The future of life on Earth depends on curbing overpopulation

The future of life on Earth depends on curbing overpopulation

As humanity hits 8 billion people, Robin Maynard and John Seager write about the loss of biodiversity and renewable resources

The dugong is now functionally extinct in China due to hunting and loss of habitat, according to the Zoological Society of London and Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Leading scientists state that the huge scale of “human-driven” loss of species demands urgent action. They are right. But your article (Animal populations experience average decline of almost 70% since 1970, report reveals, 13 October) fails to reference a key driver of biodiversity loss – the continuing unsustainable growth of our own human population – and the need to address it, among other factors, to reverse the trend.

We are using up the renewable resources of 1.7 Earths. If things don’t change, we’ll need three by 2050. As more of us demand more from nature, we worsen already catastrophic biodiversity loss, accelerating water scarcity, pollution and deforestation.

At current rates, our planet doesn’t have enough to support our burgeoning numbers – let alone sustaining all other species. In less than a month, humanity will hit 8 billion people on our planet. Governments, international bodies and societies can no longer ignore our population’s role in adding to the climate, wildlife and ecosystem collapses confronting us.

The solutions to population are proven, affordable and available: women’s empowerment, universal quality education, accessible healthcare and fairer shares of our world’s resources. What’s lacking is the honesty to acknowledge this elephant in the room, and the commitment to act.
Robin Maynard
Director, Population Matters

It’s truly unfortunate that the executive director of the UN Population Fund, Dr Natalia Kanem, denies the reality of global overpopulation (UN warns against alarmism as world’s population reaches 8bn milestone, 18 October).

She might want to acquaint herself with the 2019 UN report that warned: “Nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history – and the rate of species extinctions is accelerating, with grave impacts on people around the world now likely.” This analysis determined that “around 1 million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction, many within decades”.

There is no denying the hard fact that soaring human numbers are shredding the fabric of life as we know it. If ever there was a time to sound the alarm about population growth, that time is now.
John Seager
President, Population Connection

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