CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- "Will we power down and follow the pathway to sustainability? Or keep on the road of supposedly never-ending growth in numbers of people and amount of stuff consumed. It seems to me that today's economic cataclysm has already exposed the dead end of that road.
"If we want to live sustainably and peacefully, we have to get serious about confronting the overpopulation problem. We are still adding 80 million people to the planet each year. And millions of people are on the move, the greatest number in history, destabilizing both social and environmental systems." -- Marilyn Hempel, from her commentary in "Population Press" in 2008.
The current economic cataclysm has accentuated the world's global dilemma with emphasis in China and United States whose economies are already environmentally unsustainable and where, in order to have full employment and economic growth, further unsustainability is not only the heart of the plans of recovery but the soul and history of expedient capitalism.
That is, for capitalism to flourish and profit, it must rape the environment for resources, produce stuff in abundance, pollute the air and dirty the streams in the process and encourage people to procreate in order to have more people to buy the stuff, all of which is a scenario for disaster -- because it's unsustainable.
Unsustainability results when the earth can no longer sustain the population. Haiti, Afghanistan and Malawi are examples of it.
An ecological footprint is the acreage it takes to sustain an individual's lifestyle. In the United States its takes 24 acres per capita, the highest in the world. In Europe, 12 acres, and in Haiti, one acre. Humanity's Ecological Footprints in 2005 exceeded the earth's capacity to produce the resources by 31 percent. That is, it takes a year and three months for the earth to regenerate what humans use in a single year. "Humanity is living off its ecological credit card. While this can be done for a short while, overshoot [ecological debt] ultimately leads to liquidation of the planet's ecological assets, and the depletion of resources, such as forests, oceans, and agricultural land upon which our economy depends."
It's estimated that at the present rate of population growth by 2040 it will take two planets to meet humanity's demands.