Population Is Not The Main Problem

I am tired of reading letters that focus on overpopulation as the root cause of our environmental problems. The United Nations Environmental Program report — “One Planet, How Many People? A Review of Earth’s Carrying Capacity” — conducted a survey of scientific estimates of the Earth’s carrying capacity and showed that the majority of estimates fall between a capacity of 8 billion and 16 billion people. Our environmental problems are rooted in consumption — particularly massive consumption by the world’s wealthiest countries.

Furthermore, the only non-draconian strategies to reduce population include reducing wealth inequality, providing contraceptives to everyone, and fully including women in educational and economic opportunities — all policies that are worth pursuing in their own right. Population control by other means is misanthropic at best and ecofascist and totalitarian at worst.

If we want to get serious about climate change, food systems, soil recovery, deforestation, air and water pollution, eliminating plastics and all the other environmental crises of our time, we need to address consumption of resources. We do that by living in closer communities and building a sharing economy, reducing our auto-dependence, holding large corporations accountable for their pollution and putting a price on pollution of all forms. Anything less is a distraction. 

Alexis Biddle