Letter to the Editor: Impact of population outweighs efforts to reduce CO2

It is heartwarming that at least one person saw the importance of my message and took up the discussion about population and CO2. It is discouraging that of my own students this semester, not one read my letter about this problem without being prompted to do so, the subject of which will affect them far more than it will my generation.

In fact, on campus, only three people had a comment for me on this matter (all positive). I wish that many more would take up this discussion, perhaps the most important subject to ever grace the pages of The Rider News. As such, I feel obliged to make a response to Laura Hyatt’s letter last week (“Ways to lower carbon emissions,” The Rider News, 10/26/07).

To paraphrase Laura, she feels I missed the point by emphasizing population over CO2 and I quite respectfully disagree. I did not overlook that relationship and, in my opinion, it is she who is missing the point. As we all know and as she wisely stated, people in the United States produce more CO2 than anyone and I chose not to belabor that well-known fact. Also, as Laura implied and as I agreed, in time CO2 alone will destroy the planet as we know it.

But my point is that if population keeps growing at the present rate and even if in the unlikely event that those billions of extra people live responsibly and produce reduced amounts of CO2, all that extra consumption of resources as well as the accompanying damaging output will end life as we know it. So yes, CO2 will eventually end us all and we in the U.S. are the guiltiest in this regard.

However, more importantly, regardless of any progress we make in this CO2 area, worldwide population growth will also cause our demise for many reasons in addition to the accompanying CO2 production.

Since people cause CO2 production as well as increase demands on our planet’s scarce resources, we need to address far more than CO2. We need to address the issue of overpopulation, which is the true source of our problem, and consider how to greatly reduce its growth so that the net effect is a population decline. To use Laura Hyatt’s own figures and current U.S. population numbers as well as projected world population growth rates, cutting our U.S. CO2 production to average world levels will reduce our own CO2 amounts by a sizable 5 billion tons per year.

By comparison, just the added people in the world population by the year 2050 will produce an extra 15 billion tons of CO2 per year! Reduction of CO2 alone, however well-intentioned and beneficial, simply will not do the job. While both are important issues, reducing population is obviously the most beneficial approach. Besides, does anyone really think Americans will voluntarily cut back on consumption of anything?

It is an unpopular message, I know, but let’s just try not to kill the messenger. We must deal with the problem, which as I said is too much procreation and overpopulation for this fragile planet to handle. That is my point and it’s as simple as that in concept.

Let’s hear from our political scientists, sociologists, administrative, government and religious leaders as well as countless others, including the students of today who will inherit this troubled planet, on how to tackle this problem worldwide very, very soon. Otherwise, by the year 2050, our population will increase by almost 50 percent to a totally unsustainable level of 9 billion inhabitants.

Population control, and I mean serious control with stiff economic and other penalties on the order of how China is doing it, is the only viable answer that I can see. Will the world please wake up? This is your future and that of your children and grandchildren. Instead of standing by while most of mankind continues to ignore this issue, Rider University could become far more active as one of the few catalysts for long-needed world discussion and action on the matter. It may already be too late.

— Ralph Gallay, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Marketing

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