LETTER: We must minimise damage of overpopulation

Readers' letters | Published:

A reader highlights the issues of overpopulation.

Commuters crowd Cadorna train station in Milan, Italy

Chris Smith (letters 11 July), is quite right to describe human overpopulation as the “elephant in the room” with regard to the degradation of our planet, but he is wrong to imply that I don’t understand this.

In several of my earlier letters I have focused on climate change as the most pressing global challenge that we have to face, but I am quite aware that this itself is the result of the ever increasing demand of the human population for more energy - and therefore the continued exploitation of fossil fuels leading to increased levels of CO2 in the atmosphere.

The same could be said about the massive deforestation that is taking place around the world – clearing tropical rain forests to make way for settled agriculture and, in the case of palm oil, highly damaging monocultures.

It is also true of our use of the oceans: the rising human population has created an ever increasing demand for fish, which has stimulated a massive expansion of the world’s fisheries and the increasing use of sophisticated technology to find and catch those fish, which has led to the depletion of wild fish stocks and significant damage to marine environments.

“Population” is driving all of these critical aspects of our life in the wrong direction, but it is very difficult to DO anything directly about population unless you adopt the Chinese communist party’s previous approach of only allowing one child per family.

Over most of the world this is seen as unacceptable, and the chosen route to reducing population growth has been through improved education and health programmes, which take time to have their effect.

Under current conditions it is therefore inevitable that the world’s population will continue to grow for the next several decades and it is expected to plateau at more than 10 billion people by the end of this century (from 7.8 billion today).

With this in mind we have to try to reduce or mitigate the harmful effects of human over-population, so that when the population does eventually stabilise we have a planet that is worth living on.


As Chris Smith says, over-population IS the elephant in the room, but unfortunately we can’t just shoot that elephant. All we can do is try to minimise the damage that it does, for our own long-term benefit. Climate change is one of the clearest aspects of that damage but we are held back from effectively addressing it by vested interests and a lack of political will and global cooperation.

Robert Monro, Whitchurch

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