If you noticed an elephant in the room, that would be worth a conversational mention, do you agree? If people weren’t talking about the large land mammal in their midst, wouldn’t that seem strange?
Overpopulation is the biggest problem facing Planet Earth. Yet, no one ever talks about it. Limiting the number of humans based on available resources is “an obvious problem or difficult situation that people do not want to talk about” – the elephant in our room.
Ignorance may be bliss, but ignoring the mechanics of population growth is the most probable cause of our collective extinction. Incredibly, the majority of American public schools do not teach the simple mathematical principle that determines how many people are born.
There is an ancient legend from India that illustrates how “exponential growth” works. A certain local king loved to play chess with pilgrims visiting his court. One day, a sage passing through the kingdom accepted the monarch’s challenge and named his reward if he won: a single grain of rice on the first chessboard square, to be doubled on every consequent one. The sage won the game and the king ordered a bag of rice to pay the good man.
Now, imagine a chessboard with 64 (8 x 8) squares. Place one grain of rice in the upper left corner, as shown in the drawing below:
The next square to the right has two grains of rice (1 x 2), the next one has four (2 x 2), and the next one has eight (4 x 2), and so forth. The fabled king discovered, much to his chagrin, that he needed to pony up a million grains of rice by the time he reached the 21st square – with 67 doublings still to go! According to the Singularity Symposium:
“On the sixty fourth square the king would have had to put more than 18,000,000,000,000,000,000 grains of rice which is equal to about 210 billion tons and is allegedly sufficient to cover the whole territory of India with a meter thick layer of rice.”
The actual number in the above example, is 18,446,744,073,709,551,615 – over 18.4 quintillion:
If you hadn’t guessed, in this metaphor, grains of rice represent individual people. Although, in fact, two parents don’t always produce four children (two to replace them plus two more to double the number of children), statistics show that humans are breeding at a much higher rate, far outpacing the death rate from natural causes, disease, and warfare.
Annenberg Learner gives these figures for our increasing world population:
|1700||600,000,000 (600 million)|
|1800||900,000,000 (900 million)|
|1900||1,500,000,000 (one and half billion)|
|2000||6,000,000,000 (6 billion)|
Even though human population is slowing down, “by 2015, despite a low expected 1% growth rate, experts estimate there will be 7 billion people on the planet. By 2050, there may be as many as 10 billion people living on Earth.”
Consider how an additional 4 billion people on Earth in just over 30 years will impact quality of life – and perhaps survival itself. The Center for Biological Diversity produced a graph showing human population (the purple line) meeting the green extinction line before 2050. They claim that “if the current course is not altered, we’ll reach 8 billion by 2020 and 9 to 15 billion (likely the former) by 2050.”
Although “developing nations” (read: impoverished third-world countries) “have large numbers of people who are illiterate, live below the poverty line and have little or no knowledge about family planning,” according to Conserve Energy Future, the United States is no poster child for population control.
Statista, the Statistics Portal shows the steady increase of resident population in the US from 1980 to 2017, from about 2-1/4 billion to 3-1/4 billion – that’s an extra one billion people in a little over 35 years!
But increased family size alone does not account for overpopulation in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. The Federation for American Immigration Reform is lobbying for immigration control, stating plainly that:
“The United States is already overpopulated in the sense that we are consuming our national ecological resources at an unsustainable rate…We now depend on foreign imports for 28.8 percent of our energy consumption.”
Overpopulation leads to shortages across the board: energy, food, water, essential services, and living space. But, incredibly, as FAIR shares, the US is ignoring this vital issue:
“The United States has a national environmental policy but no national population policy.”
The only country that has not only discussed the elephant in the room, but done something about it, is China. The Chinese outnumber all the rest of us, despite the fact that, between the 1980s and early 2016, the Chinese government imposed a one-child-per-family policy. Having a second child would have meant paying a 200,000 yuan ($31,250) fine, for one woman named Sun Mingmei, as reported by CNN in December 2015 – only a few months before the Chinese population policy relaxed.
China’s population policy met with harsh reproval from many other nations, including the United States. “How dare a national government control population through economic disincentives?” many of us thought.
If it’s any consolation to those critical of China’s actions, as of one year ago, CNBC confirmed that China’s population remained below the replacement level, “at which a population naturally replenishes itself from one generation to the next.”
The lesson learned from China is that population control is hard to get right, especially if residents are not inspired by knowledge, but rather punished for non-compliance.
People crowded by increased numbers need more laws to keep them under control, or so world governments believe. Everything Connects recalls the nightmare scenario one visionary author warned us about decades ago:
“Aldous Huxley predicted in 1958 that democracy is threatened due to overpopulation and could give rise to totalitarian style governments and it turns out he was right.”
The solution to global overpopulation is as surprisingly simple as the exponential math that is behind the problem: limit the number of children we have voluntarily. A lot of studies have gone into this life-saving remedy.
An organization called World Population Balance offers several actions anyone can take to address the elephant in the room, including raising awareness, starting leadership programs, hosting conferences, setting up think tanks, and circulating petitions. These folks boil the answer right on down for us:
“We must inspire humanity to reduce births below a two child average. Only then will population decline – humanely.”