Guest Blog: The Root Cause of Human Population Growth


Steven Earl Salmony is a global citizen and psychologist. He founded the AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population in 2001

  Homo sapiens is a creature of the earth. Understand that food is the tap root of life for the human species. There may be other factors that help sustain human life, but food is the 'tap root' for the growth of absolute human population numbers, just as is the case with other species of earth.

Our problem is a biological one. A positive feedback loop has been established in the food-population relationship because natural limiting factors to the unbridled growth of absolute human population numbers have been eliminated by human ingenuity. Human beings are unique creatures of earth. We are exceptional in many wondrous ways, but not in terms of population dynamics. Hence the recent 'bloom' of absolute global human population numbers that are primarily caused by spectacular increases in the food supply which is derived from greatly enhanced production and distribution capabilities.

The conundrum: increasing food production annually to meet the needs of growing population is fueling a human population explosion. With every passing year more people are being fed and more people are going hungry.

Perhaps we can agree to a desperate need for an adequate-enough explanation for 'why' we have ended up where are, in this global predicament. A growing body of unfalsified research has been ubiquitously denied and consequently not widely shared much less consensually validated by population experts of science as well as those professionals with appropriate expertise in the fields of demography and economics. Uncontested science makes it possible for us to answer the question posed now, here.

A new biological understanding is emerging from ongoing scientific research. It is simply this: as is the case with other species, human population numbers appear or not as a function of food availability; food is the independent, not the dependent, variable in the relationship between food and population numbers; and human population dynamics is essentially similar to, not different from, the population dynamics of other species.

Sound scientific research provides straightforward empirical data of a non-recursive biological problem that is independent of economic, political, ethical, social, legal, religious, and cultural considerations. This means human population dynamics is like the population dynamics of other species. It also means that global human population growth is a viciously cycling positive feedback loop, a relationship between food and population in which food availability drives population growth, and population growth fuels the false perception, the mistaken impression, the fatally flawed misconception that food production needs to be increased to meet the needs of a growing population.

With every passing year, as food production is increased leading to a population increase, millions go hungry. Why are those hungry millions not getting fed year after year after year... and future generations of poor people may not ever be fed? Every year the human population grows. All segments of it grow. More people with blue eyes and more with brown ones. More tall people and more short ones. All segments of the population grows. Every year there are also more people growing up well fed and more people growing up hungry. The hungry segment of the global population goes up just like all the other segments of the population. We are unexpectedly increasing the number of hungry people in the course of feeding more people. We are not bringing hunger to an end by increasing food production.

The skyrocketing increase of the human population in our time on a planet with the size, composition and ecology of Earth has caused a growing number of apparently unforeseen and exceedingly deleterious ecological occurrences. Among these potentially catastrophic, human-driven consequences is climate destabilization. What is fortunately becoming clearer to naked eyes, as we observe what is happening, is the manifold ways overproduction, overconsumption and overpopulation activities of the human species are occurring synergistically and simultaneously threatening life as we know it, environmental health, and future human well being. The spectacular increase of these distinctly human, overgrowth activities is causing the mass extirpation of earth's biodiversity, the relentless dissipation of its limited natural resources, the unbridled degradation of its environs and the reckless threat to a good enough future for children everywhere.

For a moment let us carefully consider the remote possibility that the human community writ large pulls itself together on a war footing to fight climate change and wins that battle by reducing carbon emissions of all kinds to net zero in 2020, while the tap-root cause of anthropogenic climate change continues to be denied. We may win a major Pyrrhic victory. That is certainly a good thing. And yet, if we do not accurately enough locate the foremost cause of the biological problem that is ailing humankind, the problem that is precipitating climate change, we could lose the prospects of a good enough future for life as we know it.

We have run out of time for population experts to remain reticent. They have to assume their responsibilities by examining data and reporting findings regarding the question, "Why are human population numbers exploding?" The time has come to disclose all of what we know --- the whole truth --- with regard to human creatureliness and human population growth, according to the best available science and 'lights' we possess.

After hundreds of thousands of years of relatively stable population numbers of H. sapiens, why has the total human population increased in size from 1 billion to 7.7 billion in the brief time that is framed by the past 225 years?

Unfalsified ecological science of human population dynamics indicates that the population dynamics of H. sapiens is essentially similar to, not different from, the population dynamics of other species, how are humans going to limit sensibly and effectively the current unbridled growth of their population numbers without beginning to limit "increases only" in the total production of food for human consumption? More attractive alternatives to this necessary step (e.g., educational/economic opportunities for females and contraception for males/females) represent useful proposals, that is certain. But these 'interventions' are patently insufficient to stabilize population numbers of the human species because human population numbers appear or not as a function of food supply. See articles by Hopfenberg, Pimentel, 2001 and Hopfenberg, 2003.

Take a moment to reflect upon the way in which a thoughtful, effective and systematic redistribution of the world’s abundant food resources, if implemented simultaneously with limits placed on total food production, would feed the human population and stabilize absolute human population numbers. That is to say, limiting increases only in the total supply of food for human consumption, when coupled with a sensible food redistribution program, will lead to population stabilization and starvation reduction.

Let the word go forth from this time and place. The unfalsified, willfully ignored, ecological science of human population dynamics that makes crystal clear to all that the UN mantra "food production must be increased annually to meet the needs of a growing population," is a widely shared and consensually validated fool's errand. If ever the human community is sensibly and meaningfully able to restrain the bacteria-like growth of absolute global human population numbers (recall that human population dynamics is essentially similar to the population dynamics of other species), limiting increases only in total food production for human consumption must be a part of any program of action. If superabundant harvests are also simultaneously and fairly redistributed so as to assure substantial baseline subsistence to people everywhere on the planet, such a program will lead to population stabilization initially and population reduction in the long term, all the while reducing human starvation.

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