World Population Day makes us Reflect on Sane and Compassionate Actions

“As things are today, even without any further increases in world population, if every person in the world were to start consuming as Americans {Canadians} do, humanity would require the resources of at least two additional planet Earths to support it.” Paul and Anne Ehrlich

World Population Day (July 11), created after the world had 5 billion people in 1987, and integrated with other world initiatives, celebrates, educates and finds solutions for a growing population and our planet’s health. World Population Day 2011’s theme is Calling Attention to Urgent Global Issues: young people, women and girls, poverty reduction, reproductive health, environment, ageing populations and urbanization. Consider: the planet had a billion people around the time of industrialization and rose to 2 billion by 1930 and then tripled to six billion in 2000. In a recent June article called “Climate, Food and Population”, I mentioned the U.N’s estimate of 10.1 billion people living at the beginning of the 22nd century. This number may be quite charitable, as the population may rise to thirteen billion people. Regardless of these numbers, scientists have clearly linked the extreme risks of a rising population, an increasingly unstable climate with food affordability and availability. We have become so inventive that our cultures can be seen from space, and most vividly at night!

Please take a look at these recent photos from the International Space Station showing how the web of night lighting is indicative of an increasing population pushing its way into every part of the globe. We see in the first photo how the entire length of Earth’s longest river, the Nile, is lit up. Paul and Anne Ehrlich’s book “One with Nineveh: Politics, Consumption, and the Human Future” has a composite photo of the world at night. It is ablaze with lights. Seven years after these scientists’ book was published, the world’s population has gone from 6.3 billion people to seven billion by October, 2011. When Professor Ehrlich wrote his controversial book, “The Population Bomb” in the 1968, governments thought the present day inheritor of Malthus’18th century theory of human population growth had really made a massive mistake. Malthus said,” “The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man”. Tragically, the Ehrlich’s predictions for human survival are now repeatedly confirmed. The ‘Malthusian Catastrophe’ is fueled by super-exponential growth, and greed I might add.

Although the question of ‘population’ is politically taboo, both ‘left’ and ‘right’ journalism have recognized the urgency to address the ‘population question’. For example, The Economist has run a series of in-depth articles on the “The Anthropocene”.  (Most scientists now have concluded that we have changed the Earth to such a degree, it’s necessary to call the epoch for the 21st century and beyond, the Age of Humans: the Anthropocene. Bill McKibbon’s 2010 book is called “Eaarth”, signaling that the Earth needs a new name in light of human made changes.). A New York Times article by Justin Gillis starts:” The great agricultural system that feeds the human race is in trouble.” The title for the article is “Food for a Warming Planet: scientists raise alarm at prices, population and heat”

Compassion for the great suffering of a billion people should hold no political stripes, but too often it does. In 2009 the G20 group of nations, at a gathering in Pittsburgh, set up the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP) to allow poor nations to regain stability, access to markets and perhaps most importantly, local resilience in the face of soaring prices for food. By far, Canada has given more money -$224 million- than any other nation towards this program. And as this article is being read, Somali climate refugees are pouring into Dadaab camp in Kenya, with now 354,921 plus people, to escape drought-stricken areas.

Since Canadians, Australians and Americans ‘lead’ the world in the rapacious destruction of the planet, vast relief would come with a one child policy for these nations to help curtail the world’s misery. As well, compassionate adults should create the means for the stricken children of other nations to thrive by drastically lowering their consumption and becoming vegans (a vegan’s food/ecological footprint is so much lower than a meat/dairy eater’s). Grandparents and parents might also sing the praises for adoption of the malnourished living rather than pushing 20th century models of ‘family’. Vast revenues can be found as well by stopping medical research that only benefits the rich few (us), and channeling that money into disbursing known medical successes to the three billion humans who, for example, lack the simple remedies for water born diseases. Doing more and taking less can revitalize our society and the Eaarth.

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