What can we do about it?

Peter Rauch peterr at VIOLET.BERKELEY.EDU
Wed Mar 29 09:28:47 CST 1995

Well, at the risk of being politically incorrect, I must disagree with
the argument of Meredith (and P Raven?) that overpopulation is much less
the problem than overconsumption. Simply put, if we ("first-worlders")
consume in proportion to our population, then everyone on earth will
have very little --still.

A very large portion of the world that lives in an "unconsuming" manner
has also taken on the spector of living in a very 'uncomfortable' manner
precisely because they don't have/use many (creature-comfort)
resources. To put it bluntly, they often must live like overcrowded
animals. If we were to redistribute the wealth, rather than to lower
our own consumption (and, I'm not taking here about waste, but simply
the things "we all like and take for granted to provide us with the
relatively 'good life'"), then we'd be living more like overcrowded
rats too.

If we simply stop consuming 'the good life', then we also become like
the average world citizen, and that's not a happy prospect either.

So, redistribution of resources and/or lowering "our" consumption,
per se, are not at all sufficient.

That leaves lowered population size, earthwide, as a necessary part of
the solution to improve quality of human life and to sustain a healthy
environment. With a much lesser population, the consumption of
resources to maintain 'the good life' will be much less and the impact
of that consumption on the environment will be tolerable/remediable.

Those who believe that humankind is in control of its destiny will
work towards sane population reduction; those who believe that we are
not in control of our destiny, but just one more evolutionary experiment
on earth, probably see another -shorter, ugly- future for humankind.
Those who don't care are the enemy of our future.

What's this got to do with biosystematics? You can argue all you wish about
how important it is to learn more about the (vast majority of) undiscovered
species and their potential value as the next cancer cure, but there don't
appear to be many people listening who care to make a difference. Some
other arguments are needed from the biosystematics community; they have
something to do with population reduction.... Frankly, everyone (but
systematists, perhaps) would all be quite comfortable if we got
population and consumption levels down, even if we never ever
discovered/described another species of organism but only left them
alone to live with (or without) us.
Peter Rauch

- - - - - - - - - -
>Date:         Tue, 28 Mar 1995 23:38:37 -0600
>From: Meredith Lane <MLANE at KUHUB.CC.UKANS.EDU>

>When I once asked Peter Raven what "we" could do about "overpopulation" in
>3rd-world countries, he very seriously said that THAT is much less the
>                                   ...it's the consumption of resources
>that destroys biodiversity more than sheer population numbers. What we
>should do is NOT ONLY control our population, but really get serious
>about controlling our consumption as well.

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