The belief in overpopulation is an old one. Some green activists need to take a long hard look at themselves. Many would like to think of themselves as progressives yet they blame the world’s poor for the environmental damage to the planet. They adopt ideas that famine and disease are the result of overbreeding. For some, it is always a problem of too many of "the wrong kind" of people; be they blacks, Asians, the lower class, and any number of other groups. Hysteria and panic about supposed overpopulation as the main problem facing humanity has led to human rights abuses and much pointless suffering. The see a future with no future, blind to the possibilities open to free men and women. The greatest threat to humanity is the Neo-Malthusian and eugenics advocates.
So, is the world overpopulated? No. Alarmism and eugenic measures to combat overpopulation are entirely unnecessary. Humans are this planet’s greatest resource. Bluntly put, more humans equals more innovation, more creativity and more progress. Human ingenuity can help preserve the environment. More humans produce more. More humans create more. More humans discover more. Each additional human increase the workforce and therefore the total wealth of the mankind. We are nowhere near an actual biological limit within our environment. We have plenty of opportunities to improve living standards without destroying the environment or modifying the harm, compared with current practices.
The rising numbers of human as the cause of global poverty and climate change is a cover-story promoted by the capitalist class to disguise the real cause. The talk of planetary carrying capacity is put about to divert attention that most of over-consumption is committed by capitalist industries. The demand on the Earth’s resources and the ultimate driver of the looting and polluting of the planet is the limitless self-maximising of the profit-motive to benefit the top few rather than the 90% of the population. The rich are always sensitive about the sufferings of the poor; not, of course, to the point of being willing to get off their backs, but at least to the point of being glad to be told from time to time that the poor are not as poor as they used to be and that if any are it is their own fault because we breed to prodigiously. Such an explanation is a great comfort to the wealthy class. It justifies them against the guilt felt by all the miseries inflicted by them on everybody else and so they pour forth a continuous stream of propaganda about the over-population “threat”. The line has rarely changed since the time of Malthus. The truth is that the population bomb is being defused round the world. Even if overpopulation were to prove to be a problem, it is one with an expiration date: due to falling global birth rates, demographers estimate the world population will decrease in the long run, after peaking around the year 2070. It is now well-documented that as countries grow richer, and people escape poverty, they opt for smaller families — a phenomenon called the fertility transition.
Anti-science, anti-technology doomsday scenarios moves the debate away from actual solutions towards draconian measures. Our biggest problem isn't what we could achieve, but a socio-economic system that imposes limits on what we can do.
Do we have enough food for everyone? Yes. There is more than enough for at least 11 billion people without any increase in acres cultivated.
Is the food distributed fairly? No. Food is a commodity, grown and produced to make a profit in this buying and selling commercial world of ours.
Is there enough space for all the people? Compared to the land area of the earth, our population is relatively small. For instance, in theory, if all the people in the world were placed in Texas, each person would have almost 93 sq. m.. A family of four would have 372 sq. m. That’s about 4000 sq. ft., enough for a 2000 sq. ft. house and a yard or garden. No one is suggesting we actually do this. It is simply put population into perspective with the size of the Earth. Excluding Antarctica, global average population is 55 people per sq. km. of land area that’s 17.96 acres per family of four. In 2016, over 54% of the population lived in cities, which cover only 2.7% of the land. That means that 46% of the population is rural and lives on 97.3% of the land area. That calculates to 26 people sq. km. in rural areas or 38 acres per family of four. We understand that large areas are uninhabitable. Even if we assumed 50% uninhabitable, that’s still a lot of land per person. The fact that only 10% of the land is actually inhabited doesn’t change the picture. There is still a lot of land out there to accommodate and feed a larger population. All this doesn’t even count the 71% of the earth’s surface that is water, which is a food source.
Is the environment being harmed by too many people? No. Poverty not population, causes environmental harm and deforestation. Raising standards of living means people will be able to care for their environment. Rural areas in developing countries are underpopulated with migration into cities by the young and healthy, so that there are not enough fit and able people to build infrastructure and raise the standard of living of the rural poor. They already have population control by poverty. They certainly don’t need birth control, sterilisation and abortion.
Capitalism and the need for a return on investments drives environmental destruction. We don’t have to “solve” overpopulation, we only have to solve the problem of capitalism. Overpopulation is a simple concept that is horribly misunderstood by just about everyone, including our population scientists who are doing a bad job of comprehending the fundamental issue. The issue isn't overpopulation it's how society is organised to support and maintain its people. Female education, gender equality and the eradication of poverty will play key roles in creating a stable world population.
When is there a problem a population problem?
When is there a problem a population problem?
Well, when there are too few people about, for example! Reiner Klingholz argues that Europe is facing a problem of low fertility rate and ageing populace, which will trouble economies:
"High population growth, such as that now taking place in many African countries, is not sustainable. But very low fertility rates are unsustainable too. It will be hard for countries with persistently low fertility to remain competitive, creative and wealthy enough to keep ahead of their country's environmental challenges....It is important to focus less on human quantity and more on human capacity; not on how many people there are, but on how productively they live their lives. Working life must be extended and Europe must invest heavily in education, as fewer young brains will have to deliver increased creativity and productivity." (our emphasis.)
Note how the population issue gets a sort of nationalist slant to it and how it is directly linked to the interests of Capital. The population question obviously cannot be divorced from other issues (which does happen) such as changes in technology and production, as shown in this interview with Jesse Ausubel. One such change could be the use of farming techniques that give higher yields whilst using less land. There is a whole vista of new possibilities which could be utilised to their full potential in a socialist society.
Possibly the hardest aspect is that of consumption. It is becoming obvious that a large meat diet is taking a toll on the environment. However, socialists don't tend to make lifestyles a central part of their argument. Who are we to tell others what they should or should not eat? Rather, we limit ourselves to arguments along the lines of getting rid of capitalism so that the, at present, billion malnourished people around the world can actually get the luxury of thinking about what to eat.
The population question is, in the final analysis, inextricably linked to how we live and how we could live. It is up to socialists to point out that capitalism cannot function without economic growth and, since that is the case, we need a different and sustainable mode of production.
Of course there is a limit. Overpopulation may be a thing in the future. But we are very very far from it.
The little red zone, which features Bangladesh, Bihar and West Bengal, holds more people than the blue zone