overpopulation myth

Written By: - Date published: 9:00 am, March 26th, 2018 - 189 comments
Categories: capitalism, Economy, poverty, racism, twitter - Tags:

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post, almost a three-year break.  But I’m finally in a position to start writing again, so let’s see how this goes.

I found this twitter thread by Hossam really resonating with me:

“Overpopulation” is one of the most prominent thinly veiled racist (and Capitalist) myths that is accepted by both Conservatives and Liberals alike as some sort of obvious self affirming fact. It’s a bunch of Westerners unable to accept that their over indulgence is destructive.

Who are the people always said to be overpopulating? Now compare that to who the people hoarding all of the resources and causing the biggest issues when it comes to the environment, ecological health, over-consumption/waste of water and food, AND excess breeding of farm animals.

Is the issue the number of people on the planet surpassing the resources available? Or is it that the resources are entirely hoarded by a small percentage of the world population that happens to also be utilizing those resources in tandem with the most inhumane, spiritually deficient, and hedonistic lifestyle/philosophy as a result of modernity? Who are the ones most polluting the planet? The people in Bangladesh who are often a target of slanders of overpopulation or the US and its European morally defunct allies?

I want to add that this lifestyle spearheaded by modernity is of the most destructive in human history. It is literally killing the planet, no other group of people in history can be blamed for causing the destruction of the Earth more than us. NO ONE.

Yet the ones spearheading this destruction have the gall to look back at our predecessors and shame them as being backwards and barbaric, while also lambasting those ppl suffering the consequences of the lack of resources the most and living the most simply as being responsible.

Ppl don’t truly understand how disgusting the Overpopulation Myth is, and how immensely racist and emblematic of the same mentality that produced eugenics and results in genocides it is. People who claim to hate genocide and eugenics push this myth with no sense of irony.

Whenever I’ve thought about the topic of overpopulation, my first though is that we need to first address the distribution issue. There is enough food in the world to feed everyone – we produce enough now. The problem is that it’s not fairly distributed. If people are dying in hunger, it’s because of the human-designed systems which ensure that some have too much and others not enough.  I know many of us are trying in various ways to raise awareness, to push for change to such systems, but ultimately until we can convince enough people to make the necessary changes, those deaths will keep happening.  As long as it continues to be someone else’s problem or the fault of those who suffer, change will not happen.

Some of the comments to the thread have useful information, such as:


The solution is to look at patterns of consumption instead of population, and to put the responsibility squarely on those who have been over-consuming.  Continued pushes for culture change around consumption and consumerism are more urgent than trying to stop poor, brown people from having babies.

Featured Image Credit: James Cridland @ Flickr

189 comments on “overpopulation myth”

  1. Keepcalmcarryon 1

    It seems like some issues being muddled here. World overpopulation or local overpopulation?
    What role for immigration?
    I don’t buy the trite racist labeling , it is a poor attempt at reframing or even closing down debate, hell, how did the Chinese deal with their population issues (1 child policy), were they racist and anti Chinese ?
    Yes capitalism ( western or communist Chinese FYI) is non sustainable environmentally we know this.
    No real solutions offered.

    • Bill 1.1

      Why do people in the Horn of Africa die like flies under the same drought conditions that affect no-one in California?

      No elements of racism involved?

      • Barfly 1.1.1

        Poverty versus wealth IMHO

      • Keepcalmcarryon 1.1.2

        It’s not racism it’s inequality.
        Here we sit on our expensive computers tut tutting about consumerism.

        • Bill 1.1.2.1

          Yes. It’s inequality.

          And how come the inequality is that the Horn of Africa has bugger all infrastructure that would buffer people there from climate events while California (so far) rides through the same severity of drought with no deaths?

          Nothing to do with colonialism and capitalism being deeply racist? Y’know, so nothing at all to do with embracing Social Darwinism that allowed swathes of the planet to be put to the service of those at the top of the Social Darwin pyramid (white fellas with property living in “the west”); that excused and explained the need to exterminate brown skinned populations that weren’t “up with the play” when it came to doing things the Capitalist way…

          …nothing to do with any of that.

          It’s just the way it is and the way it’s always been. /sarc

          • Keepcalmcarryon 1.1.2.1.1

            The OP is labeling (via their quote) talk of overpopulation as “thinly veiled racism” which is bullshit.
            Your example seems unrelated to the topic. but let’s discuss : Certainly racism has played a role in the development of inequality in the world, our current capitalist system further concentrates wealth to a few individuals. The rich get richer the poor poorer. The modern issue is not racism but the inherent trickle up of capital.

            • Bill 1.1.2.1.1.1

              I think most talk of overpopulation is exactly thinly veiled racism.

              And I also think your comment that would have us pointedly ignore the racist component of mal-distribution is racist too.

              There are reasons why I, a piss poor white guy, can sit in a settler colony and not have to decamp to the municipal tip to scavenge for waste that can be sold to re-cyclers.

              • Keepcalmcarryon

                Which part of my comment sees us “pointedly ignore” the racist component of mal distribution?
                You are doing that thing again.

                • Bill

                  This. bit. right. here.

                  The modern issue is not racism but the inherent trickle up of capital.

                  And doing what “thing” again?

                  • Keepcalmcarryon

                    so The capitalist system is weighted to those with money, capital begets more capital , example : ultra rich receiving more and more of the pie.
                    Conversely if you start out with little it becomes increasingly difficult to get ahead, say wage earners in nz for an example. Or someone trying to make a go of it from a poor household without the basics.
                    If you are a poor nation ( yes possibly from colonial pillage), you are unlikely to easily get ahead as a nation as the corporates raid your resources and corruption takes the rest.
                    This modern impoverishment is not racist. This is much worse, it’s the anti humanity of corporate capitalism. The less powerful are sucked dry by those that are. It doesn’t matter if you are green blue or pink.
                    Capitalism isn’t racist it doesn’t given a damn.

                    “Doing that thing”: being so far off in identity politics land that everyone else is wrong.

                    • Bill

                      What’s “modern” about it?

                      What would you say if I kneecapped you one day and threw you a pair of running shoes the next and suggested we have a race?

                      Would the “modern” problem be that I’m a trained athlete…or that you’re unfit? Would the “modern” problem have nothing to do with you having been knee-capped in the past?

                      Because that’s your basic take in dismissing racism as a factor in “current” or “modern” machinations of capital.

                      Can’t think I’ve ever heard it said that I go “off into identity politics land” before btw. But there you go. Apparently it’s my “thing”.

                    • Keepcalmcarryon

                      I’ll leave it there for now. We are talking past each other, or at least one of us is.

          • Gabby 1.1.2.1.2

            Was California not colonised Bill? Isn’t California groaning under the heel of the capitalist oppressor?

      • soddenleaf 1.1.3

        yeah no. People have the immediate ability to organise. Any society that ‘breeds like flies’ will ecological die like them. This is not racism , this is just ecology. Sure racism has kept many societies unstable, both white western on black Africa, Christianity parasitical embrace of the poorest… …even black on black self racism, you’d think someone would have noticed th he Nazis practiced a huge self wedgy when the I invoked racism. They, racists, select, settle, for boxing themselves in along with everyone. And, in so doing, make it harder to change societal direction ending in ecological, economic collapse. aka west Africa states, Germany at the end of Nazi domination.

        People are most adapted when they are capably informed and act moderately to life. duh. Being dictated to, or as so many in Africa, collective compassion thinking stops at the tribe, family… ..Syria another example of a sectarian ruling elite that never ruled most Syrians.

        And lets not get started about clinate change being based in racism.

    • tracey 1.2

      Disproportionate distribution and consumption was what I took from the article and the graphic is particularly telling.

    • Sparky 1.3

      Nor do I. I see the individual quoted is a journalist. I’d like to see some hard facts from scientists who have evaluated this issue on both a local and international level.

      Personally as someone whose wife is Chinese I can tell you even the locals say the population is out of control and pollution through the ceiling. Just go to any even modest city in China and the numbers of people generating pollution by simply living their lives, driving cars, using appliances and more in both incredible and awful.

      Yes factories contribute a lot too but they could not exist if there was not enough demand for their products and services.

      • Bill 1.3.1

        Yes factories contribute a lot too but they could not exist if there was not enough demand for their products and services.

        And which companies are having their componentsassembled in China? And who demands their end products?

        Maybe if the factories didn’t exist, there would have been no great waves of migration to urban centres, and concentrations of pollution and overcrowding would that much less.

  2. Carolyn_Nth 2

    Thanks, stargazer, for putting this all in perspective.

    There’s always been a tendency for the less well off to have large families – it’s probably because so many die in infancy.

    I’ve recently been doing some family history research. My forebears had really large families back in England, Ireland, the Scottish islands and 19th century NZ.

    It’s only as the subsequent families have got more comfortable that the families have got smaller.

    Create enough resources for all, without some over-consuming, and population matters will take care of themselves.

    • In many countries, children are the only pension plan.

      • One Anonymous Bloke 2.1.1

        How’s that assumption holding up against reality, now we’re past ‘peak child’?

        • Bill 2.1.1.1

          What’s that comment meant to mean OAB?

          Are you suggesting that peasant farmers having larger families in order that the children (those who survive) will continue to work the land and provide sustenance in ones old age or infirmity isn’t a thing?

          • One Anonymous Bloke 2.1.1.1.1

            “Peak child” renders that “problem” moot. Poorer people will continue to have more children than the people who are the actual problem, and they still won’t contribute very much CO2 to the atmosphere. Meanwhile, world population is set to stabilise. The solution is still to empower women and lift people out of poverty.

            • JohnSelway 2.1.1.1.1.1

              Sorry if I have missed something but what does empowering woman have to do with over-population.

              I’m mean – I’m all for equality of the sexes just confused as to its relevance to the topic

              • One Anonymous Bloke

                Because of the effects of education and healthcare on family planning and access to contraception.

                (relative) Wealth is also a factor, obviously.

                This isn’t a theoretical position, by the way: the WHO has lots of experience to back it up.

          • One Anonymous Bloke 2.1.1.1.2

            Looking at Rosling’s work, he says African birthrates will climb, but be offset by the ongoing decline in Asian birthrates. In short, lowering the rate of infant mortality in Africa is a priority.

            • Bill 2.1.1.1.2.1

              …lowering the rate of infant mortality in Africa is a priority.

              Yeah well. I don’t expect the west to lend much of a hand on that front. Do you?

              I guess in a few decades when the effects of AGW start hammering into the equator and the tropics with stuff we’ve never seen before, then in a perverse kind of a way, we might say that we’re on the cusp of lower infant mortality across a fair swathe of Africa….and Central America… and South Asia.

              • One Anonymous Bloke

                Yeah well. I don’t expect the west to lend much of a hand on that front. Do you?

                Hard to say. Life expectancy across the continent increased massively during the 20thC, with a corresponding fall in child mortality. AIDS has taken its grim toll now though. Also, both statistics show a huge spread from country to country. Algeria, Egypt, Morocco etc at one end and Niger, Mali, Somalia, Lesotho etc at the other.

                Point taken about AGW too. Might well render the whole issue moot.

    • Obtrectator 2.2

      “Create enough resources for all, without some over-consuming, and population matters will take care of themselves.”

      Er yes, provided women are granted full control over their own bodies and destinies as well.

  3. Bill 3

    …the gall to look back at our predecessors and shame them as being backwards and barbaric…

    That’s a bigger part of it than is usually acknowledged. Progress my kittens, progress!

    It’s bullshit – a destructive myth sitting right at the heart of liberalism, that shackles us, and keeps us trucking along our incline of supposed superiority on the way to some never never land of bounty and harmony; one that just ‘happens to be’ strewn with corpses and wanton destruction.

    But then, when the end justifies the means…

  4. Pat 4

    Whether you wish to blame racism or capitalism is irrelevant…the fact remains the world is overpopulated….wishing and blaming will not make it otherwise.

    • tracey 4.1

      I have always struggled with maths but I got it.

      It also made me think about how excited everyone who owned property in Auckland has been at house prices doubling every ten years.

      It is scarily simple. But scary nonetheless.

      Thanks for posting this

      • Pat 4.1.1

        It is scarily simple…and is hard to comprehend how seemingly intelligent people dont grasp it.

    • weka 4.2

      except if we want to talk about population we have to get passed the inbuilt racism. There is no doubt that white people from wealthy countries see poor brown people as the issue instead of looking at their own consumption of resources and how much pollution they create. That’s racism (and classism often too). The population discussion won’t go anywhere while that remains unaddressed.

      • Pat 4.2.1

        Some may see ‘poor brown people’ as the issue…one would expect that anyone with any intellect would see the true cause.

        The difficulty is that having let the situation spiral out of control (both population and climate change) we are now faced with an almost impossible task…..how do we sustain and gradually decrease our unnaturally high population (world) while quickly reducing and ceasing the use of the cause…fossil fuels?

        • weka 4.2.1.1

          “Some may see ‘poor brown people’ as the issue…one would expect that anyone with any intellect would see the true cause.”

          Yes, but unfortunately that is not the case. It’s a well known phenomena for the discussion to be had by white wealthy people about poor brown people having too many babies. Then the left jump in and won’t have any conversation about population because they see it as inherently racist. Until that racism gets dealt with we just keep going round and round.

          “how do we sustain and gradually decrease our unnaturally high population (world) while quickly reducing and ceasing the use of the cause…fossil fuels?”

          I start with NZ (not Bangladesh etc) and ask use to consider the carrying capacity of the land here. You would be amazed at how many people don’t want to have that conversation (or maybe you wouldn’t be surprised). But I make it explicit that it’s not about ethnicity, and that the class under the spotlight are the ones overusing resources, and instead the issue is about the relationship between the needs of people and the ability of the environment to support them over time. That’s the only ethical way I know of having the conversation, but I think what star gazer is saying has to happen first.

          • Pat 4.2.1.1.1

            Not all white wealthy people are stupid or completely self interested (and even if they were a case can be made that its in everyones self interest)….we dont have time to fart around dealing with the symptoms, we need to address the cause.

            The case against wealthy countries and cohorts is a given hence the equity clause in COP.

            As to NZs carrying capacity any modelling will need to be done under a carbon neutral environment and I would suggest that our first obligation would be to our neighbouring Pacific Island states which are unfortunately going to be harder and earlier impacted….thats potentially some millions right there.

            Stargazer states there is enough food in the world to feed everyone if only the world were more equitable, while true he conveniently ignores the fact that the production and distribution of that food is unsustainable for even current population levels let alone a projected 11 billion in a few decades….if he wished to post on racism and inequity he needn’t erroneously tie it to overpopulation.

            • stargazer 4.2.1.1.1.1

              why on earth would you assume i’m male????

              there is enough food in the world to feed everyone at present. i absolutely agree about the production and distribution being a problem – so let’s have a conversation about how we produce and distribute more equitably. so, for example, one of the comments on this thread reads “when you consider 40% of food grown in the US is wasted before it even reaches the table and around 30% after. Or the amount of resources needed to make a new $800 iPhone every 18 months just to name 2 examples. Those who decry overpopulation tend to live levels of consumption that would otherwise provide for those whom suffer because of that consumption.”

              it’s absolutely not erroneous to tie it to race. even if we look at it globally rather than locally, who are the people that get slammed for having kids? but whose kids cause a much higher carbon footprint, use a much more disproportionate level of resources and therefore cause much more damage?

              • Pat

                apologies if you are not…it was an assumption born of typing limitations and haste.

                I put it to you that if a magic wand was waved and the world was overnight free from racism and inequity but the system was supported by fossil fuel use as it is now we would still face the same problem.

                We cannot waste time, energy or resources addressing the wrong targets….if people believe that making the world more equitable or less racist is the path to addressing climate change/over population then a lot of that time, energy and resource will be wasted……they need to beaddressed of their own merits and perhaps as a consequence of CC mitigation,,,but they cannot be the driver.

                That is the error

                • One Anonymous Bloke

                  if people believe that making the world more equitable or less racist is the path to addressing climate change/over population then a lot of that time, energy and resource will be wasted

                  It’s a good thing no-one believes that then. However, there’s nothing wrong with noting the racism behind many arguments and policy suggestions, and therefore ignoring those arguments in favour of reality.

                • McFlock

                  CC and OP are different problems.
                  Lowering income inequality does lower birth rates substantially, to the point that several ‘developed’ countries have problems with aging populations.
                  It might even have an impact on future carbon emissions – fewer private jets etc.

                  But the lag time is too slow – those areas that are “overpopulated” are in the shit right now, and it’s going to get worse with CC-related droughts. 2010/11 was a taste of it. If something hits previously-arable parts of Africa or China, there will be another mass migration and political destabilisation. Unless we become more efficient in distributing food supplies.

                  I’m mildly intrigued, with a sort of perverse curiosity, as to what would happen if the US or Europe got hit with an environmental double-whammy that devastates their food production areas. The cynic in me says the obesity epidemic will continue even as they die from malnutrition, because only the most shit bulk food will be produced.

                • weka

                  If you treat racism as identity politics, maybe. But if you see it as coming from the same core place that drives climate change, then it makes sense to address both.

                  Another way to look at it that people of colour are disproportionately affected by climate change, so listening to what they have to say about solutions is useful.

                  The post clearly points to the problem that some people have when they focus on population as an issue of brown people having babies rather than the overdeveloped world using far more than its fair share. Myself, I think there is a connection between that and CC. You can say people aren’t stupid or shouldn’t be, but what is being described here is a well observed dynamic.

                  We need lots of approaches. Arguing that we don’t have time to address racism entrenches western cultural views that are driving climate change. It’s not like we can rely on the west to actually step up and prevent the worst of climate change at this point.

                  • Pat

                    “It’s not like we can rely on the west to actually step up and prevent the worst of climate change at this point.”

                    As much as it may grate thats exactly what do have to do…because the west largely controls the drivers of CC and if WE dont seriously address it and without delay then everything else is moot. It has nothing to do with cultural values, it is simple survival….unless of course you think im being alarmist.

                    • One Anonymous Bloke

                      So, for example, the fact that the “Western” birthrate is already below replacement value will help, since having fewer kids is a major way to reduce emissions.

                    • weka

                      you know that I am in the same ballpark with you as to the urgency. We differ in strategy. The West is already dragging the chain. Undermining that power seems like a useful tactic.

                  • Pat

                    Attempting to undermine power may have merit if we wernt time constrained…we are, so we need to be focused.

                    • weka

                      What I am hearing you saying is that the Western countries, who have the power, are the ones who need to step up and take urgent action (I agree). I am observing that despite that being an urgent need they are in fact not stepping up.

                      So what next? I think that bringing in the values of non-Pākehā cultures is useful as one strategy. There are others too. It is also the ethical thing to do.

                    • Pat

                      Largely they are not…though there are some signs of improvement. As I see it the best chance is to follow the advice of the likes of Kevin Anderson which is equitable and just….and requires the west to change significantly….curiously his approach would address much of what Stargazer posted about….but his focus is aimed strictly at the target.

                  • One Anonymous Bloke

                    Undermining that power seems like a useful tactic.

                    Just so long as life expectancy continues to be high, and infant mortality continues to be low. Best (ie: tried and tested) way to do that is to (further) empower women everywhere.

                • Foreign waka

                  Hi Pat, like your comments. And with the last one you did away with the notion of simplicity.
                  I believe the issues are quite complex as they are not only bound by the “1%” exploiting the human race (power) to obtain those resources that are most valuable (money) even if this means waging war (violence).
                  The tribal societies are bound by rules that are not democratic and hence a democratic systems that have in its core the equality of all people -even if this is not always achieved but this is another topic altogether -will be automatically nil and void and actually incomprehensible by those who are living in such tribal structures.
                  The differences in cultures, society structures that make for such interesting and colorful tapestry of the human race becomes its very Achilles heel when it comes to addressing climate change and overpopulation.
                  Who are we to tell a Cambodian farmer that he can only have 1 child (sounds familiar?) or that all energy has to come from renewable in developing countries. Unless the “1%” let go of 10% of their wealth investing direct in ventures to address this I cannot see that we will win the race against time. The only consolation is that the 1% sit on the same planet and need to consider this seriously. But then again, greed gets them every time.

              • Bill

                So capitalism as a system of production and distribution is an abject failure. Further, since capitalism is powered by carbon being re-introduced to the natural environment, capitalism gifts us AGW.

                We all know who tends to sit on what side of the inequality see-saw. And we all know who is going to get hammered first and hardest by the effects of global warming.

                But how many times do we read (for example) that it’s the Chinese peoples who are responsible for CO2 going through the roof – the coal stations! the smog!! – while blithely ignoring that their industry is largely an assembly line putting together parts of stuff for western markets?

                And yes, also the argument that if the people in Bangladesh would just stop having so many damned children…

                In fact. If everyone was just like us – the sensible 2.4 children, contented, educated, middle class, western cosmopolitan who really cares – (none of that being in actual fact true), then the world would be a fine place to be being.

                But those poor people (what are they thinking?!) and their children living in squalor in some god forsaken hell-hole dragging us all down. Why can’t they all be just like us? (Hmm. Gris or noir darling?)

              • Rae

                Except “we” are not the only species on this planet that requires resources from it. All this discussion seems to conveniently forget them. We are taking up far more than our fair share of the planet, there is too many of us.

                • One Anonymous Bloke

                  We are taking up far more than our fair share of the planet

                  High-consumption car drivers and plastic users certainly are.

                  What do you propose to do about it Rae?

    • savenz 4.3

      That is a GREAT link.

      A must for everyone in government and councils! (You can start at 10 mins to get the one for councils).

      God knows how much more infrastructure Auckland’s going to need, because at 5% population growth within less than one person’s lifetime we will need 32 more sewerage treatment plants as we have now in Auckland, just to cover 5% growth.

      So I guess that means 32 times as many buses and trains as now will be needed.

      And I’m pretty sure Auckland’s population is growing a LOT more than 5% –

      Since 2006, Auckland has accounted for more than 50% of NZ entire population growth and 40% of Auckland were born overseas so I’m guessing it’s well over 5% growth in Auckland.

      No wonder all the beaches are constantly closed due to pollution and much worse things to come using those basic Maths projections.

      If only more economists understood maths… oh and live in the real world.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 4.4

      If that video’s worth watching, I assume it don’t contain arguments that assume that current growth will continue. Surely the guy couldn’t be that utterly ignorant of his chosen subject.

      Could he?

      But then I read a few of the comments.

      • tracey 4.4.1

        He is talking mathematically and about how the media misrepresent and under eestimate the figures they use. To my untrained maths eye he is simply taking assumptions about growth and telling what they mean in real terms if you follow the logic.?

        He is a mathematician so it is all about explaining exponentiality. But if you look at Auckland house prices alone you can see what surely people saw for decades and did nothing?

        Maybe watch it so you can judge him on his words not our telling of them?

      • savenz 4.4.2

        Plug in the population growth of Auckland per year and then you can get the figures… remember extra immigration points awarded if you were young and of child bearing age for example… now they can’t understand why the hospitals are full (even though we have not built any new hospitals for years apart from CHCH which was a replacement), the schools are full, the midwives have shortages…

        Population growth is not something that turns off like a tap, thats what he was showing.

        So small increases over time start making big figures very quickly.

        • One Anonymous Bloke 4.4.2.1

          Population growth is not something that turns off like a tap

          On a global scale, it already has. The only reason population is going to grow globally for the next fifty years is because, while life expectancy is expected to stay roughly the same (average age 71), more people will reach old age.

          On an Auckland scale, people are already voting with their feet.

    • Draco T Bastard 4.5

      • stargazer 4.5.1

        ok, i tried watching that but it was awful, and sure enough, she went to bangladesh. no-one’s talking about over-population? i don’t know what island she has been living on, but in china and india, and many other parts of the world, people talk about it all the time. per my comment below, those governments put in policies to curb population growth. i stopped at 4 and a half minutes of this, because i just couldn’t listen any more. does she, at any point in this talk, raise issues of over-consumption, colonisation, putting the burden on those who created the problem? it appears to be all about “don’t have babies”, without the wider context. which is exactly what the twitter thread was addressing.

        i agree with comments people are making around empowering and educating women, all for that and it works better than anything else. but i’m also about those who are over-consuming taking some responsibility for their actions, and if they don’t do so willingly, being forced to do so through regulation.

        here’s a random idea: let’s say that the number of children you’re allowed to have is related to the amount of consumption and environmental degradation you cause – food waste, air and land travel, what you do to your land, how often you replace hardware and large household goods, and so on. put it on a points system. then we say: if you have more than x points, you can’t have more than 2 kids; if you have more than y points, you only get to have one; and if you have more than z points, no kids at all.

        it’s a tongue-in-cheek proposal – i know there are huge ethical and moral considerations that would make it impossible, not to mention that we don’t have the technology yet. but it’s a way to put the burden where it belongs. more thinking outside of the current debate on population growth is definitely needed, because the way it’s done now, especially with the example in this video, is not good enough at all.

        • Draco T Bastard 4.5.1.1

          i stopped at 4 and a half minutes of this, because i just couldn’t listen any more. does she, at any point in this talk, raise issues of over-consumption, colonisation, putting the burden on those who created the problem?

          Yes she does. In fact, she even says that she’s not having children as an American because her children would use more resources.

          but it’s a way to put the burden where it belongs. more thinking outside of the current debate on population growth is definitely needed, because the way it’s done now, especially with the example in this video, is not good enough at all.

          You should have watched the video all the way through. Then you wouldn’t be making ignorant comments like that.

  5. savenz 5

    Maybe people need to understand the definition of racism vs overpopulation because they are completely different concepts.

    I’d say the biggest people who like to combine the two are capitalists and neoliberal who need to find new consumers and ways to exploit natural resources as well as people who believe in colonialism.

    So it becomes ‘racist’ for example to stop foreigners exporting water in NZ or supporting (via importing cheap hard wood or profiting through ownership or just plain stealing from corporations) of chopping down the Amazon rain forest. It’s racism not to let people purchase houses in other countries and live there even if there are clear disadvantages to the local population who are unable to find a house to live in.

    Racism

    a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human racial groups determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to dominate others or that a particular racial group is inferior to the others.
    2.
    a policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such a doctrine; discrimination.
    3.
    hatred or intolerance of another race or other races.

    and the definition of

    Overpopulation
    Overpopulation occurs when a species’ population exceeds the carrying capacity of its ecological niche. It can result from an increase in births, a decline in the mortality rate, an increase in immigration, or an unsustainable biome and depletion of resources. Moreover, it means that if there are too many people in the same habitat, people are limiting available resources to survive.

    • stargazer 5.1

      i can tell you this: people like myself who live with racism every day do not need to refer to a dictionary definition. you might need the definition because it might not part of your lived experience.

      the reason why this post resonates with me: because a white woman, in a group discussion was explaining that she had chosen not to have children for “save the planet” type reasons, and as part of that turned to me and told me that i should encourage “my people” to have less children. while i was still dealing with my rage, a maori women pointed out to her how hurtful it was to have brown people told this when as a maori, their population had been decimated as a direct result of colonisation in the 19th and 20th centuries. i talked about the war in syria, iraq, afghanistan, and so many other countries that had been subjected to sustained bombing by western countries whh countries had completely failed to live up to their promises to invest in rebuilding. those populations being decimated, but somehow they should be the ones to not have babies in order to fix problems caused by western consumption? i can’t see that as anything other than racist.

      • savenz 5.1.1

        I have zero doubt that racism is well and present, I see it every day. But bombing is not caused by over population or underpopulation and to put the two together is misleading.

        Economic gain, Religion, power, climate change like droughts and difference of opinion seems to be more of a reason for war and displacement.

        India is going to hit 50 degrees in some parts. Nobody seems very interested in solving that issue which will be killing people. India has too many people for it’s resources which is why is has such poverty, and the west has damaged the environment historically the most adding to climate change. Everyone is in the wrong!

        Meanwhile our world population is increasing exponentially. At the same time people are living longer. Therefore more resources are needed

        Overpopulation needs to be looked at with less emotion and in my view right wingers are using the emotions that people have around fertility, religion or race to keep the current economic arguments about growth (that are harming people all around the world) going.

        • Bill 5.1.1.1

          Where do you think all of the resources present throughout Africa went savenz? And where do you think all of the resources in India or S.America went?

          And where do you think the resources still tend to go?

          And who controlled (and controls) the extraction, and who constructed the socio/economic/political structures that facilitated (and facilitate) all that extraction, ensuring it benefits people far away and generally white?

          To blithely proclaim that “India has too many people for its resources” as though that’s the whole thing explained right there, really is a quite extreme case of whitewashing.

          • savenz 5.1.1.1.1

            Bill in my view it’s being siphoned off by greedy individuals and corporations both local and international. And I post my views on this a lot! I don’t see greedy as a race issue – more a ideological issue.

            Too simplistic to say white people bad, brown good. Because then surprisingly the white corporation just put up a front with a local brown person and take accordingly. So making it all about race is a waste of time, it’s about taking the stuff away from the local people.

            I think Indian wealth should stay in India and be shared by Indian people – likewise the rest of the world. Not taken out whether by an Indian or an American and then used to buy up houses and other corporations all around the world.

            • Bill 5.1.1.1.1.1

              Too simplistic to say white people bad, brown good.

              Yup. And I don’t say that. Not so much because it’s simplistic, but because it’s bullshit.

              But Capitalism came from a culture where men of property believed it to be an expression of their own inherent biological superiority, as otherwise evinced by their white skin. That racist bullshit underpinned, excused and drove capitalism. And it didn’t just disappear one day – it’s still there.

        • stargazer 5.1.1.2

          “But bombing is not caused by over population or underpopulation and to put the two together is misleading.”

          that’s not at all what i’m saying. i’m not talking about the causes of bombing, i’m talking about the fact that a population that has been decimated by war (or colonisation) should not be the ones told to not have more babies. they have a right to rebuild their population base, at least to what it was before the aggression.

      • tracey 5.1.2

        No matter how well meaning (whatever that might mean) it is racist and reflective of a selective view of history.

        I hesitate to comment on racism because I come do not experience racism as part of my life experience. My son does but as much as I hurt for him it is not my experience. Whitesplaining isnt useful.

  6. Stunned Mullet 6

    I’ve always enjoyed Hans Rosling’s presentations and optimism on population.

    http://bigthink.com/robby-berman/hans-rosling-had-a-way-of-showing-the-meaning-of-data-well-miss-him

  7. Gareth 7

    The TL;DR version of the Vox article linked in the tweet is:

    Don’t talk about population control. It’s unpopular and you end up being lumped in with very unsavoury causes which also like population control.

    Instead talk about female empowerment (because empowered and educated women have less kids) and talk about income inequality (because wealthy people emit more carbon, so we want less of them).

    Same results, less blowback.

    • savenz 7.1

      Yes it’s unpopular because the power structures in neoliberalism don’t like the word.

      Climate change is so unpopular the US deleted it from the TPPA -11. It’s that inconvenient truth again.

      Those who love to think that not discussing world population figures and sustainability and group resources to help curb it, helps the poor, think again.

      Who is going to be ok when there is massive climate change (unless you are a climate change denier), the rich or the poor?

      There seems to be huge drive for economic trade agreements by governments who get their information and donations from corporates, but less drive for helpful binding agreements and being able to sue governments in separate international courts for damages and loss of lives and human capital to do with war, weapons, climate change and pollution and deforestation and harm and overfishing in oceans which effects human capital and loss of life.

      The air, climate and oceans, ice and forests have an international effect on the world. The biggest terrorism threat is probably along those lines in terms of global loss of life.

      Maybe a re – think is needed of those that believe in helping the poor and what they are being led to believe is helpful and the solutions that be made, locally and internationally.

      At the moment we have free market deregulation for pollution and fake market globalism for capitalism.

      • Carolyn_Nth 7.1.1

        I’ve to to people in NZ, from the comfortable middle classes, who’d rather talk about over population being the main problem, than accept that over-consumption and climate change are major problems.

        They’d rather talk about low income and brown people, at home and abroad, having “too many” children, than acknowledge we need to change our lifestyle. They’d rather put the blame on overpopulation caused by other people, than accept we need to move away from resource depleting, climate damaging, environment polluting, socially-destructive neoliberalism/capitalism.

        So, I’m not buying your argument.

        • Pat 7.1.1.1

          “I’ve to to people in NZ, from the comfortable middle classes, who’d rather talk about over population being the main problem, than accept that over-consumption and climate change are major problems”

          That should never be the argument as the cause of both is the same…..climate change and over population go hand in hand from the same source…they may reinforce each other but neither are the cause….for that you need to look to the industrial revolution and the burning of fossil fuels.

        • savenz 7.1.1.2

          Whose talking about “low income and brown people” ?

          Funny enough, it is the person arguing for more population growth that always makes it into a racist proposition.

          Most of the time it’s the low income brown people who are the most disadvantaged by the myth of capitalism.

          For example make let’s share our land/resources argument to the people/animals in the Amazon when their culture, forest and way of life is taken from them so that people can cut wood to make houses, plant crops to export overseas (funny enough in banana republics the resources are not used locally to feed the local people who the land is taken/bought from, often they are starving because their land and diet has been taken) but sold at profit overseas.

          • Carolyn_Nth 7.1.1.2.1

            Mate, you’ve gone off on a tangent.

            You were arguing that people don’t want to talk about overpopulation because it’s unpopular with neoliberal supporters.

            I said, actually neoliberal supporters I know DO want to talk about overpopulation, rather than look at the problems with capitalism, etc. And they DO want to blame it on anyone else but the those supporting their lifestyle.

            And, of course, capitalism works to damage lives of brown people.

            • savenz 7.1.1.2.1.1

              I’m suggesting that the media which supports neoliberalism in this country seldom mention overpopulation and they are supporters of neoliberalism.

              Not individual overpopulation, aka poor people should have less kids that discourse which is the right wing argument – I don’t agree with a money based population control discourse, but collective societal solutions about over population are missing from discourse and also what that means for NZ because we have been in an experiment for 10 years to increase our population via immigration but is it working for a better quality of life?

              In NZ our population would naturally tick over to maintenance levels. But National have changed that by arbitrarily deciding to dramatically increase NZ population via immigration and to target specific groups aka high spenders (Peter Thiel) and semi to unskilled workers and not worry about any other issue such as language skills.

              Clearly if you are a bank or a supermarket or a petrol station you welcome more people because you make more profits and it increase competition for wages. But gone from the NZ economists arguments seems to be the reverse of that which is, is it working for most NZer’s this zealous approach that helps one part of society but not others.

              Before deciding to go with the total neoliberal model, maybe we need to look at the consequences and if it is worth it to keep the banks and other’s in record profits in this country but to lose a lot more to future generations in terms of environmental and societal outcomes in particular.

              Sorry to be unclear.

    • UncookedSelachimorpha 7.2

      “Instead talk about female empowerment (because empowered and educated women have less kids) and talk about income inequality (because wealthy people emit more carbon, so we want less of them).”

      EXACTLY. Both these things link to better environmental decisions. Overpopulation and excessive resource consumption are both real and scary issues (IMO), but the humane solutions are as you say above.

      The original ‘population bomb’ author, Paul Ehrlich, makes similar recommendations:

      “The solutions are tough, he says. “To start, make modern contraception and back-up abortion available to all and give women full equal rights, pay and opportunities with men.
      I hope that would lead to a low enough total fertility rate that the needed shrinkage of population would follow. [But] it will take a very long time to humanely reduce total population to a size that is sustainable.”

      ““Too many rich people in the world is a major threat to the human future, and cultural and genetic diversity are great human resources.””

      He believes the sustainable population is somewhere below 2 billion. He also refers to the Davos meetings as “World Destroyer” meetings!

      • savenz 7.2.1

        lets not be sexist and not suggest that women are the only ones contributing to population growth…

        But in general educated people have less children.

        But some are arguing that there is not problem and we just let our world population continue unabated as it is not the problem.

        The other thing to consider is that people are living a lot longer.

        So even if we can somehow reduce world population, then we still might have an increasing population because people now live so much longer and probably die less from accidents and therefore the world has to sustain that as well as the birth rate.

        • UncookedSelachimorpha 7.2.1.1

          “lets not be sexist and not suggest that women are the only ones contributing to population growth… ”

          Absolutely correct that men strongly influence reproduction rates (and this “influence” is often part of the problem I think). From a purely biological point of view, children-per-woman is the critical metric and children-per-man largely irrelevant – but children-per-woman not determined solely by women.

          “The other thing to consider is that people are living a lot longer. ”

          In the West, yes. But people living to an old age is not driving population growth globally – it is people living beyond infancy to twenty-plus, i.e. large numbers of young people having lots of kids who survive. For example, the median age in Niger is only about 15, and it has one of the world’s highest rates of population growth.

          • tracey 7.2.1.1.1

            And some religious and some cultural views which make men largely unaccountable for consequences

    • tracey 7.3

      Again it is more work for women. Under valued and underpaid 😉

  8. RedLogix 8

    Having argued that upper limits on population growth is a bad thing, exactly what population do you think might be optimal for NZ? 10m, 100m or 1000m? Or no limit at all, and we build a mezzanine floor once we get to standing room only?

    I like to consider how the relationship between NZ and the rest of the world, is actually rather like that between us and Tonga. Tonga very sensibly has strict limits on who can own land (and consequently this limits population) because if it did not do so their indigenous people and culture might be wiped out very quickly. Does this makes them all vile racists? Or if it’s OK for Tonga to do it, why is it so wrong for NZ?

    But we already know the answers to limiting population growth; clean water, reliable food, education, health care, and the capacity for women to choose how many children they have. Get these things right and birth rates plummet right down to replacement levels or even below, based purely on the unforced choice of individuals everywhere.

    Your argument is really about gross inequality of incomes, wealth and consumption. This has been a feature of human life since … forever. And while it’s true that capitalism, with it’s amazing capacity to intensify outcomes has also amplified inequality on a global scale … the roots of the problem lies much deeper than our current economic model. As a result all political efforts at tweaking the economic model to eliminate inequality have been failures because they failed to address the underlying cause, that simple proposition that all people start out productively unequal and over time they always become more so.

    Of course gross inequality is a very real problem, and as The Spirit Level documents, it has deep negative effects everywhere you look. But unlike the question of managing population, we really have no demonstrated models and only a weak understanding of managing inequality.

    I see inequality as the big next moral challenge the human race has yet to seriously confront. Yet as with limiting population control, the effective solutions will not come from imposed political agendas. We’ve tried that with spectacularly bad results.

    The core problem with the most of the uber-rich, is not so much that they have gained grossly disproportionate wealth, but that they horde it, or spend it very inefficiently on narrow, limited purposes. Rather than being so concerned about how wealth is gained unequally, we might be better served by thinking more about how it could be better consumed.

    The correct sanctified use of wealth is to use it constructively to develop yourself, your family and your community. That in essence wealth should be viewed as arriving with a matching ethical obligation to be of service to those around you. Various indigenous cultures have already incorporated the bare bones of this idea in forms of voluntary, celebratory, re-distribution ceremonies as a way to moderate social inequality.

    This idea goes beyond the mere philanthropy of a privileged handful at the top, it envisages a society where the notion of each person, from the top down, strives to make their world a better place, as best they can, is embedded in common values.

    In this sense SG, your post correctly identifies the challenges, but is silent on exactly how we might meet them, Just demanding to put the responsibility squarely on those who have been over-consuming is not only hopelessly vague, it contains no sense of how it might improve the lot of those at the bottom either.

    • savenz 8.1

      +1 RedLogix in particular,

      “I like to consider how the relationship between NZ and the rest of the world, is actually rather like that between us and Tonga. Tonga very sensibly has strict limits on who can own land (and consequently this limits population) because if it did not do so their indigenous people and culture might be wiped out very quickly. Does this makes them all vile racists? Or if it’s OK for Tonga to do it, why is it so wrong for NZ?

      But we already know the answers to limiting population growth; clean water, reliable food, education, health care, and the capacity for women to choose how many children they have. Get these things right and birth rates plummet right down to replacement levels or even below, based purely on the unforced choice of individuals everywhere.”

      and I think you have hit on an answer too.. limit the ownership of land within each country to create sustainability. Not houses, LAND.

    • Siobhan 8.2

      “Tonga very sensibly has strict limits on who can own land (and consequently this limits population)”….I think you mean it limits the population that can live in Tonga.

      I suspect the land ‘ownership’ rules are more about the strict and limited distribution of power rather than population control or being ‘sensible’.

      “Under the current law Tongans are not allowed to own land outright but men over the age of 16 are allowed to hold land by grant or by lease.

      Women are allowed to lease land but are not given grants and Tongans who move overseas forfeit their land rights.”

      https://www.radionz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/205032/report-into-tongan-land-ownership-released

      • savenz 8.2.1

        strict and limited distribution of power … yep we might not agree with their views on women and land ownership.. but the point is, land is power and I guess in NZ the question is, do we want to be tenants in our own country?

        That link about population growth was an eyeopener. We already have done it in Auckland 2.8% growth…. Think of what that is going to mean for our kids and how much money is needed to pay for that level of growth against our wages which are static and declining in real terms.

        Neoliberals love it, because they advocate selling off land, assets and so forth to pay for all the infrastructure needed. Or putting up rates so that those on low wages can’t afford to run a house even if they inherit it.

      • RedLogix 8.2.2

        That may be all true, but in terms of the point I was making it’s the same outcome.

      • tracey 8.2.3

        I was thinking the same. Tonga is a monarchy too which adds another layer to their system.

    • Draco T Bastard 8.3

      The core problem with the most of the uber-rich, is not so much that they have gained grossly disproportionate wealth, but that they horde it, or spend it very inefficiently on narrow, limited purposes.

      The core problem with the uber-rich is that we actually let people get that rich. This causes poverty and deprivation and other social ills. IMO, we need to limit people’s ability to accumulate wealth.

      Rather than being so concerned about how wealth is gained unequally, we might be better served by thinking more about how it could be better consumed.

      No, we really do need to think about how people gain wealth. Unearned income is theft and, as Piketty showed, once people have enough wealth that they have unearned income their wealth accumulation accelerates. The inevitable consequence of this is poverty and deprivation.

      The correct sanctified use of wealth is to use it constructively to develop yourself, your family and your community. That in essence wealth should be viewed as arriving with a matching ethical obligation to be of service to those around you. Various indigenous cultures have already incorporated the bare bones of this idea in forms of voluntary, celebratory, re-distribution ceremonies as a way to moderate social inequality.

      What a load of self-serving bollocks.

      The only correct use of wealth is to support the community and to do it in a way that is sustainable.
      Those various celebratory ceremonies of the rich are their to ensure that the inequality, the deprivation and poverty continue to exist. To help ensure that the rich aren’t burned at the stake.

      • Keepcalmcarryon 8.3.1

        Draco for president.

      • Foreign waka 8.3.2

        Draco, I agree. To put an example forward where one might see some food on a celebratory day is just plain insulting as this constitutes alms for the poor who shouldn’t exist to start with.
        The challenge for every person on this planet is to silence their inner schwein. If this cannot even be attempted, we haven’t got a chance in hell.

      • RedLogix 8.3.3

        @DTB
        In terms of their ability to become rich, people are unequal at the start of their life, and get more so as they progress through it. This is an innate feature of being human.

        EVERY economic system in our known history has seen a few very rich people at the top, and a mass of poor people at the bottom.

        For all the numerous times you have ranted on about ‘how we cannot afford the rich’ you have NEVER once proposed a way of not having them, other than by the murderous implication they might all be ‘burned at the stake’ or similar violent fate.

        Yes gross inequality is a problem, but you have no idea what to do about it.

        • Draco T Bastard 8.3.3.1

          EVERY economic system in our known history has seen a few very rich people at the top, and a mass of poor people at the bottom.

          And the inevitable collapse that it brings about.

          For all the numerous times you have ranted on about ‘how we cannot afford the rich’ you have NEVER once proposed a way of not having them

          Actually, I have.

          Max income from all sources of $100k
          Capital taxes that are taken out of that $100k. Little difficult to own 20 houses when each costs $10k per year in capital taxes.

          This prevents excessive ownership and accumulation of money.

          State loans for businesses and mortgages at 0% interest. Repayment of all loans to have fixed maximum time and be based around a maximum percentage of income. Prevents usury.

          Yes gross inequality is a problem, but you have no idea what to do about it.

          Wrong. Getting rid of the rentiers (which includes you) is usually a good start and then on to the speculators.

          We cannot afford the rich.

  9. Hi Stargazer, welcome back! I hope this is the first post of many.

    I think there’s definitely a conversation that we need to be really careful of here, eh? And you’re getting us on the right track, IMO. Population, by itself, is not the problem. The planet can hold tens of billions of humans just fine if we’re hunter-gatherers. What it can’t hold is billions of humans living the current consumerist lifestyle we largely do in the “developed world.” We may have to be a bit more modest about using resources. We may have to be more modest about having kids. But the real problem of resource overuse is:

    a) a problem we don’t even need to tackle until after we’re done with climate change.
    b) a problem whose moral burden to solve it rests almost entirely on “developed” countries which are grossly over-exploiting the planet’s resources and have been for hundreds of years.

    Any population draw-down needs to start with countries like New Zealand, the UK, the USA, etc… first, and be accompanied by both aid and immigration to reverse the effects of our exploitation of other countries’ resources. (actually on that last front NZ is probably net exploitED rather than exploitER, but we’re still pretty well off compared to most countries in that first category, probably because we’ve also been kicking down too)

    Talking about overpopulation out of the context of resource use per person in various countries is absolutely a racist attempt to shift the burden of responsibility for environmentalism away from the people doing most of the damage- which sadly is largely (but not exclusively) white people, and to some degree the indigenous people and immigrants who live in countries with significant populations of white people. Population growth in less developed countries is going to stop, and tentatively the current models suggest it will stop quite a lot faster than it has in developed countries, so really all we need to do is be more respectful of the planet’s resources, and think carefully about the possibility of having less than three children in our lifetimes. (and yes, I will call any number less than three a responsible choice in the context of a developed country)

    • Pat 9.1

      “The planet can hold tens of billions of humans just fine if we’re hunter-gatherers.”

      I hope thats intended hyperbole to make a point.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Optimum_population

      • Haha probably? I imagine such a large population would starve in significant sections, but it wouldn’t cause any damage to the ecosystem doing it. My point is more that the resources we would try to take wouldn’t do any damage to the planet.

        • Pat 9.1.1.1

          thats true enough…though 20 billion would allow about 2/3 hectare per person including mountains,desert,Antarctica to support themselves not even allowing for seasonal migration….I think there was a reason the worlds population had pretty much stabilised at around a billion pre industrial revolution.

    • savenz 9.2

      Too be honest I get sick of the poor undeveloped countries argument. Blah blah. Each country needs to do what they can to stop the issues of global pollution and then leave it up to the country to decide individually about population issues. We don’t all live in a bubble from each other.

      No one can stop Trump apart from the US public. China is not a democracy and they are going to do what they want. India is gonna overtake China soon as being the most populous country. NZ can’t do much about any of it.

      Instead of solving problems caused by people, (white, brown, black, pink, green) governments and think tanks waste time trying to apportion blame and doing economic calculations and in many cases increase the problems.

      They do that because they can make more money doing that all while hypocritically ‘worrying about climate change, poverty and the environment’. Funny enough when there’s a $ to be made for rich individuals and banks the countries have no problem reaching agreements.

      Maybe instead of championing crap like TPPA-11 NZ should clean ourselves up, environmentally and socially and then get an international agreement to help the environment and the collective world with social targets and collaboration and actually make countries do it, not just pledge crap that they don’t do. That would be more worthwhile.

      The collective world, is everyones responsibility !

      • Matthew Whitehead 9.2.1

        You can be sick of it all you like, it doesn’t become any less true. You’re not gonna get any buy in from anyone to deal with resource over-depletion without reimbursing the third world for enslaving, underpaying, and historically extracting every single bit of wealth we could from them.

        • savenz 9.2.1.1

          Mathew we are trying to get into the third world in NZ as fast as possible and have that level of inequality here, part of that is to make sure there is competition of resources…

          • Matthew Whitehead 9.2.1.1.1

            Competition over resources is in large part the cause of this problem, not its solution.

        • Wei 9.2.1.2

          Excellent points Matthew

          The fact is the primary motivator of the West’s ‘age of exploration’ was to get at the wealth of Asia, and then Africa.

          The wealth the West enjoys today was sucked from Asians and Africans and built on the exploitation of their labour and their resources.

          New Zealand far from being an innocent party, was a massive beneficiary of imperialism, playing the role of America and Britain’s pit bull in killing brown and black and yellow folk.

      • stargazer 9.2.2

        “China is not a democracy and they are going to do what they want. India is gonna overtake China soon as being the most populous country.”

        but here’s the thing: china is the one that had a one-child policy for decades, and has only recently moved to a two-child policy. in india, public servants can not get promoted if they have more than a certain number of kids. they have (or had) a voluntary vasectomy policy where men could get them for free. because they had quotas or some such, young men had to be careful that they wouldn’t get grabbed on the street and have forced vasectomies.

        so, both of these nations with POC majorities have some kind of population control mechanisms, imperfect as they may be, even though they were not the countries that created the current conditions. what have the countries that actually created the problem through over-consumption and development done to curb that? what government policies are in place here or in any other countries that limit or control consumption in the same way that india and china have worked to control population growth?

        that is where the inherent racism lies: in the way the burden is placed to solve the problem, and on the solutions that are put forward that doesn’t penalise those that actually need to change. not to mention that poverty has a colour, and that people of colour make up a high proportion of the poverty stats even in countries where they are a minority.

    • Draco T Bastard 9.3

      The planet can hold tens of billions of humans just fine if we’re hunter-gatherers.

      [Citation Needed]

      Also, just what would the living standard be? Would billions of hunter-gatherers be able to reap enough food?

      I’m sure that hunter-gatherers living standard wasn’t as bad as some think but I’m also sure it wasn’t what most people would want to live in.

      But the real problem of resource overuse is:

      a) a problem we don’t even need to tackle until after we’re done with climate change.
      b) a problem whose moral burden to solve it rests almost entirely on “developed” countries which are grossly over-exploiting the planet’s resources and have been for hundreds of years.

      A) Climate change and over-use of resources are intimately tied together.
      b) No, it rests with all of us. We all need to agree not to use excess resources and that actually means putting a per capita resource cap in place.

      Any population draw-down needs to start with countries like New Zealand, the UK, the USA, etc… first, and be accompanied by both aid and immigration to reverse the effects of our exploitation of other countries’ resources.

      If we need to decrease population then taking in more population is contrary to that.

      • Matthew Whitehead 9.3.1

        a) I agree they’re interconnected, but it’s important to separate the urgent from the important. Both climate change and resource depletion are important, but climate change is also urgent, so it has to go first. It helps that some of the most effective approaches address both.

        b) No, you’re fundamentally wrong, this isn’t an issue of climate change where everyone has contributed to some degree just by farming. Resource depletion can be everyone’s problem, but the specific resources we often talk about, such as fossil fuels, lithium, potable water, etc… have historically never been over-exploited by developing countries. Yes, they use them too, to some degree, but that’s different to actually over-using them, so you have to keep in mind the renewal rate of various resources. It’s on the countries that have over-used resources to take the lead here, all the ones that are developing have to do is make sure they don’t transition into over-depleting their own resources for their own use, IMO.

        I’ve addressed the first point elsewhere. As to immigration to us- yes and no. If our birthrate is below replacement rate and the rest of the world is at replacement rate, then immigration to New Zealand isn’t a problem in terms of the population equation- it might be in terms of the resource one, but that’s an issue for us in terms of making sure our society promotes a sustainable lifestyle, not in terms of never taking immigrants ever again. Besides, that would involve isolating decisions about immigration from other liberal and left-wing values that are as inter-connected as fighting climate change and fighting resource depletion are.

        • Draco T Bastard 9.3.1.1

          No, you’re fundamentally wrong…

          No I’m not.

          The developed countries have been able to over-consume because they’re importing resources from the developing countries. To stop the over-consumption of the developed countries the developing countries need to stop exporting their resources.

          What do you think will happen to the consumption in developed countries once they no longer have access to those resources?

      • Rae 9.3.2

        Tens of billions of hunter gatherers? Surely, that is a fast track to obliteration of the things being hunted and gathered?

        • Draco T Bastard 9.3.2.1

          Surely, that is a fast track to obliteration of the things being hunted and gathered?

          Sure would be.

    • weka 9.4

      “The planet can hold tens of billions of humans just fine if we’re hunter-gatherers. What it can’t hold is billions of humans living the current consumerist lifestyle we largely do in the “developed world.” We may have to be a bit more modest about using resources.”

      I also think this first sentence is erroneous. The population of NZ pre colonisation, i.e. hunter gatherers, was something like 100,000, and that was with the flora and fauna still relatively intact compared to now (let’s not get into that debate today).

      This is why I keep going on about the need to do actual *audits of what the land base can carry, not just food, but other resources, and in a post-carbon world (including no phosphates etc). I don’t want to get into it too much here because I think the racism aspects need addressing, but the reductionist view sees it as a simple balanced equation of numbers vs resources, but a sustainability view looks at the systems involved, including the ecological ones, and what is needed for them to thrive. We need to look at each land base and see what is possible.

      (* so little of this work has been done, and yet so many people are assured of their estimates of what a viable population is. But think beyond calories and look at how to grow all nutrients need, largely locally, and that can sustain people over generations (e.g. not expecting childbearing women to be vegan). I suspect that stargazer is right, we have enough food now. But our current food production is utterly unsustainable and will look very different in a post-carbon world. tl;dr no-one actually knows)

      • One Anonymous Bloke 9.4.1

        Also, we have to consider Julian Simon’s arguments about the human brain – ‘the most valuable and useful resource on the planet’.

        • weka 9.4.1.1

          Possibly. Like most things, it depends on how it is used. I’m not that impressed at the moment, but I do agree it’s a huge potential asset. We’re very clever at making things. Not so good at knowing how to do that in a way that doesn’t destroy everything.

      • Matthew Whitehead 9.4.2

        Yeah, I wasn’t talking sustainable population numbers there so much as use of resources. In reality due to non-depletion challenges (ie. throughput limits of hunter-gatherer lifestyles) of that lifestyle the planet couldn’t hold anywhere near that many humans.

        • weka 9.4.2.1

          “I wasn’t talking sustainable population numbers there so much as use of resources.”

          I’m hoping that when we can talk about population we can start to include sustainability alongside the anti-racism work. I’d leave it alone were it not so urgent.

          • Matthew Whitehead 9.4.2.1.1

            Well it depends whether you’re looking at ecosystem sustainability (which I was) or human sustainability or both. 🙂

      • Richard@Downsouth 9.4.3

        agreed… the issues with changes to climate to food growing areas (the US midwest is expected to become more and more of a desert, and the majority of south east asia is expected to get hit by more frequent massive super typhoon’s)

        Food and water may become a serious issue, especially with the likes of Nestle, etc

    • Siobhan 9.5

      You’d know more about this than me, but this article claims that…

      “Based on the preceding calculations, a family of five would require an estimated 200 ha of habitat from which to gather animal and plant food. This estimate is based on an ideal ecosystem, one containing those wild plants and animals that are most suitable for human consumption. Researchers report that, in fact, modern-day hunter-gatherers need much more than 40 ha per person. For instance, Clark and Haswell (1970) estimate that at least 150 ha of favorable habitat per person is needed to secure an adequate food supply. In a moderately favorable habitat, these scientists estimate that 250 ha per person would be required. These estimates are four to six times greater than those in the model presented earlier. In marginal environments, such as the cold northwestern Canadian region, each person needs about 14,000 ha to harvest about 912,500 kcal of food energy per year (Clark and Haswell, 1970).” [David Pimentel and Marcia H. Pimentel, ‘Food, Energy, and Society’, third edition, (Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 2008), p. 45-46.]

      so I’m guessing that a population purge might be in order if we are to rely on hunter gathering as a system.

      https://hungermath.wordpress.com/2013/11/05/hunter-gatherers-no-more/

    • stargazer 9.6

      “Hi Stargazer, welcome back! I hope this is the first post of many.”

      thank you!

  10. Draco T Bastard 10

    Who are the people always said to be overpopulating?

    All of us. Even the US is said to be over-populated.

    I want to add that this lifestyle spearheaded by modernity is of the most destructive in human history. It is literally killing the planet, no other group of people in history can be blamed for causing the destruction of the Earth more than us. NO ONE.

    They were just as capitalistic and destructive – it was just that they were limited to their portion of the world and so only those ‘civilisations’ collapsed.

    Is the issue the number of people on the planet surpassing the resources available? Or is it that the resources are entirely hoarded by a small percentage of the world population that happens to also be utilizing those resources in tandem with the most inhumane, spiritually deficient, and hedonistic lifestyle/philosophy as a result of modernity?

    It’s both. It’s not one or the other and shouldn’t be considered that way as then we will ignore necessary parts of the solution.

    Ppl don’t truly understand how disgusting the Overpopulation Myth is

    It’s not a myth – the world truly is over-populated. There’s no way that we’d be able to maintain our population levels as they are even if we weren’t using up so much of the resources in trying to have more and to produce profits.

    Whenever I’ve thought about the topic of overpopulation, my first though is that we need to first address the distribution issue. There is enough food in the world to feed everyone – we produce enough now.

    Now, I agree that we produce enough food to feed everyone well but doing so doesn’t address the problem that we actually are over-populated.

    The solution is to look at patterns of consumption instead of population, and to put the responsibility squarely on those who have been over-consuming.

    Given the chance to over-consume those who haven’t been doing will do so. What do you think is going to happen when Africa and India use the same level of resources as the US?

    There is definitely a problem with over-population and there definitely a problem of over consumption. We need to address both and not just say that one doesn’t exist because of the other.

    • JohnSelway 10.1

      Agree with pretty much all of that. What a refreshing change 😉

    • savenz 10.2

      +1 too, especially

      “There is definitely a problem with over-population and there definitely a problem of over consumption. We need to address both and not just say that one doesn’t exist because of the other.”

  11. Pat 11

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2012/apr/26/world-population-resources-paul-ehrlich

    “How many you support depends on lifestyles. We came up with 1.5 to 2 billion because you can have big active cities and wilderness. If you want a battery chicken world where everyone has minimum space and food and everyone is kept just about alive you might be able to support in the long term about 4 or 5 billion people. But you already have 7 billion. So we have to humanely and as rapidly as possible move to population shrinkage.”

    • One Anonymous Bloke 11.1

      Paul Ehrlich has been wrong so many times it’s a wonder anyone’s prepared to give him column space.

      • UncookedSelachimorpha 11.1.1

        His timing is out (by a few decades or centuries), but the overall picture of consequences of unchecked exponential growth, is probably right.

        • One Anonymous Bloke 11.1.1.1

          Good thing we’re not having unchecked exponential growth then, isn’t it.

          • savenz 11.1.1.1.1

            Hey, if Natz get their way, we will be. And the opposition don’t seem to care about Auckland population growth either.

            There does seem to be exponential pollution.

            If you add in tourism and all the work permits and now we have found illegal labourers operating in Auckland then it’s not hard to work out that something is wrong with someones calculations on Auckland population growth.

            Auckland has already nearly doubled the population since 2006 but not doubled the hospitals and schools and roads and trains. But would not be surprised that they have doubled the rates. It must be that trickle down that hasn’t trickled in 30 years while our wages are static or in decline in real terms.

            Labour/Greens and NZ First are adding more people to ‘build the houses’ cheaply as we speak. There’s a certain irony in there from a Labour government letting the developers profit more by hiring in cheaper labour rather than training local people, as well as it seems some of the houses will be sold off to private ownership.

          • tracey 11.1.1.1.2

            We have in Auckland housing

          • UncookedSelachimorpha 11.1.1.1.3

            We can debate the shape of the curve (and I agree it isn’t a simple exponential curve) – but the population has been increasing as a positive percentage of the standing population – and even a small positive percentage growth rate (currently a bit over 1% p.a.) can lead to an enormous increase in numbers over a period that is very short on a historical timescale. This is what seems to be actually happening.

            • One Anonymous Bloke 11.1.1.1.3.1

              What is actually happening is that because the number of children being born won’t change, and those children will live longer than their parents, global population will reach a peak of around 11bn before decreasing slightly.

              We need to increase infant life expectancy, especially in Africa.

  12. Pat 12

    lets see,,,the oceans have more plastic than fish, theres a lack of potable water, our soils are degrading beyond the point of utilisation and we are in the throes of the 6th great extinction…all foretold by Ehrlich to one degree or another during a lifetime of study..but OAB says dont worry cause his timing was a bit out.

    Phew thats OK then…what was I thinking!

    • One Anonymous Bloke 12.1

      No, I’m not saying his timing’s out, I’m saying he’s full of shit.

      In ten years all important animal life in the sea will be extinct [1970]

      By the year 2000 the United Kingdom will be simply a small group of impoverished islands, inhabited by some 70 million hungry people [1971] …

      QED.

      Hans Rosling is a far better source of reality-based information.

      • Pat 12.1.1

        well ive viewed a few of Rosling’s presentations and two curious points arise.

        Firstly his population projections for the next several decades are not dissimilar to Ehrlich’s.

        Secondly its surprising a demographer would ignore the environmental impact of population growth…or maybe it isn’t as economists do it all the time.

        Given the current state of the environment Im pretty confident which future is more likely….and its not Roslings

        • One Anonymous Bloke 12.1.1.1

          He ignores environmental impacts does he? You sure about that? I’d check if I were you 😉

          Edit: Rosling is merely passing on the message. Human population will stabilise at 11bn before it starts falling (which it will), because the alternatives are mass murder on a scale never seen before, or forcible family planning that would make Mao blush. If you want to advocate one or both of those “solutions” I have two words: you first.

          Ehrlich, by comparison, just has a track record of being wrong.

          • Pat 12.1.1.1.1

            Rosling said human population will stabilise at 10 billion….but heres the thing we probably wont even get to his 10 billion because the environment will collapse before we reach that number…and youre welcome to post a link to where he addresses the environment…ive watched 4 clips and aside from reallocating carbon (counters) he has nothing to say.

            • One Anonymous Bloke 12.1.1.1.1.1

              This is his website: Gapminder

              That link takes you straight to the “tools” page. The left hand index is set to life expectancy. If you click on it you’ll find a range of environmental indicators: forestry, water, emissions, and so-on. Same for the bottom index.

              You’ll also find videos about population and AGW.

  13. One Anonymous Bloke 13

    Fretting about overpopulation, is a perfect guilt-free— indeed, sanctimonious— way for progressives to be racists.

    ―P. J. O’Rourke

    • tracey 13.2

      Well done PJ!!

    • savenz 13.3

      And making overpopulation about racism is a perfect way to avoid doing something about the problem.

      Bit like climate change, for 30 years the discussion has been about it is true, rather than actually any realistic plan to tackle it.

      • One Anonymous Bloke 13.3.1

        making overpopulation about racism is a perfect way to avoid doing something about the problem.

        Bollocks. Empowering women, providing contraception: non-racist approaches that work (because racism sure doesn’t).

        • savenz 13.3.1.1

          Tell that to Saudi then OAB! You can’t impose your views on every country.

          • One Anonymous Bloke 13.3.1.1.1

            Saudi at 2.71 births per woman is above replacement rate, which is 2.1.

            African countries have the largest birthrate, and that’s expected to increase population as healthcare gets better, before it falls away again as people, secure in the knowledge that their kids will live, start having fewer.

            And yeah, there are some toxic views out there: masculinity as measured by how many kids you have, rather than how well they’re doing, for example. But again, that attitude changed for our great-grandparents and has manifested itself everywhere else life expectancy has risen, so why should African countries be any different?

            • Rae 13.3.1.1.1.1

              By which time, the wildlife will probably just about be completely wiped out, we’ve just about managed it already, more of us will just put the rubber stamp on that.
              This planet is not here just for the purpose of humans.

              • One Anonymous Bloke

                I didn’t say it was. Any mass extinction event is going to be a consequence of our behaviour: the car drivers, pesticide and plastic users. That’s on us. Not people in “Africa”.

                • Keepcalmcarryon

                  Who is blaming people in Africa?
                  Too many people. Period.
                  A nice excercise in how to straw man. OAB, it’s a necessary part of the toolkit when you are sitting the wrong way around on your racial obsessed moral high horse.

                  • One Anonymous Bloke

                    The extra three billion people that will be added to the world’s population over the next thirty years will be predominantly from countries in Africa. That’s a fact of demographics. Unless climate change wipes out a significant number of people over that time, it’s going to happen.

                    Meanwhile, the problem of environmental degradation will continue to be due to the actions of a minority in the developed world, who would rather blame “too many people” than confront, let alone change, their own behaviour.

                    • Keepcalmcarryon

                      It’s racist to assume Africa can’t control its birth rate.

                    • One Anonymous Bloke

                      Africa isn’t a country. Duh. Many African countries already have low birthrates.

                      Have a good look at my other comments on this page, watch the Rosling video that explains the situation, because I’m not repeating myself for your benefit.

                    • Keepcalmcarryon

                      Actually you are contradicting yourself.
                      You started talking about Africa.
                      Who said it was a single country?
                      You mentioned above that African countries have the highest birth rates and most of the extra 3 billion people expected in the next 30 years are from African countries.
                      Now you say many have low birth rates.
                      Hint, the reason you are all over the place is because both world population and consumption are issues.
                      Denial is making you contradict yourself.
                      I also don’t think you are an actual racist of course, that would be dumb moral hypocrisy, there’s a bit of it going around.

                    • One Anonymous Bloke

                      Actually I’m not contradicting myself. Where is the over-consumption in Africa?

                      Here’s a big clue.

  14. McFlock 14

    On the flipside, regarding overpopulation as a global food distribution issue creates a situation where any disruption to distribution has a catastrophic effect. When the ChCh earthquake hit, my supermarket in Dunedin had bread shortages. Not a flow-on catastrophe in itself, but a hint of what could happen.

    The problem isn’t just food, either – ecosystem destruction, pollution, all that stuff. If NZ became coast-to-coast like Auckland, we’d be overpopulated. Hell, 4 million people and 7 million cows are bad enough.

    And what happens when food waste (and even veganism) no longer make up the difference? That’ll happen as the climate keeps changing and the population keeps growing.

    • tracey 14.1

      Generally we just seem to get to a poibt where we hope it happens long in the future and carry on.

    • savenz 14.2

      Well everything our government does seems to be to help Dairy and Beef and vineyards (consumption) so they have not read the memo about consumerism or resource management. That’s there economic plan with TPPA-11 in 16 years we might get 1% growth of those exports – it’s pathetic. That’s what they waste their time on and their plan for ‘wealth’.

      • Drowsy M. Kram 14.2.1

        Racism, slavery, war and other exploitation (man’s inhumanity to man) is ancient. In the last few centuries progressive changes have suppressed the worst of some of these practices in some parts of the world.

        For example, NZ society was divided by the 1981 Springbok tour, ‘demonstrating’ that racism in SA was a serious concern. War, however, had a ‘great’ 20th century.

        “It has been the worst of all centuries, with more of war, more of man’s inhumanity to man, more of conflict and trouble than any other century in the history of the world.” – Gordon B. Hinckley, 1999.

        “Fretting about overpopulation” is a relatively recent, and still minor concern for most NZers, as few here have direct experience of overpopulation as a driver of inhumane treatment. [Settler colonialism was about grabbing resources; it went hand-in-glove with population growth, but not (at the time) global overpopulation.]

        That will change rapidly in this century as essential (life-sustaining/enhancing) resources/services are exhausted/degraded (the ‘overshoot’ theory). By then it will be “all too late”, much like neo-liberal attitudes to anti-CPTPP sentiments. Until then: Don’t worry, be happy – Wayne is!

        [Edit: I don’t think human ‘overpopulation’ is a myth, but probably OK to regard as such since we can’t do anything about it.]

        • One Anonymous Bloke 14.2.1.1

          “It has been the worst of all centuries, with more of war, more of man’s inhumanity to man, more of conflict and trouble than any other century in the history of the world.” – Gordon B. Hinckley, 1999.

          Unless that statement is backed by some pretty serious research, it looks to be flat wrong.

          Pinker presents a large amount of data (and statistical analysis thereof) that, he argues, demonstrate that violence has been in decline over millennia and that the present is probably the most peaceful time in the history of the human species. The decline in violence, he argues, is enormous in magnitude, visible on both long and short time scales, and found in many domains, including military conflict, homicide, genocide, torture, criminal justice, and treatment of children, homosexuals, animals and racial and ethnic minorities.

          • Drowsy M. Kram 14.2.1.1.1

            Pinker may well be correct that global per capita incidences of inhumanity have declined over time, an indication that our civilisation is going in the right direction.

            And yes, there has never been a safer time to be alive.

            Nevertheless, the absolute number of incidences of inhumanity has never been higher than in the period of the 20th century, and I don’t need to bother Google to assert that. The 21st century is looking ‘pretty good’ so far – long may it continue.

            Whether or not malnutrition is an example of inhumanity, it’s appalling.

            https://countercurrents.org/2017/09/18/world-hunger-increasing-for-the-first-time-in-100-years/

            We’ve won!

  15. Philg 15

    I agree Drowsy. I think the “Overpopulation Myth ” is a myth.

  16. Philg 16

    If you really want a tease, watch Professor Bartlett, make the case about Arithmetic and Growth

  17. Alex 17

    Most of the claims of overpopulation I’ve heard aren’t directed at ‘poor brown people’ but at all of us.
    Overpopulation is a myth, but but it’s not a racist myth it’s a homicidal anti-human myth. There is plenty of space in the world, there is plenty of production capacity and there is plenty of technology and human ingenuity that will solve any of the challenges of an increasing population that we might encounter along the way.
    I agree that it’s an issue of distribution and human systems but we could conceivably double the worlds population and be absolutely fine.

  18. ropata 18

    This post is a disgusting politicisation of science. The forces of population dynamics are not racist. They are a catastrophe waiting to happen. As usual the poorest will suffer the most.

    The science is clear that the current combination of world population and levels of consumption are unsustainable. We are in the process of liquidating the planet’s resources and injuring the capacity of life-sustaining ecosystems. It’s safe to say the world is overpopulated, and it will continue to be until we can say that we have achieved sustainable equilibrium.

    https://www.growthbusters.org/population-growth/

    Existential challenges we face within the next 50 years
    – collapse in insect populations
    – widespread extinction of bees
    – total depletion and acidification of the oceans
    – ongoing soil degradation, only 60 to 100 harvests left
    – loss of biodiversity everywhere humans are present

    Infinite growth is a Ponzi scheme

    • Draco T Bastard 18.1

      +111

    • One Anonymous Bloke 18.2

      levels of consumption

      Yes. The graphic in the OP shows that very clearly. The problems you listed are a consequence of minority behaviour, not population density. Deflection from that fact is indeed racist.

      Infinite growth would be a Ponzi scheme. It’s a good thing it isn’t happening.

      • ropata 18.2.1

        Well that’s OK then. Someone should tell the starving billions in Asia and Africa that overpopulation is a racist myth disproven by a little one dimensional graph of CO2 emissions

  19. ropata 19

    QFT: “If you want to ruin Western civilization and break the sciences, you’d do no better than to make people believe that the scientific method is a tool of oppression. ”
    http://quillette.com/2018/03/22/jordan-b-peterson-appeals-left/

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