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Bill Ryerson – Dealing With The Elephant In The Room: Overpopulation


Worldwide, three new humans are born every second. Every day, 225,000 more mouths are added to the global dinner table.

That adds up to 80 million new people per year — the population equivalent of the five largest cities in the world. That’s like a new Shanghai, a new Beijing, a new New Delhi, a new Lagos, and a new Tianjin being added every year.

This growth trajectory is simply not sustainable from a planetary resources standpoint. As the global population continues to grow at an exponential rate, its demand is causing key resources like fresh water aquifers, rainforest canopies, fishing stocks, fertile topsoils, etc to similarly deplete exponentially. These oppositional exponentials, mathematically, can only result in an evitable planetary ‘overshoot’ — which many argue we are already well into.

What can be done? Bill Ryerson, president of the Population Institute, joins us to discuss the work of the Population Media Center in addressing the interconnected issues of the full rights of women and girls, population, and the environment. It’s mission is to empower people to live healthier and more prosperous lives and to stabilize global population at a level at which people can live sustainably with the world’s renewable resources.

Our earlier podcast with Bill focused on the existential dangers of overpopulation (you can listen to it here). This week’s podcast focuses on the strategies that show the most promise for slowing, or perhaps even reversing, world population growth, should we be willing to pursue them:

All of those new people on the planet have needs for food, shelter, housing, and clothing. When you look at their environmental impact, the number of new people is a major driver of lost biodiversity, and it’s a significant factor in climate change.

Now, I’ve heard a lot of environmentalists say ‘Well, population doesn’t matter’ because the real culprits in climate change are the high consumers of the West who each have a huge carbon footprint. But in fact, if you take the median projection of population growth by the UN Population Division from now to 2050 — an additional 2.5 billion people — and multiply that times the admittedly low per capita carbon emissions of a citizen in the developing world, it’s the climate equivalent of adding two United States to the planet.

Put another way, projections show that whether we have a major effort to promote family planning and small family norms and delayed marriage and stopping child marriage, or a minor effort, that will result in a difference, from a climate standpoint, of 2 United States by 2050.

I would venture that the leaders of virtually every environmental group, if spoken to privately, would clearly recognize that population growth is a major threat to the environmental goals of their organization. And yet, publicly, they’ve made a decision not to touch that issue for fear that they’ll get themselves in trouble. And part of the reason for that I think has to do with their approach to environmental issues.

Many environmentalists think in terms of regulation as the solution to everything: if we have a climate problem, let’s have a carbon tax; if we have a pollution problem, let’s have pollution laws and regulations. But if we have a population problem — oops, what does that mean? Does that mean we have to tell people how many children to have? Therefore they conclude they better stay away from population because telling people how many children to have would obviously get them into trouble.

But what’s very clear is that coercion, in addition to being a human rights violation, is not effective. Persuasion and modeling of behavior that helps people understand the benefits to them, of educating their daughters rather than selling them into marriage, of allowing women to have say in how many children to have and allowing women equal rights in the workplace outside the home and various other goals including information and access to family planning services – that all this, within a human rights context, has been the reason that countries like Thailand have moved from rapid population growth to below replacement-level fertility. Environmentalists just haven’t come to grips with the fact, or realized that, indeed, the population problem can be much better resolved through human rights-based approaches.

Click the play button below to listen to Chris’ interview with Bill Ryerson (41m:14s).


Chris: Welcome, everybody, to this Peak Prosperity podcast. I am your host, Chris Martenson. And today is May 16th, 2018. You live in world surrounded by exponential charts. Some good, but most bad. Rain forest is disappearing at an increasing rate, and if charted, that chart looks like a hockey stick. It starts out slowly back in the early 1900s, then rises slowly until, boom, that line turns the corner, and it shoots upwards. The number of airline miles flown also a hockey stick. Energy consumed, ditto. Fresh water use, again, we have a hockey stick. Underneath all of this, driving every read more


35 Comments on "Bill Ryerson – Dealing With The Elephant In The Room: Overpopulation"

  1. The last drop on Sun, 27th May 2018 11:24 am 

    No need to fret…People are the same as yeast in a petri dish…with the same outcome…coming soon to a neighborhood near you.

  2. Davy on Sun, 27th May 2018 12:03 pm 

    greggie and mm, don’t read this it was on the hedge last week.

  3. Plantagenet on Sun, 27th May 2018 12:05 pm 

    Almost all population growth is occurring in underdeveloped countries in Africa and South America. Any effort to reduce global population should concentrate on these areas.


  4. Davy on Sun, 27th May 2018 12:10 pm 

    Real population reductions that is necessary will require 100MIL-200MIL deaths a year over births. This will need to go on for a generation or two. That is an average also. That may sound draconian and it is but look at it this way we have 80MIL new humans a year. This will get us back to around the 1BIL-2BIL carrying capacity the planet can handle. This is serious business and something that again people really can’t talk about because it is too severe. So what will happen is Band-Aids that really are not enough until one day this process begins by the force of nature. To be honest I am not sure society can survive such systematic trauma. Maybe we have a decade or two before this is forced on civilization but once this kind of reductions occur life as we know it will be no more.

  5. Davy on Sun, 27th May 2018 12:12 pm 

    yea plant, and the consumption overshoot should be reduced in rich nations to be fair and balanced.

  6. onlooker on Sun, 27th May 2018 1:49 pm 

    I am with Last Drop, we will continue reproducing and alive as long as conditions permit. Then we will succumb to the normal natural barriers to proliferation. Disease, starvation, war etc. You know the four horsemen. As just one example, antibiotic resistance is becoming ever more problematic. All those enormous amounts of microscopic critters are quite resourceful and resilient.

  7. JuanP on Sun, 27th May 2018 2:02 pm 

    I agree with the author’s basic premise of focusing on access to sexual education, family planning, easy access to contraception, and better rights, education, and opportunities for women. Reseach has proven time and time again that where women have access to equal rights, career opportunities, higher education, and health care, including sexual, reproductive, and family care, they choose to have on average no more than two children. If we men got out of the way and left women to their own devices this problem would not exist.

  8. MASTERMIND on Sun, 27th May 2018 2:03 pm 

    The last law of nature says: that any creature that despoils and outbreeds its natural habitat will be culled to bring its numbers under control and restore a stable environment.

    There are four very familiar cures for over population, they ride horses..


  9. MASTERMIND on Sun, 27th May 2018 2:04 pm 

    Prince William warns that there are too many people in the world

  10. Boat on Sun, 27th May 2018 2:24 pm 


    That’s what Hillary is all about. Yet you supported Trump and his party that would hold women back. What’s with this double speak.

  11. MASTERMIND on Sun, 27th May 2018 2:27 pm 

    We have blown past the point of no return a long fucking time ago..A die off is certain in the next decade..

  12. Go Speed Racer on Sun, 27th May 2018 2:31 pm 

    The brown mud-hut 3rd world Muslims, in their
    shit-hole countries like Krapistan,
    are cranking out the added population.
    That extra 80 million people per year.

    So talk to old nag liberal bitches Nancy Pelosi and
    Hillary Clinton, and who do they say is to blame?

    Christian church attending Trump voting white males.
    In Idaho. Who have 2 collectible cars,
    a 3-car garage, and no kids. Those are the ones
    responsible for population growth, says wicked old
    wrinkled Pelosi and Hillary, cackling while
    riding their brooms.

  13. MASTERMIND on Sun, 27th May 2018 2:33 pm 

    How many people will die in a nuclear war in the Middle East?

  14. Boat on Sun, 27th May 2018 2:41 pm 


    Them Republicans hate abortions and contraception but don’t wanna pay for the kids. Typical dumbass reasoning.

  15. MASTERMIND on Sun, 27th May 2018 2:43 pm 

    In November 2013, five years after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the former World Bank chief economist and US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers gave a speech to the International Monetary Fund’s annual research conference which sent something of a shock wave through the audience. He suggested that the slow growth rates and continuing uncertainties of the post-crisis years were not just temporary after-effects of the financial crisis itself. ‘The underlying problem may be there forever, ‘he said..

  16. onlooker on Sun, 27th May 2018 2:46 pm
    This is a good summary of the “Antibiotic resistance apocalypse”

  17. MASTERMIND on Sun, 27th May 2018 2:50 pm 

    Poverty is created by population growing faster than economic activity..

  18. Boat on Sun, 27th May 2018 2:52 pm 


    Embrace no growth. Don’t worry life will be great. We got Netflix.

  19. MASTERMIND on Sun, 27th May 2018 3:04 pm 


    Without growth your economy will go into a deflationary downward spiral and collapse..

  20. Boat on Sun, 27th May 2018 3:06 pm 



  21. BobInget on Sun, 27th May 2018 3:08 pm

    Saudis are IMPORTING oil to refine to keep up with internal consumption.

    One of their biggest oil pigs is air conditioning.
    That, friends will only get worse.

  22. Boat on Sun, 27th May 2018 3:14 pm 

    There have always been posters who have bragged on Russian and Chinese empires. They could go through massive famines and wars killing 10’s of millions.
    The same folks lick their lips for a no growth collaspe that can’t even whip up a recession. lol They pull up obesity and gun deaths for comparison. Lol

  23. Boat on Sun, 27th May 2018 3:16 pm 


    The Saudi claim a 200 billion dollar program to help with that consumption. Go tech.

  24. Duncan Idaho on Sun, 27th May 2018 3:51 pm 

    Our historical population as homo sapiens is 1-10 million, over the last 200,000 years (we may have been around 300,000- but that is not clear, nor does it have any significance on population size).
    Of course, we had intact ecosystems, and a CO2 of less than 390.
    All that is different now, with new horizons to confront. We use 10 calories in hydrocarbons to produce 1 calorie of food– we are eating oil.
    7.6 billion humans? Not for long.

  25. deadly on Sun, 27th May 2018 5:55 pm 

    Humans are at the top of the food chain. They rule every kingdom, plant, animal, marine life, everything.

    You want a whale? Humans will get you one, no problem, doesn’t matter the size or where in the ocean, humans can hunt them down and bag them.

    You want oil, humans are capable of drilling and producing oil like there is no tomorrow, a whale of oil supply is always there, every day, it’s an everyday thing. You want tons of steel, got them doing that too, plenty of steel to go around. Resources are exploited ravenously. You want an airplane, no problem. A rocket, got them too.

    Humans can train elephants, with a command, the elephant can move large logs. A camel train only comes about by humans training camels to be beasts of burden. Humans can do better than that.

    Mules? Only humans can come up with one of those. All of the mega-fauna have fallen due to human hands, some are left.

    Even the fungus among us, humans rule them too.

    Humans fill up zoos with wild animals. Humans can’t stand animals not being controlled, left to fend for themselves in their habitats.

    Sixty million buffalo were far too many, had to kill off 59,999,000 of them. A small herd was found in Montana, humans by then had enough brains to not kill them all.

    Humans always upset ecosystems and that will continue.

    Plastic grocery bags hang from trees in the Northwest Territories.

    Humans have even gone to the moon and back, space junk on the moon too.

    Time to buy land on Mars, the atmosphere is 95.7 percent CO2. You have to find a way to artificially produce oxygen and nitrogen, got to have those to breathe.

    There is room for more humans, there better be, they keep adding up fast.

    Might become a problem in the future, but for right now, humans have to handle it like it is.

    Some are at each other’s throats, but is normal human behavior when there are differences.

    Not everybody is going to see eye-to-eye.

    A critical mass will occur and something will happen, humans might just suffer a major calamity.

    Drinking helps a lot.

  26. JuanP on Sun, 27th May 2018 6:12 pm 

    Boat, Minority rights is what Hillary pretends to be about. Hillary is all about Hillary, just like Trump is all about Trump. I am against her because I think she is criminally insane. Trump, on the other hand, is just a narcissistic bully. Besides, while I think those things would be part of a solution to our problems, I don’t expect us to actually solve them. Hillary makes me cringe; Trump mostly makes me laugh. I also like Trump because he doesn’t pretend he is not a vulgar prick, he is proud of it.

  27. Plantagenet on Sun, 27th May 2018 6:49 pm 

    I predict that Hilalry will be the D nominee in 2020. The D primaries will have several people on the “left” including Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and one or two more. Meanwhile, only Hillary will run reoresenting the “establishment wing” of the D party.

    The leftists will split the vote on the left, leaving Hillary free to slide into another D nomination, and another try at Trump.


  28. Plantagenet on Sun, 27th May 2018 7:14 pm 

    @Davy: I suggest you listen to this podcast. Its very interesting and it deals mostly with ways to reduce population growth in Africa—the area of the world with the highest population growth today.

    Bill Ryerson’s group has developed a way to reduce population growth by creating radio dramas written by locals for local language groups in Africa that deal honestly with his, contraception, rape and bridge theft, and other thorny issues in parts of Africa.

    IMHO they deserve immense credit for the work they’re doing on limited funding.


  29. Davy on Sun, 27th May 2018 7:35 pm 

    plant, that is just a bandaid for what is needed but anything is worth a try that makes the situation less bad.

  30. Sissyfuss on Sun, 27th May 2018 7:44 pm 

    Ed Grimsley was right. ” We’re as doomed as doom can be.” Paultard knows him personally.

  31. onlooker on Sun, 27th May 2018 8:30 pm 

    Oh yeah we humans rule. Not. We are cunning and smart which enabled us to do alot. But if you cannot control your own urges, emotions and reactions, you rule nothing because you cannot even rule yourself

  32. MASTERMIND on Sun, 27th May 2018 8:37 pm 

    Name one genius in the history of mankind that was a woman? ……Now name one who was a man?..

    I rest my case..

  33. MASTERMIND on Sun, 27th May 2018 8:48 pm 

    Trump is using Memorial Day to peddle merchandise..

    Made in Jina!

    Code “remember”? What a cringy dick!

  34. Go Speed Racer on Sun, 27th May 2018 9:17 pm 

    Question for Mr. Planet GE Net:
    Why run Hillary? Wouldn’t the
    dumb-o-craps run Nancy Puke-Osi

    If they run Hillary, what seizure
    medications will they prescribe
    for her? Can they keep hiding her
    colostomy bag, underneath all those

    Last question, if they run Hillary,
    what will Trump do during his 2nd term?

  35. cottager on Mon, 28th May 2018 3:44 am 

    And here comes policy… Countries with larger population usually wins against countries with small population. So all countries strives for larger population – to be more influential and stronger from military point. End of story, no exit, turn off the lights.

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