MANY PEOPLE WILL MAKE THIS NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTION?
by Whit Gibbons
January 2, 2005
New Year's environmental resolutions is always easy because everyone knows
that having healthy ecosystems increases our chances of having healthy
lives. But what if we had only one problem to solve, instead of a whole
list? We are in luck. As has been true for decades, a single phenomenon
is the root of all our environmental problems. My suggestion is that we
each make a New Year's environmental resolution to have an open mind and
accept a simple fact: we have too many people, and we need a better plan
for the future.
environmental issues can identify a variety of critical environmental
issues in the United States or worldwide. Invasive species, alteration
of natural habitats, and excessive environmental pollution are three obvious
ones. Human overpopulation is the primary culprit for all three.
exotic species like fire ants and chestnut blight are here because people
brought them to us. Today, invasive species come and go in all directions
around the globe. We send or carry living things to other continents constantly,
on purpose or unknowingly. A world with fewer people would be a world
with fewer living things moving around and ending up in the wrong places.
destruction of native habitats by unregulated development of housing areas
and sprawl malls makes us wonder how many of our elected officials are
in the real estate business. Adding people means finding places for them
to live, more food to eat and water to drink, more fuel to keep warm.
The means for acquiring these necessities have permanent impacts on the
world's natural forests, rivers, and all other habitats not already being
used by people.
pollutants continue to be discovered that have serious environmental impacts.
Obviously, more than six billion people worldwide, and especially the
more than 280 million in the United States, pollute on a grand scale.
The environment suffers, and we suffer, in proportion to how many people
are using the earth's resources and then discarding them.
conflicts must be considered in many arenas--political, scientific, economic,
ethical. But ironically, every environmental problem in the world today
stems from human overpopulation, a point people in general and politicians
and national news media in particular seldom mention. If we solve overpopulation,
environmental conflicts will lessen.
the rate of overpopulation, figure out how many people were on the planet
when you graduated from high school. 1960? Three billion. 1980? Four billion.
2000? Six billion. Today's babies? Eight billion, if we keep going at
the current rate. And remember, about five billion or more of the people
in the world today would like to live with us in the United States. It
doesn't take much mathematical ability to see that our immigration pressures
are going to increase steadily as the world's population grows, increasing
our environmental problems.
always solves itself in the animal world. Disease and starvation eventually
increase when a species becomes too abundant. Humans are animals subject
to the same natural laws as other animals. All of us should think about
this, for we can actually avoid the consequences of overpopulation by
controlling our birth rate.
a global plan of voluntary birth control and family planning is a simple
solution to world overpopulation and virtually all the world's environmental
problems. If someone actively discourages birth control programs in regions
where population levels have become dangerously high, is that person taking
a position of preferring that population levels be controlled by epidemic
disease or starvation, the other two options? Do members of Congress who
vote against aid for birth control programs in heavily populated regions
of the world feel the responsibility? Have our national and world leaders
given clear thought to the two options the world's people now face: either
birth control or starvation and disease? If you know of other choices,
I'm sure the world will want to learn of them.
So, no matter
what your culture, religion, or level of education, make a resolution
to have an open mind about how we can achieve a healthier population trajectory
than the one we seem to be on now. We'll all have a happier New Year--now
and in years to come.
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