Too Many People - Too Little Planet

 Arguing that the entire world population could fit inside the state of Texas is a simple-minded blunder of the worst kind.

Overpopulation - PHOTO by Cagle Cartoons
Overpopulation - PHOTO by Cagle Cartoons

Dynamic Beings

Human beings are not static numbers that fit neatly into static theoretical spaces. We are dynamic organisms. Our existences extend beyond the boundaries of our anatomical flesh and beyond the fences of our property allotments. We move and travel. We escape, roam and migrate.

Even if some people never venture beyond certain stomping grounds, they imagine open land that could receive them, and they welcome the idea of space intervals that cushion them from other human clusters.

An individual human being also requires far more than a designated spatial area that contains his or her physiological form. Each human requires supporting lands for food production, product manufacturing, water treatment, transportation channels, communication infrastructure, power production and all the other requirements of a highly materialistic, consumptive species.

Aside from all this, space and time to traverse space are essential requirements of human consciousness – a consciousness that extends from biological make-up that has remained unchanged for over 200,000 years. Spaces to be different, spaces to disagree, and spaces to gaze into unpopulated expanses are as necessary for human consciousness as spaces to stand still.

Space To Gaze - PHOTO by nature's-desktop.com
Space To Gaze - PHOTO by nature's-desktop.com

Mathemagical Delusions

Jacqueline R. Kassun [1] is an example of someone who uses a mathematically logical argument to claim that human population growth is not a serious concern:

If you allotted 1250 square feet to each person, all the people in the world would fit into the state of Texas. Try the math yourself: 7,438,152,268,800 square feet in Texas, divided by the world population of 5,860,000,000, equals 1269 square feet per person. The population density of this giant city would be about 21,000 — somewhat more than San Francisco and less than the Bronx.

This argument magically squeezes all the world’s living human bodies into a small area, as if no further space is required to support them. This argument grossly underestimates additional surrounding space for utilities, commodities, transportation, communication and so forth.

As Colin D. Butler [2] points out:

Humans are neither computer ciphers nor caged mice. That is to say, while a given area might tolerate a theoretically higher density of human population than it does, the reality of human evolution in distinct groups, separated by culture, religion, and language, means that this theoretical maximum will rarely be attained. A degree of underused carrying capacity can be viewed as a desirable buffer around disparate groups, vital for reducing tension and preventing conflict.

Kassun, nonetheless, argues:

In fact, people do live in crowded conditions, and always have. We cluster together in cities and villages in order to exchange goods and services with one another. But while we crowd together for economic reasons in our great metropolitan areas, most of the world is empty, as we can see when we fly over it. It has been estimated by Paul Ehrlich and others that human beings actually occupy no more than 1 to 3 percent of the earth's land surface.

Martin Dak [3], however, points out that every reasonable place on Earth is populated today.

Kassun, thus, ignores the fact that not every place on Earth is suitable for human habitation. She continues to manipulate numbers in a misleading way, in the following argument:

Another fact: World population growth is rapidly declining. United Nations figures show that the 79 countries that comprise 40 percent of the world's population now have fertility rates too low to prevent population decline. The rate in Asia fell from 2.4 in 1965-70 to 1.5 in 1990-95. In Latin America and the Caribbean, the rate fell from 2.75 in 1960-65 to 1.70 in 1990-95. In Europe, the rate fell to 0.16 — that is, effectively zero — in 1990-95. And the annual rate of change in world population fell from 2 percent in 1965-70 to less than 1.5 percent in 1990-95.

Here what Kassun fails to clarify is that the population growth RATE seems to be declining. The actual NUMBER of people in the world is still increasing, just not quite as fast. Kassun also speaks of population decline as though this is a bad thing.

Gretchen Daily [4] and co-authors suggest an optimum world human population size of less than half of what it is now, which implies that a slowing of population growth RATE is a good thing:

An optimum population size is not the same as the maximum number of people that could be packed onto Earth at one time, nurtured, as they would have to be, by methods analogous to those used to raise battery chickens. Rather, almost everyone who puts value on human life appreciates the importance of quality of life. Obviously, many more human beings could exist if a sustainable population were maintained for thousands to millions of years than if the present population overshoot were to destroy much of Earth's capacity to support future generations.

People As Far As The Eye Can See
People As Far As The Eye Can See
The Vertical Climb Of Humans In History
The Vertical Climb Of Humans In History

Mathematical Realities

As the number of humans on Earth has shot dramatically upwards over a short history, the building structures that house humans have also taken the form of dramatic upward-rising crates. Something seems askew with these disproportionate vertical climbs.

Hong Kong Cityscape - PHOTO by Hauteworld
Hong Kong Cityscape - PHOTO by Hauteworld

Why So Many So Quickly?

Advanced human intelligence still serves primitive drives and beliefs [5]:

  • Humans have an inborn instinct to propagate themselves, which causes a sexual response that is all-powerful.
  • Many humans equate the idea of reducing the number of people on Earth with the idea of death, fearing that if we are not expanding our numbers, then we are dying. Consequently, our prevailing culture continues to view limits on human growth as unthinkable or impossible.
  • Human brains have evolved to deal with immediate crises only. Immediate impulses to procreate, prosper and increase personal power, therefore, continue to be the underlying drivers of modern civilization.

Cluttered Consciousness

As a civilization, we have become so accustomed to our dense-packing ways that many of us have lost touch with our physical bodies and behaviors. We are choking our very being with our close-packed housing, hostile traffic jams, and lifeless partitioning of lives into rigid compartments, which we then fail to keep in order. We, thus, clutter both our thoughts and our surroundings.

Clutter
Clutter

Congested Reflexes

A considerable number of modern people are fat, physically inactive, trapped and forever sedated by electronic distractions that create illusions of alternate realities. Meanwhile, flesh-and-blood bodies and behaviors extending from the foundations of flesh-and-blood bodies have deteriorated. Reflexes, reactions and reasoning, thus, are congested.

This state of affairs stems, not from lack of information, but from dominance of a culture that fails to support human movement, human behavior patterns and human spatial designs appropriate for healthy human bodies. Bodily ignorance and deteriorated reflexes feed back into the minds of those who design the architectural and political forms of future societies, which, in turn, foster restricted body awareness and further crowding.

Arguments like the one that places all the world’s people into the state of Texas follow as a pathological ideal ignoring the fundamental relationship between human beings and their world. Such arguments also illustrate the height of blind arrogance in believing that human beings have a sacred right to dominate the planet in as large a number as possible.

The Bottom Line

  • Crowding and clutter are simply ugly. Past a certain population limit, the more humans in existence, the more of this sort of ugliness prevails.
  • Human political and social systems cannot distribute wealth fairly, and this will not change. Past a certain population limit, the more humans in existence, the worse this disparity will be.
  • Human political and social systems cannot elegantly manage exceedingly large numbers of people. Bureaucratic overload and governmental failure obviously increase, as the numbers of people increases past a certain population limit [6].

An optimum population on the planet encourages more resources for fewer people, where each individual has greater significance and purpose in society, greater space to benefit from other species of life, and greater opportunity to explore the full potential of being alive.

REFERENCES

1. Jacqueline R. Kasun (1998), Too Many People?, ENVOY [website]

http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/population/pc0001.html

.

2. Colin D. Butler (December 2004), Human Carrying Capacity And Human Health, PLoS MED, [published online]

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC539046/

.

3. Martin Dak (30 April 2010), Causes And Consequences Of Overpopulation, LUCID PAGES [website – Charles Sander, publisher]

http://www.lucidpages.com/doom.html

.

4. Gretchen C. Daily, Anne H. Ehrlich, and Paul R. Ehrlich (1993), Optimum Human Population Size, RACE, POVERTY AND THE ENVIRONMENT [online journal]

http://www.urbanhabitat.org/node/955

.

5. CANADIAN ASSOCIATION FOR THE CLUB OF ROME PROCEEDINGS,

ANALYSIS OF THE HUMAN PREDICAMENT, Series 3 / Number 8 (May 2006)

http://www.clubofrome.at/news/sup2006/dl_cacor_proceedings_may_06.pdf

.

6. Charles C. Mann (February 1993). How Many Is Too Many, THE ATLANTIC MONTLY, vol 271, no 2, p 47 - 67

http://www.theatlantic.com/past/issues/93feb/mann1.htm

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Comments 6 comments

CWanamaker profile image

CWanamaker 5 years ago from Arizona

This is really interesting to think about. There WILL come a point when there are just too many people on this planet. Where will we house them? How will feed them all? Many great books and movies have played out these scenarios for us. Remember Soylent Green? Perhaps by then we will have either solved the problems or destroyed ourselves with greed, war, and waste. Sadly, I think its more likely that we will destroy ourselves or become a victim of a worldwide catastrophe before we run out of space for everyone.

The idea that everyone needs 1250 sqft of space is simply ludicrous, as you have pointed out. People need way more space than that. You would have to factor in such things as roads, parking lots, farm fields, stores, utilities, etc on a per person basis to get a more accurate figure. Great Hub, really got me thinking.


Robert Kernodle profile image

Robert Kernodle 5 years ago Author

Greed, gluttany, clutter and selfishness deform great minds into fostering delusions of human supreme righteousness.

On the cosmic scale, we are insects, and insects of the thinking kind can wipe themselves out by the exagerated multitude of their very being.

Well, that reads a bit dramatically, but, really, the truth is quite level headed.

Robert


CWanamaker profile image

CWanamaker 5 years ago from Arizona

People are driven to collect things. They have a desire to want what they don't have. A person's success and status in life is often measured by the amount of "stuff" they have. In reality, wealth is unnecessary. People need to rise above themselves and see the big picture. There is more to life than materialism.


Robert Kernodle profile image

Robert Kernodle 5 years ago Author

The concept of "wealth" is NOT a bad one. The orthodox DEFINITION of "wealth", however, is.

Unfortunately, too many planners equate "wealth" to "stuff", which results in clutter.

In the minds of leaders who control supposedly civilized governments, "wealth" means fullness, while poverty means emptiness. Civilized beings, thus, favor exagerated projects that fill things up with stuff, as opposed to practicing habits that maintain intervals of emptiness, in order to avoid the suffocating effects of clutter.

I consider open land a source of wealth, for example. I consider silence a source of wealth.

Wide clearances, both in space and in time, are hallmarks of truly advanced civilizations, in my opinion. There needs to be more emphasis on rhythms, balances, and proportions, with less emphasis on production and accumulation of things.

Robert


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America

I've shared this one!


Achim Wolf 3 years ago

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen

Do you want to contribute something to solve the biggest problem of humankind? Then sign our petition under the world's largest platform change.org:

http://www.change.org/de/Petitionen/weltweite-gebu...

Would you like to spread these informations on your homepage, on TV and radio stations, in social medias etc und support this campaign., if possible?

The German physicist, aerospace physician, writer and television presenter Heinz Haber wrote in 1973 that a planet the size of our Earth should not be populated with more than 500 million human beings in order to maintain a harmonious balance between human beings and nature. Today (June 2013 ) we have, with (officially listed ) 7.2 billion human beings, reached more than 14 times this guideline value, and an end of this population growth is not in sight! A huge mass of unemployment and the collapse of our prosperity will be further consequences. A worldwide, mandatory birth control for all countries of Earth is urgent, if we want the impending climate catastrophe to weaken somewhat.

Even the UN IPCC has recognised the danger in its fifth World Climate Report, but played it down by only predicting a higher sea level rise than previously prognosticated. The world however is in store for an unprecedented climate catastrophe which will bring us human beings - even in Europe! - primeval conditions. According to a current campaign at the world's largest petition platform "change.org", the reasons for this are obvious, but are ignored and tabooed as a result of ignorance, cowardice and lust for might.

Quote from a proponent of the petition:

"The overpopulation of Earth is a huge disaster and shows the picture of an egoistical thinking human being who doesn't care the slightest bit about his/her environment and who has raised the fulfilment of his/her desires to be the supreme principle of his/her life. The quality of the future life of all human beings is inseparably connected with the state of nature. The unrestrained plundering, exploitation and the therewith accompanying destruction, devastation and poisoning of the soil, air and water, caused by the huge demand for foodstuffs and goods of all kind of a still explosively growing population, presents the human beings with unsolvable problems. Overpopulation is not a taboo word, rather the exact term for an excessive number of human beings brought about by an irrational and irresponsible procreation of children, and which nature can no longer cope with. There should only be as many human beings living in a country as it can also sustain from its own resources. In addition the fauna and flora must also have enough space to expand in order to fulfil their vital functions in a good functioning ecosystem. This shows that all countries of Earth are overpopulated and need to do something about it. The control of the overpopulation does not mean that human beings have to leave, and it also has nothing to do with racism, but rather it demands of the human being, regardless of his/her colour, that a reasonable birth regulation must be strongly striven for and carried out for the benefit of all human beings and all life on our planet."

With best regards from Germany

Achim Wolf

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