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Overpopulation – Is It a Myth?


The hype of ‘overpopulation’ has been going on for years in the media. And even some ‘philanthropists’ like Bill Gates is promoting de-population through vaccines and more to lower the population of this ‘overpopulated’ world.

Now, is the planet really overpopulated? Or will it be, if we continue multiplying? Obviously, it will be if we exponentially increase ourselves indefinitely, but there are many factors that works against that.

Overpopulation is most definitely a myth, and I’ll prove why.

I am talking about global overpopulation. For sure, there are many areas on the planet that are overpopulated, and all of them are what we call ‘cities’. But globally, we have more than enough room.

The reason for overpopulation in cities is blatant; The Monetary System itself. Money, trading and ownership has permeated so to say every nook and cranny of this planet, replacing real resources, like food, with the artificial resource of money, which is most abundant in cities. Thus, in need of this artificial ‘resource’, people flock to cities to get ‘jobs’ that will give them this ‘resource’. Had they stayed on the countryside, they would have had access to the abundance of nature, without much need for money.

Abundance of Space

According to Wikipedia, the definition of overpopulation is:

a function of the number of individuals compared to the relevant resources, such as the water and essential nutrients they need to survive.

Let’s also include ‘space’ as a resource needed to survive. Clearly, we need a certain amount of space around us for our physical and mental wellbeing.

There are vast amounts of land on this planet without a human soul living there. The abundance of land on this planet is so vast that it is unimaginable to most people. The image below illustrates this perfectly. Here we can see that the whole planet’s population would fit in the state of Texas with about one person per 100 m2. That is actually not too bad in itself. Except that we have so much more land available than only Texas. If we divide all the world’s 6,9 billion people on the available land mass of the planet, everyone would have about 22,000 m2 each.

the-worlds-population-concentratedWe have an abundance of space, that’s for sure. More than enough for all the world’s people to live upon. Considering that most people like to live in some form of community with others in the form of towns or larger cities (not because of ‘job needs’, but because of the social aspects, not ‘overpopulating’ any particular place), makes the space we have available even more abundant for settlements.

There’s no need for people to bundle up in huge overcrowded mega cities. If we use the whole planet, we easily have room for all with lot’s of space to spare. And then we haven’t even included the oceans, which also can be populated. Not that that is needed from a purely space perspective, nor a food perspective, as we will see.

Abundance of Food

Let’s repeat the Wikipedia definition:

Overpopulation is a function of the number of individuals compared to the relevant resources, such as the water and essential nutrients they need to survive.

‘Essential nutrients’ can be translated as ‘food’. Thus, for the planet to be overpopulated, or become overpopulated in any relevant future, there has to be too little food for everyone on this planet. The people who seriously talk about overpopulation must thus be seriously ignorant or misinformed.

Food Waste

Today we are wasting half of all food that is produced.  Clearly, we have a huge abundance of food on this planet, out of which half is wasted. According to Tristram Stuart

All the world’s nearly one billion hungry people could be lifted out of malnourishment on less than a quarter of the food that is wasted in the US, UK and Europe.

Thus, we have no food shortage. Do we? This number alone should be enough to debunk the ‘overpopulation’ myth. But wait, there’s more. Let’s take a short look on how much land we actually need to produce the food we need.

Biointensive Agriculture

With Biointensive Agriculture, less than 200m2 is necessary to feed one person an abundance of vegetables per year, including lots of protein rich vegetables like beans and spinach, even in colder climates. And this is without using any chemical fertilisers or pesticides. Check out this video for an example of how much food can be grown on a small space:

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A quick calculation shows me that here they produce about 3,6 kilos of food/day/200m2. Thus, the one person we talked about above would get 2-4 times as much food as necessary from this little plot of land, which is in a city, by the way!

Arable Land

The amount of so-called ‘arable land’ on the planet is according to Wikipedia about 14 million km2. If we only use this amount of arable land, we would have about 20 times the land we need (or 40 times if we use the last calculation above) to feed all of us on the planet. If we include permanent pastures, which amount to about 33 million km2 and is used for live stock, and grow vegetables there instead, we end up with more than 60-100 times of what we actually need. That is if we only eat veggies. But of course, we don’t need all that land, so there would be plenty of room for some grass fed beef or chicken with happy free ranging animals that can be managed holistically.

Increasing Agricultural Land

If we include some our deserts  in our alculations, we would have even more potentially productive land. According to Allan Savory we can re-green deserts through the use of live stock, as this TED presentation shows, thus fight both climate change and desertification, while at the same time increase our amount of agricultural land. Not that we need that for food production, though, but just saying to further debunk the overpopulation myth.

But, there’s more.

Hydroponics and Aquaponics

We already have more than enough food through the land that we have, but if we for some reason would want more, we can include Hydroponics and Aquaponics in our food plan. If we do, we would have such an abundance of food that we could feed a 100 more planets full of people, easily.

Hydroponics is growing plants directly in nutritious water. The nutrition comes from rotting unused plant matter.

Aquaponics is hydroponics with fish, where the nutrition comes from the fish excrements, while the plants clean the water for the fish.

Take a look at this video to see what I am talking about:

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According to this link, hydroponics (and thus aquaponics) can be up to 100 times (!) more efficient than growing in soil.

One – hundred – times…!

Thus, if we pop up a few aquaponic plants here and there, we wouldn’t even need soil.

Abundance of Water

There’s also a lot of talk about ‘water scarcity’, and that the available fresh water on the planet is rapidly shrinking. We are using up aquifers on wasteful agricultural practices, while soft drink companies are bottling free water and selling it. Both as a result of profit maximisation stemming from the monetary mindset and system.

But even if we use up the aquifers, we will still have rain water. Oh, it rains less as well, you say? Well, that will be amended with the re-greening we mentioned above, combined with lots of new microclimates created when we start to farm naturally, and not to speak of re-planting of forests, that all help create rain.

If this isn’t enough after the aquifers are empty, there’s a sun up there that gladly evaporates sea water for free trough Solar Desalination. In addition there’s also discovered some huge amounts of fresh water deep in the oceans.

As if this is not enough, we can get fresh water directly from the air through inexpensive water towers by harvesting atmospheric water vapor.

After all, we can’t really use up the water on planet earth. It has always been here and will always be here. The fresh water we have we have as a result of evaporation of salt water on the planet, and it raining down over land, in addition to aquifer, fresh water trapped under ground. It can’t really disappear. As long as we have an atmosphere, which the water we have plays a big part in creating and maintaining by the way, we will have water on the planet. And as long as we have the sun, we will have fresh water.

It is only our ignorance and monetary practices that creates scarcity of water, just like it creates scarcities of everything else.

Abundance of Resources

What is ‘resources’? Well, of course, food is a huge resource that we see we have and can produce in abundance. Other resources are ‘natural resources’; such as minerals like steel or aluminium.

Well, do we have an abundance of them? Yes and no.

It all depends on our consumption, technology and recycling. With today’s consumption and recycling patterns, and specific technology, we clearly have too little.

But, with an other type of economy that would maximise the resources we have through new inventions, technology, reuse and recycling, combined with new consumption patterns, we have an abundance of resources as well.

Consumption is created from the monetary system. We need to constantly consume to keep the system running. Since the monetary system is dependent on continual growth in consumption, if everyone cut consumption with only 10%, the whole system would collapse.

Paradoxically, the monetary system is creating both scarcity and a huge abundance of products through planned obsolescence and overproduction. Planned obsolescence is making sure products break or become obsolete due to out-of-date technology or fashion, thus creating a scarcity and need of a constant supply of new products. A perceived scarcity is created through giving the impression that you need the new products combined with the old ones starting to malfunction.

This cycle in the monetary system is the most wasteful cycle of all on the planet, wasting all the resources we possess, only to maximise profit for shareholders. We certainly do have an abundance of resources if they were only managed properly, which can only be done in a resource based economy.

Money

But the most scarcity is produced from the most elusive ‘resource’ we have; Money.

Money is and will always be, scarce, to about 90% of the population on this planet. Why? Because that is the nature and design of the monetary system. Money is not designed to reach the lower parts of the pyramid in any great amounts per person, thus creating not only a scarcity of money for that family, but also a scarcity of the needed resources.

Through interest and ownership money is naturally flowing upwards. The ‘trickle down’ economics advocated by the rich do exactly that with money; trickle. Just enough, barely, to keep the workers work ‘down there’, day in and day out. Just enough money is ‘trickled’ down in the form of small salaries for hours upon hours of work, thus, keeping money and most other resources scarce for 90% of all of us. Because too much of it would cause inflation, as we all know. Or would it?

The discussion of a basic income is getting higher and higher up on government agendas around the world. The long lasting results of a basic income in the western world is yet to be known. But tests in Africa and India are very promising, with the communities flourishing and people doing more work than before. The difference being that now they do what they love, providing a needed service to the community, instead of slaving away at something for a corporation, if they could ‘get a job’ at all. With a basic income more people could create their own jobs, minimising the for corporations and governments to create the jobs for them.

Money could easily be abundant for all the world’s people, and it would probably not create inflation, but rather more collaboration, inventiveness and community. It might also increase consumption and boost the ‘economy’ even more, which in our monetary system would be good of course, but not necessary for the wellbeing of the planet.

This topic is an article in itself. All I will say about it here is I think a basic income could be used as a stepping stone towards a global resource based economy as it promotes a decentralisation of resources and an empowering of people, which is exactly what a resource based economy is all about.

Conclusion

There is no overpopulation on planet earth. We can easily provide in abundance for everyone here, and even double, triple or quadruple that if we really like. All we need to do that is to create a resource based economy, making sure food and resources is created where people need them, and empower people to create their own lives wherever they live.

To keep the population manageable, though, and prevent any unnecessary population increase, education and living standard are the best methods for that. Statistics show clearly a decrease in birth rate in several developed countries where the population is educated and have a relatively high standard of living.

A resource based economy can easily provide all of the above, when we stop relying on measuring everything in money, hoard through private ownership and trade for profit, but instead maximise and share our resources, use custodianship and usership, and create a truly free world for all.

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9 Responses so far.

  1. Santi says:

    Great information. I am a square-foot gardening teacher and permaculture consultant and the above data is accurate. We average 144-500 annual food servings in just (1) 3’x12′ raised garden bed. I am currently working on a 1/8 of an acre (prefab) tiny homestead prototype to show how one can grow the majority of their diverse caloric needs in a very small space. The prototype blueprint is divided into 2 sections (micro and macro). In the first year of production the micro section alone has the capability to meet the majority of one person’s needs roughly (2700-3000 square-feet).

  2. To answer the question of overpopulation, we first need to figure out what it takes for humans to thrive rather than merely survive. I suggest that having ready access to wilderness, away from society, is an important part of this – to take time out, reflect on our lives and our place in the world, and find meaning and purpose to our existence. We stand to lose far more than gain from cultivating and consuming every last part of the Earth, no matter how numerous we might become.

  3. About agriculture- urban farming sounds awesome on paper- but name a urban farm that grows grains. That’s where the calory base of our diet is- in grain. Even many farmers embracing John Jeavons Grow Biointensive System guidelines do not use 60% of their land to grow carbon crops such as grains. You can grow vegetables in the city- no problem. But consider where to get the calories from, and consider where to get the compost from. If you import compost- that’s not sustainable and it is almost impossible to produce enough compost to met your needs growing veg alone.

  4. Cherie says:

    Great point. We can all live like the people in this Rio neighborhood! The whole globe can look like this! As long as we have food brought in and sewage piped out, what is to complain about?

    Most brilliant author, can we move you to this neighborhood today so you can write about the glories of living in the (non-overpopulated world to come)?

    www.pulsamerica.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/favela.jpg

  5. Bongo says:

    Interesting that you don’t say anything about wildlife. The number of wild animals on the planet has declined by 50% already as human population has grown.

  6. Thank you for such a well thought out and researched article. I am just reading a book about the big reduction in population in parts of Russia and it certainly is a huge problem.
    The wise use of technology and creative thinking can solve so many of the world’s problems. Suprisingly I am sad that oil prices are so low at the moment, it is causing huge stress but worse still delaying the develpment of totally clean fuel production. Fuel can be produced using algae, which thrives on sewage and carbon dioxide, this is fascinating as the more you use the cleaner the planet. A bonus of alternative energy is the repopulation of rural areas. Good leadership and creativity, must take over from the greed mentality, it should be illegal to sealed batteries into iphones!

  7. Dev says:

    Excellent reality check article, thanks for posting it. Love those map projections of global population as a single city, they really put things in perspective.

  8. […] BY HARALD SANDØ ON MARCH 18, 2015 · A […]

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