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World's biggest problem - Population

Updated on July 16, 2017

Thomas Malthus - provided the original forecast

We were warned about this as long ago as 1798 but have done little but pay lip-service to the threat.  It is real.  It won't go away...unless we do something about it.
We were warned about this as long ago as 1798 but have done little but pay lip-service to the threat. It is real. It won't go away...unless we do something about it.

In 1969 three astronauts looked down - or was it up? - to see the Earth as human beings had never seen it before: a beautiful blue globe swathed in white clouds - our home in this limitless universe. As we know, it wasn't long before photographs of what they'd seen proliferated, and anyone with any sense could see that our earthly world is finite. It's only so big. God isn't making any more land upon it. Yet despite this, there are still a majority of people living on the surface of our home in space who think in terms of "national sovereignty" instead of "global identity." They're still thinking in 20th Century and earlier concepts.

Global catastrophe unless we act. We can't keep putting it off

The world's population is getting to the stage where we really will have a global catastrophe if we don't do something to curb human population growth. When I as a boy the world's population was around two billion. I can remember my mother telling me that India's population was a huge 3,00 million - China's even greater. Both are a lot more than that now. As we know, the world population now pushing well above seven billion. Our species is growing to the point that this finite world will no longer be able to support us.

Advances in technology likely to only defer the inevitable

Oh, you might be saying: "Advances in technology will take care of that," and they will - for a while. But we have already passed the optimum population number for the lifestyle most of us desire: adequate space to have real privacy, and an environment where we no longer yearn for more. However, at present, only multi-millionaires have the houses, gardens, and private helicopters so many of us would like to have if there were enough of everything to go round.

Will we breed ourselves out of existence? Will this be Humankind's ultimate fate?

Thomas Malthus predicted we'd breed ourselves out of existence. That was back in 1798. In those days there were huge tracts of land that had yet to be discovered, let alone explored and utilized. Places like the Congo Basin and the Amazon Rainforests were seemed illimitable in their size. They were the lungs of the earth, still are. But they are lungs which are becoming congested. The very makeup of the air we breathe into our lungs has changed over time. There just isn't the same oxygen content there was in Malthus' day.

Forty-three years ago the prospect was frightening - for the young it should still be

I recall back in 1974, whilst observing an electronic sign on the side of Sydney Museum near Hyde Park, the rapid changing of two sets of figures. One set depicted human population growth, the other, the rate at which the world's forests were being denuded. It was frightening to see the rate at which those figures flickered as the ever-changing statistics were being promulgated. As I said, that was in 1974 - forty-three years ago!

What can one person do? The problem is so huge

Did anyone take any notice of these statistics showing the way the earth is changing? Except for a few academics, probably not. I certainly didn't hear it as a topic of conversation in my workplace. What was happening to the hardwood forests of the world was of little or no concern to people who lived in Sydney...or London, Paris, or New York, or any other major metropolis. It was a bit like people talking about the starving hordes in Africa. "Oh, that's awful. But what can I do? The problem is just so huge."

It's the "Think Globally" that stymies us. We're still trapped in nationhood

And, of course, the world's problems are huge. Moreover they appear to be insolvable. Furthermore, they are likely to remain that way until each of us begins to realize that there really is only one planet common to us all: that little blue chip in space upon which we all depend. There's nothing else.

So what can we do? Of course the problems of the world are too big for any of us to solve as individuals. But we do not have to solve all the world's problems, just those that are close to hand. What's the slogan? "Think globally, act locally." Yet before we will act we need to be convinced within ourselves that our actions are important. It's the "Think globally," part that has most of us stymied. For the tendency is to think as we've always done, from the centre of a circle in which we stand in the middle.

Let me explain:

Of course you are the center of your world. But break down those concentric circles. They're only mind-constructs anyway

If I were to draw a series of concentric rings, one in the centre, another around it, another around that ad-finitum, we'd end up with a sort of target with no edges. It would go out forever. And that, in a way, is the way we see our world. We place ourselves at the centre. The next circle contains those closest to us, a wife, children, immediate family of sorts. Beyond that we have the next circle: close friends, other relatives not quite as precious to us as our immediate family. The next circle might contain our work colleagues, neighbours who are not particular friends. The next circle...and so it goes outwards:

The media are as much to blame as anyone

My street, my suburb, my city, my state, my country. By the time it gets to the 'world outside our country the importance of these people, compared with those in those inner circles is practically negligible.

Let's face it. If you're an Australian living in Sydney as I do, how often do you take a look at what's going on in, say, Patagonia? Or even Johannesburg? Probably not at all - unless there's a volcanic eruption that kills 10,000 people, or an aeroplane crash in Jo-berg involving two jumbo jets.

World leaders are still thinking like Benito Mussolini

It seems the world is too big to comprehend what is going on for us as individuals, and this is probably true. Unfortunately, our world's leaders are also limited this way. As Mussolini said way back in the 1930s. "My country, right or wrong." Presidents and Prime Ministers, and Chairmen and all manner of Dictators are still doing the same. They are still unable to grasp the reality that Planet Earth itself has no borders other than those set up in the minds' of human beings.

Start thinking of yourself as a World Citizen above else

The media are just as bad. For example, let's say there is an earthquake in Italy and news comes to us of this tragedy. What do our headlines scream. Not 243 people die in Earthquake but three Australian were killed in... The other 240 get mentioned in smaller font as if they were of littler importance. Once again, it gets back to the 'concentric circles of importance' I mentioned above.

The UN Secretary General SHOULD be the most powerful man or woman in the world

This world of ours is in sore need of a world government. The rub is that every nation-state wants its top man to head up the job. The most powerful man in the world SHOULD be the head of the United Nations, as things stand today. But we know that the real power rests with the heads of the most powerful military and economic states. The poor old secretary general of the United Nations makes a statement about ways to solve a problem and the world takes no notice - or very, very little.

World Government or Aldous Huxley's 'Brave New World?' The choice is ours

Like it or not, we will eventually have embrace the idea of world government. As I said earlier, the world's population continues to expand and God isn't making any more land on Planet Earth in which to sustain the increase. It's either incentives to decrease the number of children born, or Draconian methods to see that this happens. But however it happens it has to happen or one day we will all go the way of the Dodo.

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  • Oztinato profile image

    Oztinato 4 days ago from Australia

    You are totally correct. A few decades ago over population was a big topic as well as car and jet pollution. Now these things are played down. Big business is addicted to all kinds of "growth" including population growth. It's good for "business" cuz it sells more stuff etc.

    Of course over population is one of the main causes of all our current problems.

    A very neglected topic.

  • Angel Guzman profile image

    Angel Guzman 4 days ago from Joliet, Illinois

    I was never concerned with over population but do find it amazing cities with over 10 million people. My biggest concern is city planning for growth, green energy, public transit, and the sewer system being up to date. It's true though over population is a very under reported issue but we can limit our carbon footprint.

  • Ericdierker profile image

    Eric Dierker 4 days ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

    It is a most important area that needs action. One has to note that without immigration the US is very close to ZPG right now and predictions by the '30s suggest an actual negative. Of course just predictions. Yet our poorer nations in the world continue to actually rise.

    Consumption and our ruination of our natural resources and wonders of our earth are likely caused more by those in closer to ZPG nations. It is extremely complicated. China's failed one child policy has not proven to result in a good male/female ratio.

    My son asked me what good is a fly for. Why do we have them? Well - it just shows the intricacy and balance that nature provides. Maggots break down meat which helps decay which adds to enrichment of soil, and they are food for other creatures.

    What inherit benefits of too many people are there? Perhaps in one place there are some. Yet globally that seems ridiculous.

    Questions and more Questions. ZPG is not just simple math.

    Great article and well written as always. I like your perspective.

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