For many, it’s still a little uncomfortable to talk about overpopulation, and similarly difficult to suggest couples opt to conceive fewer children as part of any set of actions to reduce carbon footprint or achieve overall sustainability. A recent forum in Washington D.C., The Population Taboo: Creating a Sustainable Future for Children, will be the subject of upcoming episodes of World Population Balance’s The Overpopulation Podcast.
Uneasiness with the subject fires up do-gooders to admonish sustainable population advocates with the declaration that “we don’t have an overpopulation problem, we have an overconsumption problem.” We addressed that in episode 18 of The Overpopulation Podcast, (Over)Population is a Problem, and in our essay, Yes, (Over)Population is a Problem. At World Population Balance we routinely point out that we can only achieve true sustainability by reducing both our population and our level of consumption.
While we have demonstrated an interest in reducing family size (global average birth rates today are less than half those of 1960), few of us have demonstrated any willingness to scale our lifestyles down to a level modest enough to achieve sustainable balance with 7+ billion people on the planet. Alan Ware’s essay in this newsletter explores the math and offers an eye-opening glimpse of just how simply we must live if we can’t get over our “discomfort” with addressing human overpopulation.
Alan wisely advises, “We sustainable population advocates need to show the ‘it’s all about consumption’ critics a realistic presentation of how low consumption would need to be in order to live sustainably on the planet. The fact is that without a much lower population on the planet virtually everyone will be doomed to living at a very low standard of living on an ecologically ravaged planet.”
As more and more people become aware of our condition of overshoot, we would be smart to share this fact. My guess is that most people would prefer to choose a smaller family rather than to live the lifestyle of the average Vietnamese family. Wouldn’t you?