I see Catholic comboxes are heating up over another commencement speaker. At the Bench, Greg Kandra picks it up from LSN, which gives its readers contacts at DePaul University for the registration of complaints.

I’d love to sit down with Dr E.O. Wilson and have a chat about science. But failing that, I’d like to address believers and others in the commentariat here.


Human overpopulation is a truth. Scientists, believers, and others only disagree on where the border lies.

Your options:

  1. About one square mile per person is optimal–enough room for everybody to get lost. World population: fifty million, give or take.
  2. Today’s population of seven billion grows enough food to feed itself, thanks to the scientific advances in agriculture. Our real problems are political: distributing food and other resources so people can live and thrive.
  3. If every person had an acre of land (is that about right, sustenance farmers?) the world would have 32 billion people, give or take.
  4. If every person had a five-by-five foot piece of land to stand on, that takes us to fifty trillion human beings.

I’m not going to put it up in a poll–I’d like to see your responses a bit nuanced: between two and three, between three and four, leaning to three, less than one–stuff like that. Add also your theological and moral commentary on this. I’m most interested in hearing from people who think overpopulation warnings are overblown. I’m sure you would say that human being standing shoulder to shoulder in ten layers of floors (two to three quadrillion people) would be overpopulation. If human beings doubled their numbers every thirty years starting today we could achieve that in six centuries. What do you say?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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4 Responses to Overpopulation

  1. Eric says:

    In many Catholic forums one often reads that overpopulation doesn’t exist as a problem since we always have enough room for more people. In terms of sheer space, that’s true, but in all the ways that actually matter it’s ludicrously false. The problem isn’t enough space per se, it’s a multiple and cascading series of problems that accrue when you have too many people trying to access a finite resource base. Overpopulation is connected with uncontrolled waste disposal, which makes the resource problem worse. It’s connected with human migrations and all the problems associated with that (pollution, overconsumption, civic and political strife–see China, for instance). It’s connected to the problem of natural resource overshoot: the World Wildlife Fund’s recent Living Planet Report finds that if everyone on earth were to live like Americans, we’d need 4 Earths to have the necessary resources. It’s a huge, huge problem we’re faced with.

  2. John Donaghy says:

    Most of the discussion about overpopulation points the finger at the poor world without analyzing the serious problems of overconsumption and radical inequity in access to the goods of the world. It’s not merely, as Eric notes, “natural resource overshoot.” It’s a question of at least two of the cardinal virtues – justice and moderation. A discussion on population without looking at this wider context is inadequate morally and will most likely miss some real changes that could occur.
    Much discussion of overpopulation also often looks for technical solutions – contraception or scientific agricultural advances. It’s much more complicated.

  3. crystal says:

    I think contraception is a good thing for so many reasons, one of them being the problem of overpopulation.

  4. Bob OConnor says:

    Read Book 1 of the series andgulliverreturns.info for a well documented analysis of the problem. But don’t worry, God will provide–starvation, malnutrition,unemployment, and global warming.These may reduce the problems to some degree.

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