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The Approach to the Problem of Overpopulating

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For decades the population explosion has been giving people nightmares. Figures and numerous facts prove that there re already, and certainly will be, too many people. Simply calculating the lengths of time necessary to double the world’s populating is enlightening. Currently, the world’s population increases by three every second and by a billion every decade. With figures such as these, the gloom has been understandable.

World’s population is still rising fast, but many scientists think that it is already plain, that the worst forecasts will never become reality. Far from reaching fifteen billion, nearly three times today’s figure, the odds are that it may never get to ten billion.

In Chine, this is the result of tough government policies on family size, but, in many countries it has been achieved without coercion. In most of Europe, the birthrate is now well below replacement level.

The change has come about because of dramatic drops in fertility in many countries. Because of the population-food imbalance necessitates “at any price” a growth of agricultural production, methods often harmful to the environment are used without judgment. Examples abound.

Falling fertility and successes such as these show that there is at least a case for feeling optimistic about the future. Paradoxically, the greatest problems may come not from soaring populations but from the declines now beginning to become evident in some developed countries.

As a result, a good part of humanity suffers from malnutrition or from undernourishment. Some think that recent scientific discoveries applied to agriculture and known under the name of “green revolution” will resolve the problem. Nothing is less certain. Promoters of the revolution themselves believe that it can offer only a respite of ten or twenty years. In underdeveloped countries, although predominantly agricultural, the lag in food production in relation to demographic growth increases more and more. As the crisis worsens, these countries will have to import food.

The constructions of colossal dams to irrigate hundreds of thousand of acres can in fact provoke catastrophes. Thus, the Aswan Dam currently prevents the deposit of fertile silts brought each year by the flooding of the Nile. The result will obviously be a decrease in the fertility of the Delta lands. Moreover fertilizers, synthetic pesticides, DDT can be devastating, transforming ecosystems, necessary for the conservation of the environment, into simple ecosystems. So monocultures are a case of mutation.

Certain situations are perceived as dangerous only when they become critical enough to cause numerous deaths. Smog is an example. Many deaths provoked an awakening of conscience and resulted in decisions which have proved efficacious. But smoke presents still other dangers: namely, it destroys plants which offer little resistance, and whose oxygen production is indispensable to us and it changes the earth’s thermal equilibrium.

For these forms of pollution as for all the others, the destructive chain of cause and effect goes back to a prime cause: too many cars, too many factories, too many detergents, and too many pesticides, inadequate methods for disinfecting sewers, too little water, and too much carbon monoxide. The cause is always the same: too many people on the earth.

Optimists believe and often assert that science will indeed find solution to the problem of overcrowding, namely by proving the means to immigrate to other planets. But this solution is totally utopian. In effect, even if it should become possible, 50 years would be sufficient to multiply to the point of population all the planets with a density equal to that of the Earth.

Although the most likely peak figure was predicted to be 10 billion, much lower figures were not ruled out.Those who have painted a rosy picture of an environment recovering its natural beauty as the impact of human numbers declines could find that the opposite is nearer the truth.


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