“The issue is not whether it is possible for 10 billion people to eat industrial food, commune with iPhones, and make a decent living on planet Earth (an outlying scenario, in my view, but perhaps stranger things have happened in the universe). The point to focus on instead is that a world of so many billions does not, in any case, turn out well: Because such a world is only possible by taking a spellbindingly life-abundant planet and turning it into a human food plantation, gridded with industrial infrastructures, webbed densely by networks of high-traffic global trade and travel, in which remnants of natural areas—simulacra or residues of wilderness—are zoned for ecological services and ecotourism. In such a world, cruise ships with all-you-can-eat buffets will circumnavigate seas stripped of their plenitude of living beings, on waters awash with plastic refuse decomposing into bite-sized and eventually microscopic particles destined for incorporation into the worldwide food web.” So says Eileen Crist in her Afterword to Overdevelopment, Overpopulation and Overshoot, ”
While supporters and participants of the Global Population Speak Out are deeply concerned about the future of humanity and the planet, we are not pessimists. It’s not too late.
There are things that we can do to achieve a harmonious world. There are human rights and health enhancing ways to stabilize our human population, such as providing girls with equal rights and an education. We believe that by taking actions that enhance the lives of the people and the planet today, we can protect the lives of the people and the planet of tomorrow.
In his Introduction, William Ryerson notes that “While the obstacles before us are real, we should be careful not to overestimate the difficulty of following the path of the United Nations’ lowest population projections, which show a possible global stabilization as soon as the year 2050. Achieving this stabilization is a challenge, but it is far from an insurmountable one. The United Nations estimates that it would cost an additional $3.5 billion per year to provide contraceptive information and services to the more than 220 million women in the developing world who want to avoid a pregnancy but who are not using a modern method of contraception. (That’s less than 4 percent of what Americans spend on beer each year.) That’s a very small price to pay for a more sustainable world. Combine that investment with efforts through entertainment mass media and other means to change attitudes and behavior towards girls and women in the developing world, and we can stabilize world population at 8.3 billion and then begin a gradual reduction in the total number of humans on the planet as soon as 2050. If we can hew to the United Nations’ low variant, by 2100 global population would be back down to 6.7 billion.
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