The fact that at some point with an endlessly increasing number, population would be a problem, doesn’t have anything to do with our situation now. If we could somehow magically eliminate the poorest 6 billion people we’d still have about 80% of the greenhouse problem and most other ecological problems left to solve some other way. This climate and larger ecological crisis is being caused by the rich, who are not growing in numbers through births, The richest billion cause 80% of the problem, the poorest half of humanity causes only 7% of the GHGs and that’s where all significant population growth is happening–among people who have almost no effect on global ecological problems. (In fact, since the rich control where the poor live, what work they do and almost everything else about their lives as well as the political-economic systems we live under, the rich are responsible for even more of this problem than what they cause directly.)
Further, population growth rates are declining, as they have been since the 1960s. By 2050, population itself is expected to peak at about 8.9 billion and then decline, although none of the standard projections factor in the inevitable increase in death rates because of climate catastrophe, so it will almost certainly peak sooner and lower and decline faster than expected. Our problem is consumption by the rich.
trilemmaman is wrong if by standard of living s/he means we can all live as consumptively as people in the US. There is a level at which we can all live for quite a while if we equalize, prioritize what’s important for health, happiness and fulfillment and make ecological living our number one concern. Since population is going to decline soon, but not soon enough to save us from catastrophe, we have a way forward–immediately reduce inequality and the impact of the rich (through efficiency; conservation; clean safe renewable energy, a transformation of agriculture to low-meat organic permaculture…), reduce population growth as much as possible (the lunatic right is holding us back from all those goals)
People we could credibly categorize as rich are overwhelmingly white. If you categorize wealth and power according to owner it’s even more overwhelmingly white, western and northern hemispheres–the US and Europe. If you have 4 things–a roof, a bed, clothes in a closet and food in a refrigerator–you have more than about 85% of the people in the world. That makes it very clear that this problem is caused by the richest few percent of people, and only they can stop it.
The popularity of the population meme* is because those people causing the problem and manipulating others to keep the system we have, want to blame someone else. In our society, the easiest and most credible people to blame anything on is people of color–voila! le population problem. With the poor people of color of the world causing a minuscule part of the problem and the rich, overwhelmingly white obviously causing almost all of it
Here’s a thought experiment that more accurately represents our situation: Without any other damage, all people on Earth are gone but 10. Nine of them decide to live as our ancestors did–in the woods, stone age technology. The other 1 travels around in a B2 bomber, destroying military and civilian nuclear reactors, waste depositories, processing facilities, missile sites, toxic waste and chemical storage sites, and sensitive ecological areas. So the average impact as well as the total impact of humanity have both gone up since there were 7 billion of us. The people in the forest decide they must have a population problem (they’re conservatives and believe the PIPP meme) so they kill half of their number to reduce humanity’s impact. Oops! The guy (you know it would be a guy) with the bomber is learning how to blow things up better so the people in the forest find both the total and average impact of humanity has again gone…UP! So thinking they still have a population problem, they decide to kill half of their group… So there are 2 questions, on which your whole grade will be based. And really they’re the same question: How many more times will the people in the forest repeat this insane cycle? and Just how stupid are these conservative assholes?
*The number of PIPPs, Population Is the Problem People, seems to be growing, and that seems like a more serious problem than the soon-to-be-declining number of people on Earth. I think that’s what we should talk about–how so many people can be duped into believing such an absurd lie.