16 June 2009

go forth and really really think before you multiply

One of the issues that does not seem to get talked about is the increase in global population and its direct links to global warming. The increase in population means a proportionate increase in consumption patterns - especially of energy and food. No one is talking about this obvious connection because it is controversial and there is no easy solution.

Most natural scientists agree our growing numbers and our unchecked impact on the natural environment move us inexorably toward global calamities of unthinkable severity. The reason that most environmental activists shy away from addressing the obvious connection between increasing numbers and climate change is that it is seen as an infringement on basic human rights. Ultimately however, it begs to answer the question of whether it is worth it to tiptoe around the tulips on the issue right now or our ongoing failure to act to prevent hundreds of millions, even billions, dying as a result of global ecological collapse?

There are already areas in the world showing acute 'population stress' and competing for natural resources and basic amenities - this is a problem that is both intensifying and spreading. The prudent scientists insist that we have overshot the Earth's carrying capacity - our inability to live as we do, at our current numbers, without causing pervasive environmental degradation is the very definition of carrying capacity overshoot.

Overshot is usually followed by population decline. So our choice is very clear - our chance to avert such an outcome depends on our ability to address our numbers before nature reduces them for us. Population demographics most often than not bring up India and China - the world's most populous countries.

China's 'one-child policy' has led to its own social problems like a skewed sex ratio for example. India's efforts to curb its own population has been unsuccessful - in short, there is no easy way to deal with this issue of growing population. Again, like many enviro-social reforms, education at the grassroots is the key to alleviating the problem.

A growing population puts numerous pressures on resource management and allocation. It also leads to the rise of mega-cities which on their own exert enormous pressure on the environment.

Reproduction is of course, a personal choice but it is one that cannot be made lightly . Apart from the emotional investments of child-creating, there are several moral implications now attached to it. It is about time people made this obvious connection and not take too literally the adage "Go forth and multiply".

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