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.
- 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 over-population 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)
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.
- 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
- 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.
- "Intensification of [food] production to feed an increased population leads to a still greater increase in population."
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 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
- Quotes on Human Over-Population and Related Subjects, Sustainable Population Australia
- Overpopulation, overconsumption – in pictures. The Guardian April 1, 2015.