World Food and Population Growth

Icebergs are breaking away from Antarctica. Greenland’s ice sheet is melting. Global sea levels are rising and temperatures are getting hotter worldwide. Arctic ice is thinning. The ocean’s surface layer is warming. Methane gas releases from permafrost and fracking as well as CO2 emissions are polluting the air. Mammals and other species are becoming extinct at an accelerating rate. All this environmental change is occurring now on our watch.

Nature itself, it appears, will likely “force our hand” to make necessary behavioral changes toward sustainability. At least one question remains open: At that future moment in space-time will global ecological circumstances have been so profoundly degraded and dissipated by patently unsustainable human activities that coordinated human action on a global scale, conceived by a seemingly sudden transformation of collective human consciousness of our global predicament, leave us without so much as a chance of establishing sustainable lifestyles and right-sized corporate enterprises on the planet? I have not abandoned hope that somehow my generation can still be a force for making necessary changes rather than the first generation that will not even be remembered. Now my generation of elders is flailing around, “jousting at windmills” and related climate destabilization issues. We abjectly refuse to recognize that deleterious global warming is caused primarily by the human overpopulation of Earth. If we continue to ignore this primal cause of abrupt climate change, how on Earth can anyone expect us to enable solutions to the visible threats to future human well being and environmental health with which we are confronted?

If we approach the human overpopulation problem from a global perspective, reasonable people can readily agree that the solutions to it will require a global response by the human community that is a species-driven response. But we have no species-wide leaders or instrumentalities of governance or civil institutions with the power, authority, capability, economic backing and political will to act in response to the requirements of practical reality: to limit increases only in the production of food for human consumption. If human population dynamics is essentially similar to the population dynamics of other species, then the limitation of increases in food production is at least one biophysically sound solution to our overpopulation problem. To achieve such sustainability, we will have to become sensibly organized by designing a coordinated effort that leads to humane changes toward maintainable lifestyles and right-sized corporations. “Think globally, act locally, regionally and globally” would become the shibboleth of humanity.

Perhaps our children will be the ones to save us, themselves and their offspring from my greed-mongering generation, thereby making us a remembered generation. But will that be a good thing for us elders? The children and coming generations may look back in anger and utter disbelief at us, our irrepressible greed and all that we have done, done to their harm which we so arrogantly claimed were exercises of virtue. In so doing we may well have stolen their birthright and mortgaged their future!

It is not at all clear that we have passed ‘the tipping point’, whatever that may be; that there is no time left to make necessary behavioral changes toward sustainability, that we have actually passed through the mouth of the ever narrowing river of no return. After all, no less a climate maven than James E. Hansen said in a recent interview:

I think almost everybody who’s really familiar with both paleo and modern is now very concerned that we are approaching, if we have not passed, the points at which we have locked in really big changes for young people and future generations.

Because the root cause of human-driven ecological threats appears to be the overproduction, overconsumption and overpopulation activities of the human species, we can see how these all too human activities are altering the organic architecture of the natural world and placing in clear and present danger the Earth as a fit place for human habitation. Even as total fertility rates (TFRs) decline in many countries around the world, the world’s total human population continues to increase, though at a slowly decreasing rate. Human efforts to feed a growing population is unexpectedly causing absolute global human population numbers to grow continuously and rapidly. Annual increases in the total food supply for human consumption need to be limited. Only the increases need to be limited. Setting food production limits can be carefully, skillfully and humanely accomplished in a way that will inevitably lead to human population stabilization. This approach is fully in keeping with Nature’s way of achieving balance among living things in the world.

My voice from the wilderness is too weak to be heard. How can any person in a position of influence among our rich and powerful leaders possibly be expected to receive this message until you speak out about what is true, according to the best available science and the ‘lights’ you possess. Speak out now here as if you are a million voices because so many of us staying electively mute is serving to kill the natural world and life as we know it.

Steve Salmony is a self-proclaimed global citizen, psychologist, and father of three grown children. In 2001, Steve founded the AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population to raise consciousness of the colossal threat that the unbridled, near exponential growth of absolute global human population numbers poses for all great and small living things on Earth in our time. His quixotic campaign focuses upon the best available science of human population dynamics in order to save the planet as a place fit for habitation by children everywhere. Read other articles by Steve.