Monday, April 13, 2009

Are You Worried About Overpopulation?

In 1968, Paul Ehrlich published, The Population Bomb, and said, “The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate...” He was wrong. None of what he predicted took place.

Many will point to the famine in Ethiopia in 1984-85 as vindication of Ehrlich’s predictions, but, unfortunately for his hypothesis, the causes of the Ethiopian famine was political, and not due to population. Sorry, Paul.

Why am I bringing this up? Because, a few weeks ago, in the Times of London, Jonathon Porritt, one of Prime Minister Brown’s “green consultants,” was reported as saying that, Great Britain must cut their population in half in order to help save the planet. There are 61 million people in Britain now, while Porritt says that Britain’s ideal population is 30 million. (Who determines “ideal population” anyway? More on that in a minute.)

Now, Ehrlich, Porritt, and those who agree with them base their conclusions on the undisputable fact that the Earth’s resources are finite. There is a level of population, beyond which the resources of the Earth are insufficient to support. But, what, we must ask, is that level? Have we reached it? Are we close to reaching it?

First off, there is still plenty of room here on Earth for all of the people. If we turned all of Australia into a “super city”, we could put the entire world’s population (6,706,993,152 - July 2008 estimate - CIA World Factbook) there, with a population density approximately that of New York City. Dense, to be sure (880 people per sq km), but still much lower than the population densities of Mumbai (21,880 /sq km), Singapore (6,814/sq km), Mexico City (5,950/sq km), or Tokyo (5,847 /sq km), just to name a few. A population density of 880/sq km would be a lot less crowded than much of the world’s population endures today. I am not suggesting that we turn Australia into a super city, but I want to show that there’s plenty of room for everybody.

But could we feed them? Sure could! If we put everybody in Australopolis, we would still have the rest of the planet to grow food. That’s 140 million square kilometers of land area. Cut out the ice caps and the mountains, and you’ve still got a lot of room to grow food! Sure, a lot of it is desert, but we have the technology to desalinate sea water and irrigate vast amounts of North Africa and the Middle East. I’ve also seen concept drawings of “vertical farms” built into skyscrapers inside the city.

A long-running eco-worry is the “fact” that arable top soil is disappearing. Really? Um, to put it delicately, everything that eats also produces... um... "fertilizer." Farmers have been spreading manure on the fields for as long as there have been farmers. There’s no Biblical evidence, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Adam used manure in the tending of the Garden before The Fall. By using “biosolids” (the techno-babel term for “poop”), and proper irrigation, much of the world’s landmass that is unusable for agriculture today, could be usable for tomorrow. And we are not limited to just the Earth.

I’m a science fiction nut, and a big proponent of space technologies. We’ve had the technology since the early 70’s to build viable orbital colonies in space, mine the moons & asteroids (where there are no endangered species to worry about, and no environment to impact), and generally take advantage of a vast array of resources. Sure, these would be monumental undertakings, but it is feasible, and studies have shown that it could be economically viable as well. I don’t know if we’ll ever move off of the Earth in any significant way, but the point is that we could.

God has provided us with the material and the know how to provide food and shelter for a population much larger then we have today. So, what is driving this movement? What is behind this belief that the Earth is overpopulated?

Science isn’t what drives this movement. In fact, recent research indicates that the population could be trending towards decrease, not increase, in the foreseeable future. The first chapter in the book of Romans provides the answer. “For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.” (Romans 1:25 NASB) The modern environmentalist movement is a religion. They worship the Earth, which many personify as the earth goddess Gaia, and they are serving and protecting their idol.

And, of course, when you probe deeper, they believe that the problem isn’t too many people, it’s too many other people. This belief system, like all worldly systems, is inherently elitist. Food distribution is used as a political tool to control the masses. The Ethiopian famine of the 1980’s endured for so long, not because the food was unavailable, but because the Ethiopian government withheld food from certain “undesirable” peoples. During the Stalinist purges, the Soviets deliberately starved millions of Georgians for reasons of politics and control. Rather than modernize food production, China has instead tried to limit their population growth, and will soon reap what they have sown.

When God created the Earth, and placed man upon it, He commanded us to "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth." (Genesis 1:28 NASB) He repeated this command to Noah and his sons after the flood, and He judged the people for disobeying this command at the Tower of Babel.

As stewards of the Earth, not the owners thereof, we are responsible to use the planet as its owner, God Almighty, has commanded. The Earth was not intended to last forever. Scripture tells us that someday the Earth will be consumed by the fire of God’s judgment. It’s a disposable planet, and, one day, its usefulness will be at an end. We are to use the Earth, not worship it.

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