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By Billy | August 11, 2011

This came from a discussion-argument on Facebook I had with a friend. I haven’t ever lined my thoughts out so precisely, so it’s become a post for my records and yours.

Overpopulation can not be in and of itself be the problem. There are other populations that are larger in number and in consumptive force than humans but are not to be seen as a problem for maintaining this fact. My particular example was ants, though I assume there are other living species that occupy more space and consume (bodily) more material to survive than human beings (especially if you consider fungus and plants).
There are more ants on the planet than there are humans. If you put all the ants on a scale and weighed it compared to all the humans, the ants would weigh more. If you put all the food that earth’s ants need to survive on a scale and compared it to all the food that earth’s humans need to survive for the same given time frame, you would see that the ants are more numerous, more massive, and consume more absolutely and per pound than humans.
You cannot say that the number of people is the problem, because there are other, more plentiful creatures that have higher consumptive needs than humans. If ppopulation number were the deciding factor for what we should work to change to stop the current unsustainability trend, then you should first get rid of all the ants and fungi who are consuming more than humans are.

The difference is that ants and fungi happen to produce as much or more than they consume. By consuming decaying, slow, injured, etc., things, they are actually being productive for their ecosystem. Production and consumption are, for much of the planet’s cycling, the same thing. Even parasites play a productive role by keeping populations in check, killing slow or careless animals, or whatever. So our problem is not inherently in our numbers, but what we do — particularly relating to our production/consumption ratio and what type of production and consumption we partake in. The type of consumption a parasite takes part in is one directional within a sinlge organism, but in the bigger scale actually contributes to the bigger ecosystem. Humans right now are not contributing to their ecosystem as a whole, and their numbers compound that problem.

I say that overpopulation is a distraction because it is something that I can’t combat by myself. Here are some of the options I, personally, have for combating overpopulation: Go into politics with the hope of mass sterilization or extermination, campaign for people to stop having sex/children anywhere from the local to global level, spend all day on facebook instead of starting a family, adopting as many African kids as I can get my hands on, or kill myself. (I am quite open to alternatives. I just made that list up, but it seems to cover the bases). It doesn’t seem a fight worth fighting because I really don’t see what good will come of it. Not only is it ignoring the root of the problem (since sheer numbers don’t matter in nature; [see above about Ants])

Because there isn’t much that I can do to combat it, and because it is a symptom of a bigger, actually conquerable problem, I see it as a distraction. Thinking about how everyone else in the world is contributing to a problem and the best thing I can really do is not do as bad as my parents did in having me is a really self-defeating, unempowering, action-less engagement. I propose we, instead, think more about how we can find a better balance with our ecosystem and think of what we can do instead of what we can stop doing.

Topics: Philosophy | Comments Off on Overpopulation

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