TOO MANY PEOPLE:
The Case for Reversing Growth
Nearly two centuries ago, Charles Dickens serialized some of his novels in journals of the time. NPG has borrowed and updated the idea by placing chapters from Lindsey Grant's TOO MANY PEOPLE: THE CASE FOR REVERSING GROWTH on the NPG website. Please note, some chapters have been abbreviated and do not include the charts and graphs mentioned in the text. However, a complete version is available. See below for ordering information.
Donald Mann, NPG President
I. THE ISSUE AT HAND (posted 12/13/02)
Human populations have quadrupled in a century and raise the question, do we not need to reverse the growth to save the systems that support us?
II. POPULATION AND MIGRATION (posted 12/19/02)
The worlds rich get fewer and richer, and the poor get childrenand migrate.
III. ECONOMIC GROWTH (posted 1/9/03)
What about one billion people, living like we live and they want to live?
IV. GRAINS (posted 1/23/03)
The pursuit of high yields is dumping chemicals into the system like never before, but we are losing the battle. Your share of the Earth gets smaller. What about two billion people living in better balance with the system?
V. IRRIGATION AND WATER (posted 2/12/03)
We are running out of accessible and affordable water. Desalinization is a very expensive way to water crops. We would be a lot better off if there were a lot fewer of us.
VI. MEAT AND FISH (posted 2/27/03)
Most protein is derived from grain. We are past the end of the dream of more protein from the prairies or the sea.
VII. CLIMATE (posted 3/13/03)
Prepare to be much warmerand maybe under water. We are unlikely to avoid that future with a population much more than three billion.
VIII. ENERGY (posted 3/26/03)
Coal is our biggest and dirtiest fossil energy resource. It hastens climate warming and fouls the Earth. Better energy is available, but very expensive. What we are looking for is a few prosperous consumers.
IX. POLLUTION (posted 4/15/03)
We have done something about the air, but the new round of issues is a rouser. Sewage, anybody?
X. BIODIVERSITY AND HUMAN SURVIVAL (posted 05/05/03)
Meet the world of microbes. We had better learn to get along with them, because we can't live without them and we can't push them around.
XI. THE IGNORANT EXPERIMENT (posted 05/22/03)
Things can go wrong faster than you think.
XII. THE END OF GROWTH (posted 06/24/03)
Learn family planning from Charles Darwin. If we recognize that growth is necessarily a temporary phenomenon on a finite Earth, we will see its limits and resist pressures for growth. We cannot rescue the poor from poverty until we realize that more goods for more people is an environmental disaster.
XIII. THE EUROPEAN EXAMPLE (posted 07/31/03)
Don't panic over Europe's declining population. At least, they are on the road to sustainability.
XIV. THE BLACK DEATH & THE RENAISSANCE (posted 08/22/03)
The law of supply and demand applies to labor, too, but rising mortality is a brutal way to find prosperity. Our business leaders would have us believe that growth brings prosperity. For them, perhaps, but not for others. Labor would be much better off, and so would most of us, if right now there were half as many people in the poor countries seeking a living.
XV. A NEW AMERICAN MIND-SET (posted 09/10/03)
We are a singularly cantankerous crowd. We must learn to cooperate for the common good, help the poor countries to deal with a population problem they recognize, and learn to manage our own fertility and our migration policies, or we will wind up a huge, poor country without having really helped those who are already poor.
XVI. AND WHY NOT? (posted 09/10/03)
Meet The Happiness Curve, and consider whether it might be rather fun to be less crowded.
© 2000 by Lindsey Grant. All rights reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without prior written permission from the publisher, except for brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to the publisher, addressed Attention: Permissions Coordinator, at the address below.
Seven Locks Press
P.O. Box 25689
Santa Ana, CA 92799
Individual Sales. This book is available through most bookstores or can be ordered directly from Seven Locks Press at the address above.
Quantity Sales. Special discounts are available on quantity purchases by corporations, associations, and others. For details, contact the Special Sales Department at the publishers address above.
Printed in the United States of America
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
is available from the publisher
ISBN 0-929765-93-1 (cloth)
ISBN 0-929765-91-5 (paper)
Cover and interior design and production by Sparrow Advertising & Design
The author and publisher assume neither liability nor responsibility to any person or entity with respect to any direct or indirect loss or damage caused, or alleged to be caused, by the information contained herein, or for errors, omissions, inaccuracies, or any other inconsistency within these pages, or for unintentional slights against people or organizations.
About the Author
LINDSEY GRANT writes on population and public policy. A retired Foreign Service Officer, he was a China specialist and served as Director of the Office of Asian Communist Affairs, National Security Council staff member, and Department of State Policy Planning Staff member.
As Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Environment and Population Affairs, he was Department of State coordinator for the Global 2000 Report to the President, Chairman of the interagency committee on International Environmental Affairs, United States delegate to (and Vice Chairman of) the OECD Environment Committee and United States member of the UN ECE Committee of Experts on the Environment.
His books includes Juggernaut: Growth on a Finite Planet, Foresight and National Decisions: The Horseman and the Bureaucrat, Elephants in the Volkswagen (a study of optimum United States population) and How Many Americans?
This book was originally written as a handbook for Negative Population Growth, Inc., to make the case as to why a population turnaround is very badly needed, in the United States and most of the rest of the world. I am appreciative that James Riordan and Seven Locks Press have undertaken to offer it to a broader audience.
I wish to thank Donald Mann of Negative Population Growth for his enthusiastic support of the project, and David Simcox, Bud Sperry, and Richard Maxwell for their helpful advice and editing as the text progressed.
I. THE ISSUE AT HAND
They say the Demilitarized Zone in Korea, which had long been a barren region, has reverted to a lovely young hardwood forest since it was freed from the human footprint by the 1953 armistice agreement. It is an unexpected and accidental commentary on the role of man in nature. In this age of human dominance, we inadvertently destroy the natural systems that support us, and it is only by chance that we are suddenly aware of what we have done.
Our future depends on learning to come into better balance with the rest of nature and to find a sustainable relationship we have yet to achieve. To pose the issue as a more somber question: is the present course of human activities consistent with the preservation of the Earth's existing life support systems? In this essay, I will survey the current evidence and make the case that we can turn the present deteriorating system around only by ending the worldwide infatuation with growth and embracing the idea of a return to a smaller population.
Just as perpetual growth in a finite space is a mathematical absurdity, its reversal becomes equally absurd if carried too far, except for those who would applaud the disappearance of the human race. The reversal of growth (negative population growth or NPG) to my mind is the ideal of a turnaround in world and United States population until we approach a less destructive and more tolerable level, perhaps at numbers the United States and the world passed two or more generations ago.
Europe's population growth is on the verge of turning around, and the almost universal reaction has been panic at the prospectas if the population it so recently attained is essential to its survival. The reaction illuminates the general infatuation with growth. Few questions were raised as population grew, but the end of growth is seen as a disaster. I will argue later that a smaller European population would be good for Europe and the world.
Humans since the Neolithic age have been proficient at disturbing and displacing natural systems, notably through forest destruction, land erosion and species extinction. With the advent of the industrial revolution, we have multiplied our disturbance as we extract minerals from the air and the Earths crust, invent new chemicals and dump them all heedlessly into the biosphere. Now we are on the threshold of adding genetic manipulationdeliberately redesigning animals and plantsthat may be as destabilizing as the earlier two revolutions. We are changing the Earth without having demonstrated that we know how to manage it.
There is something new on Earth: human systems have grown to the point at which the damage we do has become intolerable, not only to other species, but to our own future. As our problems have been caused or compounded by the growth of populations and economic activity, their solution requires that we turn growth around.
This book will explore several sectors where human activity is pressing hard against the environment. I will attempt to sort out how much the impacts can be mitigated by technology or changing behavior and to what degree a population decline or stabilization is essential to success. I will focus on present trends in world population, economic activity, food, water, energy and climate, chemicals and pollution, and loss of biodiversity. In some of these areas, one can roughly quantify population levels that would make a solution possible. They come out in the one to three billion range. In others, such as climate and energy, so much depends on mankinds ability and willingness to embrace technical solutions that a desirable population number cannot be offeredit is a two-part calculation that involves balancing numbers and behavior. In none of the areas, be it noted, can it reasonably be argued that a larger population helps in finding solutions.
If I seem to belabor the population connection, bear with me. All these issues have a self-evident connection to population growth. I find it astonishing that the technical literature seldom touches upon that connection and neveralmost literally nevermentions population policy as part of the solution. (I did a search of the literature for the 1997 United Nations (UN) General Assembly session on sustainability, and it was a disheartening proof of that point (1).
Back to Top
There is some reason for satisfaction. Conventional pollution of the air and water have declined somewhat in the industrial world because of the growing awareness of the environment. As to solid wastes, 27 percent of municipal waste is now recycled in the United States, but 116 million tons still go into landfills each year. The European experience suggests that the recycled proportion could be doubled. After that, further gains probably depend on changing our packaging and consumption habitsand on the size of the population. There have been gains in industrial toxic releases, but they still total 3.3 million tons annually. Pesticide residues in food samples have gone down somewhat since the 1970s. They are still found in 34 percent of the samples, but only about 1 percent of the samples are over EPA’s permissible levels.28 I think it is fair to generalize this way: industrial nations have had some success in dealing with the pollution sources recognized early, but they are learning how much more pervasive the problem is than was originally thought.
The less-developed countries do not have even that satisfaction. Pollution is rising to levels that the industrial world never suffered, and there is no end in sight.
The release of minerals and chemicals into“the environment” is worldwide. This is not an external abstraction. Those substances have made their way into plants and animals, all of us, around the planet, and we don’t know the consequences. In this section, I will explore the issue sector by sector.
The Atmosphere. I will start on a high note. In the United States (as in Europe), the battle with air pollution is one of our few real environmental success stories. We have not been able to stop the growth of carbon dioxide emissions, but since 1978, thanks to legislation such as the Clean Air Act of 1970, we have reduced carbon monoxide emissions by 32 percent, sulfur dioxide by 35 percent, fine particulates by 37 percent, lead emissions by 98 percent. The atmosphere has improved roughly in line with those gains. Nitrogen oxides have gone up 11 percent, but that is a lot less than population growth and rising automobile use would have caused without the Act.
If we have won those battles, we have also learned the limits of technical fixes. We have run out of the cheaper gains. Broadly speaking, we have taken most of those gains to their conclusion but we have not yet really grappled with the automobile culture. The question is, where can further improvements come from?
Let us look at five EPA graphs of emissions trends in the past decade.29
Sulfur dioxide. The gains were finished by 1984. Economic stagnation led to a slight decline in the early’90s, but prosperity has brought a rising trend since then.
Sulfur emissions are almost entirely the product of electricity generation, particularly from coal burning power plants. There are still some old plants, particularly in the Middle West, that are heavy emitters and are currently the targets of a lawsuit filed by EPA and the Eastern downwind states. This gives us room for some further small gains, but the solution will not come until coal gasification and alternative energy are forced upon us.
Nitrogen oxides. The twin culprits here are energy generation and the automobile. Technical fixes are harder to come by than with sulfur dioxide, and our national love affair with the automobile has dampened our legislators’ enthusiasm for doing anything serious.
Average mileage per gallon has been declining since 1988. It peaked at 25.9 mpg then; it is down to 23.8 mpg now.30 The graph tells it all. Progress has stagnated because of consumers’ new passion for sports utility vehicles (SUVs) and Congress’ unwillingness to discourage it.
If this reflects the national level of commitment to environmentally benign behavior, we need a much lower U.S. population to contain the consequences of our living habits.
Much the same story can be said of fine particulates, which the EPA began to log only a decade ago when it became clear that fine particulates are more serious threats to health than soot. We have not progressed since then.
Ozone emissions have flattened since 1988, and the effect of ozone on children, asthmatics, and bronchial disease sufferers has become a hot new issue.
Figure 9-4 shows that we have quite a way to go. The EPA reports that there are 107 million Americans living in counties with air pollutant concentrations above the national air quality standards, mostly because of ozone. The American Lung Association (ALA), drawing on the same data, says“More than 132 million Americans live in areas with dangerous levels of smog... While emissions of some air pollutants have gone down, and the nation’s overall air quality has improved over the past 30 years, much of that progress has been in eliminating obvious pollution and sources. Many of the less visible pollutants, such as ozone, have been reduced far less, and as understanding of the health effects of air pollution has advanced, it has become clear that much of the nation still faces major air pollution problems.”31
Here is one final graph; it shows lead emissions. We made spectacular gains in the’70s and’80s by taking lead out of gasoline and paints, but we have reached a plateau.
Not very high, perhaps, but it is cumulative and does not include the lead that is leaching into groundwater from mining tailings, dumps, and other sites all over the country (see below). Lead is getting into the biosphere at a rate unknown before the industrial revolution. We tend to score our environmental successes like a ball game, but air pollution is just one ball game. What happens to the lead when it leaves the air? What is the cumulative impact? We don’t know how to answer those questions, because our scientific methods have trouble dealing with such broad issues. (The government of Denmark tried to ban all products containing lead, but the European Union ruled out the proposed regulations because the environmental impact was, it said, insufficiently documented.)
The reader will notice that none of the above graphs deals with rising carbon dioxide levels and global warming. Nor do they cover all the bases. Coal has unpleasant by-products such as mercury. It is a heavy metal that becomes intensely toxic when transformed by microbial action. A recent study tabulated annual releases of 179,000 pounds of mercury from the smokestacks and in the cinder ash of 400 U.S. power plants.32 The Minimata or“dancing cat disease” outbreak in Japan resulted from mercury poisoning when people ate fish poisoned by trace amounts from a nearby factory. One gram of mercury per year in a 25-acre lake can make the fish unsafe to eat. Even the trout in idyllic remote mountain lakes are now unsafe. Most states in this country have set advisory warnings as to how much freshwater fish can safely be consumed.
I have been discussing the United States. The worldwide problem of air pollution and acid deposition is expected to intensify in coming decades. The major LDCs are emerging into the industrial era, and there is not much evidence that they recognize the severity of the problems they are creating. China and India alone constitute 38 percent of the world’s populationtwice the size of the present industrial world. As they industrialize, sulphur dioxide emissions in Asia are expected to treble from 1990 to 2010.
There is immense pressure building on the environment as poor nations seek to live the“good life,” and the rich demonstrate that they are not inclined to abandon it.
In so far as the world cannot or will not pay for expensive technologies to manage pollution, we would be well advised to reduce the population-driven demand that multiplies it.
The Land. In the air pollution statistics I cited, the popular assumption is that we have disposed of the problem. More accurately, we have slowed the rate at which we make things worse. Moreover, we have often simply transferred the issue to the land and water. Air pollution eventually descends on forests, farmlands, grassland, lakes, and the sea. I have mentioned lead and mercury, but nitrogen saturation is an even more pervasive question. I have discussed the environmental impacts of nitrogen fertilizers, but airborne nitrogen is even more ubiquitous than fertilizer. It leaches forests of nutrients, eutrophies lakes, and reduces the diversity of grasslands. The World Resources Institute says that“While the risks of global warming... are fairly common knowledge today, the dangers of the world’s heavy nitrogen habit have gone largely unheralded so far, although this habit may be as pervasive and hard to address as cutting greenhouse gas emissions.”33
Lakes and forests have not recovered as much from the reduced emissions of pollutants as scientists had expected. The“damage... from acid deposition may be more fundamental and long-lasting than was at first believed.”34 This seems to be a demonstration of scientists’ generalized warnings that it may be generations before the consequences of our activities become evident.
Several studies have been undertaken to measure the human impact on the Earth by measuring the human appropriation of the total energy available from photosynthesis or the human disturbance to the land. Those estimates suggest that human activity is affecting something like 40 percent of terrestrial nature. The examples I have been discussing would suggest that such measurements understate our impact; it is universal.
Water and Health. I will deal first with the poor countries. Urban populations in the less-developed countries have grown sixfold since 1950, from 304 million to two billion; they are expected to pass four billion by 2030. Those dry numbers do not convey the horror of expanding slums, festering in the breakdown of urban services and the lack of basic necessities like clean water. Some 90 percent of the sewage in those cities go untreated into ditches and watercourses, and much of it is re-used immediately by people with no other option.35
Rural populations have doubled, and some well-intended improvements actually promote disease. Irrigation, with its stagnant or slow-moving water, has promoted diseases such as malaria, schistosomiasis, river blindness, dengue fever, encephalitis, and filariasis.36 By one estimate, 50 percent of the people in less developed countries are suffering at any given time from water and food-related diseases.37
To argue that those governments could do better, as crowded Europe does, is to miss the point. Their success has been their failure. They have been overwhelmed by numbers and, unlike Europe, continuing population growth wipes out the health gains they made, and which had made the population growth possible.
Now let us look at the industrial world. In the United States, we have had less success with water pollution than with air pollution, despite massive efforts such as interceptor sewers. The proportion of lakes and rivers in satisfactory condition has stayed fairly constant in recent decades and is now about 58 percent of the total area sampled. Some measures of water quality have improved, but the fecal bacteria count, a key indicator, has risen again.38 Nitrates and phosphates show no particular trend, which suggests that the ongoing loading from the land is going out to sea or being absorbed and perhaps transformed in lake bottoms. Something is happening to it, and our lack of knowledge is a bit disconcerting.
The industrial world treats its drinking water to get rid of the pathogens, but we are forced more and more to recycle it. The idea of drinking processed sewage is initially a shock, but we are getting used to it as we press harder on the supply. Recycling should also remove the nitrates, to protect our health and the downstream environment, but that requires expensive tertiary treatment, and only about half the sewage plants in the United States (measured by capacity) have that capability. Even some of the tertiary treatments fail to get rid of the nitrates; they simply move the nitrogen out of the water and onto the land rather than returning it to the air as an inert gas. Here again, heavy use of a resource leads to rising costs to deal with the consequences of overuse. Municipalities have not spent the money to keep up with the damage.
Another nasty problem has just been recognized: the recycling of drugs. Researchers in Europe, Canada, the United States and Brazil have found medical drugs in water samples. The human race is addicted to medicine, and some of the drugs pass through the human body into sewage water and then into lakes and streams, and then back into drinking water. The drugs include painkillers, various cholesterol regulators, antiseptics, chemotherapy agents, antibiotics, and hormones. Drug residues were detected in all 64 drinking-water samples collected in Berlin. Even tertiary treatment won’t get rid of them. It requires another step: activated carbon filters.
Documented ecological impacts include the occurrence of anti-biotic resistant bacteria in rivers (including salmonella in the Rio Grande) and in birds, and sexual disruption of fish exposed to estrogenic chemicals.“Male fish in rivers receiving sewage effluent produce the female egg-yolk protein, vitellogenin, resulting from exposure to estrogenic compounds... in the low part-per-trillion range. The presence of vitellogenin in male fish has been related to widespread intersexuality, the appearance of female characteristics and the progressive disappearance of male characteristics, in the United Kingdom. Intersexuality can be a serious threat to the survival of affected species.”39
So far, the observation has been limited to fish and birds. Studies of the health effects of drinking other people’s recycled drugs are just getting under way. Various changes have been observed in humans, including the increase in feminine characteristics and declining sperm counts among males. They have been attributed to the practice of feeding estrogens and other hormones to livestock. I wonder if we may learn that recycled drugs play a role. A cheerful note.
These threats and dangers are imposed even on the industrial world by the effort to overuse our water resources. Why do we insist on punishing ourselves and our fellow creatures like this?
Chemicals. The problem of chemicals is all-pervasive. Let me quote the Illinois regional director of EPA when he learned that people were using the tailings of an abandoned mine as landfill:
Springfield, IL, May 8, 2000 (ENS). We want everyone to know this is not clean fill; it is not safe to use, said Skinner. The tailings at the mine, which look similar to limestone, have been analyzed and revealed high levels of lead, arsenic and zinc. Exposure to lead can affect the central nervous system, kidneys and immune system. Lead exposure is dangerous to young and unborn children, leading to premature births, smaller babies, decreased mental ability, learning difficulties and reduced growth. Arsenic exposure may result in gastrointestinal irritation, with symptoms such as pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Breathing inorganic arsenic increases the risk of lung cancer, and ingesting it increases the risk of skin cancer and tumors of the bladder, kidney, liver and lung. Breathing large amounts of zinc can cause an illness called metal fume fever. Consuming large amounts of zinc over a short period of time can cause stomach cramps, nausea and vomiting. Consuming zinc for a longer period of time may cause anemia, damage to the pancreas, nervous system effects, and lower the levels of“good” cholesterol in the body. Zinc levels in soil above those needed for maximal plant growth may produce toxic effects on plants.40
Agriculture is hardly alone in transferring minerals from the lithosphere to the biosphere. And that report is about just three minerals. Mine tailings send downstream a witches’ brew of toxic substances such as thorium, heavy metals, nitrates, and chlorides. The EPA reports that industry released 3.3 million metric tons of toxins in the United States in 1998. Mining and electric power are the biggest culprits, representing almost two thirds of the total.
New chemical compounds add to the brew. The American Chemical Society maintains the worldwide database for chemicals. Through 1999, it had registered over 22 million compounds; twice as many as it had by 1990 and four times as many as by 1980. (Of the 22 million, nearly six million were biosequences registered after 1993; this reflects the enormous growth of the genetic manipulation industry.) Not all of these substances are produced in significant quantities, of course. Perhaps 75,000 of them are commercially traded. Some of them such as fertilizers or industrial sulphuric acid enter the environment in enormous quantities.
We are just learning about the impact of even trace minerals and chemicals on life processes, but we haven’t yet put it together. There is no tabulation of the potential health or environmental effects of that incredible myriad of chemicals. The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in 1984 examined the literature on a tiny sample of commercially traded chemicals and concluded that we have barely begun to test them for their primary health effects. There are even fewer studies of their impact as they move through the environment and are transformed by chemical and microbial action. We do not know how their accumulation will affect the support systems on which we depend, particularly the microbes that have buffered their impact. And, apparently, the state of our knowledge has not advanced much since 1984.
A new scientific study illustrates my concern about what happens when those chemicals are transformed in the environment. Researchers have discovered a previously unknown gas, SF5CF3, which sounds like the ultimate nightmare for those trying to address global warming. Molecule for molecule, it is the most powerful greenhouse gas yet discovered18,000 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. Unlike carbon dioxide, there are no known sinks or natural processes to absorb it, and it may dwell in the atmosphere for 3200 years. The discoverers speculate that it may be the breakdown product of a gas used as an insulator in high voltage electrical equipment, but they don’t know. It apparently came into existence only during the past forty years. It presently is found in the atmosphere in almost infinitesimal amounts, but it is increasing 6 percent per year.41 That growth rate may not be sustained but it would mean a 340-fold increase in this century. The sources of that gas must be discovered and rooted out if there is to be a permanent solution to anthropogenic climate warming. And this may be just one of the surprises our industrious chemical industry has in store for all of us.
Let me move now to a more immediate problem that is better understood. I will quote at length from one particularly dramatic exposition, because it says what I am trying to say, but with much greater authority. It is about the chlorine family, whose members include everything from PVC plastics to dioxin:
New York, June 7, 2000 (ENS) They are part of a group of chemicals known as organochlorines, formed when chlorine gas produced by the chemical industry comes into contact with organic matter in industrial processes. There are 11,000 organochlorines produced commercially, and thousands more are formed as byproducts. They share the dangerous properties of persistence and stability in the environment, and accumulation in the fatty tissues of animals and humans. Although organochlorines have only been produced in large amounts since 1940, they now blanket the entire planet, reaching from the deep oceans to the high Arctic, from the Mississippi River to the Amazon rainforests.
“Everyone on Earth now eats, drinks and breathes a constantly changing and poorly characterized soup of organochlorines, including dozens of compounds that cause severe health damage at low doses,” said Joe Thornton, a biologist at Columbia University’s Center for Environmental Research and Conservation.
Thornton has written a new analysis of the global consequences of organochlorines, known as persistent organic pollutants (POPs).“Pandora’s Poison: Chlorine, Health and a New Environmental Strategy” presents a compelling body of evidence suggesting that these chemicals have already begun to cause large scale damage to public health, including increasing cancer rates and impaired child development.
Analyses of human fat, mothers’ milk, blood, breath, semen and urine demonstrate that everyonenot just those living near major pollution sourcesnow carries a“body burden” of toxic organochlorines in his or her tissues. At least 190 organochlorines, including dioxins, PCBs and DDT, have been identified in the tissues and fluids of the general population of the U.S. and Canada. Hundreds more are present but have not been chemically characterized.
Organochlorines have been linked to immune system suppression, falling sperm counts and infertility, as well as learning disabilities in children. More than 100 organochlorines cause cancer in laboratory animals or humans. . . . the more you eat, the more you carry. Animals higher up the food chain, such as eagles, wolves and humans, carry the burden of all the organochlorines from the meat they have eaten. In the Great Lakes region of the U.S., dioxin and related compounds have caused epidemic reproductive, developmental and immune system damage in fish, birds and mammals... Polar bears, which eat fish, seals and other heavily contaminated animals, carry some of the world’s highest levels of organochlorines in their tissues.“Contamination of polar bear tissues with dioxins and PCBs is so severe, in fact, that the bears’ body burdens exceed by a substantial margin the levels that are known to cause reproductive failure, immune suppression and altered brain development in other kinds of mammals,” Thornton writes.
Humans are not immune. Dioxin exposure is particularly severe for Arctic peoples, who eat a diet similar to the polar bears. Dioxin levels in the milk of Inuit mothers are two to 10 times higher than in the rest of the U.S. and Canadian populations.
“Organochlorines interfere with the basic machinery with which the body regulates itself,” said Thornton.‘They are incompatible with basic physiological functions.’ Because organochlorines are so stable in the environment, even banned substances like the pesticide DDT continue to poison the ground and water. Related chemicals, including Dursban, the most widely used pesticide in the U.S., are only now coming under restrictions.
“Organochlorines can’t be reduced to a handful of bad actor compounds like DDT,” he said . . .“Virtually all organochlorines tested have one or more toxic effects . . . . regulators and legislators should begin treating organochlorines not as individual substances but as single entity. ... Of the thousands of organochlorines in production, only a small fraction has been subject to basic toxicity testing, and complete health hazard information is available for none. Developing the information base to predict the health impacts of each chemical would take centuries, and in the meantime, the public is exposed to a cocktail of untested substances. . . . Even acceptable discharges build up to unacceptable levels.” . . . Already, the average body burden of dioxin alone in the U.S. is at or near the range where reproductive, developmental and immunological effects occur in laboratory animals. This newly named carcinogen is produced at some point during the lifecycle of all chlorine-based chemicalsin the production of chlorine gas, the synthesis of all organochlorines, and the combustion of any organochlorine product or waste . . . The levels of dioxin in the environment can only increase, as long as organochlorines are produced, Thornton warns.“Once we’ve got them, we’ve got them, and there’s no safe way of disposing of them . . .”42
Sympathize with the polar bears, trying to survive out on the thinning ice floes and accumulating toxins. Sympathize with us. The organochlorides are targeted directly at our own species, since we are high on the food chain. If your doctor is telling you to eat more vegetables and less meat, this is another convincing reason to listen.
The EPA has been wrestling for a decade with the risks from dioxins and it has just released parts of a revised assessment for public and scientific review. Thornton timed his news conference to coincide with an announcement by EPA that it has negotiated the phase-out of Dursban with the major producers, but he dismissed such actions as a hopeless effort to address just one of the issues posed by the organochlorine family.
Thornton is not alone. More than 100 prominent physicians, public health professionals, and scientists have appealed to the President“to develop a plan of action, which should include national and international commitments to the long-term goal of the virtual elimination” of the dioxin group. The executive director of Physicians for Social Responsibility said,“The industries flooding our environment with dioxin have denied its dangers while this report has been held up for nine years . . . This reassessment tells the truth they don’t want you to hear: dioxin is a dangerous cancer causing chemical that must be phased out . . .”43 The Director of EPA has called organochlorides a“World War II era” family of chemicals that should be phased out. As with mercury, or lead, or the other pollutants described above, the realization was belated.
Those concerns, and the industry’s resistance to hearing them, tell us a good deal about the problems of dealing with the explosive proliferation of chemicals in the past half-century. Chemicals are presumed innocent until proven guilty, and that is not enough for our protection. Both of the quotations above refer to clinical evidence of impairment to child development. Similar citations appear regularly in the literature. We worry about the widespread evidence of learning deficiencies among American children. I wonder whether the problems may have chemical as well as social roots.
Prudence would suggest that we delay the introduction of chemicals until we understand them well enough to have some confidence that they are harmless. What we are learning tells us to abandon our headlong flight into the unknown.
The immediate population connection is this: a larger population generates a larger demand for potentially dangerous substances. It makes a difference whether (say) one billion or two billion people are releasing a dangerous compound into a finite biosphere.
Freon (CFC or chlorofluorocarbon) came into common use in the 1930s and made possible the post-World War II growth of refrigeration and air conditioning; but it took forty years before two scientists discovered that it was destroying the stratospheric ozone that protects life from UV radiation. The ozone loss would not have been so great if there had been only half as many people using refrigerators and air conditioners.
Fortunately, there were workable substitutes for Freon (though they too may have unpleasant surprises in store for us. At least one of the substitutes is a more powerful greenhouse gas than Freon.) The shift to the substitutes was made with relatively little difficulty, but it can be much more difficult if we become dependent on new products such as commercial fertilizers and pesticides, because they can be justified as producing more food for growing populations. The argument is made that those substances must continue in use or people will suffer or starve.
If populations were not rising, we would not need to take a chance on unproven substances simply because they may help to provide for growing populations.
If we are to get into synch with our environment, there must be a massive research effort to learn the potential consequences of releasing different compounds into the environment. The scale would dwarf the present scientific campaigns to conquer cancer and AIDS and to map the human genome. It would not be a short-term affair; more than one health specialist has warned us that it might be“several generations” before we become aware of the effects on human health of the chemicals we are releasing now. I think again of organochlorides and of Freon and that forty-year delay.
Such research may force us to abandon or redesign many of our industrial and agricultural practices. This could be an economic revolution far larger than the energy transition. And unlike energy we do not have any clear idea of the magnitude of the problem or the nature of the solutions. Those solutions, whatever they are, may turn out to involve major declines in productivity in some sectors.
We can accept a trade-off of reduced productivity for a safer environment if we do not need the productivity to support growing populations. The problems of commercial fertilizers and dangerous pesticides and toxic organochlorides may be just the prelude.
There is a fundamental difference between two states of mind. If we are committed to growth, we ignore the dangers and precipitate the problems that science describes. If we conclude that growth itself is necessarily a temporary phenomenon on a finite Earth, we will be prepared to recognize its limits and inclined to resist pressures for uninformed growth.
If population growth were reversed, humans and other creatures might be spared the unexpected consequences of our activity such as the horrors of future Minimata disease outbreaks,“mad cow disease” and its transfer to humans, learning disabilities, the unexplained proliferation of certain forms of cancer, and errors like the thalidomide fiasco.
The recent expansion and commercialization of agriculture, our alteration of forests and wetlands, our chemical assault on the biosphere, and our newfound capability for genetic manipulation will play out in complex ways.
Familiar Species. We worry about our destruction of species, but at a rather simplistic level. We don’t want to lose the species we are familiar with, mostly mammals, birds, and fish. Under the Endangered Species Act, Americans go to great lengths to try to protect them. We seem incapable of understanding that we are losing their company primarily because we are usurping their environment. The solution lies in giving some of it back—much more than we have begun to contemplate in the creation of sanctuaries and biological reserves—and restoring their air and water. But we cannot do that while our own needs increase.
To belabor my refrain: the single best way to protect those species is to scale back our demands on the land and the economic activities that destroy them, and we are unlikely to get very far with such an idea unless we reduce our populations.
The World of Microbes. By focusing on vanishing species, we are worrying about a secondary problem. The preservation of a healthy environment requires a much broader look at our companion species. Start, perhaps, with honeybees. Nobody has put them on an endangered species list, because they are not approaching extinction. But they are being harmed by insecticide sprays, to the degree that it has affected the pollination of plants in some agricultural areas. The question is, do our activities affect the ability of other species to play their role in the environment?
And that takes us to a much more important question. When do we begin to think about the microbes that maintain the environment in which we live? We are interdependent with the entire web of nature and (to our astonishment) particularly with the microorganisms we cannot see and that we did not even imagine existed until the invention of the microscope.
As Professor Lynn Margulis is fond of pointing out (to the intense annoyance of traditionalists), microbes are the most important part of the biosphere in maintaining the livability of Earth systems:“If you lost the animals and plants, you might lose the speed, but you would never qualitatively lose the cycle. If you lost the microorganisms, you’d lose everything; you’d unhinge the articulations of the biosphere.”44
Humans vs. the Rest. The President’s Acid Rain Review Committee raised the most frightening environmental issue of all in 1983. It pointed out that soil microorganisms are particularly susceptible to a change in acidity and warned that:
“It is just this bottom part of the biological cycle that is responsible for the recycling of nitrogen and carbon in the food chain. The proper functioning of the denitrifying microbes is a fundamental requirement upon which the entire biosphere depends. The evidence that increased acidity is perturbing populations of microorganisms is scanty, but the prospect of such an occurrence is grave.”
That is a remarkably serious warning couched in the understatement of science. It is perhaps the nearest thing to a doomsday warning that has resulted from any environmental problem. Human activities could make the Earth uninhabitable by destroying the ability of earth microorganisms to stabilize the system. Unlikely—one may hope—but by no means impossible. Research has yet to dismiss that warning.
Any modern philosophy must take into account our dependence upon that unseen world.
We are all in this together. Including the microbes. I urge a widening circle of identification. Measure your belief and your actions against the question: How does this behavior affect the preservation of the Earth as a good place to live? Do my actions tend to help pass on an undiminished Earth?—Or better yet improve it for future generations? If the Earth is an interdependent system, does this not require solicitude for the variety of life, for the preservation of the complexity of Earth?
The Neutral Microbes. The microbes are pursuing their own interests and are not necessarily friend or foe. They stabilize the environment and the atmosphere, and they even protect us from our own excesses such as the headlong release of nitrogen. But other microbes like to feed on us, and they are doing very well. Our effort to defeat them simply encourages them to mutate, and they have a distinct advantage over us: they are prepared to accept heavy losses.“The microbes are challenging us in ways we wouldn’t have imagined ten years ago and for which we’re not prepared,” said Dr. James Hughes, director of the National Center for Infectious Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.45 We have not yet seriously begun to learn how to live with this cantankerous but essential invisible world.
Until we learn a lot more about our relationship with that microbial world, wisdom would suggest that we pursue the alteration of the environment with much more caution. Technology must not be under pressure to produce more food, or develop new toxins to deal with pests, or multiply the pharmacopoeia we already have, or tinker incessantly with the environment to keep up with rising human needs.
A sane species, if it had the knowledge we have, would step back from this blind experimentation with our life- support systems. It would deliberately seek to move back to a level of economic activity that left much of the non-human world intact to buffer the changes that we inflict on it.
Companions on a Small Planet. Of all the issues on Earth right now, perhaps the most fundamental is that we are in the midst of a colossal collision between biology and human growth. Growth had its place, but the Earth’s living systems are being subjected to intense pressures because of the malignant growth of one part of it: the human species. Our success has become our failure. In the 20th Century, the world’s population quadrupled from about 1.5 to six billion. Put it another way: we have added three times as many humans to the Earth’s surface in the past century as we had in all previous time. And we seek a consumptive life based on new industrial and agricultural techniques (the Industrial Revolution) that multiply the damage done by sheer numbers. We are indeed a greedy tribe.
That growth has placed strains on the Earth’s support systems unlike anything in previous human history. It has led to our usurpation of much of the biosphere that had been used by other creatures. And we are still growing.
More than one scientist has remarked that the human race is embarked on a vast, unplanned experiment to see what happens when we alter our environment. A refrain keeps beating incessantly in my head: we have changed the world more in the past two generations than in all previous human history and we don’t know what we are doing.
The Danger of Linear Projections. All of us, including environmentalists, tend to predict in a straight line; twice as much of something has twice the consequences. Most things don’t really move that way, because they generate synergies or feedback loops that accelerate the rate of change. Look again at the relationships I have been describing. There is a vast web of feedback loops, reinforcing each other to our disadvantage. LDC population growth requires more food and water. The effort to produce more food leads to forest destruction, which in turn affects the supply of water to grow food. The forest loss intensifies global warming, which in turn reduces food production and intensifies the need for more water. Fertilizers, pesticides, fossil fuels and chemicals all get us into comparable spirals.
We are almost certainly inducing changes at a pace faster than our linear thought processes can embrace.
One potential non-linearity is particularly frightening. It was described by the IPCC: climate warming may induce fundamental changes in the pattern of ocean currents. The IPCC was thinking particularly of the Gulf Stream. By the standards of geologic time, the Gulf Stream is new. If it were to weaken or move, northern Europe might have a climate like Labrador. The circulation pattern of the Gulf Stream is presently under intense scientific scrutiny to gain some sense of its causes and what might change it.
Thresholds. We use the idea of thresholds as the basis for toxicity standards. How many parts per million or billion can people take without visible harm? I suggest that we apply the idea much more widely and ask ourselves: what do we know about the level at which the microbe, like the human, is measurably poisoned by the rising presence of different chemicals? What is the synergistic effect on beneficial microbes of the mighty cocktail of chemicals and minerals humans are injecting into the microbes’ world? What level of soil acidity can the microbes tolerate?
This is a call for an intensification of scientific inquiry beyond anything presently contemplated, but the alternative is to gamble with our own future, without knowing the terms of the gamble.
Nations and industries are almost universally placing their trust in an endless series of best outcomes in the changes they set in motion. Non-linearities and thresholds underline the opposite possibility: the danger of accelerated or abrupt environmental deterioration.
Delayed Consequences. Forest fires are ravaging the American West even as I write this book. At night, I have watched trees torching like matches on distant mountain slopes. The U.S. Forest Service estimates that five million acres have been destroyed in this, the worst American forest fire season.
I have mentioned scientists’ warnings that we may not know the consequences of our actions for several generations. Perhaps we can learn something from this summer’s holocaust.
Forest specialists are beginning to understand what has happened. In Ponderosa pinewoods, particularly, fire has always played a role, but that role has changed catastrophically since the European settlement. Traditional Ponderosa stands were open, the big trees scattered, the ground covered with grasses through which an occasional Ponderosa seedling managed to emerge. Grass fires swept through regularly, scarring the base of the pines but not seriously damaging them. Then, about 1880, in the Southwest, something changed. Sheepherders, cattlemen, and loggers moved into the stands. The fires suddenly stopped, judging from tree ring studies. The grass was eaten down, so the grass fires lacked fuel. With the grass denuded, Ponderosa and then fir seedlings began to grow, tightly packed. Eventually, they grew into dense, spindly forests“like a dog’s hair”. Then they began to burn.
There were no major fires in the Southwest until the 1950s. When they resumed, they were different and far more deadly, and progressively larger.“Ladder trees” carried the fire up to the crowns of the larger trees, and the fires became crown fires, so hot they are uncontrollable. Steadily, those fires have destroyed forests and the things in them, and that destruction may take one or two centuries to heal.46 And, incidentally, they are contributing more particulates to air pollution and carbon to climate warming.
Would we have behaved differently if we had understood the consequences? I am not sure we would have, then; we have been rapacious about nature. Perhaps we would, now, as we slowly learn what we are doing to our own future. The experience underlines again the point: it may take generations before we understand the consequences of the things we do. The lesson, I think, is clear:
We must not push the system so hard, or rely on a best case scenario; we should reduce our environmental role sufficiently to forestall or accommodate the less favorable contingencies we may discover as non-linearities intensify the damage, thresholds are crossed, and we belatedly learn what we have done to the Earth.
Charles Darwin and Family Planning. There is still a debate about regulating human fertility, because those who oppose it have not yet come to understand what the theory of evolution tells us about human behavior. Charles Darwin had a titanic role in the history of human thought. Out of his observations of finches in the Galapagos Islands came the theory of evolution, which explained things that had never been explainable before about population.
All successful species, he said, have the ability to bear more young than their environment can support. This enables species to recover from food-short periods and it enables the best adapted to expand and fill new environmental niches when the opportunity presents. It also leads to overpopulation and to the survival of the fittest.
That excess fecundity is central to the population dynamics of living creatures. It was true of human populations until we learned to practice fertility regulation by family planning. Like other animals, our population growth was limited by high mortality, particularly of the young. Medical and public health advances, sanitation and the growth of agricultural yields saved us for a time from that fate, but the process goes on. As human populations continue to grow, they will meet those limits. The Darwinian controls, imposed in part by our destruction of the ecosystem, will stop the growth.
Seen in that light, family planning is perhaps the most fundamental advance in the human condition. It permits the human species to control its growth by regulating fertility, rather than waiting for the control to come from misery and rising mortality.
Family planning is not just something that we are entitled to practice, independently. It is something that the Earth itself badly needs to escape the damage of continued human population growth. It is essential to the preservation of ecological balance in the face of a species grown far too successful. Within our species, it is desperately needed by the poor and fertile of the world so they can escape the evolutionary curse of excess fecundity and so their children will not be trapped in high mortality.
We are threatening the very biological systems that support us. We can afford to do what a struggling endangered species cannot: accept our responsibility for helping to preserve the Earth?s interdependent ecology.
The problem is that family planning is usually practiced for personal, not social reasons. Those who practice it are not asking, what is the optimum population? As I will describe later in the case of Europe, there is no assurance that the individual and the social interest will coincide and lead to a stable population at an ideal level. The very idea of family planning is not very old, and the idea of tying it to social ends is a new one in human experience. We are far from knowing how to do it. Defining an optimum population and learning how to reach it with family planning are central to any hope of an environmentally sustainable future.
Social Equity and Human Numbers. If we look forward to a world less divided between the very rich and the starving, we must expect a dramatic increase in GNP per capita, worldwide. If world population grows as expected, total economic growth must rise nearly tenfold to achieve such a goal, even on the best of assumptions (see my discussion of Economics above). That growth will be particularly malignant as the new industrializing countries put their heavy industry in place, probably without much regard to environmental concerns. But politicians call for faster growth, and their constituents applaud. In a linear projection, the stress would rise accordingly. But the impact may not be linear. It may accelerate as we continue to overwhelm our natural support systems.
I can visualize a society, even a planet, in which there is enough for all, and in which the poor can escape their poverty. I can see the possibility of a better life for smaller populations, but growing wealth for growing numbers is a certain prescription to worsen the environmental disasters that we are already generating. I will carry the point farther:
Put aside the endless speculation about how large populations will grow, and when. The nation and the world are already substantially overpopulated as we pursue the life style which the developed countries now enjoy and which developing countries would like to have.
Quantifying Reverse Growth. I have offered several indicators as to what population sizes might be sustainable. A satisfactory worldwide GNP per capita points toward a population of perhaps one billion. To get away from our risky gamble with fertilizer suggests a population of something like two billion. Avoiding man-made climate warming would become realistic with a population of about three billion. Any population reduction in arid zones would help to bring human needs into better balance with water supplies and would lessen the endemic overgrazing; populations one-third the present size would seem a wonderful relief, indeed. The uncertainties associated with climate change, and with chemicals and their impacts, suggest the need for a margin of safety beyond the calculations we can presently quantify.
Those are indeed very rough approximations, and they could be modified if humankind really embarked on benign solutions to its energy needs, but they converge on one conclusion: the need to move deliberately toward a much smaller population. That move would produce mutually reinforcing (synergistic) gains in all those areas. As with agriculture and forests, taking the pressure off one sector benefits the others.
We are already at war with the biosphere that supports us. More than any other proposed solution, a solution on the demand sidepopulationoffers an effective way to end or ameliorate the problems I have described. It works across all those sectors, and, remarkably enough, it will save money rather than demanding more investments.
Europe's population growth is on the verge of turning around, and the almost universal reaction has been panic at the prospectas if the population it so recently attained is essential to its survival. The reaction illuminates the general infatuation with growth. We heard few questions raised as population grew, but the end of growth is seen as a disaster. I think this topic needs more serious thought and a less visceral reaction.
The UN and "Replacement Migration." The popular press reflects the fear that there will not be enough labor to support aging populations in Europe and Japan. The UN Population Division has taken up the issue and has published projections showing how much "replacement migration" will be necessary to maintain (1) the present population, or (2) the numbers of working age people, or (3) the present ratio of working-age to retired-age populations, in several European countries, the European Union, Europe as a whole, Japan, Korea and the United States.47
The Population Division calculates that all the countries studied, except the United States, will need to raise immigration rates to avoid population decline. The most dramatic projections are those under projection (3) above: the immigration necessary to maintain a constant ratio of working age residents to those over 64. At the extreme, Korea would require more than 5 billion immigrants by 2050, raising its population to 6.2 billion, almost none of them of Korean ancestry. Europe would need 1.4 billion immigrants, for a population of 2.3 billion. For Japan, the numbers are 524 million and 818 million. And, although the point is not made explicit, the migration and populations would presumably continue to grow after 2050. The Population Division, by the very act of publishing such projections, evidently meant to suggest their absurdity and thereby make the point that immigration is not a solution to what is happening in those countries. The report points out that those are projections, not recommendations. By focusing on ways to maintain population and working age levels, however, the Population Division seems to have concurred in the general public malaise at a population turnaround.
This is a legitimate area for exploration by the Population Division, but I have three fundamental problems with the UN approach.
1. It implicitly treated maintenance of present populations as a desirable goal. (The subtitle itself suggests that declining populations require "solutions.") Projections (1) and (2) become largely academic if that is not the goal. The report would have been more balanced if it had acknowledged the gains to be realized from smaller populations.
2. The authors treat immigration as the only tool to address the aging of European populations, pointing out that "only international migration could be instrumental in addressing population decline and population aging in the short to medium term." In fact, as I shall describe later, the dependency ratios are favorable in the short term, population declines are a long term rather than a short-term phenomenon, and as the report itself makes clear, immigration is not a feasible long-term "solution." The report would have sounded considerably less apocalyptic if it had studied the demographic implications of a rise in fertility. (It touched only briefly on one consequence of a return to the fertility levels in the UN 1998 high projection.) That would have dramatized the importance of bringing fertility back toward replacement level, which ultimately is the only alternative to national submergence or disappearance.
3. The report would have been more useful and realistic if the authors had studied employment and its possible expansion, instead of falling into the "working age" trap. By looking at employment rather than "working age" populations, it would have focused attention on a vital question (which it touched upon only in one phrase): how do those societies get more of their members back to work?
The European Environment. Let me propose a very different view: a smaller European population will be good for Europe and for the world, and the transitional problems are manageable, if difficult. Recent world growth has put very heavy pressure on the environment. It has driven up the natural carbon, nitrogen and phosphate load in the biosphere, generating fundamental changes in the world ecology. It has led to water pollution and atmospheric acidification, and it drives the worldwide problem of atmospheric carbon loading and climate change. Europe and Japan are two of the most crowded regions on Earth. Western Europe has grown by 27 percent since 1950, Japan by 50 percent. With populations more like those of 1950, or even earlier, they could enjoy the benefits of prosperity without the environmental costs that have come to characterize it.
Europe is in a better position than most of us to plan for sustainability, because its population has stopped growing. However, it has some serious disadvantages resulting from past growth. Its environment is under intense pressure simply because it is so densely populated. For one typical example: sulfur oxide (SOx) emissions in the major European countries are much less than in the United States, judged by emissions per capita or emissions per dollar of GNP. But judged by the truly relevant measure of emissions per square kilometer, Germany, Italy, and Spain emit about twice as much sulphur oxides as does the United States.48
Comparable figures can be run on other pollutants. European forests are under more intense stress than ours are from acid precipitation and ozone, simply because the pollution is concentrated in such a small area. Pesticide use per hectare is triple ours. Fertilizer use per hectare in the European Union is twice that in the United States because they pursue maximum yields and pay inflated prices for food, which in turn leads farmers to use more fertilizer. Consequently, the rivers run full of the residues. The nitrogen load of the Thames is four times that in the Delaware River and 200 times that in the Nile. The Dutch and Danes must scale back a major industry, hog farming, because the pollution has proven intolerable. In Austria, 35 percent of mammal species are endangered, 37 percent of birds and 66 percent of the fish; for the United States, the figures are 10 percent, 7 percent and 2 percent.
A lower population will be a tremendous asset as Europe tries to come to terms with its environment. It will also be a major help in addressing the energy transition, because Europe is not well-endowed with fossil fuels or with wind-energy sites or sunlight for solar energy. Those who panic at Europe's population trends should consider those advantages.
Dependency Ratios. Those who are obsessed with the decline of the "working age population" compared to "dependents" forget that they are fuzzy constructs. The real question is how many of the people are employed? The proportion of the "working age" that is actually working varies wildly from society to society and over time. Many of the so-called "working age" people are highly expensive dependents, such as college students or policemen, firemen and retired military personnel retired at or near full pay. In Japan and to some degree in Europe, the standard public and private retirement age is 60, not 65.
Moreover, there is no very precise connection between dependency ratios and economic success. The present dependency ratios in Europe are supposedly highly "favorable", i.e. lots of working age people and relatively few children and older peoplebut unemployment is Europe's greatest economic problem. It drives the constant demand for more economic growth.
The Case of Italy. Let me use Italy as an example, because it supposedly faces a particularly dire future due to a declining population.
To keep the "working age/65+" ratio constant, says the UN report, Italy would need "a total of 120 million immigrants between 1995 and 2050 . . . an overall average of 2.2 million immigrants per year. The resultant population of Italy in 2050 under this scenario would be 194 million, more than three times the size of the 1995 Italian population. Of this population, 153 million, or 79 percent, would be post-1995 immigrants or their descendants."
Does anybody seriously think that Italy can grow to be almost as populous as the United Statesthat it would be environmentally bearable? Or, for that matter, that such migration levels would be tolerable? What those projections show most clearly is the limits of migration as a solution to an aging population.
Now let us take a more sober look at Italy's future. How desperate does it really look? Let me put it this way: only 52 percent of the "working age" population (1564 years old) is presently employed, because of chronic unemployment coupled with liberal welfare and retirement benefits. By contrast, the ratio for the United States (adjusted to the same ages) is about 73 percent. If Italy by 2050 put the same proportion of its working age population to work as we now do in the United States, then 39 percent of the total population would be workingwhich is higher than the present 35 percent.49 Those people, not the hypothetical "working age population", are the ones who support the rest. Some of the unemployed would be happy to have jobs; others presumably would grumble if they had to work, but the potential labor will be there.
Not a frightening prospectif they can get those people to work.
There is a simple truism: an older population is an inescapable byproduct of the end of population growth, unless the growth is stopped by rising mortality. Unless they want to attempt the mathematical absurdity of perpetual growth, all nations will have to face that reality, and Europe is there now.
Europeans must decide to have more children again if their nations are not to disappear. Italy should be moving toward a smaller population but not so fast. A higher fertility rate would still lead to a smaller population, but it would slow down the aging process and ameliorate the problems. They need to ask themselves: what fertility level is desirable?
Let us examine three different population scenarios for Italy.
In the two graphs above (see published book for graphs), I plot Italy's population and dependency ratios through the coming century, using three different sets of assumptions:
1. Current Fertility of 1.2 and zero net migration, with current mortality (on the assumption that decreased budgets for medical careespecially for the oldwill counterbalance medical improvements leading to greater longevity).
2. Rising Fertility, to replacement level (total fertility rate or TFR of 2.05) in 2020, staying constant thereafter
3. The "Immigration Scenario", with annual net immigration of 200,000 men and women (in equal numbers), added to the preceding scenario.
(Note that I am using the UN definition of "working age"15 to 64 years. The UN study ignored the young dependents, on the grounds that on average they cost much less than old dependents. Following a more traditional approach, I have included them; they impose educational costs and hidden costs of job opportunities foregone.)
The Current Fertility scenarioor any scenario short of a fairly swift return to replacement level fertilityis indeed frightening once fertility has gone as low as 1.2 children. In Italy, current fertility would lead to a population descending past eight million in 210014 percent of the present populationunless immigration fills the decline. A rise to 1.6 children would lead to a population in 2100 of 15 million, and still declining. Given the intense migratory pressures generated by third world population growth and by the demands of employers in Italy for labor, extreme low-fertility scenarios would probably be overwhelmed by migration.
With zero net migration, the Rising Fertility scenario would lead eventually to a population stabilized at about 40 percent of the present level, which is not much different from the population at the beginning of the 20th Century. It results in a brief peak in the dependency ratio, but after 2050, the dependency ratio would begin to improve. That strikes me as a rather attractive scenario. The vital issues are, how do they achieve that higher fertility, and how much immigration will they accept if they do not? They may need to reconsider their traditional aversion to immigrationbut at levels far more reasonable than the UN "replacement immigration" scenarios.
The Immigration Scenario holds the dependency ratio down. It preserves a larger population, if that is what they want, but it would transform Italy as post-2000 immigrants and their descendants become about half the total population. It is not unthinkable. Italy has gone through massive immigration before; Roman Emperor Trajan was of African descent. But that scenario would lead again to growth unless immigration or fertility declines.
Those are just three of an infinite number of possible scenarios.
Europe's Shared Issues. Italy and Europe will have real adjustment problems as the workers age. The problems will be more acute because of the speed with which fertility has fallen. But they are problems to be solved, not a fundamental threat. The medical care burden will increase, which may require that some benefits be capped. Early retirement and six weeks of annual vacation may disappear for a time. New arrangements may be needed, like matching older people with jobs suitable for them, or pairing up two semi-retirees to cover one job.
A world of free trade may become simply intolerable for Europe. It will be at an immense competitive disadvantage. Its workers will be in a position to command high salaries, but European products will be competing against developing countries with a labor surplus and consequently low wages. If Europe can manage that threat, European labor will be in an enviable position.
It will take a massive effort to bring fertility back to replacement level and to get more of their members back to work. It is by no means certain that demographic change can be engineered. Industrial nations have had notoriously little success in influencing personal decisions about childbearing, even where there is some consensus as to desirable family size. Moreover, under the Schengen agreement, Italy is part of a Europe with free movement of people, and the net flow of people within Europe is unpredictable. It has yet to be established whether the movement toward Europe can be controlled in the face of intense migratory pressures that are generated by the wage gap between industrial nations and most of the third world. In Japan, perhaps yes, in Europe, maybe not. Finally, there is no more evidence of a consensus about population policy in Europe than in the United States.
The present European experience shows the gains to be achieved by reducing population numbers, even as it illustrates the difficulties encountered when the shift is sudden. It is noteworthy that the problems of transition are much less severe in those European countries such as France and the United Kingdom that have come more gradually to population reduction. As a rule of thumb, a temporary decline to about 1.5 children achieves a population turnaround with minimal dislocation. Below that level, the problems increase.
We do not know what will happen to European fertility. Are the present extremely low fertility levels the product of women's sudden discovery of the freedom of "controlling their own bodies" (in the feminist phrase)? Will fertility rise as they get used to that freedom, and maternal instincts reassert themselves? Or are the current patterns more permanent? If so, how can women's choices be influenced?
But with all those uncertainties, Italy and the rest of Europe can celebrate the discovery that they are on the way to an environmentally sustainable future, unlike the rest of us. Europe is doing better than the rest of us in controlling its impact on global warming, to take one major current issue. A smaller Europe will be able to do even better.
A changed point of view is slowly gaining adherents: growth is not benign; smaller can be better, not just from the environmental standpoint but in terms of wages, the standard of living, and indeed of civilization itself. Europe offers some historical lessons about the advantages of smaller populations and the transitional difficulties in getting there.
The Specter of the Black Death. For the Western world, the Black Death of the 14th Century is still remembered as the epitome of horrors. What we forget is that the Renaissance followed the Plague, and not by accident. The Plague fell upon a continent with a feudal system that had pretty much reached the end of its rope. The inefficiencies of the system and growing populations had combined to reduce much of the population to paupers. There was little dynamism and no incentive to improve. The Plague generated an extreme labor shortage, which rulers across Europe tried to deny by passing laws attaching laborers more tightly to serfdom. It didn't work. Surviving sons found themselves with doubled or trebled land and inheritances. The ratio of land to people suddenly improved, and farmers had spare money to spend and enough land to produce more and better food for the recovering cities, which were themselves stirred by the new opportunities as the guardians of the old system fell to the Plague. It was a time of immense dislocations, but a smaller and richer Europe produced the cultural flowering of the Renaissance. Though the Plague was a horrific way to do it, the reduction in pressure on the land opened the door to that awakening.50
The horror of the Black Plague lay in its method, not in its results. Population growth will stop. It will stop humanely through deliberate management of human fertility, or it will be stopped by malnutrition, rising mortality and surprises such as the AIDS plague in Africa. Better living standards may eventually result from either process, but the first process offers the hope of consciously opting for a better life, while the second depends upon the descent into misery to become effective.
Moreover, it is thoroughly uncertain whether the second scenario will lead to population collapse and then to a more favorable population ratio, as happened during the Plague and at other times in human history, or whether the outcome will simply be continued misery at the margin of survival.
The population policy advocate says, take your choice: is deliberate policy better than tragedy as the way to achieve a better life?
The Irish Famine and its Lessons. Something of a repetition of the 14th Century experience happened to Ireland in the potato famine of 1848. Fed by that prolific new food from South America, the potato, the population had risen steadily until the crop failed. Then deaths and emigration suddenly halved the Irish population. But Ireland learned its lesson. The island's population was held down by late marriage and continuing emigration, and it is still only two-thirds what it was before 1848. Ireland has not had another famine, and today it is enjoying something of a boom. Migration is not a general solution in today's crowded worldpopulations must be regulated by managing fertilitybut we can learn from the deliberate decision by the Irish to avoid returning to population growth.
Europe and the New World. 19th Century Europe provided a more benevolent example of population regulation in general. In that case the engine was emigration. The departure of perhaps 50 million workers for the New World raised the living standards for those left behind, but without the trauma of the Black Death. I have suggested that European labor in coming decades will have great bargaining power because of the present low fertility, if wages are not undercut by third world labor that has yet to enjoy the benefits of smallness.
Growth and Divergent Interests: Lessons for Moderns. The standard argument for economic growth is that it is necessary to create jobs. For whom? For an expanding population. It is a circular argument. Those proponents should consider the lessons above: the law of supply and demand works with labor, too. A shrinking population may reduce the demand for goods and services (and, incidentally, the attendant environmental problems), but it also increases the competition for the shrinking labor pool, and that translates into higher wages and improved per capita consumption.
Who benefits from population growth? Different groups within each society have divergent interests, and the self-interest of business and other groups is frequently antithetical. For business, growth is an opportunity for profit. The developer profits from growth, but a considerable body of literature is building up showing that the existing residents near the development bear much of its cost: roads, schools, hospitals, police, the whole infrastructure of growth.51 Perhaps worse, they must live with the crowding that the development introduces.
Business seeks cheap labor, which is hardly to labor's benefit. Thomas Malthus two centuries ago warned the impoverished classes of England that "the withholding of the supplies of labour is the only way of really raising its price, and that they themselves, being the possessors of this commodity, alone have the power to do this." ("Essay on the Principle of Population") In other words, have fewer children. He was, however, deeply conflicted as to how they should go about it except by practicing sexual abstinence, which has not proven very useful advice.
Labor does not necessarily benefit when business is booming. Indeed, one study of English economic history over the past three centuries concludes that "there was an inverse relationship between social progress and growth... with ordinary people gaining most when growth was checked or slowed."52 In the go-go United States economy since 1978, labor has been left behind, and the gains have gone to the rich. Real hourly earnings (the best measure of the earning power of the poor) actually declined from 1978 until 1995 and subsequently rebounded part way.53 United States official income figures show the lowest 20 percent of households' real income substantially unchanged in that period, while income of the top 5 percent rose 60 percentand that is without including capital gains, a mainstay in the earnings of the rich. The mean income of the rich thus rose to 24 times that of the poorest 20 percent, a ratio unparalleled in the industrial world.54
The growing disparity reflects something of a feeding frenzy among the rich. Massive immigration and the export of jobs have also driven it. With this combination, the largest businesses (the "multinational corporations" or MNCs) can go to where the labor is cheapest, or alternatively import cheap labor to displace expensive local labor and drive the price down, as businesses are presently doing in the United States, most dramatically with computer technicians and farm labor. In effect, the MNCs have been able to internationalize the labor market, to operate where it is cheapest, and thus to hold all wages down. Business and its followers herald the movement toward free trade embodied in NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Area) and WTO (the World Trade Organization). The purpose is to permit the free movement of capital, goods, technology and marketing techniques. Thus armed, the MNCs can produce in the cheapest labor market and sell anywhere. They can drive out local competitionbusinesses and farmersby their combination of scale, operating efficiencies and deep pockets. They are not interested in population growth, one way or the other, but only in cheap and docile labor, but they profit from a world with too much labor because it keeps the labor cheap and docile. When local labor prices rise, or the docility erodes, they can move on. They leave a trail of wreckage as jobs blossom and then suddenly disappear in one country or another, but that is not their affair. They can evade environmental laws by lobbying against them or, when they lose, move on to more lenient countries. With the WTO, they have even established a judicial process to override national environmental laws that the WTO finds in conflict with international trade obligations.
This is a world in which all sense of moral obligation is overruled by greed and the pursuit of profit. Growth is immediately profitable, and ideas such as sustainability are simply beyond the time horizon of those with power. Our business and governmental leaders professed surprise when the popular opposition to their gigantic machine exploded at the WTO meeting in Seattle in December 1999. I will leave it to futurists to guess whether the opposition can crystallize sufficiently and for long enough to deflect the enormous political power provided by money and greed, abetted by the popular illusion that growth means prosperity. Business has plenty of followers. About half of American families are now invested in the stock market, and most of them presumably are eager to believe in the myth of perpetual growthso long as the market keeps going up.
There should be a way for business and labor interests to be more harmoniousbusiness does after all provide jobs, and business needs laborbut we have yet to find it. For the majority who do not profit but must live with the consequences of growth, perhaps the very inconvenience of growth will lead them eventually to recognize that smaller is indeed better.
Growth and the LDCs. The people of the LDCs would certainly benefit from a reversal of their population growth, and it is essential if we are to bring together the two worlds that are so rapidly moving apart. If somehow the LDCs could stop and reverse population growth, the misery in which so many of them live would be amelioratednot just because they could stop destroying their habitat, as I described earlierbut because, like the survivors of the Black Death, each farmer would have more land and each worker more bargaining power.
That change would benefit, not just the LDCs, but the relationship shared with the industrial world. With the subsidence of the pressures to migrate, the rising tensions between migrant sending and recipient societies would lessen. If LDC wages could eventually rise to something like the average in the industrial world, multinational corporations would find it harder to play one against the other to drive wages down. Freer movement would be possible because it would not be a threat to workers in the industrial world, and the sense of a world in competition might subside.
But how do their wages rise? As Malthus pointed out so long ago, they have the power in their hands. We can now see more clearly than he did that it must be done through contraception.
If experience is any guide, family planning would reinforce itself, because it leads to prosperity, and the prosperous tend to have fewer children. The two worlds would not face each other in a zero-sum confrontation. Perhaps (to return to the case of Europe) both sides could welcome a moderate and managed migration to provide the bridge to Europe's future if European fertility does not rise.
The first and critical step in the process of untying this knot of problems is to jump-start the family planning that would bring the other consequences in train.
XV. A NEW AMERICAN MIND-SET
How does the nation come to a new view of population and of its responsibilities to others?
The United States' Role in the World. The LDC leaders are much less wedded to growth than those in the industrial world, and much more aware of its dangers. They want to stop or reverse population growth. The question is why don't we do more to help them? In an interconnected world, it would be to our advantage almost as much as theirs. We cannot deal with the climate, or with global pollution, without all doing it together. And we cannot bring the Age of Migrations to a mutually profitable close.
The United States presently devotes less than 3 percent of its foreign aid budget to population assistance. That is 1/5000th of our national budget, or 1/25,000th of our GNP. Do we have our priorities straight? We have let our budget be dictated by a small group of congressional ideologues obsessed by the abortion issue and hostile even to family planning.
The Addiction to Growth. The leaders of the industrial world, including our own, need to learn that growth is no longer a solution to our economic and employment problems. The past thirty years have seen the beginning of widespread environmental awareness. Industrial nations have recognized some of the problems generated by the industrial revolution and mitigated them with technology and conservation. (Indeed, I would argue that the primary mission of technology today should be to undo the pollution and waste generated by earlier technologies.)
To believers in technology as a solution, however, I would say this: there are wonders yet to be revealed, and efficiencies yet undreamed of, but the pivotal question to ask of them all is, how will they affect the biosphere? Beware: one "solution" leads to another problem, as with fertilizer. And technical fixes become progressively more expensive and difficult as the easier ones are exhausted. Growth pollutes and distorts natural systems, and it must be met head-on.
I have argued for a vastly expanded and reordered commitment to studying the impacts of technology and human activity. I am convinced that such study would reinforce the recognition that the scale of that activity should be reduced, and its character changed. This is an area in which the industrial world and particularly the United States can lead. We should make what we learn available to others, and our own interests would be served by helping the others to develop their own capabilities. The science will be more persuasive to political leaders and the public if it is home grown.
The Cantankerous Americans. We are in a bind. Take a nation with a self-image of immense freedom; let it practice that freedom for two centuries; confront it with the dangers that our behavior poses to our own health and survival; and watch what happens. The hostility to "government meddling" grows precisely as the need for some sort of control increases. "I'll run my snowmobile where I choose." "My family has been grazing this National Forest for four generations; who are you to tell me I'm running it down?" "Don't tell me I can't use my backyard barbecue!" "This well is on my property; I can pump what I want." "I'll drive to work if I please. Alone"even if it's 70 miles.
A nation of 75 million, in 1900, could tolerate a good deal of that sort of thinking. Our mega-nation of 275 million in 2000 cannot.
National Myopia. We don't see the forces that are driving us. I have collected literally hundreds of news stories from all over the country complaining about sprawl and the invasion of happy villages and rural areas by subdivisions and strip development and super-malls. Nobody sees that it is due to population growth, mostly from immigration, changing other people's way of life and driving them to invade your environment. The search for a better balance requires that Americans address the root of the imbalancegrowth of human populationsrather than frantically addressing one or another of the symptoms.
Do we want crowding? Opinion surveys regularly come to the same thing: Americans like the sense of space we enjoyed for so long. By and large, we live in big cities only from necessity. You can't have it both ways: an open view of national population growth and the preservation of your own space. Or an immigration nonpolicy and a lower population. As cities grow, the effort to maintain a less crowded way of life leads to longer commutes on increasingly crowded highways, and to rising road rage. Sprawl is more than a linear function of population growth; it means increasing delays on the road, for you and the people that bring goods to the local supermarkets; and long commutes mean more hassle, more energy, more pollution, more climate warming. Fuel cells may help with the pollution and global warming, but they will be no help with the hassle. Or with the other consequences of growing national population density.
Remember where we were. Thirty years ago our political leadership warned of the dangers of population growth.55 Perhaps we should listen, belatedly. I have described the shrinkage of arable land per capita in the United States. The same trend applies to our space, more generally. As we become more crowded, our environmental optionsour hope of controlling our impacts and preserving the diversity of natureare more and more circumscribed.
Fertility. How do we do something about it? It is conceptually easy if we recognize the problem and are willing to address it. Some years ago, I ran the numbers. If we were willing to embrace the two-child family and encourage mothers to "stop at two"perhaps by adding inducements and disincentives to the moral argumentwe could continue to have annual net immigration of 200,000. Yet still, within a half century the situation would have changed so we would face the beginnings of a gradual population decline rather than perpetual growth. Why? Because some women have no children and others have only one. If the rest stopped at two, the resultant average fertility would be about 1.5. In two generations we would have the luxury of asking: Okay, what size do we want to be?56
That projection would slip somewhat, in so far as women ignore the limit. In our rebellious society, to declare a limit is to invite a challenge to it, but it is really not such a wild idea. Already, about 70 percent of women have "stopped at two" or below.
I would argue that at the present stage of human growth the two-child family is a valid goal for people almost everywhere, though the Europeans could benefit from somewhat more.
Migration. This essay began with the Age of Migrations, and I will return to that note. If we are to address population growth, we had better look at immigration from a longer perspective than is apparent in the current debate. Industrialists want more immigrant labor (meaning cheap labor); while more idealistic immigration protagonists say we owe others the chance our forebears had. Opponents point to the cost, the social strains, the threat to a sense of national identity and consensus, and the impact on wages, particularly of minorities and immigrants already here.
The debate usually bypasses the central point. The fundamental issue posed by mass immigration is demographic. It is the impact on our population growth. Two-thirds of this country's anticipated growth in this century will result from migration, and this will have profound effects on our environment and our dream of a sustainable society. Given the magnitudes involved, an effort to mitigate the population growth of the less developed world by absorbing it is to put us in their predicament, without making a significant contribution to alleviating their plight.
We should indeed help others, but it is a questionable call for any American environmentalist to advocate unlimited immigration at the peril of continuing environmental damage in the one country for which we are directly responsible. We have an immense impact on the world environment. For the common good as well as our own, the United States needs to reverse its present inadvertent policy of promoting population growth. In our search for higher yields, higher productivity and higher incomes for more and more people, we are bending the environmental system progressively farther out of shape. We ignore the consequences of our policies, and then we apply Band-Aids and super-highways to try to compensate for the distortions we have created.
Back to Top
XVI. ...AND WHY NOT?
This has been a plea, not a model. Quite obviously, the demographic pressures vary from country to country, and each must tailor its solutions to fit its needs. I have not tried to propose how to divide a theoretical world population of one or three billion among different countries, since it would be a fruitless exercise. Each country, when it finally comes to a consensus that overpopulation is driving its troubles, will come to its own, perhaps unstated decision as to how much smaller its optimum population would be. A sense of respect for our shared planet would, however, suggest that those countries that hope to preserve high individual consumption levels should also remember that this should imply lower total numbers. What is good for the planet is good for the individual country.
I hope I have made the general case that, without a turnaround in population growth, we face some formidable problems. That does not mean that NPG is the solution, but it may be the condition precedent to finding solutions.
The Happiness Curve. I learned long ago about The Happiness Curve: the first investments yield the greatest rewards. They can yield great benefits in comfort and happiness, but eventually investment is simply an effort to catch up with a deteriorating lifelike the constant turmoil of super-highway construction through and around our growing cities. In Hong Kong fifty years ago, I used to visit the New Territories, a lovely bit of rural China just across the mountains from the city. When I first got there, the Hong Kong Government was extending simple paved roadstwo-lane blacktopthrough those valleys. Bus services sprang up on the roads. The paths from the roads to the villages were paved. They were wide enough for a bicycle. I had to step aside as bicyclists came by, carrying big hogs on their backs, heading toward the market at Taipo town. Those first investments were wonderful. They broke the isolation of the villages and made travel infinitely more pleasant than trying to negotiate the slippery paths through the rice paddies, particularly in the rainy season. And they made it much easier to get to school, to doctors and to markets.
Within two decades, that all changed. The pressure of population spilled over the mountain from Hong Kong. Big highways were built, and commuter towns. Weekend visitors poured into the lovely village "feng shui" groves, trampling them and killing the trees, bringing noise and loud music and leaving litter. The villagers hated it, but they were helpless. Within one generation, investment and growth brought first happiness and then urban sprawl and degradation.
Anybody who believes that growth is automatically good should have witnessed those changes. I could take my point farther with more desperate examples such as the intolerable conditions of the poor in growing third world cities. Bigger is not better. Ancient Athens, with perhaps 200,000 people, was at least as interesting and exciting a place to live as modern New York, with 20 million, and it was a lot less frustrating. They walked to the market, met friends there or in each other's houses, and climbed to the Acropolis for religious and political ceremonies. Amid what glorious surroundings! And it did not require that they tear up the Earth or displace other creatures (though in fact they did a bit of both).
With growth, we build more, but do we build better? A Gothic church and modern skyscraper use different techniques, but I don't think that the skyscraper is better. It is created, not by a vision, but simply by the need to build upward when overcrowding makes horizontal growth impractical. Is art better because there are more people making it? The Lascaux cave paintings of 15 millennia ago reflect draftsmanship and a compelling artistic drive that shames most modern art. I admire technology and use it, but the best technology is not caused by population growth, and much of technology simply serves to mitigate the evils that growth generates.
Why Not? Perhaps the strongest argument for NPG is "why not?" I have mentioned that limiting the demand side is often the cheapest and least painful solution. It is, in fact, positively beneficent. Very few people in crowded or arid areas would be likely to say there should be more people. By the nature of this exercise, I have emphasized dangers but, even if we discover that the microbes can handle a growing nitrogen load forever, or that there are wholly benign substitutes for organochlorides, a less crowded world offers spiritual rewards and a margin of safety for the unexpected.
It is not, after all, a terrible inconvenience to have two children rather than four, particularly since the low fertility countries have brought child mortality so low that there is little chance of losing them. Social insurance arrangements in the same countries have made children less important as individual "old age insurance"; and the Italian example above should reassure us that societies can handle the transition to smaller populations. I would not propose a fertility decline quite so drastic as Europe's, but I have pointed out that a tight labor market tends to drive wages up rather than down.
It might not be good for entrepreneurs or those who play on a rising stock market, but then I don't have to worry about them. They do very well without me.
1. See Negative Population Growth, Inc. (NPG), NPG FORUM "Climate, Population and UNCED+5", October 1997.
2. The World Bank Atlas, 1996, p.20.
3. UN Food & Agriculture Organization, Rome, FAOSTATS (computerized agricultural data base updated continuously.)
4. Pimentel '96. David & Marcia Pimentel, Eds., Food, Energy and Society (University Press of Colorado, 1996).
5. World Resources Institute (WRI), UN Environment Programme (UNEP), UN Development Programme (UNDP), 19981999
World Resources: A Guide to the Global Environment, pp.4246.
6. Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2000. All rights reserved. Republished with permission from ENS online at: http://ens-
news.com. For full text and graphics please visit:
7. FAOSTATS, see Note 2.
8. World Resources 199899, (see Note 4), p.186.
9. U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Resource Inventory 1997.
10. H.W. Kendall & D. Pimentel, "Constraints on the Expansion of the Global Food Supply", Ambio 23, 1994, pp. 198205.
11. Reuters, Washington 10-9-1998, quoting the U.S. Geological Survey.
12. UN Economic & Social Council, Commission on Sustainable Development (UNCSD), Comprehensive Assessment of the
Freshwater Resources of the World, E/CN.17/1997/9, March 1997.
13. Sandra L. Postel, Gretchen C. Daily & Paul R. Ehrlich, "Human Appropriation of Renewable Fresh Water", Science, February 9,
2000, pp. 785787.
14. Science, March 24, 2000, pp. 2126, 22258.
15. Smithsonian Institution, "Ocean Planet" series, Judith Gradwol, Curator.
16. UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO) news release December 16, 1999.
17. U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceans & Atmosphere Administration (NOAA) news release, quoted by CNN
January 8, 1998.
18. ENS, Washington, DC, November 17, 1999 and World Resources '98-99, p.174.
19. Science, May 12, 2000, pp. 925, 10335.
20. ENS, New Orleans, April 19, 2000.
21. See L.Grant Juggernaut: Growth on a Finite Planet (Santa Ana: Seven Locks Press, 1996) pp. 6176 for a detailed review of the
22. U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceans and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Climate Assessment,
23. U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration (EIA), International Energy Outlook 2000 (IEO2000).
24. U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), 1995 National Assessment of U.S. Oil and Gas Resources: the Economic Component,
FS02498. USGS, USGS Assessment of Undiscovered Oil and Gas Resources of the World, 2000. Released March 22, 2000.
25ENS, Brussels 4-21-2000.
26. ENS, Washington DC, June 9, 2000.
27. Personal communication with Dave Roberts, Assistant Vice President, SeaWest Windpower, Inc., San Diego CA, June 16, 2000.
28. U.S. Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), Environmental Quality 1997.
29. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Air Pollution Emission Trend, 19901998. Chapters 2 & 3.
(Figures 6 & 7 are from the 1997 report.)
30. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), "Light Duty Automotive Technology and Fuel Economy Trends Through 1999",
October 4, 1999.
31. ENS, Washington DC, May 23, 2000.
32. ENS, Washington DC, 11-18-1999.
33. World Resources '9899, p.181.
34. World Resources '9899, p.183.
35. UNCSD '97, see Note 10, p.18.
36. World Resources '9899, p.47.
37. UNCSD '97, p.21.
38. CEQ '97 (see Note 22), Fig.6-11.
39. New Mexico Environmental Department (NMED), Ground Water Quality Bureau, "Drug Residues in Ambient Water: Initial
Surveillance", By Dennis McQuillan & James Mullany, 12-1999.
40. Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2000. All rights reserved. Republished with permission from ENS online at:
http://ens-news.com. For full text and graphics please visit: http://ens.lycos.com/ens/may2000/2000L-05-08-09.html
41. W.T. Sturges et al, "A Potent Greenhouse Gas Identified in the Atmosphere: SF5CDF3", Science, 7-28-2000. pp. 611-613.
42. Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2000. All rights reserved. Republished with permission from ENS online at:
http://ens-news.com. For full text and graphics please visit: http://ens.lycos.com/ens/jun2000/2000L-06-07-06.html
43. ENS New York 6-13-00.
44. Lynn Margulis, Professor of Biology at Boston University, "Gaia, A New Look at the Earth's System", in Technology,
Development and the Global Environment (Mahwah, NJ: Ramapo College Institute for Environmental Studies, 1991), pp. 299-305.
45. Associated Press (AP), 4-27-2000.
46. Science, 1-28-2000, pp. 573-575; Thomas W. Swetnam, Director of Tree-Ring Research, University of Arizona, presentation
to Santa Fe Forest Forum, 6-27-2000.
47. Population Division, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, "Replacement Level Fertility: Is it A Solution to Declining
and Ageing Populations?"; ESA/P/WP.160, 3-21-2000.
48. Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development (OECD), Paris, Selected Environmental Data, 1999.
49. U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Statistical Abstract of the United States, 1999, Table 1374;
UN 1998 middle projection.
50. David Herlihy, The Black Death and the Transformation of the West (Harvard University Press, 1997.)
51. Eben Fodor, Better NOT Bigger (Stony Creek, CT: New Society Publishers, 1999). See particularly Chapter 5.
52. Richard Douthwaite, The Growth Illusion (Tulsa OK: Council Oak Books, 1992), p.50.
53. U.S. Statistical Abstract, 1999 (See Note 42), Table 699.
54. U.S. Bureau of the Census, Current Population Survey, March 1998, Table H-3.
55. L. Grant, Juggernaut: Growth on a Finite Planet (Santa Ana: Seven Locks Press, 1996), Chapter 17).
56. L. Grant, NPG (see Note 1) FORUM "The Two Child Family", May 1994.)
Back to Top