Credit: Overpopulation by VESAPELTONEN at deviantArt

This is from a summary via the blog wmtc (we move to canada) about the book Too Many People? Population, Immigration, and the Environmental Crisis by Ian Angus and Simon Butler. The authors examine the arguments behind the notion that overpopulation is the leading factor of environmental degradation, addressing issues of reproductive freedom, food shortages, immigration, lifestyle choices, and other related topics. I haven’t read the book, but from this summary, it looks like good, thought-provoking read. Read the full article here and buy the book if you’re so inclined. For a countering viewpoint, check out this post from Enough of Us—C&C


Throughout the history of the modern environmental movement, there has always been a school of thought that the central problem (or at least one huge part of the problem) is overpopulation. Under this view, in order to preserve natural resources, we must slow global human population growth.

Historically and today, this involves changing reproductive patterns in developing or third-world nations, here called the global south. In short, women in the global south must have fewer babies, for the sake of the survival of the planet.[…] The more people who live on the planet, the more CO2 emissions there are. That’s easy to show. The correlation between population growth and emissions growth seems obvious. On further inspection, though, the link proves to be illusory.

Consider the facts:

  • Between 1980 and 2005, Sub-Saharan Africa had 18.5% of the world’s population growth, and accounted for just 2.4% of growth in emissions.
  • During that period, the US had 3.4% of the world’s population growth, and 12.6% of the growth in emissions.[…]

The “per capita” problem

A country’s emissions are often expressed per capita – the total emissions from that country divided by its total population. But per capita figures are a convenient way to make any social problem appear to be an individual problem.

[But consider if] half the population of Canada suddenly disappeared, my per capita share of emissions, and that of very other remaining Canadian would increase dramatically overnight, without any change being made in my – or anyone else’s – personal levels of carbon consumption. The population fetishists would realize their fondest wish (a dramatic reduction in population levels) while the per capita emissions levels would soar!

[B]laming individual choice for the environmental crisis ignores gross income equality within the global north. Poverty is rampant. Millions of people are struggling to eat and keep a roof over their family’s heads. When we hear and read about how much Americans (Canadians, Australians, etc.) consume, we generally hear averages. But in the US, the wealthiest 20% of the population receives and spend 60% of all income. The average means very little.


Read the full article at wmtc: what i’m reading / marxism 2012 program notes: “too many people?” population, immigration, and the environment.