Overpopulation In America – And Its Cures

Anne H. Ehrlich, Paul R. Ehrlich | November 14, 2019 | Leave a Comment Download as PDF


It is more important now than ever to talk about population. What will we do if we continue to grow at exponential rates? What are ethical, viable strategies to decrease population?

This is a blog in the MAHB ‘Let’s Talk About Population’ Blog Series.

Rich white people love to hold meetings to discuss the “population problem,” which always end up focusing on the very real demographic difficulties of those with darker skin tones, especially people who live in Africa and Latin America. But isn’t it really time for the poor people of the world, especially those not in need of tanning beds, to extend a helping hand to the major villains of the destruction of humanity’s life-support systems? Could they not hold an educational conference in Washington D.C. to explain why civilization is going down the drain to the per-capita most environmentally destructive giant nation on the planet? Leaders from the “south” could both organize the event and supply experts to educate the wealthy and middle class on their ethical responsibilities and ways to meet them. We envision learning sessions on topics such as:

Avoiding the second child.

The population problem beyond numbers: inequality and waste of talent. 

Are borders ethical?

Population shrinkage for politicians.

GDP shrinkage for economists.

Do Trump and his colleagues prove that the lighter your skin, the lighter your brain?

Citizens United: It’s time for euthanasia for corporations.

Redistribution and survival.

Disbanding “Murder Incorporated”: Gun manufacturers and big pharma.

How to end plastic production.

The historical contributions of the global south to the food enjoyed by the north.

How biodiversity loss is accompanied by the loss of human cultural diversity

We know our populations are growing too fast; how to help us help ourselves.

Why anti-abortion laws kill poor women.

You can doubtless think of others; the possibilities are endless. We would expect strong support from all environmental NGOs and foundations, since no NGO or foundation could call itself “environmental” unless it had a strong interest in the humane reduction in the numbers of people, reduction of overconsumption, and reduction of inequity of all kinds. See you in Washington.

 Anne Ehrlich and Paul Ehrlich

The MAHB Blog is a venture of the Millennium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere. Questions should be directed to joan@mahbonline.org.

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The views and opinions expressed through the MAHB Website are those of the contributing authors and do not necessarily reflect an official position of the MAHB. The MAHB aims to share a range of perspectives and welcomes the discussions that they prompt.
  • Pountzos

    Population in the US would be declining if it were not for immigration, just like in all other developed nations. Not much more needs to be done. Populations in some Asian nations, including China, will also be set to decline in time as the birthrate is below replacement level. Africa, on the other hand, is still experiencing a population explosion.

    There are not likely to be any policy solutions to any of our major problems–so an emphasis on expanding the power of the state–a totalitarian state would be needed “to limit births in the US to one child per 20 families”–is both a misdirection and profoundly disturbing. Policy has managed to mitigate some environmental problems to some extent (air and water pollution in developed nations, for instance) while having virtually no effect on others (loss of biodiversity, greenhouse gas emissions and climate change). The problem does not lie with policy or even politics. Largely it is civilizational–with slightly more of the blame going to industrialization than to capitalism–and evolutionary: we have evolved into the dominant species without enough time for our cognitive abilities to adapt to the position. Driven by forces they are only vaguely aware of, individuals and societies alike feed themselves to the point of sickness and disease, and eventually collapse.

    Sure, short sighted politicians deserve some of the blame. Benighted voters deserve some blame. Corporations–fictional entities but identifiable through the actions of their agents–are certainly efficient means of converting natural capital into money, and know of no bounds to profit seeking behavior, even if it means undermining the very natural foundations of their own enterprises. Yet the truth is, no one has the answers. There is no suite of policies that would transform our world. There is no chance of getting people to agree by consensus to avert disaster by adopting simple, sustainable lifestyles. There is no way to avoid the rise of ruthless armed non-state actors (think ISIS and Mexican drug gangs) when environmental crisis weakens the control that states have over their territories. There will be no salvation through an environmental dictatorship, nor will more and more deliberative democracy help us very much.

    There is, in fact, no way out.

    What you can do is clean up your own act. You can practice in a spiritual tradition and make yourself a better, calmer, less angry person. You can adopt a low impact plant-based diet sourced from local plants (google environmental impacts of almonds and avocados, stick with potatoes and carrots). You can give up your vehicle. You can sell your house and move into a tiny house, and ride a bike. You can learn to grow food. You can help your neighbors and try to preserve as much of the local environment as you possibly can.

    That’s about it but that’s plenty for a humble human.

  • trilemmaman

    Finally, the truth be told. Thank you Mr & Ms. Ehrlich! It has been us, and remains us in the developed nations that create most of the environmental problems. Our consumption patterns generate anywhere from 20 to 200 times the negative environmental consequences as someone born in Haiti, rural China, or the Sudan. The first population control law that needs to be passed to protect the environment is to limit births in the US to one child per 20 families, and devote the savings in health and medical care costs to funding the 17 SDGs…the only comprehensive measure to reduce global birth rates. FYI: If you make more than $30,000 per year, you are in the top 1% of humanity, 40% chance of being obese, 90% chance of using a gasoline engine (when walking, biking, or mass transit could have been used), and contribute infinitely more to your trash can than you do helping those around the world who are lethally at risk of poverty, violence, and pollutions– that US policies contributed to…or ignored….because most of us were too busy being entertained and feeling good about ourselves — instead educating our elected policy makers to invest in preventive measures and sustainable solutions that already exist…and in the long run, more affordable, and able to reduce the unsustainable debt that’s going to bring our overconsumption life style to a very ugly end. Perhaps sooner than climate change.

  • Greeley Miklashek

    Great suggestion by two of my heroes! I, however, would like to add a subject for the proposed conference to discuss: “How population density stress is killing us NOW through all of our “diseases of civilization”, which are increasing exponentially.” More on my adjoining blog post, thanks to Brittany! Liberating women to make a free choice to reproduce or not in an overpopulated and increasingly unwelcoming world, have ready access to affordable contraception, education, and meaningful work, is the key element for reducing the current output of 230,000 new humans daily, 80M/yr. Free women have always been the key to this problem! Stress R Us

    • trilemmaman

      Do your homework and double check your math. Some of the most sparsely populated areas in the world are some of the poorest and most lethal to its inhabitants. (Talk about stress. Try going with out food or clean water for a few days..). And some of the densest populations are the most wealthy, well organized, and healthy. We are both cherry picking stats…but the fact remains the primary diseases of our civilization are cultural, political, and cognitive in origin. The primary diseases in poorer nations are obvious to them and preventable if they had the resources. We don’t know we’re sick. We keep blaming those we elected.

  • Howard Goldson

    You are correct that the solutions require developing world participation, however bringing in their elite to D.C. to talk will not accomplish anything. What is needed is for people like you to live among the people of those nations for several years so as to gain knowledge and respect for their views and to earn their trust. Only then can a meaningful dialogue happen. Such discussion must include people from every social and economic class and not just the elite.

  • Dana Visalli

    Why didn’t you warn us about this danger 50 years ago?

    • Mark Haubner

      I hope you are joking…Paul was condemned to Hades for his book 50 years ago.

      • trilemmaman

        If you read his book closely yes. The general message most rich people took away…there’s too many people in the world and those dark skinned ignorant hordes are going to ruin it for the rest of us. AND, Family planning is the only solution. But here’s a quote they missed. “The critical prerequisites to reduced fertility are five: adequate nutrition, proper sanitation, basic health care, education of women, and equal rights for women.” Paul Ehrlich, The Population Explosion. 1991

  • melharte

    another session idea : Legislating Free Family Planning For All!