TED Conversations

John Taves

This conversation is closed. Start a new conversation
or join one »

Humans have almost always been overpopulated.

Populations grow and shrink exponentially when there is a difference between the birth rate and the death rate. If the birth rate is below the death rate the species goes extinct. Birth rates do not magically match death rates, thus every species that is not extinct has a birth rate above their death rate, until their numbers reach the limits of what can be maintained by the environment. Death rates are forced to rise to at least match the birth rate in order to stop the population growth.

Humans are no different. We have not throttled our birth rates, and have been in existence for enough time to have hit the limit.

This means that humans are overpopulated, and have generally always suffered the effects of overpopulation.

We can explain that fact that our numbers have grown, and stabilized, and grown, and stabilized throughout history by the fact that we have the ability to discover better techniques for acquiring our sustenance. When we discovered farming techniques, we raised the limit, and the population bloomed to fill it back up. When we discovered how to make fertilizer, we raised the limit, and the population is again blooming to fill it back up.

We must not assume we are not overpopulated. We must assume we are overpopulated.


Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • Apr 24 2012: It's not overpopulation, it's endemic, about-to-be-lethal misuse of resources and technology. This planet could sustain us all quite comfortably and then some, if we treated it with basic respect, but we don't. Why we don't, and how or if we will change, is another matter. We must assume nothing of the sort, not when there are plenty of other things around to assume. I myself prefer the qualitative side of the argument to any such simplistic quantification. If one person is shouting in a library - the library is over-populated to the tune of one person. But that does not mean that the number of readers should be reduced in response; that is absurd, and it is a pretty good analogy for your argument. Because a very small number of wealthy, irresponsible people and corporations are destroying us and our planet for personal 'gain' does not mean that we should reduce the number of us. We should reduce the number of them, if anything. Then, those of us who just want to live on this planet, rather than steal and sell bits of it, would be able to.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.