How Many People?

The “balance of nature” has become an abstract concept in terms of our place in the puzzle. A industrialized world which tends to remove humanity from the equation – “nature” becoming the realm of plants and animals,  beyond our lofty”king of the hill” mentality. All too easy to forget mankind plays a pivotal position in Earth’s balance.

Prior to mechanized farming and medical advances such as immunization – world population chugged along at a manageable pace. Somewhere between one and two billion people until the mid 17th, early 18th century when food production tripled along with the number of mouths to feed. From a billion or so in 1850, two billion by 1930, to over seven billion today – taking a moment to ponder our planets’ breaking point is a sobering thought.

Water is a finite resource – as with fossil fuels, we can’t manufacture it. Over a billion people on Earth have limited access to fresh water. China, India, the Middle East, California – all face epic water shortages. Available land for farming has reached critical mass – there simply isn’t any more, and what we do have is stretched to a breaking point by over-use and water shortages.

When China introduced the “one child” policy in 1979 I thought of it as totalitarian meddling – reproductive legislation, yet another blight on an already oppressed country. Impossible to fathom public outcry if western politicians dared hint at such a travesty of human rights.

Like it or not, we all need to ponder how much our planet can sustain. By 2050 our population is projected to top 10 billion. I don’t know what the answer is. Are we willing to play golf on artificial grass, turn off the fountains in Las Vegas, collect rain water for our yards, flush the toilet after every third use, and learn to live with dirty cars? Would we be willing to settle for our “share” of available water in exchange for restoring the balance of nature.

Ponder the balance of nature and ask yourself – how many people can the Earth support? Nature’s balance depends on the answer.