Issue Date: February 18, 2008
Too Many People
Regarding the editorial "Too Many People" (C&EN, Jan. 14, page 5): Canyon Lake is down for dam maintenance, as Apache was last year. Low lake levels are a sign that we have capacity to spare in a wet year. This capacity was nearly filled a few years back during a wet year. If all the lakes are full all the time, there is no room for flood control, a major dam function.
Traditional, compassionate thinking is that humanity, as a whole, must do everything in its power to help the sick, hungry, and downtrodden.
This has translated into wealthy Western countries providing aid in the form of food, medicine, and cash to developing nations. This at best is a Band-Aid and has created an overpopulation of people living in certain societies that stand virtually no chance of ever being self-supporting.
I hear talk of calamities in the form of global warming that will flood low-lying areas, destroy cropland through drought, and make once inhabitable areas unlivable through changing weather patterns. I can't help but wonder if that is truly a bad thing, or if it is a necessity—Earth doing for itself what man refuses to do out of misplaced compassion. One way or another, and whether the human race likes it or not, Earth will correct itself. What emerges may be very different, but it will successfully emerge nonetheless.
As a fellow scientist I am already a member of your "choir." For me the issue is how we address the "fundamental challenges we face in the coming century." History and the human condition don't give me much confidence that the human race will be proactive in addressing these fundamental challenges. I remain optimistic pending gaining new insight into how human behavior can change fast enough to avoid a "tipping point" of no return in terms of the quality of life for future generations.
St. Paul, Minn.
Thank you, Rudy Baum, for writing "Too Many People." Now how can C&EN and ACS bring attention to the need for local-scale manufacturing facilities in place of world-scale plants and get economists to study how systems and communities can thrive without growth? Let green chemistry include seeking ways to efficiently produce needed materials near their point of use rather than relying on megascale to lower unit cost. If not now, when?
Ben E. Edwards
Blowing Rock, N.C.
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