According to the Worldwatch Institute, an environmental think tank, the Earth has 1.9 hectares of land per person for growing food and textiles for clothing, supplying wood and absorbing waste. The average American uses about 9.7 hectares.
These data alone suggest the Earth can support at most one-fifth of the present population, 1.5 billion people, at an American standard of living.
Continue reading: How many humans can Earth support?
Further reading: Alarming facts and figures about global population
Commentary by The Secular Jurist: The current world population is roughly 7.6 billion, over five times the maximum number sustainable by Earth’s limited natural resources. A human population greater than 1.5 billion is theoretically sustainable if living standards are reduced, but such an alternative would be logistically impractical and politically dangerous as evidenced by the populist backlash against austerity measures throughout western democracies. So, there are at least 6 billion people alive today who are pushing modern civilization to the breaking point simply by their existence. What can we do? What are our options?
- Maintain the status quo. Do nothing other than continue current policies and practices. By the middle of this century or sooner, population growth will flatten out and the death rate will climb due to food and fresh water shortages, the spread of disease and escalating military conflicts.
- Rebuild societies on sustainable models. This would require an accelerated transition away from fossil fuels and towards clean renewable energy sources, a fundamental shift away from greed and wealth accumulation as economic motives, a reformative freeing of our political systems from big money and other corruptive special interest influences, and more management of human reproduction through education and increased access to birth control methods.
- Take drastic measures. This would involve a purposeful triggering of a depopulation mechanism or mechanisms, or taking advantage of artificial and natural catastrophes such as nuclear war and asteroid impacts.
I prefer option 2. How about you?