Worst Threat to Earth? Way Too Many People

Rate of human growth and consumption may destroy civilization

By Dustin Lushing,  Newser Staff

Posted Aug 6, 2008 11:35 AM CDT

(Newser) – With the number of humans on Earth expected to reach 9.5 billion by the second half of the 21st century, policymakers and environmentalists should turn their attention to the grave dangers of overpopulation and overconsumption, Paul Ehrlich—author of 1968 bestseller The Population Bomb—and wife Anne write in Yale Environment 360. Population growth, above all other ecological hazards, may lead to the collapse of our civilization.

Political and science leaders "are under the delusion that such a disastrous end to the modern human enterprise can be avoided by technological fixes," the Ehrlichs point out. But while adopting fuel-efficient cars and increasing recycling might prove beneficial in the short term, "there is no technological change we can make that will permit growth in either human numbers or material affluence to continue to expand."

It is clear that only widespread changes in norms can give humanity a chance of attaining a sustainable and reasonably conflict-free society, two Stanford academics write.
"It is clear that only widespread changes in norms can give humanity a chance of attaining a sustainable and reasonably conflict-free society," two Stanford academics write.   (AP Photo)
Civilization%u2019s fate is being determined by decision makers who determinedly look the other way in favor of immediate comfort and profit, two Stanford academics write.
"Civilization%u2019s fate is being determined by decision makers who determinedly look the other way in favor of immediate comfort and profit," two Stanford academics write.   (Magnum Photos)
Many past human societies have collapsed under the weight of overpopulation and environmental neglect, but today the civilization in peril is global, two academics write.
"Many past human societies have collapsed under the weight of overpopulation and environmental neglect, but today the civilization in peril is global," two academics write.   (Magnum Photos)
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