Overpopulation pollution requires the government to act!

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Pontiac Perspective by Peter Gauthier


Pontiac Perspective by Peter Gauthier

Thomas Malthus (1766 – 1834) is renowned for his book An Essay on the Principles of Population in which he notes that while the population of a given area increases geometrically, that is, tends to double every twenty-five years, food and resource development only increased linearly. This implies that at some point, the growth in population will outstrip its ability to adequately provide for itself.
Modern Malthusian skeptics reject his thesis, pointing out that we have always discovered or invented new technologies to meet rising population demands. However, Malthus is correct in a way that both he and his critics failed to consider. This is the excessive increase in pollution caused, in the main, by the very
technologies that claim to provide a solution to the Malthus problem.
Increase in population, especially in urban areas, has resulted in a geometric increase in pollution. Two simple numbers illustrate this. In 1960, the world population was 3 billion, today it is 7.8 billion. In 1960, the per capita
consumption of meat was 24.2 kilograms – today, it is 45 kilograms. This
per capita increase in consumption combined with the increase in overall population results in a geometric increase in pollution. As an illustration, consider some of the adverse effects of increased consumption of meat.
On a global level, raising animals for food is responsible for more greenhouse gases than all the planet’s transportation systems combined. One third of earth’s ice-free land and one third of all grain production is consumed
by farm animals. An enormous amount of water is needed to raise and
prepare animals for human consumption. 683 gallons of water are required to produce 1 gallon of milk and 2,400 gallons of water are required to produce one pound of beef. More than 90% of all Amazon rainforest land cleared since 1970 is used to raise livestock. Further, agriculture is the largest global source of fine particulates.
As is now well documented, agricultural activity is not the only source of pollution.  Plastics, use of fossil fuels for industrial processes, poor urban
planning, overfishing and a host of other factors contribute to the geometric increase in the deterioration of our environment.
Malthus saw only three ways of containing the problem of overpopulation: vice (including war), misery (famine and ill health) and moral restraint. Perhaps, with some revision, these are the solutions to our current pollution crisis.  Most people will find war and famine as absolutely unacceptable solutions, but there has been a rise in anti-natalism—the ethical position that we shouldn’t be bringing new lives into the world due to the risk of unacceptable suffering and inevitable early death that is the consequence of our increasingly polluted world.
The real solution must lie in the moral courage of our government and
business leaders to take immediate and effective action to reverse pollution. Of course, this will require that citizens remind them of the planet’s dire situation.