Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Blog#1: The Overpopulation Myth

Blog #1: The Overpopulation Myth

In the Simply Shrug article “The Overpopulation Myth” (August 19th 2009) the author, Dan Wiggins, makes a myriad of claims. His principal claim being that every person on the planet, could live inside the state of Texas comfortably, with all the water we need, from the Columbian River, and all the farmland we need within the United States. His principal claim is as follows:

“Well, every person in the world could live inside of Texas without overcrowding. We could all have water with just the Columbia River alone. And we could easily feed ourselves with just the farmland within the US as it exists. …Now that we have the numbers, are we really overpopulated? I would argue a resounding "NO" and I think any who say otherwise are simply not adding it up.” (Dan Wiggins 2009)

The author shows calculations to support his claim, however he neglects to touch upon countless other evidences and facts that would argue overpopulation is no myth. His argument seems to be that: 1) 7.0 billion people could live in the state of Texas comfortable with a density of about 10,500 people per square kilometre. The other 49 states of America, Canada and any other place in the world could be unoccupied. 2) It is recommended that 50 liters of water per person, per day, be used as an adequate amount for consumption, sanitation, and cooking. That works out to 350 billion liters of fresh water, per day, to keep all of us properly hydrated. If you take the Columbia River, the average outflow of water is 7,500 cubic meters per second therefore it would take just under 13 hours to hydrate the population of the world using the Columbian River. 3) 300 square meters of farmland will feed one person for one year. We could feed 3000 people per square kilometers which mean that 2,333,333 square kilometers could feed everyone. The total farmland in the US is 3,731,282 square kilometers therefore the farmland in the US could feed everyone and more in the world.

Wiggins states that the world’s population could indeed fit into the state of Texas comfortably, however this is not reality. In reality the world is divided into 7 continents and 194 countries. Each space has its own set of elements…droughts, flooding, different agro-ecological zones and so on. If the world were divided up equally, with shared resources then the authors claims would stand on there own and 2.7 billion of us would not have to struggle to survive on less then two dollars a day. Every 3.6 seconds someone would not be dying of starvation. 80 million children wouldn’t currently be out of school and there wouldn’t be on the order of 800 million illiterate people in the world, unable to read or write in ANY language. More then one billion of us would not be living in abject and gross inequality, on less then one dollar a day and more then 10 million children under the age of 5 would not die this year from completely preventable diseases such as diarrhea and pneumonia. Every minute, a woman somewhere wouldn’t be dying during pregnancy or childbirth, HIV/AIDS would not kill over 6000 people everyday and in Africa a child would not be dying of malaria every 30 seconds. We would be sustaining our planet, so in turn our planet would be sustaining us…not polluting and depleting its natural resources, destroying its habitats, driving its species to extinction and altering its climate to the point where three quarters of us live in nations where national consumption has outstripped biological capacity. Finally, if all were divided equally in the world, the some trillion dollars in global arms expenditures annually would surely be money enough to secure global peace and security. In order for Wiggins to validate his claims, he needs to come to terms with the fact that the solution to overpopulation is not a technical one; it is a moral and ethical one.

In conclusion, I agree with Wiggins’ claims, although I was not surprised when he stated that he was an engineer and dealt with numbers in a very real sense; all the numbers in his article added up however, dealing with the overpopulation problem is about more then just space and capacity. Rather then approaching the topic solely numerically Wiggins should have also touched upon resource depletion, job availability, money distribution, culture, ethnicity, and other social and economic factors. When you take into consideration these factors, the principles are the same but the problems now more intense - some 43% of the world's population lives on less than two dollars a day, we are in the middle of world economic crisis and "our global footprint now exceeds the world's capacity to regenerate by about 30 per cent. Our demands continue to escalate, driven by the relentless growth in our human population and in individual consumption." (Living planet report) The author needs to bring about global considerations to give the article more credibility and the link them to his numerical claims.


Wiggins, D. (2009) The Overpopulation Myth. Simply Shrug, 19 Aug 2009. . Access 27 Sept 2009.

(2009) Millennium Promise. 29 Sept 2009. . Access 29 Sept 2009.

Atkisson, A et al. 2006. “Our Changing World”. New York: Abrams.

Sachs, J. 2008. “Common Wealth”. The United States of America: The Penguin Press, a member of the Penguin Group (USA) Inc.



Imagine your life in 10, 15, 20 years. Are you married, have kids or own a house? Chances are you answered yes to all these questions and according to Ri, the author of ``Overpopulation``, that is a main contribution to overpopulation on a global scale. Her argument is that it is not a necessity for every woman to have children. And yes in theory woman can go against social conventions and not bear children. But many women feel they need to fulfil their maternal instinct by having children. They do not think about the repercussions of their actions on society’s population. And this blindness is ok. But Ri believes that you must “Take control of yourself, and you help change the world.” (Ri 2009) Her idea would work if she could get everyone on board, but whether people just want to have children or it is an economic necessity her strategy is implausible and impossible to obtain.

“I have always been astonished by people who continuously have one child after another, as if they don't know how to stop breeding.” (Ri 2009) The difficulty with this statement is that she does not imply the context that this observation is made in. It is unknown whether she is referring to friends of hers in the United States or woman in third world countries who have many children in hopes that a few of them will survive to adulthood. But this then raises the point that if these women had fewer children there would be more resources available to them and more children may survive. But again how do you convince these women to have fewer children? It is a necessity of their way of life and it cannot change overnight.

Another interesting point Ri raises is the infertility issue. In recent years artificial insemination has become a popular alternative to infertile woman. She describes the cause of infertility to be that multiple evolved sperm join the egg simultaneously and cause the infertility. She does not cite this information which makes people sceptical to believe it. “Of course, we should just let it[infertility] go and if we can't have children naturally then we should not have children. No, these people have a God-given right to bear children and infect the world with even more people.” (Ri 2009) By using the word “infect” it greatly shows the authors passion towards the subject but at the same time deters people with different beliefs from accepting her article. She does have a valid point though that artificial insemination tends to cause multiple births. In order to make this statement have a greater effect statistics on multiple births would be a helpful addition.
An additional location were a citation or greater explanation would be helpful is when Ri states that “Our expansion is three-fold - more humans, each with a bigger footprint than the last, each using greater resources than the last.” (Ri 2009) She goes on to say that on average every year the earth’s population grows by 4 million people. But she believes this is an equivalent of 12 million people due to the three fold expansion. This logic does not appear to be justified. In order to make this calculations acceptable Ri needs to explain how much bigger each person`s footprint is and how each new person uses more resources. This seems more like a trend over a long period of time than an increase from one birth to the next.

Ri proposes many interesting ideas in her blog but none are supported with any evidence thus weakening her claim. She is strongly opinionated on the topic of overpopulation specifically when too many woman are having too many children for the earth`s space and resources to support them.
Ri.(2009) Overpopulation.

The Population Hubbub

In The Overpopulation Hubbub (29th September 2009) published on the Neurological Blog website is an opinion blog written by Steven Novella that states the arguments that people have been debating about overpopulation. The arguments made about overpopulation in the article are simple: the effects of overpopulation will have little effect on our environment and that overpopulation will bring upon the demise of our earth. Novella takes the side of that overpopulation is almost a myth and that overpopulation will not become a problem now or in the future because of technological advances in fields such as farming, more efficient appliances and so on. However, technology alone will not help sustain the problems of overpopulation forever. Novella states:

“Doom and gloom predictions over the last century about population increase and dwindling resources have not come true. Reading the Ehrlich’s warning about rising death rates sound a lot like the predictions of massive die offs that have been made and failed to manifest on a regular basis over the previous decades”

One of the arguments made in Novella’s blog states the inaccuracy of people and scientists ability to predict the future. There is no evidence behind his argument except for the fact that overpopulation has yet to have a serious negative effect on the world. The future is always ahead of us so something could always happen. A statement like that is inaccurate to say because predictions have to be made for warnings or else it could be too late. Novella shows no proper reference to this statement but states that only in his opinion. Also he states that the current population is 7 billion people and by 2050 it is estimated to reach 9 billion. Now there are two falsifications with this. First, he did not properly reference this fact. Second, he is using this fact to back his argument that technology will save us from the consequences of overpopulation. However he contradicts himself by saying that the future is usually inaccurately predicted.

Some of Novella’s arguments come from two sets of people: Paul and Anne Ehrlich who have the more pessimistic view and Jesse Ausubel who is the optimist. Ehrlich’s view on overpopulation sees it as a growing issue while Ausubel’s view sees the issues of overpopulation will rely on technology.

From Ausubel’s view, he is the optimist, and feels there is no need to panic. He states the our population is growing by 1% but crops are increasing at 2% allowing to grow more food on less land (Novella 2009). But the abundance of food is not the only problem. The more people the more wastes produced. Also, with the abundance of food in our world, would that not promote the population to increase? He also states that we can rely on technological advances to give solutions to problems. But there are some things that technology cannot fix such as the actions of humans. Technology cannot pursue an average human to spend that extra money on that more efficient light bulb or that highly gas efficient car. As sad as it is to say, I believe fossil fuels will always be the dominant fuel for energy because of its abundance, cheaper price and simplicity. Overpopulation will increase the amount of carbon dioxide expelled into our air. Already, scientists see the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia becoming extinct in 20 years because of the increase of temperature in the ocean due to the amount of carbon dioxide in the air. The Reef brings in over 300 billion dollars from tourism. Alternative forms of energy I think will only be used after fossil fuels are all used or when fossil fuels become scarce and the price of it will increase. Charlie Veron, former chief scientist of the Australian Institute of Marine Science said:

"Once carbon dioxide had hit the levels predicted for between 2030 and 2060, all coral reefs were doomed to extinction," Veron said. "They would be the world's first global ecosystem to collapse. I have the backing of every coral reef scientist, every research organization. I've spoken to them all. This is critical. This is reality( Wooldridge, 2009)"

In conclusion, Novella’s arguments must be backed up with more valid references instead of his own opinion. The quotes Novella uses must be proper citied or else invalidity occurs. It does make sense that technology may be able to help us cope with overpopulation for now, but as the increase of technology comes the increase in healthcare and medical advances allowing the sustainability for people to live longer. Therefore, I think eventually overpopulation is an equilibrium process. I think the population will reach a peak, and we will not be able to sustain the amount of people on the earth with the limited resources on earth. The population will then decrease, then the amount of resources will be more abundant and then population will increase once again.


Novella, S. (2009) The Overpopulation Hubbub. Neurologica Blog, General Science. Sept 28th/2009 Accessed September 29th/2009

Wooldridge, F Great Barrier Reef: Victim of Human Overpopulation. September 11th/2009 Accessed September 28th/2009

Over Sized and Overwhelmed
The article “Sometimes it Smells Like a Barn Coming Out of the Faucet: Overpopulation in America” (September 21, 2009) was written in by Frosty Wooldridge. The author claims that 1) Overpopulation is detrimental to the environment, 2) America must limit immigration to stop overpopulation and, 3) There are some toxic wastes that cannot be avoided in order for us to survive. Wooldridge’s claims are strong, but he fails to connect his examples and quotes to what he is arguing, and rarely gives credibility through citation.

The author goes on to state that, “we add 3.4 million people to the U.S. annually, predominantly by immigration. Ironically, those immigrants stream into America from overpopulated countries that add 77 million people, net gain, annually to the planet. Next destination: 100 million people added to America by 2035. That’s 26 years from now” (Wooldridge 2009). This information is not common knowledge. Wooldridge fails to cite the data, making the data less credible to the reader. How are we to know that the information is fact and not something made up to improve his argument? Without any citations this data loses its value. If Wooldridge is going to argue that overpopulation from immigration is destroying the environment, then it is thought that he should have concrete evidence to back himself up.

“Example: the Mississippi River spews millions of gallons of toxic water into the Gulf of Mexico 24/7 to create a 10,000 square miles dead zone. Toxins include fertilizer runoff, insecticides, herbicides, household wastes, sewage and a host of chemicals. Vertebrates cannot live in it, thus, our poisons created a dead ocean area. As humans’ ultimate toilet, worldwide, our oceans suffer horrific consequences to marine life, plankton and fisheries.”(Wooldridge 2009)

This is an example where Wooldridge proves that with the excess number of people in America it has created a detrimental environmental situation. Wooldridge inserts the example directly after the introduction, where it has no purpose. After stating the example Wooldridge never elaborates on the point he made, he then goes on to the next point without connecting it to his argument. Instead he should have wrote how the increasing population creates more toxic waste, and because of the constant growth a 10,000 square miles dead zone has been created from humans pumping into the Gulf of Mexico, and then relate it to his main claim that, over population is slowly destroying the world.

Wooldridge also makes quotes that do not forward his argument at all. He tends to make arguments that have no relationship with his main clause for example when he writes about Agricultural runoffs from farms and how they are “the single largest source of water pollution in the nation’s rivers and streams, according to the E.P.A. An estimated 19.5 million Americans fall ill each year from waterborne parasites, viruses or bacteria, including those stemming from human and animal waste, according to a study published last year in the scientific journal Reviews of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology”(Wooldridge 2009). This is the only creditable information; however it does not forward his main clause that the increasing overpopulation and excess waste is detrimental to the environment.

Frosty Wooldridge’s main claim was that overpopulation is slowly causing major environmental crisis, and it’s only going to get worse. Although he has many good ideas, the structure of his argument needs improvement. Also his quotes are out of place, and there are no citations to give any creditability to what he is trying to prove. I do agree with the message he is trying to justify, that with more people, there will more waste created and that excess waste will slowly but surely cause major problems. These problems could include dead zones in the oceans like state, destruction of animal habitat, and lethal pandemics from increased bacteria. However, I think an immigration limit is excessive; something needs to be put in place to reduce waste. A country should have the appropriate waste disposal systems ready and must know exactly how many people it can cope with.

Wooldridge, F (2009, September 21). Sometimes it smells like a barn coming out of the faucet: overpopulation in America. Retrieved from

Friday, September 25, 2009

Rachel's Blog Post:

Denial: The First Response for Some

Denial is a reaction where one chooses to disbelieve a situation or fact when it is more than he or she can accept. “Overpopulation: A Persistent Myth Rescheduled Many Times” (23 September 2009) is a blog post taken from the Archdiocese of Washington website. In this particular post author, Msgr. Charles Pope, claims that overpopulation is simply a myth.

Pope claims that the physical foot print that we as humans create is not as large as we might think it to be. Although Pope seems to use the correct protocol to create such a claim, it seems to lack validity. Pope lists facts concerning the number of people in the world, and uses his math skills to manipulate his readers into believing that six billion people do not actually occupy much space. To accomplish this he states that:

1. “There are currently about 6 Billion people on this planet.
2. Lets put them, four to house on a quarter acre of land. This is the typical size of a traditional suburban lot.
3. Now, physically, how big is the suburb of houses we’ve created?
4. Let’s see, 6,000,000,000 four to a house is 1.5 Billion houses.
5. 1.5 Billion Houses on a quarter acre each is 375 Million Acres.
6. What does 375 Million Acres compare to? Well lets see, The state of Texas is 171904640 acres. 375 Million Acres is just over twice the size of the State of Texas (2.18 Texases to be exact). It also equates to 3.6 Californias. Why Alaska at 420 Million Acres could hold them all and still have 45 million acres left over.”(Pope 2009)

The fault in this claim is that his calculations only involve the actual living space, or the size of each family’s residence, not the remainder of living space that each person needs to survive. Pope lightly touches on this problem by stating:

“So there you have it. “But Father, but Father… we can’t all live in a suburb like that. We need roads, shopping centers, parks, farmland, schools, etc.” Yes indeed, but as you can see there is a lot of land left over. I think we’ll squeeze it all in somehow.”(Pope 2009)

Pope does not fully address the issue, in fact he seems to dismiss the fact that these necessities of living actually do take up a substantial amount of space and that they need to be within a reasonable distance from each person in order to serve their purpose. Some of these facilities may occupy less space than others but the amount of farmland needed to maintain a surplus of six billion people is indeed sizeable. Pope also implies that food is not a large issue when dealing with six billion people when he states:

“What of famines? True there are shortages in the world here and there. We have plenty of food here in America but it is sometimes hard to get it to famine regions due to war and corrupt governments. We have the food, it’s getting it there that is the problem.”(Pope 2009)

Plenty of food? Famines can occur around the world simultaneously, what then? Even when there are ideal growing conditions, not all land can be used for farmland, deserts for example do not have great crop growing qualities. Although Pope doles out answers to possible questions that the average person opposing would ask, does not mean that these answers are plausible. In this case Pope claims that if only food could be shipped to regions undergoing a famine then the problem of hunger would stop, but what food? Does he honestly expect readers to believe that America has enough extra food to ship off to other countries when there are still starving people within its own borders?

Another interesting fact is Archdiocese of Washington is not just any website; it is actually a catholic website. In the catholic religion contraceptives are severely frowned upon, therefore the families are coerced into having large families full of children. From this observation it seems understandable that the Catholics would be unwilling to agree that the world is actually overpopulated with humans. In no way is this an attack against religion, it is simply to show that there may be a bias in a blog from a website with such a clearly visible position on the subject.

In conclusion, Pope’s claims are based on bad math, improbable solutions, and a religious bias. Pope manipulates his readers into believing that his calculations are completely valid by using simple math but in reality he neglects many key components and discards them from his calculations. The severities of problems are also underestimated by Pope; he claims that famines can be ended by giving away America’s excess food supply. Lastly, his claim seems to be made with a bias relating to his religious association, one that might cause Pope to be in favour of overpopulating. Although Pope uses seemingly logical thinking in parts of his argument, he fails to use proper evidence and even skews his results to support his claims. Pope is unable to create a valid argument because of his falsifications.

Pope, Msgr. Charles. (2009) Overpopulation: A Persistent Myth Rescheduled Many Times. Archdiocese of Washington, 23 Sept 2009. Accessed 27 Sept 2009.