Imagine you’re sitting in your home, comfortably with your family, say a spouse and a kid. Then five other families move into your home with you. You can imagine conflict would arise more when you more than quintuple the number and density of people in your home.
I found the following graphs in a piece a podcast guest, Jane O’Sullivan, wrote, The Catalyst of Overpopulation in the Gaza Conflict. I consider her research and voice among the most important on population and overpopulation.
The piece begins “Mountains of work have analysed the roots of the conflict in Gaza, but all have missed the catalyst of increasing population.” It continues
From its very beginning, peace has eluded Israel, due to the difficulties of accommodating the nationalist aspirations of two peoples in one small land. International peace efforts have repeatedly failed and now we have an escalation which is horrifying the whole world. Israel has taken a very painful blow and will retaliate in kind. Take a step back, however, and a fundamental catalyst is missed: rapidly increasing numbers of people on both sides.
Whenever two differing peoples with increasing numbers are forced to share limited resources, conflict arises. Deteriorating living conditions are inevitable due to population increase, but each side blames the other for its woes. Sides are taken and grudges for past aggressions fester, regardless of the retribution already meted out.
When both sides decide that their security depends on more people, it becomes a pact of mutual destruction.
Read the rest for the full analysis: The Catalyst of Overpopulation in the Gaza Conflict. Overpopulation may not explain the whole problem, but it exacerbates a lot and not to treat it misses a big piece of the problem, as well as a mutual strategy all sides are pursuing, like what systems thinkers call an arms race.
Speaking of podcast guests on middle east conflict and overpopulation, Alan Weisman‘s book Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth?, covers overpopulation too. The first chapter covers overpopulation in Israel and Palestine. You can read most of that chapter in Amazon’s free preview (though if you want to buy it, I recommend buying it from an independent store).
Countdown enabled me to talk about population and overpopulation without ignorantly falling into believing the only way to affect population growth was through coercive means. I learned from it examples that helped nations without coercion, through voluntary and even fun means, reach desired smaller family sizes, which turned out to be lower, usually around replacement level.
Normally governments promote growth. Jane O’Sullivan’s research debunks the myths behind that misguided strategy. After the article I linked to above, I recommend watching her videos.
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