NEW YORK: Are eight billion humans too many for planet Earth? As we reach this milestone on November 15, most experts say the bigger problem is the over-consumption of resources by the wealthiest residents.
“Eight billion people, it is a momentous milestone for humanity,” said United Nations Population Fund chief Natalia Kanem, hailing an increase in life expectancy and fewer maternal and child deaths.
“Yet, I realize this moment might not be celebrated by all. Some express concerns that our world is overpopulated. I am here to say clearly that the sheer number of human lives is not a cause for fear.”
So, are there too many of us for Earth to sustain?
Many experts say that this is the wrong question. Instead of the fear of overpopulation, we should focus on the over-consumption of the planet’s resources by the wealthiest among us.
“Too many for whom, too many for what? If you ask me, am I too many? I don’t think so,” Joel Cohen of Rockefeller University’s Laboratory of Populations told AFP.
He said the question of how many people Earth can support has two sides: natural limits and human choices.
‘We are stupid and greedy’
Our choices result in humans consuming far more biological resources, such as forests and land, than the planet can regenerate each year.
The overconsumption of fossil fuels, for example, leads to more carbon dioxide emissions, responsible for global warming.
We would need the biocapacity of 1.75 Earths to sustainably meet the needs of the current population, according to the Global Footprint Network and WWF NGOs.
The most recent UN climate report mentions population growth as one of the main drivers of an increase in greenhouse gases. However, it plays a smaller role than economic growth.
“We are stupid. We lacked foresight. We are greedy. We don’t use the information we have. That’s where the choices and the problems lie,” said Cohen.
However, he rejects the idea that humans are a curse on the planet, saying people should be given better choices.