Teresa Audesirk: Population boom
February 16, 2011
Steamboat Springs — Everywhere we look — if we are looking — we see evidence that the human population, projected to reach 7 billion sometime this year, is straining Earth's capacity to support it. In our own backyard, the energy industry clashes with those who recognize the need to preserve our dwindling untrammeled spaces. Nearly all of the wild animals that we love to look at, like pandas, whales, tigers, elephants and polar bears are threatened. Many scientists agree that Earth is in the midst of its sixth great wave of extinctions, now driven by human activities, particularly habitat destruction. This may soon be rivaled by global warming, as our greenhouse gas production inexorably changes Earth's climate.
Earth's problems stem from too many people using too many resources. Unfortunately, the messages we hear most emphasize the "using too many resources" part of the equation, implying that changing our wasteful habits and improving our technology will make everything OK, or at least avert major environmental disaster. Certainly this type of change is crucial. But the world population increased by about 80 million from 2009 to 2010, adding roughly 1.5 million each week. India and China (each home to over 1 billion people) are rapidly industrializing, and the U.S. is growing at a rate higher than that of any other developed country.
Few people in positions of authority have the guts to say that, no matter how much technology we employ, we can't continue adding people to Earth and expecting her to supply us with both the basics of life and the natural beauty that makes life worth living. Thankfully, that taboo may be changing, as each February more people join the Population Institute's "Global Population Speak Out." Let's work toward a stable and sustainable population while we still have so much that's worth protecting, to help ensure that we pass a healthier world on to our children.