Overpopulation – The Root Cause of Our Problems – Why Is It a Taboo Topic?

By Tim Prosser | 30 July 2014
Scratch Space

A recent poll of American scientists suggests that a large majority of them (82 percent) regard population growth as a major challenge, almost as many as those who believe that climate change is mostly due to human activity (87 percent).

Why is overpopulation taboo? It is incredibly frustrating to see so many people and organizations thrashing around over climate change and related issues when none of those problems would exist if we weren’t overpopulating the planet. The problems of epidemic and famine that will emerge over the next two or three decades will compound our relatively new problems with weather and increasing sea levels, and it is likely that at least a few billion people will die untimely deaths before the end of this century, all attributable to the human population explosion. Isn’t a focus on reducing birthrates worldwide what we really need? Are we putting ourselves at risk by addressing the more superficial issues and ignoring the root cause?

The population explosion is here now, and it is causing problems. In fact, we are experiencing many population-driven problems now. Immigration problems are stimulated by many things, but primary among them are the crime that crops up in increasingly crowded areas, scarcity exacerbated by decreasing ratios of resources to consumers (demand beginning to exceed supply), and the increasing difficulty of managing huge, fast growing and fast changing national economies effectively. Capitalist countries have the added problem of maverick corporate entities with huge financial power influencing politics and the laws, stripping the country of its natural resources, and manipulating and bribing officials, unconcerned that their actions and policies create poverty and economic imbalance. When conditions deteriorate in small countries as corporate domination, government corruption, and cartel/gang activity (enabled by misguided American drug laws) increase crime and poverty, people become increasingly desperate to leave. Initially they leave to look for better opportunities and life styles, but as conditions worsen they leave in an attempt to not be killed or injured by criminals and to escape poverty. (Most people like to eat!) When conditions are bad it may not be possible to move a whole family as one, so one or both heads of the household often go abroad to try to make enough money to initially help those back home and eventually bring the family to a better place. The United States is currently experiencing a situation in which young children are risking death and hardship in the most extreme circumstances to join their previously-emigrated parents.  Overpopulation makes poverty worse and increases the drive to emigrate.

Overpopulation creates scarcity, and scarcity creates conflict. Wars and political conflict are increasing, driven by the need to secure resources including energy sources, land, and water. That need is demand and it is driven by population growth more than any other factor. As the human population explodes over the next thirty years national economies will find themselves in increasingly tough battles over land, resources, and energy sources, and often those battles will become wars.

Root cause analysis is not rocket science. Anyone can analyze causality by simply looking at something and asking why it is the way it is. Then, when some answer has been found, that answer must be questioned as to why each of its parts is the way it is. This process is sometimes called “the 5 whys” because if you keep asking why until you have gone through about five levels of causality you usually understand what is going on and why things are the way they are pretty well. If you use this technique to analyze human problems – plenty can be found on the front page of any news site – you will find that a majority of them, possibly a vast majority, lead back to overpopulation.

So why is overpopulation not mentioned in the media?  Are journalists and politicians afraid? Certainly the topic is frightening, especially as one starts looking at the status of our natural world and how it is changing. It is clear that, within a few decades, our children and grandchildren will have some huge and terrible issues to deal with. But shouldn’t we be talking about the root cause of our problems NOW? To be effectively dealt with, shouldn’t problems such as immigration and war be addressed in full recognition of the contributions of overpopulation? Shouldn’t birthrate reduction be a prominent topic for public discussion, world-wide? Won’t our problems just get worse the longer we fail to consider the impact of overpopulation in the development of their solutions?

I hope you will join me in asking these questions more and more loudly, and of people who we elected or who are otherwise responsible for our lives and environments.

Global Speak Out Video

Overpopulation – We Beat Around the Bush

Al Bartlett – Democracy Cannot Survive Overpopulation

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  1. Consider the Hope Now Project. It can dramatically and voluntarily reduce global population in one decade. Further, it can reduce species extinction and take care of the children (and adults) already here. And it is more affordable than war. For details, contact me on Facebook (Rico Warner).

  2. For anyone with a brain, an acquaintance with human history and geography and a global viewpoint it is plainly evident that, over the centuries, the human population has grown at an exponential rate. And is THE fundamental factor in climate change and many other global ills. Each person puts a demand on the environment for food, water, shelter and other resources. Its a matter of simple math to add up the effect that 7 plus billion people are very capable of creating major environmental problems. There will always be a contingent of naysayers who, out of fear or ignorance will deny facts or things they are incapable of understanding. And then there are the stubborn factors that contribute to the problem. Religions, politicians, large corporations, all benefit from population growth. In religion, to grow the 'flock' for the faith, for politicians to increase their 'flock' and for large corporations to encourage the producing of more customers in the future. In currently overpopulated countries requiring outside aid to sustain their burgeoning population ( such as Bangladesh, soon to be inundated by a rising ocean) customs and religion still contribute to producing more children than a family can support. So we have at present and increasing on into the future, desperate people trying to escape terrible conditions by emigrating to other, more affluent countries. And this will not stop, but likely increase in the future. Most people realize the population problem, but feel powerless to do anything about it. Short of putting birth control or sterilizing compounds into public drinking water ( An idea to be explored as the situation worsens) there are things to do, such as speaking out, voting for the right people, joining family planning, ZPG and other population stabilizing efforts and realizing that you, I and everyone are part of the problem and should become advocates for turning off the faucet of ever more human births, on this finite planet.

  3. Oh how humans have screwed up this planet! I quote Nietzsche "Is man one of God’s blunders, or is God one of man’s blunders?", I think the former!

  4. It may indeed be true that overpopulation is an unsolvable problem. But that does not mean it has to be taboo to speak of it (as this article points out). If an asteroid were going to impact the Earth in 5 years and we knew about it, I think we would be speaking of it (and perhaps of little else) and this would be true whether we could do anything about it or not. It is possible to speak of the phenomenon itself without immediately trying to solve it. Just making the topic non-taboo would be a big step forward. Any real discussion, in my view, ultimately involves more math than (unfortunately) most would embrace. The essence of exponential growth is that the growth rate is proportional to the current amount. One of the signal characteristics of (positive) exponential growth is that a fixed time interval (say 40 years) always yields the same proportional change (say 2X or a doubling). These specific numbers aren't real but the exponential phenomenon is. When the current amount is relatively small (say 1 million) the jump to 2 million is not that big a deal. But when the current amount is 7.5 billion, the jump (using the same amount of time) to 15 billion is a very big deal indeed. There is a good article entitled "Human Population Growth: Stability or Explosion?" by David A. Smith, Duke University, 12 pages long, that gives a quite good mathematical explanation (it requires some calculus to understand). I'm able to get to a free pdf by a google search. One additional point that I'd like to make (correct me if I'm wrong), is that I fail to see why a 2 child policy is zero growth: this would be true only is both parents died at the moment of giving birth (to twins). Otherwise, say, conservatively, parents have two children at age 30 and die at age 60, and the same for the children. Then when the parents die they have a total of 6 offspring, so the net increase is approximately 4 (approximately, because there are two new people involved in the form of the mates of each of the two children).

  5. Looking up toYeast:

    This lowly organism reproduces without restraint until it has exhausted all available resources. Ultimately, it perishes within it's own alcoholic waste product. What would you expect? It does not have the benefit of available alternatives, senses to perceive them and a brain to process them.

    So, what is our excuse?

    By the way, the yeast forms spores, giving it the means to start all over again.

    Humanity, one the other hand, does not have a survival mechanism in place. What good is a brain if you don't use it?

  6. Irresponsibility, Greed, Overpopulation (The “IGO Effect”….I go, you go, we all go….) and Narcissism….are a deleterious
    amalgamation leading to the demise of (in)humankind.

  7. As I say- The more humans, the less humanity! This is the #1 problem in the world. Human overpopulation will leave many humans starving, diseased & dead as well as our fragile planet’s magnificent wildlife. Humans’ narcissism is ruining everything! I knew this 29 years ago when I decided to have only one child but most people only think about themselves and in doing that, they err greatly & all their children will suffer the consequences of their short-sightedness.

  8. The problem is not overpopulation the problem is unnecessary waste. Why are we still burying people for instance? We could compost and get plaques or cremate. Why are we driving when we can walk a few miles? Why do kids need more gifts for Christmas every year? The list is endless

  9. It's not a taboo topic, it's been used by the west to decimate other countries population for decades. Google NSSM-200. China was the worst victim of this conspiracy.

    Over population is not a problem, it is a blessing to humanity and to all lives on earth. With more people comes more science breakthroughs and more advancement. Native Americans had a small population and a clean and beautiful environment, but they were no match for European invaders, who had advanced weaponry and navigation technology thanks to a large population in Eurasia, that invented gun powder, compass and then ship building.

    We can reduce our population, and retreat back to lives like native Americans, and be sitting ducks on this limited earth. Or we can expand our population, and reach out to the space, other planets and other stars. Expansion has a future, shrinkage has none.

  10. Humankind has many wondrous, unique attributes that clearly make our species distinctly different from other organisms. That said, for all the spectacular ways in which we are truly exceptional, Homo sapiens is similar to other species of Earth in terms of its population dynamics. Human population dynamics is not essentially different from the population dynamics of other species. In this was way, among so very many other ways, human beings are exquisite creatures of Earth where we have evolved alongside other species in the general biological evolutionary process. Humans were not catapulted here from some other place in the Universe. We have neither descended from the heavens nor somehow become excepted from the web of life of Earth, our only known home, the one place in the solar system that has been shown so far to be capable of sustaining life as we know it.

  11. The problem is that when a country's population starts to decrease even by way of nature (people don't want to have so many children) like it's happening in many European countries, their governments see it as one of the worst problems to hit the country and the government instantly tries to reverse the trend by subsidising large families like giving them low interest mortgages if they agree to have 3+ children, etc.
    They do this because a decreasing population causes more and more older people (pensioners) to be cared for by less and less able younger people (workers). So less people paying taxes which have to support the pensions of more people. Also demand for goods and services would decrease along with a decreasing population which would result a shrinking economy, again no government would want that.
    Also the thought of a culture slowly fading because the number of its members are decreasing is also not a happy thought for a nationalistic heart, especially if the decreasing workforce is replaced by foreign workers.

    Of course there are solutions to most of these issues but first a nation has to admit and accept that they are targeting a decrease of their populations which no country other than maybe China or India would want. It's always the other countries that should decrease their population, never our own.


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