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. http://simplyshrug.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=63:the-overpopulation-myth&catid=31:general&Itemid=50 . Access 27 Sept 2009.
(2009) Millennium Promise. 29 Sept 2009. http://www.millenniumpromise.org/site/PageServer?pagename=home . 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.