The Thing Most Likely To Kill Off the Human Race: Having Babies?

This video really struck me, since I’m currently in Vietnam, within a city of over 10 million people that’s only growing faster each day. I’m already seeing the adverse effects a densely populated city has on the environment, and on the population. So… I figured I’d talk about it, and share it with you, because it really is the worst problem we face as a race in the next 100 years… if we make it that far.

For years, humans have been saving and destroying one another in hopes for a better life for themselves. Whether it be by curing disease, or bombing the crap out of other civilizations, humans always believe they are right, and that they know best for the betterment of themselves, and for the planet. The problem here though, is that everything we do bad in the world makes things worse for people, and everything we do good… also does bad for people. It’s a lose-lose situation most times, sadly.

What do I mean when I say “good things” and “bad things?” above? Well, I classify anything “bad” as actions in which cause harm to others, and “good” as actions that aid others. We have invented the wheel, electricity, penicillin, the microchip, the internet, radio, television, paper, air conditioning, the gun, and much more all in the name of making our lives safer and more convenient. Both good actions and bad actions, at this point in our lives, are causing harm to the human race, and there is very little we have invented to be able to stop it. Because disease isn’t what’s gong to kill us. It’s us who will kill us. More specifically, it’s too much us, as David Suzuki explains in the video above.

This is what I mean when I say that “good” things cause us all harm. All this medical research, such as curing cancer, sounds like a beautiful thing. But what happens when less people die from disease? Sure, more people are happy now… but what about 50 years from now? 100 years? You think the population growth right now is out of control… just wait until all of those people who would usually have died early, now live on and begin to have children. It’s a beautiful thing that they’re able to do that now, but in the long run, it’s accelerating a much bigger issue.

More specifically, we’ll deplete the planet of all resources capable of sustaining us. There is a little truth to the movie Elysium, in the sense that we have depleted everything from our world, leaving nothing to keep us going. That’s extremely likely for the near future. In fact, it’s as close to a certainty as you can get. What will we do to solve this issue, before it’s too late? It’s estimated that there are enough resources on this planet to sustain between 15-18 billion people, at most. With our current rate of growth still accelerating, we’ll reach that number in less than 200 years easily.

Didn’t sound all that urgent until right now, did it? It isn’t something we usually think about. What can I do to save my grandchildren? To save the generations to come? Is there anything we can do? Are things really as bad as Suzuki claims?

Well, things may not really be going quite the same as Suzuki believes and points out, and historical data does not support ‘exponential growth’ for humans. That’s because humans also die, unlike the bacteria example. Suzuki’s example has 50% of the tube full at 59 minutes, and then the other 50% fills in for minute 60. Except human population growth isn’t like this at all, unless a large number of the existing bacteria growing are also countered by some bacteria dying away. It doesn’t double in those set increments (or every 7 years, as Suzuki says). Take a look at the United States population growth: In 1990, there were an estimated 250 million people. In 2008, there were 304 million.

But wait a minute… if Suzuki’s math is right, and exponential growth exists with humans, why aren’t there over a billion in the United States right now? Did some people simply move away or something? Of course not. Let’s look at another more populated country like India, with a population of 849 million people in 1990. What were they in 2008? Only 1,140,000 estimated people. That’s not exponential at all, is it? It’s actually quite miniscule. What’s happening here?

It’s true that we are increasing in population, and it’s still exponential growth. The more of us there are, the faster we grow in numbers. While that is still true, we’re also losing some in the same time period. The estimates for 2011 put Earth at a birth rate of 19 births /1,000 population. That’s a pretty large number of people having babies… but it isn’t at all the large “doubling” number that Suzuki says. At the same time, 8 deaths / 1,000 population occur, making our growth even slower still. That’s 131.4 million births per year on average for 2011, with just over 55.3 million deaths per year, a difference of just 76.1 million people in favor of growth. When you consider that the planet had just under 6.8 billion people in 2011… and a total population growth of 76.1 million… It’s hard to give a whole lot of weight to Suzuki’s argument.

Still, population growth is still a problem we will eventually face, and hopefully when the time comes, we have already found new planets to expand to. New resources to use and consume… and new techniques and strategies of survival that will allow us to create a more comfortable life for ourselves, without endangering our own existence at the same time. Thanks for reading, and have a great day.

Charlie Pryor

Charlie is a media producer, writer, and a traveler. He grew up in Michigan, all of his life and attended Grand Valley State University for a B.S. in Film and Video Production. He's married to a wonderful woman named Hang, and simply hopes to one day turn himself into a man that many will remember long after he's gone.

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