The Real Inconvenient Truth

By Randy Alcorn, Senior Writing Fellow

Al Gore’s Academy Award winning slide show demonstrating the current and ongoing threat to the Earth’s ecosystem from global warming argues the case that manmade pollution is the cause of impending global disaster. Gore presents his alarming data as an “inconvenient truth”.  And, if indeed, as the majority of scientists agree, global warming is the cataclysmic consequence of human consumptive activity, why does Gore’s documentary devote so little attention to the most obvious and prominent truth of all, that the prolific growth in human population is the ultimate root cause of all the ecological horrors he exposes and predicts.

As with so many Cassandras of ecological doom, Gore hardly mentions human population growth, even though it is the fundamental factor in the equation of ecological disaster. Rather, he prescribes the usual remedies of individual life style sacrifices like driving less, using less energy and water—living smaller. While this prescription is a prudent and responsible one for humans to swallow, it will not provide the ultimate global cure if human population growth is not reversed.

The equation of ecological destruction and human population growth is one of simple math. No matter how clever and inventive human technology can be, it will be overwhelmed by the explosive multiplication of unrelenting population growth. There is only so much land, water, and air. Those whose faith that yet-to-be invented technology will provide humanity’s salvation from the calamities of irresponsible over-breeding are no more rational than those whose faith that yet-to-be seen deities will save mankind from its population predicament.

When it comes to human population, most of the ecological community along with most governments continue to pursue policies of accommodation rather than remediation.  There are dozens of organizations dedicated to savings animals, or forests, or rivers, or oceans, or birds, bats, and barn-owls, but only a handful that attack the root cause of the threat to all of these pet preservations—human population. Government planners, meanwhile, strategize as to how they can force more people onto mass transit, or build freeways on top of freeways, squeeze more housing onto less land, and convert seawater into drinking water. 

As the pressures of population congestion translate into more crime and human despair, governments impose ever more laws and regulations on the population—an insidiously unrelenting process that erodes individual freedom and assaults institutions of democracy. Any democracy, even a representative democracy like America’s, may ultimately succumb to the weight of its burgeoning population.

While Al Gore and other environmentalists call for substantial reductions in carbon emissions over the next couple of decades, they shy away from emphasizing the population factor in their calculations for salvation. Few of them are calling with equal emphasis for a substantial reduction in the growth of human population.

Even if the earth’s current human population of 6.5 billion were able to reduce its emissions of pernicious effluvia by 50% during the next forty years, at current rates of population growth the Earth will suffer an increase of yet another 3 billion people—a 50% increase—over the same forty year period. The net effect on saving the planet amounts to zero.

The population of the United States, by far the most voracious consumers and the greatest producers of greenhouse gases per capita of any nation on Earth, has been doubling every forty years and is headed for one billion before the end of this century. This injurious increase in population level is due almost entirely to unbridled foreign immigration mostly from nations whose populations have exceeded their resources and whose cultures, religions, and lack of education promote continued population growth.

Meanwhile the two most populous nations on earth, China and India, are rapidly industrializing and have the potential to consume more resources and produce more pollution than the smaller populations of the U.S. and Europe combined.

Calls for continued reductions in resource use and for restrictions in life-style choices in the face of unmitigated population growth is a tail-chasing strategy that leaves any clear-headed thinker dizzy. Even if the heroic efforts of human technology succeeded in squeezing more resources from a finite planet with which to sustain a human population of 9 billion or more, what is the point? Unless the growth of human population can be stopped and even reversed, all solutions, technological or otherwise, are ephemeral and ultimately futile. Humanity will be in constant crisis mode trying to sustain its burgeoning numbers until the inevitable correction is imposed by Nature. This is the real and most significant “inconvenient truth” that needs to be confronted by all of humanity.

Al Gore’s list of “ten things to do” to help stop global warming does not include a single word about reducing population growth. With all the publicity and media coverage his film documentary has received, what a missed opportunity to educate his audience about the most crucial factor in reducing global warming. The inconvenient truth is that human population has exceeded the healthy carrying capacity of this planet.

While it may be beneficial to replace incandescent light bulbs with fluorescent light bulbs, it would be more effective towards salvaging the planet to turn on light bulbs in minds darkened by political expediency and religious dogma. Those who surrender reason to religious and political doctrine and push the rubble of their misguided convictions into the path of prudent population reduction policies are complicit in condemning an entire planet to doom.
Rather than everyone on earth sinking into a third world lifestyle of deprivation, rationing, and disease ridden, overcrowding, it makes far more sense to limit our numbers so that all people can spend their time on earth living in dignity, freedom, and comfort.