by Karen I. Shragg
We may not know intellectually that the US is actually and provably at least 150 million people over its limit to provide long-term resources like water to our citizens, but I believe we know it in our subconscious. Because so many green groups refuse to tell the carrying capacity story, we are uninformed. We know deep inside that we cannot continue to make promises of prosperity to growing millions when that very prosperity is based on dwindling natural capital. We know that prosperity isn’t just being limited because of greedy people at the top; it is also because there isn’t enough to go around forever.
When scarcity is knocking on our door, people behave in new and intolerable ways. They protect their own with racism as their mantra. They point fingers at the innocent and reach for the lowest hanging fruit on which to base their problems. They want strangers to get out of “their” land, and they use a made up version of their religion to justify their abhorrent actions. With God on their side and a fear for their families’ future, they listen with great interest to fascist based speech. They follow these fascists in the sad belief that their battle cry of “Make America Great Again” includes them.
No politician today would dare tell the full truth that the US is already beyond its carrying capacity for its people and has been for decades. So the political landscape becomes divided between those who are kind hearted and want to share our country with everyone and those who spew hatred and want to build walls. One party offers going off the resource cliff with civility and the other offers going off the cliff with violence and evil.
The direction this country must go in is one that strikes a delicate balance between policies that reflect both our current ecological reality and our desire to operate from a place of compassion. We need to see that overpopulation drives climate change and that this is far more critical to our future than foreign threats. Without that insight both sides of the political spectrum will lose. The overpopulation taboo must end. We must change our narrative from one of abundance to one of overshoot. We must tell the full truth that we are 5.5 billion overpopulated relative to our resources and growing by 1 million every 4.5 days. We must not let religious doctrine get in our way, and must instead insist on evidence-based decisions. We must not make the political mistake of suggesting policy decisions before we change our narrative. Many population groups, worried about the detrimental effects of added immigrants, come out sounding like racists because they have done a poor job of changing the narrative first. Imagine if a doctor prescribed brain surgery before you even realized you are really sick.
Overpopulation is compassionately solvable with very small (one child average) families. We need the country and the world to move upstream and see that overpopulation is driving the causes of our angst, but I am afraid we just lost our paddle.
Karen I. Shragg is a naturalist, writer and overpopulation activist. She joined the advisory board of World Population Balance in 2004, and regularly delivers lectures on overpopulation to local, state and national groups. Karen holds an Ed.D. from the University of St. Thomas in critical pedagogy and is director of the Wood Lake Nature Center in Richfield, Minnesota. Her books include, Move Upsteam: A Call to Solve Overpopulation, Grieving Outside the Box, and the Nature’s Yucky! children’s series. She lives in Bloomington, Minnesota.