Note to Readers:

Please Note: The editor of White Refugee blog is a member of the Ecology of Peace culture.

Summary of Ecology of Peace Radical Honoursty Factual Reality Problem Solving: Poverty, slavery, unemployment, food shortages, food inflation, cost of living increases, urban sprawl, traffic jams, toxic waste, pollution, peak oil, peak water, peak food, peak population, species extinction, loss of biodiversity, peak resources, racial, religious, class, gender resource war conflict, militarized police, psycho-social and cultural conformity pressures on free speech, etc; inter-cultural conflict; legal, political and corporate corruption, etc; are some of the socio-cultural and psycho-political consequences of overpopulation & consumption collision with declining resources.

Ecology of Peace RH factual reality: 1. Earth is not flat; 2. Resources are finite; 3. When humans breed or consume above ecological carrying capacity limits, it results in resource conflict; 4. If individuals, families, tribes, races, religions, and/or nations want to reduce class, racial and/or religious local, national and international resource war conflict; they should cooperate & sign their responsible freedom oaths; to implement Ecology of Peace Scientific and Cultural Law as international law; to require all citizens of all races, religions and nations to breed and consume below ecological carrying capacity limits.

EoP v WiP NWO negotiations are updated at EoP MILED Clerk.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Return of the Population Time-Bomb || Too many People: Earth's Population Problem

Return of the population timebomb

It has become taboo over recent years, but population, not consumption, really is the key to managing our use of the world's resources

John Feeney |

Monday, 5 May 2008

Population Explosion: The Most Powerful Force on EarthOnly since 1800, in the last 0.1% of the history of Homo sapiens, has the human population shot into the billions. Now at nearly 6.7 billion, with 9 billion looming 40 years away, few environmentalists seem to care.

Yet the population-environment link is clear. Our environmental impact, as gauged by total resource consumption for a country or the world, is the product of population size and the average person's consumption.

Today's crumbling environment, racked by climate change, mass extinction, deforestation, collapsing fisheries and more is evidence our total consumption has gone too far. We are destroying our life-support system. In ecological terms we are in "overshoot" of Earth's "carrying capacity" for humans, our demand exceeding the planet's absorptive and regenerative capacities.

To avert catastrophe, we need to reduce both factors in the equation: our numbers and per person consumption.

Or so it would seem. Ignoring that logic, most environmentalists today avoid half the equation. An emailer's assertion was typical: "John, if everyone on Earth just consumed less, as they do in Mexico, say, we wouldn't have exceeded carrying capacity."

It's a simple notion: reduce per person consumption and end our environmental problems. And it lets us sidestep the issue of population size and growth, a subject of much concern in the 1960s and 1970s but taboo today.

Why taboo? Much credit goes to pressure from social justice activists. They've insisted in recent decades that any focus on numbers inevitably violates the right of women to manage their own fertility.

China's one-child policy notwithstanding, humane, successful population programmes in countries as varied as Thailand, Iran, and Mexico contradict that assertion.

Nevertheless, the criticism has cowed environmentalists and NGOs which once championed the population cause, influencing policy, pushing the subject off the agenda, or shifting the emphasis solely to "reproductive health" without the numbers.

Looking then for a way around the problem of growing human numbers, most environmentalists now suggest a reduction in individual consumption is all we need to solve our ecological problems.

Are they right? The work of the Global Footprint Network (GFN), home of the "ecological footprint," points to the answer. Measuring consumption as the use of biologically productive land and sea, their data shows a global maximum sustainable footprint, at today's population, of just under 1.8 global hectares (gha) per person. Currently, by drawing down nonrenewable resources, we're a bit over 2.2gha, overshooting Earth's limits by about 25%.

AGRI-WARFARE & PEAK FERTILIZER: FTW: Eating Fossil Fuels, by Dale Allen PfeifferWhat if everyone took the emailer's advice and converged on Mexico's level of per capita consumption? Resource use would plummet in developed countries while rising in many of the poorest. (Surely we could not deprive the latter of the chance to raise their standards of living?) But it wouldn't get us to 1.8gha. At 2.6gha, Mexico's footprint is 32% too high. A drop to the level of Botswana or Uzbekistan would put us in the right range.

But that's not low enough. We'd next have to compensate for UN projections of 40% more humans by the middle of the century. That would mean shrinking the global footprint to under 1.3gha, roughly the level of Guatemala or Nigeria.

There's more. The GFN authors point out their data is conservative, underestimating problems such as aquifer depletion and our impacts on other species. In response, the Redefining Progress group publishes an alternative footprint measure which has humanity not at 25%, but at 39% overshoot. But that too, the authors concede, is an underestimate.

While in overshoot, moreover, we erode carrying capacity. Once we'd got to some level of consumption on a par with countries living today in abject poverty, we'd find there were fewer natural resources on which to draw than there had been when we started.

Ultimately, there are limits to how much we can reduce per-person use of land, water, and other resources. A purposeful drop on the part of industrialised countries to consumption levels comparable to those of the poorest areas in the world is not only wholly unrealistic but, at today's population size, would not end our environmental woes. Our sheer numbers prevent it.

We have no alternative but to return our attention to population, the other factor in the equation. Already in overshoot, we must aim for population stabilisation followed by a decline in human numbers worldwide.

Humane, empowering measures have documented records of success at reducing fertility rates. Most importantly, we have to provide easy access to family planning (pdf) options while educating parents through the media in the benefits of smaller families and family planning. We should educate and empower girls and women to give them options and help free them to make decisions concerning family size. And we should end government incentives for larger families. We must do these things internationally and vigorously, with a keen eye toward numbers, monitoring results and making adjustments accordingly.

The stakes are too high to waste time evading the issue. Doing so is intellectually dishonest and a setup for global tragedy. It's time environmentalists ended the silence on population.

Source: The Guardian


Too many people: Earth's population problem

Optimum Population Trust

  1. The world's population is expected to grow by another 2.3 billion, from 6.8 billion in 2009 to 9.1 billion in 2050.

  2. Human consumption of renewable resources is already overshooting Earth's capacity to provide. Resources are becoming scarcer and the number of hungry people increasing year by year.

  3. Reversing population growth is one of the measures needed to ensure environmental survival. It can be done by voluntary and peaceful means, given a political and individual will to act without delay.

  4. Politically, governments can give urgent attention and increased resources to providing access to contraception and education to the estimated 200 million women worldwide who need and want it.

  5. Individually, couples can decide to have smaller families, for example to Stop at Two children to make a difference to population growth.

Constantly increasing numbers

The world's population is still exploding. Human numbers, which reached 6.8 billion in 2009, are expected to reach 9.1 billion in 2050, and we're growing by 78 million a year. The 2.3 billion increase from 2008 to 2050 is almost as much as the entire population of the world in 1950, and according to World Population Prospects: the 2008 Revision, the projections published by the United Nations in March 2009, most of this growth will take place in the developing world. OPT has responded by urging leaders to be "brave" on population growth. Urgent measures are needed to reverse population growth to levels which can be sustained in the long term.

The Population Reference Bureau estimates the world's annual growth at 82 million a year, the result of 138.7 million births minus 56.7 million deaths. Every week 1.58 million extra people are added to the planet - a sizeable city - with nearly 10,000 arriving each hour. Already the human species is causing serious environmental damage to its only habitat - Earth. The long-denied consequences of exploding population on ecosystems, food supplies and energy resources are clear to all, but peaceful population policies continue to be low on the list of solutions. The alternatives - Nature's methods of population control - are famine, disease and war. Without urgent efforts to stabilise reduce world population, can efforts to save our environment succeed? With smaller populations, living in greater harmony with nature, our horizons may stretch far into the future. If the world's parents had smaller families, would their children not have a better future?


World Population Growth
(Some details - e.g. Black Death effects - are not represented.)

The numbers are vast. On a planet inhabited by 2.5 billion people in 1950 - within the lifetimes of many alive today - there are now more than double this number. Population is growing by 1.2% a year, with fertility at an average 2.6 children per women, well above the 2.1 replacement level, according to the World Population Datasheet 2008.

Although birth rates are falling, world population looks set to rise to 9.1 billion in 2050, as projected by the United Nations Population Division [World Population Prospects, the 2008 Revision, 11 March 2009]. This is 100 million lower than the 2006 Revision, but 200 million higher than 2002 Revision. One reason is population momentum - the effects of high birth rates decades ago mean that there are now twice as many fertile women on Earth today than there were in 1970. A halving of birth rates can be cancelled out by an increase in the number of potential mothers.

The population of the most developed countries is expected to remain almost unchanged, at 1.28 billion, but that of less developed regions to rise from 5.6 billion in 2009 to 7.9 billion in 2050, with a tripling of numbers in some of the poorest nations. Net migration from developing to developed countries is projected to average 2.4 million people a year. Populations are continuing to age, with the numbers of people aged 60 or over expected to triple worldwide to 2 billion by 2050, and fertility is expected to drop, with a fall from 2.56 children per woman in 2005-2010 to 2.02 in 2045-2050 (below the replacement rate of 2.1 children).

The urgency of realising the reductions in fertility projected, and more, is made clear by the UN: "A fertility path half a child below the medium [variant projection] would lead to a population of 8 billion by mid-century. Consequently, population growth until 2050 is inevitable even if the decline of fertility accelerates." If the world's mothers reduce the number of children they have, there could be 1.1 billion fewer climate changers in 2050 than projected (see Graph 2 below using earlier projections).


World Population Growth with Lower Fertility

In recognition of the impacts of population growth on the environment, the UNPD published [9 December 2003] longer-term world population scenarios. See World Population in 2300. Its Constant-fertility Scenario extrapolation of population growth to 2300 at 1995-2000 fertility levels shows world population reaching 134 trillion by 2300. The UN points out this "untenable outcome" which "clearly reveals that current high levels of fertility cannot continue indefinitely." This puts fears about ageing populations into perspective, in OPT's view, compared with the consequences of continuous population growth.


OPT campaigns for policies to achieve environmentally sustainable population levels both globally and in the UK. The ecological issue is one of population numbers, resource demands and the environmental impacts created by different sizes of population at given levels of affluence and technology. For more details see the Fertility, Migration, Population policy projections, Briefings and submissions and other sections of this website. OPT recommends the following population policies:
  • Globally, that full access to family planning should be provided to all those who do not have it, that couples should be encouraged voluntarily to "Stop at Two" children to lessen the impact of family size on the environment, and that this should be part of a holistic approach involving better education and equal rights for women.
  • In the UK, that population should be allowed to stabilise and decrease by not less than 0.25% a year to an environmentally sustainable level, by bringing immigration into numerical balance with emigration, by making greater efforts to reduce teenage pregnancies, and by encouraging couples voluntarily to "Stop at Two" children.

The history of population growth

World population grew very slowly throughout human history, until the Industrial Revolution and the dawn of an age of fossil fuels. By 1900 it had reached 1.65 billion. It then multiplied nearly fourfold to 6 billion within a century, as the advent of an age of cheap energy and rapidly improving technology enabled parents to have large families and for their children to survive. During the 20th century improvements in health and welfare also increased life expectancy - a trend which has continued in the 21st century after average family size began to fall. Expected future population growth will be affected by life expectancy, family size, and the number young people already born and approaching the age range of fertility. World population's recent rampant growth can be seen in Graph 1 above.

For current world population statistics, including rates of population increase for each country, see the World Population Data Sheet 2008 produced by the Population Reference Bureau. For more information on population growth in relation to poverty, the environment, youth and gender issues, see State of World Population 2008, a report from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

Does anyone think population growth is still sustainable?

China's population reached 1.3 billion people in 2005 - one-fifth of total world population. Zhang Weiqing, director of the National Population and Family Planning Commission, has pointed out that thanks to its family planning policies over the last three decades, China has curbed fast population growth and prevented 400 million births by 2005. "The 400 million births, if not prevented, would postpone China's drive to build a well-off society," said Zhang. "Such an achievement should be recognised as many developed countries spent over a century before reaching low birth rates." [Xinhua News, 3 May 2006].

Yes, surprisingly - alongside those who believe that perpetual growth in consumption is possible. To start with, the 80 million unplanned pregnancies a year - the same number by which world population increases annually - could be prevented by allowing full access to family planning worldwide. To achieve this, policies to improve education and women's rights are also vital. But access to family planning on its own would not be enough to stabilise and reduce world population in the short term: with so many of the world's current population aged under 25, population growth has an inbuilt momentum which will be hard to stop. Attitudes to family size, to encourage couples to have fewer children, would also be needed.

The mid-20th century view that technology would enable unfettered population growth (for example, the development of unlimited risk-free energy or mass space travel and the colonisation of other planets) proved a chimera. Yet some international agencies and many national governments still share a comprehensive vision of global sustainable development and poverty alleviation that centres on unlimited consumption-based economic expansion. There are still people who believe that Earth can support another three billion people (three times the population of India), with all enjoying a 'sustainable' standard of living. Others believe an irreversible mass extinction is already under way. The uncomfortable truth is that the impact on Earth's biosphere of more than nine billion people living at a desired higher standard of living in 2050 would be fatal for the planet in terms of greenhouse gas emissions alone. See Climate change. OPT's view is an optimistic one: that an environmentally sustainable population can be achieved.

At a 1990 per capita emission rate of about four tonnes of carbon dioxide per person per year, the world's optimum population level would not be much higher than two billion, living at an average 1990 lifestyle, in order to stabilise carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere. This can be simply demonstrated by integrating advice from the IPCC with basic facts about carbon dioxide emissions: see The crucial CO2 limit, OPT Journal, October 2003.

To deal with peak oil production and dangerous levels of greenhouse gas emissions, Earth will need to move faster into a post-fossil fuel age. During this period a much larger human population will need much larger renewable energy supplies, which could require vast tracts of land or sea. If, on the other hand, population is allowed to decrease steadily while new forms of renewable energy are developed, land will be released from urbanisation, the number of consumers will fall, and targets should become easier to achieve.

The need to curb man-made climate change is a compelling reason for population stabilisation and reduction - to reduce climate impacts it helps to reduce the number of climate changers. The rise in greenhouse gas concentrations in Earth's atmosphere follows the sudden and sharp rise in population numbers from the start of mass industrialisation less than three centuries ago. Ecological footprinting shows that we are also overshooting by 30% Earth's biological capacity to provide renewable natural resources. If the developed world is to be lifted out of poverty, therefore, world population needs to be allowed to stabilise and gradually decrease.

OPT maintains that governments must take both separate and collective action to reduce world population, alongside individuals, by peaceful and non-coercive means - for example by a Kyoto-type protocol that would commit countries to initial reductions in population to 1990 levels. Since there is no international protocol designed to stabilise and reduce world population, however, OPT believes that support needs also to come from the bottom up - from citizens deciding that population policies are necessary.

What can be done?

All nation states can formulate environmentally sustainable population policies.
Individual countries can set policies for their own territories, and individual couples can take action themselves. Even a small rate of natural increase, if allowed to continue, will cause substantial and unsustainable population growth in the long term. For example, a population growing at 1% a year will double in 70 years, and one growing at 2% a year doubles in 35 years.

Countries with population policies. Although worldwide fertility is falling, many governments are going backwards in their attempts to reverse population growth by encouraging sustainable fertility levels. World Population Policies 2007, published by the United Nations in 2008 shows that in 1996 82 countries had an official policy to lower fertility, but in 2007 the number had shrunk to 75. While Colombia, Cote d'Ivoire,Lao PDR, Lebanon, Mauritania, Namibia, Oman, Togo and Vanuatu were new to the list in 2007, more countries had dropped out. Governments in Botswana, China, Dominica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Grenada, Malaysia, St Kitts, St Lucia, St Vincent, Seychelles, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Trinidad, Turkey and Venezuela no longer wish to reduce their national fertility levels. Likewise there has been a reduction in the number of countries with policies to lower immigration, down from 78 in 1996 to just 38 in 2007.

How can people be helped to have smaller families?

Firstly, by giving everyone access to family planning and reproductive health services - in the case of young people, in a moral framework of sex education. In developed countries research has led to an increasingly wide choice of contraceptive methods. But worldwide, just over 200 million women in sexual relationships do not have access to this full range. Some still want large families, yet large-scale surveys have shown at least half wish to prevent another pregnancy. Every minute in the world 380 women become pregnant, and of those 190 did not plan to do so, according to the UNFPA [2002]. Since every minute a woman dies through unsafe induced abortion or childbirth (600,000 a year), the same figures suggest that half are being killed by pregnancies they would have avoided if they only had the contraceptive choices women in developed countries take for granted. The devastation caused by HIV/AIDS is another central argument for prevention through good, comprehensive reproductive and sexual health care: which, regardless of the issues of numbers and sustainability, should be fully funded, as a human right and a key intervention for improving the health of women, their partners and their children. Condoms and pills are as much an emblem of sustainability as bicycles and windmills. See Population, fertility and birth planning.

Secondly, by making everyone aware of the links between environmental survival and population containment. Many couples, in many countries, already limit their families to one or two children because they simply cannot afford to support more. Those who care about the environment to be inherited by future generations can also, if they wish, use family planning to limit the number of children they have. OPT's suggestion is to 'Stop at Two'.

Briefing by Rosamund McDougall, with a contribution from John Guillebaud.

Source: Optimum Population Trust

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