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Jan-30-2011 12:34printcomments

Hidden Dangers of Overpopulation

The Baby Boomers are poised to see how the financial mishandling of Social Security will impact the approaching waves of humanity.

(SALEM, Ore.) - In the aftermath of the Tucson shootings, the dialogue has shifted to gun control. Officer-involved shootings are on the rise in Portland, Oregon, and nationally there has been an alarming increase in assaults of police.

While I write this, police are searching for a suspect in Waldport that is accused of shooting officer Steven Dobbs during a routine traffic stop. Violence is escalating in the Middle East, and terrorism is spreading worldwide. Domestic violence is out of control here in Oregon.

What exactly is going on here? Some will say it's the result of the Great Recession and global financial instability. Others say guns are the problem, or the rise of extremism, fanaticism, or because the safety net has failed.

These all deserve analytical scrutiny, but in viewing the big picture, they can be considered as symptoms, not the root problem. Sociologists have been warning us for decades of the effects of overpopulation.

This topic was frequently discussed in the 60's, but then shifting moral and political values intervened. If you would like your family members to survive the future, we need to realize the social ramifications of overcrowding. The appropriate dialogue has been stifled by the specter of eugenics, and the draconian measures taken by China. We need to learn from these mistakes, and admit that the Earth is a limited space with finite resources.

Original source John Calhoun "Death Squared: The Explosive Growth and
Demise of a Mouse Population". Wikipedia image.

The Baby Boomers are poised to see how the financial mishandling of Social Security will impact the approaching waves of humanity. The problem of limited energy and resources are important, but beyond the scope of this article. There is plenty of information on the Internet about carrying capacity and the influential theories of Thomas Malthus, but the situation at hand demands that we look at how creatures adapt to limited space.

You may be familiar with the experiment where rats are placed in a cage and allowed to reproduce until severe overcrowding is evident.

This landmark experiment was conducted in 1958 by John B. Calhoun, an expert in the field of animal behavior. An article about the experiment was published in the Scientific American in 1962, and greatly influenced the fields of psychology and sociology. His conclusion was that a minimum space was required, but later tests with humans found that social norms break down when forced interactions exceed a threshold. The term social density was coined to identify the phenomenon. The symptoms of overcrowding include hyper-aggression, disease, mental illness, eating disorders, abuse of dangerous drugs, higher mortality, and a failure to nurture young normally. These topics can be found on the the headlines of any newspaper or online news source.

Reinforcing these problems are behaviors that were identified during the Stanford prison experiment done in 1971. A team of researchers led by psychology professor Philip Zimbardo at Stanford University performed this test. Randomly selected participants adapted to their roles well beyond what even Zimbardo himself expected, leading the 'officers' to ultimately subject some of the 'prisoners' to torture. Many of the prisoners developed passive attitudes and accepted physical abuse, and, at the request of the guards, readily inflicted punishment on other prisoners.

The experiment even affected Zimbardo himself, who lost sight of his role as psychologist and permitted the abuse to continue as though it were a real prison. The entire experiment had to be stopped after six days. As noted by other authors, abuse of power is a widespread problem in all levels of society that requires constant vigilance to control.

Consider that although the origins of a war may be rooted in antiquity, and are complex in nature, it is essentially about the need for space, which breeds all manner of justifications for violence, with the root cause concealed behind politics. Our globe has been subject to overcrowding for several centuries, and consequently the fabric of our society has been pulled to the breaking point.

Unless a reasonable means of implementing birth control is found, the situation will take care of itself, unfortunately through mass murder, genocide, suicides, and famines. It's time to re-start the dialogue about overpopulation.



J. D. Adams was born in Salem, Oregon, a descendant of Oregon Trail pioneer William Lysander Adams. As a wilderness explorer, photographer, and writer, he sustains a kinship with the spirit of the Oregon country. JD inhabits Oregon's Silicon Forest as an electronics professional with degrees in Electronics Engineering Technology and Microelectronics.

He maintains a Web presence with a signature presentation in genres including travel, history, and technology.

You can write to Jim Adams at this email address:

Also, visit Jim's Website:

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