So many people, so little room

Problem? The population problem? No problem.

by Robert T. Nanninga

or years, I have been in agreement with almost every other Environmentalist on the planet in the belief that human overpopulation is the root of all environmental evils. No matter where you go in the world, there is evidence that there are just too damn many people. The problem is, most Homo sapiens disagree with those of us in the minority.

My favorite example of denial comes in a classic piece of right-wing propaganda that is brandished whenever the issue of overpopulation is raised. I call this the "Texas Theory." A few years ago, an economist decided that every American could fit comfortably in the state of Texas, therefore America is not overpopulated.

Now, I don't know about you, but I have no desire to live in Texas. Considering that experts are predicting that there will be over six billion people on this planet by June of 1999, do we really think crowding people into ever-closer quarters is the answer to the damage being done by our increasing numbers? At the current rate of expansion, this means our seventh generation's grandchildren (approximately 2150 AD) will be born into a world of nearly 27 billion human beings. Can you say Soilent Green?

Another firmly entrenched piece of right-wing myth is the belief that third world populations have a far greater impact on the environment, than do Americans. Granted, over-population in developing nations is a problem. But for them to surpass America's impact on natural resources, they would have to multiply their populations by five. The reason is that Americans consume five times more than Ethiopians. Or should I say, on average, poor Americans consume five times more than wealthy Ethiopians.

To make matters worse, Uncle Sam is encouraging American levels of consumption worldwide. "So what is wrong with expanding world markets?" you ask. Nothing, if your resource base was expanding at an equal or greater rate. The problem with the planet earth is that it is finite in its mass. One size fits all. And if one species decides that it deserves more space, then the others have to make room, make profit, or die.

For the past couple weeks I have been asking myself, "why are people so afraid of open space?" Well, the answer is in the two words that gave us the raping of the west: "Manifest Destiny." Please note that the term begins with Man, and ends with tiny. Coincidence? I think not. Because humans feel so insignificant when facing a clear night sky, we have become a cancer on the celestial body that supports us. We fear nature.

Or, closer to the point, we fear the chaos that nature represents. Order is all about control. If we were to leave any beach-front habitat undisturbed, we would not have control. Not good. Humans also fear what they don't understand, and we destroy the things we fear. So since we don't understand the necessity of a breeding pair of gnatcatchers, or a vernal pool, it becomes that much easier to destroy them.

Here in Southern California we live with a shortage of water. Yet we continue to build homes in the thousands, year after year after year. We are convinced water rationing isn't an issue of over-population, it is really just about water scarcity. Nothing that a few dams and aqueducts can't handle. Any mention that humans are taking more than their share and one is likely to be labeled a tree hugger, or worse yet, a socialist.

Open space comes in many forms. Recently, the biggest form of open space death has been in the news in a myriad of ways. Dr. Kervorkian is forcing the hand of those who would rather profit from the suffering of the terminally ill rather than forfeit the advantages that playing God affords them. Anti-abortion activists want you to believe they are pro-life, when in fact they are actually anti-death. By accepting the termination of an unwanted fetus, they would have to accept their own eventual termination.

My question is, why do so many people feel the need to breed? Even gay men and women want to make babies. If homosexuality is natural, why would they need turkey basters or petri dishes to make a baby? I disagree with fertility clinics as well. Come on folks, if the plumbing doesn't work, give it up and see Paris for the second time.

Why would anyone want to subject their offspring to the world we are creating? I just don't get it. I don't know about you, but when I look at a pregnant women my first thought is, "Oh great. One more person who's going to be crapping in the ocean."

  Robert T. Nanninga is a Leucadia resident currently working on a degree in Environmental Communications at CSUSM. You can reach Robert by sending email to or by writing to the San Diego Earth Times.