As I mentioned recently, I attended my 20-year high school reunion last month, and I enjoyed myself. I haven’t been very good about keeping in touch with people, and it was good to see friends I was once very close to.
One of my good friends from high school was (very) pregnant during the reunion weekend, and the other day I received the news that she gave birth to her fourth child, and first daughter. Four kids. A surprising number of my classmates are now parents of three or four kids. One of my classmates has six!
I have to admit I struggled with what to say to my friend with the new baby. On one hand, she is an amazing person, meaning there’s a good possibility that her kids will be amazing people. Probably already are. On the other hand, I’ve become acutely aware lately, for some reason, of overpopulation and the stress that humans are putting on this planet’s resources.
The world’s population is at 6.6 billion right now and rising by 1 million every four days. Whether or not you believe humans are causing – or at least exacerbating – global warming, or think it’s a problem, here are some other frightening factoids that have little to do with climate change:
The number of large fish in the world’s oceans is estimated to be just 10% of what it was in 1950, mostly due to over-fishing but also polluting of the oceans and rising water temperatures. That’s 90% depletion in just over 50 years, and scientists project a near total annihilation by the year 2050 without some radical intervention.
There is a swirling stew of plastic twice the size of Texas floating between California and Hawaii that didn’t exist in 1945, and it’s growing tenfold every decade.
The US has the resources to sustain less than half of its current population of 300 million. If all 6 billion people were to share the world’s resources equally, Americans would have to reduce consumption by 80%.
By 2040, we will need to triple the global food supply in order to meet the basic food needs of the 9 to 11 billion people who are expected to be alive. But doing so would require a 1,000 percent increase in the total energy expended in food production. Meanwhile, food production is expected to have decreased by then because of a variety of factors (water shortages, land shortages, energy shortages).
Even if projections like these are off by 15 to 20%, which is highly unlikely, it’s clear that much of the planet is screwed if we keep cranking out babies. And kids being born today are entering a world that won’t be able to support them.
Is there any one of us who doesn’t see with our own eyes how the nature we enjoyed as kids has diminished during our lifetime and given way to sprawling suburbs and industry?
By the year 2050, the earth simply will not be able to support an acceptable standard of living for hundreds of millions of the 9 billion people who will be using it. And you can be certain that when water and food become truly scarce, the privileged and wealthy of the world will go to great lengths to keep what’s left for themselves. The gap between the haves and the have-nots will become wider than you can imagine. Luckily, I suppose, we are among the haves.
I want to congratulate my classmates on their fertility, but the bottom line is if you have more than two children, you are part of the problem.
Simple as that.