Growing population continues to make a sizable dent in the Earth
In “Want to live to 150? The world needs more humans” (Ideas, April 2), Raiany Romanni makes the bizarre claim that we have an “emerging underpopulation crisis.” In fact, our global population is on track to exceed 10 billion in the next 40 years. If the belief that “more minds translate into better solutions” were true, then at 8 billion and counting, we surely would have solved humanity’s environmental crises by now. Instead, all of them, from climate change to resource depletion to biodiversity loss, are getting worse.
Our impact on the Earth is a product of how many of us there are and how much each of us consumes. Adding more people to the mix can only exacerbate the pressure we place on the planet.
Population aging is an inevitable step toward a more sustainable future. To be sure, keeping older people healthier is indeed key to lessening the economic downsides of population aging (and would improve the quality of life for them and their would-be caretakers), and better preventive health care alone would help tremendously. However, while a huge population of genetically modified, planet-hopping immortals would make an interesting sci-fi novel, it is not the solution to our problems.
Malthus was on to something
It may still be premature to dismiss the predictions of Thomas Malthus that an ever-expanding human population would exhaust zero-sum resources (“Want to live to 150? The world needs more humans.”). Those who dismiss the perils of overpopulation by pointing to improvements in lifespan and quality of life over the past few centuries always seem to forget that so much of this has been made possible by the availability of abundant, relatively cheap — and exhaustible — fossil fuels. When we have ruined our climate, and the oil finally runs out, our planet may well turn into a living hell for the billions in the Malthusian “lower classes” who no longer have access to so many of the modern technologies that we take for granted.
Nope, no underpopulation problem here
I was surprised to read Raiany Romanni’s Ideas article about our need to fund more antiaging research, because, as the headline maintains, “the world needs more humans.” People born in 1960 may be surprised as well, since in their 80s they will have seen world population triple from 3 billion to 9 billion (despite the fact that the Massachusetts birthrate is currently below replacement). Currently, China and India each have about 40 percent more people than there were in the entire world in 1800. So I hope that the underpopulation problem doesn’t keep Romanni up at night.
As as for the notion that the antiaging progress will make “it possible for more older adults to remain in the workforce,” she might want to talk to the rioters in Paris who are protesting a rise in the retirement age from 62 to 64.
Before calling for more humans, let’s take better care of the current ones
I will take seriously Raiany Romanni’s thoughts regarding the wisdom of increasing the world’s population when we finally get to the point where no child in the world suffers from daily hunger or dies from conditions that we in the so-called advanced industrial nations can easily treat.