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Satisfied woman reflects

Overpopulation: Stand Out from the Crowd

You have to appreciate anyone brave enough to stand up at a parade and declare, “The emperor has no clothes.” We are a tribal animal, and as such we’re reluctant to stand out from the crowd. Today I salute Karen Shragg, a published author and dedicated naturalist whose commitment to the facts trump any desire to blend in.

Shragg dares to tell it like it is in her book, Move Upstream: A Call to Solve Overpopulation. The book should be required reading for every environmentalist, conservationist, and social justice activist, and especially leaders of NGOs in these areas. This book puts a bright spotlight on the folly of tap-dancing around the issue of overpopulation. Read it. You won’t be disappointed. And I’m sure you know a few people you want to lend it to.

Karen Shragg finds herself on the Wall of Fame today, however, for something you can get your hands on and read immediately:

Overpopulation: The Ultimate Exploiter

In this essay published by NPG (Negative Population Growth), Shragg starts with something I am constantly striving to highlight:

“Collectively, we have bought into the story that we can grow our numbers infinitely – on a finite planet with limited vital resources – and suffer zero consequences.”

As if that’s not an unpopular enough sentiment, she moves on to deliver this painful truth:

“Many who work in the social and ecological justice movements have been selling us the lie that we can take on more and more people if we just were better at distribution… had better laws… invested in technology… and sang Kumbaya each night with our neighbors while jumping over campfires. Many now believe (thanks to these great snake-oil salesmen) that if we only reprioritized our investments in green energy and mustered the political willpower… the next two billion people will be no problem – bring them on!”

That may sound like Shragg is staging an ugly fight. Let me assure you she is not. Particularly in the book, she makes very clear she respects a lot about the movements and positions she is criticizing. But the criticism must be said, and Karen Shragg does the job. Most everyone is in Karen’s kind but frank crosshairs. Do you think Greenpeace is on the cutting edge of environmental messaging? Think again.

“Apparently, it is easier to challenge ships on the high seas than it is to include an overpopulation message within their marketing…. By not citing overpopulation as the driving force behind overfishing, Greenpeace offers inadequate solutions – and the world continues to grow by another 213,718 people per day!”

Here is what she has to say about donors to these worthy causes:

“…they are sold a so-called ‘solution’ that will never work without a concerted attempt to humanely reduce Homo sapiens’ numbers. They leave the overpopulation issue to population groups to solve – but fewer environmental activists will hear our message because they believe they have already contributed to the ‘solution.”

Here at Growth Bias Busted we frequently take on the news media for avoiding the issue. So does Karen!

“Overpopulation is always in the news without ever being named. It’s in the new housing developments where open spaces used to be. It is glaring at you when you hear about the latest animal put on the endangered species list. And it is burning in the fires of wars waged over ever-scarcer resources. The protestors who nobly fight fracking machinery and copper sulfate mining proposals need to add overpopulation to their protest signs. The scarcity of non-renewable resources is driven by overpopulation – inflating their price and fueling expensive extractions, which never have a happy ending.”

Karen wisely doesn’t believe or advise us that we can scale back world population and keep partying on our yachts, driving our SUVs and building trophy homes. She is advocating for the whole truth.

“So where is the hope? It lies in daring to tell the whole truth about sustainability – and that truth says that human numbers matter, too. It means eliminating the taboos associated with this topic. Anyone in the business of making the world a better place needs to understand and work on spreading the message. We cannot just take shorter showers and ban luxury items. We cannot hope that solar paint and wind turbines will make enough of a difference. We must accept reality – the pressure of overpopulation pushes the poor off the cliff first…but it will come for the rest of us, too. It already has in many ways.”

Thanks to Karen Shragg for carrying this message, to NPG for publishing this paper, and Freethought House for publishing her book.

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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.

Comments (2)

  • Avatar

    Stephanie C. Fox


    Karen Shragg’s book neatly and succinctly sums up the issues surrounding human overpopulation. I love the part about how a group of people in dead-sea crawl traffic with no accidents had experienced human overpopulation – and their surprised reaction to that news. We must keep speaking out about this issue so that it no longer comes as a surprise to anyone.


    • Avatar

      Dave Gardner


      Thanks, Stephanie. Hopefully Karen’s book will encourage more to stand with us.


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