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Bill Nye

Bill Nye, Think Again About Overpopulation

I regret to inform you that, much as I love him, today Bill Nye (the science guy) finds himself on the Wall of Shame here at Growth Bias Busted. Nye has been making science interesting for television audiences since the 1993 debut of the Disney series, Bill Nye, the Science Guy. You have to love him for using his media skills and popularity to defend the truth about climate change (and about evolution) on just about every cable and television network, and across the Internet.

But this recent video on Big Think misses the mark:

Hey Bill Nye, What’s the Best Way to Handle Overpopulation?

Bravo to Martina from Slovakia for asking Bill the question:

“How would you probably solve the problem of still growing population?”

Her second question will surprise you (watch the video to find out what it is)!

And a big thank you to Nye, CEO of The Planetary Society, for tackling this subject – rather than running and hiding as many do. Nye offers some good information here about how the more education women get and the higher their standard of living, the fewer children they tend to have – on average. But then he goes on to offer:

“The world’s population is almost certainly going to go to 9 billion humans. It very well may go to 10 billion.”

One would expect Nye to either offer the most studied and publicized world population projection, or to contradict that projection with sound science from another source. The former, the United Nations Population Division’s most recent World Population Prospects’ mid-range scenario pegs human population to rise above 11 billion by the end of this century. Now, I have my doubts that we’ll get there because of the limited resources Nye dismisses in this video. If Nye were going ignore the UN projection, then I’d expect him to consider resource limitation and climate change, and choose a number considerably lower, not just by a billion or two.

We’re only able to feed 7 billion (many poorly) today by using vast amounts of fossil fuels in industrialized agriculture. As Nye should know, burning those fossil fuels is disrupting our climate and needs to stop. Some scientists are projecting that climate change is very likely to decrease food production – by as much as 10 percent for every degree Celsius of warming. We’re also pumping aquifers dry, losing one percent of fertile soils every year, depleting the world’s finite supply of phosphorous, and creating vast ocean dead zones from agricultural runoff. And that’s to feed 7 billion. So that makes Nye’s next statement particularly disappointing:

“And, apparently, the Earth has enough resources for that; we just have to redistribute, or reconfigure, the way we use energy, water….”

The truth is, we’re busy liquidating the planet in order to poorly feed 7 billion, and that would be true even if we managed to eliminate waste and improve distribution. I like Bill Nye. He is doing some great work on climate change communication. I appreciate him tackling the overpopulation subject, but I also believe he’d like to get it right. I’d like to suggest he talk to some experts (not economists and growth profiteers), and brush up on his world resources and population dynamics (feel free to call or write me, Bill, and I’ll connect you). This video does a disservice. Nye can do much better! I’ll be watching for new and improved overpopulation information from him in the near future.


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Dave Gardner

Producer of the documentary, GrowthBusters: Hooked on Growth. Dave writes and speaks regularly on the subject of growth addiction, including the pro-growth media bias that perpetuates prosperity-from-growth mythology.

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