No one really likes to hear it, but the crux of our many environmental problems doesn't lie at the hands of the politicians we all love to loathe. Neither is it the fault of those who are diametrically on the opposite side of our own political beliefs. We have to face up to the notion that we have no scapegoats on which to pin our environmental woes. The uncomfortable truth is that there are too many people in the world. Period. People create waste and waste equals pollution, especially when there's lots of it. So, the more people there are, the greater the amount of waste matter. Eight billion of us obviously create a huge amount of waste and so the world is fast becoming one enormous rubbish tip.
Victim of success
The mess is both literally as well as politically toxic. We all like the spoils but shun the visible spoil. Frustratingly for many, no single jurisdiction or leadership can be held accountable because we all share some of the responsibility in some way or other. Perverse as this might sound, the human race may be a victim of its own success.
You won't often read this sort of thing in newspapers because it's not seen as the kind of subject matter that promotes an air of political correctness. In some people's minds, coming out with something akin to what I've just penned borders on blatant alarmism and might even be considered heresy. It probably won't be too long before someone shouts "racist!" But, hang on a minute, I'm sorry to say, that old chestnut won't wash this time around. I don't really mind what anyone thinks of my or anyone else's views because I'm not really focusing on opinions here. Moreover, I'm examining cold, hard facts. This is no time for divisive politicking or burying any uncomfortable truths. There's far too much at stake.
Sadly, shooting the messenger seems to be a popular pastime these days. But it seldom actually does anyone any good because even if the messenger lies wounded, the facts persist, even if they remain unheeded. Attempting to shame commentators with shouts of ''racist'' or ''bigot'' seems illogical because, in this context, racism doesn't come into it because we're referring to the human race in its entirety. That means peoples of all colours, of all creeds and of all ethnicities! All of us, including yours truly.
We needn't rely on journalists to bring alarming facts to the fore because it's actually the world of science that's been confirming what most of us have known about for years. That is, human-driven species-loss is a major problem that must surely warrant the most urgent action. Of course, science is usually right because scientific conclusions are based on observations and statistics, not just idle beliefs.
We all know the truth
In truth, we've known about declines in plant and animal species populations for a very long time. We've watched it all unfold against a backdrop of expanding human populations and done nothing meaningful or constructive by way of mitigation. What's getting really alarming is the ever increasing pace of extinctions as human activity devours and destroys natural habitats. Animal populations have suffered declines of nearly 70% since the 1970's, but such dire reports regarding species-loss have long failed to actually reference the main driver of biodiversity loss. That is, the unsustainably rapid expansion of human populations globally.
The key word is 'sustainability'. That's because our growing population is gobbling up resources equivalent to the production capacity of nearly two Earths annually. This is not only disturbing but it's also very clearly unsustainable. If things continue on the current trajectory, we’ll need resources equivalent to that which can only be produced by no fewer than three Earths annually (by 2050). As more and more of us demand more and more from mother Earth, we will compound the loss of biodiversity, accelerate water scarcity, increase pollution and cause further deforestation as huge swathes of wilderness are turned into farmland.
Our planet barely has sufficient capacity to support our current burgeoning population let alone enough to comfortably sustain all the other species that share our world's once abundant bounties. Before 2023 arrives, the population will reach and possibly even exceed the staggering EIGHT billion mark. As ecosystems and wildlife populations continue to collapse, international bodies can no longer ignore the undeniable correlations that confront us.
A serious subject
So, we all know that these problems exist. What's needed are more by way of visionaries and fewer reactionaries. In other words, more solutions and less idle commentary which, I know, I'm guilty of. Worryingly, however, even when the subject matter is this serious; it's often very difficult to bring workable solutions (however obvious they might be) to the table. This is especially the case when prospective solutions risk going head to head with long-established cultural norms. For example, how many leaders in regions such as the Middle East and parts of Africa might be less than impressed if it was suggested that one of the main solutions towards population control involves the empowerment of women? What if it was proposed to make quality education available to all? By that I mean a universally accessible education system that not only includes but actively promotes the empowerment of women as a matter of pure pragmatism rather than as a matter of equality.
There is also a glaring need for decent healthcare to be made accessible to more people. This would make family planning much easier. What's clear is that if the world's resources were distributed more fairly, all of us would benefit. What’s often lacking is the backbone to acknowledge some of these basic facts which ultimately quashes the desire to act.
We don't have to look as far as the middle east or Africa to witness resistance to factuality. There are people within the United Nations who actually deny the unquestionable reality of global overpopulation, choosing instead to warn against 'alarmism.' Such individuals would surely do well to familiarise and acknowledge the facts rather than adhere to given narratives?
For example, in 2019, a UN-commissioned report warned that “Nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history. The rate of species extinction is accelerating, with potentially grave impacts for millions of people around the world.” The report concluded that over a million animal and plant species are threatened with imminent extinction.
There's no denying the correlation between growing human numbers and species extinction. As people and the natural world continue to compete for space, the very shape of life on Earth is changing forever. As human numbers reach that eight billion milestone, now must surely be an opportune moment to sound the alarm?
Tackling these issues won't be easy but it has become quite clear that living with the dire consequences of apathy and inaction will eventually prove to be humanity's greatest challenge to-date.
Douglas Hughes is a UK-based writer producing general interest articles ranging from travel pieces to classic motoring.