Too Many People

By James A. Haught | 15 February 2023
Freethought Now


When I was born in 1932, Planet Earth had 2 billion people. Now it has 8 billion — quadrupling in a single lifetime.

Exploding human population causes many secondary evils: mountains of plastic in oceans, rivers and landfills. Flattened rainforests to make cropland. Giant slums around Global South cities. Air and water pollution from ever-greater manufacturing. Flood deaths as low-income people fill endangered bottomland and deltas. Urban congestion in mass cities like BosWash, the jammed coastal region from Boston to Washington. Ominous water shortages in drier places like the Southwest. Worse global warming, more erosion, more wildfires, more epidemics from crammed people. Swarms of jobless families from less-privileged Southern lands traveling north in search of better work. Etc., etc.

The manswarm has altered the planet so much that scientists have proposed a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene, to mark the era when overpopulation changed the nature of Earth itself.

Famines starved great numbers until Norman Borlaug created the “Green Revolution” by intense fertilization of high-yield crops. He received a Nobel Prize. But Borlaug later said his revolution cannot keep up with the continued population upsurge.

Religions that try to forbid birth control or hold women in servant status worsen the problem. Women with few rights have more pregnancies. Liberated women tend to keep their birth rates low.

The Catholic Church’s taboo against birth control is ominous, but most Catholic women ignore their priests and use contraception at roughly the same rate as non-Catholics.

The Catholic-dominated Supreme Court inflicted worse damage by wiping out the historic Roe v. Wade ruling that gave women a right to end pregnancies. The new ruling lets puritanical states force desperate girls and women to bear babies they don’t want or can’t afford. Such children often have dismal futures. The court decision put many Americans in a quandary. I hope science finds a way to restore women’s right to choose, safe from church sanctimony.

Wealthy, well-developed nations are nearing ZPG (zero population growth), which helps them provide the rewards of secular humanism — making life better for everyone.

Personal note: I adopted four children, and we took in 40-some foster kids of every sort — pregnant girls, runaways, delinquents, foreign students, a niece rebelling against her parents, and various others. Thus, we had a huge family without adding any digits to the national count.

Reprinted with permission from the author.

James A. HaughtJames A. Haught is editor emeritus of West Virginia’s The Charleston Gazette-Mail and a senior editor of the Free Inquiry magazine. He is also the author of numerous books and articles; his most recent book is Religion is Dying: Soaring Secularism in America and the West (Gustav Broukal Press, 2010). Haught has won 21 national newswriting awards and thirty of his columns have been distributed by national syndicates. He is in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in the World, Contemporary Authors, and 2000 Outstanding Intellectuals of the 21st Century.

The Scientist’s Warning

Sir David Attenborough on overpopulation

Overpopulation & Climate Change: A Seat at the Table

How the Anti-Abortion Rights Movement Took Down Roe

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