Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Overpopulation or low birth rate? Which really is our problem? Do we need to terraform other planets soon?


Are Chris Hedges and Philip Longman on opposite poles of the population debate?

Maybe not exactly, but on March 8, 2009 Chris Hedges has a grim story in Truthdig “We are breeding ourselves to extinction,” here sent out today by Alternet.

It’s not hard to imagine his argument: continued overpopulation will increase carbon levels more and reduce available fuels and finite resources, leading to wars, famines, and destruction of the planet.

OK—you say – look at the JPL/NASA photo here from Mars – man will have to terraform Mars, and maybe Venus, Europa and Titan, for more living space.

But the more nuanced argument is that advanced societies consumer much more resources per person than do primitive cultures, and the resource overuse problem occurs as less developed countries compete to catch up, as is the case with China now, for example.

Furthermore, shrinking populations will not be able to support their elderly unless – and this is a big unless – people stay healthy much longer and employers keep them working much longer.

But the “demographic winter” argument from the right wing, so much focused on the fertility implosion of much of Europe and Russia, seems ultimately more a concern about political and even religious control. It is, after all, an “old” argument.

(The JPL picture of Mars comes from Wikimedia commons.)

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