We cannot maintain the level of consumption of resources we have today with 6, 7 or 8 billion people. Sooner or later we will have to make the difficult choice between reducing the population or our standard of living.
Former vice-president Al Gore won the Oscar for his documentary “An Inconvenient Truth. I was first very happy to see that ecology and more specifically global warming is finally at the center of global concerns, being cheered up by Hollywood.
But at the same time I have this strange feeling that we’re combating the consequences of our consumption without worrying about the real causes. Another sign of this problem was the announcement that the English billionaire Sir Richard Branson made in 2007, offering $ 25 million for those who “create a formula” for the elimination of greenhouse gases.
Technology and science will not save us
The great problem of the human being in this globalized and polluted 21st century is to continue believing that technology and science will save us and redeem. Everything we use in our daily lives, from a phone to a simple meal, consumes resources and generates waste. This impact may be more or less harmful to the environment according to the volume of things consumed and the degree of pollution of its by-products.
Population and consumption
The human population has grown over 650% since the beginning of the 19th century, unprecedented in human history. But the most amazing is that the first billion was reached only by 1800. That is, we take around 400,000 years (estimated date for the appearance of Homo Sapiens) to reach a billion people. However, we only took 200 years to six fold this number. It is expected that by the year of 2050 the population will grow 50%, going to 9 billion people.
Sooner or later we will have to make the difficult choice
In this way, the improvement of our standard of living increased absurdly human population, causing pollution and devastation, to the point of putting the Earth in a state of collapse. I do not mean that we should go back to using wagons and lamps. What I say is that you cannot maintain the level of consumption of resources we have today with 6, 7 or 8 billion people. Sooner or later we will have to make the difficult choice between reducing the population or our standard of living, with all that it represents.
This unbridled consumption is not equally distributed among countries. The level and quality of consumption of developed countries are much, much larger than the developing countries.
According to the site www.footprintnetwork.org, which measures the footprint of human consumption (amount of land space and water that humans need to sustain their consumption), we are actually consuming resources 23% faster than the regenerative capacity of nature. This means a global deficit of 0.5 hectare per capita.
But if we analyze this content in developed countries, we see that its deficit is unbelievable 3.1 hectare per capita, compared to a surplus of 0.1 hectare in the rest of the planet. This means that, despite holding a minority of the world, countries with higher development are those that consume more.
Over-consumption will block the access
These facts show us two stories. The first is that an absurd injustice of all time, where a small group of countries is usurping the rights of others to a clean, preserved and unpolluted word. The second is that this over-consumption will block the access of some developing countries to upgrade their economy to the called “first world”. And this is something unique in history.
Regardless of time and place, human societies throughout history have always been guided by the same principles that govern other species: reproduction and competition for resources. In other words: dynamic equilibrium of the population. The big difference of the human beans is that we unbalanced the natural relation of births and deaths mainly due to impressive technological and sanitary development from nineteenth century.
We breed like monkeys
Living with less threat environment exploded the human population raise. We realize that there is currently a major effort to save the man from any physical suffering during his life. However, the same commitment does not exist when it comes to resource consumption and population control. These points remain as free and uncontrolled as the rest of the animal kingdom. In other words, we breed and consume in a similar way to giraffes or monkeys.
To avoid an environmental collapse, not just think only in replacement of energy matrices or magic solutions, such as pumping CO2 into the underground of the earth or carbon neutralization. We have to balance the equilibrium between consumption and population facing the potential environmental stock.
If there is a solution where I would put my money it would be to reduce resources consumption through birth control. That is, if we can find a way to bring the world’s population and its consumption to the actual availability of resources, we can slow and possibly reverse the actual devastation.
One of the mechanisms by which we can do that will be effecting the control population measured way. That is, reduce the number of people taking into account the degree of actual consumption of that population. For example, if we make a population planning relying on an overall reduction of 10%, we shall consider this percentage so that countries that consume more resources have a proportionately larger population reduction. Thus, countries like the U.S. or China would have to reduce their population more than, say, the Seychelles island.
This solution has several benefits:
Some people warned me about the impossibility of implementing an ambitious plan like this. We see how difficult it is to change concepts and paradigms in firms with few years of existence. In countries, each with their culture, religion and economic expectation the work will certainly be very difficult.
On the other hand, I believe that the current alternatives to the global warming will be more difficult to implement.
The proposed solution can reduce with little effort 50% of the world population in fifty years. It is the reduction of population weighted by birth control in 1% or 67 million people a year. If you think this is hard, consider that every year 30 million people die of hunger around the world …
Or we decide voluntarily to reduce increasingly our consumption behavior as the population increases, or we have to reduce this consumption by reducing population. We must decide what is more important …
My name is Joao Luis de Freitas Valle. I am Brazilian, an economist and have been part of the environmental movement for over 15 years. Over the years, I became a little skeptical about the effectiveness of traditional environmental approach. So, I began to explore the roots of environmental devastation: human consumption and population growth. I think the population control will be the primary means for environmental preservation.