If we don’t lower our birth rate nature will raise our death rate.

November 14, 2019 by Joshua
in Choosing/Decision-Making, Nature

As this phrase—if we don’t lower our birth rate nature will raise our death rate—came out of my mouth in conversation yesterday, I could tell it captured a lot in a few words.

I expect I’ll start saying it more and promoting it. It gets to the heart of what we need to do. All research I know of says that we are over the planet’s carrying capacity, which means if we don’t lower our population, it will crash, as does every population that overshoots what their population can support.

People can’t get past thinking that the growth rate is decreasing, but the growth rate isn’t even the population going down. It’s just rising more slowly.

Pick any environmental issue. Its causes lead to overpopulation. Its solutions become simpler with lower population. Every other potential solution distracts us from this solution, or at best buys us time until we lower birth rate. Otherwise we only forestall the inevitable, only intensifying it.

The phrase clarifies that we can lower the population deliberately, which need not lead to any suffering, or it will lower through war, famine, disease, and other ways that mean suffering.

Which direction are you behaviors leading us to?


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7 responses on “If we don’t lower our birth rate nature will raise our death rate.

  1. Who is this directed towards, Africa? The TFR in America is well below replacement.

    • To humans in general. The population is still growing and we’re over sustainable numbers, including (especially) the U.S.

      I’m processing a relevant book, Countdown, by Alan Weisman. I haven’t finished it, but I recommend it. Over and over people ignore that our growth and existing population is unsustainable and ignorantly say degrowth is impossible, yet communities and nature prosper without it.

      It reminds me of how they say living without flying is impossible. They mean living the way they do is impossible without flying, I think, but the way they are living is built on causing others to suffer helplessly. When I switched, I found that what what they called impossible is joyful.

  2. Why are you going to say it more often, if it doesn’t apply to most audiences? In large swaths of the world (most of it, last time I looked), people seem to be fully on board with lowering their fertility rate below replacement. I think it was only in Africa and the Indian subcontinent that people were still having lots of kids. Obviously, nobody knows if either of those trends will continue indefinitely. I think a related phenomenon that has very detrimental implications for the environment is large scale emigration from those two areas into places with higher standards of living, like Europe or the US.

    • Your question prompted me, along with Weisman’s Countdown, to record a few podcast episodes on population: 248, 250, and 251. I took a while to respond because I had to think through what I would say in them.

      I hope they help address the question. I’m just starting to address the issue of birth rate and population, though I’ve considered it critical since reading Limits to Growth.

      Part of my use of this blog and podcast are to develop how I approach and treat issues. Then when I give public talks and when I start writing my next book, which I plan to write on environmental leadership, I’ll build on what I develop here. Questions from readers help develop it. Attendees at my talks tell me they like my approach, suggesting I’m progressing some. I hope you’ll keep asking questions.

      I haven’t started treating immigration, which I consider inextricably connected. I’ll get to it soon.

  3. Also, Weisman had another neat book that I read a long time ago, The World Without Us.

    I’ll be on the lookout for Countdown.

    • I’m half way through World Without Us and love it. It’s tragic that we live in this polluted a world and keep polluting it more, but I love Weisman’s work.

      I predict you’ll enjoy Countdown.

  4. Pingback: Covid advice applies to the environment. What we can do here we can do everywhere. » Joshua Spodek

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