…sex. Or rather the nasty, unprotected.
AP has released U.S. government projections that the human population will reach 7 billion in 2012 – a trend likely to levy even greater stress on the global food system than we currently face. Already, humanity’s food crisis finds more than 850 million people “hungry” – that’s 18 million more than 1996 figures. (And there was much rejoicing!) What, then, does this mean for poor families in developing countries? Well, impoverished families tend to use the most basic resources – more kids – to ameliorate their situation, for they often have little else. The more children you raise, the more hands you have; each child can commit to laborious tasks throughout the day – especially water-gathering, which can take hours for some families to complete due to prohibitive proximity from water sources. This holds especially true for agrarian nations in which multiple individuals are needed to work the family farm. So, a high number of children not only helps short-term familial security, it also acts as a long-term investment, for parents often look to their children for support in old age.
What’s the problem with overpopulation, then?
There’s widespread agreement that human overpopulation is the single greatest threat to sustainability, or the survival of our species. In 1995 the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) issued a report – the Global Environment Outlook (GEO) – in which it states humanity’s ecological footprint far exceeds the Earth’s ability to sustain it. (Ecological footprint measures the total amount of land & resources required to meet one’s needs.)
Overpopulation exacerbates almost all environmental problems. Most critically, it stresses freshwater supplies disproportionately. More people leads to greater rates of deforestation, as families use fertile forest soil for short-term subsistence farming. Ecosystem degradation and resulting habitat loss deals heavy blows to biodiversity, which scientists agree is critical to sustainability. When we appropriate land for agricultural use, other species lose land and thus energy, further impacting biodiversity.
What can we do about overpopulation, whose effects on the planet we cannot endure forever (/-much longer)? One solution is to wear a rubber.
But the best solution is likely to be more complex and, not surprisingly, more challenging…
Enjoy a bit o’ Grist.