Solutions to climate change


Most of us in the Appropedia community and the Appropedia project stands for abundance, for thrivability. We believe in using every tool at our disposal to make a better quality of life, building and working within a thriving ecosystem in which there is no waste, enhancing the renewal of natural resources.

One very different “solution” that is sometimes heard for the climate crisis, for reducing our environmental impact in all ways, is to drastically cut the human population. There is even an optimistic quality to these writings in some cases, looking forward to a better time after the population has been reduced by 90% or more. These comments left on a New Scientist article are an example:

A managed reduction in the human population to a sustainable 300 million would do much to reduce the amount of CO2 being pumped into the atmosphere.

Of course, it would – but most of us will find this a ghastly thought – there’s no pretty way to slash our numbers in a short period of time, and I don’t think we want to call in the 20th century’s experts in population reduction.

A crash would certainly have its benefits, just as the Black Death had positive effects – leaving more food and more land per person, fewer serfs per feudal estate, and giving serfs the openings to swap their allegiance to a lord offering a better deal. Most of us, though, want a solution that doesn’t involve massive death by chaos or eugenics, just as we don’t want another Black Death.

To be fair, this commenter seemed to imagine something other than mass murder or letting massive numbers of people die somehow:

People respond well to draconian measures of population control when it is explained to them in a simple clear manner – like I say China is a case in point.

The error here is that China has not reduced its population, merely slowed its growth. So we’re back to killing people if we really want this population to crash.

Some good and sobering points about this kind of population crash utopia were made in response, in the same comments section:

Also how does dropping the population to 300 million help, if for example America wiped everyone else out we would still have a problem because America produces so much CO2.


I’d have to imagine that there would be more than a few loudly vocal dissenters to this plan, many of these carrying weapons of some sort and more than happy to ensure that you, or I for that matter, are among the cull while they survive…

Use less, it makes sense.

My favorite responses, though, suggested that if instead of reducing our population size, we should reduce our literal size:

We should be genetically engineering humans to be smaller, Lillypudlians or smaller, same dimensions just smaller. We would have all the resources we need then we could manage up to a sustainable population instead. I am a bit worried about cats though!

More seriously, this still leaves the issue of how we can sustainably and drastically reduce our impact without starving ourselves or killing each other off.

2 thoughts on “Solutions to climate change

  1. No one advocates killing people off. A relatively small reduction in the birth rate could accomplish a dramatic reduction in population in a relatively short period of time – relative to human history, that is, which means that within a century or two, dramatic results could be achieved.

    Environmentalists who believe that the planet can be saved by cuts in consumption while ignoring population growth don’t realize it, but they too are advocating for a reduced population, but through the opposite approach – increasing the death rate. Failing to recognize that per capita consumption and per capita employment are directly proportional, their “solution” would drive unemployment (and thus poverty) through the roof in a world that is already desperately underemployed.

    The only real solution to the problems of environmental degradation and resource depletion that would permit all people to enjoy a high standard of living is to strive for a reduced population through reductions in the birth rate.

    Pete Murphy
    Author, “Five Short Blasts”

  2. If you follow the link I gave, there does seem to be a fringe advocating killing people off. Of course it’s unfair of me to highlight the looniest fringe, but there is a point to it: when we talk about the immediate challenges we face, in coming years rather than decades, the only way to get significant population cuts would be by people dying.

    Total consumption is the sum of the consumption of each person – we can’t ignore either factor. In the long term, reductions in the birth rate will make a big difference. But what about now?

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