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Wednesday, 16 November 2011 14:20

The 500-pound gorilla

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I don’t remember exactly what I was doing when he came into the room. It was cool, so I had the small electric heater on and I had some coffee and a snack. I was doing some Internet research, so I had a few web pages open on my browser and I was trying to concentrate, but this thing was big. Big, dirty, smelly and obviously hungry as it lumbered over, slurped my coffee and gulped down three-fourths of my snack. Next, it turned the heater to where I was barely getting any heat at all and somehow plugged into my computer slowing everything down to a crawl.

“Okay, that’s it!” I shouted. “Who are you and what are you doing?”

It turned its big vacant eyes on me and half sneered, half grinned through crooked yellowing teeth and stated matter-of-factly, “I’m POPULATION GROWTH – get used to it.”

A big shout out to Wild South for recently posting this New York Times story (“Breaking a Long Silence on Population Control” by Mireya Navarro) on their website and Facebook page. The article appeared on Oct. 31, a day before baby number 7 billion was predicted to grace the planet.

The article highlights efforts by Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity to try and raise awareness regarding the connections between an increasing world population and an increase in carbon emissions and other environmental degradations such as extinction and loss of habitat. It’s a connection easy enough to see on nearly any level – more human beings on a planet with finite resources equals more resources consumed at a faster rate, which can lead to any number of outcomes like more competition; more conflict; a smaller share of the pie for everyone; less biological diversity; greater disparity between the haves and have-nots; more widespread hunger and/or famine or a combination of any/all of the above. But it’s a connection that requires strong will to broach.

Navarro states, “Major American environmental groups have dodged the subject of population control for decades, wary of getting caught up in the bruising politics of reproductive health.” I would amend that slightly to say the bruising politics and economics of reproductive health, because, face it, what most environmental organizations fear about broaching the over-population issue is losing supporters and donations. While even dyed-in-the-wool conservatives may be enticed to open their checkbook, with pictures of baby seals being clubbed; pictures like the one of author, Monica Drake passing out condoms at a Center for Biological Diversity rally that accompanied Navarro’s New York Times piece would slam those checkbooks shut faster than fruit fly cell division.

Navarro pointed out in her article how difficult it is to get mainstream environmental organizations to talk about population growth. She stated, “Groups contacted for this article generally declined to discuss the issue or did not return calls.” Navarro noted that the president of National Audubon “… declined an interview without explanation.” Other groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Green Group and more either danced around the issue or didn’t reply at all.

It’s an interesting article and can be found in its entirety at www.nytimes.com/2011/11/01/science/earth/bringing-up-the-issue-of-population-growth.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all. There is also a related link – “Room For Debate: Can the Planet Support 10 Billion People?” where you can read some different perspectives regarding population growth from noted researchers – all are informative. You can access that link independently at www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2011/ 05/04/can-the-planet-support-10-billion-people/how-10-billion-can-survive.

I applaud the Center for Biological Diversity for having the political will to address the 500-pound gorilla.

(Don Hendershot is a writer and naturalist. He can be reached a This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .)

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