An Excess of…Population

One aspect of the modern world that contributed to my urge to write the latest novel was the issue of population. It doesn’t feature much in the story, more of an aside, but was definitely an underlying stimulus to the idea of the book.

In common with many people, my major concern has been the climate and environment for some decades. That the issue is finally coming to the attention of political and commercial leaders is a hopeful trend, but not one I expect to develop into anything meaningful in time to prevent the real catastrophe facing both humanity and many other species.

It would be wonderful to do an optimistic piece on this topic, but almost every aspect of it produces negative ideas and consequences. For those who are either sceptical or unaware of the staggering increase in the number of humans inhabiting this finite space we call Earth, there’s a rather terrifying website devoted to counting the population as it increases. Worldometers.info provides a live count on screen of our numbers. As I write this, at 12:30 BST, 6th October 2021, the count shows 7,898,168,789. I’ll give another count when I finish writing and editing this post.

Population has only recently become a factor to be considered by many in the coming climate crisis. Frankly, I’ve always been aware of its importance and basic responsibility for the coming dangers. We’re considered the most ‘successful’ species on the planet. So successful, we’ve managed the extinction of millions of other lives simply by using up their environment, habitat, food, or just their space. Success is an odd adjective to use about us as a species, perhaps?

Most of us with the means love to travel. We visit places many miles, often thousands of miles distant, to see for ourselves the sights considered worthy of our attention. And when we arrive, many merely take a selfie and move on. Is the ‘value’ of that snapshot really worth endangering the atmosphere and so many life forms that, along with ourselves, are dependent on its life-giving properties? And, of course, too often the sheer volume of visitors to a site negates the very qualities that made it popular in the first place.

The reality is there are simply too many of us. Historically, we self-regulated our numbers regionally by over-consumption of resources, which often led to war with neighbours, and resulted in reduction through death, starvation, and destruction of our immediate ecology. Of course, the ‘strong’ tribes merely moved on, invading lands used by other tribes, killing and/or enslaving the inhabitants of whatever area the invaders stole.
But we’ve largely removed the threat of world wars, and local wars, while causing multiple casualties, do little to effectively damage global population numbers.
When lack of resources or regional battles were unable to reduce our numbers, good old ‘nature’ stepped in and gave us lethal diseases to curb our excess. We, being so very clever, frequently defeated such natural outcomes, and removed this natural solution to our overpopulation. Similarly, infants born with serious defects were previously allowed to die rather than develop and pass on such coding errors to their own offspring. Medicine has removed many curbs on our numbers. Yes, I hear the screams of protest that I’m being too stark, unfeeling, and all the other emotional tags we apply to such logic. But I’m not condemning any attempt to sustain human life, simply pointing out that we, as a species, have created a situation in which natural curbs on our numbers have been rendered largely redundant.

The problem with such actions is that they haven’t been adequately balanced by methods of reducing our ever-increasing population. Little has been done to reduce family size and to point out the selfishness of those who create large families. We live on a small blue marble speeding through the vast emptiness of the cosmos. It’s a place with limited space and resources, but we behave as though this is of no consequence. We act, in fact, as though space and resources are limitless.

This utterly self-destructive, suicidal even, attitude is encouraged by many philosophies and traditions, many religious in basis, as a means of allowing each particular sect to grow and therefore dominate their rivals for attention. Those who espouse such faiths must accept their responsibility for the destructive nature of these beliefs.

Similarly, the world of medicine should perhaps look at its record of saving life and place it in the context of our rapidly increasing numbers. Stick a population of rats in a closed box with insufficient food and it will not be long before they’re eating one another. We’re not so far removed from these rodents and, when vital resources, especially fresh water, become stretched beyond capacity, the inevitable result will be war of one form or another. Whether that occurs as fighting or simply as ignoring the desperate plight of those in need will depend largely on what benefits intervening forces expect to gain from giving whatever ‘help’ they deem appropriate.

At this point I’ve finished the initial draft. I will edit it after lunch. The time now is 12:59 BST. And the population counter has risen to 7,898,173,043. That’s an increase in population of 4,254 in just 29 minutes. Something to think about, perhaps?

After lunch, and a 3 mile walk through our local forest as spiritual food and a source of mental and physical health, I returned and completed this post. The time now is 17:10, and the population counter is showing 7,898,211,759. That’s an increase in human numbers of 38,716 in just over 4 hours. It’s unsustainable.

32 thoughts on “An Excess of…Population

  1. Pingback: Weekend Wrap-up / Inktober Day 9 (Pressure): Feels like Fall | Lines by Leon

    1. I agree, Lynette. The whole of the western world in particular has been drowning in the false promises of the capitalistic world for so long it’s become like a faith to many. The first thought of any government, business, or individual is usually ‘How much money will this make for me?’ But we need to change that first thought to ‘Is it sustainable?’ and apply that to literally everything we do. A rather difficult change of the mind set.

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  2. Very interesting Stuart. You make some valid points my friend. I worry that it may already be too late to save ourselves from ourselves. Sending you and Valerie big hugs. Liked the photograph as well. Hugs to you two. 🤗🥰Joni

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      1. Absolutely, we have to always have hope. We are so blessed. We just found out today that a neighbor that just retired from the military, he may be 40, has metastasized cancer which is now in his brain. The hardest thing for him is his college age son who lives with his parents has stage 4 pancreatic cancer and could be gone in three weeks and he just found out this week. It really puts things into perspective. I truly believe the only way that this environmental tragedy will be turned around in the US is if strong laws are passed that will stop so many harmful behaviors. Recycling is still not mandatory in most states. I will stop my rant now. Thank you so much for bringing more information to people about the precious gift that earth is and how we are destroying her daily. Love to you and Valerie. 🤗❤️💕

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        1. That is hard news for your neighbour and his family, Joni. And it is the sort of event that can happen to literally anyone at any time. A real reason to celebrate our lives and live them to the full, eh?
          It is the hardest thing to change people’s behaviour, especially when they are unaware of the consequences of that activity. Education goes a long way, as does an open mind and the willingness of people to admit when they are wrong.
          Recycling shouldn’t need to be made mandatory, because people should be aware of the waste involved in throwing stuff away. But we have lived do long in a throwaway society that it is considered not only normal but actually unalterable by many, so legal enforcement may be the only answer.
          You and Scot keep safe and stay well.

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    1. It desperately needs to be spread as widely as possible. It’s probably already too late to stop the coming climate crisis, Leon, but education might at least mitigate it a little, so our children stand some chance of surviving the worst effects.

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  3. This is an interesting synopsis and to think that we lost millions to Covid and we are still overpopulated in places. It is sad that so many people are crowded into cities living on top of each other. Although some people need that closeness and busy lifestyle. I still yearn for the cabin in the woods, or at least my “God’s little acre!” But that may never happen so I dream and maybe write about my dreams.

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    1. Yes, Brenda. The population counter takes into account daily deaths. Covid has made little difference to the predicted rises in human numbers.
      I avoid cities; find crowds very disturbing.
      Our village is more the size of place we can cope with.
      Writing fiction is a dual tool for me: it allows me to tell the stories clamouring for readership in my imagination, and also allows me to express my concerns for the state of the world in those stories that accommodate such worries. Like you, I also write about my dreams and hopes of a better world.

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      1. I do the same thing in my books. I love to create worlds and people, I use many of the mannerisms and foibles of people close to me and those I have met in the business. My nest project is to draw more of the world in my young adult series, Ruby & Nolan’s Great Adventures in Space. One other thing I plan to do is change the name to a much shorter one. I wrote them as Christmas presents to friends not thinking about publishing them.

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        1. Anything we can do to educate the young is always beneficial (as long as it isn’t religious or political indoctrination, of course!).
          As writers, we learn the ropes as we move through the process. I made an initial mistake with my first novel, self-published: I used the title ‘Breaking Faith’ without ever checking it out on Amazon. If I had, I’d have realised there were loads of other books with the same title, most of them religious texts, which is the last thing I intended! Your title length doesn’t seem too long to me, as I imagine it’s a subtitle to each individual book?

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  4. Reblogged this on Stevie Turner and commented:
    I found this blog post quite fascinating and terrifying at the same time. Mandatory contraception after the first child might be in force by the end of the century? Who knows? Of course there are also thousands of deaths every day to balance out the increase in the population, but I’ve seen first hand what transpires as soon as there’s a shortage of a product. People have been fighting on garage forecourts during our recent fuel crisis, and of course the strongest will eventually survive. Even during the ridiculous shortage of toilet paper last year fit young men were fighting for the last loo roll. We’re not far removed from the rats…

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    1. I agree that mandatory contraception may be on the way, and I suspect sooner than the end of the century, assuming we survive that long, Stevie.
      The population counter takes account of daily deaths in its calculations, so the birth increase is a true figure.
      I suspect many people have given no thought at all to the probability of war due to shortage of resources. The UN estimates 3 billion people will be in effective water shortage by the end of the decade; that’s in under 9 years from now. Scary.

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        1. I’m knocking on, Stevie. At 73, I may even miss the worst. But my daughter and her husband, and any child they may have will have to live with the consequences of earlier generations’ actions.

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        1. Cultural, religious, and political differences will make it very difficult for the world to come together and form practical solutions, Aithal. There will be no universal fix for this issue. China also tried restricting family size, as a virtual dictatorship with overbearing control of its people, it had some success. But in the western and democratic worlds enforcing anything is difficult. We can only hope that a combination of education and improvement in living standards (the two factors that most affect family size) will create better awareness of individual responsibility for overconsumption of resources. But whether such change will come in time is very doubtful.

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