I saw a very interesting article last week that didn't get much media attention, but it probably sent the environmentalist nutjobs from Greenpeace, Earth First and Sierra Club into apoplectic shock. The article noted that a group of about 200 international scientists recently finished an extensive research project and found that almost 46% of the land on earth remains wilderness.
That's right. Almost half of our planet remains virtually untouched by human beings. To qualify as wilderness, spaces had to have fewer than five people per square kilometer, have 70% of its original vegetation, and have a size of at least 10,000 square kilometers (about the size of Yellowstone National Park). So this wasn't a manipulated study that aggregated football fields, parks and playgrounds to falsify the actual amount of wide-open space on our planet.
An alarming number of individuals, including many conservatives, are under the false impression that the world is quickly becoming overpopulated and will be unable to continue sustaining human life. Until a few months ago, I have to admit that I would have included myself in that crowd.
But lightning struck one day as I was listening to Rush Limbaugh in my car. Rush stated that the entire world population could fit into the state of Texas with room to spare. I was absolutely certain that he must be exaggerating or simply wrong. As soon as I returned to my office, I took out a calculator and performed the computation myself. To my shock, he was correct. Texas holds approximately 1180 square feet of space for every living human being on the planet. That's basically enough room for a family of four to have a house on 1/8 of an acre of land.
The overpopulation hysteria began in the sixties, when a Stanford "scientist" named Paul Ehrlich wrote a book called The Population Bomb. Just as Jaws frightened millions of people from swimming in the ocean, this book succeeded in scaring the crap out of people with its prophesies of starvation, death, and destruction. Ehrlich even went so far as to suggest that the government should consider putting birth control agents in food production to limit population growth.
The only problem is that Ehrlich was a complete idiot. He predicted massive increases in famine, dwindling and expensive natural resources, piles of garbage and waste, and environmental destruction. His predictions weren't just wrong. The exact opposite has occurred. Unbelievably, I still occasionally see him interviewed as an "expert" on national news programs who are producing hippie propaganda about our dying Mother Earth.
Contrary to what you hear from the major media and PBS, earth's ability to sustain current and future population growth has never been better. Things are not getting worse. Things are actually improving.
Some quick facts:
· Life expectancy is increasing every year. Even people in poor countries like India and China have life expectancies of 60+ years now.
· Birth rates around the world today are lower than at any time in the last century.
· Fewer than half as many people die from famine each year now than a century ago, even though our population has quadrupled. Many of those who die of famine today are the result of political action by ruthless dictators and not a lack of food.
· People in third world countries consume more food calories in their daily diet than at any time in prior history. And the calorie numbers are increasing every year.
· The inflation-adjusted market price of every major natural resource has steadily decreased over the last century, and it continues to decrease. (Note: Economist Julian Simon bet Paul Ehrlich $10,000 back in 1980 that he couldn't pick a single raw material that would not drop in price at least one year later. Ehrlich accepted the bet and picked several metals and raw materials to be measured in ten years. He lost on every single selection when measured in September 1990. In fact, every possible raw material he could have selected was cheaper ten years later, and it was impossible that he could have won the bet.)
· The projected landfill waste for the United States (a relatively massive producer of waste) over the entire next century could be stored in a landfill area only 18 miles on each side.
While life around the world continues to improve, I am not suggesting that we can ignore population and environmental issues. Life may be improving, but much more needs to be done to help the less fortunate in developing countries.
However, it's important that we focus our money and finite resources on real problems and not those invented by the Paul Ehrlichs of the world and perpetuated by our media and EnviroNazi organizations. Money is better spent on providing clean drinking water to third world countries than on something like forced sterilization to address an imaginary problem.
So the next time you hear someone complaining about the overpopulation of the earth, tell them we can all just move to Texas.