Overpopulation; Food for Thought

This article about overpopulation is published in our digital magazine Latent Axiom, get a copy for $3.50 au here to read more like it.

Earth overshoot day fell on the 29th of July in 2019,[1] since 1970 when the date was first calculated it has steadily crept back from December 29th. There have been a handful of years in which humanity has pushed back on the overshoot by a couple of days, but the trend is certainly expanding use of our planet’s finite resources.

Measuring the steadily increasing speed with which our species consumes its planetary resources has a tendency to steer people in the direction of overpopulation alarmism. It is not difficult to see why, on the surface it’s a somewhat simple conclusion to come to. It takes the planet eighteen months to keep pace with our environmental demands each year, this translates to humanity needing 1.7 planets. Of course we don’t have more than one planet, so we must have an overpopulation problem.


I would argue we don’t have an overpopulation problem. I see our resource use dilema being firmly rooted in our dominant social disposition. Under the capitalist system we create a torrent of stuff, it is what keeps our entire social market system operating. It keeps the clear majority of employed people in jobs, which is a good thing when you need an income to pay to live. The problem with creating an ever increasing volume of materials, in order to maintain a growth based economic model, is you need to have continual turnover of those items to maintain adequate employment which allows people to feed the system.

An ouroboros of sorts, this system is in an endless cycle of create, consume at the expense of planetary sustainability. With the endless create consume cycle comes endless waste, of course in such a system creating material items which last is not an option. To keep this system operating we need to create a fantastic amount of junk, it needs to break or be fundamentally useless out of the box, so you can either replace it or be duped into buying the next fad junk item to keep people employed.

So we can blame overpopulation, if our goal is simply to maintain a horrible model of financial economics, which is fundamentally anti-economic when you think about it. Or, we could address the elephant in the room and come up with an alternative economic model. A model not based on profits, or even money, but rather on global sustainability and human health. I am not suggesting it will be an easy thing to do by any stretch of the imagination. I would, however, point out it may be easier than watching our biosphere crumble around us while we hoard all our dollars.

[1] Earth Overshoot Day. (2019). Earth Overshoot Day 2019. [online] Available at: overshootday.org