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Top Ten Population Essays

There are smart voices raising awareness of the global challenges presented by population growth. I thought I’d share some of the best. Is this list really the cream of the crop? I invite you to nominate other candidates for this list by commenting below. Listed here are the pieces that have stood out for me – some recently and some over the long term. I’m sure I’m forgetting some exceptional work.

Yesterday brought the official end to Global Population Speak Out, but clearly the chorus needs to keep on singing. I’ve been focusing on the population side of the sustainability equation during the Speak Out, but we need to be raising awareness of other ingredients for our civilization to achieve sustainability. I look forward to once again digging into other topics, like economic growth and consumerism.

Here are the pieces I recommend you read and share:

1. Treading on a Taboo Former Oregonian editor Jack Hart hit the nail on the head with this 2008 commentary.

2. Global Over-Population is the Real Issue Boris Johnson wrote this attention-getting commentary in 2007, shortly before being elected Mayor of London, pleading for us to get over our aversion to discussing the topic. It drew more than 300 comments.

3. Population and Consumption: Two Sides of One Coin Jane Addison writes eloquently about the destructive either/or debate over whether we need to reduce consumption or rein in population growth to achieve sustainability. This is posted at an exciting blogsite, Watch there for more signs of intelligent life on Earth.

4. Support Your Local GrowthBuster explains why acting locally is an essential part of thinking globally. (Full disclosure – I confess; I wrote this one)

5. Paul R. Ehrlich: Saving Earth An interview with biologist Paul Ehrlich. Ehrlich continues his tireless crusade to inject sanity into modern society’s blissful ignorance of what he termed in 1969, the “Population Bomb.” Ehrlich is as feisty, as articulate, and as correct as ever.

6. We Must Preserve the Earth’s Dwindling Resources for My Five Children The Onion provides an intelligent, if biting, send-up of… (I hate to spoil it, so read for yourself).

7. Albert Bartlett: Be Fruitful and Don’t Multiply Al Bartlett has such a direct, refreshing way of stating what should be obvious. If you’re not familiar with Bartlett, you should be!

8. Deconstructing a Bestiary of Malthusian “Miserabilists” The New York Times’ Andrew Revkin does an admirable thing – taking on Spiked nutcase Brendan O’Neill, who is actually planning a campaign to cheer this year’s accomplishment of reaching global population of 7 billion.

9. Overpopulation vs. Sustainability A letter published in the Paris Star declares overpopulation “issue #1.” Kudos to another bravely speaking out. Not necessarily the next Al Bartlett, but I want to celebrate whenever an everyday citizen raises the issue.

10. Overpopulation: The Real Inconvenient Truth Mother Jones fellow Nikki Gloudeman sheds light on a topic frequently avoided in the progressive blogosphere. A shout out to Nikki for doing great work!

Runners Up:

11. We Should All Pay Attention to Population Issues Obstetrician Richard Grossman’s list of reasons overpopulation gets short shrift in the public discussion.

12. Soil Erosion and Food Security The basics on the challenge of feeding an expanding population. Sadly, this piece – like too many – assumes the population will grow, and trying to stem that tide is not offered as a possible part of the solution.

13. Scientist: Reducing Population is the “Master Variable” A scientist speaks out about overpopulation at a climate change rally. Good for him! We need more of this. But take a look at the hateful comments posted below the video. Can we overcome that kind of ignorance?

14. Oil Decline Rate and Population Peter Goodchild opines that the surge in global population of the last two centuries was made possible by oil, and therefore peak oil means peak population.

News Stories Covering the Issue:

1. The Population Explosion The Guardian’s Leo Hickman offers outstanding reporting on the population issue, something too seldom seen.

2. Japan’s Cloudy Prospects for Higher Fertility I hate to rate this pro-growth, pro-natalist piece as a “top” anything, but I think it’s important to take note of the Kool-Aid being served around the planet which keeps growth worship alive.

3. Vital Signs Worldwatch Institute’s Bob Engelman provided a good factual update on population trends late last year.

And a salute to four publications valiantly going where most journalism organizations fear to tread. I don’t necessarily agree with all their assessments, but I am very glad to see them heading in the right direction – covering the issue!

1. Grist Senior Editor Lisa Hymas has been writing eloquently about population and her choice to be child-free, which led to the GINK (Green Inclinations No Kids) club.

2. Mother Jones ran a special report on population in May of 2010

3. Scientific American ran a special report on population in June, 2009 (subscribers only)

4. National Geographic launched a year-long series on population with their January issue. (Thanks to the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting for encouraging this and other explorations of the population issue in 2011)

Dave Gardner


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    Janet Brazill


    We shouldn’t forget the role that religion has played in this problem!

    “Overpopulation: The National Security Threat That Religion Promoted”,2441


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