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Byron Shire
May 9, 2021

Over population

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‘Over population’ is seen by some as the main destructive driver causing many crises besetting the planet today. From global warming, climate change, biodiversity loss, species extinction, loss of natural habitat and deforestation to over-consumption of natural resources.

This needs to be put in its rightful context. Fossil fuels, specifically coal, were primarily used pre-capitalism for domestic heating, so fossil-fuel use was tied to population size. With capitalism factories developed and expanded, as a way of disciplining workers and regularising production.

International naturalist David Attenborough’s A Life on this Planet documentary provides a powerful ‘witness account’ in lucid detail regarding continuing ecological decline and degradation.

Attenborough rationally does not follow some ‘populationists’ in advocating legal restrictions on reproductive rights, such as the ‘one-child policy’.

Attenborough’s key issue as a natural historian is human population as a driving force causing global ecological crises.

In the last 200 years, global population has grown by a factor of roughly 7.3, while global emissions have risen over 100 times as fast.

The uncoupling of carbon dioxide emissions from population is the problem. Today, one-sixth of the world population, all low-income people in the global south, make no net contribution to global greenhouse gases. The global discrepancy in energy use, currently, is significantly higher than 1,000-fold.

Population, contrary to Attenborough and the Malthusians, is not the problem. ‘Humanity’ is not to blame for climate change.

Stepping away from the pernicious social construct ‘individualism’ and towards recognising the power of the interconnected collective as a social species is a move towards reclaiming our need to fight these insidious and destructive ideas and practices.


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