Category Archives: Population

Too many people

When Paul Ehrlich published The Population Bomb in 1968, there were 3.5 billion people on Earth, up from 1.4 billion in 1901 and heading for our early-2018 total of 7.6 billion.  Ehrlich feared the worst – accurately predicting, in general terms, the stress that meeting everyone’s needs would place on the living world.  He also proposed some alarming and heavy-handed remedies.  All this has just been been revisited in The Guardian’s over-stretched cities series, in a 50th anniversary interview with Ehrlich.

I once planned a book on population, since I’d noticed that it was a taboo subject yet, to an ecologist, one that simply had to be considered.  So I tried to find out why there was so little on population, which must surely be a starting point for the sustainable development of anyone’s country, or immigration issues, or ecological collapse, mass extinction or climate change.  And yet it wasn’t anything of the sort.  I concluded that this was because it’s all too difficult, far harder than any of the specific development issues since it’s connected to what we do as a species: competitive breeding among peoples, cross-contaminated by issues around patriarchy, family planning, sex education, adoption, immigration, juvenile pregnancies, class, honour killings, religion, euthanasia, test-tube babies, you name it!

Besides, for various reasons that have been perfectly valid for at least 99% of our species’ time on Earth, few people even see that there might be a problem with ‘population’.  Into this mess only the bravest or most foolhardy are likely to venture.  So I chickened out, and here we still are, heading for unimaginable global calamity and taking the whole living world down with us.  What to do?

© Julian Caldecott