Overpopulation is Not the Problem
As we sailed into the new millennium, humans crossed a threshold never before witnessed in our species. We flew past the 6 billion mark in number. This is an impressive figure, but not one that we can easily appreciate, unless we are Bill Gates or ExxonMobil.
Let's try to understand how incredibly large this number is. Consider that this article has ~9000 letters. Thus, it would take more than 650,000 copies of it to produce enough letters to represent all humans. Or, put in other terms, consider that if all the humans were to hold hands side by side, our species would circumscribe the equator nearly 14 times! And perhaps, most horrifying, if we all were to move to Texas (the 2nd largest state in our nation), each one of us would only have a theoretical room 35 ft by 35 ft to ourselves-assuming no room for other forms of life or human "necessities" such as airports, lawns, and shopping malls.
So now that you have an idea of how big a number 6,000,000,000 is, are you even more convinced that human population has become too large? The evidence, at first glance, appears overwhelming. The world's population has grown from 1 billion in the early 1800s to over 6 billion today. Two nations in the world (namely, China and India) themselves each have more than 1 billion people now. According to United Nations' statistics, around 2 billion people (1 in 3) suffer from malnutrition and dietary deficiencies and more than 800 million (1 in 7) are chronically malnourished. Add to this that resources are becoming depleted and ecosystems (and their animal and plant residents) are being decimated. Worse yet, if world populations continue to grow at the rates observed in 2000, the world's population will surpass 24 billion people by 2100; a very unlikely event given recent reductions in world growth rates (current projections put us at about 12 billion). With all of this evidence is there any doubt that population has grown too large. However, even though the world's human population appears to be overabundant, "super-sized"," or "gargantuan," this tendency to think about the world problems as largely driven by population pressures, as so many thoughtful people do, has its own serious problems and limitations.
Population only tells part of the story. People are malnourished not because there isn't food but because they aren't getting the food that exists. On a world scale, there is more than enough food to feed everyone, even today. Massive starvation, as observed in Ethiopia in 1973 and Bangladesh in 1974, didn't occur because food wasn't available. These famines, and many others, occurred because large numbers of the population didn't have sufficient funds to purchase foods, even though food was available-hence a question of distribution not limitation. Current world debts have now reached proportions that developing countries now spend $13 on debt repayment for every $1 it receives in grants (Global Issues)-an economic climate that makes it extremely difficult for countries to provide for its citizenry. While some countries, including the United States, store away surplus grain production as a security blanket, many human beings don't get enough to eat on a regular basis. In many developing countries, given its rewarding economic payoffs, large landowners harvest export crops (such as coffee and tobacco) rather than food crops for local people. Also, and possibly most damning to the reading audience, a diet rich in meat requires nearly ten times the land than that of a strict vegetarian's diet. Nearly 40 percent of U.S. land is used for grazing livestock (which accounts for about two-thirds of agricultural land). While some of this land is more fit for free-range grazing than vegetable crops, much of it would be many times more productive if grains were grown rather than "meats." In a very interesting study conducted by the The Union of Concerned Scientists, red meat...
Cited: Brower, M. & W. Leon. The Consumer 's Guide to Effective Environmental Choices.
The Union Of Concerned Scientists. New York: Three Rivers Press, 1999.
Cohen, J. How Many People Can The Earth Support? New York: W.W. Norton, 1995.
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