The common denominator in mostly all human problems is the size of the world’s population. The coronavirus type of plague was arguably inevitable. Whenever any species lives in crowded conditions, disease outbreak and transmission is likely. People and in particular politicians, have been told over and over again that the world and individual countries have had a potential population problem.
In 1968 Paul Ehrlich was an entomologist at USA’s Stanford University, known to his peers for his groundbreaking studies of the co-evolution of flowering plants and butterflies but almost unknown to the average person. That was about to change. In May, Paul Ehrlich released a book, “.
Ehrlich’s book argued that many of the day’s most alarming events had a single, underlying cause – too many people, packed into too-tight spaces, taking too much from the earth.
His book created heated controversy, was hailed by some far-sighted environmentalists but attacked angrily by the disciples of growth and GDP.
About the same time, in New Zealand the president of the New Zealand Deerstalkers Association John B Henderson, delivered addresses at NZDA’s conferences and also at conservation day lectures at Wellington Teachers College and Victoria University. He was, at the time, a major figure in the frontline of the “Save Manapouri” campaign which opposed the National government’s plan to rase the national park lake to give power to a foreign owned corporate’s aluminium smelter at Bluff.
New Zealand’s population was 2.8 million in 1970 and at NZDA conference John Henderson told delegates that it was “witless to stress human populations by crowding when many societies were already irrational and unstable”.
He described over-crowding as directly related to “poverty and stress, misery and grime, hunger and social anarchy”.
“It is high time New Zealand set themselves an upper limit to their numbers and I have no hesitation in tabling my own estimate – it is 5 million people.”
Even in 1970 problems were evident and he listed among them “bad water pollution, serious eutrophication problems, a major pest versus pesticide conflict with residue and secondary kill problems (e.g. 1080), massive erosion problems under the guise of land development (exotic forestry), serious and often irrevocable alterations to water tables and urban sprawl”.
“I have no hesitation in stating that I don’t want to live nor my children in an overcrowded, irrational, polluted and exploited society split into wealth and poverty, so I state again 5 million is my limit.”
New Zealand’s population is almost 5 million now. It was 4,972,887 on Wednesday, 25 March 2020 at 05:13:11 p.m.
But New Zealand still has no population policy. Government pursues growth with a maniacal passion and no control.
“Maximum growth – more people” is the mantra. Serious regional imbalances exist, most graphically illustrated by Auckland city busting at the seams, demanding more money for congested roads and building highways, upgrading of sewers and stormwaters etc., and sprawling outwards over fertile soils.
Immigration proceeds apace – despite election promises in 2017 from the three parties currently in government – swelling numbers and diluting and eroding the Kiwi culture evolved from two ethnic groups and developing a bi-cultural society.
Western countries like New Zealand should be leaders in addressing the ticking “population time bomb”. Reducing birth rates in “affluent/effluent” industrialised countries will have a bigger impact on greenhouse gas emissions, depleted resources and environmental erosion because affluent societies use more of the earth’s resources and depend more heavily on fossil fuels.
Even the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) briefly commented acknowledging that “Globally, economic and population growth continued to be the most important drivers of increases in CO2 emissions from fossil fuels.” But that was lost in the clouds of hot air emitted by the global warming debate.
The sharp reality is more people and more consumers equal more resource demand, force more costly infrastructure demand and make more emissions.
More, more and more growth. It’s akin to the dog chasing its tail and just as mindless.
The planet cannot tolerate infinite growth. It’s already at a crisis.