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Solving Overpopulation Webinar

Easier to Alter Population or Consumption?

Here’s the 4th installment of questions from our Solving Overshoot webinar. I’m sharing the questions we did not have time to address, and including any comments I received from Madeleine Somerville and Paul Ehrlich, our panelists. If you missed the first few installments, start here with installment one. Your comments are welcome.

12. Brian Sanderson asked: “Which is easier to alter, per-capita consumption or overpopulation?
Ultimately, if nothing is done, nature will force a reduction in per-capita consumption.
On the other hand, if the question is which we as human agents will find most easy to alter, it’s population that is easier. The data are clear on this.”  But it would take something like a century to get significant shrinkage, and we likely don’t have a century.

Paul Ehrlich: But there would be many positive results from starting immediately – fewer to starve, better education, fewer unwanted kids, etc.


13. Karen Shragg asked: “For both, Paul and Madeline.. how does this conversation change if the debate is all about water? We are over pumping our aquifers. Everyone needs a certain amount of water.”

Paul Ehrlich: One of the tightest resources, but very variable and a big economic element – wells and pumps can be expensive.


14. James McDermott asked: “How do we change people’s mindset from economics to ecology when it comes to family planning?”

Paul Ehrlich: Wish I knew – total failure so far.

Madeleine Somerville: Education and awareness. Documentaries like GrowthBusters and webinars like this are a great start – the conversation needs to grow!


15. Gregg Miklashek asked: “Population density stress is the cause of the top ten killers of modern urban humans.  I have a free e-book online, thanks to MAHB, which gives over 100 references proving this theory.  What about the work of the population ecologist working with animal models?  John B. Calhoun, J. J. Christian, as well as Hans Selye’s GAS as a population density-stat?   What could be more motivating than the realization that population density stress is already killing all of us?!”

Paul Ehrlich: Calhoun’s results were misinterpreted, including by me, but no time to explain.

The 5th installment in this series can be found here.


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    Dave Gardner


    I want to add a comment re: Brian Sanderson’s remark that it would “take something like a century” to see significant results from any effort to contract population. I’ve seen the math, and – surprisingly – we could see a meaningful reduction even by 2050 IF we got very serious about this. A global effort commensurate with the threat of the crises we face could result in a world population at 2100 of HALF the United Nations’ mid-range population estimate (less than 5 billion rather than well over 10 billion). It doesn’t take as long as you might think, unless we pussy-foot around like we’ve done for the past 40+ years.


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