World's fastest growing cities mapped: From Delhi to Beijing, interactive atlas reveals the speed at which people are moving to urban areas
- African cities - especially those in Nigeria - are seeing the most dramatic growth, the UN data shows
- The chart shows some Chinese cities are growing at around 6 per cent every year
- This is six times faster than London's growth over the same period and 20 times faster than New York's
- With global population expected to reach 9.5 billion in 2075, many of the world's cities are quickly filling up
With more and more people choosing to live in cities rather than in the countryside, many of the world's urban areas are growing at an astonishing rate.
This incredible map shows the speed at which people are moving to cities in China, India and Africa, with much slower urban growth happening in parts of Europe and the US.
African cities - especially those in Nigeria - are seeing the most dramatic growth while the US cities of Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Detroit are starting to see people leave.
With the global population expected to reach 9.5 billion in 2075, many of the world's giant cities - particularly in the developing world - are quickly filling up.
The map lists 500 cities with over 1 million people, and is shaded based on yearly population growth rate between 2000 and 2016.
Percent growth corresponds with darker shades of teal, while orange shows negative growth over the time-frame.
According to Berlin-based chart-making website Data wrapper, Chinese cities are among the fastest growing.
The chart, which uses UN data from between 2000 and 2016, shows some smaller Chinese cities such as Suqian in the north east and Putian in the east growing at around 6 per cent every year.
This is six times faster than London's growth over the same period and 20 times faster than New York's, which is growing at just 0.3 per cent per year.
Parts of Africa have also been expanding at a rapid rate, with Abuja in Nigeria seeing a 7 per cent annual increase between 2000 and 2016.
These are among the fastest growing cities in the world.
The UN estimates the number of people living in medium-sized cities of up to 5 million inhabitants is expected to jump to 1.1 billion by 2030, up from 827 million in 2014.
It also predicts an estimated 27 percent of the world's population will be living in smaller cities of at least 1 million people by 2030.
Growth in the US has generally been slower, with the fastest increase happening in Charlotte and Austin, with 5 per cent and 4 per cent annual growth respectively.
Growth in also Europe is also markedly slower, with the majority of urban areas growing at less than 1 per cent each year.
This map shows the speed at which people are moving to cities in China, India and Africa, with much slower urban growth happening in parts of Europe and the US (the darker the blue, the faster the growth, orange shows population decrease)
The chart, which uses UN data from between 2000 and 2016, shows some smaller Chinese cities such as Suqian in the north east and Putian in the east growing at around 6 per cent every year (the darker the blue, the faster the growth)
This rapid urban growth can be extremely problematic.
Slum living, already forced on a third of the world's urban populations, will become even more widespread as cities became increasingly packed with people.
As a result billions could be at risk of hunger, thirst and appalling living conditions, creating tinderbox conditions that could ignite civil unrest and conflict.
Research published last year suggested the brunt of migration will be into smaller cities.
According to Eugene Zapata Garesche, Latin America and Caribbean director for the 100 Resilient Cities (100RC) initiative the cities that are set to grow the most are medium and small-sized ones.
'The cities that got prepared to grow are not growing anymore as they are already big enough. That is where the whole challenge of urbanisation is sitting today.'
As megacities such as Brazil's Sao Paulo can no longer sustain more population growth, cities like Curitiba or Salvador, which still have room to expand, will be required to absorb rising numbers of people, said Mr Zapata.
Growth in the US has generally been slower, with the fastest increase happening in Charlotte and Austin, with 5 per cent and 4 per cent annual growth respectively. Growth in also Europe (pictured) is markedly slower, with the majority of urban areas growing at less than 1 per cent each year
African cities - especially those in Nigeria - are seeing the most dramatic growth while the US cities of Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Detroit (pictured in orange, top) are starting to see people leave
|Rank||City/Urban area||Country||Average annual growth|
|2006 to 2020, in %|
|9||Dar es Salaam||Tanzania||4.39|
|38||Suwon||Republic of Korea||3.23|
Growth in the US has generally been slower, with the fastest increase happening in Charlotte and Austin, with 5 per cent and 4 per cent annual growth respectively. Pictured is Detroit (stock image) which has a falling population
'You have cities like Mexico City that aren't even growing any more population-wise, because the city has turned into a nightmare for commuting, and there's a lot of pollution,' he said.
Making sure resilience is institutionalised by cities and supported by legislation is essential to guarantee the long-term continuation of the strategy, he said.
The biggest resilience challenges for cities are improving transport and waste management, and securing water supplies, along with social policy issues such as supporting migrants, he said.
In 2016 there were 512 cities with at least 1 million inhabitants globally and by 2030, 662 cities are projected to have at least 1 million residents.
OVERPOPULATION: SURVIVAL OF THE SPECIES
Rising populations may be driving Earth towards a disastrous 'tipping point' where humanity starves itself out
Some areas of the planet may already be so overpopulated as to be beyond hope - and once the planet is more than 50% under tarmac and agriculture, the results could be global disaster.
When smaller areas hit levels above 50%, the results are disastrous. If the entire planet hits this 'tipping point', the effects would be impossible for scientists to predict.
Rising populations are driving Earth towards a 'tipping point' where species we depend on die out, says a committee of 22 scientists - hitting industries such as fishing, agriculture, forestry and water
The committee calls for 'global leadership' to prevent such a disaster - but warns ome areas of the planet may already be so overpopulated as to be beyond hope.
If the entire planet hits a 'tipping point', the results will be impossible for scientists to predict - and the committee calls for 'global leadership' to prevent such a disaster.
Professor Anthony Barnosky, the lead author from the University of California, Berkeley, warns: ‘It really will be a new world, biologically, at that point.
‘The data suggests that there will be a reduction in biodiversity and severe impacts on much of what we depend on to sustain our quality of life, including, for example, fisheries, agriculture, forest products and clean water. This could happen within just a few generations.’
Studies of small-scale ecosystems have shown that once 50-90 percent of an area has been altered, the entire ecosystem tips irreversibly into a state far different from the original, in terms of the mix of plant and animal species and their interactions and usually resulting in species extinctions and a loss of biodiversity.Currently with 7 billion people about 43 percent of Earth's land surface has been converted to agricultural or urban use and with a predicted rise to 9 billion by 2045 it is estimated that half will be disturbed by 2025.
‘Can it really happen? Looking into the past tells us unequivocally that, yes, it can really happen. It has happened. The last glacial/interglacial transition 11,700 years ago was an example of that,’ Professor Barnosky said.
‘I think that if we want to avoid the most unpleasant surprises, we want to stay away from that 50 percent mark.’
Population density is rising, as seen from this night view of Earth: If the entire planet hits this 'tipping point', the results will be impossible for scientists to predict - and the committee calls for 'global leadership' to prevent such a disaster.
The paper, by 22 internationally renowned scientists, calls for better predictive models based on a detailed understanding of how the biosphere reacted in the distant past to rapidly changing conditions - including climate and human population growth.
UC have begun a £2.6 million research project to develop reliable, detailed biological forecasts, to understand how plants and animals responded to major shifts.
The authors of the review - biologists, ecologists, complex-systems theoreticians, geologists and paleontologists from the United States, Canada, South America and Europe - argue that, although warning signs are emerging, no one knows how close Earth is to a global tipping point.
Professor Barnosky said: ‘We really do have to be thinking about these global scale tipping points, because even the parts of Earth we are not messing with directly could be prone to some very major changes.
‘And the root cause, ultimately, is human population growth and how many resources each one of us uses.’
Co-author Elizabeth Hadly from Stanford University said: ‘We may already be past these tipping points in particular regions of the world. I just returned from a trip to the high Himalayas in Nepal, where I witnessed families fighting each other with machetes for wood - wood that they would burn to cook their food in one evening.
‘In places where governments are lacking basic infrastructure, people fend for themselves, and biodiversity suffers. We desperately need global leadership for planet Earth.’
They urge global cooperation to reduce population growth and per-capita resource use, to replace fossil fuels with sustainable sources, develop more efficient food production and distribution, and management of land and oceans not already dominated by humans as reservoirs of biodiversity and ecosystem services.
‘Ideally, we want to be able to predict what could be detrimental biological change in time to steer the boat to where we don't get to those points,’ Professor Barnosky said.
‘My underlying philosophy is that we want to keep Earth, our life support system, at least as healthy as it is today, in terms of supporting humanity, and forecast when we are going in directions that would reduce our quality of life so that we can avoid that.’
‘My view is that humanity is at a crossroads now, where we have to make an active choice.
‘One choice is to acknowledge these issues and potential consequences and try to guide the future (in a way we want to). The other choice is just to throw up our hands and say, 'Let's just go on as usual and see what happens.' My guess is, if we take that latter choice, yes, humanity is going to survive, but we are going to see some effects that will seriously degrade the quality of life for our children and grandchildren.’
Climate change, population pressure and widespread destruction of natural ecosystems may be driving toward an irreversible change in biosphere with devastating consequences, the prestigious group of researchers say.
In just a few generations our food and water supplies could be gravely effected with some plant and animal species being wiped out completely.
But we can prepare ourselves by learning lessons from what happened in the past, it is said.
The review paper, which will be published tomorrow in the journal Nature, compares the biological impact of past incidences of global change with processes under way today and assess evidence for what the future holds.
The results could cause some plant and animal species to disappear, new mixes of remaining species, and major disruptions to crops - leading to global political instability, it is claimed.
Concern about population problems among citizens of rich countries generally focuses on rapid population growth in most poor nations. But the impact of humanity on Earth's life support systems is not just determined by the number of people alive on the planet. It also depends on how those people behave. When this is considered, an entirely different picture emerges: the main population problem is too much consumption in wealthy countries.The United Nations Population Fund estimates that in one week, on October 31, 2011, the world's population will reach 7 billion. Just 200 years ago, there were only 1 billion people on the planet, and over the next 150 years, that number grew to 3 billion. But in the past 50 years, the global population has more than doubled, and the UN projects that it could possibly grow to 15 billion by the year 2100. As the international organization points out, this increasing rate of change brings with it enormous challenges. Meeting the basic needs of so many will mean growing, shipping, and distributing more food while providing more clean water, health care, and shelter -- all without inflicting too much further damage on our environment.
World population will more than double to 15billion by 2100, says UN
- Experts say urgent action is needed to curb growth and save the planet's resources
- Improved healthcare and longer lifespans are contributing to the increaseThe population of the world is expected to more than double, growing from 7billion to 15billon by 2100, according to the United Nations.The figure has shocked experts who say the numbers will be catastrophic if realised and claim urgent action is needed to curb growth and save the planet's resources.Previous UN estimates predicted the population to reach 10 billion people by the end of the century, however the startling new figure will be released in a report by the United Nations Population Fund (Unfpa) later this week.
Swelling numbers: The figure has shocked experts who say such an increase in population could be catastrophic, plundering the world's resourcesThe State of World Population 2011 report will mark the birth of the person that takes the world's population to over 7billion - expected to happen this month.Roger Martin, chairman of Population Matters, which campaigns on population control, told the Observer newspaper that the Earth was entering a dangerous new phase.He said: 'Our planet is approaching a perfect storm of population growth, climate change and peak oil,'
'The planet is not actually sustaining 7 billion people.'The population has doubled since the sixties due to better medicine and healthcare and high birth rates across Africa, Asia, and Latin America while mortality rates of children have declined.The population increase is also being boosted by increased lifespans across the globe.However other experts have criticised the figure and remain unconvinced that the population would reach such huge numbers before action was taken.
Professor Jack Goldstone of George Mason University, author of The Population Bomb, told the newspaper he believed it was more realistic for the figure to plateau around 10-12million.He said: 'The means and the desire to reduce the number of children people have is spreading around the world,'Family planning throughout the developing world is a key aspect to controlling the population according to some experts, however cultural and religious reasons can limit the use of contraception.John Bongaarts, the vice-president of the New York-based Population Council told the newspaper: 'What's really critical is the political commitment of governments. Family planning is not actually that expensive,'Family members of Ziona pose for a group photograph in Baktawng village in the northeastern Indian state of Mizoram, on October 7, 2011. Ziona is the head of a religious sect called "Chana," which allows polygamy and was founded by his father Chana in 1942. Ziona has 39 wives, 94 children and 33 grandchildren. He lives in his 4 story 100-room house with 181 members of his family. (Reuters/Adnan Abidi) #A view of deforestation on Indonesia's Sumatra island. Indonesia and Australia launched a $30 million project to fight deforestation in Sumatra as part of efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions and boost a planned forest-carbon trading scheme in 2010. Photo taken on August 5, 2010. (Reuters/Beawiharta) #A long abandoned farmhouse sits in open fields near Osoyoos, British Columbia, on September 24, 2011. British Columbia has one of the largest collection of ghost towns or derelict communities in Canada. Many are past mining dreams that harvested copper, silver and gold and are either gone without a trace or lie in ruins ravaged by time. (Reuters/Andy Clark) #Public residential buildings are seen in Po Lam, one of the "satellite towns" in Hong Kong, on September 14, 2011. This southern Chinese city is described as a concrete forest, famous for the number of high-rise commercial and residential towers. About 25 percent of the world's tallest 100 residential buildings stand in the territory. (Reuters/Bobby Yip) #
Young sea gypsies play in the water in the center of their neighborhood in the Sulawesi Sea in Malaysia's state of Sabah, on February 17, 2009. A community of 30 families of the indigenous ethnic group of sea gypsies maintain a nomadic and sea-based life without fresh water supply, TV nor electricity, and only go to land to bury the dead. (Reuters/Bazuki Muhammad)A group made up mostly of unmarried men poses for a photograph in the remote village of Siyani, about 140km (86 miles) west of Gujarat's capital of Ahmedabad, India, on October 5, 2011. Siyani is typical of many Indian villages and may be an indicator of things to come as India's male to female ratio declines. The village has some 350 unmarried men over the age of 35 - and hundreds more under 35 - because there aren't enough women to marry. Many women have also left to look elsewhere for grooms with more money and better prospects. Census data released earlier this year revealed there are 914 girls for every 1,000 boys born - a sharp fall since 2001 when the ratio was 933 girls for every 1000 boys. (Reuters/Vivek Prakash) #Marie and Gabrielle Vaudremer, a pair of 101-year-old Belgian twins, hold hands as they celebrate their birthday at the Chateau Sous-Bois retirement home in Spa, on October 2, 2011. Marie and Gabrielle were born in 1910 and are the world's oldest pair of twin sisters, according to the Guinness World Records. (Reuters/Thierry Roge) #A farmer walks past a terrace of codonopsis pilosula, a traditional Chinese medicine also known as dang shen, in Min county, Gansu province, on May 31, 2011. Rows of white plastic shields have been installed to protect the roots of the dang shen to keep it warm and moist. Commonly used as a cheaper substitute for ginseng, the herb is believed to lower blood pressure, boost one's immune system and improve appetite. (Reuters/Stringer) #Cars cross a street in Mong Kok district in Hong Kong, on October 4, 2011. Mong Kok has the highest population density in the world, with 130,000 in one square kilometer. (Reuters/Bobby Yip) #Katy and her husband Facundo practice her breathing during a swimming pool prenatal course run by the private Aquamater clinic in Caracas, Venezuela, on October 1, 2011. Aquamater opened in 1999 and is the first center specializing in waterbirths in Venezuela. It aims to advise couples, who pay a fee, on techniques for breastfeeding, pain relief and different ways of giving birth. (Reuters/Jorge Silva) #Clotilde Boutin of France holds her newborn baby as she looks at her Venezuelan husband Antero Alvarado at the private Aquamater clinic in Caracas, Venezuela, on September 23, 2011. (Reuters/Jorge Silva) #Motorists crowd at a junction during rush hour in Taipei, on October 29, 2009. There are more than 8.8 million motorcycles and 4.8 million cars on Taiwan's roads and nearly all motor vehicles and inhabitants are squeezed into a third of the island's area. (Reuters/Nicky Loh) #Men look at the overflowing Sardar Sarovar Narmada Dam on Narmada river at Kevadia Colony, some 200 kms from Ahmedabad, India, on August 29, 2011. The dam is one of India's most controversial dam projects and its environmental impact and net costs and benefits are widely debated. (Sam Panthaky/AFP/Getty Images) #The crowded maternity ward of the government-run Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital in Manila, Philippines, on June 1, 2011. The ward, the busiest in the country, sees an average of 60 births every day. The Philippines' population growth rate of around 2.0 percent is above Southeast Asia's average of around 1.7 percent, with an estimated 200 babies born every hour. Lack of a national policy on birth control and access to modern family planning methods - frowned upon by the powerful Catholic church - are some of the factors that have led to the country's population ballooning to nearly 100 million, according to various government and private sector estimates, with the Philippines the second most populous nation in the region after Indonesia. (Reuters/Cheryl Ravelo) #Indian laborers are silhouetted after sunset at a construction site of a new apartment building on the outskirts of New Delhi, India, on October 5, 2011. (AP Photo/Kevin Frayer) #The Dharavi slum in Mumbai, India, at twilight on October 9, 2011. Already the second most populous country with 1.2 billion people, India is expected to overtake China around 2030 when its population soars to an estimated 1.6 billion. (AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade) #A German man from Hamburg, who identifies himself only as Yiorgos, smokes a cigarette in his home in the village of Skafi some 500 km north of Athens, Greece, on September 27, 2011. Skafi once had a population of about 45 families but today it is populated by Yiorgos alone in the winter and about a dozen elderly Greeks who come in the summer. Greece's population has shrunk by more than 1 percent over the last 10 years, according to a census carried out earlier this year, thereby bucking the trend of the last few decades. (Reuters/Yannis Behrakis) #The sun sets over the Ifo extension refugee camp in Dadaab, near the Kenya-Somalia border, July 31, 2011. The whole of drought- and conflict-wracked southern Somalia remains in a serious food crisis. (Reuters/Thomas Mukoya) #An aerial view of the island of Out Skerries, on September 22, 2011. Out Skerries is a tiny, treeless island off the east coast of Scotland where the population is just 65. There are only seven children on the island making the school the smallest in the UK. (Reuters/Olivia Harris) #Aron Anderson, 6 plays in the playground at Out Skerries school, on September 23, 2011. Aron is one of only seven children on the entire island. (Reuters/Olivia Harris) #A view of a residential building in Shanghai, China, on March 18, 2009. Shanghai is currently the most populous city in the most populous nation in the world, home to more than 23 million residents. (Reuters/Stringer) #Filipinos inspect a site after a retaining wall at a landfill collapsed causing a rubbish-slide due to heavy rains brought on by typhoon Nanmadol in Baguio, north of Manila, on August 28, 2011. (STR/AFP/Getty Images) #A traditional Mongolian tent near Zuunkharaa city, Selenge province, Mongolia, 200km northeast of Ulan Bator, on October 12, 2011. Mongolia is the world's least densely populated country, with 2.7 million people spread across an area three times the size of France, two-fifths in rural areas on wind swept steppes. According to a 2010 National Population Center census, every year between thirty to forty thousand people migrate from the countryside to the capital Ulan Bator. Reuters/Carlos Barria) #Wrecked rickshaws in a dump at Mirpur in Dhaka, bangladesh, on September 23, 2011. Rickshaws far outnumber cars on the streets of many Bangladeshi towns, and they are an important source of income for the country's poor, who often have no other options. Yet the vehicles are a major headache for police, who struggle with licensing and safety issues for the estimated 1 million tricycle rickshaws on the road in Dhaka. Nearly half of all road accidents in the city are believed to involve them. (Reuters/Andrew Biraj) #A pensioner sits in a wheelchair in a long corridor in a residential home for the elderly in Eichenau near Munich, Germany, on June 21, 2011. (Reuters/Michaela Rehle) #A cargo train on the Kenya-Uganda railway line travels through the sprawling Kibera slum, one of the largest and poorest slums in Africa and home to about 1 million people, in Kenya's capital Nairobi, on August 26, 2011. (Reuters/Thomas Mukoya) #People gather to get water from a huge well in the village of Natwarghad in the western Indian state of Gujarat on June 1, 2003. (Reuters/Amit Dave) #Workers remove floating garbage from Three Gorges reservoir area in Yunyang County, China, on October 24, 2010. (Reuters/China Daily) #Residents crowd in a swimming pool to escape the summer heat during a hot weather spell in Daying county of Suining, China, on July 4, 2010. (Reuters/Stringer) #A woman takes a photo of relatives in front of graffiti painted by Brazilian artists Val, Cris and Toddy, members of OPNI, an organization that uses graffiti to improve life in the slums, in the Vila Flavia favela of Sao Paulo, on August 27, 2011. OPNI, a Portuguese acronym which means "Unidentified Graffiti Artists", was formed in 1997 by some 20 youths in Sao Paulo's marginal slums with the goal of transforming the streets into an open-air gallery where the community can express its gripes and denounce social injustices. (Reuters/Nacho Doce) #Cuban neonatologists watch over premature babies in the natal intensive care unit of a public maternity hospital in Gatire on the outskirts of Caracas, Venezuela, on October 5, 2011. The hospital is part of the "Barrio Adentro" program, which is a collaboration between the governments of Venezuela and Cuba, where highly trained Cuban doctors help provide publicly-funded health care for poor and marginalized communities in Venezuela. (Reuters/Jorge Silva) #People play tennis at a tennis court surrounded by high-rise buildings in downtown Shanghai, China, on November 4, 2010. (Reuters/Carlos Barria) #The power plant of Kardia, Greece, viewed through a destroyed house in the village of Charavgi, some 500 km north of Athens, on September 29, 2011. According to a May 2007 WWF survey called "Dirty Thirty", the Greek Public Power Corporation's (PPC) power plants of Kardia and Agios Dimitrios are the EU's top two polluting stations. The once flourishing nearby villages of Charavgi and Kleitos have been gradually abandoned since PPC opened the two mines. The company "bought" the villages and relocated residents elsewhere. The only person who now lives in Kleitos is an Indian immigrant, Jangdip Pal, 45, who works as a nightguard at the mine. And only one shepherd and his family live in Charavgi. The power plants produce 70 percent of Greece's electricity. (Reuters/Yannis Behrakis) #Thousands of Bangladeshi Muslims board overcrowded trains as they try to return home after attending a three-day Islamic Congregation on the banks of the river Turag in Tongi, outskirts of Dhaka, Bangladesh, on January 23, 2011. The congregation held each year since 1966, is among the world's largest religious gatherings. (AP Photo/Pavel Rahman) #St. Paul's Cathedral is seen among the skyline through the smog in central London on April 22, 2011. A combination of hot weather and still conditions brought on by a high pressure system increased levels of ozone and polluting particles known as PM10s, which can affect people's health. (Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images) #A nurse fills in documents minutes after a baby was born inside the childbirth unit at hospital Escuela in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, on October 21, 2011. (Reuters/Edgard Garrido) #
China MigrationDONGGUAN, China (AP) — Li Biying’s hands tell you she’s left the farm behind.Her long, tapered fingernails pinch apart pieces of gauzy fabric at the underwear factory that is her ticket out of rural poverty. They wouldn’t last long in the fields where her parents coax corn, potatoes and greens from terraced plots. The 20-year-old Li has no plans to go home. Unlike older migrant workers who came to earn money for a few years before returning to their villages, the new generation intends to stay, envisioning a life in the neon-splashed cities.For China, the shift presents a challenge: how to integrate the new arrivals into already overburdened cities. An agrarian society for thousands of years, China is on the cusp of having more urban than rural dwellers for the first time.“People my age think, what would I do in the countryside? I don’t know how to do anything!” Li says in the simple dorm room she shares with two other women in Dongguan, a southern coastal boomtown near Hong Kong. Frilly underwear is draped in a corner and hair clips hold back makeshift privacy curtains on the bunks.“I remember once we were growing wheat at home, it had just sprouted and it looked just like grass. I couldn’t tell the difference so I pulled it out,” she recalls. “My mom was so mad, she said, how could anyone not tell the difference between wheat and grass?”1Li Biying cleans her workplace at a factory in Dongguan in southern China's Guangdong province before leaving for the spring festival holidays. An agrarian society for thousands of years, China is on the cusp of having more urban than rural dwellers for the first time. Of an estimated 150 million migrant workers in China, 90 million are under 30 and they are driving one of the most significant demographic shifts in the country's history. (AP Photo)2Li Biying collects her salary at the factory where she works in Dongguan in southern China's Guangdong province before leaving for the spring festival holidays. (AP Photo)3Li Biying sits inside her dormitory at the factory where she works in Dongguan in southern China's Guangdong province. (AP Photo)4Banners greeting migrant workers from the town are hung over the town's square in Linjiang, China. An agrarian society for thousands of years, China is on the cusp of having more urban than rural dwellers for the first time. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)5Li Biying and her brother Li Yajun ride a motorcycle on a dirt path to their home up a misty mountain in Sanxing, China. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)6Li Biying starts a fire to prepare dinner at the Li family's house in Sanxing, China. An agrarian society for thousands of years, China is on the cusp of having more urban than rural dwellers for the first time. Of an estimated 150 million migrant workers in China, 90 million are under 30 and they are driving one of the most significant demographic shifts in the country's history. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)7Migrant worker Li Biying, left, and her mother Tan Qibi, right, prepare a special sweet for Chinese New Year celebrations at the Li family's house in Sanxing, China. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)8Li Biying, left, and her family members make a toast for Chinese New Year celebrations at the Li family's house in Sanxing, China. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)9Li Weishu, father of migrant worker Li Biying, looks at his farm at the Li family's house in Sanxing, China. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)10Belongings hung up on hooks at the family house of migrant worker Li Biying in Sanxing, China. Of an estimated 150 million migrant workers in China, 90 million are under 30 and they are driving one of the most significant demographic shifts in the country's history. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)11Migrant worker Li Biying, left, and her nephew Qiu Jianjun, right, stroll near the Li family's house in Sanxing, China. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)12Li Biying, right, speaks with friends on the road to her village in Sanxing, China. An agrarian society for thousands of years, China is on the cusp of having more urban than rural dwellers for the first time. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)13Li Biying, right, and her family members play cards at the Li family's house in Sanxing, China. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)14Migrant worker Li Biying, second row far right, and her family pose for a picture in front of the Li family house in Sanxing, China. An agrarian society for thousands of years, China is on the cusp of having more urban than rural dwellers for the first time. Of an estimated 150 million migrant workers in China, 90 million are under 30 and they are driving one of the most significant demographic shifts in the country's history. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
CARRYING CAPACITY / LIMITATIONSWhen scientists talk about overpopulation, they are usually referring to a population exceeding its biological carrying capacity which is defined as "the maximum number of animals that a specific habitat or area can support without causing deterioration or degradation of that habitat.” Likewise, human overpopulation is when the number of people can not be permanently maintained without depleting resources and without degrading the environment and the people's standard of living. One might consider that if we were to consume less, we may be able to live within the carrying capacity of the planet. However, we should not reduce our consumption or degrade our lifestyle in order to claim that the human race is not overpopulated. Especially not as our number continues to increase.Some may argue about how much vacant room there still is on Earth to hold billions and billions of more people. However, one must consider the fact that people are all made up of atoms of matter, and that matter which comprises our bodies has had to come from the earth itself. The majority of the matter in our bodies is in the form of water. At the rate our population is presently growing, within 1200 years, our oceans would be entirely converted into people as more and more water is required to build the bodies of people. This is not even considering the water required for drinking, washing, irrigating crops, sea life, etc.Hypothetically, if the human population continued to grow at our present rate, the mass of people would be equal to the mass of the earth within 1600 years. In 2300 years at this rate, the mass of people would fill up our entire solar system, and if you were able to create matter from nothing in order to make people, in roughly 5300 years a great sphere of humanity with a radius of over 150 light-years would be expanding faster than the speed of light.These are not predictions of things that may happen. Limitations will halt our growth much sooner. The intent is instead to illustrate how rapidly our population is growing and to express that this obviously can not continue. The growth occurs so suddenly that the population can become unmanagable without sufficient warning, after it is too late to prevent catastrophe. In short, we are in great danger of using up both space and resources."The growing population and its consumption patterns have profound consequences for the global environment, including species extinction, deforestation, desertification, climate change, and the destruction of natural ecosystems. These global environmental impacts pose a significant threat to the earth's sustainability and impact our quality of life."The world's population didn't reach 1 billion until 1830; improvements in health care, sanitation and nutrition significantly speeded things up after that. According to the Population Institute: "The second billion was achieved in 100 years, the third billion in 30 years, the fourth billion in 15 years, and the fifth billion in only 12 years." The U.S. Census Bureau projects there will be 9 billion people on the planet by 2042. As of March 2008, China had more citizens—1.33 billion—than any other nation on Earth. India was next, with a population of 1.14 billion, followed by the United States, with 303 million. Today, the rate at which the world's population is growing has actually shrunk, but "global population continues to increase by large numbers and in the regions least able to ensure the health, stability and prosperity of the population," according to Jeffrey Sachs, director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University and author of Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet. Sachs states that: "The rich world added roughly 400 million people between 1950 and 2005, a gain of some 50 percent. The developing world added 3.5 billion people, a gain of 200 percent. In 1950, the developed world (United States, Canada, Europe, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand) was roughly one third of the world's population, and by 2005, it had fallen to roughly one sixth of the world's population."Increasingly, people around the planet are flocking to cities and towns. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) reports that in 2008: "For the first time in history, more than half [the world's] human population, 3.3 billion people, will be living in urban areas. By 2030, this is expected to swell to almost 5 billion. Many of the new urbanites will be poor." The UNFPA report adds: "While the world's urban population grew very rapidly (from 220 million to 2.8 billion) over the 20th century, the next few decades will see an unprecedented scale of urban growth in the developing world. This will be particularly notable in Africa and Asia where the urban population will double between 2000 and 2030: That is, the accumulated urban growth of these two regions during the whole span of history will be duplicated in a single generation. By 2030, the towns and cities of the developing world will make up 81 per cent of urban humanity."According to Geoffrey Gilbert's World Population, urbanization has both pluses and minuses: "On the positive side, urban residents achieve higher levels of health and education; they also have smaller families&On the other hand, living conditions in many Third World cities are appalling, in part because the rapidity of urban growth has made it impossible for governments to provide an adequate infrastructure of streets, schools, housing, hospitals, and sanitation. A broader concern, and one that relates to both developed and developing nations, is that urban growth (or sprawl) is encroaching ever more deeply on lands needed for agriculture or valued for natural habitat."In terms of the planet's resources, First World nations such as the United States currently eat up far more than their share. The Sierra Club notes that Americans represent five percent of the world's population but consume approximately 25 percent of its resources. Per-capita consumption rates are smaller in the developing world, but as the economies of rapidly industrializing nations such as China and India continue to expand (China's economy is doubling every seven to 10 years, according to Sachs) and standards of living rise, the strain on natural resources will intensify and environmental problems such as pollution will soar. For example, Jeffrey Sachs reports in Common Wealth that: "As of 2003 [in China]&there were around 24 million motor vehicles, roughly 18 per 1,000 population. In the United States, there are roughly 250 million motor vehicles, or roughly 800 per 1,000 population. China's annual production is now soaring, up to around 7 million per year as of 2006 compared with just 2 million in the year 2000. If China reaches even half of today's U.S. motor vehicle density by 2050, that would mean roughly 560 million Chinese vehicles on the road! The increase is twice the total current stock of U.S. vehicles. Even if the fleet were to get twice the miles per gallon that U.S. vehicles get today, its oil use (and carbon emissions) would roughly equal that of the entire U.S. transport sector today."Experts debate how much population growth is too much, but there's no question that certain resources, such as oil, won't be available in unlimited supplies. According to Jeffrey Sachs, "The current trajectory of human activity is not sustainable. If we simply do what we are doing on the planet with unchanged technology—but on a much larger scale as China, India, and other population centers experience rapid economic growth—the environmental underpinnings of global well-being will collapse. The limits of the environment itself will defeat our global aspirations for prosperity."HOTSPOTSCHINA: With 1.3 billion citizens, China is the planet's most populated nation and its rapid industrialization (which includes constructing two coal-fired power plants per week) and enormous, fast-growing economy have created serious environmental problems. According to Jared Diamond's Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed: "The long list ranges from air pollution, biodiversity losses, cropland losses, desertification, disappearing wetlands, grassland degradation, and increasing scale and frequency of human-induced natural disasters, to invasive species, overgrazing, river flow cessation, salinization, soil erosion, trash accumulation, and water pollution and shortages." Diamond notes that "China's large population, economy, and area also guarantee that its environmental problems will not remain a domestic issue but will spill over to the rest of the world, which is increasingly affected through sharing the same planet, oceans, and atmosphere with China, and which in turn affects China's environment through globalization." Additionally, as the standard of living increases for the Chinese and consumption patterns resemble those of First World countries, the impact on natural resources will be massive.INDIA: The U.S. Census Bureau projects that India, currently the world's second most populous nation, will reach a population of 1.5 billion in 2030 and surpass China (whose population is predicted at 1.4 billion). Rapid industrialization and urbanization have led to numerous environmental troubles, including increased air and water pollution and deforestation. In 2007, the Blacksmith Institute's list of the world's 10 most polluted places included two areas in China and two in India.UNITED STATES: America, the world's third most-populated country, is projected to remain in the top-three spot, behind India and China, with an estimated population of 420 million by 2050, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. "In the United States, the [total fertility rate] remains at the replacement level rather than below, and in-migration remains very high, so the U.S. population is primed to continue to grow even as many European countries and Japan decline in population," notes Jeffrey D. Sachs in Common Weath. More Americans doesn't necessarily bode well for the environment. Although China recently passed the U.S. as the planet's top emitter of greenhouse gases, Americans represent just five percent of the planet's population but use an estimated 25 percent of its resources. According to a 2006 report from the Population Institute: "If all the people in the world consumed at the rate of the high income countries such as the U.S., the planet could support only 1.8 billion people as opposed to the current 6.5 billion."NIGERIA: Africa's most populated nation—and the world's ninth most populous—today has some 138 million residents. The U.S. Census Bureau predicts Nigeria will be the world's fourth most populated country by 2050, with approximately 356.5 million people. In 2008, Nigeria's fertility rate was estimated at 5.41 children per woman, according to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, compared with 2.10 for America. Oil-rich Nigeria has been "long hobbled by political instability, corruption, inadequate infrastructure, and poor macroeconomic management," according to the CIA. The nation also has a poor environmental track record with rapid deforestation a major issue, along with fast-paced urbanization, air and water pollution and damage from oil spills.INDONESIA: Encompassing 17,508 islands (6,000 of them inhabited), this Southeast Asian nation is the world's fourth most populous, with some 237.5 million residents. The U.S. Census Bureau projects there will be 313 million Indonesians by 2050. Logging, mining and other activities have resulted in significant deforestation, which poses a continuing serious threat to Indonesia's highly diverse flora and fauna. "Water pollution from industrial wastes, sewage; air pollution in urban areas; smoke and haze from forest fires," are among other ongoing environmental issues, according to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.
Timeline— Circa 8,000 B.C.: With an estimated world population of 4 million people, the Agricultural Revolution starts, bringing about increased population growth as nomadic hunter-gatherer communities transition to settlement and farming.— Circa 1,000 B.C.: Ancient Egyptians use linen sheaths as primitive condoms, probably to prevent disease or for ritualistic purposes.— 1 A.D: The planet's population reaches an estimated 230 million people.— 1790: The first national census is conducted in the United States, recording a population of almost 4 million Americans. Today, the U.S. Census Bureau takes a population count every 10 years ending in 0.— 1830: The planet's population reaches 1 billion people.— 1915: The U.S. population reaches 100 million.— 1916: Birth-control activist Margaret Sanger opens America's first family-planning and birth-control clinic in Brooklyn, New York. The clinic is soon shut down by police; however, in 1921, Sanger founds the American Birth Control League to fight global population growth, among other issues. The organization later becomes the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.— 1927: The planet's population hits 2 billion.— 1946-1964: Following World War II, America experiences a baby boom, with an estimated 76 million babies born during these years.— 1951: India launches first family-planning campaign to combat population growth.— 1952: The International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) is founded by family-planning organizations from Great Britain, Holland, Hong Kong, India, Singapore, Sweden, the U.S. and West Germany. Today, the IPPF works in over 180 countries to provide and advocate for reproductive health care and rights.— 1960: The planet's population reaches 3 billion.— 1960: The birth-control pill is approved for use in America.— 1965: The U.S. Supreme Court grants married couples the right to use contraceptives, in landmark case Griswold v. Connecticut.— 1967: The U.S. population reaches 200 million— 1972: The U.S. Supreme Court gives unmarried people the right to possess contraceptives, in landmark case Eisenstadt v. Baird.— 1973: The U.S. Supreme Court legalizes abortion, in landmark case Roe v. Wade.— 1974: The planet's population hits 4 billion.— 1979: China institutes its one-child policy, offering incentives to families who have one child (rural families are allowed two children).— 1980: China becomes the world's first country with a population of 1 billion.— 1987: The planet's population reaches 5 billion.— 1999: The planet's population reaches 6 billion people. Also this year, India's population reaches 1 billion.— 2006: The U.S. population hits 300 million.— 2008: The planet's population reaches 6.6 billion. For the first time in history, half of all people live in urban areas.
What Can I Do?Finding a better balance between population growth and the environment will require the cooperation of individuals, corporations and governments around the globe. Renewable energy sources and sustainable development will be required, as will universal access to family-planning resources and reproductive health care for all womenUNITED STATES: America, the world's third most-populated country, is projected to remain in the top-three spot, behind India and China, with an estimated population of 420 million by 2050, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. "In the United States, the [total fertility rate] remains at the replacement level rather than below, and in-migration remains very high, so the U.S. population is primed to continue to grow even as many European countries and Japan decline in population," notes Jeffrey D. Sachs in Common Weath. More Americans doesn't necessarily bode well for the environment. Although China recently passed the U.S. as the planet's top emitter of greenhouse gases, Americans represent just five percent of the planet's population but use an estimated 25 percent of its resources. According to a 2006 report from the Population Institute: "If all the people in the world consumed at the rate of the high income countries such as the U.S., the planet could support only 1.8 billion people as opposed to the current 6.5 billion."Having considered some of the ways that humanity is destroying its inheritance, we can look more closely at the concept of "overpopulation." All too often, overpopulation is thought of simply as crowding: too many people in a given area, too high a population density. For instance, the deputy editor in chief of Forbes magazine pointed out recently, in connection with a plea for more population growth in the United States: "If all the people from China and India lived in the continental U.S. (excluding Alaska), this country would still have a smaller population density than England, Holland, or Belgium."The appropriate response is "So what?" Density is generally irrelevant to questions of overpopulation. For instance, if brute density were the criterion, one would have to conclude that Africa is "underpopulated," because it has only 55 people per square mile, while Europe (excluding the USSR) has 261 and Japan 857. *32 A more sophisticated measure would take into consideration the amount of Africa not covered by desert or "impenetrable" forest. *33 This more habitable portion is just a little over half the continent's area, giving an effective population density of 117 per square mile. That's still only about a fifth of that in the United Kingdom. Even by 2020, Africa's effective density is projected to grow to only about that of France today (266), and few people would consider France excessively crowded or overpopulated.When people think of crowded countries, they usually contemplate places like the Netherlands (1,031 per square mile), Taiwan (1,604), or Hong Kong (14,218). Even those don't necessarily signal overpopulation—after all, the Dutch seem to be thriving, and doesn't Hong Kong have a booming economy and fancy hotels? In short, if density were the standard of overpopulation, few nations (and certainly not Earth itself) would be likely to be considered overpopulated in the near future. The error, we repeat, lies in trying to define overpopulation in terms of density; it has long been recognized that density per se means very little. *34The key to understanding overpopulation is not population density but the numbers of people in an area relative to its resources and the capacity of the environment to sustain human activities; that is, to the area's carrying capacity. When is an area overpopulated? When its population can't be maintained without rapidly depleting nonrenewable resources (or converting renewable resources into nonrenewable ones) and without degrading the capacity of the environment to support the population. In short, if the long-term carrying capacity of an area is clearly being degraded by its current human occupants, that area is overpopulated. *35By this standard, the entire planet and virtually every nation is already vastly overpopulated. Africa is overpopulated now because, among other indications, its soils and forests are rapidly being depleted—and that implies that its carrying capacity for human beings will be lower in the future than it is now. The United States is overpopulated because it is depleting its soil and water resources and contributing mightily to the destruction of global environmental systems. Europe, Japan, the Soviet Union, and other rich nations are overpopulated because of their massive contributions to the carbon dioxide buildup in the atmosphere, among many other reasons.Almost all the rich nations are overpopulated because they are rapidly drawing down stocks of resources around the world. They don't live solely on the land in their own nations. Like the profligate son of our earlier analogy, they are spending their capital with no thought for the future.It is especially ironic that Forbes considered the Netherlands not to be overpopulated. This is such a common error that it has been known for two decades as the "Netherlands Fallacy." *36 The Netherlands can support 1,031 people per square mile only because the rest of the world does not. In 1984-86, the Netherlands imported almost 4 million tons of cereals, 130,000 tons of oils, and 480,000 tons of pulses (peas, beans, lentils). It took some of these relatively inexpensive imports and used them to boost their production of expensive exports—330,000 tons of milk and 1.2 million tons of meat. The-Netherlands also extracted about a half-million tons of fishes from the sea during this period, and imported more in the form of fish meal. *37The Netherlands is also a major importer of minerals, bringing in virtually all the iron, antimony, bauxite, copper, tin, etc., that it requires. Most of its fresh water is "imported" from upstream nations via the Rhine River. The Dutch built their wealth using imported energy. Then, in the 1970s, the discovery of a large gas field in the northern part of the nation allowed the Netherlands temporarily to export as gas roughly the equivalent in energy of the petroleum it continued to import. But when the gas fields (which represent about twenty years' worth of Dutch energy consumption at current rates) are exhausted, Holland will once again depend heavily on the rest of the world for fossil fuels or uranium. *38In short, the people of the Netherlands didn't build their prosperity on the bounty of the Netherlands, and are not living on it now. Before World War II, they drew raw materials from their colonies; today they still depend on the resources of much of the world. Saying that the Netherlands is thriving with a density of 1,031 people per square mile simply ignores that those 1,031 Dutch people far exceed the carrying capacity of that square mile.This "carrying-capacity" definition of overpopulation is the one used in this book. *39 It is important to understand that under this definition a condition of overpopulation might be corrected with no change in the number of people. For instance, the impact of today's 665 million Africans on their resources and environment theoretically might be reduced to the point where the continent would no longer be overpopulated. To see whether this would be possible, population growth would have to be stopped, appropriate assistance given to peasant farmers, and certain other important reforms instituted. Similarly, dramatic changes in American lifestyle might suffice to end overpopulation in the United States without a large population reduction.But, for now and the foreseeable future, Africa and the United States will remain overpopulated—and will probably become even more so. To say they are not because, if people changed their ways, overpopulation might be eliminated is simply wrong—overpopulation is defined by the animals that occupy the turf, behaving as they naturally behave, not by a hypothetical group that might be substituted for them.Exponential growth also applies to the the human population. It begins growing very slowly, but over generations the growth rate increases more and more rapidly, similar to a snowball affect. It took the human population thousands of years to reach 1 billion in 1804. However, it took only 123 years for us to double to 2 billion by 1927. The population hit 4 billion in 1974 (only 47 years), and if we continue at our current rate, the human population will reach 8 billion in 2028. Doubling from our present count of 6.8 billion to 13.6 billion will have a much greater impact than our last couple doublings combined.Overpopulation isn't just population density (amount of people per landmass). Overpopulation applies much more so to the number of people in an area exceeding the resources and the carrying capacity of the environment necessary to sustain human activities. So much focus is placed on the rapid population growth in third world countries. However, when we compare lifestyles of the rich countries vs. the poor countries, the rich countries are a much greater problem.Sandwiched between India and Myanmar on the coast of the Indian Ocean, Bangladesh is among the most densely populated countries in the world with around 150 million people. It is also one of the world’s poorest countries, where nearly 40 percent of the population survive on less than a dollar a day. According to a recent World Bank study, Bangladesh is among at least 33 countries that are at risk of serious political unrest if food and fuel prices keep rising. Compounding the nation’s problems is the risk of flooding that comes with the geography of the nation. Bangladesh sits at the confluence of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna Rivers and most of its land is less than 40 feet above sea level. According to reports, if the sea waters were to rise three feet in the next 50 years, one third of Bangladesh’s coastline may be flooded displacing 20 million Bangladeshis.A rickshaw driver waits in traffic on July 19, 2008 in Dhaka, Bangladesh. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images) #Homeless children sleep on the roadside as a bus passes on July 19, 2008 in Dhaka, Bangladesh. According to a recent World Bank study, Bangladesh is among at least 33 countries that are at risk of serious political unrest if food and fuel prices keep rising. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images) #An employee at a steel factory pauses while making steel rods out of cargo ship scrap metal on July 20, 2008 in Dhaka, Bangladesh. While the price of scrap metals has risen globally recently, workers at scrap factories in Bangladesh make an average of less than fifty cents an hour. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images) #A person runs down a set of stairs above a market place on July 19, 2008 in Dhaka, Bangladesh. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images) #Children play in the Padma River on July 18, 2008 in Mawa, Bangladesh. Thousands of Bangladeshis are forced each year to move to overcrowded cities and higher ground after the loss of their homes and farms due to erosion and floodwaters. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images) #Women work for a recycling business by sorting through trash for usable paper products on July 19, 2008 in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Recycling used metals is a growing business in Bangladesh. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images) #People navigate a walkway over rising water to travel to a neighboring community on July 18, 2008 in Mawa, Bangladesh. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images) #Rice, still in the husk, is churned to dry at a rice mill on July 18, 2008 in Srinigar, Bangladesh. Bangladesh has recently closed nearly 2,000 rice mills because they ignored official demands to sell the staple to the army-backed government at below market rates. Rice, a basic staple for Bangladesh's 144 million people, has nearly doubled in price in the past 12 months due to shortages caused by floods last summer, a cyclone in November and the continued rise of fuel prices. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images) #Men bathe in a river on July 18, 2008 in Srinigar, Bangladesh. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images) #Wire is stripped by workers at a recycling business where the metals will be turned into a variety products including eating utensils on July 19, 2008 in Dhaka, Bangladesh. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images) #Workers at a steel factory carry steel rods made out of cargo ship scrap on July 20, 2008 in Dhaka, Bangladesh. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images) #A man dries himself after washing in the Buriganga River on July 21, 2008 in Old Dhaka, Bangladesh. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images) #More Links:Bangladesh gas shortages – Reuters India
Fuel prices in Bangladesh jump 67 percent – CNN International
Inflation to hurt Bangladesh poor hardest – Reuters India
Food, oil crises ‘grave threats’ – Denverpost.com
Map of BangladeshThe Indonesian island of Sumatra is home to some of the world’s fastest shrinking forests. Pulp and paper companies have set up shop in the Riau Province, gaining approval for logging operations. Increasing global demand for palm oil, an ingredient in biodiesel, has also given way to expansive palm oil plantations in the forests. The World Wildlife Fund recently released a report warning the destruction of Sumatra’s natural forests is a significant factor in global climate change and is pushing rare species closer to extinction. Nearly 30% of the Riau’s forests have been cleared for palm oil plantations, 24% for industrial pulpwood plantations, and 17% has been deforested but not replaced by any new vegetation. 78% of the Riau province was covered by forest in the 1980s but today it covers just 27%. In 2005 alone, it lost 11% of forest cover.RIAU PROVINCE, SUMATRA, INDONESIA - OCTOBER 02: The acacia tree grows in a devastated peat swamp on land owned by PT Arara Abadi, part of the Sinar Mas Group that owns Asia Pulp & Paper Co., on October 2, 2010 in Riau Province, Sumatra, Indonesia. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images) #RIAU PROVINCE, SUMATRA, INDONESIA - OCTOBER 02: A plantation worker plants oil palm seed in Pangkalan Kuras on October 2, 2010 in Riau Province, Sumatra, Indonesia. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images) #RIAU PROVINCE, SUMATRA, INDONESIA - OCTOBER 02: A forest is cleared for land by a burning nearbye in Pangkalan Kuras on October 2, 2010 in Riau Province, Sumatra, Indonesia. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images) #RIAU PROVINCE, SUMATRA, INDONESIA - OCTOBER 02: A forest is cleared for land by a burning nearbye in Pangkalan Kuras on October 2, 2010 in Riau Province, Sumatra, Indonesia. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images) #RIAU PROVINCE, SUMATRA, INDONESIA - OCTOBER 02: Wood is scatered in a devastated peat swamp on land owned by PT Arara Abadi, part of the Sinar Mas Group that owns Asia Pulp & Paper Co., on October 2, 2010 in Riau Province, Sumatra, Indonesia. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images) #RIAU PROVINCE, SUMATRA, INDONESIA - OCTOBER 02: Fishermen try to find fish in a devastated peat swamp on land owned by PT Arara Abadi, part of the Sinar Mas Group that owns Asia Pulp & Paper Co., on October 2, 2010 in Riau Province, Sumatra, Indonesia. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images) #RIAU PROVINCE, SUMATRA, INDONESIA - OCTOBER 02: A motorcycle drives past a devastated peat swamp on land owned by PT Arara Abadi, part of the Sinar Mas Group that owns Asia Pulp & Paper Co., on October 2, 2010 in Riau Province, Sumatra, Indonesia. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images) #RIAU PROVINCE, SUMATRA, INDONESIA - OCTOBER 02: Water divides a forest at Preserve Kerumutan River on October 2, 2010 in Riau Province, Sumatra, Indonesia. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images) #RIAU PROVINCE, SUMATRA, INDONESIA - OCTOBER 02: A palm oil plantation thrives in Pelalawan regency on October 2, 2010 in Riau Province, Sumatra, Indonesia. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images) #RIAU PROVINCE, SUMATRA, INDONESIA - OCTOBER 02: Water flows through a devastated peat swamp on land owned by PT Arara Abadi, part of the Sinar Mas Group that owns Asia Pulp & Paper Co., on October 2, 2010 in Riau Province, Sumatra, Indonesia. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images) #RIAU PROVINCE, SUMATRA, INDONESIA - OCTOBER 02: Asri, 35, a fisherman, sits with his daughter Rida, 2, in Preserve Kerumutan River on October 2, 2010 in Riau Province, Sumatra, Indonesia. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images) #RIAU PROVINCE, SUMATRA, INDONESIA - OCTOBER 02: A forest is cleared for land by burning in Pangkalan Kuras on October 2, 2010 in Riau Province, Sumatra, Indonesia. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images) #RIAU PROVINCE, SUMATRA, INDONESIA - OCTOBER 03: A worker moves seeds from palm oil plants harvested from boat in Kuala Cenaku on October 3, 2010 in Riau Province, Sumatra, Indonesia. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images) #RIAU PROVINCE, SUMATRA, INDONESIA - OCTOBER 02: Water cuts through a devstated peat swamp on land owned by PT Arara Abadi, part of the Sinar Mas Group that owns Asia Pulp & Paper Co., on October 2, 2010 in Riau Province, Sumatra, Indonesia. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images) #RIAU PROVINCE, SUMATRA, INDONESIA - OCTOBER 02: A fisherman holds up a net with fish catched in a devastated peat swamp on land owned by PT Arara Abadi, part of the Sinar Mas Group that owns Asia Pulp & Paper Co., on October 2, 2010 in Riau Province, Sumatra, Indonesia. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images) #RIAU PROVINCE, SUMATRA, INDONESIA - OCTOBER 02: A fisherman walks through a devastated peat swamp on land owned by PT Arara Abadi, part of the Sinar Mas Group that owns Asia Pulp & Paper Co., on October 2, 2010 in Riau Province, Sumatra, Indonesia. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images) #RIAU PROVINCE, SUMATRA, INDONESIA - OCTOBER 02: A devastated peat swamp is dormant on land owned by PT Arara Abadi, part of the Sinar Mas Group that owns Asia Pulp & Paper Co., on October 2, 2010 in Riau Province, Sumatra, Indonesia. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images) #RIAU PROVINCE, SUMATRA, INDONESIA - OCTOBER 02: A fisherman looks for fish in Preserve Kerumutan River on October 2, 2010 in Riau Province, Sumatra, Indonesia. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images) #RIAU PROVINCE, SUMATRA, INDONESIA - OCTOBER 02: Fish are caught in a net in a devastated peat swamp on land owned by PT Arara Abadi, part of the Sinar Mas Group that owns Asia Pulp & Paper Co., on October 2, 2010 in Riau Province, Sumatra, Indonesia. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images) #RIAU PROVINCE, SUMATRA, INDONESIA - OCTOBER 02: A fisherman prepares to catch fish in Preserve Kerumutan River on October 2, 2010 in Riau Province, Sumatra, Indonesia. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images) #RIAU PROVINCE, SUMATRA, INDONESIA - OCTOBER 02: A plantation worker plants oil palm seed in Pangkalan Kuras on October 2, 2010 in Riau Province, Sumatra, Indonesia. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images) #RIAU PROVINCE, SUMATRA, INDONESIA - OCTOBER 03: An illegal logger prepares for cuts tree from tropical rainforest in Kuala Cenaku on October 3, 2010 in Riau Province, Sumatra, Indonesia. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images) #RIAU PROVINCE, SUMATRA, INDONESIA - OCTOBER 03: Seeds from palm oil plants are harvested in Kuala Cenaku on October 3, 2010 in Riau Province, Sumatra, Indonesia. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images) #RIAU PROVINCE, SUMATRA, INDONESIA - OCTOBER 03: Destruction remains from tropical rainforest in Kuala Cenaku on October 3, 2010 in Riau Province, Sumatra, Indonesia. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images) #RIAU PROVINCE, SUMATRA, INDONESIA - OCTOBER 03: An illegal logger cuts tree from tropical rainforest in Kuala Cenaku on October 3, 2010 in Riau Province, Sumatra, Indonesia. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images) #RIAU PROVINCE, SUMATRA, INDONESIA - OCTOBER 03: Workers load seeds from palm oil plants harvested to a boat in Kuala Cenaku on October 3, 2010 in Riau Province, Sumatra, Indonesia. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images) #RIAU PROVINCE, SUMATRA, INDONESIA - OCTOBER 02: A fisherman takes fish catched by a net in a devastated peat swamp on land owned by PT Arara Abadi, part of the Sinar Mas Group that owns Asia Pulp & Paper Co., on October 2, 2010 in Riau Province, Sumatra, Indonesia. Norway entered a partnership with Indonesia to support Indonesia's efforts to reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation of forests and peat lands. The business of pulp, palm oil and wood are causing the deforestation of Sumatra, the largest island owned by Indonesia, and is contributing to the extinction of many of the world's rare species. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images) #RIAU PROVINCE, SUMATRA, INDONESIA - OCTOBER 03: A logger worker walks on the timber scattered from a tropical rainforest in Kuala Cenaku on October 3, 2010 in Riau Province, Sumatra, Indonesia. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images) #RIAU PROVINCE, SUMATRA, INDONESIA - OCTOBER 03: Workers move seeds from palm oil plants harvested from boat in Kuala Cenaku on October 3, 2010 in Riau Province, Sumatra, Indonesia. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images) #RIAU PROVINCE, SUMATRA, INDONESIA - OCTOBER 03: Workers weigh seeds from palm oil plants harvested before loading to boat in Kuala Cenaku on October 3, 2010 in Riau Province, Sumatra, Indonesia. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images) #RIAU PROVINCE, SUMATRA, INDONESIA - OCTOBER 03: Logger workers rest in their camp in Kuala Cenaku on October 3, 2010 in Riau Province, Sumatra, Indonesia. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images) #RIAU PROVINCE, SUMATRA, INDONESIA - OCTOBER 03: Workers load seeds from palm oil plants harvested to a boat in Kuala Cenaku on October 3, 2010 in Riau Province, Sumatra, Indonesia. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images) #RIAU PROVINCE, SUMATRA, INDONESIA - OCTOBER 03: A worker carries seeds from palm oil plants harvested by boat in Kuala Cenaku on October 3, 2010 in Riau Province, Sumatra, Indonesia. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images) #RIAU PROVINCE, SUMATRA, INDONESIA - OCTOBER 03: Timber cuts are on the ground after destruction from tropical rainforest in Kuala Cenaku on October 3, 2010 in Riau Province, Sumatra, Indonesia. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images) #RIAU PROVINCE, SUMATRA, INDONESIA - OCTOBER 03: A worker grabs seeds from palm oil plants harvested in Kuala Cenaku on October 3, 2010 in Riau Province, Sumatra, Indonesia. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images) #RIAU PROVINCE, SUMATRA, INDONESIA - OCTOBER 03: Destruction from a tropical rain forest surrounds Camp of illegal logger in Kuala Cenaku on October 3, 2010 in Riau Province, Sumatra, Indonesia. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images) #RIAU PROVINCE, SUMATRA, INDONESIA - OCTOBER 03: Workers load seeds from palm oil plants harvested to a boat in Kuala Cenaku on October 3, 2010 in Riau Province, Sumatra, Indonesia. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images) #RIAU PROVINCE, SUMATRA, INDONESIA - OCTOBER 03: Logger workers rest in their camp after a tropical rainforest in Kuala Cenaku on October 3, 2010 in Riau Province, Sumatra, Indonesia. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images) #RIAU PROVINCE, SUMATRA, INDONESIA - OCTOBER 03: A worker carries seeds from palm oil plants harvested by boat in Kuala Cenaku on October 3, 2010 in Riau Province, Sumatra, Indonesia. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images) #RIAU PROVINCE, SUMATRA, INDONESIA - OCTOBER 03: Destruction remains from tropical rainforest in Kuala Cenaku on October 3, 2010 in Riau Province, Sumatra, Indonesia. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images) #RIAU PROVINCE, SUMATRA, INDONESIA - OCTOBER 03: Newly-planted palm oil trees grow in Kuala Cenaku on October 3, 2010 in Riau Province, Sumatra, Indonesia. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images) #
For example, Americans constitute less than five percent of the world’s total population, but consume 26% of the world’s energy. Just as much as the population size, we need to consider the resources consumed by each person, and the damage done by technologies used to supply them. Overpopulation is when the number of people can not be permanently maintained without depleting resources and without degrading the environment and the people's standard of living. Because we are rapidly using up resources around the world, virtually all nations are overpopulated. This applies even more so to the rich nations. As we use up the resources, the earth's carrying capacity continues to decrease.Just like with people, an overpopulation of animals is not defined by the number of animals that could hypothetically fit within a specific area, but rather when the number of animals that occupy their habitat are not capable of behaving as they naturally would. Unfortunately, the animals' behavior is often altered not so much by their number, but by humans encroaching upon their habitat and then claiming the animal to be a nuisance to man. We should practice the saying "live and let live, " but we do not have the resources to do this while our number continues to increase.Lifespan/Quantity vs. Quality
One thing which must be taken into consideration is the amount of time, money, and effort we have spent toward saving and extending lives. Although these are positive accomplishments, we must also consider the effect it has had on our own number. How much have we contributed toward humanely contolling our number and preserving the environment?Nature is a balance of existence. In order to coincide with nature, we must balance the number of lives which we produce with the saving and extending of lives. We mustn't use resources any faster than they can be reproduced. We need to respect ourselves by learning to respect the environment which we rely upon for our own existence. If not, we will cease to exist.The amount of resources each person consumes, and the damage done by the technologies used to supply them, need to be taken as much into account as the size of the population. In theory, the three factors should be multiplied together to obtain an accurate measurement of the impact on the planet*. Unhappily, Governments do not keep statistics that allow the consumption and technology factors to be readily measured—so scientists substitute per capita energy consumption to give a measure of the effect each person has on the environment.USING AND CONSUMINGIn traditional societies—more or less in balance with their environments—that damage may be self-repairing. Wood cut for fires or structures regrows, soaking up the carbon dioxide produced when it was burned. Water extracted from streams is replaced by rainfall. Soils in fields are regenerated with the help of crop residues and animal manures. Wastes are broken down and reconverted into nutrients by the decomposer organisms of natural ecosystems.At the other end of the spectrum, paving over fields and forests with concrete and asphalt, mining the coal and iron necessary for steel production with all its associated land degradation, and building and operating automobiles, trains and aeroplanes that spew pollutants into the atmosphere, are all energy-intensive processes. So are drilling for and transporting oil and gas, producing plastics, manufacturing chemicals (from DDT and synthetic nitrogen fertilizers to chlorofluorocarbons and laundry detergents) and building power plants and dams. Industrialized agriculture uses enormous amounts of energy—for ploughing, planting, fertilizing and controlling weeds and insect pests and for harvesting, processing, shipping, packing, storing and selling foods. So does industrialized forestry for timber and paper production.PAYING THE PRICEIncidents such as Chernobyl and oil spills are among the environmental prices paid for mobilizing commercial energy—and soil erosion, desertification, acid rain, global warming, destruction of the ozone layer and the toxification of the entire planet are among the costs of using it.In all, humanity's high-energy activities amount to a large-scale attack on the integrity of Earth's ecosystems and the critical services they provide. These include control of the mix of gases in the atmosphere (and thus of the climate); running of the hydrologic cycle which brings us dependable flows of fresh water; generation and maintenance of fertile soils; disposal of wastes; recycling of the nutrients essential to agriculture and forestry; control of the vast majority of potential crop pests; pollination of many crops; provision of food from the sea; and maintenance of a vast genetic library from which humanity has already withdrawn the very basis of civilization in the form of crops and domestic animals.THE RELATIVE IMPACTThe average rich-nation citizen used 7.4 kilowatts (kW) of energy in 1990—a continuous flow of energy equivalent to that powering 74 100-watt lightbulbs. The average citizen of a poor nation, by contrast, used only 1 kW. There were 1.2 billion people in the rich nations, so their total environmental impact, as measured by energy use, was 1.2 billion x 7.4 kW, or 8.9 terawatts (TW)—8.9 trillion watts. Some 4.1 billion people lived in poor nations in 1990, hence their total impact (at 1 kW a head) was 4.1 TW.The relatively small population of rich people therefore accounts for roughly two-thirds of global environmental destruction, as measured by energy use. From this perspective, the most important population problem is overpopulation in the industrialized nations.The United States poses the most serious threat of all to human life support systems. It has a gigantic population, the third largest on Earth, more than a quarter of a billion people. Americans are superconsumers, and use inefficient technologies to feed their appetites. Each, on average, uses 11 kW of energy, twice as much as the average Japanese, more than three times as much as the average Spaniard, and over 100 times as much as an average Bangladeshi. Clearly, achieving an average family size of 1.5 children in the United States (which would still be larger than the 1.3 child average in Spain) would benefit the world much more than a similar success in Bangladesh.CLOSING THE GAPProfessor John P. Holdren of the University of California has generated an "optimistic" scenario for solving the population- resource-environment predicament. This envisages population growth halted at 10 billion a century from now, and rich nations reducing their energy consumption to 3 kW a head. His population target is feasible with modest effort, and the reduction in energy consumption could be achieved with technologies already in hand—given the necessary political will—and would produce an increase in the quality of life. This would provide room for needed economic growth in poor nations, which could triple their per-person energy use to 3 kW. Thus the gap between rich and poor nations would be closed, while the total world impact would increase from 13 TW to 30 TW (10 billion x 3 kW).Will the environment a century hence be able to support 2.3 times as much activity as today? It's questionable, but perhaps with care it could, at least temporarily. Success would require a degree of cooperation, care for our fellow human beings, and respect for the environment that are nowhere evident now. But society has shown it can change rapidly when the time is ripe; let us hope that the United Nations International Conference on Population and Development will help ripen the time.* * ** The relationship is summarized in the classic I=PAT identity: Impact is equal to Population size, multiplied by per capita consumption (Affluence), in turn multiplied by a measure of the damage done by the Technologies chosen to supply each unit of consumption.Mr. Paul R. Ehrlich is Bing Professor of Population Studies and Professor of Biological Sciences at Stanford University in the United States. His most recent books, both co-authored with his wife Anne, are "The Population Explosion" (Simon and Schuster, 1990) and "Healing the Planet" (Addison-Wesley, 1991). The feature originally appeared in Vol. 6, No.3, 1994 of "Our Planet". The views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of UNEP.UNEP Feature 1994/8
STANFORD—Asserting that there is now a "brownlash" in the form of deceptive books and articles downplaying environmental problems, scientists from Stanford's Department of Biological Sciences challenged Julian Simon to bet on significant trends in the human future.Simon, a professor of business administration at the University of Maryland, has repeatedly claimed that all environmental trends are positive and that "doomsaying environmentalists" are wrong. In the San Francisco Chronicle of Friday, May 12, he suggested environmentalists bet that "any trend pertaining to material human welfare" will get worse, since Simon writes they will "all" get better.The Stanford scientists, ecologist Paul R. Ehrlich and climatologist Stephen H. Schneider actually challenged Simon to bet on 15 current trends whose direction is not positive now, betting $1000 that each will get worse over a ten year stretch into the future. They pledged themselves to be bound by the decision of "a panel of scientists chosen by the President of the National Academy of Sciences in 2005."Among the negative trends they bet would continue were:* Rising global temperature.
* Shrinking amount of cropland per person.
* Decline in amount of wheat and rice grown per person.
* Shrinking area of tropical moist forests.
* Decreasing oceanic fish harvest per person.
* Increasing number of people dying of AIDS.
* Declining human sperm count.
* Growing gap between rich and poor.The Stanford scientists explained that they had chosen "15 trends to avoid the result of a statistical fluke" deciding the bet, as may well have happened in a previous bet on a minor issue marginally related to environmental quality.They pointed out that the trends in their wager "are more relevant to human welfare than direct ones such as the prices of metals" and that deterioration in those trends "makes society increasingly vulnerable to severe negative impacts."They concluded "We hope we lose all parts of the bet, and will be doing everything in our power to make that happen.Sadly, the misinformation you are spreading, Mr. Simon, increases the chances we will win the bet—while humanity loses."The complete text of the response sent to the Chronicle follows:
IT'S NO TIME TO HEED THE BROWNLASH
by Paul R. Ehrlich and Stephen H. SchneiderThere is now a campaign of deceptive books and articles designed to persuade people that all is well on the environmental front. The basic message of this campaign is that some favorable trends show green concerns to be "doomsaying." Our basic message is that indirect trends such as those listed below are more relevant to human welfare than direct ones such as the prices of metals.Julian Simon has been a leader in this campaign. He is best known for his belief that resources are infinite (he wrote in 1980 that the theoretical limit to the amount of copper that might be available to human beings was "the total weight of the universe"!) and that population can and should grow indefinitely. He's still at it ("Earth's Doomsayers are Wrong," Chronicle, May 12), this time citing a 1986 report prepared by social scientists for the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) that was subsequently protested by a substantial number of Academy scientists. Somehow he missed the 1994 statement from the NAS and 57 other national academies of science worldwide that contradicted his position.He also ignored the 1993 "World Scientists' Warning to Humanity," signed by some 1700 leading scientists, including over half of all living Nobel Laureates in science, which reads in part: "A great change in our stewardship of the earth and the life on it is required if vast human misery is to be avoided and our global home on this planet is not to be irretrievably mutilated....A new ethic is required—a new attitude towards discharging our responsibility for caring for ourselves and for the earth. We must recongize the earth's limited capacity to provide for us. We must recognize its fragility....The scientists issuing this warning hope that our message will reach and affect people everywhere. We need the help of many."It is impossible to say exactly how direct measures of human well-being will be impacted by the general deterioration of Earth's life-support systems. We know, however, that deterioration makes society increasingly vulnerable to severe negative impacts.One of us (PRE) once made the mistake of being goaded into making a bet with Simon on a matter of marginal environmental importance (prices of metals). Simon says he still wants to make bets. We are thus now challenging Simon to bet on "trends" of much greater significance to long-term human material welfare.We wager $1000 per trend that each of the following 15 continental and global scale indicators will change in the direction indicated ("get worse") over the next decade:1. The three years 2002-2004 will on average be warmer than 1992-1994 (rapid climatic change associated with global warming could pose a major threat of increasing droughts and floods).2. There will be more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in 2004 than in 1994 (carbon dioxide is the most important gas driving global warming).3. There will be more nitrous oxide in the atmosphere in 2004 than in 1994 (nitrous oxide is another greenhouse gas that is increasing due to human disruption of the nitrogen cycle).4. The concentration of tropospheric ozone globally will be greater in 2004 than in 1994 (tropospheric ozone has important deleterious effects on human health and crop production)5. Emissions of sulfur dioxide in Asia will be signficantly greater in 2004 than in 1994 (sulfur dioxide becomes sulphuric acid in the atmosphere, the principal component of acid rain, and it is associated with direct damage to human health).6. There will be less fertile cropland per person in 2004 than in 1994 (as the population grows, some of Earth's best farmland is being paved over).7. There will be less agricultural soil per person in 2004 than in 1994 (about a quarter of the world's topsoil has been lost since World War II, and erosion virtually everywhere far exceeds rates of soil replacement).8. There will be on average less rice and wheat grown per person in 2002-2004 than in 1992-1994 (rice and wheat are the two most important crops consumed by people).9. In developing nations there will be less firewood available per person in 2004 than in 1994 (more than a billion people today depend on fuelwood to meet their energy needs).10. The remaining area of tropical moist forests will be significantly smaller in 2004 than in 1994 (those forests are the repositories of some of humanity's most precious living resources, including the basis for many modern pharmaceuticals worldwide).11. The oceanic fisheries harvest per person will continue its downward trend and thus in 2004 will be smaller than in 1994 (overfishing, ocean pollution, and coastal wetlands destruction will continue to take their toll).12. There will be fewer plant and animal species still extant in 2004 than in 1994 (continuing habitat destruction is wiping out organisms that are the working parts of humanity's life-support systems).13. More people will die of AIDS in 2004 than did in 1994 (as the disease takes off in Asia).14. Between 1994 and 2004, sperm counts of human males will continue to decline and reproductive disorders to increase (over the last 50 years there has been a roughly 40 percent decline in the count worldwide. We bet this trend will continue due to the widespread use of hormone-disrupting synthetic organic chemical compounds).15. The gap in wealth between the richest 10 percent of humanity and the poorest 10 percent will be greater in 2004 than in 1994.We "doomsayers," of course, are not arguing that there are only unfavorable human or environmental trends, rather that too many of the most important are very unfavorable and thus demand prompt attention. Virtually all long-term trends have short-term fluctuations, thus we challenge Simon on 15 trends to avoid the result of a statistical fluke deciding this bet. To determine the direction of the trends, we will accept the decision of a panel of scientists chosen by the President of the National Academy of Sciences in 2005. Referees will be necessary, since terms like "significantly" (e.g., 5 and 10 above) and estimates of such things as agricultural soils involve questions of judgment. But there is an empirical basis on which competent scientists can make reasonable judgments.The bet is binding on our heirs, and our winnings will go to non-profit organizations dedicated to preserving environmental quality and human well-being. Since humanity is gambling with its life-support systems, we hope to lose all parts of the bet.In fact, we will be doing everything in our power to make that happen. Sadly, the complacency and misinformation you are spreading, Mr. Simon, increases the chances we will win the bet—while all of humanity loses. We hope this wager will cause you to reconsider the risks you so blythly suggest the American public undertake by promoting the fantasy of benign indefinite growth.Paul R. Ehrlich and Stephen H. Schneider are Professors in the Department of Biological Sciences, Stanford University.
A review of:Julian Simon's THE ULTIMATE RESOURCE
by Herman DalyThis book is an all-out attack on neomalthusian or limits-to-growth thinking and a plea for more population and economic growth, both now and into the indefinite future. It is not a shotgun attack. Rather it is an attack with a single-shot rifle aimed at a single (but critical) premise of the neomalthusian position.If Simon hits the target, then neomalthusian arguments collapse. If Simon misses the target, then all neomalthusian first principles remain unscathed, and Simon's progrowth arguments collapse. The critical premise that Simon attacks is that of the finitude of resources, including waste absorption capacities. Other premises from which neomalthusians argue include the entropy law and the vulnerability of ecological life-support services.Simon's theoretical argument against the finitude of resources is that:"The word "finite" originates in mathematics, in which context we all learn it as schoolchildren. But even in mathematics the word's meaning is far from unambiguous. It can have two principal meanings, sometimes with an apparent contradiction between them. For example, the length of a one-inch line is finite in the sense that it bounded at both ends. But the line within the endpoints contains an infinite number of points; these points cannot be counted, because they have no defined size. Therefore the number of points in that one-inch segment is not finite. Similarly, the quantity of copper that will ever be available to us is not finite, because there is no method (even in principle) of making an appropriate count of it, given the problem of the economic definition of "copper," the possibility of creating copper or its economic equivalent from other materials, and thus the lack of boundaries to the sources from which copper might be drawn."Two pages later he drives home the main point in connection with oil:"Our energy supply is non-finite, and oil is an important example . . . the number of oil wells that will eventually produce oil, and in what quantities, is not known or measurable at present and probably never will be, and hence is not meaningfully finite."The fallacy in the last sentence quoted is evident. If I have seven gallons of oil in seven one gallon cans, then it is countable and finite. If I dump one gallon of oil into each of the seven seas and let it mix for a year, those seven gallons would no longer be countable, and hence not "meaningfully finite, " therefore infinite. This is straightforward nonsense.The fallacy concerning the copper is obscured by the strange fact that Simon begins with a correct distinction regarding infinity of distance and infinity of divisibility of a finite distance, and then as soon as he moves from one-inch lines to copper with nothing but the word "similarly" to bridge the gap, he forgets the distinction. It would be a wonderful exercise for a class in freshman logic to find the parallel between Simon's argument and Zeno's paradox of Achilles and the tortoise. Recall that Zeno "proved" that Achilles could never catch up with a tortoise that had a finite head start on him. While Achilles traverses the distance from his starting point to that of the tortoise, the tortoise advances a certain distance, and while Achilles advances this distance, the tortoise makes a further advance, and so on, ad infinitum. Thus Achilles will never catch up.Zeno's paradox confounds an infinity of subdivisions of a distance, which is finite, with an infinity of distance. This is exactly parallel to what Simon has done. He has confused an infinity of possible boundary lines between copper and noncopper with an infinity of amount of copper. We cannot, he says, make an "appropriate count" of copper because the set of all resources can be subdivided in many ways with many possible boundaries for the subset copper because resources are "infinitely" substitutable. Since copper cannot be simply counted like beans in a jar, and since what cannot be counted is not finite, it "follows" that copper is not finite, or copper is infinite.Simon has argued from the premise of an "infinite" substitutability among different elements within a (finite) set to the conclusion of the infinity of the set itself. But no amount of rearrangement of divisions within a finite set can make the set infinite. His demonstration that mankind will never exhaust its resource base rests on the same logical fallacy as Zeno's demonstration that Achilles will never exhaust the distance between himself and the tortoise. Simon's argument therefore fails even if we grant his premise of infinite substitutability, which gets us rather close to alchemy. Copper is after all an element, and the transmutation of elements is more difficult than the phrase "infinite substitutability" implies! Indeed, Simon never tells us whether "infinite substitutability" means infinite substitutability at declining costs, constant costs, increasing costs, or at infinite costs! Of course Simon could simply assert that the total set of all resources is infinite, but this would be a bald assertion, not a conclusion from an argument based on substitutability, which is what he has attempted.Simon appeals to the unlimited power of technology to increase the service yielded per unit of resource as further evidence of the essentially nonfinite nature of resources. If resource productivity (ratio of service to resources) were potentially infinite, then we could maintain an ever growing value of services with an ever smaller flow of resources. If Simon truly believes this, then he should join those neomalthusians who advocate limiting the resource flow precisely in order to force technological progress into the direction of improving total resource productivity and away from the recent direction of increasing intensity of resource use. Many neomalthusians advocate this even though they believe the scope for improvement is finite. If one believes the scope for improvement in resource productivity is infinite, then all the more reason to restrict the resource flow.Those who are loud in their praise of Simon are the same people who would have bet on the tortoise, and are now betting on infinite resources. Simon's ultimate criterion for the validity of an argument seems to be willingness to "put your money where your mouth is." (See his grandstand offer on page 27 to bet anyone any amount, up to a $10,000 total, that the real price of any resource will not rise.) He suggests that the current heavy betting by speculators that the resource tortoise will stay ahead of the Achilles of demographic and economic growth is the best available evidence of the final outcome of the race. But it could in fact be the best available evidence that speculators are interested only in the short run, or that there is a sucker born every minute! In any case "put your money where your mouth is" is a challenge to intensity of belief, not correctness of belief. It is the adman's customary proof by bombastic proclamation.But what about Simon's empirical evidence against resource finitude? It fares no better than his fallacious attempt at logical refutation. He leans heavily on two expert studies: "The Age of Substitutability" by Weinberg and Goeller (Science, February 20,1976), and Scarcity and Growth by Barnett and Morse.*1 His use of these studies is amazingly selective.From Weinberg and Goeller he quotes optimistic findings of "infinite" substitutability among resources, assuming a future low-cost, abundant energy source. This buttresses Simon's earlier premise of "infinite" subdivisibility or substitutability among resources. But it does not lend support to his fallacious conclusion that resources are infinite and therefore growth forever is possible. More to the point, however, is that Weinberg and Goeller explicitly rule out any such conclusion by stating in their very first paragraph that their "Age of Substitutability" is a steady state. It assumes zero growth in population and energy use at the highest level that Weinberg and Goeller are willing to say is technically feasible. And they express serious reservations about the social and institutional feasibility of maintaining such a high consumption steady state.Furthermore, the levels envisioned by Weinberg and Goeller, though cornicopian by general consent, are quite modest by Simon's standards: world population in the Age of Substitutability would be only 2.5 times the present population, and world energy use would be only 12 times present use. This implies a world per-capita energy usage of only 70 percent of current U.S. per capita use. The very study that Simon appeals to for empirical support of his unlimited growth position explicitly rejects the notion of unlimited growth—a fact that Simon fails to mention.As further empirical evidence we are served a rehash of the Barnett an Morse study. Their finding was that the scarcity of most resources, as measure by per unit extractive costs and by relative prices, was decreasing rather than increasing from 1870 to 1957. Simon gives these arguments as evidence the resources are infinite.There is no serious dispute about the Barnett and Morse numbers, but the conclusion that resources are becoming ever less scarce is hardly justified. The neomalthusians can reply that of course the prices of resources fall during a epoch of mineralogical bonanza. But the data cannot be decisive between these two views, since they cover only that epoch.Barnett and Morse are careful to report an important exception to the general finding of falling resource prices: timber, whose price increased during the period. Simon's way of handling this exception is interesting. He first considers only mineral resources and applies the criterion of price as a measure of scarcity, explicitly rejecting all quantity-based indices. He thus shows, decline in scarcity of mineral resources. Later, in the context of food, he considers timber. This is a fair enough context, except that he switches his criterion of scarcity from price to quantity of timber growth. In this way he ca show decreasing timber scarcity by applying quantity measures, while showing decreasing minerals scarcity by applying price measures.But an equally shifty neomalthusian could use quantity remaining in the ground to prove increasing scarcity of minerals, and relative price to prove increasing scarcity of timber. There is a serious debate about the proper measure of scarcity, as the report by Resources for the Future, Scarcity and Growth Reconsidered,*2 demonstrates, but Simon is not engaged in that serious discussion. He grabs whatever number may be moving in the direction that fits the needs of the argument at hand and baptizes it as an index of whatever he is talking about. Two examples will illustrate:First, Simon claims, after warning us to "grab your hat," that pollution has really been decreasing rather than increasing. To test this hypothesis most investigators would probably look at parts per million of various substances emitted into the air and water by human activities to see if they have been rising or falling over time. Simon, however, takes life expectancy as his index of pollution: increasing life expectancy indicates decreasing pollution. If one suggests that the increase in life expectancy mainly reflects improved control of infectious diseases, Simon redefines "pollutant" to include the smallpox virus and other germs. In this way an increase in emissions of noxious substances from the economy (what everyone but Simon means by "pollution") would not register until after it more than offset the improvement in life expectancy brought about by modern medicine. Thus Simon "measures" pollution by burying it in an aggregate, the other component of which offsets and overwhelms it.The second example is the claim (we are again told to grab our hats) that the combined increases of income and population do not increase "pressure" on the land. His proof: the absolute amount of land per farm worker has been increasing in the United States and other countries. One might have thought that this was a consequence of mechanization of agriculture and that the increasing investment per acre in machinery, fertilizer, and pesticides represented pressure on the land, not to mention pressure on mines, wells, rivers, lakes, and so on.Simon's demonstration that resources are infinite is, in my view, a coarse mixture of simple fallacy, omission of contrary evidence from his own expert sources and gross statistical misinterpretation. Since everything else hinges on the now exploded infinite resources proposition, we could well stop here. But there are other considerations less central to the argument of the book that beg for attention.If, Simon notwithstanding, resources are indeed finite, then the other premises of the neomalthusians remain in vigor. The entropy law tells us not only that coal is finite, but that you can't burn the same lump twice. When burned, available energy is irreversibly depleted and unavailable energy is increased along with the dissipation of materials. If nature's sources and sinks were truly infinite, the fact that the flow between them was entropic would hardly matter. But with finite sources and sinks, the entropy law greatly increases the force of scarcity.Although the words "entropy" or "second law of thermodynamics" remarkably do not occur once in a 400-page book on The Ultimate Resource, the concept is occasionally touched upon. There is a comment made in passing that marble and copper can be recycled, whereas energy cannot. This raises hopes that Simon may not be ignorant of the entropy law. These hopes are soon dashed when he softens the statement to "energy cannot be easily recycled." Later he tells us that "man's activities tend to increase the order and decrease the homogeneity of nature. Man tends to bring like elements together, to concentrate them."That is the only part of the picture that Simon knows about. But the entropy law tells us there is another part—that to increase order in one part of the system requires the increase of disorder elsewhere, and that in net terms for the system as a whole the movement is toward disorder. In other words, more order and more matter and energy devoted to human bodies and artifacts mean less matter and energy and less order for the rest of the system, which includes all the other species on whose life-support services we and our economy depend. Simon is quite prepared to ruin the habitats of all other species by letting them (and future generations) bear the entropic costs of disorders that our own continuing growth entails. For Simon, however, this problem cannot exist because he believes resources and absorption capacities are infinite. But after he has once mastered the paradox of Achilles and the tortoise concerning infinity, his next homework assignment should be to find out about entropy. Until he has done these two things he should stop trying to write books for grownups about resources and population.Part II of the book is on population and is dedicated to the proposition that the ultimate resource is people. The more the better, indefinitely. We are told that: "Even the proposition that population growth must stop sometime may not be very meaningful (see Chapter 3 on 'finitude')." We have already seen Chapter 3 on finitude and have discovered that it is sheer nonsense. I will spare the reader a recitation of all the propositions about population that self-destruct with the demise of Chapter 3.There is a puzzling methodological inconsistency between Parts I and II. In Part I Simon is the total empiricist, trusting only in the extrapolation of recent trends of falling resource prices. Any a priori argument from first principles about reversal of trends due to increasing cost, diminishing returns, the end of a bonanza, or even the S-shape of the logistic curve characteristic of all empirically observed growth processes simply does not warrant consideration by this hard-headed empiricist. Yet in Part II we find Simon refusing to project population trends and relying on the theory of demographic transition to reverse the recent trend of population growth. His own graphs, used to demonstrate the unreliability of past population predictions, also show that a simple linear trend would have yielded much more accurate predictions in the 1920s than did the then current "twilight of parenthood" theories. Once again, whatever epistemological posture serves the immediate needs of argument is adopted. One is certainly free to choose whatever balance of theory and empiricism one thinks is most effective in getting at the truth, but the balance should not fluctuate so wildly, so often, and so opportunistically.Simon values human life. More people are better than fewer people because each additional person's life has value for that person, his loved ones, and for society as a whole should he turn out to be a genius: an increase of 4,000 people is more likely to yield another Einstein, Mozart, or Michelangelo than an increase of only 400 people.While I personally give zero weight to the notion that more births among today's poor and downtrodden masses will increase the probability of another Einstein or Mozart (or Hitler or Caligula?), I do agree that, other things equal, more human lives, and more lives of other species, are better than fewer. And I think that most of my fellow neomalthusians would agree than 10 billion people are better than 2 billion—as long as the 10 billion are not all alive at the same time!This is the crucial point: neomalthusian policies seek to maximize the cumulative total of lives ever to be lived over time, at a sufficient per-capita standard for a good life. Simon wants to maximize the number of people simultaneously alive—and, impossibly, to maximize per-capita consumption at the same time. These two contradictory strategies are possible only if resources are infinite. If they are finite then maximizing the number of simultaneous lives means a reduction in carrying capacity, fewer people in future time periods, and a lower cumulative total of lives ever lived at a sufficient standard.The difference is not, as Simon imagines, that he is "pro-life" and the neomalthusians are "anti-life." Rather it is that neomalthusians have a basic understanding of the biophysical world, whereas Simon still has not done his homework on Zeno's paradoxes of infinity, on the entropy law, on the importance of ecological life-support services provided by other species, and on the impossibility of the double maximization implied in his advocacy of "the greatest good for the greatest number."Simon seems to believe that an avoided birth today implies the eternal nonexistence of a particular self-conscious person who would have enjoyed life. But as far as I know, the pairing of a particular self-consciousness with a particular birth is the greatest of mysteries. Perhaps birth control means that a particular existence is postponed rather than canceled. In other contexts, however, Simon proclaims that "birth control is simply a human right." When Kingsly Davis, Paul Ehrlich, or Garret Hardin advocate birth control they are sacrificing the unborn; but when Simon finds it convenient to his argument to endorse birth control, he is proclaiming a human right.In this reviewer's opinion, Simon's book cannot stand up to even average critical scrutiny. Lots of bad books are written, and the best thing usually is to ignore them. I would have preferred to ignore this one, too, but judging from the publicity accorded Simon's recent articles, this book is likely to be hailed as a triumph by people who are starved for "optimism." Simon himself tells us that the optimistic conclusions he reached in his population studies helped to bring him out of a "depression of medically unusual duration," and he clearly wants to share the cure. But his cure is at best a sugar pill.We must abandon the shallow, contrived optimism of growthmania once and for all. The end of growthmania is no cause for despair; it is a hopeful new beginning. To me the optimistic alternative is that of a steady state at a sufficient, sustainable level in which many future generations can rejoice in the loving study and care of God's creation.Further prolongation of the current compulsive quest for infinite growth, power, and control is what I find depressing. We should learn to be good stewards of what is already under our dominion rather than seek always to enlarge that dominion. We who have done a poor job of managing a small domain should not trust ourselves to take over control of an ever larger "infinite" domain.CURRENT WORLD
India set to overtake China as world's most populated country after adding 180m people in a decadeIndia is set to become the world's most populated country after its population climbed to 1.21billion this year, census officials have revealed.The South Asian nation - second only to China in number of people - added 181million to its numbers in the past decade alone, according to C. Chandramouli, the census commissioner.Despite growth slowing in India for the first time in 90 years, that increase alone is nearly the population of Brazil.Overcrowding: Indians commute on a road to the capital, Delhi, as figures revealed it could be the world's most populous country in under 20 yearsUnited Nations projections show that India could overtake China and its 1.34billion people as the world's most populous nation by 2030, though Chandramouli said a more rigorous analysis of data would be needed before India made its own projections.India's population is now nearly equal to the combined populations of the United States, Indonesia, Brazil, Japan, Bangladesh, Pakistan.Yet, the 17.6 percent increase was down from 21.5 in the last count a decade ago. The last time India showed slowing in population growth was in the 1921 census.A group of schoolchildren rise a horse cart back from school in Delhi, which itself has a population of around 13million people - almost twice the size of LondonIndia's infrastructure and transport system has laboured under the country's continually rising populationThe numbers released Thursday were preliminary and official figures and analysis weren't expected to be released until next year.The census, India's 15th since 1872, was a mammoth effort spread out over a year.It involved 2.7million census-takers who surveyed some 300 million households, noting for the first time whether people live in basic huts or concrete structures, have electricity and access to toilets and if they have spent any time in schools.The questions will help administrators develop policies and set budgets for a nation where 800million people live in poverty.
- Almost all residents, regardless of nationality, are included in the count, even those imprisoned like Pakistani Ajmal Kasab, who is on death row for his role in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks. Millions of homeless were also counted.The initial numbers show a decline in the number of children under the age of six, down five million since 2001 to 158.8million.They also indicate a continuing preference for male children over females in a country where female infanticide is still common and the government has banned doctors from revealing the sex of unborn children.The population figures were revealed after India's fifth census, where over 300 million households were surveyedA gender breakdown among children showed fewer girls than boys are being born or surviving, with 914 girls for every 1,000 boys under the age of 6, compared to 927 for every 1,000 in the last census.'This is a matter of grave concern,' Chandramouli said.Indians continue to favour sons over daughters mostly because of the enormous expenses involved in marrying off girls.Even the poorest families are often likely to go into debt arranging marriages and paying elaborate dowries to their daughter's new family. Hindu custom also dictates that only sons can light funeral pyres.China, with massively populated cities such as Shanghai, remains the world's most populous country at 1.34 billion'Whatever measures that have been put in over the last 40 years has not had any impact on child sex ratio and therefore that requires a complete review,' India's Home Secretary G.K. Pillai said.The overall sex-ratio showed a marginal improvement, with 940 women counted for every 1,000 men compared to 933 in the last census.The census also showed that the literacy rate went up to 74 percent nationwide for people aged 7 and older, from about 65 percent in the last count.