Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot – Photo Essay: Humanity Spreads – Life Supports Shrink (NPG Booknote)

Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot
Photo Essay: Humanity Spreads – Life Supports Shrink
(NPG Booknote)

Are you alarmed about rapid U.S. and world population growth and its accumulating damage to the planet’s life supports?

You will be even more so after viewing the dramatic, often depressing photo essays in the recently released work Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot – an urgent call to global action for population reduction, sponsored by the Population Institute and the Population Media Center. The book sums up the distress in our biosphere in a single, fateful equation:

Overpopulation + Overdevelopment = Overshoot

The disturbing, oversized photos capture the wreckage of the environment already wrought by a swarming, arrogant humanity, “Lord Man,” that pre-empts the vital habitat of the planet’s myriad non-human life forms – blindly ignoring the need of their services for humans’ survival.

The bad news is brought home in dismaying photos of overbuilt, polluted cities and their cookie-cutter developments and teeming slums; overgrazed and over-cultivated fields, scalped forests, unending quilts of urban sprawl, and the shrinking, envenomed habitat of the world’s hard-pressed sea creatures. Up close, we see the rapidly spreading wasteland of oil-drenched waters in the tar sands fields of Alberta, Canada and the wreckage of Appalachia’s stripped hills.

Most heartrending and ominous are photos of the gluttonous harvesting of rapidly diminishing prize wildlife species. The huge body of a magnificent highland African gorilla is carried in triumph by his hunters. Fishermen trample on what seems like acres of fins of butchered sharks. Trapped sea mammals struggle and die in bloody coastal waters. Are all such splendid fellow creatures fated to perish in their competition with our age’s “manswarm”?

The book’s sponsors graphically document the world’s “overconsumption, crushing poverty, resource wars, climate change and unraveling ecosystems,” asking the critical question: How can it be that the explosive omnivorous growth of the human family – more than sevenfold since the industrial revolution and still expanding rapidly – is generally ignored by policy makers and the media.

Often accompanying these grim pictures are admonitions about our planet’s future from a diverse line-up of perceptive statesmen and thinkers past and present – such as Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, Aldous Huxley, Paul and Anne Ehrlich, Lao Tsu, Steven Hawking, John Ruskin, Rachel Carson and Martin Luther King.

In his introduction, William Ryerson – President of Population Media Center and CEO of the Population Institute, the two sponsors of this pictorial call to action – explains that we now live precariously in a “Catch-22 world:

If we double food production to feed a growing world, we expand greenhouse gas emissions. If we discover and exploit more fossil fuels, we fry the planet. If we reduce our water consumption, we curtail our food production. If we grow the world’s middle class, we increase the pressure on the Earth’s natural ecosystems.

Human societies’ resistance to needed change is awesome, says environmental author Eileen Crist in her closing essay of this troubling volume. Public and official acceptance of the inevitability of ten billion humans soon to be on the earth is as daunting as it is misguided. Our corporate sovereigns are very comfortable with endless population growth as an ingredient in ever-growing consumption. Wishful thinking about agricultural and technological breakthroughs drowns out serious reflection on impending environmental collapse.

Prompt population stabilization followed by reduction is urgent and has been shown to be achievable, Crist states:

Wherever concerted policies to lower birthrates have been implemented, birthrates have declined with alacrity. By concerted policies I include… public discourse and campaigning on the issue; prioritizing the education of girls and women; reproductive clinics that are accessible and affordable to all; large numbers of health workers for grass roots education and support; sex education is school curricula; the full array of modern contraceptive methods for free or at minimal cost; and legal, safe abortion services.

Expanding “public discourse and campaigning on the issue” is what the book is all about, just as it is what NPG is all about. Sponsors of this book have created a website to “promote awareness and inspire action,” which is available at: www.PopulationSpeakOut.org.

UN population projections on that site graphically show our choices for the uncertain future. The “business as usual” variant has world population reaching 10 billion by 2060, and adding nearly another billion by 2100. The “high” variant (the fatal variant!) shows world population at 12 billion by 2060 and still growing. The low variant is humanity’s best hope – though in NPG’s view, even that does not bring the population reductions as deep or as soon as the planet needs. This “low” variant has world population peaking at 8.3 billion in 2050, then declining to a more manageable (but still damaging) 6.7 billion by 2010.

To get the book and find out what you can do to speak out and campaign for the planet’s future, go to www.PopulationSpeakOut.org. Your children’s lives and fortunes depend on it.

David Simcox

David Simcox is a former NPG Senior Advisor. From 1985 to 1992 he was executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank. From 1956 to 1985, Simcox was a career diplomat of the U.S. Department of State, with service in diplomatic posts in Latin America, Africa, Europe, and in Washington.  His diplomatic assignments involved formulation of policy for labor, population and migration issues in such countries as Mexico, Panama, Dominican Republic, Brazil and the nations of Indo-China.  Simcox is a frequent contributor on population, immigration and Latin American matters to national newspapers and periodicals and has testified on several occasions before congressional committees on immigration, labor and identification policies.  He holds degrees from the University of Kentucky, American University and the National War College.  Simcox is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and saw service in the Korean conflict.  If you are affiliated with the media and would like to schedule an interview with David, please contact us at 703-370-9510.

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