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overpopulation and sustainability

pianissimapianissima Raw Newbie

here’s a topic there’s been on my brain for a while…

i recently picked up a copy of our regional natural living-type catalog and in it was an article by a “mother of 6 children” who starts listing ways to “live more sustainably.” i did a double take because i couldn’t believe my eyes. 6 children and sustainably in the same sentence!!?

anyway, i just wanted to see what other people’s thoughts were on the importance of family planning for the future of the planet.

it has always been my view that no matter how many cars we trade in for priuses, if there are more people driving them we certainly aren’t doing EARTH any favors…



  • Interesting you bring this up. My father hunts and they always give the same old excuse of its for “population control” I only mention this because I find it ironic that humans dont get hunted down despite the fact that we have the biggest population control issues of any other animal. Part of me feels conflicted about curing every disease because then we will have few options left for natural balances of the life and death cycle. I often wonder what the future will look like due to over populatization.

  • MeditatingMeditating Raw Newbie

    The prevailing belief is that if each couple has 2 children we would sustain our population. Hoever, if mostly environmentally-minded persons limit their children, those values will die off much quicker because fewer children will grow to have these values if they are not raised living them.

    Unfortunately, it semms the less educated are having the most children,

  • A million pregnancies are terminated annually in the United States alone, so I question the theory of overpopulation. I think if there were more humans to love then there would be less of a desire for useless stuff. Less useless stuff, less impact on the environment. Humans saved, earth saved, problem solved!

  • It is a wonderful thing to have siblings ( I have two sisters), but I think it is absolutely necessary for us to limit ourselves to 1-2 children per couple. I’d rather have one child with better future than 6 living on overpopulated, dying planet.

  • How do you know the planet is overpopulated?

  • I think it is extremely important to limit having children. I worked in a children’s clothing store for seven years it always made me upset seeing people having four up to eight children. Especially because I would like to have a child, but I feel that it almost wrong, when there are so many children out there that need homes, but yet we are creating new ones. Also, I wish that if people have children, regardless of what repercussion it has on our earth. They would teach them how to live with a small carbon footprint. But like Mediating writes it does seem like the less educated are the ones with the most children.

    I read that if we continue on this path of reproducing by 2050 the earth won’t be able to sustain us. It can barely sustain us as it is, look at all of the weather issues…earthquakes in the midwest, snowing and hailing in the northwest, hurricanes bigger than any in history.

    Also, just because there are more people on the world, doesn’t mean they are going to love each other. Usually the more people in the world the more differences there are and usually more conflict.

    Athomelaurel: Check out Overpopulation.org

  • Love4LifeLove4Life Raw Newbie

    I haven’t been replying to the posts lately, just reading them… but had to put my two cents into this one ~ it’s ironic, because my husband and one of our friends were talking about this subject the other night. My own personal take on this subject is just that – My own personal take (i’m not trying to offend anyone). I believe that having one child is selfish to that child, i spent ten years being an only child until my little sister came along, met my older sister (6 years older than myself) when i was about 8 for a brief time, until she went home to her mother…. i’d rather have had siblings to grow up with, not saying i would change my sisters because i love them both very much. I believe that abortion isn’t the answer (I am not judging a persons choice here, just my opinion) it is only a band-aid to a much bigger problem. I believe education is a much better answer, not limitation on how many children we should or should not have…okay, i’ll stop lol, I could go on all day about my opions, but i won’t.

  • The problem is not over population in my opinion. Its greed. There’s plenty of resources for all of the earth’s inhabitants if properly managed.

  • queenfluffqueenfluff Raw Newbie

    Yep, too many people on the planet. It is quite obvious. It is not even a question sorry. There aren’t enough jobs for everyone (take it from me – who can’t find a job right now!), people are dying of starvation, wild habitats are lost because we keep cutting down trees to make room for more, more, more – the planet can’t support as many humans as we have already.

    I am one of the ones whose has chosen not to have any children mostly for environmental reasons – I am sorry but some of us have to start doing it. (I have cats anyhow – dont need any kids. :))

    You also have to think about the fact that the future of this planet doesn’t look good for the kiddies of today. I think I would be sad to have a baby today because of what they will have to deal with in 50 years – imagine the possible problems. Hopefully things will be getting better but you have to face the fact that the planet might not be very inhabitable at that point. :(

    I don’t see how any one can question overpopulation. Humans were meant to die alot earlier than they do now. And I think that when the planet is overcrowded and people are on top of each other it is a bit hard to push the concept of love vs.desire for useless stuff (although it’s a beautiful concept)- the world is too full of competition.

    The problem is there are always going to be people who don’t care – don’t care that the planet is dying, don’t care that people are starving, don’t care that animals are going extinct. It is very difficult to get people to care unfortunately.

    Like we were talking about in another thread – the world need a big wake-up call – a huge virus or a superstorm – some people need to be scared into change. And unfortunately, I think that is what it is going to come too.

    Lyn-doe – hehe! I like your hunting analogy. :)

  • pianissimapianissima Raw Newbie

    love4life—yeah, i don’t think we should have quotas like China, but i just wish it were discussed more in the mainstream… if people lived more communally parents wouldn’t have to have more children to create their own village. (read “the last hours of ancient sunlight” for info on all of this stuff we are talking about)

    when things become normalized (like remember when not very many people were talking about GREEN issues… like before Al Gore’s film?) they create a nice little ripple effect… i’d rather see that happen than a plague, or hunting. ;)

  • MeditatingMeditating Raw Newbie

    In 1998, I took a class on genetics and we spent 2 weeks studying population swings, inclduing the carrying capacity of the planet to sustain human population, At that time, it seemed most scientist believed we had already exceeded the healthy limit for human poplulation on the planet. There were some scary scientific theories presented which, if true, should begin to manifest around 2020 (interesting date).

    I never wanted to have children because I thought it was irresponsible. However, when I found myself accidently pregnant, I was so overwhelmed with the thought of my baby. I love my son very much and now he has a beautiful little boy. I feel irresponsible and guilty about bringing them into this world. I believe they will both be alive during a time where things we never believed would happen in our country will happen. .

    Statistically, animal populations run in an “S” pattern, with the S lying sideways. Popuatons increase to a certain level and then some event cuts the population back so it doesn’t get out of control. This keep the world in balance. There is usually a coorelation between the size of the waves in the S pattern and the impact of the event. In other words, the higher the population is at the time of the event then the more animals will typically die off during the event to keep the population in check. This is usually seen when envirnomental conditions like shortage of food and water cannot supply the larger population or diseases appear that are transfered from one animal to another because so many of them occupy a limited territory.

    If you look at the human population, in the mid 1900s we begin a straight climb, like a J. No other species has ever done this. We have because of our ability to control and manipulate our environments and the planet in ways other animals cannot. Just because there is more land to put houses on doesn’t mean we aren’t overpopulated. Biodiversity is critical to sustaining life for all of us. We don’t just destroy biodiversity when we genetically modify foods and wipe out most of the plantfood species. The same is true of the land. When you go in and fill wetlands and build houses there, which we are doing everywhere, there are negative side effects which come back and hurt us all.

    Read about what is going on in the commercial fishing industries. We are today fishing the last 10% of the ocean’s fish, which are horribly polluted with dangerous chemicals like mercury. How could we not possibly have already overpopulated the planet when we have almost wiped out the primary food source in the oceans? yes, yes, not all fish are dead. We will never catch them all. So what, we are still down the ast 10% of the population that existed 100 years ago.

    KARMYNGIRL - I can appreciate your desire to see women have fewer abortions. But it is illogical to say that if you forced a million women to give birth to children they do not want that overpopulation would decrease or that somehow their would be more love in the world and we would be less inclined to want “useless stuff.” The last statistics I read shows that most women choosing abortions aready had children and made their choice based on an inability to afford another child. They are not invested in useless stuff. This means they can’t afford to provide the necessities to their existing children. More humans necessarily means more items for their existence and day-to-day comforts. There will be more stuff, with plenty of useless stuff, and the earth will not be better off.

  • bittbitt Raw Newbie

    we plan to adopt for environmental reasons. i understand that women and men have children for emotional reasons but i think we need to broaden our idea of what a family is. nuclear family lifestyle is really not very sustainable.

    americans use up more resources than the countries with larger populations. so really we could cut down our use of resources drastically, but our society surely makes it difficult. i wish people would really get with it on public transportation too. at least in america we sure do love our cars.

  • All this talk about sustainablity makes me think of one of my favorite books, “Mutant Message Down Under” which is all about an Aboriginal tribe and how they are no longer choosing to reproduce because of where the world is going and that it wont be able to support future generations. They can tell all this by how their natural environment is physically changing around them. One of my favorite quotes comes from this book and it seems appropiate to say it here:

    “Only after the last tree has been cut down.Only after the last river has been poisoned. Only after the last fish has been caught. Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten.” -Cree Indian Prophecy

  • queenfluffqueenfluff Raw Newbie

    Lyn-doe – I love that quote – so well said. It is so sadly true.

  • kevin7197kevin7197 Raw Newbie

    I find the topic a bit ironic. We have the largest population boom in our history approaching retirement age (baby boomers) and clear data showing a significantly smaller population following this group.

    IDK, I have two beautiful children and I’m grateful on a daily basis to know these two wondeful human beings. Am I frightened what the future holds for them given the alarming changes taking place on our planet? Of course I am. I’m also concerned about the struggles they may face in their lifetime. But I do not regret bringing them into the world. They may very well be the ones with the solutions for a brighter future.

    I’m not sure that overpopulation is the cause of our current concerns environmentally. Most of the issues we’re struggling with are the result of irresponsible exploitation of natural resources compounded by the introduction of UNnatural elements into the environment. The last 100 years have seen the biggest changes in the history of the planet. We’ve been populating the earth much longer.

    I applaud those that choose to not have children. We’re not all well suited to be parents even though most of us are blessed with the ability to procreate. But I also congratulate those that do choose to have children.

    Mother Earth has a way of correcting all things and bringing them back into balance. To believe that we are more powerful than nature is sheer folly. I guess what I’m ultimately trying to say is that population is only one small part of the puzzle. Our best bet is to step up and do whatever small steps each of us can take and remember to love our fellow human beings, good, bad and indifferent.

  • chriscarltonchriscarlton Raw Newbie

    There is plenty of room on earth and plenty of food on earth to feed everyone without any trouble. It’s just that we feed 80% of the crops we grow, to the livestock that we raise to eat and milk.

    All starvation could be ended with only a 10% reduction in the consumption of animal foods by Americans alone. This change would free up enough crop production to feed all the starving of the world.

    We have a long way to go before we are overpopulated as a planet, but we have to quit being stupid at some point! or else…

  • heh this reminds me of that movie “Idiocrisy!”

  • MeditatingMeditating Raw Newbie

    KEVIN7197 - I agree that many of the problems we face are due to the exploitation of natural resources and introduction of unnatural elements into the environment. But these things are directly linked to human overpopulation. In America, we may have an aging population that isn’t being repopulated by our citizens, but that isn’t representative of world population. World population is definitaly on the rise. From a macro view, human overpopulation is the number one problem facing the planet and has been for many years. All subsequent problems flow from that and the natural tendancy toward greed for so many. You can argue that greed alone is the problem but the two go hand in hand. You aren’t going to get one without the other.

    There is no one thing that will cure all these problems. Reducing the consumption of animal products would certainly help with food production for a period of time, but as populations outpace that benefit, the benefit is gone. Although it is an admirable goal, at best it is just a bandaid. Sustaining food production is one small problem caused by human overpopulation. There are many, many more. Decisions on how resources are controlled are going to be made based on strategy and profits, as horrible as that is to think. It has been that way and there are no indications it is changing. If people can’t afford to eat so others can afford to drive their SUVs, that is the way it is going to be. Codex Alimintarius is all about starving out those that are no longer profitable to feed.

    As far as controlling population, Mother Nature will eventually bring things back into balance despite our attempts to control her. People always say we need to save the environment. Whatever happens, the environment will be saved but we may not. Mother Earth probably won’t look like she does now in 100 years. She will survive but we may find ourselves living on a planet that is most inhospitable to our existence.

    Scientists have been saying for years that we had to do something about global warming. 15 or so years ago the warning was issued by the leading scientist on the issue. He said we had 10 years to reverse it and we must act now before it was too late. We just really caught on 2 years ago, AFTER the deadline came and went. Today, the glaciers are melting at faster rates than calculated. Can we ameliorate it? Certainly. Can we fix it before there are catastrophic consequences? I really doubt it. If this were true, scientists would be making the same speeches they made 5 – 14 years ago, but they aren’t. They are telling us that everything we do will make a difference but they aren’t telling us it can be reversed anymore. I would think they would be motivated to do that, even if it weren’t true. Perhaps they are intent on being scientists and not politicians.

    Yes CHRIS, the majority of us, because it is going to take a majority to implement true change, have to stop being stupid at some point. I’m afraid that point will be when we experience the consequences of “or else.”

  • germin8germin8 Raw Master

    I don’t have much to say about this… but, I’m from the southwest US where there is plenty of land… but sometimes not enough water. I now live in greatly populated Northern Virginia (greater DC) where there are tons of people, yes even water restrictions with the flowing Potomac River just north of us. Do we have enough resources? Well, if this is right then yes, we have enough water if we are vegan. hehe

    Plus, we don’t really need television and iPods and things made that could harm the environment. However, that would mean we would be more of an anti-consumer, which means less jobs out there!

    “What do people do if they aren’t making stuff that will end up getting thrown away? The same thing we did 100 years ago… farming, along with other “third world” activities… a reduction in living standards.” – my husband

    Well, maybe anti-consumerism is a good thing if it leads to more farming… (if only it were easy… not many want to do that). Plus, there is a guy who teaches permaculture… he can farm food that will feed 400 people, in less the amount of acres than most every farm out there. And, it’s eco-ganic, so to speak.

    I don’t know yet what to think… because I also believe in “be fruitful and multiply” (yet we do not have any kids).

  • chriscarltonchriscarlton Raw Newbie

    There is rioting in the streets right now in the world over starvation. I think the ‘or else’ bit is nigh…




  • have_merseyhave_mersey Raw Newbie

    I didn’t read all the posts because I need to do some things in a bit, but I just wanted to say: Look at chickens. Free range chickens stop pecking eachother’s feathers out, and are happier. I think over populatin and cities are the cause of alot of violence and unhappiness recently.

    I admittedly have not found the answer to this human problem, but if I had I can’t force people to stop breeding or do this or that. The beauty and ugliness of humanity is their independent views and actions. I suppose that will make the end of the world rather romantic when it happens. Sorry if that depresses anyone, I’m not trying to be a downer, I’m only stating and I do think change or not, that eventually, natural disasters etc. will abort and rebirth us. I don’t see this as a bad thing. Especially not since I believe Souls are eternal. Until recently I despised being in a flesh-shell. Now I don’t mind because It was obviously for a good reason, BUT I still think it would be better yet when the time comes to be as a naked turtle. :P It actually sent a tingle of pleasure to image being a mass of energy floating through neither time nor space, yet both. Oh if only words explained!

  • pianissimapianissima Raw Newbie

    i have to say that i am glad i brought this up because

    A) i wasn’t aware that there were people who DIDN”T think the world was overpopulated… interesting.

    B) it’s made me realize that there may be a bigger problem, which has developed hand in hand with industrialization and population boom: unconscious behavior. we have become completely disconnected with our habitat. we are a reflection of our environment and vice versa. the more people the less we can HEAR the earth. too many people, too much noise.

    germin8—actually, i think the only real balance is when there was no ownership, plants just grew and animals/people took what they found. the beginning of farming was the beginning of land ownership and food control… industrialization was its offshoot.

    meditate—i really enjoyed reading that. thanks!

    chriscarlton—feeding everyone is not the only problem though. fresh water supplies are dwindling and we are nearing the end of our oil reserves without much of a plan B. surely a decrease in population would be helpful, just as recognizing livestock’s part in the equation.

  • pianissimapianissima Raw Newbie

    (p.s. i think children are an amazing asset, and our most incredible teachers. i am not suggesting we feed them to the tigers. but moderation is everything is generally a good idea.)

  • this has all been such an interesting read!

    we were discussing this in class a few weeks ago (man, i love my masters program!) and i heard some very interesting views on the subject much like these.

    personally, i believe that there is room on the planet for the projected population but that unsustainable living and globalization are the causes for the concern over overpopulation. people are trying to lead uniform lives, all reflecting the life being led in the western world, instead of adapting to their own climates and circumstances in regional ways. the media and globalization have taught us that there is a way we should all be striving to live, with pretty cars and fancy clothes and meat on our tables, that does not work in the western world and will work even less in the developing and transition world. chinese population concerns spring from historical prevalence of an agricultural lifestyle and lower standard of living leading to higher infant mortality. unfortunately, these trends continue when the dynamic of the culture changes, leading to crowding, pollution, import of unnecessary commodities, etc. there are isolated tribes in africa that have extremely high population densities but live sustainably because they have been isolated enough to prevent them from attempting a different kind of life.

    i heard an amazing speaker at a conference last week who said that we had to switch from globalization to regionalization to save the earth. he said that one day, for north americans, a trip overseas would be a once in a lifetime adventure. we would take 2 months to get there by boat (highly sail powered) and stay for a year, and never have that opportunity again. i agree completely…the world has gotten too small so we started to discredit it, and have lost our wonder in things that happen elsewhere. very few people, including all of us, think about the true impact the industrialized economy has on the planet. by exporting major crops at very low prices, such as coffee, sugar and tropical fruit, and at prices set by what our market will pay and not what the actual value of the item is, we are altering and destroying the economies of all nations.

    wow….that was a lot to get out! hope i didn’t offend anyone!

  • pianissimapianissima Raw Newbie

    lalala—nicely put. i’d never thought of that before. regionalization. you are right. it always strikes me how easily we can find the beauty when we travel, but rarely when we walk in our own neighborhood. perhaps we have been socialized to overvalue the “exotic.”

  • queenfluffqueenfluff Raw Newbie

    I do agree with the basic statement “there is plenty of room for everybody” but that “room”, in some human ideas, seems to mean cutting down the homes of the other creatures we share this planet with which really saddens me. So is there “room” for “everybody”? That word “everybody” seems to mean only humans – so yeah, there is “room” if we take over the homes (habitats) of the other creatures on this earth who have just as much right to their “room” as we seem to think we have.

    When I used to work at the zoo, some visitors would complain about how sad it was that the animals were there and we should just let them go free back to where they belong – well, the problem there people is that only animals like reptiles and birds can currently be re-released into the wild. Why? Because the big animals like elephants and tigers require alot of habitat space (or “home” or “room” if you will) and it simply isn’t there any more – and there are actually people out there who don’t know why? Why? Because we took it from them.

    Sure there are people working on reestablishing big habitat for larger endangered animals – in hopes that they will be able to be released into the wild some day but it is quite far off.

    (People used to ask me why an animal-rights veggie person like myself is not anti-zoo and that this is primarly my reason why.)

    So, yeah, is there enough “room” – yes, if you spread people out all over the planet evenly but that would mean taking “homes” from other creatures and it really isn’t fair. If there isn’t enough room for both humans and other creatures without other creatures going extinct – than I don’t believe there is any more room for any more humans. I mean, how much space do we need? Some of us have more than we need!

    I definatley agree that the hunger problem could be helped (maybe even solved) by people not eating meat. Very true and that would also help with the cutting down of forests to make room for grazing lifestock but would it stop home development and development of other human buildings?

    I also agree that “children are our future” and that hopefully they will be the ones to come up with some solutions to our problems. But I still believe that the cities are overcrowded and when that happens here comes the suburan sprawl and that mean cutting down habitats. And than there are lots of children with no homes – but yet, there are still people who cant have children for whatever reason but still don’t want to adopt these homeless children but want to have a “custom” made baby by getting eggs from someone else! (I see the ads all the time – they want a specific hair color and eye color and IQ - sheesh!)

    I don’t have anything against people who want to have kids but you if have them please watch them – I just came from the local farmers market and why don’t parents watch their kids and let them run around like crazies – tripping people with arms full of organic produce? Or people with strollers who run over your feet with the wheels and don’t even apologize? Ugh! It really ruins the loveliness of the farmers market for me. Nothing worse than a parent who expects other people to tend to their kids…(sorry that was a bit of a rant there..)

  • lzhptlzhpt Raw Newbie

    I’ve been watching this one to see where it goes for a little while and I got to thinking…If I knew then what I know now—I have 3 amazing teens who know where their food comes from and what the food ate before it goes into their bodies. They are active participants in saving our rainwater, planting our garden, composting our waste, creating jobs for themselves wherever possible and preserving what resources we have left, yet they are teens and as such, they are invincible. I know they will grow up to teach my grandchildren the same. In my city alone, the infertility rates are very high in my opinion due to all these estrogen-like poisons in our water, plastics, food. Nature is taking care of the overpopulation by poisoning us so we can no longer procreate. I say often that this generation of children will not live longer than we do. A child born today has a 1 in 6 chance of developing a childhood cancer. If I knew that 16 years ago, I still would’ve made the family choices I made. I guess it’s a little bit of a control issue—maybe my kids can educate their friends and another whole village. I wouldn’t choose to be childless in hopes that the kids down the street eating the blue Gushers and grilling their mad cow will take on the responsibility of saving this earth. Peace.

  • suzyqsuzyq Raw Newbie

    I absolutely agree with the sentiments that have been expressed here, especially regarding the distribution of resources and sustainable use of land, water, and other natural resources (in fact, I would even go so far as to say that thinking about our environment as a source of “resources” is part of the problem). But I just wanted to weigh in on the general impression that overpopulation is chronic and severe… in the last few years, demographers have been trying to work out whether population growth projections might have overestimated the severity of the problem. In many European countries, and in the U.S. to some extent, reproduction is below replacement. In the U.S., population growth would be below replacement except that immigration keeps those numbers higher—but U.S. residents aren’t having enough babies to keep the U.S. population constant! In Europe, plenty of countries are experiencing population LOSS and offering economic incentives for families willing to have children. I think part of this fear about European and U.S. population loss is driven by fear of immigrants, actually, and the fear that “less educated” (you can replace that phrase with any disparaging one you’d like—some have suggested “Muslim” or “African”) people are the only ones having kids (a little digression). BUT the point is, demographers are speculating that we can expect to see this same demographic transition (from high fertility to BELOW replacement reproduction) across the globe as development continues. The idea is that having lots of kids is strategic when those kids can bring resources into the family (get jobs, work in the fields, beg on the streets), but eventually kids become a burden (because they need education to get a job), so it becomes strategic to have fewer kids. This happened in the U.S., it happened in Europe, and it will very likely happen globally so long as development events out. Which brings us back to maldistribution of resources and exploitation of our natural environment and our global neighbors…

  • MeditatingMeditating Raw Newbie

    The need to have large numbers of children changed as we stepped into the industrial revolution. When so many families were farmers, they needed children, and lots of them, to insure they had hands to work the land. Most farms now are industrialized. The more industrialized nations are having fewer children and experiencing higher rates of infertility. Anyone remember “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

    POPULATION GROWTH OVER HUMAN HISTORY shows that even though world population is growing exponentially.

    WORLD POPULATION BALANCE gives very specific information regarding the difficulties of overpopulation and why we have already exceeded the carrying capacity of the planet because we can no longer restore the planet’s resources at the rates we consume them.

  • pianissimapianissima Raw Newbie

    the handmaid’s tale is perhaps the most frightening book i’ve read. yes, i too was going to bring up infertility. but even though women are becoming less naturally fertile, there are a lot of twins in my community!

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