For as long as I can remember the growing human population has always been an issue for me. Perhaps this is because I am the oldest of four, and needed an avenue to vent my issues with “babies”, but more likely it was due to being born in the 1960’s and seeing the world population more than double right before my eyes.
I grew up mostly in Alberta’s capital city, Edmonton. My parents bought a new house close to the edge of town. In only a few minutes we could walk out to the forest, or farm land. Our neighbors across the street informed us that before the land our home was on was a house, it was a horse farm. Of course if you know anything about me, you would know that to get rid of a horse farm in order to house people would be very upsetting to me, I love horses.
Photo of Edmonton from the 1950’s
However it was apparent that more people meant the need for more homes. Soon the city sprawled even more, consuming more farm land, more natural marshlands, more forested areas, and nobody seemed to mind, after all, we were soon getting West Edmonton Mall. As it stands now it is impossibly far to walk from my parents house to the edge of the city.
Edmonton is not alone, many cities have experienced massive growth, but while I lived their, I saw some terrible things, again, not exclusive to this city, but things that were happening in cities all over the world. Buildings going up, higher and higher, houses squashed together, traffic like we had not seen before, and farms being run over in the name of “progress”. Indeed if you know anything about agriculture you will note that farmers are now using fewer animals to get the same amount of produce – kinda makes you wonder doesn’t it? As a matter of fact, if you do a little looking, you may find studies have shown that the same foods we produce now actually have a lower nutritional value than they did even 15 years ago due to the rush to produce more food, with less space, and in a shorter amount of time. That is a matter for an other article…
Undated photo of Edmonton – Looking over the University campus.
I moved to Vancouver, often billed as a beautiful city. All I saw were beggars and prostitutes, people trying to survive in a city that had no more room to grow out (it had already crashed into other cities) and as a result was growing up. Houses, even my grandmothers Vancouver house, were being bulldozed to make way for apartment blocks and condominiums.
I watched nature shows, particularly David Suzuki’s “The Nature of Things”. This show in particular often focused on problems facing our planet, pollution, deforestation, species extinction, acid rain. It was quite apparent to me that all these problems came from one source – people. Yet nobody wanted to point a finger and say “The Problem is Too Many People!”.
For elected politicians it would be political suicide to try to control population growth, many industries do not know how to sustain themselves economically without population growth, and yet our planet is incapable of sustaining continued population growth. With over a billion people fighting starvation, struggling to stay alive, and renewable resources being used up at a rate faster than they can be renewed, it amazes me at the number of people who still put their heads in the sand and say there is no concern with human population growth.
Authors Note: I do not want to sound down on Edmonton, the city has grown but has managed to keep a large number of green spaces, especially along the river valley. As for urban growth in general: Upward growth is better in the long run than outward growth only because it uses less land, however resources are still consumed in the building process, and more people still means more problems in terms of sustainability with resources.
Thomas Malthus: The Man Who Warned Us about Over Population in the 1800’s