Conservation Minnesota

Halloween Brings Us Seven Billion’th Person

The news that we’ve heard this week that there are now seven billion human beings on planet earth seems alarming.  That’s a big number!  In the last 40 years alone, since the first Earth Day was celebrated, the population of the world has doubled.

In 1970 I took the issue of population control to limit human impact on the earth’s resources seriously.  I remember reading Paul Ehrlich’s, “The Population Bomb”, and seeing him somewhat frequently on the Johnny Carson show.  It all sounded dramatically real, and my wife and I decided not to have more than two children.

Ehrlich predicted there would be a widespread famine crisis before the 21st century if population growth wasn’t curtailed.  This hasn’t happened worldwide, as he had predicted, but food shortages have certainly hurt developing countries.  Population control is a touchy subject for all kind of reasons.  But no one can dispute that increased consumption of natural resources is threatening our environment and causing pollution largely unchecked.

Since 1700, the amount of cultivated land in the world has risen from seven to 40 percent.  Human beings are using more soil, more water, more energy, and emitting more carbon than ever before.  It obviously makes sense that more people on a finite planet make solving environmental problems more difficult and costly.

A smaller population growth curve would make it more possible to have a sustainable and equitable earth.  Continual family planning is needed worldwide and a very inexpensive option to curb population. From a human-rights perspective, population control is the right thing to do.

Of course, we in the United States use vast amounts of resources per human being, clearly not sustainable over the long run.  We need to do our part, morally, ethically and to lead as an example to others.  One option brought forward is to only give tax credits to families in the U.S. that have two children.  That seems to me to be a good example to show we are trying to do our part.

About John Helland

John Helland
John Helland is a history graduate of the University of Minnesota. He served as the nonpartisan legislative research analyst for the Minnesota House of Representatives after graduation. He worked extensively on environment and natural resources legislation and issues, and was the primary nonpartisan research staffer for the House Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Finance committees from 1971 to 2008.
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