We've all had conversations with fellow members of the chattering classes, chewing on this or that dismal development, when somebody says something to which all nod yes, and move on. They mention the O-word. That's right, overpopulation.
I am in Los Angeles helping out with an expected but regrettable family emergency having to do with life span. It seemed appropriate somehow yesterday when I read the front page of the the LA Times, followed the lead story's jump, and found myself staring at some amazing graphics and a throbbing beat of statistics. The story continues for five pages inside! And that was only the first of five parts running, I presume, this week in hte printed editions. Even with huge pics, that is a lot of text. The chief stat that hit home with me is how many of us there are compared to ancient history (when I was born there were about 2.5 billion living people. Now it's about 7 billion plus, climbing fast) and the consequences should things not level off soon.
The package is called Population Rising. Veteran writer Kenneth R Weiss filed the opening story, "A Human Deluge" from Jaipur, India. It starts starts with the story of a teenaged Indian man who stunned his family and neighbors by announcing, after two children, that he and his wife are done having kids. They were married, by family decree, at ages 11 and 10. Weiss filed the second from Kabul, Afghanistan. A third is datelined Kadaab, Kenya, the fourth Xiamen, China, and the fifth Manila. All five parts with sidebars from yet more places are on line now. If you follow those links you may hit a pay wall. I had a hard time running the stories down until I pungled up the dollar or two a week needed to get a digital subscription, which I'll cancel soon. But I did want to see how LAT's digital and paid site looks. Seems fine.
I've only scanned through. The series, hefty and heartfelt as it clearly appears even at a sprint, may not make a difference to the institutional and political hurdles that stand between the world and stable, sustainable population. It focuses not on the US, Japan, Russia, and Europe where rapid population growth via new babies has disappeared - in some cases gone into reverse. There are instead intimate details from around what we used to call the developing world - including China, which has drastically cut its population growth and, despite a giant economy, is still largely a nation of people in poverty living in a filth of pollution. The tales tend to be sorrowful in the extreme. And thus, if in fact this set of stories does not in the end make much difference it won't be for lack of trying by the LA Times editors, photographer Rick Loomis, data mashers, graphics wizards, and by Ken Weiss.
- Charlie Petit