Advances in Ecological Economics series
Chapter E.: Population
More people are better than fewer – as long as they are not all alive at the same time! Sustainability means longevity for the human race – more people enjoying a sufficient level of consumption for a good life over more generations – not more simultaneously living people elbowing each other off the planet. Nor does it mean a perpetual sequence of generations. Nothing is forever in the present Creation – both science and Christianity agree on that, and perhaps other religions do as well. Christianity hopes for a New Creation free from death, sin, and decay. Science is not in the business of hope, although scientism peddles cheap optimism as a substitute. I share the Christian hope, but also accept the scientific description of the present Creation and its subjugation to entropy and finitude. Economist Georgescu-Roegen criticized sustainability and the steady-state economy as advocacy of perpetuity (or ‘eternal life for the species’) rather than longevity. Maybe some people confused the two, but it is a confusion easily corrected. As creatures of the present Creation we must do the best we can with what we have for however long it lasts, even while we may hope for the New Creation as an eschatological faith. In the past ‘doing the best we can’ seems to have meant a larger and larger population consuming more and more stuff. Now we see that too many people alive at one time, and consuming too much per capita, reduce the carrying capacity of the earth for all life.
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