"Pollution begins not in the family bedroom, but in the corporate boardroom." – Barry Commoner
There are people who consider the population problem the most important and pressing problem. The world is not overcrowded at all. There are vast swaths of unpopulated land all over the place. Siberia, Canada, Africa, Australia, even the rural USA all contain more than enough wide open spaces. So why do people labor so resolutely under this delusion? On the issue of population and ‘overpopulation’ many environmentalists claim that a key cause of environmental damage is too many people. By blaming the poor for population growth and working people in richer countries for consumption, over-populationists falsely analyse the causes, avoid challenging the system, capitalism. If we misdiagnose the illness, at best we will waste precious time on ineffective cures; at worst, we will make the crises worse. Those who believe that slowing population growth will stop or slow environmental destruction are ignoring these real and immediate threats to life on our planet. Corporations and armies aren't polluting the world and destroying ecosystems because there are too many people, but because it is profitable to do so. The over-population myth has been used to distract attention from the roots of ecological crisis in a destructive economic system and to shift the blame for problems such as climate change on to the poor.
The answer to environmental damage does not lie with the number of people. It lies with how production is organised, what technology is used, how decisions are made and by whom, and how wealth and goods are distributed. What socialists say is that in an ecologically rational and socially just world, where large families aren't an economic necessity for hundreds of millions of people, population will stabilise. The advocates of the over-population argument weaken efforts to build an effective global movement against ecological destruction: It divides our forces, by blaming the principal victims of the crisis for problems they did not cause. They ignore the massively destructive role of an irrational economic and social system that has gross waste and devastation built into it.
If all the available clean technology was used, pollution and CO2 releases would be drastically reduced. Combining this with ending the overly excessive luxury consumption of the rich and military waste would have a dramatic impact. Many in the environmental movements either do not want to overturn capitalism or do not believe it is possible. Instead, they chase a dead-end policy of population control which only allows the causes of environmental destruction to continue. It is also obvious that the green “racists” are making use of the fear of overpopulation for vile ends.
Dr. Jacqueline Kasun, professor of economics at Humboldt State University in California, observes in her 1988 book The War Against Population that:
No more than 1-3% of the Earth's ice-free land area is occupied by humans.
Less than 11% of the Earth's ice-free land area is used for agriculture.
Somewhere between 8 and 22 times the current world population could support itself at the present standard of living, using present technology.
This leaves 50% of the Earth's land surface open to wildlife and conservation areas.
The lower limit of 8 times the current population (about 44 billion) has been considered as being perfectly workable.
According to Dr. Kasun, "better yields and/or the use of a larger share of the land area would support over 40 billion persons."
Former Harvard Center for Population Studies Director Roger Revelle estimated that the agricultural resources of the world were capable of providing an adequate diet (2,500 kilocalories per day) for 40 billion people, and that it would require the use of less than 25% of the Earth's ice-free land area.
Those who worry about overpopulation tend to view people as nothing more than consumers. Resources are finite; humans consume resources. Therefore, fewer humans will mean more resources to go around. This is the core idea also behind the opposition to immigration. Namely, the fear that more people will mean less work and less wealth for the rest of us. The conclusion is incorrect. The reason is that humans are not merely consumers. Every consumer is also a producer as well, and production is how we have improved our standards of living from the dawn of man till today. Every luxury, every great invention, every work of art, every modern convenience that we enjoy was the product of a mind – in some cases, of more than one. It then stands to reason that the more minds there are, the more innovations we will have as well. A reductio ad absudum reveals the obvious truth that a cure for cancer is more likely to emerge from a society of a billion people than from one of only a handful of individuals. Resources are finite; humans consume resources; humans produce resources; therefore, if humans produce more resources than they consume, a greater population will be beneficial to the species.
The celebration of low populations in the environmentalist movement is fundamentally anti-human based upon an unfounded bias against humanity. The disappointing reality is that there exist too many environmentalists who believe that the world is already “full up.”
Ecologist Barry Commoner commented, the over-populationist solutions to environmental destruction are “equivalent to attempting to save a leaking ship by lightening the load by forcing passengers overboard. One is constrained to ask if there is not something wrong with the ship.” The question that these over-populationists within the environmentalist movement tend to ignore.