Opinion: Population growth threatens human race
If a pasture has enough grass to feed only 20 cows, what would happen if you added 20 more cows? The answer is obvious. The larger herd would eat all the grass, and all 40 cows would starve. In other words, the amount of grass necessary for 20 cows would decrease until not even the original herd could survive. In biological terms, the “carrying capacity” would decrease as the population increased until the death rates soared from starvation of the herd. (All the cows will starve regardless of color, religion, I.Q. or size; the larger or smarter cows may survive longer, but eventually all will starve.)
This is exactly what is happening now to the world’s human population, and it will get increasingly worse during the next century. The main difference is that instead of running out of grass we shall be running out of fossil fuels (oil, gas and coal), fresh water, food and other resources. The carrying capacity is decreasing while the population is increasing.
Until we recognize and solve the problem, the symptoms of the problem will remain unsolved. The problem is that more humans are consuming more resources and polluting more every year, and the outcome will be identical to the cows in the pasture.
America’s most essential nonrenewable resources are fossil fuels. Every item of food in your food store has an oil component in it (fungicides, herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, tractors, irrigation, transport, etc.) Every item of your clothing has an oil component in it, including your watch and glasses. Every item you purchase in every store has an oil component in it. So, when we have used the last petrochemicals in 80 to 120 years, our lifestyles will take a large hit. To be sure, some of these nonrenewable chemicals will still remain beneath oceans, ice or mountain ranges, but the cost to obtain them will make them unobtainable.
So, the eventual absence of cheap, dependable energy will affect our lifestyles in the same way that the absence of cheap, dependable energy (grass) affects the herd of cows. We shall continue to have lots of renewable energy, such as solar, wind, geothermal, hydrogen gas, nuclear and maybe fusion. All of these methods can generate electricity, but can they fly an airplane? Electric power cannot be transported in a gallon container, to be put into an auto, tractor, lawn mower, airplane or destroyer. Electric power lacks the versatility of oil/gas, and we still don’t know how to store it.
Besides cheap energy, there will be numerous other absences contributing to lower lifestyles. Fresh water and many minerals and non-minerals will be lacking. Insufficient amounts of soil, fertilizer and water will negatively affect food production worldwide, leading to increased global starvation. These increased death rates will increase until they equal global birth rates at which point Zero Population Growth will occur. The U.N. Demographic office predicts that Z.P.G. will occur by 2100, about 85 years from today, and that when this happens the world’s population will have dropped to about 2 billion-3 billion.
People raised food before oil was discovered in 1859, and people will raise food after oil disappears, but not enough to feed the expected 11 billion or 12 billion global population.
At present the world adds about 75 million people annually, or the equivalent of another United States population every 5 years. Can we feed, house and employ an additional 75 million people every year? Not likely. Our challenge is to stop population growth in a humane fashion before Mother Nature does it inhumanely.
David Van Vleck
P.S. Immigration can be a factor in producing a population that is above the carrying capacity, whether it be a planet, a nation, a state or a city. Bringing more people into an area to promote short-term economic growth can be self-defeating in the long run.
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