Overpopulation

Alarming demographic projections regarding ineffectively controlled human population growth and consequent environmental catastrophes have spawned several literary warnings with ominous titles (e.g., Ehrlich, The Population Bomb, 1968; Carson, Silent Spring 1962). Perhaps no sentinel in this camp is better known than Garrett Hardin who, for more than four decades, sounded the clarion for those so inclined to heed the call. His numerous works (e.g., 1968 ("Tragedy"); 1969 (Population, Evolution and Birth Control); 1974 ("Living in a Lifeboat"); 1993 (Living within Limits) pose educated scenarios and optional solutions with respect to the future of humankind. Essentially, the message is that, given finite resources and limited space (he argues that interstellar colonization will not work), human population growth must be contained or a default resolution will be imposed by natural selection, that is, nature will exact its toll. On a broader scale, The Club of Rome was organized in 1968 by a group of 30 persons from 10 countries (later expanded to include 25 nations) to present warnings of what they thought would happen if population growth and economic production continued at the same pace (cf. Meadows et al., 1974; Neurath, 1994). Zero Population Growth (ZPG) was a private organization that used the slogan, "Stop at Two!" (Hardin, 1993). ZPG would be achieved if fertility remained at an average of 2.1 births per woman, the so-called replacement rate (Adamson, Belden, DaVanzo, & Patteron, 2000). Of course, any lower average fertility and a population would decline.

Countering the ZPG and Hardin positions also has been a highly active endeavor by those who purported to show in various connected themes that resources are not as limited nor population growth so detrimental (e.g., Simon & Kahn, 1984, The Resourceful Earth). The crux of their argument is that technological and economic developments will continue to expand whatever might be the current limits of carrying capacity, so that resources will not be depleted, and in fact, continued population growth will be a stimulus for future development. One branch of anti-Malthusian followers were called Cornucopians (Hartmann, 1995).

Is there a meeting ground for these opposing viewpoints? While any disagreement may be in the realm of "only time will tell," cautioned optimism has been voiced by some (e.g., Livi-Bacci, 2001).

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