There is one fundamental problem that underlies most of the issues that face the world as we know it today. It is a topic that hides in the shadows but one that most thinkers know is always there. It is a topic that conjures up unacceptable images from the past and frightening projections for the future. However, it is also one that will overtake us if we do not face it, bring it into the open and begin to discuss its resolution. That topic is human over-population and what to do about it.
Almost all environmental concerns, from lack of adequate water supplies, to lack of food, to pollution in the oceans, to the demise of many animal species, to refugee problems, and many, many others are all made worse, if not caused, by too many people.
One can argue that the problem is actually too many people concentrated in certain small areas, but that doesn’t address the fundamental problem. The earth has too many people and that number is growing exponentially. The problem will smother us if we don’t recognize it and address it.
Unfortunately, it is a very delicate subject that no politician or public figure in their right mind would touch. Images of exterminations, massacres, genocide, crafted pandemics and other such drastic and draconian methods of population control come to mind.
When man first started to form groups and communities it was not a problem. They were few and well-spaced. Later, when communities became towns and empires, wars and pestilence controlled the population. It was not until the twentieth century when advances in medicine began to control pandemics like the Black Death that the problem started in earnest. Wars still made their contribution but we have entered an era of relative peace at least in terms of the numbers of people wars are eliminating.
A classic case study of what can happen is Kenya. The country’s first President after independence, Jomo Kenyatta, was a master at playing the world’s major powers off against each other and his prowess produced an economic boom. Kenya had the highest growth rate in Africa and medical science made vast improvements in human longevity and curbing infant mortality.
What happened? Families that were used to having a dozen children because they expected most of them to die young, suddenly found themselves with far more healthy babies than they expected or could afford. The population exploded, and all the gains from economic development and medical advancement went down the drain. The country has since recovered somewhat but it is an object lesson for the world on the unexpected consequences of improved health and living standards.
Education would seem to be the key to stop this type counter-productive population growth but such ideas will almost certainly be branded as a plot to keep poorer countries under control.
It’s a conundrum but, if we continue to ignore the problem and don’t actively seek a solution, the problem will overtake us and draconian measures might be the only answer. No-one wants to contemplate that scenario but it’s a real possibility if the problem is not addressed, and addressed sooner rather than later.