My recent op ed “Is The Urgent World Population Limitation Message Finally To Be Heeded At Last?” expressed the long held opinion of many of my colleagues that the world had become overpopulated and that this virus was yet another symptom of that long developing fact.
Yet the commentaries from the many distinguished gurus I’ve read recently fail to mention excess world population as the primary de facto exploiter of our fragile planet’s limited resources.
Find a vaccine and go on our merry way seems to be the attitude of most, ignoring the burgeoning examples of our greedy and destructive planetary behavior.
Reading the views of Yale historian Frank Snowden recently I eagerly looked for his backing on the effect of population growth.
He makes passing mentions to population. Here were all I found.
Today, in the industrial world, it would be unthinkable that cholera could ravage the city of New York or Paris or Rome because we have robust sanitary infrastructures. In resource-poor settings it is different, because they have the kinds of conditions that I was talking about.
On the other hand, we are nearly 8 billion people, and we live in enormous cities that are hugely congested, and all of those cities are linked by rapid air travel, so what happens medically in Jakarta in the morning can happen in New Haven and Paris by the evening. With all these international linkages created by globalization, there is an opportunity for a very different kind of disease to flourish, and it seems that coronavirus is now exploiting this very condition.
How has our relationship with the environment helped to spur epidemics?
The world we’ve created is so populous, and also so unregulated and greedy that we have enormously invaded the habitat of wild animals. That is putting extraordinary pressure on them, so human beings are forcibly brought into contact with species that may be reservoirs of an extraordinary range of diseases that human populations have never encountered before.
We can see this in Ebola, where the palm industry invaded the forests of West Africa, felled the trees, and drove out the bats. There are many, many hundreds of species of bats, and many of those species harbor hundreds of coronaviruses. Many of them are lethal to human beings.”
#Yale historian Frank Snowden discusses the history of public health, how #COVID19 and other epidemics hold up a mirror to society, and advice he’d give to world leaders nowhttps://t.co/LRJ8LGpPOi @yale_history
— Yale University (@Yale) April 11, 2020
He delineates cause but doesn’t close the logical loop—that too many people remain at the heart of sustained human well-being!
He is certainly not alone in failing to mention the root cause of where we are going, human expansion.
I so often take pride in the fact that I was lucky enough with such modest academic credentials from my high school to gain a place in the 1949 freshman class at Yale which in those days of small depression era cohorts virtually guaranteed employment upon graduating.
Equally amazed at graduating, I and my Korean War era grads were faced with being drafted for the Korean War. I lucked out by going to OCS at Newport and 3 plus years as a US Navy officer trolling the Atlantic and Mediterranean on 2 old Fletcher class destroyers gave me a leadership grad course with pay.
Such credentials upon my Navy exit in 1957 got me a job as a trainee in a large NYC commercial bank where I got through the GI bill an MBA at night from NYU.
After returning to my home area in 1962 I helped manage a small venture capital company until in 1965 one of my directors offered me a complete change of career to become an officer managing charitable grant making.
One of this granting group’s major priorities was expanding women’s reproductive rights.
Since then I have had the enlightening experience of meeting many top leaders in that family planning arena and discovering how controversial and unfulfilled the obvious virtue of offering women equal rights remains here and elsewhere.
Ironically, those most calling for understanding human frailties are the leaders of religions who are frequently family planning’s most bitter enemies.
Lack of access to birth control choice and improved disease controls have zoomed up human numbers since my birth in 1931 from 2 billion worldwide to nearly 8 billion today.
Yes, finding a vaccine deserves priority but failure to limit human numbers will continue to create what will be unsolvable problems. Mother Nature with her virus has sent us a strong message, but we could humanely lower our numbers if we but got her message.
As Dr. Snowden notes, we share this orb with many fauna and flora whose well being sustains us humans!
Will our leaders ever get that main point? It is already very late in it being acknowledged just like our lateness in dealing with COVID-19!
From the Dissident Left: A Collection of Essays 2004-2013
By Donald A. Collins
Publisher: Church and State Press (July 30, 2014)
Jane Goodall @ Population Matters Conference 2019
Sir David Attenborough on Overpopulation
The Threat of Overpopulation
How the world went from 170 million people to 7.3 billion, in one map
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