Overpopulation & Underdevelopment

Jordan Aronson wrote:

What is overpopulation?


Jamie wrote:

What is the role of 'overpopulation' in underdevelopment?


Since I set up the Overpopulation website four years ago, I have received a lot of questions from students like Jordan and Jamie. I am glad the site provides some help in doing their papers and that they feel enough confidence to send an email.

After a disclaimer about not being an "expert" on population, I will usually make a couple of observations:

1. "Overpopulation" is a trick word. It's like, after a heart attack, a doctor telling you to get exercise but not to overdo it. Of course, what the patient needs to know is when he crosses the line from doing to overdoing. I noticed a web page which lists "sites arguing that overpopulation a problem" and "sites arguing that overpopulation is not a problem." Of course to be overweight, overdue, overworked, etc. is by definition a problem. The correct question is one Brian Carnell asks: Is the world overpopulated?

2. The idea that population growth results in poverty is based on a static notion of wealth - a fixed pie of which each person is trying to carve a slice. However, people not only consume, but create wealth. The example of Hong Kong shows that folks packed together, with very few resources, can achieve prosperity, making themselves the envy of others who live in wide open spaces with great resources at hand.

3. The amount of resources in our world (land, water, minerals, energy, animals, plants) is enormous - about a trillion tons per person. It's all recyclable and some of it we are getting better at utilizing: for example, it takes less land now to feed the total world population that it did in the sixties. The question here is not how much is available per person, but how we choose to care for what has been entrusted to us - stewardship, sharing, overcoming envy, recognition of our ultimate dependence and interdependence.

Fr. Phil Bloom
April 4, 2000


Have We Already Filled the Earth? (cf. Gen 1:28)


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