Public Comment

Population Growth Is the Problem

By Jane Powell
Wednesday March 11, 2009 - 07:27:00 PM

When God said “Be fruitful and multiply” perhaps he should have added “within reason.”  

By 2050, global population will exceed 9 billion people. In California, there are already 36 million people, projected to grow to nearly 60 million by 2050. Yet there is no discussion of population growth in the current environmental debates—instead there is endless blather about smart growth, transit, green building, and CFL’s. The Association of Bay Area Governments tells individual cities how many housing units to build every year in order to accommodate the projected population increase, when population growth itself is the problem. The problems which plague our planet: pollution, climate change, traffic gridlock, overcrowded cities, greenhouse gases, homelessness, illegal immigration, poverty, hunger, and genocide- all are made worse by higher populations and all could be alleviated by fewer people. Unlimited growth is the philosophy of a cancer cell, yet it has become taboo to discuss population growth—which is rather like treating cancer by ignoring the tumor and trying to alleviate the symptoms instead. Population growth isn’t just the elephant in the room, it’s more like the Woolly Mammoth. But since our economy is based on endless growth, entrenched interests on every side would prefer that population growth never be mentioned. Politicians, developers, corporations, and even the “pro-life” movement have a vested interest in population continuing to grow, and none of them give a damn about the future, though many give lip service to “sustainability.”  

If population were stabilized or reduced, there would be no need for sprawl. There would be no need to line every arterial with multi-story condos. There would be no need for water rationing in a drought. There might even be enough jobs to go around. 

We live on a finite planet, though we treat it like its resources are endless. Many scientists believe that even at the current world population of 6.8 billion, we have already overshot the capacity of the planet to regenerate. It’s like we’re on the Enterprise and life support is failing on all decks but we still expect Scotty to pull some miracle out of his hat to save us.  

We can either stabilize (and eventually reduce) our population through humane methods (family planning, education, incentives), or Nature will do it for us in ways that are neither pleasant nor fair. People in developing countries are already suffering from starvation, drought, disease, wars, and genocide—while we in the developed nations believe that will never happen to us, and go blithely on thinking that building enough “density near transit” will somehow solve the problem. There are many who believe there will be a huge population die-off in the next fifty years, and that our future may resemble Mad Max more than it does Star Trek. Those of us who are concerned with overpopulation have chosen this month to speak out, in the hope of putting the subject back up for discussion. More information is available at 


Jane Powell is an Oakland resident.