Population Bomb, American Style

Ever since Paul Erlich wrote The Population Bomb almost
thirty years ago, most Americans’ mental image of overpopulation
includes hot, Southern Hemisphere countries and swarms of people
with dark skin. Well guess what? It turns out that the United
States is the most overpopulated country on the globe.

According to a Worldwatch Institute report quoted in a article
put out by Zero Population Growth, ‘An economy’s total burden on an
ecological system that undergirds it is a function of three
variables: the size of the population, average consumption, and the
broad set of technologies — everything from dinner plates to
communications satellites — the economy uses to provide goods and
services.’ Employing this equation, the United States has the
dubious distinction of being the most overpopulated country in the

So given our hoggish ways, what can Americans do to ease our
contribution to the population problem? First, as an article by
Erlich and his collaborators Anne Erlich and Gretchen Daily in a
1995 issue of Mother Jones points out, we need to stop the
finger pointing: ‘Those who promote population policies for poor
nations should also press for them in rich nations, where each
person accounts for so much more environmental damage and resource
depletion.’ They argue that increasing socio-economic equity at all
levels — between the sexes and among families, social classes and
regions, and nations — has the greatest potential for improving
the human condition. ZPG also gives practical guidelines for
limiting our consumption, which include using public transportation
whenever possible, recycling, and never having more than two

Not that any of this will be easy, especially given a political
climate that seems to think that population control means closing
our borders instead of allowing people to voluntarily limit the
size of their families through easy access to abortions and birth
control. But until Americans start to look at our part in the
population explosion, all the hand wringing about other people’s
actions won’t do any good.

Original to Utne Reader Online

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