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Population Bomb a Dud?

June 14, 1987

Wattenberg's assertion that the "population bomb" is a dud would be laughable if it were not so irresponsible.

In his closing paragraph he cites estimates that by the middle of the next century the population will have doubled to 10 billion from its almost 5 billion mark of today. The population will then begin to gradually shrink and "the population explosion, long dreaded, will be over."

Even if we accept these conservative estimates, the figures should cause us to gasp with alarm, not sit back with a sigh of complacency, as Wattenberg would have us do.

We know that we are contaminating or outright destroying our environment at an ever-increasing rate. These problems can be laid squarely at the feet of overpopulation. We, as the developed world, cannot hope to sustain our standard of living and help developing nations attain the same standard even if the world population remains at he current levels.

What then in the middle of the next century when the population is doubled, the vast majority of tropical rain forests have been cut, we begin to run short of arable land and water, and we have further and maybe irreversibly contaminated our surroundings?

It must be emphasized that these are not doomsday predictions but are based upon the same sorts of estimates as used by Wattenberg. One cannot use spongy economic theories of growth, in this case population growth, to substitute for the reality that there is a carrying capacity for biological systems. We do not know precisely what these capacities are, but the biological warning signs tell us that we may have already surpassed our limits.

J. DAVID ARCHIBALD

Professor of Biology

San Diego

State University

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