Reading David Roberts’ recent explanation of why he never writes on overpopulation, I felt compelled to reply. While Roberts made a set of superficially convincing arguments, ultimately he’s wrong not to focus directly on the population pressures we’re facing. Not confronting population head-on is like looking out the window of a plane and realizing you’re about to crash but refusing to tell the other passengers about the impending crash. Instead you spend your remaining moments convincing people that it’s “empowering” to wear their seat belts. That it’s a good for their health to put their laptops away and hold their head between their legs. Sure, you’ll convince some—and those you do convince might be better off—but you’ll convince far fewer as the sense of urgency is gone.Reducing the global population is essential in addressing humanity’s impact on the planet—along with reducing overall consumption (affluence) and the use of unsustainable technologies (all variables in the I = PAT equation). And after the missteps of the Sierra Club and some governments, Roberts can be excused for why he feels it may be smarter to simply address the P in the equation indirectly by focusing on women empowerment and providing good access to family planning (and I would add providing comprehensive sexuality education to all children, as Mona Kaidbey and Robert Engelman and discuss in EarthEd: Rethinking Education on a Changing Planet). But that won’t be enough.
A Response to David Roberts’ Self-Censorship on Overpopulation
Stabilizing population is urgent. The goal should not simply be to nudge along a little less growth so population stabilizes at 9 billion rather than 9.5 or 10 billion. Instead, we need to make a long term plan to get population back to a manageable range.
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