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A Discussion About Overpopulation And Some Related Matters

By Steve Salmony & Emily Spence

04 November, 2010
Countercurrents.org

Dear Emily,

We have got to stop fooling around by evading the questions: "Why, why have human population numbers been exploding during my lifetime without the attention of every expert on the planet being focused upon this question? Why the denial? The deafening silence? The global gag rules? The conscious collusion of experts? The elective mutism?"

A pernicious silence has been allowed to prevail over science. Until now, objective intellectual discussions have not even begun of vital questions regarding the nature of human population dynamics. As a direct consequence, the prodigious collective intelligence of the family of humanity has not been accessed. Preternatural thought and unscientific theorizing have been shared and consensually validated as if it represented the best available science.

Could it be we are about to become witnesses to an unexpected spiritual event, a new beginning like one that occurred in ancient times when something which appeared impregnable, like the walls of Jericho, began to crumble at the moment enough people marched, blew their trumpets.… and spoke the truth as they saw it about the population dynamics of the human species, as well as about the profound implications associated with the unbridled growth of absolute global human population numbers in our time?

Somehow, at least one necessary discussion of the nature of human population dynamics could begin soon. I have been trying to organize this discussion since 2001 without success. If we could accomplish this single thing, perhaps in an instant we could move from being in “the nowhere” of silence and darkness to “the now here” of openly shared speech and light. Like the inhabitants of Easter Island, who ignored what they were doing to the world upon which they depended for their very existence until it was too late for assuring their survival, perhaps the family of humanity is ignoring now what we are doing to the planetary home (an island in a celestial sea of stars) we inhabit.

Earth is bounded and finite. It has a frangible ecology. It cannot be sensibly compared to a maternal presence, in the sense of it being like a mother’s teat at which humankind can forever suckle. Neither the Earth nor a mother’s teat is actually inexhaustible, despite the child’s fantasy and the adult’s belief that either one is an eternal source of sustenance.

The human family ignores human biological limits and Earth’s physical limitations at its own peril. We also puts at risk the children’s future, life as we know it and the Earth as a fit place for human habitation.

Knowledgeable people have got to stop colluding in silence and ignoring the best available scientific evidence of human population dynamics and human overpopulation of the Earth, just as all of us have to share the understanding that a species like Homo sapiens cannot continue to outrageously overconsume and excessively hoard Earth’s limited resources; to recklessly overproduce unnecessary stuff and relentlessly pollute its environs; and to reflexively overpopulate the planetary home God has blessed us to inhabit.

If leaders keep adamantly advocating and hotly pursuing what they are doing now, and followers keep buying into this soon to become patently unsustainable, primrose path to the future, then the time remaining to us elders, now and here, to secure a good enough future for the children is fairly short, I suppose.

We cannot effectively address any global challenge if we do not allow ourselves to understand from whence it emanates. If people cannot see that an actual threat exists, that itself is a problem to be overcome. Fortunately we can recognize the family of humanity has a human-induced problem that we have not yet so much as adequately acknowledged, let alone begun to meaningfully address and overcome.

Some people say that we have too many challenges to confront now; that we have to deny how certain global ecological challenges are themselves posed to humankind by the skyrocketing growth of absolute global human population numbers. Unfortunately the human community appears not to have space-time available to longer avoid facing the question of why looming threats to future human wellbeing and environmental health are occurring with such vengeance in our time. Please consider that we cannot wait “until tomorrow” to share the understanding that these ominous threats could be emanating from the colossal scale and unbridled global growth of overconsumption, overproduction and overpopulation activities of the human species.

As we examine the prospects for the future of life on the relatively small, evidently finite and noticeably frangible planet that we inhabit and upon which we are, and have always been, utterly dependent for our very existence, perhaps we can think about something more than lives of effortless ease and outrageous excess, short-term profits and other derivatives of greed mongering, as well as about something other than waging unnecessary wars, producing unneeded stuff and stealing the children’s birthright to a natural world fit for human habitation.

For a moment anyway, let us think in longer-range terms and consider how what we do now can be expected to help safeguard the future for children everywhere and coming generations. Given the way the surface of the Earth is being ravaged in these days—- leading to massive biodiversity extinction, rampant resource depletion, potentially irreversible environmental degradation and climate destabilization—- I dare say neither the children’s tomorrow will look after itself, nor can the children themselves be reasonably and sensibly expected to secure a good enough future for their offspring without the able assistance of their elders in the now here.

Sincerely,

Steve

==

Dear Steve,

I share your concerns. Yet, no government or major business leader, even if he has a corresponding perspective, will openly discuss certain taboo topics unless he absolutely has to do so. These concern overpopulation, peak oil, the looming energy and resource shortfalls (including the Water Scarcity Facing 1/3 of US Counties and many other locations across the world), the coming agricultural shortages, the extreme dangers that climate change effects will bring, the unfeasible nature of unbridled economic growth and heavy consumption of all sorts of products, the severe destruction that arises from high extinction rates and ruin of the biosphere, the degree that the oceans are being damaged so as to not support much life in times to come if the current trajectories are continued, the fact that a number of nations have turned into veiled corporatocracies, rising wealth inequality and poverty, and the fact that economic considerations and desire for resource control nearly always are the covert reasons for wars, amongst other critical topics.

Discussing such matters would, certainly, lead to political suicide and possible losses in short term, maximal business profits. Accordingly, most politicians and influential business directors avidly serve the corporate power structure, finance it through various means, covertly condone the mistreatment of a poorly paid offshored work force and avidly pursue policies related to resource plunder regardless of where it is taking place as long as it involves their making huge lucrative gains in the process.

So silence on these critical matters prevails. The repercussions from frankly discussing these immense dilemmas or striving to find a positive way out of them seem too high to bear.

Besides, it is not as if there is no consideration of them behind the scenes. As the following statements show, they certainly are being taken into account.

"Depopulation should be the highest priority of foreign policy towards the third world, because the US economy will require large and increasing amounts of minerals from abroad, especially from less developed countries”. - Dr. Henry Kissinger

“There is a single theme behind all our work–we must reduce population levels. Either governments do it our way, through nice clean methods, or they will get the kinds of mess that we have in El Salvador, or in Iran or in Beirut. Population is a political problem. Once population is out of control, it requires authoritarian government, even fascism, to reduce it….” “Our program in El Salvador didn't work. The infrastructure was not there to support it. There were just too goddamned many people…. To really reduce population, quickly, you have to pull all the males into the fighting and you have to kill significant numbers of fertile age females….” "The quickest way to reduce population is through famine, like in Africa, or through disease like the Black Death…." - Thomas Ferguson, State Department Office of Population Affairs

All the same, lots of people refuse to see that such attitudes and many of the problems that prompt such awful views even exist. They look out on bright sunny days and think that the only thing wrong with the world is that there are not enough jobs available. So they have little idea that there are unsustainable practices going on around them relative to an exponentially increasing human population, corresponding economic growth patterns, resource conflicts, a high rate of deforestation, the demise of global fisheries and myriad other woes. Yet, they don't want to know about these seemingly remote issues and, if someone brings up the related facts, they adamantly deny them -- especially the nay-sayers with deeply held religious and political views that run counter to the facts.

Despite having to face the hostility, ignorance and/or apathy of deniers, so many dedicated activists have tried to share the unwanted truth. Concerning it, they have tirelessly lectured, written articles and books, contacted their government representatives, held demonstrations, crafted carefully thought out letters to editors and so forth.

Yet, it has made little difference in terms of creating sufficient constructive results. Even John Feeney's well reasoned Return of the population timebomb and Population: The elephant in the room had their share of skeptical commentators.

I'm afraid that the tragedies that we and further generations will face, as ever so many diverse catastrophes come together, are unavoidable. Thus, you can do your best to protect your loved ones and try to help some others on the way as you personally get your affairs in order so that you will reasonably be able to deal with the coming maelstrom, but that is all that you can do.

More specifically, you need to ensure that if you are not in a community that can be largely self-sustaining, you find one that is -- one that fosters the environmental understandings, the humanitarian values, practical know-how, will and capacity to take care of its residents' basic needs, as well as an ample resource base to be able to do so. It will, also, need to be capable to subsume climate change refugees since it is anticipated that Climate change could force 1 billion from their homes by 2050 and render a large portion of the Earth, including former agricultural regions and coastlines, uninhabitable.

As tragic as it seems, you will not be able to stop the outcomes from forces far larger than yourself -- including the forces related to the continuing population burst that is upon us. It can't be stopped until the whole mess crashes due to its own unsustainability in connection to the huge deficits (i.e., in food, water, energy, etc.) that are on the way, along with the unstoppable climate change nightmare.

Lastly, remember Dale Carnegie's views: "First ask yourself: What is the worst that can happen? Then prepare to accept it. Then proceed to improve on the worst." It's the only way to move forward, it would seem, under the current circumstances.

With best wishes always,

Emily

Steve Salmony is a self-proclaimed global citizen, a psychologist and father of three grown children. Married 38 years ago. In 2001 Steve founded the AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population to raise consciousness of the colossal threat that the unbridled, near exponential growth of absolute global human population numbers poses for all great and small living things on Earth in our time. His quixotic campaign focuses upon the best available science of human population dynamics in order to save the planet as a place fit for habitation by children everywhere. He can be reached at SESALMONY@aol.com.

Emily Spence is an author living in Massachusetts. She has spent many years involved in human rights, environmental and social services efforts.