The Root of the Problem

Roland Stahl
March, 2020

     It is clear that the world is falling apart on all sides, and from every point of view.  Whenever I have looked at this problem in the past, I have always come down to exhortations to plant more trees by the millions, by the billions, and by the trillions.  So much of the decline in overall biological health of the planet can be attributed to the loss of the trees.  But that only represents half of the problem.  The other half of the problem is that there are too many people.  Since time immemorial, trees have been cut down to make way for more people.  But now it is time for the population of the earth to reduce to make way for more trees.  

     There are too many people on the planet.  All of the symptoms of endless warfare, global warming, climate change, migrations of people, fear, and panic, are all exacerbated by the rising numbers of people, overwhelming the capacity of the earth to cope.  I have mentioned this before as one problem among many, but lately it has been looking to me like the root of the problem, the other side of the coin of the loss of the trees.  The constant press of people all over the globe create ongoing tensions and conflict everywhere.  So, what is the optimum number of people to live on the planet?  That is an easy question – the answer is clearly zero.  We have to rephrase the question, and ask, “What is the largest number of people the planet could accommodate without crashing its biological limits?”  I have heard estimates ranging from half a billion to about three billion, depending, of course, on variations of ecological arrangement.  

     So that would mean that, at the same time we want to plant 300 trillion trees, we want to drop the birth rate to about a third of present levels, in order to restore a sustainable balance of trees to people.  This is a politically charged issue, which must be directly addressed – how can this reduction of population be voluntarily achieved?  It seems to me that no other mechanism can be devised other than financial incentives and disincentives by which people will voluntarily reduce their fecundity.  To say that we need more children in order to support and grow the economy were to reveal the present system to be exactly a Ponzi scheme.  It is necessary to establish a stable and sustainable ecology in order to ensure a stable financial economy for the reduced levels of population.  

     Most people probably believe that any woman, and any man, for that matter, has a “natural right” to produce children, as of the very essence of life itself.  But if the planet has exceeded, and by an untenable margin, the levels of human population it can tolerate biologically, then this basic understanding has to be reconsidered.  There is a cost associated with every additional human being on the planet, and this cost must be paid by the new person’s parents or sponsors.  

     It may be observed that if the reduction in the population were to be controlled by the expense of having children (with or without a “baby tax”), it will mostly be the poor who will refrain from having children.  But that would amount to a reversal of the current trend, in which the largest growth in population is coming from the poorest people.  

     But what else is money for, and in what other way can it have any meaning, but to ensure our survival and that of our children?

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