I am taking an environmental conservation class this semester, and today we were discussing population. I've been thinking about a few of the topics we discussed and I am a little frustrated. The estimated human population is expected to reach seven billion by mid-2011. There is a slight hope that by the year 2050 the population will stabilize at nine billion people. If the current rate of reproduction continues it will be closer to eleven billion people. It seems to me that either one of these outcomes will have major repercussions for the planet as a whole. We are spiraling out of control and have been for a very long time. In 5,000 B.C. the population was approximately fifty million people. It took us until the beginning of the industrial revolution to reach our first billion (mid-1700's) and now we have added another six billion in less than three hundred years. I don't think it is a stretch to say that we have (or are on the verge of) exceeding our carrying capacity. This is an enormous problem and the proposed solutions that I often hear are short-sighted and rather aggravating. Recently, I heard the proposal (from someone that I respect) that in order to ensure that we will reach the goal of a stabilized human population (a replacement rate of 2.1) of nine billion people by 2050 third and fourth countries need to be built up and made ready to join the industrialized world (industrialized nations tend to have a less population growth). This seems particularly short sighted to me given the reality of the machinations that keep our western world running full speed ahead. The post-industrial west can't continue without blatant exploitation of the third world countries (both their natural resources and their human labor are essential, we could not even get out of bed and make breakfast in the morning without this exploitation). So how (and of course this isn't mentioned) do we bring the countries that we are exploiting up to our current level of exploitation without destroying every living thing in sight? If we somehow were able to get around this little dilemma the population might stabilize, albeit temporarily, because relatively soon after the stabilization environmental and health problems will become out of control! This will result in a major population drop. Human population growth is a problem RIGHT NOW and in order for industrialization of third world countries to even temporarily fix this problem, the industrialization must be rapid. This will inevitably result in reckless procedures from multi-national corporations that only see dollar signs (as always). And the cycle will continue. They will make millions of dollars while forcing people into wage slavery, poisoning the ground water and destroying the habitat of any flora and fauna in their way. And they will do this while passing themselves off as humanitarians, and of course "GREEN". I don't claim to have any viable solution to our over population problem, it is too complex and serpentine and I can hardly wrap my head around it. The first and most important aspect of a solution is the world wide liberation of women. Women across the globe must be allowed to make their own decisions regarding their bodies and child rearing. This is a fundamental first step. I believe that starting there, and using this as a jumping off point will point the way to a more realistic solution and not the temporary (at best) drivel proposed by the very people that are stomping on the collective backs of the rest of the world.
- Jeffrey T. Bumiller