Researchers Paul and Anne Ehrlich recently gave a seminar on the imminent collapse of global civilization. Their research regarding overpopulation and overconsumption are certainly convincing that in order to save our future, some serious changes need to occur.
Paul and Anne Ehrlich
This amazing couple has been working together since 1950’s, received numerous awards, and are currently working in the Department of Biological Sciences at Stanford University. Paul Ehrlich’s book The Population Bomb in 1968 warned that due to overpopulation there would be detrimental effects such as mass starvation by the 1980’s. Much of the estimated predictions in the book did not occur by 1980 leading to a lot of criticism, but it was still influential in opening the world to the problems of overpopulation. Despite the controversy, Paul and Anne have continuously examined and presented their research on the impacts of population growth.
We Are The Problem
Paul and Anne’s work is clear that if we don’t make some serious changes there will be a collapse of global civilization. The problems leading to this collapse include climate disruption, animal and plant extinction, land degradation, global toxification, ocean acidification, and ultimately the overexploitation of the environment. These issues did not just appear overnight, but from our overconsumption and overpopulation. Growing up in the United States I was accustomed to massive food portions while also being taught not to waste food, which results in eating beyond feeling full. According to the American Heart Association, 154.7 million Americans over age 20 are overweight or obese.
Paul explains how agriculture is a major source of greenhouse gas, global toxification, and the loss of biodiversity, which is all related to overconsumption issues. One addition to a family leads to another mouth to be fed and more of environmental resources to be used up. According to Paul Ehrlich, having a second child is worse in comparison to four hummers! We are going to be the cause of our own downfall and destruction of our future generations, and the Ehrlich’s are not optimistic we will prevent this collapse.
Are There Solutions?
Of course there are solutions to avoid a global collapse, but will we do them? The Ehrlich’s paper outlines a long list of things to occur to prevent a collapse, but one that may have serious impact is to increase women rights and gender equity throughout the world. A longitudinal study in the U.S. following a group of women in college over 50 years saw that although original expectations were for the women to focus on a family, most ended up in the workforce (George & John, 2011). Had this study included a wider ethnic and economic group of women the results may have been different.
Not all women may desire to work, but shouldn’t they all have the choice? Paul described a conversation with group of women that expressed their dislike of the limitations placed on them based on gender. These views are likely shared between women all over the world (click here for the story about an Indian woman named Rai). This isn’t just about women being able to work, but for them to be able to have a voice. What happens when incredible women throughout the world finally get to express their opinions about how many children they want? What if we had more women in politics? I am not suggesting that women have all the answers, but gender equity can easily assist in helping overpopulation concerns which in turn assists in overconsumption.
Spread the Word
We have an obligation to take care of the world that we live in, and right now we are not doing our part. It is imperative that we help share the word that our habits need to change, women should have a voice, and that this needs to happen now! Being passive and ignoring these current issues will certainly lead to a global collapse of civilization and the destruction of life as we know it.
- George, L. G., Helson, R., & John, O. P. (2011). The “CEO” of women’s work lives: How Big Five Conscientiousness, Extraversion, and Openness predict 50 years of work experiences in a changing sociocultural context. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 101(4), 812–830. doi:10.1037/a0024290