CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The classic movie "Soylent Green" depicted a horrifying future when overpopulation, pollution and global warming leave defenseless millions crammed in poverty and filth, desperate for enough to eat.
The relentless upsurge of world population threatens to make that science-fiction scenario come true, especially in less-developed regions, where birthrates remain excessive.
On consecutive Sundays, this newspaper is presenting an in-depth study of overpopulation danger. The long reports describe how vast eons passed before humanity reached the billion mark in 1810, then doubled to 2 billion by 1930, then rapidly soared to 7 billion last year. On a graph, lines shoot upward like a rocket since the mid-20th century.
By 2050, growth is projected to hit 9.3 billion -- if the world is lucky enough to curtail birthrates. If it isn't, the total might reach 11 billion.
Even with successes of the Green Revolution and genetically engineered crops, there might not be enough food for such a human swarm -- especially with human-caused pollution and erosion reducing arable land. And there might not be enough clean water. Or enough jobs. Or enough schools. Or enough cars. Or enough clothing, etc.
A U.N. report says one-eighth of humanity now lives in slums, but the rate will be one-third by 2050. It says 8 million die yearly of hunger-related diseases.
This week's report described how overpopulation in Muslim lands leaves young men unemployed and frustrated -- causing many of them to join fanatic "jihad" murder militias to find more income and purpose. The bipartisan commission that investigated the Sept. 11 terrorist attack said one cause was "a large, steadily increasing population of young men without any reasonable expectation of suitable or steady employment -- a sure prescription for social turbulence."
The obvious cure for overpopulation is better birth control, but U.S. fundamentalists and Catholics oppose international attempts to save women and girls from excessive childbearing. To please these religious groups, the preceding Bush administration slashed American support for the U.N. Population Fund. But the new Obama administration reversed course.
Another cure is to end subjugation of women. Raising them from inferior status, letting them pursue education and jobs, always lowers birthrates.
We hope West Virginia's members of Congress do their best to support international birth control and equality for women.