Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Clock is Ticking


The US Census recently released its estimated US population for the end of today and 2008. We're up to 305,529,237. The number is based on birth, death, and immigration figures which result in one more person in the country every 14 seconds.

If I've calculated correctly, US population has increased 81% during my lifetime. That's a horrific number in itself, but if you want to feel worse, world population has increased 138% during that time. People like me are often accused of seeing the glass as half empty instead of half full. The glass isn't half anything; it's overflowing.

It's long been believed that increased population and population density have negative effects on human society. Higher urban crime rates, stress levels, and the often expressed need to get away seem to bear this out. Larger denser populations result in a decrease of freedom and less opportunity to interact with the natural world. I don't have a high opinion of economics, regarding it as the evil twin of ecology, but it's an obvious fact that the more there are of an item, the less it is valued. I think that's just as true of humans.

Recently I witnessed an online discussion which stunned me. Apparently there's a cable tv show about a family with 18 biological children. The conversation was begun by a poster writing that these people had to stop. I was amazed to see the large majority supporting these people's "right" to have as many children as they wanted and it was no one else's business, at least as long as they weren't getting welfare. I do not understand how people do not get that they do not live in a vacuum, that actions have consequences and effects. It's time for rights-claiming Americans to grow up and learn some bigger words such as responsibility.

Maybe I'm giving them too much credit, but I bet these same people willingly accept that the annual euthanization of some 10,000,000 healthy cats and dogs in the US indicates overpopulation, and that too many deer cause problems in their neighborhoods. I've posted about books on the effects of our increasing population on other species. See No Way Home and Where the Wild Things Were for example, or look over this list of extinct species. Of course, generally humans don't really care what happens to other species.

But haven't they seen what I've seen? The childhood playfields turned into fenced lawns, the woodland walk turned into private property, the McMansions blocking the view of the water, the traffic jams? Don't they care?

Is the problem simply that humans are short term thinkers who can't see further ahead, that the more kids they have, the bleaker the future is going to be for those kids? Is it their religions which make them think they are somehow exempt from the laws of nature? Is it their technology and way of life which have estranged them from understanding and participating in the processes of the natural world? Is it fear of social collapse and denial of death or the American obsession with optimism? Is their ignorance accidental or deliberate?


During the time I've been writing this post, world population (and notice that when we speak of population, it's always just assumed it's human population because after all no one else matters) has increased by 7345 people.

Happy new year and thank you for not breeding.



risa said...

When I was young I asked my daddy why the world seemed to be going to hell in a handbasket.


"S'cuse me?"

"Pit latrines, mostly."

"Not enough of them?"

"Nope, too many. Everywhere the Europeans went, they killed off nine tenths of the people, mostly with diseases, then showed the survivors how to avoid diseases. Populations have gone through the roof everywhere ever since."

"So what can we do about it?"

"Not much, honey. Y'all are gonna be in for a heap'a trouble."

greentangle said...

Thanks for visiting & sharing your tale. I can't decide whether to put that in the Wisdom of the Elders or the Careful What You Wish For folder.

Enjoyed reading your blog and tales of elephant garlic, apples, and trees. Reminded me of many years ago enjoying reading Countryside magazine despite not living that way at all.

Sorry about that vote. I'm originally from MA and probably returning this year--have always been glad the legislature there has managed to keep it out of the voters' ignorant hands.

Sally said...

Amen, brother... Thanks for speaking out.

Nice place; I'll visit again, MN or MA.