Overpopulation and possible solutions to make the world sustainable took center stage in a presentation to Lions Club members by speaker David Paxson Wednesday.
Paxson, of Minneapolis, Minn., is president of World Population Balance, a nonprofit organization. He explained to about 20 Lions Club members how many people the planet can sustain.
"The human numbers of the world are over 7 billion," Paxson said. "But the truly sustainable population is probably between 1 and 2 billion."
-Messenger photo by Peter Kaspari
Using an inflatable globe, David Paxson, president of World Population Balance, discusses the impact of overpopulation with Lions Club members.
According to Paxson, hundreds of years ago there wasn't a big disparity between population growth and death because people didn't live as long. However, with advances in medicine and technology extending lives, the birth rate has gone up and the rate of food production has gone down.
"Nearly every country is consuming their resource base above the regeneration rate," he said.
He compared it to the use of an aquaduct.
"The moment you pump water out of the aquaduct faster than the recharge rate, it won't supply you with water," Paxson said.
Over the past two years, he said 75 million acres of topsoil have been lost due to erosion and increased population.
"Those are the whole states of Iowa and Wisconsin combined," Paxson said.
He used a small device that ticked at 145 beats per minute to demonstrate the speed at which the world's population grows.
"Every time this ticks, the world adds another human passenger," he said. "When you factor in data for deaths, that means since an hour ago, the world population has increased by 9,000. Since this time yesterday, the population has increased by 200,000."
However, it's not too late to stop the world's trend of overpopulation, he said. He claims the solution is for families to have only one child.
It's a method used in Thailand; that country saw a lowered poverty rate as a result.
"About 45 to 50 years ago, it wasn't uncommon to see families with seven or eight children per couple," he said. "But after the country began getting educated on birth control, everything changed. The per capita GDP has more than quadrupled."
"I believe we can do the same thing in the U.S. and the rest of the world," he added.
Limiting couples to one child may alarm some people, but it's the only humane way to solve the problem, he said.
"If we don't do anything, nature will end up solving the overpopulation problem," he said. "And that's going to be done inhumanely. The real question is how it will happen, not when it will happen."
He added that others have offered varying solutions, but he said none of them will matter if population isn't reduced.
"It's absolutely critical we do this," Paxson said. "We kicked the can down the road for too long on this issue. There were more births in the world last year than deaths."