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#1 2013-11-13 16:34:43


Response to a foolish professor

Professor of human geography at the University of Sheffield, Danny Dorling, has made a right fool of himself, in extracts of his book, published in the Geographical magazine.

Dorling has a right old go at Thomas Robert Malthus for his ignorance and worry about the human population 'timebomb'. Dorling repeatedly calls him a fool, although Malthus lacked the professor's hindsight - by about 200 years years. Malthus died in 1834.

So Dorling would have us believe that there is no population 'bomb' and that we shouldn't be 'concerned' about overpopulation.

I understand that wealth, health and education inhibits large families, however, Dorling seems to have neglected the results of overpopulation - which are too many to mention.

But here's a few obvious ones to consider. The more people there are, given a catastrophe like huge storms, earthquakes or tsunamis, more people will die, more people will be affected, needing help and rescue.

More people means needing more resources - more forests cut down, eco-systems lost and less biodiversity.

More people means more pollution - at present 14 billion pounds of mostly plastic waste are dumped into the oceans, killing 1 million seabirds and 100,000 sea mammals.

Over fishing is a world wide problem, to feed not just a still expanding human population, but its pet dogs and cats too.

Water scarcity affects 2.8 billion people and 1.2 billion lack access to clean drinking water - an estimated 5,000 people die every day from this.

Malnutrition affects 1 in 12 people worldwide. Half of all child deaths are caused by malnutrition.

Over the last one hundred years it has been estimated that more than 81 million people have died in famines.

[Don't worry there's plenty for everyone!!!]

It all makes the professor look a bit stupid, doesn't it?

I'm sure you could cram another 10, 20, 50 billion humans (and their pets) onto the planet Earth, but not without climate change, biodiversity loss, famine and pollution. Not with our history; not with our present technology.

There's already too many humans on the planet - the 'bomb' has gone off many times - but human resilience turns a deaf ear.


#2 2013-11-27 15:01:39


Re: Response to a foolish professor

Prof Dorling replied to this message with a facsimile of his book. Its introduction states:

" [The] book suggests that the actual number of people on the planet is, to an important extent,  incidental to the impact humans have on both the environment and each other. It also suggests that many people are coming to understand this – which is why the news of an expected extra billion humans within three score years and ten did not result in panic. Instead, it’s not how many of us there are but how we live that will matter most. There are many signs that we may well collectively be choosing more often to live sustainably, not least in how we are already controlling our numbers. This is a book for pragmatists. It is about how ten billion people can live well on this planet. I do not argue that they will; just that enough evidence exists to suggest it is possible. So here is a story about that possibility. It is based on many facts, but it will almost certainly turn out to be a fiction of one kind or another. We can never know what will happen, but that is no excuse for not being interested in the future, nor for failing to try to influence it."

This book is almost certainly a fiction.

The problem I have with Dorling's future utopia and the possible panic of the 'population timebomb' is that it appears to ignore the population timebombs that have already exploded and are continuing to explode around us.


#3 2014-01-28 15:15:17


Re: Response to a foolish professor

Warning of global electricity blackouts academics Hugh Byrd [Lincoln University] and Steve Matthewman [Auckland university] blame demand because of 'population growth' alongside rising affluence and consumer addiction allied to supply issues - peak oil, political instability, infrastructural neglect, shift to renewables and global warming.

A 'growing population' helping to cause 'significant' power failures, as have already been witnessed in China, Brazil and Italy will become more common place.

[Source Guardian: 27.01.2014]

It is common sense that more people will require more energy, more resources, more food etc., that will not always be met in a finite world. This is simple economics.


#4 2014-10-04 13:17:52


Re: Response to a foolish professor

Roger Plenty of Gloucestershire asks the question in the Guardian (3.10.14) is there a correlation between the human population doubling and the wild animal population halving since 1970.

Or would Prof. Danny Dorling think this is just co-incidence? Or perhaps Prof. Dorling thinks this is unimportant or nothing to do with human population levels.


#5 2014-10-08 15:40:24


Re: Response to a foolish professor

The UN report Global Biodiversity Outlook 4 says governments across the world are failing to slow the destruction of species' habitats, failing to cut pollution and failing to stop overfishing, according to the Guardian's report (6.10.14)
"The average risk of extinction for birds, mammals, amphibians and corals show no sign of decreasing."
Could any of these failures have anything to do with human population levels?


#6 2015-03-30 13:22:05

Ray X

Re: Response to a foolish professor

According to a recent UN report we have only 60 seasons of harvests left because of soil erosion. According to the report an agricultural area the size of France has already been lost and 7.7 square miles are being lost daily.
The reasons for terminal soil erosion are salinization caused by irrigation; pollution from intensive farming techniques and climate change. The pressure to feed 7 billion humans and their pets will increasingly intensify as 95% of food comes from soil. The hardest hit areas are S.W. USA, Australia, China, India, Pakistan and parts of Africa.


#7 2016-08-08 16:07:59


Re: Response to a foolish professor

According to the Global Footprint Network humans have already used up a year's worth of ecological resources in the first seven months of this year.

We have been overusing the Earth's resources since the 1970s. So I suppose Professor Dorling overlooked such international research when he wrote his book.


#8 2017-10-16 15:02:07


Re: Response to a foolish professor

There are countless examples of human overpopulation - you could probably find one a day without looking very hard. But here's a local one in today's i newspaper.

"80% of UK rivers fail to meet good ecological standards and 40% of UK rivers are regularly polluted with sewage. Welsh Water had 30 such spills into rivers for every 10,000km of sewers in 2016"

And the cause of this?

According to the WWF "population growth and climate change were placing a burden on an ageing sewage system which was already running at full or over capacity."

Okay, you could argue it's the sewage system at fault. But if all these millions of people can't fund a better sewage system to protect the environment, then I think our professor has lost his argument - again.


#9 2017-11-09 16:28:27

Lead Belly

Re: Response to a foolish professor

The appalling images in yesterday's media of wild Asian elephants being attacked by fire by Bengalis reveals the population struggle going on there. With the Bengali population ever rising and the deforestation that goes with that, there just simply isn't the space for humans and elephants to co-exist. Either the Bengalis must reduce their population and find space for the wild elephants, or the elephants will be exterminated and eliminated. This is purely about availability of a finite habitat.
Danny Dorling is an idiot.


#10 2017-12-07 13:26:23

Ray X

Re: Response to a foolish professor

Well, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature there are thousands of animal species at critical risk of extinction as a result of rising human populations, economic development and global warming. Considering the latter two are caused by humans and common sense will tell us the more humans the greater effect there is no doubt where the IUCN see the problem - human over-population. So, Danny boy, no bomb here - thousands of animal species at critical risk of extinction.


#11 2017-12-13 15:47:49

Ray X

Re: Response to a foolish professor

Re: Meat and Human Population -
"The greater the number of people, the greater the hunger meat eating will cause. From a baseline of 2010, the UN expects meat consumption to rise by 70% by 2030 (this is three times the rate of human population growth). Partly as a result, the global demand for crops could double... The land to grow them does not exist."
George Monbiot (Guardian 11.12.2017)
What he is saying is a rising human population consuming more meat will result in more famine, hunger as well as soil loss. The UN says we have 60 harvests left because of soil degradation and climate change - both results of human population.
The bomb is exploding.


#12 2019-06-11 14:59:42

Ray X

Re: Response to a foolish professor

571 plant species extinct since 1750 -a date that predates Thomas Robert Malthus - which makes Prof Dorling look even stupider. And the blame of course is humans - not a few humans, but the human population bomb destroying forests and using land for agriculture, much of which is a vast mono-culture, needed to feed the globalised 7.7 billion humans.

Last edited by Ray X (2019-06-12 11:22:56)


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