MYTH: The world is too crowded

on Friday, January 28, 2011

We could take the entire world population and move it to the state of Texas, and the population density there would still be less than New York City. (The world living in Texas would have a pop density of 24,500 people per square mile, NYC currently has 27,400 people/sq mile. Manhattan has 67K/sq mile, and there are three cities over 100K/sq mile.)

I always believed that parts of the world were starving because the people there just couldn't stop making so many babies -- and that if they'd just stop reproducing so fast they'd have enough food for everyone. Turns out this is frighteningly far from the truth.

It's amazing how many things I accept as reality without ever bothering to check the details. More and more I'm finding that just about everything I look at has an entirely different reality than the one I believed growing up.

World population growth is no exception. I was under the impression that overpopulation was causing mass starvation and death, and that eventually, if we don't curb population growth, we'll run out of space and most of us will die. This is simply not the case.

Population Density
The media shows starving children in Africa, and blames it on overpopulation, however, starving countries in Africa have much lower population densities than the developed world. (Niger has 9 people/sq mile) Famine is caused by things like civil war and corrupt governments that mess up the production and distribution of food. In Niger, 2.5 million people are starving because food production has been taken over by the state. This is like allowing the DMV to license food users. We'd all starve.

213,000 people are born every day, but they are not a problem -- they are more minds to cure AIDS or cancer, more hands to build things of value, and more talented artists to create things of beauty. The real problem is not more people being born, but governments and war getting in the way of them leading happy and productive lives.