On Oct. 12th 1999 it was estimated that the 6th billion person was born. It's pretty amazing to think that 90% of this growth has occurred within the last 200 years. Modern medicine, sanitation, diet etc. contribute to the amazing increase in life expectancy. Of course most of this is centered in highly industrialized countries but what third world countries lack in the above attributes, they more than make up for in high birth rates.
Now the gist of the article was that there are many problems associated with a huge human population: pollution, mass extinction of other species, depletion of natural resources etc. The list goes on and on. As if this wasn't bad enough, under current production techniques the Earth can comfortably support 8 billion people. Considering that we had 5 billion people in 1987, it only takes 12 years to grow by 1 billion. That means that in 24 years we would be at maximum capacity. Now this is the point that splits many scientists. At the rate technology is progressing, many scientists believe that we will create new and improved techniques that will allow us to continue to grow. It's always saved us in the past, why will it not save us in the future?
While I agree that technology has been a boon I'd hate to pin all my hopes of the future on it. Who's going to save us if and when these new techniques don't pan out? To have all our hopes pinned to technological advancement seems realistic now but who knows where the roof on this advancement lies? Still, it's more comforting to believe in a better future than the doom that some scientists predict. But beyond all the environmental/physical factors at the heart of this debate lies a problem that, as the article pointed out, is maybe even more serious.
Basically the article stated that, even if we manage to dodge the bullet on being able to feed the billions, has the American/Western European/Japanese pattern of conspicuous consumption doomed the rest of the world? In other words, has the "Americanization" of third world countries (i.e. energy consumption, TV's, SUV's, advertising) created a world of humans striving for the material trappings so prevalent here? There is simply no possible way that even 6 billion people could lead the incredibly wasteful lives that we lead here.
Not everyone can consume 96 pounds of beef a year that takes 7 times that much grain to produce. Not everyone can consume 317 gigajoules of energy when the rest of the world consumes only 61. Not everyone can own a computer, VCR, TV, guitar, and stereo (all things I own). There simply is not the production capability yet we continue to push this upon the world through our propaganda (i.e. TV). Drink a coke, buy a car. Never mind you work seven days a week in a factory producing goods you would never be able to afford.
The irony of the situation is classic. Here we are blaming third world countries for having large birth rates but it is ultimately our own short-sighted, maximize profits now consumerism that will undue us all. Cheers, here's to us our own worst enemy.