RSS
Are there too many people on Earth?
Everybody
 

W

hat happened
Soaring food and energy costs pushed up U.S. wholesale prices in May at their fastest rate in six months. Stripping out food and fuel, the core index climbed 1.4 percent in May and 3 percent from a year ago, marking the biggest annual increase since 1991. (Times Online)

What the commentators said
Everybody’s talking about sky-high oil and food prices, said Jack Z. Smith in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, yet the headlines seldom hint at a key cause: “the relentless uptick in global population.” Another “77 million energy-consuming people” are crowding onto the planet every year, and this squeezes supplies of fossil fuels, fresh water, and "steadily decreasing land available for crops."

Thomas Malthus was wrong when he said population growth causes hunger and shortages, said Jeff Jacoby in The Boston Globe. More people means more mouths to feed, but also more entrepreneurs and problem solvers. Which is why human beings are “healthier, wealthier," and better-fed than ever, even though Earth’s population climbed from 980 million to 6.5 billion over the past two centuries. The real tragedy would be depopulation—and birth trends suggest that may be where we’re headed.

There are ways to improve our lot, said Phil Edwards and Ian Roberts of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in the Kansas City Star. Obese people consume 18 percent more food energy than the “normal weight population," and automobile addicts clearly burn too much fuel. If everybody would park their cars and burn off the fat by walking and cycling more, we “would reduce the global demand for, and thus the price of, food.”
 

THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER

Subscribe to the Week