Overpopulation is overlooked threat

July 18, 2011

Ron Smith is surely right when he writes, "There are now too many people to manage." ("Population, debt problems so big, they defy solutions," July 15).

But his assertion that global population is projected to increase by 50 percent by mid-century is a worst-case scenario, according to United Nations population projections.

The UN offers three projections: low, medium, and high. The 50 percent increase mentioned by Mr. Smith, which would amount to a world population of 10.5 billion by 2050 (compared with our present 7 billion), corresponds to the UN's "high" projection. Its low projection for 2050 is around 8 billion; its medium projection around 9.5 billion.

But even if we meet the low projection (not likely given our present indifference) we would still be adding another billion people, and we would still be in a heap of trouble.

We live in a world that can't even support its present population in minimal decency and dignity. Two billion of us presently live on the equivalent of $2 per day, and even that number is likely to grow given Mr. Smith's uncontestable conclusion that "technology enables even more work to be done by ever fewer workers."

More and more people in even more precarious circumstances on a planet whose carrying capacity is dwindling due to resource depletion is a formula for disaster. Yet population stabilization — much less reduction — is off the public radar.

Perhaps Mr. Smith is right. The problem is "so big it can't even be hinted at in public discussion." But the problem is not going away. And we are already feeling it in more ways than can be enumerated.

As Isaac Asimov once said, "Democracy cannot survive overpopulation."

Howard Bluth, Baltimore

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