By Tom Kando
Today, I am traveling to the Netherlands again. Every time I arrive, what strikes me most forcefully is how crowded this place is compared to the US:
By some measures, the Netherlands are still one of the most, if not THE most densely populated place on earth: The Netherlands have 1,100 people per square mile. That’s 13 times more than the US density of 83 per square mile. (The world as a whole, incidentally, has 35 people per square mile)
Comparing regions: California has 235 people per square mile. In the province of South Holland, there are 3,165, and in North Holland there are 2,535. That’s 11 to 13 times more.
Only two countries in the world are more densely populated than the Netherlands - Bangladesh and South Korea - and NONE more than North and South Holland. Only city-states such as Monaco, Singapore and the Vatican are.
China? Only 363. India? Only 950. Japan? 870.
What an admirable people, the Dutch! Despite their enormous density, the country is spacious, agricultural, incredibly CLEAN and ecologically viable. They are the world’s number one exporters of dairy and flower bulbs. And their solution to land scarcity? Reclaim the sea. Sure beats military conquest to satisfy one’s hunger for Lebensraum, doesn’t it? Today, the country is 15% larger than it was when I lived there. I sometimes joke that one day they’ll reclaim the sea all the way to New York harbor.
A few years ago, I was interviewed by a student who was doing research on overpopulation and its effects. Here are some of her questions, and my answers:
1. What do you think of the U.S. compared to other countries in terms of overpopulation? Is there a difference? The US has a little over 300 million people. For a country of this size (three and a half million square miles) that's not so much. Most countries of the world have much greater densities - e.g. Holland, Japan, etc - and many of those countries are doing well. Of course, the US wastes more energy and consumes more than anyone else, and its growing population is taking a toll. Ideally, we would stop growing and stabilize our population. But all in all, we cannot say that the US is overpopulated. If we make a mess of our environment, it's because of bad policies, not because there are too many people.
2. Is overpopulation a worldwide problem? Worldwide, the problem is very different: The Third World's population is growing way too much - from 2% to 4% per year, depending on the country, compared to 1% for the US and 0% in much of Europe. So the world's population is growing by 80 million a year. This is happening precisely in the poorest countries of the world, which can afford it the least. This is a disaster.
3. Do you think that overpopulation is a serious problem that needs to be fixed? If so, is there any way to fix it? Yes, overpopulation is probably THE most serious problem the world is facing (but again, remember, the US is not part of the problem. In fact, it's part of the solution, since we absorb over a million immigrants from poor, overpopulated countries every year.
Obviously, birth control is one of the two solutions. The other one is economic development, so that the Third World can go through the so-called Demographic Transition, as the Western World did earlier. China is making a good dent in the problem, through both of these methods.
4. What kinds of problems accompany overpopulation? They are the Malthusian problems - war, starvation and disease. Look at the world today: war and violence in the Middle East, starvation in Africa and disease in Africa and Asia. These are the Malthusian checks which will drastically reduce the population if we continue to have too many babies.
5. Is anything being done to help control overpopulation? Third World countries are encouraged to practice birth control, but without economic development, it doesn't work very well. As to economic development, that's not going too well in many places.
All in all, though, the world's rate of population growth has already slowed down significantly - from 3% to 1.7% - so there is hope for the future. leave comment here
Sunday, August 28, 2011
By Tom Kando