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Six Billion People-
We Should Hang
Our Heads in Shame

The world marked somewhat of a jaded celebration on October 12, 2000, the day the world population was supposed to have officially hit six billion people.

For some obscure reason, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan went to Sarajevo, in war-torn Bosnia-Herzegovina, to mark the occasion. According to world census counters, a baby came into the world at two minutes past midnight on that particular date, and set the world population at that rounded figure. Some newspapers published cute stories, proclaiming the event a "Happy Birthday."

For me it was far from a happy occasion. I regard October 12 as an international day of shame. All signs point to the possibility that we have committed sexual death. The world is so overpopulated that we are plunging headlong into mass extinction, yet few people seem to notice or even care.

Timothy Weiskel, director of Harvard University's Environmental Values and Public Policy Program, recently warned that the human race is rushing toward extinction at a rate faster than happened to the dinosaurs, which were around for about 150 million years. He says our future is threatened because: (1.) we didn't respect the ecological system that supports our existence on this planet, and (2.) we have grown to such numbers the world's dwindling resources can no longer support the people who live on it.

In a story that appeared in Environmental News, Weiskel said: "It is the height of arrogance for humans to put themselves at the center of all creation. In the past, we've been able to move on to new land and untapped resources. But now we've run out of time and places to go."

In an attempt at rebuttal, Jerry Taylor, Cato Institute director of natural resource studies, said he believes the arrival of the six millionth person is something to celebrate. "Contrary to popular belief, the growth is not the result of increasing Third-World fertility rates, but is a clear indicator of improving economic and social trends, often the result of increasingly open, democratic government systems."

Taylor seems to have his head in the sand. Statistics show that it is, indeed, the third world, poverty-stricken countries that are breeding like flies. India alone boasts a billion people clogging its land. Indonesia is exploding with people. So is South Africa. Ironically, one of the few countries in the world that is showing a decline in population is Italy, the heart of Catholicism, where people are ignoring the demands of the church and practicing strict birth control. They understand that children are costly. Large families reduce the quality of life for everyone in the circle. And believe this or not, the government of Italy is actually offering to pay families to have more children.

The communist government of China understood the dangers of overpopulation before anyone else. In an effort to get it under control, the Chinese government, where the Catholic church has little or no influence, ruled in 1970 that families were limited to only one child. If a second child is born, the family is fined and that child is prohibited from attending the better schools. The Chinese government considered it a crime to have large families. Indeed, I must agree that new pregnancies today are crimes against humanity, not only in China, but everywhere.

Here are the awful statistics: It took most of human history, until 1804, for the population to reach a billion. By 1960, at about the time I was finishing college, the population hit three billion. In the last 40 years, our population has doubled. We produced the last billion people in only 12 years.

I heard one national commentator say it is calculated that if this rate continues, we could hit nine billion people by the year 2050. But the person who did that arithmetic did not take into consideration the rate at which our baby clock is speeding up. I think we could hit that nine billionth person within the next five or six years if something drastic doesn't come along to stop us. It is obvious that we have no intention of stopping ourselves. Most people are going blindly about their daily affairs, having families and not believing a problem even exists. Too much Prozac perhaps?

Peter Raven, director of the Missouri Botanical Garden and an expert in plants, believes there is evidence that the Earth has gone through five mass extinction events in the past, and that it is well on the way to number six.

In a recent report to the Sixteenth International Botanical Congress meeting in St. Louis, Raven said he believes between one-third and two-thirds of all plant and animal species on the Earth will be lost within the next 50 years.

In each of the prior mass extinctions, Raven noted that somewhere between one-fourth and one-half of all species died over the course of a few million years. But we are speeding up that clock too. And we are doing it by having too many babies. In the past, he said, the extinction events were caused by natural phenomenon. This time it is one species, Homo sapiens, that is setting the stage for an unnatural disaster.

What have we done? If you read this column regularly you already know this, but for the newcomers I will give it to you in brief. We have cleared the forests that purify our air, used toxic agricultural practices, accidentally or intentionally introduced various species of plants and animals into new environments, and through industrial and human waste, polluted the air, soil and water to a point where the Earth will no longer provide for us.

Now the world is getting poised for a fierce battle over claims for those last resources. If some natural disaster like a killer disease doesn't thin this herd, you can be sure that there will be one last great struggle created by the shortage of enough food, air, land and room for the crowded masses. This will be World War III. Another name for this battle might be the apocalypse. The Christians call it
Armageddon. Everywhere you look, there is a cultural myth dealing with a tragic future event that will cause a lot of people to die.

It is probably not a coincidence that in the same week that the world celebrated the six billionth child, the U. S. Senate voted against ratification of an international nuclear test ban treaty. That vote signaled to the world something the other nations suspected all along. We are an aggressive super power and willing to wage war. And we are not willing to give up our right to test and use nuclear bombs.

If we are not careful, we may speed up the process of mass extinction by committing suicide.


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