when a population of a species exceeds the carrying capacity of its ecological niche
- Quotes are arranged alphabetically by author
A - FEdit
- Babies are the enemies of the human race... Let's consider it this way: by the time the world doubles its population, the amount of energy we will be using will be increased sevenfold which means probably the amount of pollution that we are producing will also be increased sevenfold. If we are now threatened by pollution at the present rate, how will we be threatened with sevenfold pollution by, say, 2010 A.D., distributed among twice the population? We'll be having to grow twice the food out of soil that is being poisoned at seven times the rate.
- Isaac Asimov (1969) in an interview with Boston magazine. Partly cited in Ellen Peck (1976). The baby trap, p. 17
- It's going to destroy it all. I use what I call my bathroom metaphor. If two people live in an apartment, and there are two bathrooms, then both have what I call freedom of the bathroom, go to the bathroom any time you want, and stay as long as you want to for whatever you need. And this to my way is ideal. And everyone believes in the freedom of the bathroom. It should be right there in the Constitution. But if you have 20 people in the apartment and two bathrooms, no matter how much every person believes in freedom of the bathroom, there is no such thing. You have to set up, you have to set up times for each person, you have to bang at the door, aren't you through yet, and so on. And in the same way, democracy cannot survive overpopulation. Human dignity cannot survive it. Convenience and decency cannot survive it. As you put more and more people onto the world, the value of life not only declines, but it disappears. It doesn't matter if someone dies.
- Isaac Asimov (1988) in interview by Bill Moyers on Bill Moyers' World Of Ideas (17 October 1988); transcript (page 6) - audio (20:12)
- Comment in response to this question by Bill Moyers: What do you see happening to the idea of dignity to human species if this population growth continues at its present rate?
- We are a plague on the Earth. It’s coming home to roost over the next 50 years or so. It’s not just climate change; it’s sheer space, places to grow food for this enormous horde. Either we limit our population growth, or the natural world will do it for us, and the natural world is doing it for us right now.
- The success of modern medicine is today so great, that millions of people are kept alive - if not cured - who in earlier days, and with less scientific aptitude, would normally have died. In this developed skill and knowledge, and in this aptitude in the care of the physical mechanism, is today to be found a major world problem - the problem of overpopulation of the planet, leading to the herd life of humanity and the consequent economic problem - to mention only one of the incidental difficulties of this success. This "unnatural" preservation of life is the cause of much suffering, and is a fruitful source of war, being contrary to the karmic intent of the planetary Logos.
With this vast problem, I cannot here deal. I can only indicate it. It will be solved when the fear of death disappears, and when humanity learns the significance of time and the meaning of the cycles.
- Whereas the unconscious operations and blind forces of the planet have provoked turbulent changes over the last 4.5 billion years of earth’s evolutionary history, now change is being directed by a conscious and volitional agent – "humanity." We cannot speak of humanity equally, to be sure, as the problem was caused by the industrialized capitalist West and the poorer nations who contributed least to climate crisis will be hit the hardest. But nations such as China, India, and Brazil are major contributors, and the cumulative impact of 7.5 billion people on the planet is causing extinction and collapse everywhere. The stability of the Holocene is now gone, changes are accelerating beyond our understanding and control, and chaos waits at our door.
- In my opinion, you have out-of-control population growth, and you have fewer and fewer [resources]—we are heading for the biggest train wreck our civilization has ever come across ever. Ever. And I think that within 40 or 50 years, we’ll be there. If your population curve is on an exponential growth, and the resources are on an exponential decline, what happens first is you get increases in wealth discrepancy, which means that you get rich pockets of gated communities with security guards outside them, and you get more and more poverty outside that area. And the resources go down, and people start having resource wars over water and food and agriculture and arable land, and then you have Joburg in 2050. And you can see signs of it everywhere. It’s just overpopulation and lack of resources. We just aren’t in control of our destiny.
- ... Reverend THOMAS MALTHUS' prediction made in 1798—that man would reproduce himself into a condition of "misery and vice" because of the growing imbalance caused by the multiplication of his own numbers by geometric progression, while his food supply was increasing arithmetically—is as valid today as when it was made. He was a visionary and saw clearly the monster of overpopulation. The only error in his prediction was one of a "few seconds on the clock of human occupancy of the earth". We, agriculturists, can buy at most a few decades of time in which to bring population growth into successful balance with food production.
- Norman Borlaug: "Wheat breeding and its impact on world food supply." In: Third International Wheat Genetics Symposium. CIMMYT, 1968.
- People displayed either persistent ignorance of the carrying capacity concept or naive faith that carrying capacity could always be expanded, that limits could always be transcended. Such an assumption seemed to underlie the stubborn refusal of capitalists and Marxists alike to acknowledge that the myth of limitlessness had, at last, become obsolete. There was also the assumption that further advances in technology would necessarily enlarge carrying capacity, not reduce it. Enlargement of carrying capacity had been the role of technology in the past; however… there has been a reversal of this role in the industrial era. Technology has enlarged human appetites for natural resources, thus diminishing the number of us that a given environment can support.
- William R. Catton Jr., Overshoot (1980), p. 32.
- Man has imagined himself to be more unlike other mammals than he really is, so when human behavior has shown these same characteristics, various other explanations have been put forth which have obscured the significance of population pressure itself. In the twentieth century, with human numbers enlarged and resource drawdown becoming significant, man went to war. He rioted in the streets. He committed more and more crimes of violence. His political attitudes polarized and he created totalitarian governments, some of which gave license to sadistic tendencies. A generation gap widened and deepened. In spite of earnest efforts by humane activists to inhibit racism and to rectify economic inequality, disparities between people remained and animosities became more virulent. Standards of decency in behavior toward others and expectations of considerate self-restraint were eroded and degraded in many places.
- William R. Catton Jr., Overshoot (1980), p. 107.
- Life has now entered a sixth mass extinction. This is probably the most serious environmental problem, because the loss of a species is permanent, each of them playing a greater or lesser role in the living systems on which we all depend. The species extinctions that define the current crisis are, in turn, based on the massive disappearance of their component populations, mostly since the 1800s. The massive losses that we are experiencing are being caused, directly or indirectly, by the activities of Homo sapiens. They have almost all occurred since our ancestors developed agriculture, some 11,000 y ago. At that time, we numbered about 1 million people worldwide; now there are 7.7 billion of us, and our numbers are still rapidly growing. As our numbers have grown, humanity has come to pose an unprecedented threat to the vast majority of its living companions.
- Gerardo Ceballos, Paul R. Ehrlich, and Peter H. Raven, Vertebrates on the brink as indicators of biological annihilation and the sixth mass extinction. PNAS, June 1, 2020.
- Man will come to realize that the overpopulation of the world is a grave danger to the continuation of the species. Today, one of the major reasons - and this is the extraordinary paradox - for the huge population in the world is the over-population of the poorer areas of the world, the Third World, those nations least able to afford to feed their peoples... they are dependent on having large families because they know that two-thirds or more will die before they can grow up, and the traditional peasant outlook on families as people to look after them in their old age. That is their insurance, their pension for the future... They have large families in many areas of the world simply to ensure that one, two, or maybe three will live into adulthood.
- Benjamin Creme in The Reappearance of the Christ and the Masters of Wisdom (1980)
- When... we share the produce of the world, you will see that the masses of poor people who are producing most of the forms for the incarnating egos will take the steps needed to prevent this, and gradually the population will subside to a level which the planet can easily bear.
- Benjamin Creme in The Reappearance of the Christ and the Masters of Wisdom (1980)
- The key to understanding overpopulation is not population density but the numbers of people in an area relative to its resources and the capacity of the environment to sustain human activities; that is, to the area’s carrying capacity. When is an area overpopulated? When its population can’t be maintained without rapidly depleting nonrenewable resources... By this standard, the entire planet and virtually every nation is already vastly overpopulated.
- Paul R. Ehrlich, The Population Explosion (1990)
- The debate regarding which individual factor, among the three key factors producing the environmental crisis, causes more damage - the size of the human population on the planet, excessive consumption of resources or unequal/ unjust distribution of resources among countries [the wealthier countries consume much more resources, per person on average than poorer countries] - is like a debate about which contributes more to a triangle, the base or the ribs of the triangle. You can not separate the three factors. If we analyze the numbers over a relatively longer time interval, we will conclude that the size of the population has a bigger impact than consumption. On the other hand, consumption and unequal distribution are also important aspects. If we do not change these three factors all at the same time, the quality of our life will change dramatically. Today humanity is delivering a serious blow to nature, but it is clear that nature will deliver the final blow.
- Paul R. Ehrlich, People should produce far fewer children, or expect the worst (Dec. 2012)
- Earth is home to millions of species. Just one dominates it. Us. Our cleverness, our inventiveness, and our activities have modified almost every part of our planet. In fact, we are having a profound impact on it. Indeed, our cleverness, our inventiveness, and our activities are now the drivers of every global problem we face. And every one of these problems is accelerating as we continue to grow towards a global population of ten billion. In fact, I believe we can rightly call the situation we're in right now an emergency – an unprecedented planetary emergency.
- "Intensification of [food] production to feed an increased population leads to a still greater increase in population."
G - LEdit
- My growing environmental awareness only adds more fuel to the argument for having no children. And the logic of never-ending consumption does not just harm the environment, it kills people too.
- Around 1990, we became the most numerous mammalian species on the planet, outnumbering even rats.
- All measures to thwart the degradation and destruction of our ecosystem will be useless if we do not cut population growth.
- We are experiencing an accelerated obliteration of the planet’s life-forms — an estimated 8,760 species die off per year — because, simply put, there are too many people. Most of these extinctions are the direct result of the expanding need for energy, housing, food and other resources. The Yangtze River dolphin, Atlantic gray whale, West African black rhino, Merriam's elk, California grizzly bear, silver trout, blue pike and dusky seaside sparrow are all victims of human overpopulation. Population growth, as E. O. Wilson says, is "the monster on the land." Species are vanishing at a rate of a hundred to a thousand times faster than they did before the arrival of humans. If the current rate of extinction continues, Homo sapiens will be one of the few life-forms left on the planet, its members scrambling violently among themselves for water, food, fossil fuels and perhaps air until they too disappear. Humanity, Wilson says, is leaving the Cenozoic, the age of mammals, and entering the Eremozoic — the era of solitude. As long as the Earth is viewed as the personal property of the human race, a belief embraced by everyone from born-again Christians to Marxists to free-market economists, we are destined to soon inhabit a biological wasteland.
- Chris Hedges, "We Are Breeding Ourselves to Extinction", March 9, 2009.
- Of course, we also have to think about the role of population going forward. The more the global population grows, the more difficult this challenge will be. As we approach this question, it's crucial - as always - that we focus on underlying structural drivers. Many women around the world do not have control over their bodies and the number of children they have. Even in liberal nations women come under heavy social pressure to reproduce, often to the point where those who choose to have fewer or no children are interrogated and stigmatised. Poverty exacerbates these problems considerably. And of course capitalism itself creates pressures for population growth: more people means more labour, cheaper labour, and more consumers. These pressures filter into our culture, and even into national policy: countries like France and Japan are offering incentives to get women to have more children, to keep their economies growing.
- Jason Hickel, Less is More: How Degrowth Will Save the World, 2021, pp. 110-111
- For those of you who have just turned twenty and thus only just earned the right to vote, I will speak simply and plainly. In a word, without fail there comes a time when we must reduce our population in order to maintain the world.
- Chang-Gyu Kim, Sentinel, (Korean 2010; English translation 2019)
- Unlike plagues of the dark ages or contemporary diseases we do not yet understand, the modern plague of overpopulation is soluble by means we have discovered and with resources we possess. What is lacking is not sufficient knowledge of the solution but universal consciousness of the gravity of the problem and education of the billions who are its victims.
- Martin Luther King, Jr., acceptance speech, Margaret Sanger award in human rights 1966; Lamont Hempil Sustainable communities.
- We have learned a lot in the 50 years since "The Population Bomb" was published. We should not shy away from discussing what actions are ethically permissible to facilitate a stable level of population growth, nor should we leave this discussion in the hands of the affluent. The conversation about ethics, population, and reproduction needs to shift from the perspective of white donor countries to the places and people most affected by poverty, climate change and environmental degradation.
- Frances Kissling, Jotham Musinguzi and Peter Singer, "Talking about overpopulation is still taboo. That has to change". The Washington Post. June 18, 2018.
- [Thomas] Malthus was certainly correct [that demand will outstrip supply], but... [hydrocarbons] ...skewed the [supply-demand] equation over the past [two] hundred years while the human race has enjoyed an unprecedented orgy of [a fraction of] nonrenewable condensed solar energy accumulated over eons of prehistory. The “green revolution” in boosting crop yields was minimally about scientific innovation in crop genetics and mostly about dumping massive amounts of fertilizers and pesticides made... of ...[petroleum] onto crops, as well as employing irrigation at a fantastic scale made possible by abundant oil and gas. The cheap oil age created an artificial bubble of plenitude for a period not much longer than a human lifetime, a hundred years. Within that comfortable bubble, the idea took hold that only grouches, spoilsports, and godless maniacs considered population hypergrowth a problem [with a direct solution], and that to even raise the issue was indecent. ...As oil ceases to be cheap and the world reserves arc toward depletion, we will indeed suddenly be left with an enormous surplus population... that the ecology of the earth will not support. No political program of birth control will avail. The people are already here. The journey back to non-oil population homeostasis will not be pretty. We will discover the hard way that population hypergrowth was simply a side effect of the oil age. It was [more of] a condition [without a remedy], not a problem with a [direct] solution. That is what happened, and we are stuck with it.
- We've achieved a global human population of about 7 billion as of this writing. Peak human population will surely lag behind peak oil and peak mineral resources until these conditions express themselves as food shortages. This means that the human population will continue to rise for a while, even as we begin to encounter these very strict resource limits. It’s not possible to estimate how much the population will increase because the relationship between energy and mineral resources and food production is a very fragile equation, subject to any number of discontinuities. To these, add the complications of weather disasters arising from climate change, including drought, the spread of plant diseases, and so forth. This lagging further rise in human population will only make the inevitable contraction more acute, once food shortages begin. Anyway, 7 billion already amounts to a human population overshoot in relation to the planet earth’s ecology. We're putting a strain on everything the earth has to offer us. While the combination of peak stuff and 7 billion humans is forcing the issue, I think the truth is that circumstances will now determine what happens, not policies or personalities.
- James H. Kunstler, Too Much Magic, p. 10.
- If I were entering adulthood now instead of in the environment of 50 years ago, I would choose a career that kept me in contact with nature more than science. This is a choice an individual still can make—but no longer mankind in general. Too few natural areas remain. Both by intent and indifference we have insulated ourselves from the wilderness that produced us. Our emphasis of science has resulted in alarming rises in world populations that demand an ever-increasing emphasis of science to improve their standards and maintain their vigor.
- Charles Lindbergh, The Wisdom of Wilderness, LIFE, December 22, 1967.
- It is still the case that the worst enemies of life are, on the one hand, an excess of life (human life, in particular) and, on the other, the legislation and structure of societies based on market economy. The sturdier a society, the more peaceful it is; the more efficient economic growth (i.e., the ransacking of natural resources), the quicker other forms of life will step aside. Everything that upsets the established order of society, causing chaos and panic, gives time to nature and, ultimately, humans too.
- Pentti Linkola, Can Life Prevail?: A Revolutionary Approach to the Environmental Crisis. p. 166
M - REdit
- There is no way we could keep going as we have been. The increase in human population in the 1990s has exceeded the total population in 1600. The population has grown more since 1950 than it did during the previous four million years. The reasons for our recent rapid growth are pretty clear. Although the Industrial Revolution speeded historical growth rates considerably, it was really the public-health revolution, and its spread to the Third World at the end of the Second World War, that set us galloping. Vaccines and antibiotics came all at once, and right behind came population. In Sri Lanka in the late 1940s life expectancy was rising at least a year every twelve months. How much difference did this make? Consider the United States: if people died throughout this century at the same rate as they did at its beginning, America's population would be 140 million, not 270 million.
- The Earth's population is plagued by famines, energy shortages, epidemics, environmental pollution, degeneration, terrorism, dictatorship, anarchism, slavery, excessive increase of waste materials, racial hatred, food shortages, destruction of rain forests, the "greenhouse effect", pollution of lakes, streams and oceans, hatred towards asylum-seekers; radioactive emissions, chemical pollution of water, air, plants, food, human beings and animals. Crime, murder, mass murders, manslaughter; alcoholism, hatred of strangers, oppression, hatred of one's fellowman, extremism, sectarianism, drug addiction, overpopulation, annihilation of animal species, war, violence, torture and capital punishment, general mismanagement, water contamination, eradication of plant species; hatred, vice, jealousy, lovelessness, lack of logic, false humanitarianism, lack of housing, increased traffic, destruction of arable land, unemployment, the collapse of health care, the collapse of care for the elderly, destruction of nature, the collapse of solid waste removal, and the lack of living space, among others. In spite of the many efforts, mankind's problems are not decreasing but, instead, continue to rise steadily in direct proportion to population increases.
- Human numbers are rising at roughly 1.2% a year, while livestock numbers are rising at around 2.4% a year. By 2050 the world’s living systems will have to support about 120m tonnes of extra humans, and 400m tonnes of extra farm animals.
- George Monbiot, "There’s a population crisis all right. But probably not the one you think". The Guardian. November 19, 2015.
- Putting an end to the population explosion will not of itself save the ecosphere, but not ending it will add greatly to the dangers the planet faces. The environment can sustain a quality of life for just so many people.
- Michael Parenti, Blackshirts and Reds: Rational Fascism and the Overthrow of Communism. (1997), p. 155
- Human overpopulation, the ever increasing power of our technology, and the demand of our omnicidal, neoliberal economic system of infinite growth on the basis of finite resources threaten the earth with total destruction.
S - ZEdit
- Erroneous belief about population growth has cost dearly. In poor countries, it has directed attention away from the factor that we now know is central in a country's economic development, its economic and political system. And in rich countries, misdirected attention to population growth and its supposed consequence of natural-resource shortages has caused waste through such programs as now-abandoned synthetic fuel programs, and the useless development of airplanes that would be appropriate for an age of greater scarcity.
- Julian Lincoln Simon, "Scarcity or Abundance? A Debate on the Environment," on juliansimon.com
- Adding more people causes problems, but people are also the means to solve these problems. The main fuel to speed our progress is our stock of knowledge, and the brake is our lack of imagination. The ultimate resource is people – skilled, spirited, and hopeful people who will exert their wills and imaginations for their own benefit, and inevitably they will benefit not only themselves but the rest of us as well.
- History upon Terra tells us what horrors follow upon religious mandates of unlimited reproduction.
- ...the gains of low infant and maternal mortality and rises in population longevity—brought about in great part by harnessing fossil fuels, the agricultural revolution, modernization, and disease and injury reduction efforts—in many instances impedes rather than facilitates moving toward sustainable living. It can be argued from the ecological perspective that most public health efforts, as humanitarian as they are by intention and immediate effect, through accelerating population pressures on the environment are paradoxically hastening the destruction of the earth's habitat on which the next generation of humanity depends. It raises the concern that our perceived gains may be only illusory and temporary, with huge but unmeasured and unlinked environmental costs that will eventually lead to shorter lives of misery for our descendants.
- Harold B. Weiss, "Overshoot" in Public Health Reports (January-February 2009).
- The pattern of human population growth in the 20th century was more bacterial than primate. When Homo sapiens passed the six billion mark we had already exceeded by perhaps as much as 100 times the biomass of any large animal species that had ever existed on the land. We and the rest of life cannot afford another 100 years like that.
- E. O. Wilson, quoted in Life on the Brink: Environmentalists Confront Overpopulation. University of Georgia Press (2012), p. 83
- A Summary of Human Population Dynamics. Russell Hopfenberg. Pan Earth.
- Quotes on Human Over-Population and Related Subjects, Sustainable Population Australia
- Overpopulation, overconsumption – in pictures. The Guardian April 1, 2015.