How Many People Can Live on Planet Earth?


Countries by population density

I think I’ve discussed elsewhere how I’m frustrated sometimes with my parents, who currently believe that: a) vaccines, like the MMR vaccine, can cause autism, and b) that vaccines don’t work at all: they’re just a ploy for the pharmaceutical companies and the government to make money from people (note: currently vaccines make up 2% of the world-wide pharmaceutical market*). When I try and give them scholarly papers and academic articles to sway their opinion, they just cite b) and say that those articles were funded by the very government/company that’s making a profit from the scam. Frustration ensues.

Anyways, my dad has recently become concerned with over-population, and has suggested I read “The Limits to Growth: the 30 Year Update“, which is a 30 years-later update on the original book “The Limits to Growth”. The book makes predictions about human growth and its consequences on resource depletion and thus societal collapse. I probably know about the same amount on this issue as any other university going person does: yes, it’s a problem. I had said to my dad, a while back when he first brought up the problem, that I didn’t think over-population was necessarily a problem: that the energy crisis could potentially be solved with sustainable energy solutions (wind, solar, water, fuel cell, future amazing technology); that food problems could potentially be fixed with vegetarianism/veganism (30% of land mass is used for livestock raising*) and genetic modification (a.k.a the green revolution that saved billions of lives); water shortages would be helped from environmental urban planning/architecture, vegetarianism/veganism, de-salination of the ocean (although that has its problems); pollution could be curbed with technological innovations as well as creating a market for sustainability/’green’ products, and governmental (societal) restrictions on what businesses can get away with, not to mention veganism/vegetarianism (are you getting sick of me saying that yet?); biodiversity would certainly benefit from a reduction in factory farming, but perhaps most of all from restrictions on fishing;  and human rights issues would require (in my humble opinion) something closer to governments (or some similar function in a stateless society) securing vital human capabilities for all, or, using a measure such as the human development index instead of the GDP as a number they can be proud of increasing.

Although, in the end, if my dad had said “if the number of humans grew to a google (10^100), we’d be fucked”, I’d have said “yes, yes you’re right”. But my problem with that is that my solutions to over-population would not only make it so that the world could sustain more people (healthily and happily), but would also work to curb the very over-population it’s attempting to accomodate. The best example being women’s eduction. As women are educated, birth rates drop, sometimes below the two children per family number that is required to sustain the world population, thereby actually reducing it. That’s why I used the word “necessarily” when I said to him that over-population wasn’t necessarily a problem.

As per almost all of my articles, I have a documentary to go along with this article: “How Many People Can Live on Planet Earth?”

note that this doc does not suggest vegan/vegetarianism as a solution 😦

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About dontdontoperate

28 year old originally from Barrie, Ontario, Canada. H.B.Sc. from UofT with a major in chemistry and a double minor in philosophy and math. M.Sc. from UofT in physiology and neuroscience. Finished my Ph.D. in biomedical engineering at McMaster in the fall of 2013.
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3 Responses to How Many People Can Live on Planet Earth?

  1. K.J. Brix says:

    I wrote about the Population Bottleneck recently. It’s estimated we may have 10 billion humans on the planet by 2050. There are some things we can each do that don’t require government action.

  2. KJ Brix says:

    That’s weird! I think I fixed it…

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