The apocalypse challenge – day 6: Overpopulation

Enough music, films and TV. Serious times call for serious topics.

This is day 6 of my apocalypse challenge. Over 10 days, I’m posting about catastrophes and almost-armageddons which had a big influence on me personally, and that also nearly destroyed the world.


The Apocalypse Challenge:

Day 6 – Overpopulation

This one is your fault. Yes, you – the person reading this right now. You’re contributing to the end of the world just by being alive and eating, buying things, breathing, and pooping. You and billions like you. You’re a monster.

In the late 60s, a book came out called “The Population Bomb” warning that the planet’s population (at the time 3.5 billion) was growing unsustainably. Ironically, the book became a best-seller because there were so many people alive at the time, that there was a huge, thriving market for things like books about how there were too many people around.

Author Dr Paul Ehrlich predicted that by the 1970s hundreds of millions of people would starve – when population growth inevitably outstripped food supplies. When mass famines didn’t take place, he updated the prediction to the 1980s. Then he had to update it again. And then again a few years later. Population numbers are still shooting up, but – unhelpfully to Dr Ehrlich – each year, fewer and fewer people are actually starving globally. There’s more food than ever.

I get the impression Dr Ehrlich is a nice chap – worrying about people not starving is noble – but his book is deeply flawed because it didn’t account for advances in farming, food distribution efficiency improvements and perhaps most importantly, it completely failed to consider the zombie factor.

1968 – the year the Population Bomb was published, was also the year of the first modern zombie film: The Night of The Living Dead.

Zombies used to be seen as lumbering second-rate baddies, but thanks to the Population Bomb and George Romero’s landmark film, they’re everywhere now (which is how they get you, by the way.) Old school horrors like vampires and demons suddenly seemed just too old-fashioned, too gothic and unrealistic. Zombies became proxies for our everyday fears about the population bomb – about our friends and neighbors. It didn’t even matter if everyone had enough food, clothing and shelter, there’s just something inherently scary about there being too many damn people around. It leads to no good. Right?

That’s the conclusion many countries came to in the 1970s. Overpopulation worries led to inhumane and harsh policies in India, Mexico, China and elsewhere. These included government limits on how many children a woman could give birth to, forced abortions, and state-ordered sterlizations. The fear of there being too many people around – the zombie factor – has actually caused more suffering to humanity than overpopulation itself.

So go ahead, feel free to exist, without guilt, and even to procreate – if you can find someone to procreate with. With there being 8 billion people on the planet now to choose from, even a monster like you should finally have a shot.

 

 

Tomorrow’s armageddon will be brought to you by: 

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