Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot (OVER) is such a powerful book that I was shedding tears of desperation at the end of it. I am still reeling from last week’s suicide of the most energetically positive person I have ever known. But that was a single human death, and when I read this book I was overwhelmed at the looming tragedy of seven billion humans and innumerably more other living beings. This book has photos that will astonish you, and overwhelm you if you let them, with the vastness of the human overpopulation problem.
I have blogged about the population problem many times, but my posts are more abstract and more grim than this book. This book is about the living and is positive in proffering the feeling that a solution can be found. I doubt that conclusion, because of the non-inclusion, or at least the soft-pedaling, of environmental degradation and major wars in their population projections. The official population projections that are published here and elsewhere are based on business-as-usual projections, the rationalization being that it is a projection of hard data of human population growth rather than speculation about the carrying capacity of the Earth. I would contend that the loss of natural resources like soil, coal, oil, air, water is predictable hard data and predictable continuing loss of them should be calculated into the population projections. But the inclusion of these factors creates an ugly picture of a major population collapse at some point within the life expectancy of newborn children. Realistic population projections are off the table for consideration in political discussion because it would lead to obviously untenable conclusions of what must be done. People are driven by confirmation-biased motives of a hopeful future and avoid facing ugly problems, like famine, until they are actually involved in their consequences.
In the book we see many beautifully done photographs of human over-success. The photo of a Beijing, China’s three-layer deep freeway interchange with ten lanes on top of each layer, and all of them packed with cars, it’s shocking. The photos of vast cities of compacted people are eerie, because sometimes they are stacked vertically, and sometimes they are squashed horizontally, and sometimes they are squeezed on a flat island in the ocean, and sometimes hanging off a mountain hillside.
The over-success of humans is ultimately created by the super-success of the production of food, for without food to feed these seven billions of people they wouldn’t exist. That problem isn’t really developed in this book; instead they stress lowering the total population thru the emancipation of women, educating them and convincing them it would be better for humanity for them not to have children. Preaching to these people seems preposterous to me, because these women compressed into horrible living conditions have a constant reminder of over-population pressure. Also, the population reduction pundits have been saying these things for two hundred years, ever since Malthus, and it hasn’t worked yet. We have had a nonstop population explosion ever since he published. Wars and disease are temporary population reduction events and –
The only thing that consistently reduces population is lack of food, and starving is a terrible way to die.