The Core Problem Is Overpopulation

Now that oil is at $117, gas is at $3.50, and rice is up from $100 per ton in 2003 to $1000 per ton now, people are paying attention. However, few have caught on to what’s really the core problem.

Some say biofuels have taken food out of the mouths of the poor. Some say speculators are driving prices to the moon. Some say growing economies in China and India are to blame. Some say global warming is the culprit.

Typical is Paul Krugman’s article in yesterday’s New York Times:

…concerns about what happens when an ever-growing world economy pushes up against the limits of a finite planet ring truer now than they did in the 1970s.

For one thing, I don’t expect growth in China to slow sharply anytime soon. . . . Meanwhile, resources are getting harder to find. Big oil discoveries, in particular, have become few and far between, and in the last few years oil production from new sources has been barely enough to offset declining production from established sources.

And the bad weather hitting agricultural production this time is starting to look more fundamental and permanent than El Niño and La Niña, which disrupted crops 35 years ago. Australia, in particular, is now in the 10th year of a drought that looks more and more like a long-term manifestation of climate change.

Right on all points, but what’s driving each of them? Why is the growth of China so problematic? Why are resources depleted across the board? Why is the climate changing?

In a word: Overpopulation.

China’s growth would not matter if it had only 100 million people. More Indians driving cars would not matter if just 80 million people lived there. The world liking to eat fish wouldn’t matter if there were one billion people on Earth.

But there are 1.3 billion people in China, 1.1 billion people in India, and 6.7 billion people on Earth. Get the global population to 10 billion, a 50% increase, and we’ll see our resource and climate troubles grow by 50% as well.

I mentioned this to Kelly Letter subscribers last weekend, and the rest of this article is adapted from that report.

Stand back from the headlines of expensive oil, expensive food, and many other modern issues and you’ll see that all trails lead back to overpopulation. There are just too many people, which has led to:

  • Disappearing fish and other wildlife. From “Worldwide, about 90% of large predatory fish stocks are already gone. There are two serious problems: (1) We are losing species as well as entire ecosystems. Our oceans are at risk of collapse. (2) We are at risk of losing a valuable food source.”

  • Increased pollution levels and the changing climate

  • Resource depletion across the board

  • Higher casualty counts from natural disasters

We’ll see an endless flow of headlines reporting shortages of oil, food, and other commodities because there is no reasonable way to stop the population problem. Population growth is coming from developing parts of the world where birth control is either unknown or resisted. Much of the developed world is in a population decline.

It’s hard for anybody to look at their own children and see them as the reason for food shortages in Haiti, but all of us are part of the problem even though nobody did anything wrong on an individual level.

The “go forth and multiply” drive will not recede easily, if it will recede at all.

According to the United Nations Population Division, world population reached six billion in October 1999. Since then, it has grown by some 700 million people. That’s 2.5 times bigger than the population of Chicago, 1.8 times bigger than Los Angeles, and 84% the size of New York City. Each year, global population grows by 80 million people and all of the increase is happening in developing countries.

U.N. medium variant projections show that between now and 2050, the population of developed nations will decline by 10 million people while the population of developing countries will increase by 3.7 billion people.

Expect more fences.

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