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April 22, 2015

Save the planet: Have fewer children

by Maximillian Foley-Keene, Online Editor-in-Chief
Our planet is in a state of disrepair. Sea levels will rise seven to twenty-three inches by the end of this century due to global warming. Every year for the past fifteen years has been one of the twenty hottest years since 1880. As our planet gets hotter, droughts, hurricanes and floods will all become more common, and environmental degradation will lead to massive food and water shortages. Humans are completely at fault for this environmental unraveling. The scientific community is in consensus that we are the cause of climate change and environmental destruction. Some well-meaning politicians have finally recognized the scope and magnitude of this crisis. They suggest remedies like investing in green energy and supporting recycling efforts. While these are worthy goals, they don't address the root of the problem: there are simply far too many people on this planet. Overpopulation is a critical and under-discussed issue. To address it, humankind needs to undergo a cultural and biological shift. We need to stop having so many children.

It took more than 150,000 years for our population to reach just one billion . By 1900, there were nearly two billion people on the planet, and by 2000, more than six billion. The exponential nature of this growth is stunning and alarming. The United Nations predicts that, by 2050, our population will be at 9.6 billion people. Our current trends indicate that one billion people will be added to earth's population every twelve years.
The Earth's population has grown exponentially, leading to a global shortage of resources. Courtesy of Gone Unseen
The Earth's population has grown exponentially, leading to a global shortage of resources.


Our population growth is astronomical. This growth might be sustainable if we had the natural resources to accommodate it, but we don't. In 1965, humans used only 70 percent of the natural resources the planet could regenerate or repair each year; meaning the Earth's natural processes could more than make up for the resources used by humans. That is no longer the case. By the beginning of this decade, we used up the natural resources of 1.4 Earths. As the worldwide population continues to grow exponentially, and natural resources can't regenerate fast enough, we will continue to degrade and destroy our environment. Our land, our forests and our seas will continue to suffer the consequences of this exponential growth.

Growth is particularly concentrated in underdeveloped countries. Every minute, 157 people are added to our population. Of those, 153 of them are in underdeveloped countries. As we deplete our resources, we accentuate hunger and malnutrition in the developing world. More than 90 percent of people experiencing hunger live in the developing world, where population growth is highest. One in eight individuals living in developing countries goes to sleep hungry and one person every second dies of hunger or malnutrition. As we continue to deplete our natural resources and grow our population, more and more humans will go to bed hungry.

One solution to this boom is to increase access to contraceptives in developing countries. Among women in the developing world, 867 million (56 percent) are in need of contraceptives because they are sexually active but don't have access to modern contraceptive methods. In Nigeria, where contraceptives aren't readily available, the average woman has 6 children. When women have a greater control over family planning, they have the freedom to work and get educated. The Guttmacher Institute, an authority on family planning policy, says the global investment in providing contraceptives to the developing world is $4 billion a year. The cost of providing full access to developing countries would by $8.1 billion. That difference, $4.1 billion, accounts for .6 percent of the United States' annual defense budget. This is an investment that needs to made to get population growth under control.
The overpopulation of the Earth has devastating environmental consequences. Courtesy of Eco Internet
The overpopulation of the Earth has devastating environmental consequences.


But the problem is not just in the developing world. For those in developed countries who think that they get a free pass because the brunt of population growth is in the developing world, think again: although the United States makes up only 5 percent of the world's population, it accounts for 26 percent of its energy consumption. Every American-born child will contribute to the greatest generation of energy consumers ever.

This effort cannot be purely governmental. It must be cultural as well. Having a lot of children needs to be something families just don't do all that often. The world needs to realize the dangers of population growth and how it will affect the children they do have. If we want to survive, this is an effort our governments, charities and everyday families need to undertake. So have fewer children. It'll save the planet.



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  • No on April 22, 2015 at 6:25 PM
    SCO needs to stop writing articles with the sole purpose of being ridiculous and pissing people off.
  • Robert Landbeck (View Email) on April 23, 2015 at 10:58 AM
    One might ask why as a species, the only species, male libido is so out of control? And when we speak of birth control, the conversations defaults to the woman because men have assumed the 'right' to gratify that carnal demand as it pleases him. And that right has been sanctified by religious tradition and dignified in secular law as an ideal of human relationship. Yet at this point in history, that dignity and sanctity is looking like a false ideal and phantasy sold by Madison avenue and sold on every city street corner which could now be threatening the planet itself. Saving the planet will have to come to terms with this corruption of human nature before any true progress will be made! http://www.energon.org.uk
  • Complete BS on April 27, 2015 at 8:02 AM
    Do you guys research ANYTHING nowadays?

    1) Population Growth is NOT exponential.
    2) Birthrate is DECREASING in many developed countries. This is an economic problem in and of itself.
    3) In 1970 the average woman had nearly six children; today that number has dropped below three.
    4) People have been claiming the world is overpopulated for nearly 2000 years!

    High birthrates and poverty is a problem for Africa, but tying it to environmental concerns is a mistake. And making a Defense budget comparison is foolish, especially because you want to send aid to Africa. The only way to solve world hunger would be to invade Africa.

    http://pop.org/content/debunking-myth-overpopulation
    http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/energy_around_the_world/2013/11/overpopulation_in_east_africa_thomas_malthus_stephen_hawking_and_dan_brown.html
  • Andreas on May 4, 2015 at 8:07 AM
    Although birthrate is decreasing, it has gone down from the average woman having 6 children in her lifetime to having 3 children in her life time. This remains an exponential increasing, albeit not a huge exponent.

    Furthermore, his point goes beyond simply the exponential growth of a population. Obviously we can further populate sections of the earth, New York City is a pretty obvious example of a functional high density population, but this only works in a place with enough wealth to provide the basic necessities required by the population. In most poverty stricken countries, high populations cripple the countries ability to use what little wealth it has to grow. If the country can't grow and create needed societal structures, like waste management, it becomes a detriment to the environment. Admittedly there are other contributing factors which are probably more important, for example modernized countries inability to be environmentally friendly even with their low populations and massive amounts of wealth, but this specific problem will become increasingly detrimental if we don't cap it.
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