Near a Breaking Point
By BILL MARSH JUNE 15, 2017
Mass migration, starvation, civil unrest: Overpopulation unites all of these. Many nations’ threadbare economies, unable to cope with soaring births, could produce even greater waves of refugees beyond the millions already on the move to neighboring countries or the more prosperous havens of Europe. The population crisis is especially acute in Africa, as Eugene Linden writes in the accompanying article, but it spans the globe, from Central America to Asia.
A slowly unfolding catastrophe, told in five charts.
A portion of the Makoko district of Lagos, Nigeria, a vast slum built partly over the Lagos Lagoon. Adekunle Ajayi/NurPhoto, via Getty Images
1. Dire Predictions Were Mostly Right
Humanity has grown as expected since the warnings about global overpopulation of the 1960s. Decades of United Nations projections for the year 2000 came within 3 percent of the actual total, making the U.N.’s 9.7 billion prediction for 2050 both credible and alarming.
2. The Malthusian Moment Postponed
The Green Revolution and globalization brought food and jobs to soaring populations. Those events, and the declining rate of global population growth, camouflage today’s situation: the rise in absolute numbers of people, with millions more at risk when things go awry. Thomas Malthus, the population theorist of the 18th and 19th centuries, predicted such calamities if the world’s population grew unchecked.
Current growth adds the population equivalent of a new Iran or Germany every year.
3. The Reckoning Arrives
Fast-rising populations degrade economic and agricultural resiliency; add a recession or drought and the human consequences magnify.
In many countries, the population of desperately impoverished has grown to far exceed their total population as of 1970. When conditions worsen, the numbers stricken are staggering, and Malthusian concerns come back with a vengeance.
Doomed. So fucking doomed.