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Overpopulation and underemployment controversies

Is overpopulation the transparent elephant in the room causing crucial modern crises? A review of nearly 200 research articles (~75% published in the last ten years) shows how the issue of population growth is being downplayed and trivialized despite its fundamental role on modern crises related to unemployment, public debt, welfare, for example reduced access to food and water or even health and education, extinction of species, and climate change, says the March 17, 2013 news release, "Overpopulation: The transparent elephant in the room causing crucial modern crises."

Overpopulation and underemployment.
Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

The study suggests that no foreseeable pathways, to fix or ameliorate such crises, are likely without seriously dealing with natality rates by both developed and developing nations. This new paper is written by Camilo Mora, assistant professor of Geography in the College of Social Sciences at University of Hawaii at Manoa, and appears today in the March 17, 2014 issue of the peer-reviewed journal Ecology and Society. You can check out the study online, "Revisiting the Environmental and Socioeconomic Effects of Population Growth: a Fundamental but Fading Issue in Modern Scientific, Public, and Political Circles. 2014. Mora, C."

To feed the world, give women equal rights

Around the world, at least a billion people are hungry or need better diets. To feed a global population projected to reach 9.6 billion by 2050, we will need to increase food production by as much as 70 percent, most analysts believe.

Achieving that goal requires civilization to address overpopulation and overconsumption through a bottom-up movement focused on agricultural, environmental and demographic planning, among other strategies, argues Stanford University's Stanford Woods Institute Senior Fellow Paul Ehrlich (Biology). A crucial first step is to give equal rights to women worldwide, Ehrlich says, according to the February 15, 2013 news release, "To feed the world, give women equal rights."

Ehrlich discussed this roadmap at the annual American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Meeting in Boston last year. Ehrlich's talk, "Feeding All While Avoiding a Collapse of Civilization: Science's Greatest Challenge," was part of a symposium called "Global Food Security in Relation to Climate, Population, Technology, and Earth Changes," presented on Feb. 15, 2013 in room 210 of the Hynes Convention Center, according to the February 15, 2013 news release, "To feed the world, give women equal rights."

The talk touched on themes from a recent Proceedings of the Royal Society commentary, "Can a Collapse of Global Civilization Be Avoided?" that Ehrlich and his wife Anne Ehrlich, also a Stanford biologist, wrote.

The report calls for improving agricultural practices, replacing fossil fuels and giving women equal rights to enlist more brainpower in finding food supply solutions and to slow birth rates. "There is widespread agreement that the evolving food situation is becoming very serious," Ehrlich says, according to the news release. "But virtually all such warnings, in my view, underestimate the potential impacts of climate disruption on the food system, the way the energy situation may negatively interact with producing enough food and the progressive ecological deterioration of the agricultural enterprise. Perhaps most important, virtually all analyses simply treat the need to feed an additional 2.5 billion people by 2050 as a given."

Instead, Ehrlich says, there should be more focus on slowing population growth. "A program of improving the status of women everywhere and supplying all sexually active people with access to modern contraception and back-up abortion would be relatively quite cheap and would greatly reduce the numbers that must be fed."

Stanford Woods Institute Senior Fellow Paul Ehrlich is the Bing Professor of Population Studies at Stanford. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a recipient of the Crafoord Prize, the Blue Planet Prize and numerous other international honors. Ehrlich investigates a wide range of topics in population biology, ecology, evolution, and human ecology and evolution. He is the author of numerous publications, including the best-selling book, The Population Bomb.

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