Sunday, January 20, 2013

'Too Many' People?

I don't think 'too many' people are alive today. Even if I did, deciding who should go would involve some awkward decisions: and serious ethical problems.

Change Happens

A half-century back, 'serious thinkers' seemed convinced that nothing would stop the post-WWII baby boom: except the the famines, plagues, and general unpleasantness attendant on a smorgasbord of predicted disasters. I've posted about these secular analogs to 'End Time Bible prophecies', mostly in another blog:
I suppose I could fret about 'overpopulation' here in Minnesota.

A few decades back, for example, I returned to a place in Minnesota's lake country. I remembered it as a nice, secluded area. It still is, compared to the near north side of Minneapolis: but quite a few folks had built houses among the trees. I can't blame them. It's still a nice place, but not quite so empty.

That's a fairly trivial change. Others are anything but insignificant.

Colonial empires started unraveling during the 20th century. The process could be going more smoothly. Again, I've been over that before, in another blog:
I'm concerned about how some change is happening, but I'm not distressed that change happens. We live in a creation that's supposed to be changing. (January 18, 2012)

Food Shortages

Food shortages of one sort or another are nothing new:
Folks in some parts of the world still have trouble getting food: but I am quite certain that the problem isn't that there are 'too many' people.

Not long ago, folks in one part of Africa got tired of being starved by their national leadership. I've posted about economics, ethnicity, and ethics before:

'Overpopulation' and Daniel Boone

What's 'overpopulated' and what isn't depends partly on individual preferences. Daniel Boone apparently didn't actually move every time he saw smoke from a neighbor's chimney. On the other hand, but I'm pretty sure that he'd have felt claustrophobic in today's lower east side of Manhattan. (Drifting at the Edge of Time and Space (March 5, 2010))

I live in small town in central Minnesota. I've lived in downtown San Francisco, and Dunseith, North Dakota. San Francisco had an enormously larger population than Dunseith, and there were a whole lot more of us on each acre in the city. But I don't think San Francisco is 'overpopulated.'

It helps that San Francisco is designed a little differently than rural towns. The part I lived in was built up between a half-dozen and ten levels above ground, plus a few below.

Globally, I'm pretty sure we could feed about a thousand times as many people as are alive today: using agricultural technology from the 1970s. Or, we're about one thousand times over the 'carrying capacity' for our species: and will die horribly in about a month. (October 31, 2011)

Producing that much food won't happen any time soon: particularly for folks who are still catching up on what's happened after the Industrial Revolution. And that's another topic.

Seven Billion Individuals

Today's world has problems: but having 'too many' people isn't one of them. Convincing some of us that it's okay for folks to enjoy freedom is an issue - and yet another topic:
I think human beings are, or can be, rational creatures. What each of does with our minds is a matter of individual differences, opportunities, and free will.

Those individual differences make each of us unique - and give each of us our own sort of opportunity to help our neighbors.

One reason I'm cautiously optimistic about what's ahead is that we have never had so many folks alive at the same time: and able to communicate with each other more easily than ever before.

What we do with that opportunity - is up to each of us.

Individuality and 1 Corinthians 12

Here's part of what got me started on today's post. It's today's second Bible reading:
"3 There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit;

"there are different forms of service but the same Lord;

"there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone.

"To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.

"To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom; to another the expression of knowledge according to the same Spirit;

"to another faith by the same Spirit; to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit;

"to another mighty deeds; to another prophecy; to another discernment of spirits; to another varieties of tongues; to another interpretation of tongues.

"But one and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing them individually to each person as he wishes. "
(1 Corinthians 12:4-11)
Finally, a disclaimer I make once in a while: I've got the full teaching authority of "some guy with a blog." I don't speak for the Catholic Church.

Related posts:

2 comments:

helena said...

While local desertification is a real concern, I don't think that demographers really believe that humans are at risk from global overpopulation. I think that activists are trying to scare people into taking measures that will protect biodiversity. The world can sustain many more people. Can it sustain many more people AND its tropical forests, large predators, ocean life, etc.? If the answer is, "yes, if people behave differently," what good will that do once these things are irrevocably lost?

Brian Gill said...

helena,

Sorry about the delay in attending to comments.

I agree with your evaluation, both that local desertification is real: and that the 'overpopulation' scare is not based on real concerns about Earth's 'carrying capacity' for humanity.

There are issues other than desertification, I think. Earth's climate is, in fact, changing: and has been for over four billion years. So is the land.

For example: the last I heard, North America's rebound from the weight of the last set of continental glaciers is continuing, forcing a town in Canada to cut a progressively longer and deeper trench in the bedrock to reach the shore.

Since the local economy relies (or relied) on fishing, this is a serious concern for folks living there.

But, although I sympathize with them - I do not think it is reasonable to try stopping geological adjustments which accompany the present interglacial or post-glacial period.

We've been adapting to a changing set of environments for a *long* time now, and I see no reason why we cannot continue to do so. ;)

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