Overpopulation is total bunk…

… Speaking of anxiety inducing, apocalyptic urban myths. The idea that the world is overpopulated is just not so.

Or if you wanted to take everyone in the entire world and stick them in one city, the density per square mile would look something like this…

Cute videos and simple graphics aside, let’s consult Science and consider our sources. Paul Ehrlich re-introduced the idea of over population in 1968 with his book, “The Population Bomb.” His theory, along with Thomas Malthus’s idea about population growth getting checked by famine and disease [An Essay on the Principle of Population] are just that; theories. Lack of food is not a population problem but rather the need for more efficient distribution. You have to understand the source from where these theories came from. Malthus was a cat who had some grand ideas about Utopian societies and selective breeding. Sound familiar? Ehrlich theories take on a much more nefarious tone…

“We must have population control at home, hopefully through a system of incentives and penalties, but by compulsion if voluntary methods fail. We must use our political power to push other countries into programs which combine agricultural development and population control.”

He is also not opposed to mandatory population control if necessary, including the suspension of food aid to countries which were considered “hopeless” to feed their populations. Sounds like a charming and compassion gent, no?

The plain and simple truth is that depopulation is more likely to cause economic distress. As the fertility rate continues to dramatically fall, in many cases below replacing rate [China, anyone?], the myth of overpopulation becomes more and more exposed for what it is; eugenics disguised as environmental concern and false interest in the well being of the poor. Poverty, disease, and starvation will not be solved by thinning out the population, targeting minorities for abortion, and mandating free government birth control.

If anything, we should be encouraging fertility and large families. From an economic viewpoint, consumers are the largest component of gross domestic product [GDP]. When the GDP drops the whole economy suffers. Labor shortages halt productivity while consumers and tax payers simply cease to exist to financially support the economy. Without babies, and lots of them, you are pitifully left with an aging population causing generational bankruptcy of government spending. Social Security and Medicare are unsustainable without new generations of taxpaying workers.

In short, people are a good thing. Be fruitful and multiple. Live long and prosper.

About Katrina Fernandez

Mackerel Snapping Papist

  • Turk

    Be grateful you don’t have such densely packed populations in America.

    I can guarantee that none of you would want to live in Bangladesh, where the country is as large as one of your states and the population approaches 150 million. Saying overpopulation doesn’t exist is a myth that’s only pushed in North America. In every other continent, the effects of overpopulation are obvious, with trash in the streets, people starving, and only the wealthy having access to clean water.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thecrescat Katrina Fernandez

      I am talking about the myth of global overpopulation. And again, the example you give sounds like a food distribution and  class inequality problem. 

      • Turk

        Food distribution and class inequality isn’t the biggest problem. Even if you pass out free food to everybody on earth, clean air, waste disposal, and drinkable water become more of a problem as population rises. Giving handouts to everybody on earth also gives people less motivation to improve their conditions, and people take what they receive and ask for more. Additionally, providing energy and food to these people uses up drinkable water, causing more problems. 

        You can’t just grab the world’s population and throw them into a densely packed city because nobody will be happy and these problems would quickly become evident. Natural disasters would also be much more deadly.If you’re in anywhere but the Americas, you realize that overpopulation is a very real and happening thing. Be thankful for your privileged life.

        • http://thecatholicsciencegeek.blogspot.com/ The Catholic Science Geek

          Take a step back, calm down…and think for a moment. These countries you speak of…what is their infrastructure like? You can’t get food there or even the proper equipment to allow for sustainable farming there if you lack the roads and transport. What are their governments like? Do they work for the benefit of all people or do they embezzle goods and waste resources on their military/wars/etc? What is their education system like? Do the people learn the skills they need to grow/seek/earn a living…or do they lack schooling altogether? Is healthcare a priority in these places? Also, natural disasters have always occurred and will always occur…regardless of how many people live there. What HAS changed over the years is our ability to predict, prepare, and provide aid afterwards. As for throwing people into a densely populated city? If people were so unhappy with such populated cities….why do we enjoy visiting places like NYC so much? Mutual respect for fellow human beings …that’s the key…not handouts. Also, you completely overlook the leaps and bounds that science has made in maximizing land and water resources for agriculture. Seriously, think and research before you decide to type. 

          • http://thecatholicsciencegeek.blogspot.com/ The Catholic Science Geek

            Oh…and for the record, I am an American who has travelled and even lived in several other countries before. I have seen enough poverty to know that I am privileged. However, based on what I have seen and learned…I see more of a need for HUMANITY and RESPECT for human dignity for all walks of life….than I do sugar-coated versions of euthanasia. 

      • Turk

        Thanks for removing my previous comment because it contradicted your claims.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thecrescat Katrina Fernandez

          I didn’t delete any comments in this thread. Please do not falsely accuse me of censorship to make yourself look like a victim. Please see my comment policy. It is only under those situations I delete comments. 

    • Rol_Texas

      The problem isn’t overpopulation in Bangladesh; it’s underdevelopment. The major mistake of the prophets of doom (population chapter) is in putting the cart of population pressures before the horse of development (cf. Phil Auerswald on this subject). Singapore is incredibly dense with people and has very few natural resources but is enormously more prosperous than Bangladesh. Yet Singapore started out from a place that, 50 or 60 years ago, was not that much more prosperous than Bangladesh. The reason Singapore outperformed Bangladesh wasn’t population; it was good governance, foresighted political leadership, probably culture, and perhaps a bit of luck.

      • Clare Krishan

        Bangladeshis got the short end of the stick during independence from colonial Britain: Muslims chose a theocratic state over Singapore’s secular political model (which avoided being becoming an elitist Islamic caliphate of the predominantly Islamic Malay peninsula).  Underdeveloped countries benefit from more people (and more religious liberty) rather than less to construct the social commerce
        capital — roads, industry, manufacturing, services including education and healthcare — to enrich its people,
        see Jim Person’s

        http://catholiceducation.org/articles/population/pc0005.html “Population Politics and the Shambles of Africa”
        “Lord Bauer, in The Development Frontier, suggests that the lack of people in Africa may be the cause of some of the problems:“… population growth can have favourable external effects. It can
        facilitate the more effective division of labour and thereby increase
        real incomes. In fact, in much of Southeast Asia, Africa, and Latin
        America, sparseness of population inhibits economic advance. It retards
        the development of transport facilities and communications, and thus
        inhibits the movement of people and goods and the spread of new ideas
        and methods. These obstacles to enterprise and economic advance are
        particularly difficult to overcome.”

        Bauer isn’t alone in making this observation. A growing number of authorities believe that Africa is actually underpopulated.
        Africa is now the world’s most sparsely populated continent (although
        it now has the most rapid population growth rate) and many parts of it
        are so sparsely populated that it is unable to support anything more
        than very rudimentary communications and transportation networks. The
        result is that the distribution and diffusion of goods, services, and
        ideas are severely retarded.

  • Kmueller40

    Are you blind Turk? Or illiterate? Or both? Look at the video and the cartoons about population density.

  • Phild7686

    *I’m a Catholic faithful to the Church.

    The debate over overpopulation really has nothing to do with population density, but rather the amount of food and resources to sustain the world’s population.

    Fertility rates are falling worldwide but the world’s population is continuing to grow, because the fertility rate is still well above replacement. The UN has 3 models for a population projection to 2100 and the lower and middle projections have the population leveling off and decreasing, but not for several decades. If I remember correctly the middle projection has the population reaching 11-12 billion before leveling off. Scientific estimates for how many people the earth can support tend to have a median of about 12 billion people (http://www.rockefeller.edu/pubinfo/news_notes/rus_031805_c.php). This is based on how much food the earth is capable of producing.

    This post is a decent start to the discussion but is lacking overall. Don’t allow the truth of your Catholic faith to bias your approach to science and the world. You don’t need it. I used to hold a similar view about overpopulation as you do until I researched the topic in depth. There is still alot of uncertainty in the debate, which means I don’t listen much to people from either side who try to make definitive statements.

    • steve5656546346

      The truth of Catholic faith is simply the truth:  and truth NEVER interferes with seeing the truth.  The truth is at Catholicism is the seed bed of modern science, there is no conflict between Catholicism and science, that claims to the contrary are simply false.

      EVERY alarmist prediction has proven utterly false:  in part, because it always assumes that there will be no human growth in the ability to produce food!

      If you look at the fertility rate country by country, you will see that all of Western culture is well below replacement rate.  And we are to assume, I suppose, that there will be no more plagues or disasters that would have a major–and unanticipated–impact upon population.

      Artificial birth control really is something new under the sun:  at least regarding its convenience.  It is not yet clear whether any society which uses is widely can ever recover.  Raising children is just too hard and demanding to be sustained when the measure is convenience.

  • Janet Butler

    It has always been thus: it’s not a problem of population. It’s a problem of distribution of resources. In short, the problem isn’t that we have too many people; the problem is that we have too many GREEDY people, too much corruption in distribution systems, too much of a lot of things that add up to…sin. What a shocker. :-)  This is no doubt what Jesus meant when He said we would always have the poor with us–because we would always have an inequality in distribution as long as we have transportation, production, and corruption obstacles to overcome.  That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try–but stopping population growth isn’t going to change that one iota. Nor does this problem mean we in the western world are automatically “guilty” and people in underdeveloped countries are automatically “innocent,” however–another myth I’d like to see fall by the wayside. People all over the world are sinful–not just those in developed countries! Many, many, MANY of those of us who “have” give as much as humanly possible to those who “have not.” And we have a generous share of those who “have not” in our own back yards in America…we don’t have to look to Third World nations in order to do some good in the world. Yes, it’s our responsibility to be good stewards of the earth and its resources and take care of each other.  But not replenishing the population of that earth so that the resources can be a) produced and b) GOTTEN to others…isn’t the answer. Especially not when it’s in the hands of zealots who would compel everyone ELSE to stop having children–except their own select circle. :-)

    • Rol_Texas

      The problem isn’t greedy people or maldistribution of resources. Everyone in Europe and America could write a massive check to the third world tomorrow, but unless that wealth were used to develop strong infrastructure and institutions, and unless all those poor countries magically educated their populations overnight, that big charity check would do precious little to alleviate poverty in the long term.
      Wealth isn’t a zero-sum commodity that you divide up and share like a pie. Wealth is something that is created by people going out and doing things and making things that are useful to other people. The more economic activity there is and the faster that activity is generated, the wealthier everyone becomes through trade

       Bangladesh, for example, isn’t poor because there’s some abstract “pie” of wealth that’s too small to be divided between so many people. Rather, it’s poor because they lack certain things–like good roads, electricity, an educated workforce, good governance, a functioning court system, etc.–that could facilitate economic activity (i.e., people doing things and making things that are useful to other people). 

      • Clare Krishan

        ditto – see my earlier comment quoting Jim Peron’s article at CERC

  • Gregg the Obscure

    I recently read the most depressing book ever: Merchants of Despair by Robert Zubrin. The book points out, in completely secular terms, the flaws of Malthus’ original arguments and the arguments of his followers to the present day. The proponents of genocide (which is really the only way to reduce population after all) always posit ever-growing populations and no improvements to technology, while improvements to technology have outstripped population growth for centuries, making food much more readily available than it has ever been. While the book is depressing, the more depressing aspect of it is the knowledge that so many people could read the book, acknowledge the facts in it and still be dedicated Malthusians.

  • Baka Karasu

    The issue is carrying capacity and overshoot.  Do your homework. I suggest the essays at http://www.paulchefurka.ca  The Elephant In The Room is a good starting point.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thecrescat Katrina Fernandez

      Really? Your source is someone refers people for courses in “Soul Psychology” and promotes “visionary art of magic faeries” ?! 

      That’s funny.

      • Sagrav

        Not that I agree with Baka Karasu’s beliefs in faeries and soul psychology, but why are his/her beliefs any stranger than yours?

        Catholics (and other christians) believe that a man existed who could walk on water and also turn water into wine.  They also believe that a bland wafer fed to them in church transubstantiates into that same man’s flesh… and that eating said flesh is a good thing.  

        Baka believes in magic.  You believe in magic (calling the occurrence a ‘miracle’ doesn’t change the fact that it is magic).  Yet you believe Baka’s magic to be silly fluffery, while yours is rational magic.  Why?

  • http://johnfranc.blogspot.com/ John Beckett

    I don’t know what the carrying capacity of the Earth is, but common sense says it’s not infinite.  There’s lots of land, but much of it is inhospitable.   Fossil fuels, on which modern civilization runs, are quickly being depleted.  Water is in short supply in much of the world.  I don’t know what the maximum population should be (and neither does anyone else) but I do know it can’t continue to grow and grow and grow.

    Fortunately, we have discovered the cure for overpopulation, and it doesn’t require totalitarian measures.  Prosperity in general and women’s prosperity in particular reduces birth rates, something Western Europe, Japan, and much of North America has discovered.

    As prosperity continues to come to South America, Asia and eventually to Africa (though probably not in my lifetime), birth rates will stabilize and fall.  Human population will begin to drop to something more in line with the resources we have available. 

    This will require a different kind of economy – one based on the desire for “enough” instead of always “more”.  I hope I live long enough to see at least the beginning of it.

  • KarenJo12

    What about other species? I presume you all are okay with mass extinctions if it allows us to cram more humans into every spot on the planet?

  • Cowalker

    It’s completely bizarre to me that people say “those overpopulation nuts were SO wrong to worry about the increasing birth rate.” Uh,  they were instrumental in developing and distributing strategies and means to reduce birth rates  because of their worries. It turns out people were eager to use them. But because their actions mitigated the problem, they were crazy to worry about it!  All those silly people out there saving up money for retirement will be so upset when they reach 65 and find they have enough money that they don’t have to work anymore. See! They have enough money. There was no need to deprive themselves during all those years.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thecrescat Katrina Fernandez

      Yes, the families in China forced to abort their children seem so eager to embrace the government mandated one child policy.  

  • Erista

    As a biologist, those “You can fit all the people of the world into  [some relatively small space]” comments drive me up the wall.

    Overpopulation is not and never has been about a lack of space to physically put a person in; overpopulation has to do with a lack of resources to support said person. Each person needs a certain amount of space filled with plants for making oxygen, a certain amount of space with water for drinking, a certain amount of space filled with water for cleaning, a certain amount of space with plants (or animals) for eating, a certain amount of space for producing clothes, a certain amount of space for producing building materials, and far more, especially considering our standard of living which introduces even more factors, like a certain amount of space to provide the materials for gas, cars, computers, electricity, and other modern amenities.

    Furthermore, we know full well that there can and is a population ceiling that we will hit eventually, and we know this because we’ve hit various population ceilings in the past. One need only look at a graph showing the history of the world’s population (like the attached picture “World Population, 500 BCE-2000″ from http://www.columbia.edu/~amm2009/Globalization.html ) to see that for the overwhelming majority of our history, the population of our world has been much smaller and has in fact been relatively stable. This isn’t because we are somehow more fertile than our ancestors, because we use less birth control, because the world has become larger, or any such thing. So why do we have so many more people? Because when we hit population ceilings like we have in the past, people died from lack of resources. It is only the recent advances that have been made in technology that raised our population ceiling.

    We KNOW we can hit a point where we can’t produce enough resources to
    support our population because we’ve been unable to do such in the past.
    We KNOW that technology will not always advance fast enough to support
    our rate of reproduction because it hasn’t in the past. We KNOW that we can exhaust our resources because we have in the past. We KNOW that we can hit our population ceiling because we have in the past. The only differences between overpopulation now and overpopulation then is that our population ceiling now is much higher and we don’t know exactly what that population ceiling is. If we go high enough, the same thing will happen as happened between the years 500 BC and 500 AD; our population with plateau as any number of people above a certain limit die from a lack of resources. The
    fact that population ceilings exist cannot be disputed by anyone with
    any knowledge at all of historical population numbers.

    If you want humanity to keep growing until we hit our next population ceiling and people start dying not just because we don’t distribute resources well enough but because we actually don’t have enough resources, there probably isn’t anything I can do to convince you otherwise. But don’t pretend there isn’t a population ceiling at all. It’s always been there.

    • Ryan

       Also, I would ask everyone with an interest in the long term survival of the present civilization to do a little bit of research on what exactly the modern argricultural techiques that helped raise the population ceiling do to the soil and the waterways.
      The end result is not unlike what irrigation did to the soil salinity of the fertile crescent. Note how much of that region is a desert now. If we stop being able to use our agricultural land, how long will we be able to sustain the population we have, much less an ever growing one?

    • dude

      Much agreed! the world is overpopulated, and god cant help( and why is there pictures of priests on the right, what the f*ck) anyway. man kind will thin out the population, as it always has in the past, war and famine will prevail!

  • Erista

    Also, one of the things that many people fail to take into account is the fact that if we want to maintain our population (not grow, maintain), we’re going to need to make serious technological advancements. You see, the rate at which we are consuming resources is greater than the rate at which the resources are being renewed; this means that if things continue on as they currently are, the same number of people that we have now will have less to work with in the future than we have now.

    Take nutrient pools, the phosphorus one in particular. All living things need phosphorus. All of them, from the smallest bacterium to the largest whale. You see, phosphorus is a required part of important biological molecules like DNA, RNA, phospholipids, and ATP. Phosphorus is not optional for life. One of the ways that we significantly improved agriculture (and thus the amount of food that we have) was by realizing that we could mine the stuff, spray it on our crops, and we could grow bigger crops in greater amounts. This allowed more of humanity’s parents to feed more of their children, allowing the population to grow instead of staying the same.

    Unfortunately, the phosphorous cycle (the rate at which phosphorus is moved from one nutrient pool to another, notably the rate at which inaccessible phosphorus is made accessible) is really slow. Let’s say that we mined some phosphorous, applied it to our field and then wanted to use this same phosphorous to fertilize a field in the future. We’d have to wait for it to get washed out to sea, taken up by organisms that died and fell to the ocean floor, compressed into sedimentary rock, uplifted by the movement of the earth’s tectonic plates, and then mined again.* The amount of time that this would take is staggering, so much so that we cannot rely on it to give us the same phosphorus back. In fact, if we keep going at this rate, the Global Phosphorus Research Initiative “estimates that the world’s readily available phosphorus
    supplies will be inadequate to meet agricultural demand within 30 to 40
    years.”** All of this means that if we don’t invent some technology or methodology to help us get phosphorus in a different way than we do now, we won’t be able to support our current population in 30 to 40 years.

    All of this comes down to the fact that, unlike many periods in the past, we don’t just have to advance technologically to increase our population, we have to advance technologically to maintain it. Hopefully we will be able to do that, because if we aren’t, many, many people will die (even if our population didn’t grow at all in the next few decades) as the population ceiling lowers itself. And we all know that the world population isn’t going to stay the same or drop in the next few decades. One need only look at the picture I posted in my last post to see that we’ve managed to pitch ourselves into a logarithmic growth curve, creating a situation where even if people have fewer children than they did in the past, our population will still shoot up.

    *Ecology Concepts and Applications, 5th Edition, page 421

  • Marcosandolini333

    Here is a run down about World Population from the Experts:

    Demographic Winter on you tube.


    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lZeyYIsGdAA And if you do not believe the Experts, listen to John Lennon, R.I.P.:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3yRh5NNiFG0*

  • Andy S

    Great post. A population implosion…societies not replacing themselves…is already negatively impacting the globe. Japan is a dying country. Germany and most of Europe is not far behind. China has a long runway because of their massive population, but the one child policy has preordained a dystopian future for men that will have no statistical chance of finding a wife.

    “Science’s” caterwauling about a coming ice age 40 years ago proved a little off…so forgive us if we only pay attention to real science and not the pop science of the overpopulation and global warming (wait…can’t say global warming anymore, right? Is it just climate change now? Or, since it is hot, being summer and all, can we go back to global warming?) chicken littles.

  • lzardo

    I know it´s stupid to even try to reason in face of articles like this, there are so many of them, all of them probably copy their “arguments an facts” from the same religious fanatics or conspiracy theory website

    But here we go:

    The “space” a person needs in order to live goes beyond its living space, far beyond, actually, for food alone, if that person eat MEAT, it can go up to 6 hectars of land space, but we also need space for gathering resources, producing stuff we use, recycling waste, etc…

    So, yes, with 7 billion we are already very overpopulated, but our numbers keep growing.

    So, it´s a complete disservice to spread stupid videos like that linked on this article.

    sorry for my poor english, not my language…