Overpopulation of humans is at the root of all our environmental degradation and to a large extent at the root of our social and economic problems also.
Mass extinctions are caused primarily by habitat loss, which is almost entirely caused by overpopulation.
Global warming is caused by too many people burning too much fossil fuels. It is a function largely of population. The other side of global warming is the amount of carbon sequestered in trees and other living things. That is habitat loss—we log old growth forests and convert them to young forests with smaller trees sequestering less carbon, and we convert prairie and other natural environments to farmland, cities, and pavement. And, again, habitat loss and land conversion to human use are caused entirely by overpopulation.
Here is a graph that I created from the data in Wynes et al. (1) and Murtaugh et al. (2) of the relative amount of carbon reduction from the commonly suggested personal actions to reduce CO2 emissions.
Having one fewer child has about 7 times greater effect on the CO2 emissions you are responsible for than all other possible interventions put together.
For slowing the current wave of extinctions, which again is a bigger and more irreversible problem than global warming, having fewer children would be really the only thing that matters in your personal behavior.
Economic issues and overpopulation.
Average individual wealth and income
It is common sense that if there are fewer people there are more resources for each of us and each of us is better off on average economically. That is borne out by the data. As we all know, the less affluent countries of the world have more children per woman and faster population growth than the more affluent countries. It is usually treated that they have faster population growth because they are poorer, but it actually makes more sense that they are poorer because they have faster population growth. That fits a logical causality that lower population equals more resources per person and each person is richer on average.
Wealth and income equality
Not only does population growth and overpopulation make each of us poorer, but it also makes the wealth and income distribution more unequal. The Black Death in the Middle Ages was bad if you were one of the people that died, but it caused a big improvement in the economic standing of the surviving peasants and the equality of wealth. There were fewer peasants to work the land, so landowners, feudal lords, had to treat them better. Simple supply and demand.
Population growth in the U.S. currently and throughout our history has been caused mostly by immigration. And immigrants come here for work, so more immigrants means more workers and more workers relative to the total population, which the law of supply and demand would predict would drive down wages for workers and worsen inequality. That is exactly what has happened. Here is a chart from the excellent and fascinating book Ages of Discord by Peter Turchin (3) tracking the correlation of inequality in the U.S. with the percentage of the population that is foreign born.
The Inequality Index in this figure is the ratio of the largest individual fortune (the net worth of the wealthiest person) divided by the average annual wage. You can see that the inequality ratio very closely tracks the percentage of the population that is foreign born, with a 5 or 10 year delay. This is as you would predict from the law of supply and demand for labor.
Policies in view of overpopulation
An official acknowledgement from a jury that we are above the optimal population—overpopulated.
As governor, I would seek simply a finding from a jury that
There is an optimal population in Minnesota, the U.S., and the world for the economic and social welfare of humans, and for the wellbeing of wild species and the natural world.
We are currently above that optimal population not only in the world as a whole but also in the U.S. and Minnesota.
After that passes a jury, as I am very confident it would, I would ask the legislature to vote on it as well.
The press and media usually refuse to acknowledge either of these two points, which seem pretty obvious and unarguable to me. Once we acknowledge that we are overpopulated, I think it will change the mindset of people and change debate on the policies that affect population including immigration and childbearing and hopefully change some views on the ethics of allowing uncontrolled immigration and the personal ethical responsibility to limit your childbearing.
Cooperate with immigration authorities and bar “sanctuary cities” in Minnesota.
Immigration is the major driver of population growth in the U.S. and it thereby degrades our natural environment, decreases the economic welfare of our citizens, and drives down wages and thereby worsens inequality and exerts its greatest harms on lower wage workers and therefore differentially on racial minorities. Therefore, as governor I would cooperate fully with federal immigration authorities and push to ban “sanctuary cities” that provide sanctuary for the illegal immigrants who break our immigration laws.
1. Wynes S and Nicholas KA. 2017 The climate mitigation gap: education and
government recommendations miss the most effective individual actions Environ. Res. Lett. 12 074024
2. Murtaugh PA and Schlax MG. 2009. Reproduction and the carbon legacies of individuals. Global Environmental Change 19:14-20.
3. Turchin, Peter. Ages of Discord. 2016. Beresta Books, Chaplin, Connecticut.