Friday, March 6, 2009

World Population: guess who is in the room?

When discussing conservation, the environment, or any number of global issues, there lurks in the background the 800-lb. gorilla that no one wants to talk about: human population. Not just populations in 3rd world countries, but global numbers and that includes industrialized countries as well.

If we look at this matter-of-factly, nature has over thousands of years developed methods of equilibrium, checks and balances as it were, all designed to maintain a healthy ecosystem. Whether through predation, disease, or life cycle, all plants and animals are given a chance to flourish within the boundaries of that system or face possible extinction. And humans are part of that equation. However, because of our intelligence (some cynics would say our self-importance) we have exceeded the boundaries of that natural system and are now facing many unintended consequences.

It's a touchy subject to be sure. Who wants to turn to a young child or a close family relative stricken with serious disease and say, "Sorry, it's nature's way." And who wants to consider an Orwellian future where governments control reproduction - regulations like China's one-child policy run amok like some futuristic sci-fi movie. But as long as populations increase, as long as life expectancies are increased, and mortality rates are lowered, then we have a responsibility to consider the consequences in terms of the demands we are putting on the planet as a whole.

There was a time when our ability to feed, clothe and house a growing population was accomplished through our intelligence and our ingenuity. But we are fast approaching the point where we are exceeding what the planet can provide us with in terms of food, resources, and clean air. We must act decisively to control the problems that we have brought upon ourselves and also find the compassionate means to manage a world population of 6.76 billion that has been predicted to increase by another 2+ billion in less than fifty years.

Or we can wait for nature to take care of it . . . coldly but effectively.

(Read press release from Center of Biological Diversity.)

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