TOO MANY PEOPLE

There’s lots to worry about these days but you know what worries me most: the news I read day before yesterday that by something like 2045 there will be 10 billion people on the planet–or more! This is profoundly bad news. There are already millions and millions of people that are starving in the world and even more without drinkable water. There simply won’t be enough of the things that human beings need to survive–much less thrive–not enough food, water, jobs, space. Then there’s the issue of our souls–what will the world be like when there’s no more wilderness, or wild animals or marine life because one species of animal–homo sapiens– has taken up all the space and resources? What happens when everything is even more crowded, crammed, angry? Where will we go to find peace and calm? What about empty lots? As a child, much of who I am was formed by exploring in nature and playing in overgrown empty lots. Where will discovery come from in 2045?

I am in New York City as I write this. I lived here in the 1950s when there were a little over 2 billion people in the world. My children (never mind my grandchildren) will never know what a city like New york was like with 5 billion fewer people in the world. Even now, with 7 billion people, it is hard to walk down Broadway or Fifth Avenue because of the almost solid mass of bodies jostling to find a space to walk through. Forget about walking a small dog down those streets. Forget about meditating in the courtyard of the Frick Museum which used to be a place of calm refuge for me.

I’m scared. I’ll be gone but I am scared for my grandchildren and for the wild animals and for the whole human race.

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41 Comments
  1. Very true. I always wonder if people who oppose immigration laws and border enforcement on grounds that the U.S. traditionally has been a “nation of immigrants” ever take into account the fact that traditionally the U.S. population hasn’t stood at over 300 million.

  2. Jane,

    I am with you 100%. This is one of my major issues.

    A trip to the zoo here is heart-breaking when you see wild tigers that are seriously endangered – with maybe only 3,000 left in the entire world – while stroller after stroller of human children are wheeled by our dwindling fellow inhabitants of Planet Earth. We are wiping them out. It’s tremendously sad to me.

    Thank you.

  3. Oh, Jane….Yes! I have known this for many years. I have been into ZPG (Zero Population Growth)for years and even chose not to have children.

    Our world religions (prizing and promoting large families), and normally a place of refuge for many…will indirectly kill us all. Humans just don’t “get it!”

    Love sent to you.
    Pam

  4. Hello Jane,

    Thinking on what you bloged: last time I was in New York I spend two nights in JFK, going out in the overcrowding after a long westcoast flight seem just to much. Being born on earth is like booking passage on the Titanic. Whether you go first-class or steerage, the result is the same.
    Human dignity cannot survive overpopulation.
    I see people living in vast complext living environments, in exclaved detachments. People will just move away in live life in more controled style,the ones with money the others, wild animals and human race, will not do so well.
    One thing, the last time I was in Ireland, the population was on the move and going down.

    with love and care,

  5. It is a scary thought that so many people will inhabit the world. We have some time to try to solve this problem. I suppose within 35 years we will be able to find an economical way to change salt water into drinking water. Of course, this still probably won’t help third world countries though. Also, perhaps we will have people living in space. It sounds like a crazy idea, but think how much has happened in the last 35 years, or especially the last 100 years. I can tell you one thing for sure, don’t count yourself out. What would you be, 108 or 109 years old? With how you take care of yourself and your attitude in life, you just may be around to help us solve the problem.

  6. For some reason, I couldn’t log in to your sight to make a comment by my usual account name/email address. It said something about the cookies on my computer, but I checked and everything seems fine. I had to create a new account using my other email address. This happened to me once before on your blog. I never was able to use that account again. I hope you simply aren’t trying to get rid of me from commenting on your account! If so, I’m like that cat you can’t seem to get rid of. 🙂

  7. our world is getting older…

  8. Yes, I can also feel that. But the other thing is that in Europe, the number of people is really decreasing and that’s also terrifying. Overpopulation is the biggest problem in developing countries where , I feel, they should somehow solve birth control. It’s so terrifying that there won’t be enough food for people and we won’t have enough space, not to mention the nature. Terrifying with capital T.

  9. I AGREE WITH YOU 100 %. IF YOU HAVEN’T PLEASE WATCH “SOYLENT GREEN” MOVIE. IT IS SLOWLY BECOMING REALITY.

  10. Yes, way too many people, but I guess when we’ve eaten everything up & ruined the environment…well, I hate to think what will happen (& won’t be here), but people will eat each other & eventually disappear. However, since you’re a Christian now, aren’t you supposed to believe that ‘God’ will take care of everything?
    Would rather be more Zen: nothing lasts forever. All we have is time/no time.
    Hey, I think you’re great!

  11. Dear Jane,
    In my opinion you´re doing the best you can as we see it, following you on your daily blogs! Faith in GOD and loving life are the main things for me and my family.Rio de Janeiro was a paradise during my childhood, in the 60´s and 70´s. Very few people and everyone knew each other on the beach and the town was peaceful. We surely are living in a moment of reflection and significant social and environmental changes.What we have to consider the most is the fast CO2 increase ( near 400 ppm – CO2now.org) in the thin layer of air that we have around our Planet.The Oceans are absorbing it´s excess and still saving us from a faster increase. Indeed, we all have to change fast our habits, using electric vehicles,hydrogen, solar systems and work together for a better living condition in our Planet because we do not have a Plan B or a NEW Planet to substitute Mother Earth.

    Best regards
    Trajano Paiva

  12. Dear Jane,

    I’m sorry you’re feeling so much anxiety. And happy to share information with you that will alleviate it.

    Please read this:

    http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/2010/03/the-overpopulation-myth/

    And consider this (from the article above):

    “In fact, rising consumption today far outstrips the rising headcount as a threat to the planet. And most of the extra consumption has been in rich countries that have long since given up adding substantial numbers to their population, while most of the remaining population growth is in countries with a very small impact on the planet. By almost any measure you choose, a small proportion of the world’s people take the majority of the world’s resources and produce the majority of its pollution.”

    The real threat to the planet is not too many people. It is the out-of-control greed and overconsumption of a tiny minority of the planet’s people – led by the population of the US. The good news is that YOU have the platforms, visibility and networks to challenge the global system – capitalism – that drives this insanity. For your grandchildren, and all life on the planet.

    In community,
    Shailja Patel

    • Unfortunately Shalija, this comment is very naive. I do understand what you’re saying but given the opportunity, very few walk away from the opportunity to become more affluent and plain and simple, we have too many people to have what might be considered a basic lifestyle in a developed country.

      Also remember that the wealthy and middle classes in China and India are growing at a staggering rate as people aspire to more affluent lifestyles – and everyone indeed has a right to a decent standard of living. It’s people that drive capitalism. And it’s capitalism that all too often seeks to use lazy mechanisms such as increasing the population to increase profit. To suggest that corruption exists in one country and not others is also a little naive.

      Further, this isn’t to say that capitalism is necessarily any more “evil” than say socialism or communism or Christianity/Judaism/Islam or any human ideology. Each has it’s flaws but by and large, capitalism has afforded the greatest advances in many fields whilst also causing the greatest destruction. The real problem is when the incentives for destruction and self-aggrandisement outweigh all else. Certainly, I think a key for any system to work in a fair and equitable way, there needs to be incentives, but some sort of balancing mechanism e.g. tying the highest salaries with the lowest (so they move up or down together) and capping on maximum salaries whilst also ensuring a minimum salary that is not orders of magnitude below the highest salaries. Currently, capitalism (and indeed all systems) have one rule for the poor and one for the wealthy.

      But at the end of the day, the population is the multiplier. We simply cannot resolve any of our issues, unless we address the everything issue, population.

      The birth rates in many countries are slowing and that is , but the global population will not start to drop for decades unless of course there’s a mass decimation of the population brought about by either some freak of nature or more likely a massive collapse of the systems that support us.

      Where we would ideally head is for a stable population somewhere between 500 million and 2 billion where everyone has a decent standard of living while we also maintain a health respect for other creatures we share the planet with. How to achieve this is by no means a simple feat. Making education and family planning available to all women is a very good start. Stopping businesses from using population growth (mostly by high immigration) as a mechanism to increase their consumers is a big one. Trying to get religious leaders to accept that God gave us a rational mind with presumably the expectation that we would use this to ensure current and future generations have an inhabitable planet would also be useful.
      Peace
      Matt

  13. If that isn’t one of the most arcane posts I have ever read. Where is yoru solution?

  14. Dear Jane: Thank you for writing so honestly and boldly about overpopulation. I am the author of Finding Aster–our Ethiopian adoption story (see: http://www.findingaster.com/) and a strong adoption advocate. Overpopulation has heavily influenced my passion for encouraging prospective parents to choose adoption first! Thank you for encouraging a new consciousness for our planet. Our daughters and sons thank you too.

  15. When I moved back to NYC in 1969, the changes from when my family moved to GA in 1963 were already obvious. I joined Zero Population Growth that year. I do hope we all figure this out, but I am starting to lose hope. Thanks for bringing this to the fore, and thanks for who you are.

    Love, McKay

  16. This is a very interesting topic.

    Despite all the progress, we are still stuck in this unhealthy competitive attitude to our planet and even to other people – still conquering instead of nurturing.

    We behave as if we were some alien species who landed on this planet to conquer and destroy it. We STILL don’t think of it as, very simply – HOME. This consumerist lifestyle that is being idolized everywhere is not sustainable….deep down everyone knows that. We have more than enough proof.

    It’s important to bring back original meaning to words like progress, innocence, health, success, happiness. And this can only be done through revolutionized education – at home and at school. To increase our own alertness and critical thinking…it doesn’t take genius to see that there is something seriously wrong when a McDonald’s ad on TV is followed by a plead to save children in Africa from starvation, followed by a reality show about losing flab, followed by news about the latest natural disaster.

    On the one hand, there are people who have more than they need, acres of land and a house in every country, on the other hand there are families of 10 living in one small room with not enough food to go around.
    It’s easy to be numb and indifferent in today’s world of constant mindless entertainment. It takes training to become more sensitive about these issues. A growing number of humans doesn’t necessarily have to be such a bad thing if we don’t raise another overindulgent, mcdonaldized generation, but an army of peaceful, respectful, genuine, creative people who will choose to go out and do something instead of playing another computer game. I feel it’s all about being mindful. And it can be taught, it can be learnt.

    I like what another Jane (Goodall) has to say about the problem.
    What will save the situation and heal Earth’s scars? Four things, Goodall writes: “Our quite extraordinary intellect, the resilience of nature, the energy and commitment of informed young people who are empowered to act, and the indomitable human spirit.”

  17. Oy Jane! You are stressed out and roaming around the wrong part of town. Go down to the Village (West) and walk around side streets. Avoid Bleecker if possible.
    Or, there are parts of the Met Museum (once you get in there) that are usually very quiet and private – the Asian galleries.
    The Rubin, maybe you know it, in Chelsea, is peaceful.
    And since you’re in NYC check out one of our fabulous, extremely enjoyable musicals, “Catch Me If You Can” or “Anything Goes” where you can sit back and watch these wonderful, extraordinarily talented casts sing and dance their little hearts out. Nothing but joy there!
    Have to make it a point to get away from drama sometimes. 🙂

  18. In the aspect of knowing all of this … I am glad I did not have chidlren . SAD to say of course but We are killing our own planet ….
    Devistating all of it is…

  19. Janie-
    We both know that the solution to overpopulation or the correct distribution of a more vast population of humans on the earth SHE provides for us lies in the empowerment of women. As far as I can see you have been a leader in helping women to learn that they can be vital to the political processes that influence their lives and the lives of their children…regarding population, land management and protection of other species. You’ve been our number one role model for taking care of our bodies and controlling ourselves.

    HMMM-I don’t know if the streets of NYC are good for you right now, dear one-perhaps you should head for a few days in NM or hop in the car and drive north-we’ll go hiking with the pooches in the urban wilderness.

    Dale

  20. Yes, I agree. The real threat to our Earth is the ever-increasing population, and I see Mother Nature becoming more & more severe in her reactions to HuMan’s actions…

  21. Thank you very much Jane for your caring thoughts and concerns! You are absolutely right and have the courage to speak up about it. THANK YOU JANE! ROBIN.

  22. I don’t think anyone who has procreated has a valid stance to make regarding overpopulation. You’ve contributed to it! I am childfree. Not childless, but happily & conciously childFREE. Only those of us who have not added to the overpopulation problem have a legitimate gripe. I’ll never understand the breeder mentality. It’s just so….arrogant. Creating a crotch-rocket & wanting to love it & have it love you & inflicting it on the world. Ugh! Maybe there will be another plague where only the childfree are immune. That would be awesome. Thank you.

  23. Here’s an easy way to visualize the population problem: It took from the beginning of human history until the year 1800 for the planet to reach 1 billion people.

    Now we’re adding a billion people about every fourteen and a half years. This type of growth cannot be sustained for long. See Dr Martin Rees book ‘Our Final Century’ for more details.

  24. You might appreciate this piece by Wendell Barry published in today’s Louisville Courier Journal:

    http://www.courier-journal.com/article/20110515/OPINION04/305150041/1016/OPINION/Wendell-Berry-Ability-feed-planet-rooted-our-stewardship-land?odyssey=mod|newswell|text|Opinion|p

  25. You shouldn’t be scared for your grandchildren, but for yourself, in case you are reborn in 2045 in a over-populated undeveloped country :).
    It is amazing to see that you don’t look 73, how did you manage to look like that ?
    Right now, 852 million people are starving or underfed. When the population is 10 billion, we will have enough human-beings, that can put their brains together to solve all the needs of drinking water, space and food by properly managing what we grow.
    If we solve the problem of what everybody on the planet is here to do on the planet, we could probably solve the more easy problems of providing enough resources for people to survive.

    Regards,

  26. Miss Fonda,

    I am a 15 year old home schooled girl,and an on-fire-for-Christ Roman Catholic. As a conservative American and a Pro Life person, I must say that you have your “facts” quite convaluted and backwards. Did you know that most all nations are literally dying off and below replacement level? Yes….it’s true,lies are lies,no matter how many times they are repeated, even if they’re are advocated by actresses like you,Miss Fonda. Here’s the point; you say that you are scared for your children and grandchildren, as if they will either starved to death because of lack of food, or crushed to death for lack of breathing space. Well,..look at your children and grandchildren, which ones should not be allowed to be here because they’ll contribute to overpopulating mother earth??? God commanded us to “Be fruitful and multiply”. I think he meant it. God Bless You!

  27. Go to http://www.pop.com, they have the facts.

  28. Hi Jane.
    There’s room at the table.

    No need to fear…there’s room at the table. Thank God there are more places on the planet than New York City.

  29. Jane—

    I worry that we’ll “take it on the road” and end up colonizing another planet after we’ve committed matricide to our dear Earth.

    What keeps me sane (relatively) is through small steps I can do each day to make it better. I volunteer as a beach naturalist, ESL tutor, local food bank, walk & pick-up litter in my hood, recycle, etc. Little steps . . . one at a time.

    Are my days of activism over? I think so. It’s a brave new world of corporate interests and greed over values and ethics. I’ve withdrawn from much of the public sphere where age and wisdom don’t count anymore—to a private space of smaller but more frequent victories.

  30. I ma with Cyberquill!! This is my major issue..
    A trip to the zoo here is heart-breaking when you see wild tigers that are seriously endangered – with maybe only 3,000 left in the entire world.
    Thank you…

    Here are some more useful recipes which I am sure you will find useful.
    paleo bread

    Regards, Johny.

  31. Jane, I’ve been of this opinion for years…never thought I’d be longing for the fifties, when there was still some breathing room, especially for the animals, who are now struggling to survive.

    I recall traveling throughout jam-packed India back in the 70’s and 80’s, concerned that I might be witnessing what the world would look like in the future. Well, the future has arrived…Scary!

    Unfortunately, the subject of human overpopulation is still TABOO… Our national ‘leaders’ do not dare to speak ‘the truth’, and yet it is the single most critical issue of our time…

  32. Dear Jane,

    Because of your long standing interest in overpopulation, I just wanted to check in to get updated on what your present thoughts were. While logging in, I found not only your concerns, but that of many others. who share the challenge of an ever-burgeoning world.

    From my research and activism, economics is key to the population challenge confronting us. Once we understand that prosperity hinges on a balance between national natural resources and people numbers within borders, we can then start better managing our human presence.

    Obviously we are not there yet. However, a recent study of key economic indicators shows that in the last 40 years as the US went from 202 million to well over 310 million, 80% of Americans have failed to prosper. That’s a telling factoid. In short our economic system needs to be realigned with “population management,” a policy tool for providing incentives to right size the nation.

    Jane, please continue to keep the overpopulation issue alive with your activism…what you’re doing is critical to a better life on this planet.

    W.J. Van Ry
    President
    The Foundation for Human Conservation

  33. Jane,
    I honestly don’t believe you deleted my last comment. Your Blog assistant perhaps? My comment wasn’t that scary.

    There are other places to live besides New York City.
    As for there not being enough water…why don’t you help with creating water wells elsewhere in the world. It can be done. You have plenty of money to back the creating of water wells all over the planet.

    • Deanne, you don’t get it! Wells are fine, but they draw from underground aquifers and those are running dry.

      • Dear Janie,

        I’m familiar with underground aquifers. I grew up in southwest Kansas and my father-in-law farms wheat crops. 3 times he has had to drill deeper for water. It’s there just have to drill deeper.
        Cost more, but you have the money to do this. What a huge blessing you would be creating water wells. A blessing to many.

        36 years ago my husband was told by a Wichita State University Geology Professor that farmers were mining water from the Ogallala Aquifer and would be out of water in the next twenty years. Interesting that there is still water to use and drink 16 years past what they said. Still irrigating crops which requires an abundance of water.

        I do get it. More than you realize.

        That’s good to know about China importing grain. I’ll be sure to let my wheat growing and cotton growing father-in-law know that China is a potential customer.

        And I don’t mind you calling me Deanne when my name is Deanna if I can call you Janie. Grins.

        God is good and greatly to be praised. People with talent are being born every day. And there’s room at the table for more humans. There’s enough to go around and then some.

        Was the cure for cancer and the answers to the world’s energy problems aborted last week?

        The answers are not in zero population growth.

        Yours Truly,
        Deanna

  34. remember when Mother Teresa held up a helpless baby and said people are afraid of this!

    There will be people born (if not killed by abortion)
    that will be gifted in creating new ways to do things that benefits humans, creatures and the environment.

    God is good and greatly to be praised.

    What countries now are encouraging and increase in having babies because their population has been decreasing?

    Aren’t people that are afraid of the future scared that what they have will be taken from them and they won’t have it anymore?

    Janie, you have a large ranch….not too many people living on that property. Ted Turner owns huge amounts of land where not too many people live on the grounds.

    Why is it alright for you to have something and others aren’t suppose to have property because in your opinion there isn’t enough to go around? In my opinion it’s alright for you have this property and it’s alright for me to have property.

    Why is it alright for you to have something like your ranch? Should our government take this away from you because it doesn’t want citizens to own ground?

    By the year 2045 there will be more natural destruction where many people will be killed and the population will not be as you say with the billions of people. There will be sickness and disease that will kill people just like the Bible says.

    • Deanne, it has nothing to do with people having property!! It has to do with a finite amount of potable water, land that can be used to grow food for people to eat (so much land is not used to grow grains for livestock and to use for ethanol/energy. That’s fine but people need to eat and even China is having to import grains.

  35. Dearest Jane,

    The May 28, 2011 Economist headlines “Welcome to the Anthropocene”, a new-ess geological timeframe measured by thousands, if not millions of years with many scientists describing “humans as a geological force to be reckoned with”. The journal emphasis challenges all of us to look at how our collective and individual choices and actions are so important. Science even now indicates that our beautiful, incredible gift of life is an awesome responsibility. Ten billion human beings? Let’s pray we have enough resources to share with each other and that all of us will know that we matter.

  36. Jane, I’m glad you wrote about this. More people are speaking up, but more and more need to.

    I’d like to send you a copy of my new film, GrowthBusters, which examines our culture’s obsession with economic growth and how that affects our attitudes and policies toward population growth. Let me know where to send it so you’ll receive it.

    Dave Gardner
    growthbusters.org
    dave [at] growthbusters.org

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