Overpopulation: Not a Problem Now, and Never Will Be
Permalink | View Comments (76) | Post Comment | | Posted by Reason

A future of overpopulation is one of a number of hoary old objections to progress and longer, healthier lives. It has been raised over and over again throughout recent history, but like all other Malthusian concepts, it was wrong then, and it's just as wrong now. Common Malthusianism - the idea that a given resource (such as living space or food) will run out in the future based upon extrapolation of present trends - stems from fundamental misunderstandings about economics, human action and change. We create change in response to our environment; our self-interest leads us to constantly strive at the creation of new resources where old resources are becoming scarce and expensive. This is the path to profit for the individual - and progress for all. One needs a certain amount of willful blindness to avoid seeing the process in action now and in recent history.

The ideas of Malthus were just as wrong as the ideas of those who warn of overpopulation today, and for just the same reasons. The simple answers to any claim of overpopulation with increasing longevity are much as follows:

1) Population growth declines and reverses with increasing wealth, longevity and technological progress:

Decelerating population growth appears to be an inevitable result of growing wealth. Early on in a country's developmental curve, children can be regarded as 'producer goods' (as economists would say). Parents put their children to work on the farm to generate food and revenue. Very little effort is put into caring for the child: no expensive health plans, special classes, trips to Disneyland, X-Men action figures, or mounting phone bills. As we become wealthier, children become 'consumer goods'. That is, we look on them more and more as little people to be enjoyed and pampered and educated, not beasts of burden to help keep the family alive. We spend thousands of dollars on children to keep them healthy, entertain them, and educate them. We come to prefer fewer children to a vast mob of little ones. This preference seems to be reinforced by changing tastes resulting from improved education.

UPDATE 05/28/2010: Researchers Leonid Gavrilov and Natalia Gavrilova have produced detailed population models to demonstrate that even large increases in human life span produce comparatively small changes in population size. You can find a summary near the end of a more recent Fight Aging! post, or at PubMed:

For example, we applied the cohort-component method of population projections to 2005 Swedish population for several scenarios of life extension and a fertility schedule observed in 2005. Even for very long 100-year projection horizon, with the most radical life extension scenario (assuming no aging at all after age 60), the total population increases by 22% only (from 9.1 to 11.0 million). Moreover, if some members of society reject to use new anti-aging technologies for some religious or any other reasons (inconvenience, non-compliance, fear of side effects, costs, etc.), then the total population size may even decrease over time.

2) It is self-evident from even a few back of the envelope calculations that the Earth can support tens of billions in comfort using the technology of today - and never mind the rest of the solar system once the cost of getting into orbit has been sufficiently reduced.

So it turns out that if 5% of the United States were converted into urban area with a population density of 6,000/km2, and 45% were converted into suburban area with a population density of 2,000/km2, with the remaining 50% left for rural area, parks, and farms, there would be enough room for 3 billion in the urban areas, and 9 billion in the suburban areas, for a total population of 12 billion. This is in the US alone. This scheme could be extended to the other countries and continents for a total population of around 100 billion. Everything between the Arctic and Antarctic circles are potential targets for colonization. This is about 130,000,000 km2 of land area (the circumpolar regions have about 20,000,000 km2 of land).

3) What some presently view as "overpopulation" is more accurately described as crushing poverty amidst the potential for plenty and resources left unused. This is the result of despotism, corruption, economic ignorance, short-sighted greed and the inhumanity of man unto man - it is not a matter of counting heads.

Here, then, is a short guide for kleptocrats and egalitarians who want to keep their countries poor. All of these policies have stood the test of time as techniques for creating and maintaining poverty. The list is by no means exhaustive, but it will give would-be political leaders a good idea of how to start their countries on the road to ruin.

Malthusianism and cries of overpopulation in the face of a future of healthy life extension are forms of relinquishment. It is a call for death and suffering to continue on a massive scale; a certain type of person prefers any present horror to the uncertainty of change. Fortunately, such people have usually been swept aside in the past by the urge of the many to better their lives, one step at a time. May that long continue to be the case.

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Comments

100% agree, overpopulation will not be a problem for us when people are cured of aging. I've seen the calculations before for how many people could comfortably live in America if neccessary.

By the time a growing population even became annoying in some areas, we will have things like the ability to synthetically make food. We will spread out in teh star system if neccessary. Or merge with our machines via uploading farther into the future.

Posted by: aa2 at September 16, 2006 12:18 AM

Also, the age in which people get children is adapted to the total life-span, so back in the days when people lived to age 25 they got children at an earlier age than now, and now most are in the interval 20-35. If someone expect to live for 1000 years, he won't at age 30 feel "Ooh, it's getting late, must get a family and kids soon, or it'll be too late!" Rather, people will take their time, knowing that aging won't make it "too late".

In the worst case scenario, we'll simply have to regulate getting children so that it matches the death-rate. That would be somewhat bad, but not nearly as bad as aging and dying. And I very much doubt it will come to that.

Posted by: ND at September 16, 2006 9:04 AM

FYI: Here is a link to what I wrote on this topic in 1991:

http://www.cryonet.org/cgi-bin/dsp.cgi?msg=398

(The email addresses in that message now are out-of-date, but the concepts expressed still apply.)

Posted by: Kevin Q. Brown at September 16, 2006 12:10 PM

The best argument remains, I think, the fact that population grows much faster with the birth rate than with life expectancy.

Posted by: Kip Werking at September 16, 2006 1:29 PM

If this is true, this research to cure ageing. How do they suppose to cure ageing. The only sollution that I can come up with to cure ageing is stem cells. We would have to take stem cells from women that are pregnant. Thereby killing innocent children that are not even born yet.

Posted by: MB at January 29, 2007 2:09 PM

What incredible lies this article is. Overpopulation is a serious and severe problem. Anybody ever hear of natural resource limits? Gross pollution? Collapsing fisheries? Desertification? Acid rain? Climate change?

No "back of the envelope" calculations are going to honestly assess the present population damage to the environment, which is presently teetering on collapse. Add more humans to the mixture and you have sure-fired recipe for global disaster, which is exactly what you are advocating.

Posted by: SurvivalAcres at February 20, 2007 8:57 PM

I don't completely understand what you are saying. First you state that Malthus and Malthusian beliefs are wrong. Where is your proof? If they are wrong, why is it still being taught as a fact in college classes? If the population is going to stabilized in developed countries, it does not matter because the undeveloped countries will continue to grow until their capacity is reached, then the developed countries will experience a high rate of immigration. If you extend life expectancy, aren't you just creating an older, more conservative population to drain any financial aid we may have for the elderly today? Many studies say we will run out of petroleum and other valuable resources within the century. What is your back up resource for that? Other than E85, which is not entirely environmentally friendly, nor is it efficient, there are no real solutions. Why hasn't the United States population growth rate decreased like the ones in Europe? How do you explain a worldwide growth rate of 3 people per second? Where is your proof for anything you are saying?

Posted by: Lisa H at April 12, 2007 1:46 PM

Total BS.

We are *already* resource constrained. Most arable farm land is already under cultivation, world-wide. Availability of fresh water means that little if any new land will be cultivated, ever. The increasing cost of energy is directly driven by increasing demand from an increasingly large and affluent global population competing for a declining resource (mostly petroleum). Pollution has already fouled our air and waterways. Many species are already gone and others are in rapid decline. Fisheries are in decline pretty much everywhere, with many previously popular species of fish already gone from our tables.

In other words, the facts are plain: lots of increasingly wealthy people are doing irreparable harm to our biosphere, and ultimately the price is being paid and will increasingly be paid by us, in the form of lowered quality of life, health problems, higher frequency and severity of weather-related natural disasters, etc.

How can you conceivably reconcile these facts with such drivel about "over-population is a myth"?

Posted by: IS at October 10, 2007 8:39 PM

Thank you for covering the population myth.
The truth is population is on the verge of imploding.
Birth rates are down, folks are ageing and the attack on our health is working (killing us off).
There is plenty of everything except inteligence.
The freaks that run the world are running scams on us and brain washing us into a scarcity mentality.
Here are some links for you..

root.man peak
http://tinyurl.com/ymcxyg

population impolosion
http://tinyurl.com/2rc5a9

Keep after it!

rm

Posted by: root man at October 11, 2007 12:10 AM

Yeah, I'd love to live longer, and 'am' practicing calorie restriction (saves on food too, SA :)
But this is pie in the sky. You can't just reorder the entire society and power structure to make this work out. There are things in motion, and the people pushing the levers have a much smaller population in mind, not a larger one. Think around 50mill or less, and you'll get the grim picture. SA has it down. There's finite resource limits we're pushing up against, and even if we had power & metals from Space, we're putting too much heat into the biosphere & destabilizing a lot of delicate weather flows and temperature loops.

If you have a way to convince the world power structures to completely rebuild society, using energy we don't have, and goodwill the West has blown, and rewrite human nature to be peaceful in stead of tribal and xenophobic while you're at it, we're never going to see the 10 billion mark.

And by the time I'm in my 50s, if I live that long, the population of a frigid, wind-blasted Earth will probably be less than 5% of peak.

If we're REALLY, REALLY damn lucky, the newspace folks will manage to establish a toehold in Space, and we won't be doomed to a slow slide back to a future-primitive Stone Age.

Posted by: Airship Captain at October 11, 2007 4:10 PM

I basically favor putting emphasis on life extension, though I'm not too big on Borg-type transhumanism. Nevertheless, the problem of human population increase, and the resulting strain both on planetary resources and social adaptation is real and could well "spoil the party." Right now, it looks like, with or without a globalist conspiracy to reduce the human population, it's going to be a near thing whether sufficient substitutes will be found for petrolem and other vital resources to sustain even the present population.

I'm less concerned about the demographic changes if the life-extension technology does in fact preserve or restore youthful health. Most probably retirement as we know it would be replaced by extended sabbaticals and career changes to avoid psychological burnout. Admittedly, there may be some who, in fact just want to retire and live off their accumulated resources (including pension rights) who would be inhibited from doing so by social guilt absent the "justification" of age-related loss of abilities. But I think that could be managed by encouraging development of "fun" skills that are also socially useful, such as amateur astronomy.

Posted by: JackBNimble at October 12, 2007 8:21 PM

Poorer countries are more likely to be inhabited by large families than those of their wealthier counterparts. Think about it! The more children a poor family has, the more likely that at least one of them will survive and grow up healthy. This is survival-based eugenics that has been brought about via the consequence of poverty-induction policies that have been place for many years. Overpopulation is a myth that has been craftily created by the global elite who see us as nothing but cattle, as their slaves. Our suffering is their religion, and theres more to come!!

Posted by: Ralph at October 12, 2007 9:00 PM

Peak oil is a lie. Oil is not a fossil fuel.

Read the evidence and refute it if you can.

http://tinyurl.com/ymcxyg

Overpopulation is a lie.

Posted by: root man at October 18, 2007 10:01 PM

"Peak oil is a lie. Oil is not a fossil fuel."

The united states peaked and went into decline in the 1970s. Well all over the world are going into decline. Oil is a fossil fuel and those who believe otherwise should short oil right now. I'm long oil and making a killing.

Don't listen to the snake oil salesman telling you that peak oil is not real.

Posted by: General Specific at October 19, 2007 11:27 PM

Regardless of how many people the world can contain, aren't there enough of us already?

I climbed the second highest mountain in England, and it was like grand central station.

There are enough of us already, and it seems the ones who are reproducing the most are those who have little or no concern for their environment.

It's fine for those who can afford a massive house out in the country, and send someone out to do their shopping, but there are those of us working hard, and with little wealth who have to witness the destruction first hand.

Posted by: fran at October 25, 2007 12:34 PM

who is the author of the article?
kindly state it asap...

Posted by: alexa at January 22, 2008 9:28 PM

1) The Earth is Finite. 100 widgets won't fit into a 50-widget bag. 100 cattle can't graze forever in a field that can only sustainably support 50. It's called basic logic folks...

2) Future population estimates aren't the point really - population is already well beyond a sustainable level. Every day 200,000 more people are born than die. That is a whole extra New York City worth of people every couple of months or so. Do you think the 3 Billion people in poverty are that way only because of greed or inefficiency? There is simply not enough food, water, and energy for 6.6 Billion people on this planet. Truth be told, there isn't enough to support even 3 Billion sustainably if they live above 3rd World poverty levels of consumption.

3) World Grain Ending Stocks are in sharp decline NOW. World Grain Production per person has been in decline for 20 years. World Irrigated Area per person is in sharp decline. Go ahead and do a Google image search - you will find the proof.

4) World fresh water supplies are declining NOW. The Ogallala aquifer that waters much of the American Midwest is declining so rapidly that it will be functionally dry within 40 years. The Aral Sea and Lake Chad are almost all dried up. Rivers from The Colorado in America to the Yellow in China are frequently not even reaching all the way to the sea before they dry up.

4) World Oil Production has peaked (or is within 5% of the peak) and will decline within 10 years. When it does, world food production will decline. Modern agriculture is oil-dependant to the extreme.

5) Oil energy ALONE does the equivalent of 300 man-hours of labor each and every day for every man, woman, and child on the planet. Windmills and solar cells will never do this much total work. When the oil starts to decline, unless we have Nuclear Fusion on line (we are too late) the world will enter a period of global famine and anarchy. (Ever see 'The Road Warrior'?)

6) 'You guys have been wailing your gloom-and-doom scenario for years and you are always wrong - the world is fine.' Let's use that exact same logic on you Christians now: 'You guys keep telling us that Jesus is coming back and we better get ready, but he never shows up - you are wrong.'

JUST BECAUSE SOMETHING HASN'T HAPPENED YET DOESN'T MEAN IT NEVER WILL.

7) Do I have to mention Global Climate Change? If I do, you will probably argue forever about this and overlook my main points - so I won't. But if I DID mention it, one could surely see that carbon emissions come more abundantly from more people.


Imagine that you are an archaologist looking at the remains of an ancient dead civilization. Suppose you find evidence that their religious practices caused them to be unable to adapt to a new threat to their civilization, and so even though the priests offered sacrifices and the people obeyed their leaders, they were eventually swept away by the relentless tide of a danger that they could never truly comprehend within the confines of their religious/cultural mindset.

Is this not what happened to the Aztecs?

Is this not what is happening to US today?

Posted by: David Nicol at February 6, 2008 5:44 PM

I think that, to cure aging, we are going to need to harvest baby souls. Then, we will give the baby to old people, to stop aging, which causes over population and the pollution of our oceans. We need to think about the future... one day, we will indeed merge with machines like aa2 explains, so we can then go to the "star system" where we will rule the universe and baby souls will live on. How soon can we accomplish this, this "stopping of the aging?" The attack on our health is a conspiracy by our elders, the baby lovers. Overpopulation will cease to exist, and dinosaurs will come back as animals for us to ride in space, close to Saturn.

Posted by: Jello Mother at March 4, 2008 6:40 PM

Jello Mother is right. The baby souls are indeed needed to cure aging. Once aging is cured, overpopulation will no longer be a problem. Our superior health will allow us to experiment with the merging of humans and machines. We will, essentially, become cyborgs. This is already being studied, and I expect to see its effects in my lifetime. We will also be able to bring back the dinosaurs, since the world will no longer be so crowded, and just as we have domesticated cats, dogs, etc., the dinosaurs will be our pets. We will use them for transportation, and we will be able to make them survive in space by turning them into cyborgs as well. Research is already showing that this is possible.
Baby souls are the key. Once we harvest them, the rest will simply fall into place.
PS Where can I get a widget bag? I really need one of those! I can't find them at WalMart!

Posted by: Triscuit Face at March 5, 2008 1:12 PM

Supposedly, the comments here undergo a review process before inclusion on the board. It would seem that the standards for inclusion are low indeed.

It may seem humorous to spew tales of pet dinosaurs and such, but perhaps you should stop being clever long enough to see what is before you. I suppose you are a younger person. What I am saying is that you are about to be given a hollowed-out shell of a crappy world as your inheritance. Your parents, grandparents, and their parents basically took whatever they wanted out of a treasure of finite size and have only left you the box the treasure came in. You have been stolen from, but you simply don't know this yet.

You suppose that the world will just be there for you when you are 30 or 40 like it always has been for those before you. It won't. Within 10 years we will not have 24-hour electricity everywhere in America - it will be rationed. We will not be able to drive anywhere we like anymore - gas will be rationed. Food will cost 5-10 times what it does today, and rent/mortagages will go up even though people will have less money than today. Unemployment will be 15-20%, and huge permanent communities of homeless squatters will appear in every major city. Riots will break out. Life will be vicious, dirty, and poor.

All of these problems will force the government to restrict civil liberties and constitutional rights just to maintain control. People will be held without trial, and personal ownership of guns will be outlawed.

The goverment will be forced to put millions of people to work and also to feed them. This will provide the right environment where total Socialism can be implemented in America, destroying our nation. And because we will also be at war constantly to secure dwindling oil reserves, our nation will begin to look outwardly much like a Fascist State.

This is the world we are giving to you. Enjoy. You can't see this coming yet unless you look very hard like I have. This is because our entire economy is dependant upon future growth for current prosperity. Business interests and politicians need to constantly reinforce an image of never-ending growth, or the people will stop investing and spending and the economy will collapse.

Socialism is a stupidly unfair and inefficient system. But Capitalism is like a very perky super-optimistic pep rally held for a football team that may or may not actually be any good. Even though the team may totally suck, the pep squad keeps up the cheer all the same so you won't NOTICE how sucky the team actually is. And because Capitalism requires never-ending growth or it will die, if the team doesn't get better every year (even if times are good) the whole thing will still fall apart.

What we have right now is the end of times when the pep squad can still convince the people that things are still good. Soon, the mounting numbers of fumbles, interceptions, and real crappy play will have the crowd slowly start to boo.

So leaving metaphor-land (since you didn't understand my widget bag metaphor) let me be clear. The problems in the world like higher prices for everything, unemployment, famine, war, and reduced quality of life will start top get dramtically worse during the next few years. People will get really worried. Then, at some point, things will break down suddenly and the new impoverished, starving, anarchic world will emerge.

People will blame this on one thing or another. But there is only 1 real cause of it. OVERPOPULATION - too many people consuming too much stuff too quickly. Locusts.

So why talk about this? I know that most of you will just think I am a kook who thinks the sky is falling. People have said that to me. But I never mentioned the sky. I just said that your life will go on in massively sucky new ways very soon as a logical consequence of some indisputable facts. I don't get any kick out of this nor do I wish to say 'told you so' when it happens. It just seems to me to be the right thing to do to warn people so that they can take steps to make life better when times get tough. Most of you won't. But some of you might.

Posted by: David Nicol at March 5, 2008 6:32 PM

I just can't believe how unbelievably ignorant the author or this article is.

synthetic food? fine if we run out of resources, (although i can't help but think of Soylent Green).
but why would we run out of resources? oh right, OVERPOPULATION! how long does it take a person to eat 1,000 pounds of food? a long time. but how long does it take a thousand people to eat the same amount of food? not very long at all. we are using up our resources because there are too many people on this planet.

ok, so let's move into space, right? oh sure, as if corrupting one planet isn't enough.... there are too many people taking up too much space, so we're just going to find more space to invade? i'm sorry, but that's completly selfish BS.

and cure aging? it's not something you can cure. it's NATURAL. it's called TIME. you can't change that. as much as america is obsessed with looking young, you simply can't do it forever without seriously screwing with nature. you want to mess up the planet even more?

you know, maybe our world is screwed. just stop and consider everything bad going on on this planet and you'll get what i mean. but i refuse to believe that and i hope you all can have a hopeful attitude about this too. instead of condemning the world we live and and just moving further into space or f-ing with mother nature even more, why don't we try to fix the problem we created? we can't go back in time and change what we did, but we can change our attitudes about our lives today so we can promise this planet and the generations to come a better life.

fun fact: did you know that the people of the world produce enough grains and farm grown food to sustain 9 billion people? nine billion. we have a population of about 6 billion. so why are people starving? meat, among other reasons. an insane percentage of these grains are feed to animals that we breed to kill. fine, right? it's just feeding food to food, so no harm done, no resources lost. WELL, the protein ration of how much you feed an animal to how much you get out of it, on average, is 10 to 1. that means for every 10 protein you feed a cow, you only get 1 back. so why are people starving? we're feeding all our resources to animals we kill for less nutritional value.
you want more resources? stop eating meant. strop buying animal by-products. cut down your portions until you're vegetarian then take the next step to become vegan. it's not as hard as you think.

Posted by: Kate Jensen at April 24, 2008 8:15 PM

First of all, I agree that aging would help with preventing overpopulation, but I could also say we can not depend on technologies and age extension to completely eliminate this problem.

I am quite divided on this subject, to an extent. But I can say enviromental stress and decline of vital resources is not completely to blame on growing human populations as much as it is on condensed populations in cities, and misuse of land (ex. Amazon land is being used to raise cattles and things for fast food restaurants) which could be used for better purposes.

All in all, large populations is a problem, but it isn't going to be the doom of us all (I assure you there are far more many & larger problems that could be fixed that are destroying this planet).

Also, if overpopulation was the ''root'' of all problems, how would you deal with it anyways? I mean, are you saying its a problem and we're going to need to control it but putting restirctions on birth or by killing innocent peoples? (I strongly believe its a person's natural right to have a child, though).

Posted by: Rebecca Lynn at April 27, 2008 7:43 PM

What are the 'larger' problems that afflict our planet? Climate change, pollution, poverty, war or famine? ALL OF THESE ARE CAUSED PRIMARILY BY OVERPOPULATION.

CO2 emissions are a function of human population. Remember that without industry, we could not support this level of population.

Pollution severity is a function of human population. Same as CO2.

Poverty is caused by resource scarcity, which is caused by overly-numerous and/or overly-dense groups of people all needing the same resources.

War is caused by international tensions resulting from the aformentioned resource scarcity.

Famine is caused by the same factors as poverty.

ALL OF THESE PROBLEMS ARE DRIVEN BY POPULATION.


I don't advocated killing anybody, but we can make changes in the laws and tax codes to make it damn expensive to have more than 2 kids, and offer great incentives to have 1 or zero. Also, what about some simple, effective leadership? People will usually do what is required if you explain what is going on an provide some leadership they respect.

As for the 'right' to have offspring, this is something that needs to change. By you exercising this 'right', you imperil every other person on the planet. Obviously, this 'right' is of little value if exercising it causes suffering for yourself and your children.

The right to reproduce must be restrained within prudent bounds. Humanity is past its childhood phase of careless and thoughtless freedom. Now we must embrace adult realities and restrain ourselves just as a young adult must learn to do. But this is not all bad. Just as an adult who is disciplined can earn far more freedom for himself than a child truly can, we by adopting a more mature attitude about reproducing will find life on this planet becomes more peaceable and free for all.

Posted by: David Nicol at May 8, 2008 8:02 AM

This guy is really dumb, overpopulation probably won't happen, but this guy is a dumb ass. He has no proof, and he seems pretty sure of his dumbness.

Posted by: Alex Friedlen at May 8, 2008 8:08 AM

Why are comments here moderated? Obviously they let anybody say anything. Alex's comment is nothing but a moronic personal attack. And Alex does not seem to listen well either.

WE ARE ALREADY OVERPOPULATED.

It is not something that 'might' happen in the future.

Proof? It's all over. But for starters, the reason gasoline is up to $4/gallon is that we are starting to (worldwide) produce less oil than we need. This is because we are running out of oil. And this is because we used it up so quickly. And THIS is because there are too many people here using it.

Posted by: David Nicol at May 9, 2008 12:32 AM

BTW Alex,

Congratulations on your Bar Mitzvah this past 12th of April. But I'm not sure if your parents David and Karen would approve of you insulting strangers over the internet.

Shalom

Posted by: David Nicol at May 9, 2008 1:13 AM

Comments are moderated largely for the purpose of eliminating autospam and "anti-aging" junk advertising. Ad hominems directed at me are fair game; directed at other people not so much.

The comments in this post so far serve a very useful illustration of the degree to which common beliefs about overpopulation - and, by extension, fundamental economics - have become quite divorced from objective reality and science. It's much more a matter of self-destuctive myth, and the reactions people always give when their myths are attacked, than debate over facts.

Posted by: Reason at May 9, 2008 9:14 AM

It would seem that it is you who are espousing unscientific and illogical beliefs. Your assertion that the earth can support 'tens of billions' of people fails to take into account several factors:

1) Critical resources of energy and food production are finite and already at near-maximum possible production

2) Quality of life is determined by the proportion of the earth's resources that can be allocated per person. As population increases, this is reduced impoverishing more and more people

3) The greater the population and population density, the more draconian and total the government needs to be in order to preserve order. Therefore, population causes political changes leading to less and less personal freedom

4) Human impact on the environment is proportional to human population. Even if you can feed everybody and give them all energy, the biosphere cannot perpetually accommodate multiple billions of people

5) There is quite simply, no need for all these people to exist. Their existance only provides to dumb brute force than empowers both socialist and capitalist forces which tend to oppose human liberty

6) Assuming we could feed tens of billions of people, we would need to create such an abundance of infrastructure so that we would need to pave over virtually all the open spaces of the world to some degree. Is this the kind of world we wish to live in, a 'Borg' style planet?

It is YOU who is the myth purveyor.

Posted by: David Nicol at May 9, 2008 9:16 PM

Read the book Collapse. Read about Rawanda. Read about deforestation, and hear the stories about the overfishing of our Oceans.

When you have a globe packed with people, you have very little margin for error.

And the real problem is in the third world. If they all want to start eating tuna for dinner, there will be no tuna left. Or fish for that matter. No forest once they start making wooden beds, tables to eat off... And why shouldnt they have these things.... we do?

Rather, bring population growth down... figure out a good way to reduce 3rd world population growth now - so they're not led to genecide locally, and in time, real conflict on a global scale.

Posted by: Tim H at July 19, 2008 9:31 PM

Global Warming is an important subject that needs to be handled for a better future for both the human race and ecologies worldwide.

However, I'll argue lowering population (in either a "hands off" or "hands on" fashion for governments) is not likely to help deal with this issue.

First of all, there is not a correlation between the amount of greenhouse gases and people in a nation. (possible response: What? I thought people contribute to global warming? More people more warming, right?) If having more people was key to increasing global warming gases than China and India would not have produced less greenhouse gases than the USA throughout the 20th century. Each of them had a much greater population than the US and polluted less. Now when China is finally overtaking the USA in terms of emissions. Ask why is it doing so? There has not been a sudden baby boom to ramp up population (the 1 child policy has actually been effective, despite corruption and loopholes, in the overall goal of lowering China's birthrate.) China's emissions rise has occurred alongside a birthrate drop because China is industrializing. China is building 1 new coal power plant per week because new factories are being built and a Chinese consumer class is rising that purchases electronic devices (as well as the SUVs that have finally stopped selling in the USA).

An interesting additional point about China's population control efforts relates to the possibility they helped China become the top emitter of CO2. This is an unusual way of looking at the situation, but if you take the Solow growth model from economics population growth is viewed as having a slowing effect on (at least in the short term) economic development. The wealth that would have otherwise have been spent on raising children could instead be put towards creating new factories and coal power plants (to provide the electricity to run them). As the latter are very much not an alternative source of energy it is possible that the population control policy contributed, in part, to greater pollution in and from China.

It is even possible to have a population shrinkage and an increase in global warming gases-look at Europe with a shrinking population in some nations, they haven't stopped polluting. Many are still better than the USA on an emissions per person basis but their pollution went up despite a shortage of babies in some places.

If you want to handle global warming I would encourage handling the direct sources of emissions. These (especially if you are talking about the carbon that has to be brought up from underground and then put in the air) are the devices we use.

This is why highly developed nations are generally much worse polluters than less developed nations-the latter have less in the way of automobiles or energy requiring devices.

To solve Global Warming (which is going to be with us for many years due to the damage already done) deal with the devices we like to have that add more greenhouse gases to the air. Either make them effectively carbon neutral or see if you can live without them.

The number of devices rather than humans is the real problem. You can actually lower the number of humans on the planet and see the number of devices they use rise through greater numbers per person/household. There once was a time when the average US household didn't have 2 or more cars, more than 1 TV and so on.

The greatest irony of all is that the nations where the birthrate is highest are also tend to be those where the emissions per person rate is lowest. Global Warming is mostly caused by us in the developed world who already have low birthrates and high levels of device use.

There is absolutely no guarantee that lowering population levels will reduce global warming. With the possibility that some businesses may try to further mechanize (using devices run on energy from carbon emitting sources) to produce more with fewer workers there is even the theoretical possibility that the emissions problem will become worse.

I would argue that saying the number humans is the problem may sometimes occur from having a bit to much Malthus in one's intellectual diet-and don't forget that history has frequently proven wrong those who come up with ideas based on his theories.

Thanks for reading through the long post and sorry for any typos that I suspect are there.

Posted by: Nathaniel at July 29, 2008 4:44 PM

At the risk of wasting pixel space on those of you who have already swallowed the "what problem? there's no problem!" kool aid....

We’ve already exceeded global carrying capacity. We are now in “overshoot”. (insert image of a car flying smoothly through the air after having been driven off a cliff here)

Global population is nearing 7 billion. Different theorists using different methods seem to end up agreeing that global carrying capacity is probably about 2 billion. (This assumes some level of social justice and a moderate, low by US standards, standard of living. More is possible if you accept a cattle car / Matrix-esque "life".)

In any case, we will get to that much-lower-than-7-billion number the hard way (wars, famine, disease, and their accompanying losses of environmental quality, freedom, and social justice) OR the less hard way (immediately and drastically reducing our population voluntarily). Yes, all of us, yes, everywhere. There is no scenario anywhere in which population growth is a "good thing" long term.

Yes a drop in population would cause problems, but none of those problems are as big as the problems, suffering, and environmental collapse that is certain to occur if we don’t.

It’s too late for any “us” vs “them” arguments or any belief that national boundaries will do much to help anyone in the long run. This is a global issue with local and nation-state consequences. For example, immigration is a consequence of overpopulation, not a cause of it. Likewise, global climate change is not impressed by national boundaries.

One of the key factors in this scenario is also our sense of time. This is a slow motion crash that requires immediate action, a bit like trying to steer a supertanker that's on a crash course by putting in consistent input over a multi year time frame, and the one effective input is for all of us everywhere to stop making babies. The supertanker analogy is also apt because it was the "one time gift" of oil that allowed us to get this far out on a limb, and peak oil has already happened.

No technological / "alternative energy" options have the capacity or can be ramped up fast enough to avoid major global calamity. That isn't to say we shouldn't do them. Aggressively shifting to alternative energy is necessary, just not sufficient. And relocating off world or into some post human mode isn't going to be possible for many, if any and won't help either.

For more comprehensive analysis of all this I suggest

Approaching the Limits (see essay links)
www.paulchefurka.ca

Bruce Sundquist on environmental impact of overpopulation
http://home.alltel.net/bsundquist1/

Oil as 'one time gift' that allowed a temporary capacity increase:
The Oil Drum Peak Oil Overview - June 2007
www.theoildrum.com/node/2693

Bandura etc.
http://growthmadness.org/2008/02/18/impeding-ecological-sustainability-through-selective-moral-disengagement/

Albert Bartlett on the exponential function as it relates to population and oil:
http://c-realm.blogspot.com/2008/12/kmo-interview-with-albert-bartlett.html

...and of course the classic "Overshoot" by William Catton:
http://www.amazon.com/Overshoot-Ecological-Basis-Revolutionary-Change/dp/0252009886

Posted by: Evasta at January 1, 2009 8:54 PM

WRONG WRONG WRONG!!!! You guys are so oblivious to everything Overpopulation is REAL! Have you by chance been to the grocery store and noticed that the price of food has gone up.I can't believe this is a real site you all must have a third 21 chromosome i hope you guys starve first!

Posted by: Appeal To Reason at January 6, 2009 6:53 AM

There is NO OVER POPULATION except in the minds of thoose who have read PAUL EHRLICHES fruadulent book and all those predictions made by EHRLICH none of them ecer happened or ever will happen but the liberal left-wing news media still blabber his idiotic poppycock

Posted by: Flu-Bird at January 11, 2009 10:01 AM

A very well manage earth could certainly hold more people, but do we really want to be croweded all the time? To suppress most wild areas ? Is it reallistic when right now with the actual american life style 4 everybody will need about 6 earth just for CO2 management? I think the choice is simple live longer but have less children! They'll be gratefull to land inside a non crowded world! ... Second thing why do you need children for ? For you ?? For them ?? .. Better to make sure the world is a safe place!
---
... "There is NO OVER POPULATION ..." ... so naïve, what about all these exhaust fumes sticking into our lungs ? Would be alright to be 7 billion with a far better life style, but most people who are anti-malthusianist would never give up their cars! Would you? ... and there are no clean cars, this is an illusion!

Posted by: Niklaus at January 18, 2009 7:12 AM

A perfect world.. Who are these people that will manage this perfect world. Every political system is a compromise so therefore every decision is a compromise.

We will never have a perfect world and that means too many people will always be a problem. Its common sense.

There are too many people already. It wont stop though.

Governments want more money, business wants more money, you and I want more money so therefor we need to populate.. Thats the only reason why we grow the population. Its not because we want more .... It because we all need more.

The system will never be perfect and that will lead to major problems involving more and more people.

Greed equals growth in the population.

Posted by: Vaughan at January 26, 2009 4:32 AM

Mnay have bought into this population bomb poppycock of PAUL EHRLICH and WORLD WATCH hook,line and sinker

Posted by: Birdzilla at May 7, 2009 1:12 PM

paul Ehrlich is not the first to spread the false roomers of over population its just he gets a bunch of crazies on his side

Posted by: BIRD OF PARADISE at May 19, 2009 1:36 PM

Hey Malthusians! Your arguments suck. First, isn't there enough energy? Sun gives us in 40 minutes what we currently get in a YEAR from all energy sources. So, the question is to harvest all this energy ASAP. How about solar energy installed power? It doubles every 2 year, just by Moore's law. With current technologies we can get all our energy from Sun already by 2030. And they are improving, and we still have all other energy sources. So "peak oil" is not our issue, it's oil companies' issue (which are already switching to alternative solutions).

Second, what is "the global capacity". The capacity of what? With which technologies? For example, in Stone Age this capacity could not exceed several millions; in Middle Ages China could not get past 100 mln because they regularly died from hunger. The solutions always were technological, and they will be. What is a resource and what is not, is also determined by current technological level. Which is increasingly increased, i. e. acceletating.

Third, which technologies do more harm to the environment per capita? Look back to the Stone Age capacity, Middle Ages capacity... Do you Malthusians know what is the leading source of CO2 in Asia? Cows. And all the low-tech agriculture, low-tech industry. High-tech is not. Which are rapidly becoming clean, but not in a moment.

Fourth, are you Malthusians really ready to start killing people by action (with a gun) or inaction (fighting anti-aging activity). What are you calling for is called CANNIBALISM because you are declaring that some people's very existence is (or can be) a problem. This is simply INHUMAN. A kind of FASCISM.

People can never be a problem by definition. Period. Re-read the Declaration of Human Rights. Each person has a right to live. Period. Not "a right to live to 120 and then must die". Not "a right to live but mustn't use gene therapy", etc. It is our common responsibility to guarantee this right for everyone and for as long as possible. If Earth becomes the limit, the global power must be turned to space. Not closing up and killing others "in the name of nature". This is not human nature. The very human nature is to overcome any "natural" possibilities. We didn't have fire-breathing, but we found how to make fire. We didn't have sharp teeth but invented axes and speares. We didn't have wings, but created airplanes. And we currently don't live past 120, but will find how to. Any attempt to deny humans extend their possibilities is in fact a step back from humanity into the jungle. That's what are you Malthusians calling for - jungle law for all. And we the life extenders are not with you in these attempts. Humanity is meant to be more than smart apes.

Posted by: Vx at May 23, 2009 5:43 PM

It may be comforting to some to say that overpopulation is a lie--without confronting the evidence. I have read the nonsense that all the people in the world would fit into Texas or Montana. BUT there is not enough arable land or fresh water to feed them. It is rather difficult to grow food on the ice of Antartica, the sand of the Sahara or the rocks of the Himalayas. Arable land per person is now estimated to be under a half acre per person and is dwindling as people build their houses and factories on arable land. Climate change is human caused to a large degree. For people who want the truth check out the sites at http://overpopulation.org and the science fiction/non-fiction free ebooks at http://andgulliverreturns.info

Posted by: DrrrrrBob at July 22, 2009 4:20 AM

The only way out of our declining environment crisis is to stop our predilection to overpopulate. We have only ourselves to blame. I made this short stop motion video to emphasize the point. ----
Overpopulation survivability ----
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hwYcpudpgNI ----
Thank you, ----
Robert Evan Howard ----
aclepd.com -----
aclepd@aclepd.com

Posted by: Robert Evan Howard at July 29, 2009 10:57 PM

You all do know that because of wars and new viruses like the pig flu or the bird flu, people will keep dying despite all the growth rate? This way, even though people live longer, it will just take longer for the previous generation to die out. When they do everything will be all right.

Posted by: 900hz at September 15, 2009 1:07 PM

What? That's stupid. Of course growing population is gonna be a problem! How can you dismiss it like that? What if we don't find the technology to "synthetically make food" and spread out through space? Resources are running out already and the rate at which the human population is growing is increasing so rapidly it's more stupid than you lot saying it's not a problem.

Posted by: Jamie C at November 21, 2009 6:38 AM

I think some here are guilty of being absolutist, saying either population is something we don’t have to worry about at all, or that it will literally be the end of the world. IMO, increasing population will be an issue, but not as worrisome a one as some here seem to think. (or, strangely, seem to hope)

We can speculate about the future, but let’s look at what we already know, the past. For thousands of years people like Malthus have predicted a pop growth apocalypse. They have always been proven wrong. In fact, relative to the total world pop size, there isn’t a larger percentage of the world’s pop starving now than there was centuries ago. (possibly less?) Also, the more wealthy (ie consuming more resources) a group of people get, the less children they tend to have. I’d refer you to this, IMO, balanced Nature article on the issue: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v418/n6898/full/nature01013.html

That said, it’s also true that during the time pop has increased, we have done significant damage to the environment. In the near-term, that is likely to increase, and that‘s tragic. Although, eventually I think technology will solve these environmental issues, though it may take some time. There are already proposals of ways to reverse global warming, and bioengineer organisms to take out existing pollution. Also, meat can already be grown in labs, and salt water can already be made into fresh water, they’re just both too expensive at this point. And another green revolution should be doable with genetic engineering advancing as it is.

Mercifully, denying people anti-aging treatments is not what most here are advocating. Doing so would IMO be the very definition of evil. It would be no different than withholding cancer meds from people who need them. Cancer and aging are both equally natural (and intimately related, as aging causes most cancer), and without “unnatural” treatments, most of us would not live to middle-age. Not to mention the fact it would be nearly impossible to enact or enforce limits on lifespan. (If Medicare payments alone drop old people will vote you out of office, so what would they do if you tried to steal their life-extension medicine?)

So what should we do then? We should pursue aggressive birth control and conservation policies. (subsidies for sustainable tech, taxes for things that aren‘t energy efficient, free contraceptives everywhere, etc) And everyone should do their part, drive a Prius, not get McMansions, etc.

Of course, it’s possible I could be wrong. But what if I am? What’s the worst case scenario? I think we’ve already seen it. A few individual countries have reached too high a level of population. If that happens worldwide, nations will enact things like China’s one child policy. I’m no fan of such a policy, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world. (and it worked)

In closing, I don’t think it’s realistic to say increasing population won’t be an issue at all, but humans always adapt, as we always have. If you asked person century ago if they wanted to live in a world of 6.5 billion people, they’d probably say no, but you don’t see anyone killing themselves or not having any kids today because the world pop is 6.5 billion. We got used to it, and we’ll do the same in the future.


Posted by: Kim at November 30, 2009 11:46 AM

Goodness gracious, this is nonsense. You are naive. Apparently, you have never visited some of the largest cities in the world, nor have you visited some place such as Japan which is (mostly) an extremely crowded stressful place to live. I don't know where you live, but you wouldn't be saying these sorts of things unless you had been around the world and experienced what it is like to live in a filthy crowded impersonal noisy city such as Cairo, Jakarta, Bangkok, Bombay, Kathmandu, Tokyo, Mexico City etc. Get real!

Posted by: Cameron at May 3, 2010 4:14 AM

Wow you try to sound smart, but you sound sooooo stupid. Almost the majority of the scientific community agrees that overpopulation is one of our BIGGEST threats. I don't think you quite understand how quickly our population worldwide is growing and it has a snowball effect, as the population goes up, so does the rate and speed in which those numbers will keep shooting up. Not to mention in the industrialized nations as living quality goes up so does the demand on resources. The amount of food and energy we waste is insane and it is only going to get worse as we add billions more to this planet over time. And stop talking like we will find a cure to aging and we will be able to live 500 hundred years longer people, I mean come on.. science is great, but it doesn't make us Gods. Not to mention population is the reason we have so many problems regarding our environment in this day and age to begin with. So STFU it is definitely a problem and it will only get worse, wait and see. BUUUUUTTTT i'm sure before it gets to a critical point we will have super city like colonies on mars and stuff!!!! And I can become a jedi!! PLEAAASSEEE.

Posted by: ThisArticleIsDumb at May 28, 2010 12:36 AM

I suggest that it would be far more logical to sustain the population we have now until we have everything we need to sustain a larger population. I think it's a bad idea to just give the go ahead on the baby machine until the babies have cribs to lie in.

Also, try sitting in a crowded place, like a very very busy department store for a few hours, and then realize that living in a densely populated city, like I have in Germany, means that you are subjected to five times that noise level even at night. That can psychologically drive you crazy. Have you ever crossed the street with one hundred people pushing in the opposite direction? This is already the case in many places. Now blow that number up to a few thousand, considering I'm sure we won't be able to make enough cars for a billions of people.

Yes, I agree that it would be possible to do what the poster was suggesting, namely 50 percent of the country being left for rural parks and farms. However, we do not have the essential knowledge to complete such a project. We do not have the organization necessary to complete such a project. We do not have the resources to complete such a project.
Also, if for example one essential species of animal becomes extinct during this progress, for example the honey bee, we would all die within, as Albert Einstein suggested, four years.
Also, how could you keep the masses of people under control? If a few million people throw a riot, it's nothing compared to a billion people throwing a riot. Also, try cramming a billion criminals into a jail, good luck with that.
Economically, sustaining such a big population would not work. We already can't deal with issues such as health care and homelessness, and those issues are just the tip of the ice-burg.
How would you keep 100 billion people employed, or lets just say, how do the 50 billion working people support the 50 billion on income assistance?
How do you catch a criminal that disappears into a crowd of a few hundred thousand?
How do you stop the urban/suburban area, which covers have the country, from turning into a toxic nightmare. Also, with all the concrete alone, there would be no more winter because the ground could no longer absorb heat and the heat would stay in the air, making it, say, and average of 60 degrees in the daytime and -2 degrees at night.
I'm not completely saying that your argument doesn't work.

ANYWAY I THINK ONLY SOMEONE WITH NO IMAGINATION WOULD THINK THAT THIS IS A GOOD IDEA. JUST SOME QUICK LAZY BRAINSTORMING ALREADY CREATES A NIGHTMARE WORLD. WE'RE A GOOD SPECIES, WE'RE JUST NOT READY FOR THIS YET.

Posted by: jason at June 15, 2010 7:35 PM

Back when PAUL EHRLICH wrote his book THE POPULATION BOMB he was making all sorts of rediculous predictions and none of them has ever or will ever occure maybe ehrlich and his fellow over populationists should report to the disintagtation booth for imediate termination

Posted by: Wildbirdr at June 24, 2010 9:03 AM

While I have absolutely no doubt that regenerative medicine will eventually enable vastly extended life spans the total naivety of the population argument is akin to thinking with your big toe. The earth is already under considerable population stress mostly caused by the amount that we consume and pollute. No doubt if we all lived in a small box and eat one bowl of rice a day the planet could easily accomodate a lot more people than are currently here. However if we continue to consume even at the same average rate as at present - then total collapse of human supporting enviromental systems is inevitable. It may well be true that as people become wealthier they breed less but that is not the only relevant issue. As people become wealthier they consume and pollute more - (much more in fact - the poor consume and pollute at very minimal rates - their fault is that they just reproduce a lot) though usually the rich try to transfer their pollution to places where poor people live. The kind of world that aims to give humans immortality will be a world very heavy on consumption and pollution.

Your argument demonstrate the most massive optimism and niavety bias. However this is common amomgst top experts in science fields. They are usually so in love with their work and beliefs (and their ego in some cases) that they have significant unwarranted faith in their field of science and in technology and over simplify or even refuse to rationally consider relevant objections (assimilation bias). However that does not really excuse the ludicrous argument that overpopulation is not an issue. That really is just plain stupidity and denial of the obvious

Posted by: Bruce at June 28, 2010 11:03 PM

Even IF the population grows significantly, most likely new science and technology will be developed to accommodate more humans. This has been happening for centuries, and technology's capabilities relative to the amount of potential damage done will only improve in the future.

And even if damage to Earth DOES continue at increasingly faster rate, leaving people to die who could be kept alive is morally wrong. Therefore overpopulation cannot be used as an argument to extend lifespan. In fact, nothing can in a humane society. If damage runs out of control, a change in lifestyle, birth control or emigration are required.

Posted by: Lennart van Haaften at July 29, 2010 4:48 AM

When considering the question of overpopulation verses life extension, it seems many fail to take into account the mindset of human beings living extended lives. It is very probable that life extension will actually reduce population. To understand this we must try to imagine the mind state and lifestyle of a future human being that has unlimited lifespan. Imagine that it is you. And you have a lifespan of around ten thousand years. You are also living in a world that is no longer breeding focused, as today's world is. There are many things to keep you occupied and fulfilled other than family life. Now the question I will ask you is: "when are you (if at all) going to have children?". The answer of a person today, that lives till 80, and of a woman is only able to have children till around 40, would say in the first third of their life, by necessity. But if you are going to live beyond ten thousand years, and be fertile all that time, your answer would not be the same. It might again be in the first third of your life, but that would be in three thousand years time! Already we see men and women delaying having children until the very last possible time. This delaying urge, will only be extended as our life term increases. It is entirely within logic, and is most logical, that radical life extension will produce a large decrease in population as people decide to delay having children indefinitely.
Along with this delay, it follows that the family unit, and also, man women relationships will move away from the present state which is driven by necessary breeding and expansive capitalism, both of which will no longer be necessary or possible in the future.
Of course I am aware that if human beings live indefinitely, and do not have children, technically there will be no decrease in population. But this is not taking into account, death by accident, which will reduce the population if no children are being produced. Of course, when nano technology is combined into our cells, they could redesign cells to be resistant to damage from most or all accidents and thus we would become almost immortal. Then, faced with the prospect of living indefinitely, with an expanded consciousness (via technology and using our brain fully[i.e. using the right brain more]) so we are not forced through boredom to have children, how would we then answer that question, "when will we have children".

Posted by: W Henderson at September 23, 2010 6:06 AM

This is one of the most uninformed aricles i have read in years.
I see some of the comments left actually agree with this idiotic statement, and some have the intellegence to know that overpopulation is the main cause of our planets problems.
The human race will be the cause of its own downfall, it is already happening, world hunger is becoming more and more of a problem.
Global warming is all due to us, not because of earths natural cycle.
More and more species are becoming extinct because of us.
Earth can only sustain so much life, and the dreamers among you that think we will soon be moving to another planet to go F that up as well, WAKE UP! That won't be happening in your lifetime maybe not even your childrens lifetime.
Instead of partaking in such ridiculous debates such as this one, we should rather be working on a sollution to the problems we are facing as a species today.

Remember M.I.B. when the big cockroach alien said "You Are The Parasites Of Your Planet".
I am inclined to think he was right.

Posted by: Dawie Bezuidenhout at October 19, 2010 4:13 PM

I guess the question is, at what point is it over-population?

Posted by: Food Insurance at October 26, 2010 12:44 PM

Aubrey de Grey himself is on record as saying that it is likely that future anti-aging interventions will be coupled with sterilizing the subject as a condition to receiving the treatment. To quote him, "It will be a world without children."

The writer of the above article uses sophistic reasoning to arrive at a false conclusion. The fact of the matter is this: currently 100,000 people die daily from old age, and if that number is cut down to near zero (presumably there will always some who will refuse the treatments), we will have a problem very quickly. Yes, people have fewer children in wealthy first world nations. But most people still desire now, and will still desire after aging is defeated, to have at least a single child.

Women seem to be genetically programmed to desire to become a mother, and many feel a full life is impossible without doing so. Currently, a birth rate of one child per couple would lead to a steadily decreasing population. *HOWEVER*, that's not true if *no one* dies from aging. And it is this simple truth that unveils the false premise upon which this article is based.

I expect the author purposefully pulled the wool over the eyes of the gullible. I get the motivation for this sort of propaganda. A lot of people would be enraged at the idea of tying age reversal interventions to a loss of fertility; bad publicity for this organization if it were to honestly address this issue.

But ultimately, those who desire to stay on an ageless planet Earth will (for the most part; perhaps there'd be a lottery for those desiring to reproduce to replace population lost to other causes) have to surrender their ability to have children (with the caveat that I assume in the distant future we'll be able to colonize other planets and such a restriction wouldn't apply initially to newly colonized worlds).

Posted by: Bill Edwards at October 31, 2010 6:57 AM

If overpopulation is such an issue, it's time for WAR. Let's kill each other until there's only an "adequate amount" of individuals left so that people can climb mountains and be alone.... Are you people retarded???!!! Babies are born everyday, people die everyday - if you believe in the basics of what's taught in college it's simple evolution! We're evolving and changing the world with us - so what? If you're that concerned that our planet will die soon, figure out a way to cultivate life on another planet and quit whining about it. Life comes once, when you're dead, you're dead and why should it matter if you left the world a better place or not when thousands of years later we may not even be the same species or better yet, we'll all be dead. Why does it matter??? We're all going to die one way or another - the existence of man is futile or destination predeteremined - 200,000 are born into this world and from that very instance begin to die. Overpopulation is not the issue. Our expansion into space should be your main focus and domination over any other species.

Posted by: Death at December 8, 2010 1:55 PM

Bottom line, most demographers now agree that in just a few decades the world's pop will peak at 7.5 - 9.5 billion people, then fall for a very long time, even if life expectancy continues to rise. (according to the UN's population report, among many others) In any case, humans always adapt.

Btw, is funny to note that most of those commentators who don't like Reason's article are foaming at the mouth angrily and shouting ad hom attacks while at the same time claiming to be the more rational ones. (typical of Malthusians in my experience)

Posted by: Kim at January 2, 2011 11:05 PM

I'm sorry to say this and it's not a personal attack on many of the people commenting here but many of the comments are ignorant and probably from the lack of attention to science and math. No doubt the result of the public education system in the U.S. I hope when people live to 1000 they'll take the time to learn math and science.

By the way, are you worried we don't have enough energy as some people stated?
Nuclear power can provide more than enough for every person on earth.

Posted by: Konstantin at February 21, 2011 2:36 AM

I must say that overpopulation is a BIG problem. Some people may not like to blame themselves or others, but we are humans. It's time we take responsibility for our actions! People create aerosols and other harmful products which contain Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). These products are destroying the ozone layers that protect our own homes!!!! Think about, we MUST find a sustitute, and Quick.

Thank You,
Jennyfer M. 14 years old!!

Posted by: Jennyfer at April 12, 2011 10:40 AM

You are an idiot. Overpopulation is a very much alive and increasingly huge problem. Once the global situation gets worse you'll see how wrong you are.

For one, 25% of Earth's surface is land. 11% of this land is arable. Due to human exploitation, much of this land is no longer arable. The resources we consume in HUGE amounts are nonrenewable, and we will run out. Supply of iron and gold will be depleted in 10-25 years for example, and others are on their way.

Fossil fuel consumption and a number of other things increase pollution. So we're killing our home planet, too. Garrett Hardin said it right in his article "Tragedy of the Commons." People pollute without much care because we're self-interested. To survive SUSTAINABLY we need to partially give up the right to breed.

Burning possfil fuels releases carbon in the air, which contributes to the greenhouse effect and speeds up global warming. This disruption in the carbon cycle happens simueltaneously with the cutting down of vast numbers of trees, which we depend on for oxygen. Other human activity depletes the ozone layer, which shields us from the Sun's electromagnetic rays. If we don't collapse due to overpopulation, we'll collapse due to destruction of the environment.

Once population gets REALLY out of control, epidemics will break out everywhere. There will be mass shortages of food, resources, and basic needs, and the death toll will include millions. War can possibly develop, and the world will become a global arena following the motto "survival of the fittest; every man for himself."

Because so many countries aren't modernized like the U.S. and E.U., such as African and Middle Eastern, and Asian countries, they won't have the technological abilities we do. It will be even worse for them.

You should, no, you NEED to check out the pictures on this site:
http://www.bspcn.com/2009/07/16/the-29-saddest-pictures-in-the-world/
A lot of them show the horrendous results of overpopulation.

Also, it is scientifically PROVEN (and it's common sense) that every species has a carrying capacity, which the population it can sustain in the LONG-TERM. You have to think about surviving, but surviving within your means so future generations can also survive.

You also should take a look at history besides nature. History repeats itself. We keep pushing the envelope, but it's going to tear and give us a paper cut one day.

Humans are a corrupt species, if you think about it. We kill the planet that houses us and all the other species on it, and don't give a crap. We kill biodiversity. We basically are a mega invasive species nightmare of doom.

Living on Earth in the next 50 years is going to be interesting. It's going to be an era of transition. We're either putting up a fight that will go down in history, or WE will be going down in history. It's inevitable. Just wait and see.

Posted by: Adriana from Florida at June 19, 2011 9:46 PM

Hey, Konstantin.

#1. Nuclear power. Sure, nuclear power can do that. But you are missing two extremely important issues with nuclear power: (1) how unstable and dangerous it can be, and (2) the waste it produces, which is more pollution.

#2. Living to be 1,000 years old? LOL. How delusional. The only way we are going to live longer is if we can genetically modify our telomeres, which consist of a non-coding sequence of nucleotides/genes. They are at the end of our chromosomes and hold pairs together. Each time cells replicate, the telomeres of the chromosomes get smaller and smaller. Death happens when there is not more telomeres left, and the DNA unwinds. The body ceases to function, etc. etc. etc.. Scientists have managed to increase lifespan in animals like mice, but it didn't make a HUGE difference like you're implying. There is NO WAY we will EVER reach to live for 1,000 years.

And if people live to be 1,000 (which can't happen), imagine how many problems that would cause. There'd be even more people to contribute to pollution and many other things. Come on, screw your thinking cap on and listen to the common sense yelling in the back of your mind.

Also, lease don't make assumptions and over-generalize about Americans. Our public education system has its issues, and there are dumb people, but EVERY country has that. I'm an American (damn proud of it!), only 16, and just completely owned your comment using science.

Posted by: Adriana from Florida at June 19, 2011 9:54 PM

The amount of ignorance in both the original article and the responses to it is appalling. Overpopulation is indeed a grave problem for humanity, and blind techno-optimism where you simply wave a wand and give a link to the X-prize pretending you've come up with some sophisticated solution is nothing but amateurish fantasy.

However, being a frequent follower of advances made in longevity science (while also being an ardent environmentalist), I can say with a great degree of certainty that human lifespan can and will be greatly prolonged, and perhaps the aging process completely reversed in the coming decades and I strongly support all efforts to do this. The question of overpopulation and resource consumption will have to dealt with by addressing the issue of birthrates. Namely, how many additional people are we going to continue to allow to come into the world? Saying that we have an overpopulation problem is NOT a valid objection of age reversal or life extension. Longer lifespans are not what cause overpopulation, it is unsustainable birthrates that do.

So yes, we will need to address overpopulation, but we will do it by restricting birthrates. You have absolutely no fucking right to tell someone else that they have to die so that you or some bitch from Afghanistan can continue rearing out 8 children and living off welfare. My right to live and to continue existing outweighs any so called "reproductive rights" that the pro-natalist crowd laments about.

Mark my words, you have NO right to tell living, breathing, conscious, sentient human beings that currently exist to drop dead so they can "make way" for new generations that do not even exist yet and haven't been conceived of. That is fucking sick and immoral. Yes, we have an overpopulation problem, so the answer is to stop fucking breeding so much, perhaps even a 1-child policy. The answer is NOT to tell people to lay down and die or deny them the privilege of future medical advancements.

If you're serious about overpopulation, do the world a favor, and limit yourself to one child, or better yet, have no children at all as I have decided for myself. If you don't, then you are a hypocrite and have absolutely no ground to stand on in your vain "criticisms" of life extension from a sustainability point of view.

I hope this clears up some of the mindless bullshit that has been propagated in the last 50 or so responses to this article. I'll be sure to check this page frequently starting from now on to monitor any more emotionally charged outbursts and buffoonery that may arise here and will be sure to repudiate it.

Posted by: Technogaianism at July 12, 2011 3:31 PM

Looks like someone skipped highschool biology, or failed it.

Ignorance is our only enemy.

Posted by: kasia at October 16, 2011 12:48 PM

"Looks like someone skipped highschool biology, or failed it.

Ignorance is our only enemy."

Ad hominem attacks are not a valid form of argumentation. Try to be a little more specific.

Posted by: Technogaianism at October 19, 2011 4:36 PM

If the basic needs cannot be met for a population of 7 billion presently, why would one expect otherwise for an even larger population?

Posted by: eflb123 at November 24, 2011 7:04 PM

@efib123

You are correct that the basic needs for a population of 7 billion are not currently met (depending on how one defines basic needs). But one must ask themselves what exactly is the solution to this? Is the problem of overpopulation going to go away if we simply allow people to die of old age, or is the population going to continue to skyrocket because the number of births continues to outpace the number of deaths (which is the REAL cause of overpopulation, people that are already alive are not what is CAUSING overpopulation).

Are people more likely to voluntarily restrict their own birthrates if they have open ended indefinite youth ahead of them or are they more likely to breed when the reaper is waiting for them out of an instinct to continue to pass on their own genes?

Take a look at some of the attitudes present when it comes to the issue of catastrophic climate change or peak oil. "I'll be dead before we reap the consequences." But what if you won't be dead? What if people could live long enough to face the consequences of centuries of cumulative neglect with regard to resource management and environmental contamination? Would people not become more conscious of their own activities if those activities posed an existentialist risk to humanity (and by extension, to themselves)?

Why on earth would I, if I am educated and aware of scarcity of resources and impending calamities consciously choose to have lots of children (or for that matter, why on earth would I allow anyone else to breed uncontrollably instead of doing whatever I can to stop them)?

The point is, if we have centuries, if not millenia to look forward to for an average lifetime, we are much more likely to address the problem of overpopulation rather than the course we've been going at over the past century.

We have not yet cured aging, and yet despite not having done so, population continued to skyrocket over recent decades. Clearly, the problem is not the fact that we don't have a high enough deathrate, but that we have excessive birthrates, which is the ROOT of the problem. To pretend that by allowed countless millions to continue to suffer from the debilitating ravages of aging that we are going to somehow solve the overpopulation problem is nothing more than wishful thinking. If you want to solve the overpopulation problem, you need to address the root cause. Birthrates.

It is simply untenable and incoherent to continue to peddle the idea that millions/billions of people have to needlessly die (and make way for millions more) in order to prevent a catastrophe that will kill millions/bilions of people.

We may eventually end up with a population of 9-10 billion by the time aging is put under medical control and possibly more than that. There is a great deal of debate as to what the actual long term carrying capacity of the earth is to allow for humanity to live comfortably. It could be more than 10 billion, or it could be as little as 2 billion, or it could be a dynamic figure that could change depending on the policies and decisions implemented by humanity.

Now lets take a look at a scenario. Lets say that you are correct and that the carrying capacity of the earth is indeed lower than the population is today. Well, the end result could turn out to be a world of haves and have nots. One where a certain portion of humanity has endless youth and a comfortable standard of living while the rest do not. Even if this turns out to be the case (and I do not think it will), I would argue that EVEN THEN, it is BETTER than the current state of affairs where 100,000+ people DAILY die of the ravages and debilitations of aging.

I suggest you seriously think this over. Does the fact that millions of people are hungry and without drinking water justify the existence of millions more suffering and dying because of the ravages of aging? No, it does not. The experience of aging is not intrinsically any less horrific than starvation, famine or drought.

Posted by: Technogaianism at December 22, 2011 2:18 AM

This article's view that the planet could hold many billions of more people might be true. There are many places on Earth that could hold many more millions of people, like the Sahara Desert and Antartica, as an example, but there is one reason (one obvious reason) no one lives in these places, no one ever has, and that is because of a lack of resources. One day we may have technology to build cities there, but not yet. Also, every person on the planet doesn't just take up space. We all must consume resources to live. We all must have food, water and shelter, and jobs if you're talking about developed nations. If we have too many humans and basically consume the planet, many people are going to be without these resources, and many people would be without a job, which would lead to increased poverty.

Posted by: Matt at May 4, 2012 3:56 PM

It's foolish to think we will come up with technological solutions when overpopulation becomes a problem (like sending ourselves to Mars, new forms of energy, etc).

The biggest mistake made in humanity was when we switched from hunter gatherer lifestyle toan agricultural lifestyle. This caused the huge boom in overpopulation.

There's no turning back now... and actually this would be actually OK is the majority of human being focused on solving crucial problems and producing THICK value. But no, look at all the resources spent on Wall Street, creating useless businesses, Angry Birds, Facebook, etc.

For a problem with such a huge magnitude, with just

Posted by: Henway at June 2, 2012 6:36 PM

Paul Ehrlich made all these doomsay predictions and not one of them ever has happened or ever will happen yet the liberal leftists news media are alwaying blabbering his poppycock. His POPULATIONN BOMB was a big dud

Posted by: Spurwing Plover at June 3, 2012 9:36 PM

In Vitro meat is real actual meat that is grown using cloning in petri dishes, using the In Vitro process 1 cow can produce over 3 billion pounds of meat. A few years ago PETA was offering a $1 million prize to the first company who can mass produce it, it hasnt been able to be mass produced yet but its speculated it will be within 3-5 years and that will eliminate world hunger. Exxon Mobil invested $300 million dollars into biofuel recently, they are funding Dr. Craig Venter's research into biofuel, Dr. Venter is the man who sequenced the human genome using the shotgun method and finished the same time, except much cheaper, than the human genome project, and in 2010 his team created the first synthetic lifeform, Mycoplasma Labortorium, also known as Synthia. If you compare the landmass of cities to the landmass of everywhere there are no cities, that is a lot more land that there isnt cities on, besides, we dont have the technology yet to live n even 75% of the planet, we only inhabit a quarter of it, but the Venus Project has designs for self sufficient cities that can be constructed in the sea, if Jacque Fresco's dream is ever achieved than we wouldnt have to worry about overpopulation, starvation, or environmental damage for at least a food hundred years or more and we will have an even better plan of action by then. In the past 100 years we have advanced 5000 years technologically, experts such as Ray Kurzweil predict that in the next 100 years it will be closer to 20000 years of progress since technology progresses exponentially, as in not only is it getting faster but its getting faster faster, if you want proof compare the past 30 years with the 30 years before it, next year we will have augmented reality glasses, its Google's Project Glass, even 30 years ago most of the things we have today were pure science fiction, and most things that were science fiction over the past 100 years are increasingly becoming science fact. To all the people who have been posting for the past few years, shame on you for not doing ANY research to support your cases, most of what i said has been known for years.

Posted by: Brandon King at July 5, 2012 9:35 PM

"Solution To The World's Problems"
1900- 1.6 Billion People,
2012- 7.0 Billion People,
112 years- 5.4 Billion People,
Solution- Stop Creating Children,
The life you save just might be the one you don't create.

Posted by: Jesus Christ at July 26, 2012 3:31 AM

effective sex education which includes psychological/social readiness skills
needs to begin in earnest in our public school system, starting in the 5th grade and progressively graduating as children grow and mature. This is nature.
We need to honor our seperation of church and state constitution. We have allowed religion to displace reason and common sense in our governance. school boards have hijacked sex education and collectively we all pay the price.
Pregnancy prevention should be free and freely available. A major public relations campaign will happen, showing the scientific correlation between over-population and planet distress. In the meantime, how am I being unkind
and uncaring,in my own personal life?

Posted by: anna miller at July 27, 2012 4:46 PM

You know, this article is so wrong it's as wrong as this (satirical) video. This video is making fun of the people who don't believe in evolution, but it's just as valid to make fun of the whole "Population is Not an Issue" comment that this article tries to press as fact. Phew, what a mess we have due to lack of education, and well, reason. Texas GOP is against higher learning skills too. Go figure! This is who we're dealing with folks! Can't try to argue with faithful people who feel it's ALL GOOD because, well frankly I can't think of a valid reason they have...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9QBv2CFTSWU

Posted by: GrogMyzer at September 18, 2012 1:52 PM

I would like to point out that the reason our bodies age is due to the fact that we breathe oxygen. Also, we still cannot fully understand the human brain, and unlike all of our other organs, there is no way to replace the human brain once it has deteriorated. And this thing with synthesized foods created from nothing? Has anyone done any outside reading beyond this? We know for a fact that these synthesized and processed foods are far worse for our bodies than previously thought and its the reason why we are seeing increases in obesity, diabetes, heart failure, and so many other diseases. We humans are just another species on this planet and we must obey the laws of nature just like every other animal. To think that we are better or above these laws is the reason our species to go extinct.

Posted by: James at December 9, 2012 2:21 PM

Whoever wrote this article must still be in grade school.

Posted by: mynamehere at December 14, 2012 1:13 AM

A quote worth considering on the matter

“There is room in the world, no doubt, and even in old countries, for a great increase in population, supposing the arts of life to go on improving, and capital to increase. But even if innocuous, I confess I see very little reason for desiring it. The density of population necessary to enable mankind to obtain, in the greatest degree, all the advantages both of cooperation and of social intercourse, has, in all the most populous countries, been attained. A population, may be too crowded, though all be amply supplied with food and raiment. It is not good for man to be kept perforce at all times in the presence of his species. A world from which solitude is extirpated, is a very poor ideal. Solitude, in the sense of being often alone, is essential to any depth of meditation or of character, and solitude in the presence of natural beauty and grandeur, is the cradle of thoughts and aspirations which are not only good for the individual, but which society could ill do without. Nor is there much satisfaction in contemplating the world with nothing left to the spontaneous activity of nature; with every rood of land brought into cultivation, which is capable of growing food for human beings; every flowery waste or natural pasture ploughed up, all quadrupeds or birds which are not domesticated for man’s use exterminated as his rivals for food, every hedgerow or superfluous tree rooted out, and scarcely a place left where a wild shrub or flower could grow without being eradicated as a weed in the name of improved agriculture. If the earth must lose that great portion of its pleasantness which it owes to things that the unlimited increase of wealth and population would extirpate from it, for the mere purpose of enabling it to support a larger but not a better or a happier population, I sincerely hope, for the sake of posterity, that they will content to be stationary, long before necessity compels them to it.”
John Stuart Mill
1806 – 1873

Posted by: Thinker at February 5, 2013 7:12 PM

Wow, the ignorance of the person writing this article really pisses me off.

Posted by: Jason at July 15, 2013 8:01 PM

This article is funny. "Overpopulation will never be a problem". Ha, good one!

Posted by: Nicole at November 5, 2013 11:28 AM
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