Sunday 23 November 2014

Over-population is the real cause of climate change – it's killing us all off

Joe Barry

Published 23/04/2014 | 02:30

GROWTH: India's population is expected to exceed 1.27bn this year and is growing at more than 6.5m a year.  AP Photo.
GROWTH: India's population is expected to exceed 1.27bn this year and is growing at more than 6.5m a year. AP Photo.

Despite all the warnings of global warming and imminent disaster, it is unlikely that we will change our ways until a real catastrophe actually occurs.

We have all read about the storms, droughts, melting ice caps and rising sea levels occurring worldwide, while here in Ireland, during last winter's floods and gales, we experienced a small foretaste of what might well become the norm.

But are we prepared to do anything meaningful about it?

Probably not, is the simple answer.

A lot of hot air will be generated during debates, but if changing the way we behave requires a reduction in our living standards, then nothing will happen.

If the worst occurs and the prophets of doom are proved correct, by then it will probably be too late. Our children will be faced with wars, famine and destitution as strong nations attempt to take over the scarce resources available in other countries and in the poorer areas of the globe, people will simply starve.

The remarkable thing is that the real cause of global warming is rarely mentioned. It is the elephant in the room. Everyone can see it but no one wants to speak about it, presumably because this subject is a contentious one and challenges the core beliefs of many religions.

The undeniable fact is that we, the human race, are the cause of our own difficulties and unless we reduce our numbers, we will self-destruct.

We blame the increase in livestock numbers as one reason for climate change while refusing to acknowledge that the true cause is too many people consuming rapidly depleting resources.

The basic belief that man was put on this earth to dominate all other creatures is still widespread, despite unfolding evidence that we are destroying the means of our survival.

We are gradually realising that if we continue to kill off the natural world, its demise will in turn kill us. The planet Earth is estimated to have resources that can sustain one billion people, yet we currently have more than 7bn, all competing for land, food, water, heat and shelter.

When famine struck in 1985 the population of Ethiopia was 36m. That famine eventually ended and their current population is now almost 100m.

In 1960, there were only 11m in the entire country.

The highest population growth currently occurs in nations with the greatest poverty. In peasant societies, large families are seen as a form of wealth and an insurance against poverty and starvation in old age.

Interestingly, the nations with high standards of living have in general, low or zero rates of population growth.

We send money to poor nations to help sink wells and buy livestock but do little or nothing about helping them control their rate of reproduction, which in turn creates further famines.

Assistance and education in introducing birth control would surely provide a more lasting solution.

The destruction of the natural world has been going on for centuries, with the expansion of agriculture, industry and the removal of forests.

During the past two centuries this has accelerated as we developed larger and more sophisticated machinery to help us mow down rain forests, plough and create ever more farm land, drain wetlands, expand our cities and road systems and mine high-carbon fuels which are then burnt and sent in to the atmosphere.

Just imagine the resources required to sustain cities like New York, London, or Paris.

Even worse is the volume of products from around the world imported annually in to places like Beijing or Hong Kong, but unless we visit countries and continents like India, Asia or Africa, we have little idea of what real overpopulation is.

Our current focus is on protecting our own standard of living, and only then making living conditions better for those less well off than ourselves. But if we ignore the threat that overpopulation presents to all of us, we ignore reality.

Like all animals, humans are programmed to reproduce and increase in number but like lemmings, which periodically breed beyond the carrying capacity of their surroundings, we are facing imminent disaster unless we change our ways.

In the past, wars, famine and plagues kept world populations in check. Happily these are now rare events, but if we continue to ignore the true reason for the environmental disasters facing us, we will rapidly pass the point where we can save ourselves.

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