Editorial: Population peril

Many aging West Virginians were born around 1930, when the world’s human population was 2 billion. Today, it has passed 7 billion — more than tripling in a lifetime — and keeps rising rapidly. Every day, 210,000 new people are added to the planet. The total is projected to reach 9.6 billion by 2050.

Overpopulation is a far-reaching crisis. More humans make more pollution, more erosion, more destruction of forests, more extinction of wildlife, more depletion of natural resources, more intrusion onto cropland, more toxic waste, more poverty, more slums, more immigration conflicts — and more burning of fossil fuels, which spurs global warming that causes hurricanes, floods, droughts, twisters, wildfires, tropical diseases and other ills.

Oddly, scientists and leaders rarely mention population peril. Maybe they don’t want to affront people by implying that they should bear fewer children, or affront the huge Catholic Church, which teaches that birth control is sinful.

Population problems of many sorts are outlined in the latest Free Inquiry magazine. Some examples:

n “About half of the world’s tropical forests have been cleared already. The United Nations estimates that 18 million acres of forest are lost every year.”

n “The rate of plant and animal extinction is about 1,000 times higher than the natural rate . ... Other species ... are going extinct at the highest rate since the extinction that wiped out most dinosaurs 65 million years ago.”

n “For most of Earth’s recent history, our atmosphere has contained about 275 parts per million of carbon dioxide. Today, we are at 400 ppm and climbing, a level that essentially locks in significant climate change ... . The increase of CO2 in the oceans is... the highest it has been in about 20 million years.”

n “About 90 percent of the ocean’s population of large fish has been wiped out by overfishing and other human activity.”

n “The Global Footprint Network ... estimates that we are overusing our renewable resource base by about 50 percent. By 2050, it estimates that we will need two Earths (which we don’t have) to sustain us for the long haul.”

Why don’t world leaders pay greater attention to this profound threat? International population control agencies exist, but rarely sound alarms.

Some of the problem lies in Third World lands where women have few rights and bear large numbers of children. As women gain more equality, their birthrates drop. The magazine concludes that the best approach lies in “elevating the status of women around the world and providing family planning services and education.”

We hope the world community sees the growing menace and pursues that cure.

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