Jason Slover

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How do we solve the problem of overpopulation?

Now that we have 7 Billion people living on the planet, the concerns about overpopulation, and the problems that go along with it are becoming paramount. Homelessness, unemployment, poverty, hunger, climate change, disease, the world economy, endangered species, crime, energy needs, and a great many other important issues are unquestionably linked to there being lots and lots of humans running around.

What can be done about this?

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      Nov 22 2011: Thanks. That was extremely helpful!
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    Nov 23 2011: Hi Jason!

    First of all, the increase in the human population has many favorable consequences, just to site a few examples: our collective intelligence is far greater and allows for faster technology development, if a deadly virus where to attack the world population it is more likely that our species will survive as the chances for a mutation that can save many individuals is much greater, etc.
    Also if you see the videos by Hans Rosling the statistics don’t necessarily present the world crashing due to population growth.
    So I don’t think the population growth is a issue nor that it needs to be fixed, actually I think it can be a positive thing.
    That being said, I agree that one of the current consequences of this is the destruction of natural ecosystems and extinction of life forms. I consider that to be tragic.


  • Nov 23 2011: Many nations now have birth rates that are only slightly higher than the replacement level and a number have birth rates less than the replacement level. The current issue is is two fold. Both the number of young adults and education. These dictate a population of 9 billion by the year 2050. In countries with sufficient eduction or a level of prosperity (Mexico as an example) adults recognize that too many children not only impact the quality of life in general but also place a significant burden on the parents to feed, clothe and education too many offspring. If you check (available on the Internet) reproductive rates by country you can find which countries are contributing to the problem and which are not. I would also submit that I personally find the following to be significant contributors (in addition to poverty and education)....A) The Catholic Church, B) Not recognizing that young adults, age 15 and up, are caught between raging hormones and ethics that don't make sense often. Holland, as an example, allows relationships (sleepovers) and sex is not thought of in the same context as the more fundamentalist Christian countries (who also have very high out of wedlock birthrates - Holland has very few).

    If I took a futurist guess I would like to believe that the world population will actually start coming down after 2050. The hope being that education can be put in place by then along with ethics that accept the nature of Homo Sapiens.
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    Nov 22 2011: We're supposed to live in tribes of 150 people, and tribes should be 1000 kilometers from each other in order to be at peace, if they're on foot of course.
    That's a maximum density of about 6 persons per square kilometer.

    It's not much, but with knowledge the Earth can welcome billions of people. The universe, in turn, is big enough for our procreating projects. Space or ressource is not the issue. Knowledge is.
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    Nov 22 2011: The key to stopping over population is to have less children. This is an obvious solution but it is a solution none the less.

    Another solution is to do nothing and just wait until we run out of reosurces, then eventually the other humans will die off just like in nature. This however is a moribund thought and I hope that our world does not have to come to this. Through clean energy and negotiations, I believe we can fit much more people into our world without changing anything dramatically.
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    Nov 22 2011: I promise this question is not out of ignorance but what is the issue about overpopulation? Like the real issue?

    From what I understand from many scientist, the world has enough resources to take care of just about everyone on the planet.

    In regards to resources, many people state that 7 billion people on the planet is going to take away many of our resources but this is actually very, very false being that not everyone one the planet consumes as much as we think they do.

    For example, the more developed and modernized countries honestly OVER consumes and take more than they really need.. The lesser developed countries have many of their resources taken away or do not have any at all. We assume that most of the world is really modernized and eat on a scope and scale that would devastate the planet and this simply is not true.

    I honestly believe that the issues with over-population is not really a matter of resources and people having sex but a matter of global competition and imperialism. We honestly do not run into these issue on about over population until government, political and economic systems are established.

    With this sort of establishment the competition becomes the "survival of the most productive" as opposed to the "survival of the fittest" and all the worlds powers are trying their best to make a profit since wealth in this case constitutes as power.

    I read a book in which it stated that over population is usually correlated with poverty.
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      Nov 22 2011: Hi Orlando! let me pick on your answer to throw some more ideas to the conversation. Yes it might be possible that the world has enough resources to sustain 7 billion people, but I would argue that even that is achieved to the detriment of other species that have lost entire habitats if not disappeared entirely. We should realize that regardless of how high we think of ourselves, humans are not the pinnacle of evolution, but just one more species, so this planet does not belong to a single species.

      But even if we were egocentric enough to assume that the world is for humans and humans only, how long will it take for the population to reach 10 billion, then 15 billion? would you still think that earth's resources can sustain this growth forever? I tend to think not. I think there will be a tipping point when we produce as much food as possible without causing damage to the surrounding environment and use as much fresh water as we can produce without (again) having an adverse impact in the ecosystem. But that equilibrium breaks again once the population continues to grow.

      I will try to stay out of the moral complexity of restricting human reproduction without consent. Mathematically, if every person in the planet committed to a single descendant, then the population would stabilize. (A couple could raise two kids, a single parent could raise a single child). But the logistics of it are mind boggling

      So i will leave it there, as a half answer. Let me know what you think about the resource constraints on a population that does not stop growing, the impact on other species, and whether you have thought about an easy to agree method to stabilize the population

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        Nov 22 2011: There are oceans to feed us, land to feed us, and space to shelter us. The earth provides enough resources for more than 15 billion people, we just have to make sure we don't destroy it.
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          Nov 22 2011: Hi Jake.

          When you say that there are oceans to feed us, do you mean that if the population doubles we should just fish double the amounts that we are fishing today? are you aware of the number of fish species that we are currently overfishing? Even further, even if fish could magically reproduce to the levels required for this over-fishing, what would give humans the right to completely consume the fish that sharks or other marine species might need for their own survival?

          Similar scenario with land, do you think that somehow half the arable land of this planet is currently sitting idle waiting for people to cultivate it? I would dare to say that humans have expanded to most arable corners of this planet and are already using regularly... The closest i have seen to expanding this potential is the concept of vertical farming, but even that i doubt that can solve the food requirements of double the population.

          Earth is not an unlimited resource. I agree with you that we have to make sure we don't destroy it, but if the human population keeps growing, then destruction comes as a result of over-consumption. If you have some data that shows that the earth can provide enough resources for 15 billion people, please send me links or references, I would love to read about it

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          Nov 23 2011: OPEN YOUR HEART. There is plenty for everyone. Enable education. Improve access to education. Build more healthy housing, build more and better food distribution pathways, build better healthcare, Improve distribution. Extend love and compassion to all humanity, animals and nature. There is plenty for everyone. Share the wealth. The only thing that needs to be deleted is the word "overpopulation" from vocabulary and the mind. Give thanks.
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        Nov 23 2011: I apologize for being so cryptic. We have many places suitable for farming that aren't being used for food but rather for products that go into other things. Ex: Corn for patrolium.

        And by my oceans comment, I meant that we will soon be able to seperate water from salt water and when we are able to do that cheaply, we will have plenty of fresh water for everyone on eath times 100.

        We have plenty of resources, metals, food, space, water, oxygen, etc. We only need to find it, use it, and in the process keep the world healthy and clean. Of course, we would only have enough resources if everyone used them responsibly. In Japan, they have millions of people in one city. Each person has less space, but if they can manage with less space we can manage with less food (too much food is bad for us...), less pollution, less cars, less metals, less electricty, etc.
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        Nov 23 2011: Andres,

        Thanks for making the issue clear to me and I can be honest enough to admit that would indeed be a problem.

        At the rate we are going yes it would not be that long to reach about 10 to 15 billion. I can also see how other living organisms could be affected by this as well and that is something that does concerns me. Perhaps, we would indeed be limited in our resources when a certain number of people inhabit the planet.

        The way our current geopolitical system are functioning and how there are many areas across the globe that do have a intricate economic system, I really fear that consumption, production and materialism a are bigger issues than over population since, as I mentioned to David and also in my first response, the more modernized countries consume more than what they really need and the lesser developed countries really have little or nothing.

        In regards to an easy to agree method of stabilizing the population I would have to say that it seems (i could be wrong in this) that if there are enough resources available many of these families would not feel compelled to have 20+ children just to make ends meet.

        Another thing would be that modernity would have to be more influential than religion being that some families have many children because of religious reasons (i.e. refusal to use contraceptives, etc) without realizing the effects that this have on the environment. Perhaps this would be possible with some sort of education.

        But I really think that the availability of resources(or basic necessities) is really the main contributor to this issue.

        What cannot be done is creating laws that would arbitrary tell individuals to stop having kids because then this, I believe, would turn into a human/individual rights issue.
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      Nov 23 2011: I agree up to a point Orlando... but I think you detach causallity from one aspect of your calculation... It's very unpopular to say this... but I would argue, that third world countries, are impoverished, and consume so few resources, because they don't choose to limit their population.

      If you have 8 kids, and one job, they can't all eat McDonalds, they can't all afford high school, let alone college... If you have 1 kid, and 2 jobs... everyone eats whatever the hell they want, and goes wherever the hell they want... Western culture has chosen to divert more resources to less children, while other cultures have chosen exploding populations, over planned parenting. Most of this is for religious reasons, and arguments that are incredibly outdated and obselete.

      I think it's almost unfair to claim that westerners abuse or overuse our resources, when in fact we excersise sexual control, and earn more for our small number of children. It's a huge sacrifice, especially for adolescent males, to basically, not go around banging whoever they feel like... And to say that when you excersise that sexual self control, your offspring isn't entitled to benefit from it... is a bit messed up. I know in some ways it's almost a scapegoat for western society... but there's also some truth to it... We have one spoiled kid, most countries have 8 starving kids... It's a cultural trade off, and it's difficult to argue that their philosophy works better than ours.
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        Nov 23 2011: Likewise, I could be intellectually honest enough to agree with what you say but I do have to add something else that is of importance.

        From what you say, I could see how that would be an issue and a cultural trade off but we must not forget that for (at least most) of these countries having more children is for a financial reasons. The more children, the more work that can get done and the more money coming in for that family. I do know of cases in which people have many kids for religious reasons and perhaps this is something that could be questioned.

        In regards to western countries, we may not be responsible for over populating the world but we are taking in more than what we need, which is why most people immigrate to lands that have the capacity to provide opportunity or at least they would hope this would be the case. The fact that U.S. imperialism and exploitation have devastating affects on the environment and other countries, I simply cannot ignore the issue of consumption.

        It may seem like I'm focusing on politics and stuff and not over population but as we have noticed both the population as well as the system of government and the economic system all impact one another.

        BTW if Andres happens to read this, I will get back to the interesting questions you asked but I have to head to work right now so just hang on tight.
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          Nov 23 2011: Oh, and just so you know, I totally agree that American imperialism, and mass consumption are out of control... We consume more than we make, and we already make more than almost everyone else... We're greedy, fat, bitches, right now imho, lol...

          I just mean that throughout civilized history, the model that worked for western civilization, up untill about the 1950's, was one of limiting population, and focusing resources on small families. Up until about the same time, we produced way more than we consumed... We used to be the great benefactor to the world. We've fed hungry, overpopulated, wartorn regions for decades with our farming labor.

          At the same time as we take responsibillity for our horrible self governance over the last 30 years... I think it's also important to not forget the things that made us this fat and rich, because people would like the choice to be able to be fat and rich, all over the world.

          I fear at times, that in many ways the fall of western civilization, is directly related to Americans, forgetting two of the core American values, that actually built the good part of this country, the puritanical work ethic, and even prudishness. I know that's sacrelege among my liberal colleagues... but it worked... for a long time. We built a lot more shit that we used.

          "If you work to produce more than you and your family consume, you're a good person. If you work to produce less goods than you and your family consume, you're a bad person"... and, "Don't fuck him till he signs a contract", lol. We were one of the first societies to really embrace those two principles, and for a long time it worked really well. We don't need to resort to going back there, but it would be nice to see a bit more appreciation for those ideas and values, especially in our youth, and I say that as a relatively young guy that's well aware of how much harder that is to practice than preach.
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          Nov 23 2011: Also, I'd just like to note, that one of the reasons I feel comfortable saying that those 2 particular things were good about western culture, at a time when western culture is, quite deservedly, being eviscerated for it's inherent inequallity, and recent corruption and abuse on a global scale... Is that I don't think those 2 are western cultural principles... I don't think they're white principles, and I don't think they're religious principles... I think that they are factual mathematical principles that are cultureless, and Puritans just happened to stumble on them at the same time as several other cultures.

          If you create more kids than you can feed... You're a jerk, you expect other people to feed your kids... That's pretty much just a fact. Same with, the more easilly women have sex, the more fatherless children you have.

          To say that because easy women create fatherless children, you must create a hierarchy where men are more valuable, and blah, blah... that's horrible, that's sexist, that's religist... whatever... but to simply state the fact that loose women have fatherless children more often than women who make men jump through hoops, shouldn't have the same sting. I don't think there's anything inherently sexist about that. There is a science to some of our traditions, and morallity, etc. that I think people no longer respect.
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        Nov 23 2011: "If you create more kids than you can feed... You're a jerk, you expect other people to feed your kids... That's pretty much just a fact. Same with, the more easilly women have sex, the more fatherless children you have."

        haha I honestly couldnt agree with you more on that one. Totally agree with that.

        But on a more serious note, I do notice the double standard: The less kids that you have and the more that you can produce then your a good guy. The more kids you have but the less you can produce your a bad parent. In a sense I can agree, because why would you bring a child into this world when you can't take care of them. Common sense would say that's not fair to the child but the bad thing is, we cannot tell people to stop having children without them thinking your being arbitrarily authoritative.

        And sad to say sometimes the only things that these people have to live for is their children or family.

        I do not see anything wrong with your comments because I do think it is something that needs to be address. As I've briefly mentioned to Andres, we have grown accustomed to maintain our individual rights that we often forget that there is more to the world than just our own individual lives. Most people would feel that they have every right to have sex, produce children and do whatever they want with their bodies and I think that is where the conflict is: Where do we draw the line between accountability/responsibility and freedom and individual liberties?
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          Nov 23 2011: .
          "Where do we draw the line between accountability/responsibility and freedom and individual liberties?"

          Where indeed. I think the solution there is that you can't decide it for other people. However unlikely it may be, we have to have faith that people (and governments) will all realize the responsible thing to do for themselves, and live their lives accordingly.
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          Nov 23 2011: Totally agree... And I'm definately not for mandating population controls... but basically, since we're not, I think our culture, and art have to pick up the slack a bit.
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          Nov 24 2011: Nice thoughts and discussion Orlando and david, keep it up :). I would like to add one thing here that growing population is an issue, but growing materialism is also an equally challenging issue here. Imagine a child born in a rich family, brought up with all the materialistic comforts of this world (and bringing those materialistic comforts to such souls we are working hard). and eventually grown up as person who brings no more good do society and keeps on increasing this habit. Comforts are good, and we all want our childern to be raised in the most comfortable enviroment, but we also need to keep a check that we are not making our children so addicted to it, that when it will come to face real life, they feel clueless. Regarding polpulation, I agree with you Orlando, that now a days, this issue is being blown out of the proportion, which can not be solved by mere discussion but we need to spread the idea with more energy and enthusiasm in the countries which are constantly making this issue larger than life. (Example India which adds an Australia every year in it) As far as developed countries are concerned, they shall give more emphasis on raising new generation in such a way, so that their next generation can be a value addition to the world and not just spoiled kids who adds to problem of society by their extreme consumerism.
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    Nov 22 2011: WAR!!! Huh... Good God Y'all... What is it good for?


    And... Absolutely nothing....