” any of these things, you have to “trap” the matter that possesses this attribute. The attribute (like heat or viscosity) has no meaning in the absence of matter. You can reduce the CO2 in the atmosphere from it’s current ~0.4% of the atmosphere to ~0.2% of the atmosphere if you like. That’s your range of motion. 2/10ths of 1 percent. Ask someone who keeps terrariums what happens if the CO2 drops below 0.2%

  6. February 14, 2020 at 13:40

    Thank you for this article, I agree, the problem is an unsustainable lifestyle extracted from all the life on this planet returning nothing to her but toxic pollution. Humans have supported large populations on the planet but did so in a system that viewed their birth as a gift from and a debt to the Earth Mother, and they made payments to Her for everything they used. Everything they took from the Mother was paid for with care. We can change and do that too by reclaiming our sovereignty, our freedom, while embracing its attendant responsibilities. The world is ensnared in a global economy which at its base is a monetary system that extracts the wealth of the world and concentrates it to those at the top of the system. It is hidden only because people refuse to look at it believing instead the myths the system provides to protect itself. It is what Marshall McCluhan referred to as one of the “big secrets.. …protected by public incredulity.” Too bad so many are unable to see the solution within the problem. Money is the problem, being created by private institutions as interest bearing debt which allows monopolizing industry and corrupting government. Money is the solution if created by government as an asset originated for public purpose as its first use. This would reverse the negative effects of usury; the abuse of monetary authority for personal gain, and create an Economics of Care.

  7. TomG
    February 14, 2020 at 12:54

    When I first heard the 1 billion animals died in the Aussie fires, I went digging to see where such a number was coming from. (I’m not saying it wasn’t a possible consequence). It turns out one academic took numbers from a study that looked at how many animals are displaced when development moves into a virgin territory. Then he multiplied that by the number of hectares burned and then rounded up from around 750 million to one billion. Critics of the ‘methodology’ pointed out several problems. Not least of which is assuming equal animal density in every region of the fires, but also not accounting for birds that could fly out of the fire or animals that could burrow until it passed. It counted rats, mice and such. Yes, slow moving adorable creatures like the Koala were hard pressed to escape.

    I mention that to express my equal skepticism of the stabilization of 11 billion by 2100 figure. It seems to me to be as wild a** of a guess as this 1 billion number and probably even more grossly flawed in its estimation. I appreciate this PhD. student needing to get some things published, but CN has better standards than this.

    It is not only the super rich that “prioritizes profits over social and ecological well-being.” It is virtually everyone with a 401K, pension and/or mutual fund. It is every consumerist household. It is global military hegemony whose (used and abused) soldiers represent the poor with little other future. It is everyone, including Greta T, who forgets to seek out their own complicity and ask, “Is it I?”

    Breed less. Consume less. Blame others less. Own it.

  8. Mark Thomason
    February 14, 2020 at 12:29

    Arguments about overpopulation are almost always about the other guy’s population. It is a slightly disguised racism, that the racists themselves seem unable to see for what it is.

    When it is not, it is about the Libertarian ideal, “Why I am right not to have kids, and think only of myself.” They pretend to do it for others, and so feel better about that.

    A lower carbon lifestyle can be a higher quality lifestyle. That is because it tends to be a higher tech lifestyle too, substituting new technology for old use of a lot more carbon. But that is difficult and requires investment. It is easier to suggest the other guy not have kids.

  9. DW Bartoo
    February 14, 2020 at 12:11

    It is quite interesting that those who complain about over-population never offer to leave.

    They want someone else to go away.

    And, equally interesting, those who ascribe “the problem” to others too often are members of societies of planned obsolescence and throw-away behavior.

    Way back in 1948, George F. Kennan opined that, as 6% of the world’s human population, the U$, in order to continue taking 50% of the world’s resources, needed to put nice thoughts and kindness aside and plan to stomp butt.

    Now, as it was Kennan’s task, his official “job”, to delineate official U$ public policy on the world stage, it must reasonably be understood and accepted that his words were harkened to.

    U$ foreign policy, despite it being prettied up with “democracy and free enterprise (which happen to be antithetical)” and the current “humanitarian intervention”, as euphemism for WAR and killing lots of people, stealing their resources, and seeing that their societies were controlled to the benefit OF the U$, be it in Europe (and the rest of the “free” world) and the so-called “third” world (aka “the South”, which has nothing to do, really, with points on a compass) to further U$ Military Empire, has generally lived down to Kennan’s “take”.

    Frankly, it’s kind of “rich” when citizens or subjects of Empires and Colonial states start virtue signaling about how there are too many people while not understanding the their own “lifestyles” and expectations of the “good life” readily condemn the many, even within their own societies but especially in prey nations, to life-crushing poverty even as the “prosperous” (those rewarded by Gawd for their piety, industry, and moral superiority) demand, and plunder, more from the planet than do the poor in their “multitudes”.

    Hypocrisy does not begin to cover the naked selfishness and entitlement extant among the privileged, the best and the brightest [which, if we are honest, IS how we see ourselves, our nation(s) and our behavior, is it not?].

    You think there are too many people?

    But not you?

    You (we) matter, “they” don’t?

    Oh, this is purely a dispassionate, deeply considered, impartial, fully humane intellectual concern?

    Just out of curiosity, on what activity or purpose, precisely, does your government spend most of its (your) money?


    You mean the Killing Machine?

    Yes, there certainly are far too many people.

    (Of a certain unkindliness.)

    Is your priority peace and sharing, of caring and taking care of the planet?

    Is that your society’s priority?

    Is there enough to “go around”?

    If everybody lives as you do, or would like to?

    Perhaps, just perhaps, the “problem” is not “them” over “there”.

    What if the real problem, attitude and behavior long-standing and continuing, is right HERE ?

    With US?

    Could that be possible?

    Is that worth considering?

  10. Gray Brechin
    February 14, 2020 at 09:46

    This is reflexive lefty reductionism: capitalism bad, poor people good, and nothing to worry about if we would just redistribute the available wealth so that the planet can accommodate 11 billion people by 2100 even though it is already buckling under the strain.

    Actually, capitalism and population are joined at the hip as the young William Randolph Hearst wrote in a letter to his father advising him to invest the family’s mining fortune in land in 1885: “Every atom of humanity added to the struggling mass means another figure to the landlord’s bank account.” (Senator Hearst needed no urging so that the Hearst dynastic wealth today is largely in real estate.)

    Just as with CO2 reduction and saving our dying oceans, it’s far too late to redistribute what wealth there is even if we had the will to do so, so the argument is academic. Our planet is dying.

  11. Postsolipsist
    February 14, 2020 at 05:42

    One neglected consideration here is that the growing populations of the world’s poor regions show no signs of not wanting the wasteful consumption habits of the developed world. Another problem is the tendency to reduce all environmental problems to climate change. What about biodiversity and resource depletion, to name two, as other limits to growth impacted by population? By all means, let the high consuming world limit its population growth, but all population growth is a huge problem.

  12. February 13, 2020 at 21:24

    Of course over population is not the cause of the climate crisis. It, just like the climate crisis, is a symptom of our environmental problem. That problem is growth beyond sustainable limits. Capitalism shares in this blame as it is a system predicated on growth. And it is laughable to hear that we are OK on the population issue since it will stabilize at eleven billion. Given that the maximum sustainable population for a modern life style is only around two billion, they idea that we can continue on consuming at the rate of even a third of that in the developed world currently is a fairy tale.

  13. John Drake
    February 13, 2020 at 15:48

    Reading the reference , “World Population Growth, Roser, et. al., is really interesting and somewhat encouraging, as growth is slowing. .
    I think one should not disparage the idea of discouraging population growth. We need fewer Americans. US residents consume the largest amount of resources per capita of anyone in the world. Even more than Europeans who are just as, if not more comfortable than we; but live more efficiently. The US is just an incredibly wasteful nation; and American hyper capitalism fuels it.
    If you look at US infrastructure you can see a bunch of reasons: an abysmally inadequate transportation system dominated by the car and the commercial airliner. We once had a great railroad system which now mostly moves freight. Then there is the military which is the largest single resource user of any single organization in the world. And of course, we now have Trump the apostle of waste. This is a guy, who before he had the use of Air Force One and the C-5 which accompanies it with a limo and helicopter, had as a personal jet a tricked out(gold seat belt buckles) Boeing 757. I’ve noticed some rich people take pride in what they waste; as if they are above mere resource concerns; and that makes them “better”.

    • Josep
      February 16, 2020 at 18:03

      US residents consume the largest amount of resources per capita of anyone in the world. Even more than Europeans who are just as, if not more comfortable than we; but live more efficiently. The US is just an incredibly wasteful nation; and American hyper capitalism fuels it.

      I believe the continued use of the automobile is thanks to the lack of an immediate crisis regarding a possible fuel shortage. As long as petrol prices remain low, people will still consume it, not giving two craps about where it’s from. People will behave as if everything is alright.

      This parasitic overconsumption to some degree extends to consumer products, such as plastic toys. These tend to be made in China so as to keep costs low and satisfy consumer demand, often at the expense of many a Chinese worker. This includes licensed toys and other merch for kids’ cartoons and movies. As said before, little attention is given to the trouble and effort making the product and all the emissions generated; all the consumer wants is the product itself.

      This can also include currency denominations. To this day, the highest-circulating coin in the US is 25 cents, and after 40 years of inflation, very little effort has been made to effectively replace the $1 bill with a coin, so laundromats, telephones and parking meters still require payments in stacks of quarters. This says something considering many of the industrialized nations whose GDPs-per-capita are slightly lower than that of the USA have coins of not only $1, but also $2.

      “Developed country”, my arse. The USA boasts “freedom” and “democracy”, and yet it doesn’t have paid maternal leave!

  14. Leo Barge
    February 13, 2020 at 15:32

    The author fails to respond to Jane Goodall’s comment. She substitutes a straw-man, namely, what if the rich of today didn’t commit the sins they do? But where is the article on what Jane Goodall ACTUALLY said? Which is, what if our population were at the level of 500 years ago? To make it real simple, let’s grant that ALL of that reduced-size population were polluting like Chinese or Americans do. To grant that, of course, is not reasonable, not everyone wants to live in cities, but let’s grant it anyway. Would there be climate warming, or a 6th extinction, or an Anthropocene, or a human extinction? Let’s see her give some answers to Goodall’s actual contention. Because, like Godzilla, size does matter; numbers do count. Remember what Captain Cooke found when he docked at Easter Island.

  15. Tedder
    February 13, 2020 at 12:41

    The mathematical certainty of disaster belongs to capitalism’s exponential growth. A target of 3% annual growth yields a doubling every 25 years, which has actually happened. Imagine a world of multi-doubled global GDP by 2100. Who could consume so much? Where would raw materials come from? Capitalism, not consumerism, not population, is the greatest danger to the species.

  16. February 13, 2020 at 12:31

    This is a silly article. In 1950 the earth’s human population was 3.5 billion. In one lifetime it has tripled. The author blithely assumes that what remains of our planet in 2100 can accommodate an additional 4 billion.
    Of course the wealthy 10 percent cause the most environmental damage. But the poor need land and food and energy as well. And none of them aspire to poverty. They want a car and a Western lifestyle too. Or does the author imagine they are in some way more virtuous?

  17. February 13, 2020 at 12:29

    Good article, especially needed among “progressives,” where limiting population growth has deep roots as the solution to the destruction of the environment, war and famine. A great book by Germaine Greer, titled Sex and Destiny: The Politics of Fertility, shows how this belief was propagated after the Darwin’s Descent of Man in 1871, by the Anglo-American eugenics movement. The book follows its development into the 20th Century, as a global Population Lobby pushing Malthusian projects through the UN in underdeveloped nations. Consequently, the imagination of progressives people were captured by the faux arguments of environmentalism/feminism that supported these projects, and capitalism was never investigated as the culprit until recently.

    • February 14, 2020 at 13:53

      I agree, Thomas, Capitalism is the main problem becasue the main structural feature of capitalism is the private control of the creation and distribution of money. With such a privilege, which has been allowed by all governments, the plutocrats can direct the entire economic development of society as well as public policy. I think we need to help people see that Capitalism is a voracious parasite on Free Enterprise, absolute power/corruption.

  18. February 13, 2020 at 12:04

    Another way to look at the problem:

    See: bbc.com/news/magazine-33133712

  19. rosemerry
    February 13, 2020 at 11:36

    This has been the excuse for at least many decades. It is easy to observe that as people become less reliant on being supported by their offspring, they tend to have fewer children, that girls’ education and women’s opportunity for work and independence reduces the likelihood of having many children, and of course if there is adequate medical care and access to contraception and the attitude of men is encouraging(!) . All these points are found in most “developed ” countries, and instead of blaming the poor, helping them to achieve a more comfortable status is a way of reducing reliance on numbers. This means of course that there are more “rich” people using more resources (as in China as people are lifted from poverty) so the situation has not necessarily led to lower emissions/pollution!
    A simpler life for all is probably better, but very few of the billionaires and those who emulate them want that!!!

    • Clark M Shanahan
      February 15, 2020 at 13:56

      Yep, political/economic/and social stability does lead to less baby-making.
      Our post-WWII military & economic adventurism has not helped much in advancing those priorities.
      Our dealings with the world, since Teddy and Woodrow has been based, primarily, on keeping ‘Brown, Black, and Yellow peoples out of the way; in order that our Captains of Industry were kept well supplied with raw materials for our noble Weberian Enterprise.
      Though, this leads to your earlier response to me, and I want to clarify my earlier comment:
      I was not speaking of Hill’s “deplorables”.
      I was referring to environmentalists who fail to understand that the people in West and South Chicago, Appalachia, Central America, Sub-Saharan Africa, etc, are all full part of the ecosystem.
      Many identify themselves as ‘progressives’.. I was poll watching for my local Dem Party primary and encountered a fellow Dean supporter & volunteer from out of state who came out and said that our local Greens were racist. I understood.
      During the Syrian refugee crisis, I was pilloried for being critical of Obama being only ready to take in 30,000 (as opposed to Merkel’s 250.000. I argued that the US had a responsibility and the resources to take in far more than Germany.
      Many fellow progressives went ballistic.

      It sorta reminds me of the top French animal rights leader, Bridget Bardot, who would gladly let N African citizens of France starve.
      On “deplorablrs”. yes, the bible-thumpers ignoring the climate crisis depress me.
      Yet, I found Hill’s repeated use of that term in mansion-fund-raisers on the East & West coasts totally harmful to our nations political unity. My home county that voted twice for Obama and three times for Sen Betty Stabenow went for Trump. Maybe Hill needs to review her policies. Also, in 2013 the US became the world’s foremost exporter of fossil fuels; Obama/Hillary pipelines/ fracking/ deep-sea oil extraction gives them nothing to feel superior about.

  20. John Puma
    February 13, 2020 at 11:07

    Jane Goodall isn’t “we” any more than are the denizens of the Davos gathering of the rich and powerful who have, apparently, chosen her as this year’s Greta T.

    IF anything significant were to be done about the climate crisis, it will have to address capitalism’s intrinsic over-consumption. That will leave hyper-consuming Westerners with a lot less than they now have and the 6+ billion others no credible hope of getting what they have been implicitly promised. (Of course, that was always a cynical, manipulative lie all along.)

  21. February 13, 2020 at 10:39

    Why was the US military left out of the article, the greatest polluter of the planet, by far!

    • Skip Scott
      February 13, 2020 at 13:40


      I had the exact same thought as I read this article. And it all ties in to the excesses of unregulated capitalism. The USA’s MIC are the muscle for Empire. They’ve purchased our so-called “representative” government, and the MSM is propaganda central for the same evil.
      Not only is our military the greatest polluter, it syphons a huge amount of manpower and resources that we could use to implement sound policies that would lead to a sustainable future. It keeps the rich getting richer and murders innocents daily, mostly people of color in the third world.

      Still, I would say that over population is a significant problem. However, the countries with the highest literacy rates are the slowest growing, and some of those populations are even shrinking. Education is a part of the answer. Humanity must evolve, or mother nature will “get over” us like a 24 hour bug.

    • DH Fabian
      February 13, 2020 at 14:58

      They’re also one of the leading population reducers.

    • February 13, 2020 at 19:31

      Thank you, Riva!!

  22. February 13, 2020 at 10:38

    I think the author would have been on sounder ground if she took the trouble to explore what world emissions would look like if the 50% of the world’s people under the median consumed like residents of western Europe or Canada or the US or Japan. After all, what is the equitable argument–as opposed to the environmental argument–that they should NOT so consume?

    • JoeSixBack
      February 13, 2020 at 11:50

      You would be on sounder footing if you had read the article. The author cites a report on the how 20 fossil fuel companies have contributed to one-third of all modern CO2 emissions.

      Also consider the waste generated by modern capitalism – have you seen land fills lately. Products have shorter life cycles which means you replace them frequently. People buy things they don’t need, as a CEO said on CNBC, talking about ways people can save money.

      The bottom line we live in a consumption based economy which is detrimental to the environment. But please tell all of us why you so need that latest iPhone…

    • Tedder
      February 13, 2020 at 12:37

      We see this in China as twenty years ago city dwellers mostly moved around on bicycles, but now use automobiles.

    • nondimenticare
      February 13, 2020 at 18:01

      I agree. Every argument I’ve heard against over-population as a problem relies on the fact that the poor of the world do not consume. If we keep them in constant penury, gee, population growth is not a problem. But they aspire to consume as we do. Their circumstances prevent it. Whether under capitalism or socialism, when people become part of “productive” economies, they consume. If it is our right, it is their right. Anything else is taking up the bridge after we’ve crossed it.

      The answer has to lie with less consumption (not poverty) and smaller population – everywhere, for everyone. This is not a madman’s exercise in human engineering (though they are certainly out there) but common sense for all of us.

  23. Babyl-on
    February 13, 2020 at 10:20

    Eugenics experiments were taking place in the US, when the Nazis took over Germany the program was transferred there where they continued until the end of WWII when Operation Paper Clip brought the top German scientists back into the imperial fold.

    Population has been predicted to start declining and has in fact already started to decline, there is no need for “population engineering” It’s as clear as a bell, (nothing really is) I am on the leading edge of the “baby boom” the generations behind me are smaller the trend is clear and established.

    Talk of population control is yet another propaganda project designed to control the entire world and human population.

    “GLOBAL full spectrum domination.” has been the policy and goal of Western empire for 500 years.

    No Western democracy ever abandoned empire, democracy has been a handmaiden to imperial slaughter sense its inception.

    Look at the famous French Revolution, the very same bankers who controlled Royalty through debt also controlled the revolutionaries through debt. The elite money lenders received the plunder of French empire, the French democracy protected their interests to get the money to stay in power just the other day Macron talked about how he wanted to pro,mote the French language in all the “former” French colonies in Africa – the French empire still exists (as part of the consolidated Western Empire now housed in Washington DC.)

    The US is hailed as the pinnacle of human civilization and if so human kind is in serious trouble. I am 75 years old, for every single day of my life the US, serving the interests of a consensus of elites, has slaughtered innocent people in many locations around the globe. Today the US has killer squads of troops in over 60 countries killing innocent people every day, this above and beyond the other fronts in the global war we all know about.

    People talk about Afghanistan and the “18 year war” as “perpetual war” yet that perpetual war started August 6, 1945 – the slaughter of Western liberal empire has continued non stop for the last 500 years. That is the history of Western civilization – enlightenment through slaughter.

    • Tedder
      February 13, 2020 at 12:36

      Your remarks on “killer squads” suggests that the US elites are doing their level best to solve the population crisis on their own and without clever population engineering programs.

    • February 13, 2020 at 14:23

      Excellent Babylon

  24. February 13, 2020 at 10:14

    Some of the wealthy individuals i know favor less people. Particularly poor people and people not white.

    • guest
      February 13, 2020 at 12:03

      Then why do the super wealthy all advocate open borders, whether “right” or “left”?

    • DH Fabian
      February 13, 2020 at 15:00

      We’re over 20 years into the Democrats’ war on the poor. The overall life expectancy of the US poor already fell below that of every developed nation. Even today’s liberals don’t consider this “an issue of concern.”

  25. February 13, 2020 at 10:09

    Good article. I agree wealth consumption is a huge contributor compared to survival needs of the poor.
    However i also agree with Sang and others posting here that population is an issue. Malthus may have not got it right but i think he was onto something. Maybe the population will top out at 11 billion and may shrink more as nature strikes back. I pity not “manunkind” but the tragic loss of animal.

  26. rich lightner
    February 13, 2020 at 09:42

    Love the article and the responses. Jane Goodall may not be overlooking anything. Yes, economic growth is the dangerous narrow goal to drop, but population growth inspires it. Selfish owners just want new markets, new consumers for short-term profits, they don’t care about anything else. Humans enjoy technology. Reducing our population to the point where everyone can enjoy the best tech sustainably seems like the most fun and responsible thing to do. Everything the author says is absolutely true except her ideas about our population. Enjoyable equality must mean reducing our population. We consume over three planets worth of resources right now, yes mostly the wasteful rich, but they profit from population growth. 11 billion!? We need to get down to 1 billion. Jane Goodall doesn’t support capitalism, she has spoken out against it. She knows it “is rigged to ignore the most precious things we have” like David Suzuki says.

    Humans are precious. We are egalitarian social animals born to share honor, resources and the truth. Equality is in our blood and it makes us strong together. The system we have now came from monarchy where immature narcissistic mindsets never development into adulthood. This is where the weak prey on their own kind. It is a mental health problem we need to wake up from. It’s an anti-social, uncaring selfish game trapping and isolating individuals into stressed, insecure states that rape ecosystems and dehumanize neighbors and other peoples for status relief- the real motivation of wealth accumulation? Cult-ures that stem from monarchy have false beliefs and harmful psychologies. Using our compassionate motivations creates the best relationships and adult humans would grow to understand this naturally. A compassionate mindset shares honor and power with others, this is what familial love, friendship, equality, and group inspiration are all about. The insecure, uncaring, narcissistic mindset seeks fake power over others, like a child or a king, which cannot last or be respected. A compassionate mindset understands reality where there is honor in being human. Narcissistic mindsets don’t know themselves, they are stuck in cult-ural beliefs that tried to silence human compassion many generations ago when monarchies formed and childish baboon temperaments corrupted modern egalitarian neo-cortexes. N.m.’s have an insecurity that prevents them from seeing that there is honor in being human and related to the natural world- enculturation, being treated like a subject, and worst of all, being told that some humans are not worthy, and that they could improve their worth sparked fantasies of having superiority over others- so, they fight and compete to gain a fake honor in their individuality, just like an immature king who doesn’t know how to receive real respect. Every human being was born with the greatest honor on earth- it’s in our compassionate motivations and our learning, maturing brains. In reality, all humans want lasting respect and the only way to receive this is to live and act with a compassionate mindset that shares honor and equality. I agree with Heather Alberro that changing the system- and our mindsets- is the most important thing to do. Overconsumption and overpopulation both can be resolved by freeing our nature and minds from the narrow, shortsighted goals of the market.

  27. Clark Michael hanahan
    February 13, 2020 at 08:56

    When friends point out” the hoards” I suggest maybe would should start cleaning house here, in River City.
    Our wanton waste of resources is the first thing to address.
    Many with that chauvinistic attitude to the outside have never travelled much.

    Great article, thanks

    • rosemerry
      February 13, 2020 at 11:40

      Did you mean “hoards” (the rich gathering in all the wealth and hiding it) or “hordes”, the “deplorables of Hillary fame? I think those friends meant the latter.

  28. Sally Mitchell
    February 13, 2020 at 06:22

    Poverty is definitely the cause of our climate crisis but why are the owners of the top 10 per cent of wealth so scared to help the situation are they so indoctrinated by their own fallacies and not listening to the data of science or is it that they just can’t let go of the money and rather believe that god made the rich and the unfortunate and they bear no responsibility for this world crisis

    • DH Fabian
      February 13, 2020 at 15:08

      How? The US poor don’t add to climate change. They are not consumers. They don’t have money to purchase fossil fuels. They have no housing to heat. Roughly half the US contribution to climate change today is caused by the excessive use of privately-owned motor vehicles by our more fortunate.

  29. Tom Kath
    February 12, 2020 at 22:53

    I prefer to call it “polluters” rather than “emitters”, but it is quite sensible to look at the demographics of which ones are the dirty ones. This can be measured on a per person basis, where developed nations and wealthy people are by far the dirtiest, with Americans about 4 times as dirty as Chinese people. Then you could measure it per hectare, where Qatar is perhaps 10 times dirtier than Canada or Australia, And then you can measure it on a simple per Nation basis, where India is probably 10 times as “dirty”as Saudi Arabia!

    The only measure that makes any sense if you are to consider anyone taking responsibility or action, is the per person measure WITHIN any jurisdiction that COULD develop a policy.

  30. IvyMike
    February 12, 2020 at 19:59

    A sense of climate change urgency absent in Davos? Now that is truly shocking.

  31. John Sang
    February 12, 2020 at 19:21

    Nevertheless, population growth is a significant part of the equation and, as our numbers grow it becomes more and more a threat to the natural world. Hopefully we can see that peacefully developing ways to limit population are MUCH wiser and better than depending on starvation, thirst, disease and war. The biggest problem is the economic power of growth and that our economic/social systems largely depend on growth to motivate wealth distribution. These systems can be modified over time by education and clear thinking about our planet and it’s limits.

    • gcw919
      February 13, 2020 at 13:35

      The author writes about population “stabilizing” at around 11 billion by 2100. I think many climate scientists would object that by 2100, our world might be next to uninhabitable. It is mystifying to me why so many “progressive” writers are so opposed to the idea that overpopulation is the primary mover of so many of our social and environmental problems. Limiting, in fact lowering our worldwide population would be the most humane action we can pursue, and it can be done by simple attrition, not coercion. Lowering consumption by the rich countries is a necessary, but not sufficient action to address the catastrophes that await us.

    • Eddie S
      February 13, 2020 at 21:55

      I agree. While I know that not everyone wants-to (nor should) live as profligately as the ‘western countries’ (notably we in the USA), it’s foolish to basically say that 11 billion human beings (some estimates range as high as 12B) aren’t going to have a significant (and often negative) impact on the environment and climate even IF we all drastically reduced consumption (which I support). Using 8, 9, 10 or 11 BILLION as a multiplier can quickly add up to some HUGE numbers of anything, even if it were just 5 Billion families building wood-fires every day for heat, cooking, and hot water.

      Population is NOT the ONLY causal factor at play here, but to deny that it is a significant factor in world events including climate change is just naive wishful thinking.

  32. robert e williamson jr
    February 12, 2020 at 19:08

    You article should be a loud call for action, after all it’s only our lives.

    Great stuff here posted at great site !

  33. February 12, 2020 at 19:07

    It is not a matter of blame. It is a matter of recognizing planetary limits. Consumerism is a problem, but so is land clearing to feed more people. Of course we need end the capitalist growth model, stop destructive, wasteful wars and redistribute wealth, but one of the most straight-forward ways to do all of the above is to encourage everyone to have smaller families so there is more to go around and fewer conflicts over resources. Population growth is exploding in Africa and taking a huge toll on wildlife and native ecosystems, while inequality grows ever worse. Again, it is not a matter of blame but of helping people to get out of poverty. Explosive population growth makes it much harder to end poverty. That is why China instituted a one-child policy and was able to raise most of its population out of poverty. I am not saying that draconian measures are the answer. There are hopefully better ways for Africa, but it is not helpful to ignore the fact of explosive population growth. We should help, not hurt. Blame is not the issue.

    • Jan
      February 13, 2020 at 13:07

      Of the comments here so far, I agree with your reaction. The author?s assertion that a planetary “stable” human population of 11 billion is somehow acceptable is itself unacceptable. It betrays indifference to habitat loss and the suffering of the Earth?s non-human population – now undergoing the 6th mass extinction. It ignores the historic role of the Catholic Church in reinforcing patriarchy and reducing women to breeding status. It also glosses over the approaching fate of those 11 billion. Vast numbers of them live along rivers predicted to run dry when their glacier water sources finally melt. Others live in river deltas or along coasts that will certainly be inundated. James Lovelock warned us in a 2008 Guardian interview that we had 20 years before social and ecological collapse, and predicted that human population would decline by 80%. In the past 10 years I have read more to support his pessimism than to contradict it. We are way beyond blame. The answer at this point is “all of the above:” managed population decline, managed economies, military disarmament – basically a redefinition of what it means to be human.

  34. robert e williamson jr
    February 12, 2020 at 19:04

    The super wealthy elitist “are” the problem hands down. For instance Wilbur Ross current Secretary of Commerce and has been roundly accused of not revealing his investments and distancing himself from his businesses to remove any conflict of interest.

    To date Mr. Ross has been far less than candid about his enterprises.

    In 2000 Navigator Gas L. L. C. was incorporated in the Marshall Islands, restructured in 2006, and revitalized in 2012 to become the worlds largest fleet of large sophisticated gas shipping vessels. By January 2016 W.L. Ross is the largest investor in Navigator Gas as a liquefied gas shipping company.

    Most interesting is what one discovers when one watches Part Three of Ukraine Gate, Not So Noble President. I recommend anyone who hasn’t watched at least the Part 3 Installment to do so ASAP and try an discern if you see any similarities between the corrupt Ukraine and Washington D.C. At 49 minutes and 20 seconds Andrii Telizhenko, a formeer Ukrainian ambassador, is asked , “Do you think that Perishkenko was a corrupt president? Don’t miss it.

    Then ask yourself just who it is that has the largest carbon foot prints. Unbelievable.

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