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Empire of Illusion

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We Are Breeding Ourselves to Extinction

Posted on Mar 8, 2009
AP photo / Andy Wong

China has long imposed a limit of one child per family in an effort to reduce population growth.

By Chris Hedges

All measures to thwart the degradation and destruction of our ecosystem will be useless if we do not cut population growth. By 2050, if we continue to reproduce at the current rate, the planet will have between 8 billion and 10 billion people, according to a recent U.N. forecast. This is a 50 percent increase. And yet government-commissioned reviews, such as the Stern report in Britain, do not mention the word population. Books and documentaries that deal with the climate crisis, including Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth,” fail to discuss the danger of population growth. This omission is odd, given that a doubling in population, even if we cut back on the use of fossil fuels, shut down all our coal-burning power plants and build seas of wind turbines, will plunge us into an age of extinction and desolation unseen since the end of the Mesozoic era, 65 million years ago, when the dinosaurs disappeared.

We are experiencing an accelerated obliteration of the planet’s life-forms—an estimated 8,760 species die off per year—because, simply put, there are too many people. Most of these extinctions are the direct result of the expanding need for energy, housing, food and other resources. The Yangtze River dolphin, Atlantic gray whale, West African black rhino, Merriam’s elk, California grizzly bear, silver trout, blue pike and dusky seaside sparrow are all victims of human overpopulation. Population growth, as E.O. Wilson says, is “the monster on the land.” Species are vanishing at a rate of a hundred to a thousand times faster than they did before the arrival of humans. If the current rate of extinction continues, Homo sapiens will be one of the few life-forms left on the planet, its members scrambling violently among themselves for water, food, fossil fuels and perhaps air until they too disappear. Humanity, Wilson says, is leaving the Cenozoic, the age of mammals, and entering the Eremozoic—the era of solitude. As long as the Earth is viewed as the personal property of the human race, a belief embraced by everyone from born-again Christians to Marxists to free-market economists, we are destined to soon inhabit a biological wasteland.

The populations in industrialized nations maintain their lifestyles because they have the military and economic power to consume a disproportionate share of the world’s resources. The United States alone gobbles up about 25 percent of the oil produced in the world each year. These nations view their stable or even zero growth birthrates as sufficient. It has been left to developing countries to cope with the emergent population crisis. India, Egypt, South Africa, Iran, Indonesia, Cuba and China, whose one-child policy has prevented the addition of 400 million people, have all tried to institute population control measures. But on most of the planet, population growth is exploding. The U.N. estimates that 200 million women worldwide do not have access to contraception. The population of the Persian Gulf states, along with the Israeli-occupied territories, will double in two decades, a rise that will ominously coincide with precipitous peak oil declines.

The overpopulated regions of the globe will ravage their local environments, cutting down rainforests and the few remaining wilderness areas, in a desperate bid to grow food. And the depletion and destruction of resources will eventually create an overpopulation problem in industrialized nations as well. The resources that industrialized nations consider their birthright will become harder and more expensive to obtain. Rising water levels on coastlines, which may submerge coastal nations such as Bangladesh, will disrupt agriculture and displace millions, who will attempt to flee to areas on the planet where life is still possible. The rising temperatures and droughts have already begun to destroy crop lands in Africa, Australia, Texas and California. The effects of this devastation will first be felt in places like Bangladesh, but will soon spread within our borders. Footprint data suggests that, based on current lifestyles, the sustainable population of the United Kingdom—the number of people the country could feed, fuel and support from its own biological capacity—is about 18 million. This means that in an age of extreme scarcity, some 43 million people in Great Britain would not be able to survive. Overpopulation will become a serious threat to the viability of many industrialized states the instant the cheap consumption of the world’s resources can no longer be maintained. This moment may be closer than we think.

A world where 8 billion to 10 billion people are competing for diminishing resources will not be peaceful. The industrialized nations will, as we have done in Iraq, turn to their militaries to ensure a steady supply of fossil fuels, minerals and other nonrenewable resources in the vain effort to sustain a lifestyle that will, in the end, be unsustainable. The collapse of industrial farming, which is made possible only with cheap oil, will lead to an increase in famine, disease and starvation. And the reaction of those on the bottom will be the low-tech tactic of terrorism and war. Perhaps the chaos and bloodshed will be so massive that overpopulation will be solved through violence, but this is hardly a comfort.


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By Karen Freed, March 11, 2009 at 12:08 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Re: Outrageous

Your comment: “how many people living in unindustrialized nations must die (of starvation and associated diseases) in order for me to sustain a middle class lifestyle here in the US (speaking of ecological footprints)? I ask this in reference to the statistics which calculate that we, as 5% of the world population, consume 25% of the world’s resources. Does anyone have knowledge of any statistics on this?”

[Outrageous] “I don’t, but I could give you a real good guessimate…, NONE.  I do realize you were being serious as far as the statistics go, but the illustrative value of your point was hard to resist.”

“None” is not an answer, but “hard to resist” is helpful. Thanks for replying. I did find a couple of intersting factoids: my consumption rate is 32 to 1 as compared to a Kenyan; 9 million people die of starvation each year, 5 million of which are children. Still, it doesn’t answer my question, but does make me want to change my ways… and fast.

Meanwhile, I think the posts here are focusing too keenly on the overpopulation issue raised by the author, while missing the big picture (the rest of the article). The issue of population explosion and relative resource consumption is only one aspect of a broader problem, incorporating resultant environmental devastion as pertains to deforestation, climate change, extreme weather patterns, natural disasters, and the current/future rates of species extinction (other than our own). All are related indicators that a future depleted ecosystem called Earth will not be able to sustain us. It isn’t about “us” fixing “them” - it’s about us fixing us.

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By Shift, March 10, 2009 at 10:51 pm Link to this comment

There is an acceleration of confusion evolving and worsening today.  This presupposes a failure of unity of effort. We are in free-fall.  Steel yourselves and prepare your death songs.  Cleanse yourselves and enter the next world with dignity. Your sojourn is a gift, respect and embrace it.

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By Kim, March 10, 2009 at 10:30 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

If the worldwide Caucasian population doesn’t START procreating more, they will become extinct. This group now makes up only about 8% of the world’s population.

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By Byron, March 10, 2009 at 9:46 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I sure get sick of these holier-than-thou pontificators who do their level best to make those who have legitimate worry over the future of this planet (due to human overpopulation and it’s associated overconsumption) feel as guilty as possible for so much as daring to mention overpopulation. They just LOVE to point fingers and scream HYPOCRITE! or falsely accuse people of racism in the most withering tone they can think of thus hoping to shame people into silence. But then that’s the goal isn’t it? Of course there will unfortunately always be a fraction of people who use legitimate issues to further a racist agenda but that doesn’t negate the issue itself.

I’ve found that these science deniers are usually the same people as global warming skeptics. They have a political agenda and that agenda is to keep the consumption machine going full steam for as long as possible for the benefit of corporations all consequences be damned.

Science tells us that we are already damaging the planet due to our combined assaults.

For more look up the Millenium Ecological Assessment, a four-year research effort by 1,360 of the world’s leading scientists.

Also see the Global Environment Outlook, a study by the United Nations Environment Programme which involved 1,400 scientists and took five years to prepare.

Both these studies warn of hard times ahead if we don’t get a grip on human overpopulation. It’s time we stopped burying our heads in the sand and begin to address this issue,

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By M.B.S.S., March 10, 2009 at 7:48 pm Link to this comment

hedges uses the the royal ‘we’ because he is a prince among rogues.

or maybe because if the doomsday overpopulation scenerios were to occur we would all be fecked.

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By Outraged, March 10, 2009 at 5:49 pm Link to this comment

Re: Karen Freed

Your comment: “how many people living in unindustrialized nations must die (of starvation and associated diseases) in order for me to sustain a middle class lifestyle here in the US (speaking of ecological footprints)? I ask this in reference to the statistics which calculate that we, as 5% of the world population, consume 25% of the world’s resources. Does anyone have knowledge of any statistics on this?”

I don’t, but I could give you a real good guessimate…, NONE.  I do realize you were being serious as far as the statistics go, but the illustrative value of your point was hard to resist.

Re: Lefeller

Your comment: “Since I have learned how to post by using mental telepathy, I now live in a hollow stump and hunt for all my food with a large stick.”

Wonderful.  Will there be an open house in your neighborhood any time soon?

Your (other) comment:  “Since I agree with your Premise, I do not support the anger, but after all you are Outrageous. Even so Sometimes minions ignorance need a stick shoved up their collective ass.”

What anger?  That was simply outrage.  I am not outrageous but some of these comments certainly were and no my comment wasn’t directed at everyone.  This notion that we need to AGAIN go “fix” the world and vilify some other nation, continent, gender, race, culture, ethnicity, social struture….etc. is crazy.

Have we learned nothing…?  I would imagine that the groups listed above, which we have supposedly “fixed” in the past…, to be in shock and awe of this continued arrogance and ignorance.

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By Sepharad, March 10, 2009 at 2:55 pm Link to this comment

Leefeller, you should post more often. Including my own early more or less responsible guess at a few overpopulation factors among all comments offered, decided only yours (and maybe Tao’s) are worth a hillabeans in terms of helpfulness, humanity and humor. Hedges’ frog in his pocket indeed. Here’s to a future peopled by descendants of Leefeller’s 50 grandchildren.

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By racetoinfinity, March 10, 2009 at 2:27 pm Link to this comment

And we have the reactionary Catholic church railing still against birth control, family planning, and any kind of abortion (even for the health of the mother).  Unfortunately, this huge wealthy behemoth holds sway mentally with a large part of the world’s poorer population.  Their irrational myths are doing incalculable damage, even more than I thought, after reading this report.

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By Eso, March 10, 2009 at 1:22 pm Link to this comment

777: Sane societies are small villages, because there everyone knows everyone elses business and no police are needed. That may not be a pleasant situation to hedonistic individuals, but then there were none such except at the princes court.

If large cities do not function like clockworks, then you get urban slums, neglected children, police intimidation, secret drug networks to supplement welfare checks or no welfare, etc. If trucks or trains were to stop and not deliver food to NYC or LA or London for a day or two, then you would have utter chaos there. I have seen large cities remain functional during WW2, but then the population was all around much smaller, and many families still had relatives on some farm not too far off.

If all a city needs is “sanity”, Sweden is a good example how such sanity drives to suicide and rather rigid and distant personalities.

All in all, I think a farm as a small community functions best. This is not to say that we can do without cities, but today they are a cancer on the landscape of our Earth. I am all for reforesting the landscape and not just planting trees in a city park.

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By Bisbonian, March 10, 2009 at 1:12 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“...but the population was soaring (thanks to immigration-both legal and illegal)...”

The article is talking about the Earth’s population, not one specific country.  Which planet are these illegal aliens coming from, Roxan?

so left I am right is right…we will breed until we die in our own waste.  Arguing about it won’t make any difference.

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By Leefeller, March 10, 2009 at 12:42 pm Link to this comment

Why does Chris Hedges always use his rhetorical we?  Does he have a frog in his pocket?  Using the we card is just another fear mental exercise so we can all say! “Oh We, We?” Turns out to be like the three pigs all the way home. 

First of all when an author attempts to make a point by saying we, I feel like he is going to sell me a bridge,

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By Jason!!, March 10, 2009 at 11:16 am Link to this comment

no worries. will solve all our problems.

Not familiar with E-Family? its funded by your tax dollars from ear marks by Obama when he was senator.

They keep drawing huge checks for NOTHING!

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By Virginia777, March 10, 2009 at 10:44 am Link to this comment

“An urban society must function like clock work to work”


an urban society must function sanely (in consideration of everyone) to work/function.

this is why we are broken, we did not follow this.

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By Virginia777, March 10, 2009 at 10:34 am Link to this comment

people get Angry

when Racism is brought up in a discussion.

this is an axiom (happens every time).

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By Leefeller, March 10, 2009 at 10:01 am Link to this comment


“I… I….I don’t EVEN fucking know…. arrogance, bullshit, exceptionalism, assholes, holier than thou…. these are the words that come to mind.”

It would be courteous to leave exceptions, for I had not posted yet.  Tao Walker, has clearly made his points on the subject.  Since I have learned how to post by using mental telepathy, I now live in a hollow stump and hunt for all my food with a large stick.

Since I agree with your Premise, I do not support the anger, but after all you are Outrageous. Even so Sometimes minions ignorance need a stick shoved up their collective ass.

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By Virginia777, March 10, 2009 at 10:00 am Link to this comment

I agree with you Folktruther, this discussion is racist. I am sure Hedges did not intend it so.

There are so many more important issues to focus on now, if the progressives can’t get clearheaded,

there is literally no hope at all.

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By Eso, March 10, 2009 at 9:56 am Link to this comment

The human rights fundamentalists are at it again—defending the countryside poor. I, too, defend them, but all things being relative, it is they who are more likely to survive when the SHTF and not even turnip covered asphalt gardens will safe city folk.

An urban society must function like clock work to work, and so far it is working on the basis of financial violence against those living in the countryside. When finance no longer helps (and it is breaking down as we speak), then what? Lovelock says that by the end of this century only a billion people will remain of the 6.5 now. Is it not time to start having sex without having children and accelerate research on cloning?

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By Folktruther, March 10, 2009 at 9:26 am Link to this comment

Yeah, you’re right, Outraged, the irrational focus on the population problam, which does exist, is a consequence of racial, ethnic and gender bigotry, an an uncouscious contempt for children, and the traditional vilification of women.  Most important, it is contempt for people which is contained in the presuppositions of our religious traditions, which are used to glorify oppressive power and instill a contempt for the people ruled by power.

Hedges has stated explicitly that he conceives people as all traditional religions do, as sinful, depraved, willful, and above all, DISOBEDIENT to authorized power. And he is a progressive, and the reason that the American people are so clueless, mindless and braindead.  They are led to identify with conservative values by progressives, which prevents them from thinking thoughts that subvert power.

As people become more economically developed, THE RATE OF POPULATION INCREASE DECLINES. This is a documented historical tendency, that prole reports.  It is not emphasized in the US because as the world develops economically, it is more capable of resisting US imperialism.  As people become more enlightened oveer historical time, and do not depend on traditional large families for their identities, they have less children.  My grandmother had twelve children, we have one.  An extreme of a common world tendency.

The most developed economies have the lowest birthrates by and large. The obvious solution is to develop economices in ways that sustain the enviroment.  But this would increase the rate of decline of Western power.  And so the kind of bullshit that Hedges delivers here is replicated in Progressive Western comments.  I said it before and I say it again about Hedges piece here.  Phoosh.

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By Anarcissie, March 10, 2009 at 9:06 am Link to this comment

samosamo—I don’t claim to know what the correct figures are.  I just don’t think the figures that are commonly accepted are likely to be accurate, for the reasons I have already given.  The world’s population may already be in decline.  In any case there is not much a bunch of bloggers on TruthDig can do about it compared to the effectiveness of war, pestilence and famine, which as you may have already noticed are already busily at work.

It would certainly be nicer to do things some other way, but when have human beings ever done things the nice way?

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By Werner Hoermann, March 10, 2009 at 8:58 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This article is based upon an unrealistic statist worldview, as if the reproductive and consumptive behavior of humans is not evolving and adapting to a changing environment. I certainly can imagine that the Neanderthals also had a Chris Hedges wailing alound: ” We have to limit our hunting and reproducing! There are way too many of us! We are running out of caves!” See where they are now! Cassandras like these alarmists are just looking for attention and a free ride.
Mankind is good at adapting and finding new ways to survive. New technologies make for a cleaner and better environment today than at any time in human history. Who really would want to change his life against that of 100, 500, or 1,000 years ago?
Ultimately, there needs to be responsibility:
If you can’t feed them, don’t breed them!

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By zepa21, March 10, 2009 at 8:56 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Malthusian eugenics. What a bunch of crap.

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By Leefeller, March 10, 2009 at 8:47 am Link to this comment

Since I will not be here to worry about the potential problem of overpopulation, I will not worry about what happens to my 50 grand children. We must keep the family name going. You will see the Leefeller’s dominating the world even surpassing the Smiths. 

You know,  maybe Gay’s exist for a reason other than to annoy bigots.

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By Karen Freed, March 10, 2009 at 8:28 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I am in the process of working on an art project which addresses the issues raised in this article (I happen to agree with the author, by the way). What I am wondering is this: how many people living in unindustrialized nations must die (of starvation and associated diseases) in order for me to sustain a middle class lifestyle here in the US (speaking of ecological footprints)? I ask this in reference to the statistics which calculate that we, as 5% of the world population, consume 25% of the world’s resources. Does anyone have knowledge of any statistics on this?

.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

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By The Climate Change Delusion, March 10, 2009 at 7:28 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I would like to explain a little of the history of this particular thought process.

The idea of the “Earth Religion” was dreamth up in the Club of Rome. They were looking for something for the people to believe in.

If you care to read:

Twenty years of propaganda has resulted in a large number of people longing for their own destruction, in order to “Save the Planet”/ Mother Earth.

It is also closely connected with the teaching of Ethics in schools, this is necessary for future decision making: re: When the Ethics Commission has to decide which person should be born and which must die, in order to maintain a productive economy within a sustainable envoirnment.

“Sustainable Development”

In order to ensure that no “Moral” objections confuse decision making within the Ethics Commissions, the present day Belief systems in GOD/Mohammad etc, are being constantly destroyed.

Richard Dawkins: The God Delusion
Atheist bus campaign:

I do hope the above general outline of whats happening and why, is helpful.

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By bebe, March 10, 2009 at 6:30 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Mr. Selinger: Both you and “Prole” are entirely correct. The powers-that-be work diligently to maintain false beliefs of shortages/rarity, from diamonds to water. The weather is being manipulated (see “Owning the Weather by 2025” military proposal to government and “Chemtrails” and HAARP). We have been enslaved by a tiny group called the Illuminati for aeons. This planet could, if well managed, provide sustanence aplenty for everyone. Africa, for instance, is the richest in natural resources, precious metals etc. For this reason its population is kept in poverty and ignorance so the elite can plunder at will. The Georgia Guidestones suggest that a depopulation agenda is afoot. I guarantee it’s not for the benefit of the planet, rather, the elite prefer more manageable numbers for their purposes. Peace, Yours for 911 Truth

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By al, March 10, 2009 at 5:58 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

No, that is NOT so. This myth was spread by the U.S. State Dept. and the U.N. and everyone has since, run with it.

The U.N. reports the births, but not the deaths.

What the govs. want to do is distract us with this, build fear into us, so that we don’t question the “Supply and Demand” method. There is in fact, an overabundance of food supplies, but the World Governments and World Bank holds it so that it rots in storage.

This is done for power and control over We, The People.

There is no more higher “HIGH,” than having Power and Control over other Souls in a human body. And keep them down and ignorant.

This is what drove Stalin.
If I were you all, I would do research, and not screech and deny this. To do so, is to sit there and allow this to happen.

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By knobcreekfarmer, March 10, 2009 at 2:29 am Link to this comment

Q: are humans smarter than yeast?

A: no

Google “are humans smarter than yeast?” - enjoy

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By Roxan, March 10, 2009 at 2:20 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Hmm, these over-populuation zealots complain about overpopulation but they don’t say anything about the illegal aliens getting FREE births, WIC etc benefits, FREE schooling (along with FREE breakfasts & lunches) and the DREAM act.  What’s not to like?  This has got to be mighty appealing to illegal aliens in the U.S.

I remember the constant drumbeat of “0 Population Growth” in the 60s/70s (along with movies like SOYLENT GREEN), BUT they didn’t tell us about the 1965 Immigration Laws or the AZTLAN movement to outbreed the other population to achieve this.

So, the targeted (0-population people) were either having no children or limiting themselves to 2 children, but the population was soaring (thanks to immigration-both legal and illegal).

So, I myself don’t want to hear anything from these fraudsters who say they’re “So concerned” about over- population. (and yes, I try not to be wasteful, never bought any gas-guzzling cars and I’ve recycled faithfully for years-long before it became “fashionable.”)

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By prole, March 10, 2009 at 2:02 am Link to this comment

The very ominous overpopulation problem is essentially an Asian and African problem. It may not be politically correct to say that but then the truth seldom is. Out of a total world population of about 6.8 billion, 4 billion are in Asia and close to another 1 billion are in Africa, three-quarters of the world’s total population between them. Africa has a population greater, and Asia a population four times greater, than North and South America combined.  According to the UN’s revised 2006 World Population Prospects report, of the top 40 countries in the world by fertility rates for 2005-2010, 35 are in Africa. The other five, Afghanistan, East Timor, Yemen, Palestine, and Iraq, are in the Near East. Most of the other forty-nine nations above the World average of 2.55 are in the same regions. The lowest rates by far are in Europe, including Eastern Europe, while the U.S. is at about the replacement rate at 2.05. The effect of religion on population is perhaps exaggerated. Catholic countries like Spain (1.41) and Italy (1.38) have some of the lowest fertility rates. Muslim countries like Iran (2.04) and Tunisia (1.93) are below the World (and US.) average, as are all Protestant-majority states.. The Jewish State is above the average at 2.75. And Hispanic states are mixed, with some of the higher rates, Guatemala (4.15), Bolivia (3.50)  as well as some of the lower rates, e.g. Puerto Rico (1.83) and Cuba (1.49). Even larger, semi-developed coutries like Brazil (2.25) and Mexico (2.21) aren’t as high as might be expected. There are apparently too many diverse influences at work to make for simplified solutions although it’s widely believed, but never conclusively proved, that economic development plays an important role. This too may be overblown, as some states with much less affluence than the U.S. have much lower fertility rates like Romania (1.30) and Ukraine (1.22). Nevertheless, it would appear, some minimum level of economic development and literacy must be attained to realize some gains. If the U.S and the other rich countries spent as large a proportion of their GDP on African development and ‘family-planning’ as they do on foreign wars and military spending, it would no doubt go a long way toward slowing overpopulation strains on the enviornment. That, in conjunction with the imposition of more stringent cumpulsory controls such as those instituted by the Chinese (1.73) might make a difference before it’s too late. But only if there is a concomitant commitment to moderating excessive consumption and wanton waste along with it.

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By expat in germany, March 10, 2009 at 1:40 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I haven’t added any comments in a while, but unless I missed it, this thread doesn’t contain an important observation from many studies: number of children decreases as education level increases, regardless of geographic location.

I would suggest that this is the most important front on which to fight the overpopulation war. Not an easy task given the still prevalent religious/cultural constraints on educating girls, but one that should be undertaken and supported nonetheless.

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By M.B.S.S., March 10, 2009 at 1:07 am Link to this comment

i go with free contraceptive beer along with voluntary extinction.  that should be a comprehensive solution.

case closed, next.

japan does have negative growth, but they have a particular culture that promotes that sort of thing as well.  i suspect that there will be some “natural culling” of the human weed eventually, but up until that point we may see (already are seeing) some resource wars.

i am utterly convinced that mankind will either figure things out or nature will somehow wipe the playing board clean.  either way a solution will be reached.

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By Outraged, March 10, 2009 at 12:10 am Link to this comment

Many, many outright STUPID comments, and I’ll paraphrase.

One would be this premise that we HAVE TO STOP WOMEN, especially in “undeveloped” countries from having children.  STUPID.  ARROGANT.  Statistically, THESE are NOT the ones using “up all the resources” are they…?

No, it is the one or two children of middle, upper income and RICH who lay WASTE to resources.  But these POOR folk are easy targets are they not?  My god…. this certainly could not be YOUR child who has everything, and wastes it WITH YOUR OKAY, could it?  Fuck off, you make me sick.

It is not the “third world children” or their parents, it is YOU.  Get a grip.  These people don’t waste in a month what you waste in a day.  But scapegoat them you will to cover your own ASS and your own incapacity for humanity.  Bloviate away…. but the FACTS prove otherwise.

Did you plant a tree…?  Silly me, you’re all good then.  I feel compelled to ask…. after your tree (you know that wonderful thing you did) grows, do you find yourself BARKING UP THAT WRONG TREE.

Additionally, the last time I checked, women do not get pregnant by an act of God.  Yeah, there happens to be another lie of omission circulating here.  Those EVIL THIRD WORLD BACKWARD WOMEN, will we ever be rid of their EXTRAVAGANCES!

While statistically/scientifically there most likely is an issue here, and I confess I’ve only heard the mantra but never actually investigated the facts. The BS scapegoating here is sickening.  Truthfully… I can’t even finish this post (at least the points that I had originally planned) because so many of these comments are so far from reality…. I… I….I don’t EVEN fucking know…. arrogance, bullshit, exceptionalism, assholes, holier than thou…. these are the words that come to mind.

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By WriterOnTheStorm, March 9, 2009 at 10:48 pm Link to this comment

It should be overwhelmingly clear, to anyone familiar with a broad spectrum scientific opinion, that our presence here is not sustainable. This goes beyond the population problem and into climate, evolutionary, sociological, ecological, and geo-historical extrapolations. If it ain’t the one thing, then it’s the other.

Just consider how much more quickly a virus evolves than human defense mechanisms do. A virus can mutate into a completely new variety in less than a month. Those microbes want us dead and they’re going about it with cool efficiency - and that’s only one of the problems our species faces. Trilobites were much better suited to life on this planet than us brain-burdened bipeds. They lasted millions of years, but eventually they joined the dinosaurs in oblivion too. Human Beings have come to the party very, very, very late, and up against the span of upheaval and cataclysm that defines nature we don’t stand any better chance than the freak and brute creation that came before us. It may take a hundred-thousand, perhaps two-hundred-thousand years, but the end will come by-and-by, and in a timeframe that will be a blip in the greater picture.

In the meantime, we human-folk just can’t resist getting it on biblical style:  all that going-forth-and-multiplying is harder to stop than a runaway train on an unmanned track.

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By Xntrk, March 9, 2009 at 10:40 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I don’t think eugenics will be the problem, Religion has it beat hands down.

Fifty years ago,[approx] Birth Control pills became available. Prior to that, the 7 month baby [first] and an early marriage were on most girl’s dance program. I have 4 kids. My brother has four kids [one of his friends accused him of screwing himself away from the dinner table, which would make a great cartoon].

Fifty years later, those 8 kids have produced a total of 2 grandchildren. Obviously, that is 2 kids for 16 people, not a bad percentage - certainly better then my generation managed. My brother and I are both agnostics and taught our kids about birth control [I told my 3 sons that if they were going to get their foot wet, they should wear rubbers]

But, I have a cousin, my age, who has five daughters. She celebrated the 17th grandchild this year, and is expecting her first great grandkid. Why? Religion, pure and simple. They are ‘born again’ [and again…] Abortion is a sin and a crime. Birth control is unnecessary, as long as the little darling agree to reproduce..

BTW, I am not talking about any minority group, the stupid people are definitely in the majority. As for who would take care of all us decrepit old farts if the fertile quantum quit producing ad infinitum, why not issue each of us a robot to work in the mines or on the farms, design some more to empty bed pans, and create some good jobs for the engineers who figure out how to program them. If we sent the damn things to Mars, we should be able to do away with the scut work here on earth. Think of the society that we could build if we had both the leisure and the education to do truly creative things rather then simply producing 14 kids from one whack [off] with the help of a sadistic doctor!

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By Baka Karasu, March 9, 2009 at 9:59 pm Link to this comment
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Great initial post.  Nice to see an all too rare warning about overpopulation.

Those of you who think we have time to deal with this or to take slow moderate actions are sadly wrong.  Those of you who are worried about “eugenics” should remember that any and all mate selection criteria you or others have and use (including the marketing of the big breasted blond as the archetype of beauty) is eugenics.

We’ve already exceeded global carrying capacity. We are now in “overshoot”.  (Visualize a car sailing smoothly, but quite temporarily, through the air after having been driven off of a cliff.)

Global population is nearing 7 billion.  Different theorists using different methods seem to end up agreeing that global carrying capacity is probably about 2 billion. (This assumes some level of social justice and a moderate, low by US standards, standard of living. More is possible if you accept a cattle car / Matrix-esque “life”.) 

In any case, we will get to that much-lower-than-7-billion number the hard way (wars, famine, disease, and their accompanying losses of environmental quality, freedom, and social justice) OR the less hard way (immediately and drastically reducing our population voluntarily). Yes, all of us, yes, everywhere. There is no scenario anywhere in which population growth is a “good thing” long term.

Yes a drop in population would cause problems, but none of those problems are as big as the problems, suffering, and environmental collapse that is certain to occur if we don’t. 

I disagree with any argument that there is some “right to reproduce”. If there is any “right to reproduce” it’s in the concept that one has the freedom to nurture a child or children and form some sort of family.  Biological reproduction is not necessary to do that and there are many in need of this sort of nurturing.  I would also argue that there is no right to cause suffering to others, now or on into the future, and that is exactly what having babies does.

This is a global issue with local and nation-state consequences.  For example, immigration is a consequence of overpopulation, not a cause of it.  Likewise, global climate change and the collapse of ocean fisheries are not impressed by national boundaries.

No technological / “alternative energy” options have the capacity or can be ramped up fast enough to avoid major global calamity. That isn’t to say we shouldn’t do them. Aggressively shifting to alternative energy is necessary, just not sufficient.

For more comprehensive analysis of all this I suggest

Bandura etc.

Albert Bartlett on the exponential function as it relates to population and oil:

Approaching the Limits

Bruce Sundquist on environmental impact of overpopulation
How Many People Should The Earth Support?

Carrying Capacity

The Oil Drum Peak Oil Overview - June 2007 (

...and of course the classic “Overshoot” by Catton

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By WTF, March 9, 2009 at 9:29 pm Link to this comment
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Over popular is a natural phenomena that makes sure the human race survives.

Over popular is caused by White Europeans who invaded all corners of the world. Yes, that’s right. Look at China, for 5000 years, the population grew slowly, then at around 120 years ago, boom, the invaders came, and population exploded.

Over population is caused by poverty and wars caused by the First World countries.

To slow down the population growth, you first need to stop wars, and restore peace, so people don’t need to breed so many just to survive.

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By Jumper, March 9, 2009 at 8:56 pm Link to this comment
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Mmmm brew where did you get your facts? South Africa does not have a one-child policy - whish we had…

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By samosamo, March 9, 2009 at 8:53 pm Link to this comment

By Virginia777, March 9 at 10:51 pm

That ‘future’ won’t ever get here with your idea. This is what will smack down on the people who will be waiting for climate change. And you are definitely not aware of the biggest problem on the planet. What you have laid out is backwards. Everything that is wrong is directly or indirectly related to too many humans on this planet and how they have been led to think, believe and understand with what information the msm allows them to have. And if you or I or others don’t find an intelligent course of action to reduce the human population then the crap will finally drowned all of us while we try to figure how to fix those ‘other’ problems. A lot like those the ‘can’t see the forest for the trees’.
I find most interesting the collapse of most nations in the last 40 or 50 years that were forced to accept the milton friedman ‘unfetterd market’ of private free enterprise. Now the collapse of the U.S.‘s empire has begun with all manner of hanging on to that which is distroying us. Now the worry about climate change which I say is just the tail end of the warminging period of the last ice age the will melt most if not all of the remaining ice fields over the course of about another 2000 years when the next ice age will begain again with the build up of more ice sheets much like the ones from the last ice age. I would not be surprised if there were no humans were left when this happens. And once again, just think of all those sinks where we have allowed corporate america to dump its toxic wastes and those are filling up. And all of this and more are all beginning to vector in on the human population where if we don’t do something and start right now to do it, then your favorite tranquil mother nature is going to show you, me and everybody else what for.
It really will be a brave new world and any survivors will be the ones to decide how to carry on but I don’t care who it is, if a man and a woman have more that 1.4 kids, they have become a threat to the whole world.

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By private, March 9, 2009 at 8:32 pm Link to this comment
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The solution is simple, we need free contraceptive beer.

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By samosamo, March 9, 2009 at 8:22 pm Link to this comment

By Anarcissie, March 9 at 9:51 pm

If you suspect my population numbers you and everyone else should as I am just trying to give a ball park exponential growth rise at 2050. I myself don’t think we will reach that 18,000,000,000 by exponential growth, there are far too many peripherals that will figure into this ‘overshoot’ and the results there of. But anyone should be astounded by the tripling of the human population from 2 billion to 6.5 billion in just 50 some odd years. One given though is that just with the current political, economic, religious, ecological, enviromental and corporate systems in the mix and the average human’s take from the planet along with greed, there is somekind of correction coming and it doesn’t mean to give more land, more food, more clean water to those that don’t have it. Also, don’t forget those sinks where all the pollutants end up since we believe the corporations when they claim to not be able to function if they were not allowed to dump wastes as indiscriminately as they do. But don’t take my word as accurate, get the book ‘Limits to Growth’ 2002 edition and read it. I have for the longest time thought that there were more people trying live off the same patch of a planet than was acceptable and I believe that whatever happens, not many people will see the effects of climate change that so many think is the next big quest for human’s.


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By Mr White, March 9, 2009 at 8:16 pm Link to this comment
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As a white anglo-saxon catholic, I say: good.

Good riddance to bad rubbish, you white scumbags.

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By Virginia777, March 9, 2009 at 7:51 pm Link to this comment

Oh for gosh sakes, look what this article is “breeding”,

nothing less than RACISM (against Latinos) - this is the last thing we need,

this issue in not important!! not compared to outing the Wrecking Crew in Washington, the war-mongers in Washington, the corruption of our Media, the war on Labor, the war on public education, Racism,

the destroyers, in other words, of everything we hold sacred.

Come on!! stop worrying about the Future and lets concentrate on the work in front of us in the here and now.

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By Robert M. Selinger, March 9, 2009 at 7:24 pm Link to this comment
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All the people in the world, 6.5 billion, standing up beside one another, each standing in a 4 sq ft area, they can all fit in one half the area of Jacksonville, Florida.  The world produces enough food to feed 6 times its present pop. in total. All mankind, farms, cities, roads, etc, take up only 1% of the worlds livable land surface. We have the capacity now to grow enough food to feed 200 times the worlds present pop. Every country that has limited its pop. eventually fell or will fall into decay. The problems are moral, political and artificially financial, not in nature, science, or real practicality. Also, pop. control, homosexuality, feminism, atheism, are all communistic and anihilistic philosophes for the sheeple.  Keep them on drugs, stupid, intellectually dumbed down and filled with their animal desires. Let them play computer games, text, read garbage, entertain themselves to death. and enamored with stupidity, like the author of this article.

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By Sean, March 9, 2009 at 7:22 pm Link to this comment
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“The United States alone gobbles up about 25 percent of the oil produced in the world each year. These nations view their stable or even zero growth birthrates as sufficient.”

So, reducing population growth rates substantially or even to zero, won’t save the planet if the same level of consumption remains or grows (fewer people means more for me!)?

This is a disappointing Chris Hedges column. I fear he has drunk from the Lovelock koolaid. Lovelock, of course, wants to maintain nuclear energy and vast solar farms so that he and his may continue their lifestyle and quality of life and for that, the rest of the world must simply go.

Yes, population must be reduced but that reduction must be accompanied with vast and corresponding reductions in consumption.

To put it another way, why, with all of petroleum’s uses and potentials, do we burn it in planes, trains, and automobiles? Because it is cheap. What is the next cheapest energy after oil? Coal.

And the first world, Lovelock’s world, has been the driving force of consumption in my life, in Lovelock’s life, in his parent’s life, and we are the ones consuming all that energy and releasing all that CO2. Even the energy consumed in China has been expended, in large part, for the purpose of producing for first world consumption.

Because Lovelock may have gotten it right about Gaia, doesn’t mean his views are not colored by cultural chauvinism.

Population control not founded upon the universal principles of fairness and justice can lead to very dark places.

Be careful, Mr, Hedges, the direction you travel and the company you keep.

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By Anarcissie, March 9, 2009 at 7:09 pm Link to this comment

What’s wrong with a little cocaine?

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By Anarcissie, March 9, 2009 at 6:51 pm Link to this comment

samosamo—I find a lot of the population figures suspect.  I noticed some time ago that the highest population growth is attributed to the areas with the fewest and least accurate methods of counting people, and vice versa.  There are many reasons for third-world bureaucrats and politicians to overstate population.  And remembering that war, famine and pestilence work extra hard on dense populations of poor people, there may be considerably fewer people out there than advertised.

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By CosimodiRondo, March 9, 2009 at 5:58 pm Link to this comment

And why on earth does the U.S. government give a tax CREDIT for each child?  We actually give a DISCOUNT for those using the most resources?

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By Vandoren Outten, March 9, 2009 at 5:46 pm Link to this comment
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Mr. Hegdes,

As always, your insights are right on the money (which is apparently in diminished supply these days).

I’ve read/heard the phrase “Save The Planet” ad infinitum.

This majestic planet of ours—which is one among countless of billions—doesn’t need to be saved by us.

If we continue with our reckless abandon, this “Save The Planet” initiative, will solve itself.


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By Big B, March 9, 2009 at 4:58 pm Link to this comment

Ah, it never ceases to amaze that every time resposible population control is brought up, neocons can’t wait to proclaim that all liberals are racist nazi’s who only want to control the populations of those filthy third world people. Jebus, pull your heads from your asses and try to think of a more creative retort.(besides, we all know why neocons don’t want population control, they need a readily avaiable group of slave laborors to work in the manufacturing labor camps that big business runs in the third world. And of course, cannon fodder)

It’s time to stop waiting for an invisible man in the sky to solve our problems and start using the brains we evolved with to solve our own self made problems.(Blasphemy!)

OK, here we go again, now that science is no longer evil, whether we want it or not, the Earth is warming up, it is in turn causing a shortage of fresh water from melting glaciers that supply much of the worlds population with fresh water. We cannot in turn grow enough food for said population, or livestock. Then we begin to battle over food and other resources, and walla! population control throught mankinds oldest methodology, war and pestilence.

The third world is the modern day battle field for our oldest and dumbest of culture wars, the battle between christian catholics and muslims to try and outnumber each other.

Are we really this stupid?

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By Anarcissie, March 9, 2009 at 3:55 pm Link to this comment

Folktruther—there is certainly a satirical element to it, but it’s not entirely satirical.  Excessive population is one of those issues that quickly lead to paradox and irony.

I don’t really see it as any sicker than nationalist and religious natalism, which are a lot more popular.  Fortunately we have television, which has markedly decreased the birth rate in such places as Brazil.  Can television outrun Man’s greed to breed?  Only time will tell—and not much time, at that.

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By samosamo, March 9, 2009 at 3:50 pm Link to this comment

Good to see that the major problem of this planet gets attention once in a while. First though, this figure of 8 or 10 billion people by 2050 sure doesn’t sound too accurate considering the current population of 6.6 billion is a ‘tripling’ of humans since the 1950s which represents exponential growth, so to quickly figure this, in another 40 years of ‘unfettered’ breeding, I would say that by 2050,if we make that, the population will be more like 18,000,000,000 people give or take a billion.
Second, I fail to see any reference to that research project publication of 1972, done by Donella Meadows, Dennis Meadows and Jorgen Randers that discusses the possibilities of the human population. Orginally done with the intent of updating the research in 30 years(2002) it was determined back in 1992, the 20th year, that a condition called overshoot had already come to pass. This is defined as the over consumption of the resources such that the earth cannot replace what has been havested in the case of plants and animals to the extraction of those non-replacable things as minerals and ores. They determined that by the late 1980s the overshoot was at 20%, meaning we humans take 20% more than can be regrown or replenished by the current ecological and environmental systems on the planet. The name of the research and the publication is titled ‘Limits to Growth’, the 1992 update was titled ‘Beyond the Limits’. Very interesting reading and incase anyone still thinks that the climate change is the up and coming prevailing disturbance to the planet are in for a big shock. Climate change will make the upcoming next 2 or 3 decades more miserable but when all the natural resources become more and more scarce, it won’t be pretty. And as far as the number of humans is concerned, it is all just another case of not seeing the forest for the trees. Whatever is going to happen is going to happen.
But anyway, I would have liked to have seen chris hedges use this research in this post as I see it as vital information.
Oh, and don’t let the idea of too many people using more than can be replaced as the worst of it, there is also the ‘sinks’ that have to be considered. You know, those places where we are convinced by the corporate world that they can’t be bothered with not polluting the air, land and water as it is too big a burden on them. Thus these things called sinks are where the major concentrations of pollutants end up in the end.

Limits to Growth

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By Folktruther, March 9, 2009 at 3:34 pm Link to this comment

Anarcissie, that vountary extinction site, assuming that it isn’t satire, is really sick.

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By TAO Walker, March 9, 2009 at 3:05 pm Link to this comment

Even Chris Hedges might take some “comfort” in knowing there isn’t going to be any “....year 2050.”  None of us Human Beings still present and organically functioning forty-one winters from now, if any, will be bothering to “number” our Days….even says somewhere, “Whoa!” unto those who do that, right?

Meantime, “DON’T PANIC!” is excellent advice.  There IS a Way through these CONditions, to ones we can all together go on Living with.  There are, among our Mother Earth’s Two-Legged Children, besides all these domesticated peoples trapped in such dire straits, and so desperately looking for an escape, still a few of us surviving free wild Natural Human Beings around who haven’t lost The Way….and so can help our tame Sisters and Brothers back to it, once they calm-down and stop thrashing-around trying in-vain everything else they can “think”-of.  Why hells-bells, among our Lakotah Cousins it even has a “name”....The Tiyoshpaye Way!  The Dinee say, “The Beauty Way.”

Right now, though, the biggest barrier to recovering their whole Humanity is in the “civilization” CONtraption the domesticated peoples are CONfined-to….with it’s stifling ideological/institutional/electro-mechanical apparatus of CONscription and CONtrol.  The hardest step for most of them will be shedding (and “shredding”) the fake IDentity that keeps them enmeshed in its toils, so long as they remain pretty much CONvinced this artificial “self” is all they are.

That illusion is certain to shatter right-along-with its projecting machinery, though, under the “pressure” of these increasingly “....interesting times.”  As it does, more-and-more of these presently LOST! “individuals” will be remembering and rejoicing-in the wholeness and health of their restored Humanity.

Anyway, the “fever” our Mother is “running,” the “population explosion” of that component of Her Natural Immune System that is Human, the “sudden” changes in Her rythms and movements, are all occurring as She purifies Her Life of those “alien” un-dead entities which’ve tried to force upon Her, and us, submission to their death-dealing (and worshipping) parasite-ism.  This is ALL a Ceremony, Sisters and Brothers, and none of you need fear being “punished” for your “Holy Fools” Heyoka part in it.

Remember, Her “other” Children, All Our
Relations, haven’t quit taking care of you just because you haven’t, for such a long time, been giving them the respect you should.  Us old Savages won’t forsake you, either, now the “hour” of your deliverance is upon you.


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By Sepharad, March 9, 2009 at 2:52 pm Link to this comment

sadie, I’m glad you had the nerve to mention out-breeding an “enemy” population as the very real phenomenon it is. I don’t know what percentage of the overall population problem is represented by womb-as-weapon participants, but every little bit helps (or as in this case hurts).

Slumberjack, the Chinese women in the picture are there because their government has limited them and their husbands to having one child. However, it is also the case that Anglo-Euro-Jewish numbers overall are in decline (despite religious groups such as Catholics and Mormons who tend to—but do not always—have more children). People who live in areas that are less modern with less medical care and are less well-off (e.g. the Third world) tend to have many more children than individuals living easier lives(e.g. the First world). Various reasons are suggested for this (and no doubt many more I haven’t heard of): higher childhood—not infancy—mortality rates, whether due to poor nutrition, poor medical care or wars, may cause parents to want more children; children may be seen as source of care in a parent’s old age (though this is sometimes a factor among First-world parents as well); not as many sources of entertainment.

Re possible solutions, along with AIDs avoidance info, birth control should be offered and thoroghly explained to both men and women, at no cost and, in the cases of minors, not requiring parent’s consent.

Fertility drugs should be illegal, and sperm bank use should be limited.

Services pairing children and adoptive parents should be improved with waiting periods minimized. (Having two biological and one adopted child, I guarantee there will be not one iota’s less of a bond between you and your adoptive child than between you and your biological child.)

Government involvement in limiting the number of children per couple is not a bad idea, but is pretty intrusive and politically would be difficult to implement. Perhaps withholding tax credits for more than two children per family, unless the third, fourth, etc children are adopted. 

Obviously using less fuel, buying
less at the grocery, planting gardens, planting trees, and not allowing development where resources are already overused are also important.

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By bluejeanne, March 9, 2009 at 1:33 pm Link to this comment
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A new space mission has been launched . . . by the U.S. __estimated cost $900 billion. Hillary promised that same amount to Gaza.  For all the financial woes the U.S. claims to be having there always seems to be “more from where that came from” .  The Chinese have also landed on the moon in hopes of using it as a staging ground for further space exploration.

Recently I heard an Astro Physicist assure us that there are hundreds more planets that have not yet been identified; at least 10% of those have climates similar to planet earth.  By my calculations that meant that there are about 30 planets out there that might be inhabitable by us humans.  That would be cause for hope. . .  the only hope for an “out-of-control” world population.

Not too long ago. . .  the Europeans did not know anything of the “New World” . And now, the ‘sky’s the limit’ for the human race.

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By Bertil, March 9, 2009 at 1:15 pm Link to this comment

It won’t be long before the ghouls from Family Planning previously called the Eugenics Society comes a calling, led by C. Boyden Gray, Bush’s family attorney, and also a descendant of the family that started the Eugenics movement in North Carolina.
Last year a state rep from Louisiana tried to introduce a bill to pay minority women to agree to be sterilized.
About 20 years ago during the drought in Africa, some of America’s best and brightest suggested that the people there be left to starve because feeding them would only keep them alive until the next drought.
Some sterilization\birth control efforts have already been tried in Central America under Reagan/Bush without a whole helluvalot of success.
I think it will take a combined effort.  Imported and home grown poisons in the food, war, localized starvation, cockamamie drugs from PHRMA, an increase in the murder/suicide/accident rate, a half assed solution to our medical insurance would certainly work well here (An old German saying says that death is the poor man’s doctor.)
Well, that’s just a few that came to me.  I am sure that those who’ve thought about this longer could come up with some answers that are much more effective.

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By Gmonst, March 9, 2009 at 1:13 pm Link to this comment

Maybe I am just too optimistic, but I think that humanity will figure this out.  As resources become scarce we will become smarter at using them.  The process is already starting to happen with things such as urban farming, and the rush to more environmentally friendly technologies.  We may have a few ugly years, but I think eventually humans can and will do better.  The seeds of change are already being sown and its only going to accelerate.  We will one day mine our garbage dumps for the usable resources there.  I feel that eventually we will find a balance with technology and nature.  I also think that population growth will eventually slow and may even reverse as living standards increase globally.  I even think the present global financial crisis is a necessary adjustment as things shift more towards global financial equality.  What will have to end is the policy of living high on the backs of those living low.  The changes are in the air and I think all this chaos and fear is just the first steps toward a truly better tomorrow.  So in your own life, keep trying to minimize your resource use, grow a garden, become vegetarian, drive a little less, and do what you can personally.  As we all act differently in the micro environment it will effect the macro environment.  Be encouraged by the coming change in consciousness.

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By Anarcissie, March 9, 2009 at 12:53 pm Link to this comment

Here’s one:

The big problem, I’d say, is not in thinking up radical solutions.  It’s that no one wants to be the first to leave.  In fact, the great majority do not even want to be the first to give up inflating their personal and group self-images, which is what a lot of breeding is about.

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By Eso, March 9, 2009 at 12:40 pm Link to this comment

It ought to be noted that the thought of limiting population or it dying off (re Lovelock) is so radical that almost no one here is able to express a radical solution.

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By mud, March 9, 2009 at 12:38 pm Link to this comment

A 60 year moratorium on world child birth would be very helpful to the planet.

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By matti, March 9, 2009 at 12:36 pm Link to this comment

Would all of the people here that are so concerned about over-population be willing to campaign to end all international medical and food and disaster relief efforts?

Would they be willing to establish a threshold line in medical intervention in any other case -age, trauma, or any other measurement of likelyhood of survival?

How about removing obstetrics from the medical books entirely? Contraception is voluntary and expensive. Dying in childbirth due to lack of care is involuntary and cheap. And in addition to preventing a new child being born, it kills a confirmed “breeder”.

Everybody down for all that?

And for the more intentional killing that will come when all of those people you have decided are superfluous don’t just go quietly into that long Goodnight?

If you are really so concerned about over-population that you would support disgustingly Authoritarian “population controls” a la China -while still calling yourself a “progressive”- then why don’t you do the rational thing and KILL YOURSELF already?

Funny how is always other people who are “too much” isn’t it?

Suicide pacts with wills leaving worldy possesions to contraceptive programs seems a more helpful response to a percieved situation of “looming extinction due to overpopulation” then whining about how we’re all doomed on the Internets.

Remember the words written in large, friendly letters on the cover of every copy of the Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy:

Don’t Panic.

This problem has solutions, many of which we can attempt, and some that will be out of our hands -yet still accomplished.

Freak-out is good for a moment to establish clarity. But Hedges and other “Left Writers” seem to be so stuck in a “WE’RE ALL GONNA DIEEE!!!” doom/gloom/panic left over from the past decade that they are beginning to do more harm than good in their work.

Uninformed or unmotivated people often fail to act -yes.

But terrified and fatalistic people often do so as well.

Chin up, kids.

Just because we might be super-screwed does NOT mean that we have to turn into annoying, whiny, and useless cry-babies!


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By AWM, March 9, 2009 at 12:25 pm Link to this comment

Nature eventually forces a species to adapt or perish if we are not at that point now we soon will be. The choice is ours find a sustainable lifestyle or disappear This does not mean going back to the stone age but it most certainly involves serious population control. The single best way to achieve this is by improving the rights of women everywhere.Wherever women are given control of their reproductive rights the birth rate goes down

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By Folktruther, March 9, 2009 at 12:15 pm Link to this comment

Phoosh, I say.  I like much of Hedges but this piece is balderdash.  The documented tendency is that as countries become economically developed, the birthrate declines.  and often becomes negative.  This has happened in Europe, Japan and China, among other places.  This will happen if each woman has two children, since some will not live to childbearning age or for other reasons.  What is needed is to get people off the farms and into towns, where less children are born.

That said, some areas, like south Asia, do have an enormous population problem, which they are not adquately facing.  More condoms and birth control.

I am sorry about the Yangtse river dolphin, which sounds like a wonderfully exotic creature, but it is not overpopulation that is her greatest enemy.

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By Folktruther, March 9, 2009 at 12:04 pm Link to this comment


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By leduck3655, March 9, 2009 at 12:01 pm Link to this comment
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Truth be told, peak oil is only a symptom of growth. Exponential growth in population and resource use which leads to exponential destruction.

Solutions are difficult. the world’s population grew far slower b4 we started washing our hands for surgeries (think civil war) and started to fight childhood disease with vaccinations (thank you very much Louis Pasteur). Add to that, burning fossil fuels instead of wood and the religion most people cherish which states we always need to strive for more and bigger stuff (for what…, I don’t know) and you get the mess we’re in now.

so thee are three possible solutions: go back to the way things were 500 years ago and let most babies die…, (grizzly); try to educate people and ask them politely to try to have fewer babies or force them physically; or let mother nature solve the problem.

It’s very hard to convince people there really is a problem. It seems like there are not enough people who are familiar with exponents, limits and the laws of thermodynamics.

These solutions are either not very appealing or very difficult to achieve which is why I think collapse is the most likely result.

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By WorkingMan, March 9, 2009 at 11:34 am Link to this comment
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I remember being in school exactly 30 years ago and learning that the earth had 4 billion people. Now it’s 6 billion: 50 percent in the blink of an eye.

This has always been one of my primary concerns looking forward. Current levels are unsustainable, and like so many other things, the solution is relatively simple.

Does anyone remember the Earth Summit in 1992? It was in Rio and the discussion of overpopulation was verboten.

For religious reasons.

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By Mary Carol, March 9, 2009 at 11:32 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Be careful what you wish for.  One obvious consequence of zero or negative population growth would be a shortage of young, fit workers and an excess of frail old people needing support and care.  Does the author have an answer for this problem?

In any case, it does little to solve the population crisis (if such it is) when “we” in the rich world wring our hands about the large families born to “them” in the poor world.  Subsistance level families have masses of children because:
1) Many hands are needed to help with the work and to care for the old,
2) Many of those born die before age five,
3) Women in poor and backward societies are often given no choice by their spouses and their culture—they are compelled to reproduce,
4) Cheap, effective birth control is either not available or is not understood by illiterate people.

Instead of moaning about the impending population bomb, we should be finding ways to educate and empower third world women.  Then they’ll have the choice to limit their reproduction.  If we are not prepared to contribute to this effort, we might as well shut up about the issue.

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By Sol, March 9, 2009 at 11:30 am Link to this comment

Finally someone with brains is talking. It is quite disturbing to me that we are so concerned about carbon and everything else that are basically difficult to predict. Now population growth and its consequences are very easy to predict. The planet cannot take 10 billion of us and even if it could it would be at very low standards of living. Now it is quite obvious to me why not even Al Gore is not talking about it. They are all religious and affraid of criticism. Lets control population as fast as we can. Everywhere in the world one baby per couple period. Stop imigration and force every country to deal with it. Very simple.

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By Bertil, March 9, 2009 at 11:13 am Link to this comment

Thom Hartmann has an intersting take on this subject.  He says that a major part of the problem, if not the nub of the problem, is that populations grow out of control in societies where women do not have equal rights and equal standing.

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By middlepath, March 9, 2009 at 10:37 am Link to this comment

Tick tock…

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By SteveK9, March 9, 2009 at 10:33 am Link to this comment

You mention Lovelock, but I don’t believe you give enough credit to his belief and mine in the potential of Nuclear Power.

Here is a Q&A with Lovelock in today’s (March 9, 2009) The Independent.  Worth reading.

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By thebeerdoctor, March 9, 2009 at 10:26 am Link to this comment

There is no hiding place down here. I went to the Rock to hide my face, but the Rock cried out there’s no hiding place. There is no hiding place down here.

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By Woody, March 9, 2009 at 10:23 am Link to this comment
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Hobbes, then Malthus.

A pandemic will be messy.

But it may be the last best hope for the current crop of critters to survive human intelligence.

Humanity is a cosmic experiment testing whether life can sustain intelligence. The null hypothesis is safe.

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By Vince, March 9, 2009 at 10:03 am Link to this comment
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“By 2050, if we continue to reproduce at the current rate, the planet will have between 8 billion and 10 billion people, according to a recent U.N. forecast.”

**chuckling** Humans have a notoriously poor track record when it comes to making accurate predictions especially when predicting something 40 years in advance. Captain Obvious says: There is zero chance things stay at their “current rate” for 40 years.

Furthermore, if Hedges is so concerned with an increasing population, it would be instructive for him to look at the iron-age mythology/superstition he so dearly clings to. (HINT: It often does not promote family planning.)

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By Paul_GA, March 9, 2009 at 9:49 am Link to this comment

“There will be war or pestilence.  Mother Nature will cull us, one way or the other—through our own tendencies or by use of her handy microbes.”

I’d say JimBob’s got an excellent point.

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By isticism, March 9, 2009 at 9:44 am Link to this comment
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The ass-backwardness of Hedges analysis is exposed by the fact that the part of the world with the lowest birth rates is consuming the most resources. Hedges makes a despicable (if mildly original) attempt to blame the fruits of western cultural decay on the poor, unwashed masses of fundamentalists around the world.

It would be a revealing experiment to compare Hedges own personal consumption level and carbon footprint with that of a 8-member family from El Salvador.

Besides, anyone who values civil liberties knows that the implicit solution of imposed population control is unacceptable. In my humble opinion, authoritarian mega-states (esp. in the throes of an alarmist global agenda) are more of a threat to the world (planet, people) than overpopulation.

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By coloradokarl, March 9, 2009 at 9:05 am Link to this comment

James Lovelock Describes our Earth as a living breathing entity with consciousness. We are like a bacteria that has gotten out of control. As with our own bodies the “Mother” is getting sick and starting to run a Fever. I realized just how Insignificant we Humans are when the Tsunami wiped out 220,000 people in an instant. Like wiping off a bunch of fleas on ones body. We have NO CHANCE of “Winning” in this struggle. I think We are about 10 degrees from creating our own “Hell"on this organic spaceship we call Earth. Too Late? Maybe. Doing nothing is NOT an option. Religion is stuck in Doctrines that are 1000 years old, STUCK. It’s time to pull our heads out of our asses and get real.

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By Robert, March 9, 2009 at 8:56 am Link to this comment
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This is very disappointing article, 
The author basically states the problem is man and not man’s failure to learn to live with nature but that too many of us are living. 
The reality is the problem is not that too many humans are living on this earth but that too many humans refuse to show self control, the vices of mankind are the problem and the only sustainable solution will be found by man.  Destroying or limiting that resource will spell the doom for all other resources.

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By WJF, March 9, 2009 at 8:48 am Link to this comment
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Things never change.  In the 1960’s I read articles that said we’d be starving by the year 2000 due to overpopulation.  In the 1970’s I read articles that said the earth’s temperature was cooling and that we were entering a new Ice Age.  Throughout all this time I heard that new legislation would make us safe and solve all our problems because government can do anything. 

Einstien said that only two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity.  And he wasn’t sure about the universe.

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By G.Anderson, March 9, 2009 at 8:44 am Link to this comment

Chris Hedges failed to mention one of the largest drivers of population growth, relgious fundamentalists, like Mormans, abd Catholics who encourage large families as a part of their relgious philosphies.  One only needs to take a short visit to one of these churches and take a look at the large families there to understand where population growth is coming from.

Meanwhile divorce has destroyed middle class progressive families, limiting population size due to the onerous burdens of large child support awards levied against middle class males. Which really amount to a back door tax on the middle class, used to support state welfare services. 

In the future these relgious groups will dominate political life in his country because their populations are growing dramatically and their political views are to the right.

Consequently, the right wing opposition to economic reform is just a warm up to their opposition to any sane meausres that the government can take to prevent the greatest catastrophe in human history.

After the ecological collapse of the planets bio systems, which are occuring now, it is unlikely that industrialized civilization will ever re emerge on the planet again. This is because of the depleation of planetary resources that require advanced industrial technolgy to ulitilize.

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By Dave24, March 9, 2009 at 8:23 am Link to this comment

We’re screwed.

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By JimBob, March 9, 2009 at 8:19 am Link to this comment

There will be war or pestilence.  Mother Nature ature will cull us, one way or the other—through our own tendencies or by use of her handy microbes.

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By NJ, March 9, 2009 at 8:16 am Link to this comment
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Bringing up the subject is fine, but the article stops short of specific measures to achieve the goal it seeks.

What, exactly, does Mr. Hedges’ and others propose to curtail population growth?

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By stephen-m, March 9, 2009 at 8:07 am Link to this comment

Overpopulation is the number one issue facing the human species. And it’s almost never talked about. Earth is self-sustaining with a maximum of one-half billion to three billion people (estimates vary widely). Currently 6.5 billion people reside on the planet, and the census grows by the microsecond.

Species go extinct for two reasons: they are too successful, or not successful enough. We humans are too successful, with too few predators. If we don’t learn to live in balance with nature in very quick order, Earth will shake us off like a bad cold. Maybe it’s already too late.

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By Babylimits, March 9, 2009 at 8:04 am Link to this comment
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This issue needs to become a mainstream talking point.  Why are people so scared to talk about this? Popullation control should be the next BIG ethical question facing our world. 
The sooner we start talking about it, the sooner people can wrap their minds and hearts around this concept.  At first it will set off a lot of knee jerk reactions, but over a little time people will see it is the right thing to do.

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By dihey, March 9, 2009 at 7:50 am Link to this comment

Every system of production-distribution-consumption devised by man beginning with hunting-gathering has crashed and was replaced by another system. There is a small group of economic/social scientists who aver that the principal reason for the crashes was the growth of the number of members of a group to a”tipping point” followed by the crash. They add that the leaders and sub-leaders of the group could no longer know hence control everything that was going on. The system spun out of control. I agree.

Sounds familiar? Well, the attempt of President Obama to save capitalism as we know it is not only futile but will needlessly if not wantonly waste mountains of political rapping time, money, investments, and property.

I have also some news for Republicans. “Small Business” will not save capitalism this time.

I have no idea what the next system will look like and who will spearhead it. I do know, however, that God will not be the leader.

I am not sure that any new system will, in the long run, prevent the catastrophic demise of mankind by hunger, global warming and nuclear wars.

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By Kevin, March 9, 2009 at 7:37 am Link to this comment
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The most environmentally responsible thing you can do is to not produce children and not eat animals.  Why is this not understood by the majority of people who earnestly go through pointless exercises to show how green they are?

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By skulz fontaine, March 9, 2009 at 7:19 am Link to this comment

The ‘word’ for today would be “breeder.” You know like ‘Octo-mom.’ Crank the little darlings out and hell, you’ve got yourselves a litter just like that. Clear just a mite more countryside and golly, that’ll help the economy and please the Pope and gosh don’t the women of our world hold the “right” to breed indiscriminately? Shoot, they don’t even need a mate anymore. They just need a well stocked sperm bank and “fertility” doctor and presto! Maybe the breeders are going for a Guinness World Record. Wow, won’t our world be surprised when one of the fertility-crazed mommies spits out an even dozen. Anne Curry will be right there to ‘document’ the festivities and that’ll be some kind of “ratings” hit. Yes it will.

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By Grousefeather, March 9, 2009 at 6:57 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Who doesn’t know that over population is a problem? Most people are aware of that fact, but what escapes us is the solution.

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By Tejas Kadia, March 9, 2009 at 6:54 am Link to this comment
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I disagree. The concept of overpopulation is a relative one at best. In the beginning of the 20th century there was around 1 billion people, and all the doomsdayers warned of catastrophe if that number hit 4 billion. Today we are at 6.5 billion. Overpopulation is a myth - what is more important is how efficiently the world uses its limited resources. And with technology and innovation, it is likely that we will become more efficient users of energy and resources.

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By Slumberjack, March 9, 2009 at 5:54 am Link to this comment
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Interesting isn’t it, that the picture for this article depicts non-white mothers and their offspring as being the cause of the globe’s over population problem, while going on to say that these extra people who will compete for the planet’s diminishing resources will not be ‘peaceful.’  The true context of this article is quite obvious.

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By Gulam, March 9, 2009 at 5:53 am Link to this comment

Obviously this is a problem that will take care of itself. When the Mongols opened the trade routes across Asia, the plague followed the caravans. When the Europeans arrived in the Americas, diseases swept away millions. The Europeans and the Americans have done much the same thing as the Mongols: gutted traditional religious authority, destroyed entire cities in order to halt resistance to their domination, and brought in diseases and non-native species to every corner of the world. Urbanism has made many millions of people dependent upon a complex and wildly inefficient transport system for the basic necessities of life. Afghanistan exported food before the Russians and the Americans, the evil twins of rampant materialism, invaded in an attempt to destroy one of the few remaining sustainable cultures on the planet. By putting women into the work force Americans have doubled or tripled their daily consumption of energy. The family was the most efficient social unit the world has ever seen, and the white skinned armies are pushing everyone toward a world that is the logical outcome of their “enlightenment” ideals, toward Plato’s republic where there is complete gender equality and children are raised by the state.

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By mrbuckle, March 9, 2009 at 5:43 am Link to this comment

Another great article, Chris Hedges.  For a more comprehensive take on this threat, please read Edward O. Wilson’s “The Future of Life.”  It discusses in greater detail the passing through “the bottleneck of society” as Chris touched on in the article.

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By sadie, March 9, 2009 at 4:04 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Well Chris will never get a world-wide consensus on this one. The Hindus and Moslems in India first started bickering over who would get their tubes tied more back in the 1970s. They pointed their fingers at each other, claiming the ‘the other side’ was trying to out-populate their side. Ayatolla Khomeni was famous for saying “Every birth of an Iranian child is a stab in the heart of America.”. Though I can’t find solid verification, Arafat is claimed to have said, “We will win with the womb, not the bomb.” And so it seems so, as France will have a Moslem majority within 20 years, Israel will have a Moslem-Palestinian majority from either 5 to 40 years (depends on where you draw the borders), and Russia will have a Moslem majority within 50 years.

So that is how it is with today’s ideas about ‘population control’. Some in our world are thinking more along the lines of a ‘Population War’.  Things are getting very ugly, and a chance for common sense to prevail sure seems slim.

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By Eso, March 9, 2009 at 2:06 am Link to this comment

Chris, you hit the bull’s eye. But the bull’s eye at the next target is a balloon. If you hit it, it bursts with a bang and 5 billion people go with it. The way to go is to deflate. The only way I know how to do this by way of legalizing drugs, and having those of us who do not wish to use them organize in families of clones (one clone per person). As you know, the last two topics—like the one you have brought up—are no no topics that run in close parallel to the population question.

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By diamond, March 9, 2009 at 12:59 am Link to this comment

Thank you Chris Hedges for broaching this subject. Overpopulation is so often the great unmentionable and it is actually the biggest threat to the long term survival of the human race and one of the main drivers of climate change and of third world poverty.

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