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How can we stop the world from having too many babies? Feed more people

August 26, 2014 • Daily Email Recap

How can we stop the world from having too many babies? Feed more people 


Zoom out on the graph of human population until it encompasses the entire timeline of our species and you’ll notice something alarming. It looks like a right angle, with one line hovering near zero for millennia, and another, at present day, headed straight up toward the stratosphere.


Here I sit, on a warm quiet day in my neighborhood, with children playing nearby and a train whistle farther off, living a reasonable, modest life. And yet, at the same time, I, along with you and the rest of us, am plastered against the tip of population rocket powering upward atop megatons of explosive fuel.


That graph comes from Joel Cohen’s 1995 book, How Many People Can the Earth Support? Though it’s now almost 20 years old, it’s still incredibly useful in exploring the conflicting answers to that question, because Cohen never takes sides. He simply (and exhaustively) lays out the arguments, and every shred of data used to support them.
Cohen is still alarmed by that graph. “We are in a completely unprecedented range of experience,” he said. He has a gentle, grandfatherly manner, and speaks slowly, choosing his words one by one. “Population has tripled in my lifetime. It’s changing the world so fast and in so many dimensions that people aren’t aware of the significance.”


Current World Population


Net Growth During Your Visit