Dan Brown’s Overpopulation Is Overblown

I’ve just finished reading Dan Brown’s latest book Inferno, which I’ve heard is next in line to be a feature film, with director Ron Howard and actor Tom Hanks both on-board.

A lot of people are very snobbish about Brown’s books. My feelings are that this snobbery comes out of the fact that they’re quite popular, and it’s fashionable to look down your nose at what the “masses” enjoy reading on holiday, etc.

I enjoyed the book – another fun straightforward 24-hour thriller that he’s now so well known for.

Another criticism centres around the inaccuracies of his work. But so what if it’s inaccurate? It’s a book, a story – a work of fiction. Let him make up whatever allows his story to be even more exciting I say.

The latest inaccuracies in Inferno centre around the warnings that the human population is rising out of control and so we’ll have to do (cue scary music) “something” to decrease the “surplus population” (as Ebenezer Scrooge put it in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol).

The idea that there are too many humans has been around for some time. Whether it’s the 18th Century scary warnings of Thomas Malthus or Paul Ehrlich’s 1960’s scaremongering in The Population Bomb, there’s never been a shortage of people screaming that the end is neigh.

The fact is though, the overpopulation story is a myth. We’re always on the verge of a population crisis where we can’t feed everyone, and it’s all going to hell. And then it never happens.

Some smart talented people have knocked together some short, simple and highly watchable videos on this subject. They quickly and succinctly give the overpopulation myth a well-deserved reality check:

Many think that we simply don’t make enough food to feed everyone. Wrong again:

And it’s not that there’s too many of us. In some parts of the world, there’s not enough being born:

So it’s good news – if only we could solve some of the problems in the second video (war, poverty, etc.) things would be better still.

3 thoughts on “Dan Brown’s Overpopulation Is Overblown

  1. Overpopulation is about much more than whether or not everyone on the planet is being fed. It’s about oceans full of plastics and other pollutants. It’s about virtually every freshwater lake in the Northern Hemisphere loaded with so much mercury from human activity that fish consumption advisories have to be put into place. We could go on. It’s about the futility of spreading more and more pesticides in hopes of producing more and more crops while meanwhile we’re poisoning into extinction the very pollinating species these crops depend on. It is simply not true that overpopulation has always been seen by most or even by many as a problem. In fact, quite the opposite is true – from religious leaders to politicians to economists, Most of human history has been marked by Most people calling for more, not fewer human beings. What we’re experiencing now is different, and that’s why you’re seeing more people pursue this topic with urgency. We hope you’ll read up on this and gain some perspective before flippantly dismissing this very real issue.

    • This post was designed to refute the overpopulation claims specific to Dan Brown’s latest novel (maybe you missed that bit). Having said that, you might be right on this – I’m not up on the specifics that you list. What I do know is that your response sounds EXACTLY like the tinfoil hat-wearing “the end is neigh” doom-mongering that has been around for time immemorial.

      Two things have been true for the last few centuries (when looking at 50-100 year ‘chunks’ of time): 1) The world gets measurably better. 2) People talk about about how things are getting worse.

      Malthus predicted overpopulation being the death of most of us by 1900. Paul Ehrlich said that we’d see a third of us perish and starve by 1980. Rachel Carson said that most birds would be wiped out due to pesticides before 2000. None of these things come to pass. And the “end is neigh” crowd move onto a new fear. But you’re saying that THIS time, things will be different? Really? You’ll forgive me if I’m skeptical.

      But thank you very much for your intelligent and well-composed response.

  2. Ladies and Gentlemen,

    Scientists warn of a rapid collapse of the Earth’s ecosystem.
    The ecological balance is under threat: climate change, population growth and environmental degradation could lead even in this century an irreversible collapse of the global ecosystem.

    –> http://newscenter.berkeley.edu/2012/06/06/scientists-uncover-evidence-of-impending-tipping-point-for-earth/

    The cardinal reason is the sudden development of human population that threatens to devour all our resources.

    Since 21 August there is therefore a petition at change.org for the introduction of global birth-controls, also in HINDI!

    If you want to support this or publish it on your website, here is the link:

    Please continue to spread the link or the petition as possible to all interested people, organisations etc.

    Thank you and best regards
    Achim Wolf, Germany

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