In our case this is because the relationship between human population growth and wildlife extinctions is not always direct. We are a species with an insatiable appetite for resources, and we sometimes use them irresponsibly. Thus, it could be argued, what we do and how we survive may be more important to our impact on other species than the simple effect of our great numbers.
Thus we need solid evidence to establish that, over the broad sweep of time, there is a close tie between the simple count of people on the planet and the diminishing count of other species. In other words, the impact of our large population would be great even if we were to behave differently. If there is such a link, then it is particularly frightening, for there are now over six billion people on the planet.
Nature has been "comparatively sparing" in the space and resources necessary to support both wildlife and a human population. Malthus was the economist who warned us in 1798 that the human population would grow more quickly than the resources necessary to sustain it. Now I know that Malthus and his ideas have been much maligned over the years by optimists who see no problem with human population growth. Thus in 1998, the two hundredth anniversary of his publication went almost without notice. The following year, the milestone number of A.D. 2000 got much more press than another milestone number: six billion, the number the human population reached sometime midway through the year. Granted, both are arbitrary numbers. But to a few of us concerned scientists, the population milestone was far more frightening than the computer glitches predicted for "Y2K." Y2K had almost no effect; the six billion figure has a lasting and growing impact. Yet few people noticed the milestone, and even fewer cared.
Human population growth is outstripping resources, especially as it relates to the sustainability of earth's biodiversity. As Ohio novelist and conservationist Louis Bromfield put it in 1947, "The bitter truth is that we are having our noses rubbed in Malthusian theory." It is even truer today than it was then, for our population
Human population growth is outstripping resources, especially as it relates to the sustainability of earth's biodiversity. As Ohio novelist and conservationist Louis Bromfield put it in 1947, "The bitter truth is that we are having our noses rubbed in Malthusian theory". It is even truer today than it was then, for our population size has since doubled.
Many of the world's population live in poor countries already strained by food insecurity; inadequate sanitation, water supplies and housing; and an inability to meet the basic needs of the current population. These same countries are also among the fastest growing places in the world. A large proportion of these populations are supported through subsistence agriculture. As populations grow, competition for fertile land and the use of limited resources increases. The people living in these countries are also moving toward a greater standard of living, perhaps matching the lifestyles of the more developed countries whose current consumption patterns and resource use are not necessarily sustainable.
Quite simply, if we want to conserve biodiversity on earth, the most important conservation measure we can take is to slow or halt the growth of the human population. Frankly, a reduction in numbers from six billion may even be desirable. Now