By Leon Lindley

“How high’s the water, mama?  Six feet high and rising.”

 Many of you may recognize the title line as an old Johnny Cash tune. In this case, I’m using it as a metaphor for what is happening with the Earth’s most pressing environmental problem, population growth. There are several good books that address the topic. One of the books is by Paul and Anne Ehrlich, One with Nineveh. It deals with pressing environmental problems, while Edward O. Wilson’s book, The Diversity of Life, makes the case it all starts with the problem of overpopulation.

When I was born in 1950, there were 2.5 billion people on planet Earth, by the year 2000 that figure had risen to 6.1 billion people. If I were to live to be hundred years old, the human population is estimated to reach 8.9 billion, with a peak later in the century at around 10 billion. Whether you’re talking about global warming, deforestation, air pollution, water pollution or extinction, it is all exacerbated by the population problem.

What makes it interesting with politicians is that the problem of overpopulation is not even on their radar. Our way of life and the very existence of the planet may be threatened and no politician is even talking about it.

Another side to the population problem is consumption. In the world of free market globalization the promise is that everyone will be lifted to the life style of the United States. It is an empty promise; there are not enough resources on the plant for everyone to live our lifestyle. According to Mathis Wackeragel and William Rees, authors of Our Ecological Footprint: Reducing the Human Impact on the Earth, it would take two more planets like the Earth to provide the resources to bring the rest of the planet up to our standard of living.

The time for change is short. Our children or our grandchildren will go through what Edward O Wilson calls the “bottleneck” (population peak). When these children understand what’s coming, they may be asking “How high’s the water, mama?”

 “The tide of earth’s population is rising, the reservoir of earth’s resources is falling.”  (Fairfield Osborne, 1948)