What’s the real issue?

Yesterday, I was discussing the Paleo diet with one of my closest friends, we’ll call her Ariana. She’s taking Agricultural Economics classes right now and learning about the economic impact of agriculture. I hadn’t actually thought about this concept when beginning my journey to healthier eating, and she helped me realize that it’s actually a really big deal. If everyone on the planet decided to go Paleo/Primal today, there’s no way we could feed them all. There are many people whose diet solely consists of grain, and while there is disagreement about the positive and negative effects of a grain based diet, it can be agreed that a grain based diet trumps starvation.

Before this conversation, I had started to think about the importance of eating locally in that doing so lessens the need for transportation and packaging of food. Living on the central coast of California, eating locally grown vegetables, meats and fruits is easy. But what about places that can’t grow such things? People have lived all over the world with extremely varied diets. There is no one true diet for everyone, especially not that would be sustainable everywhere in the world.I thought the problem with health these days was just that everyone is choosing to eat the wrong foods. But as Ariana and I discussed, and in conversations I’ve had since, we’d come to the conclusion that overpopulation is probably the actual root cause of not just diet related health problems, but many other world problems as well.

The earth has limited resources, there’s only so much it can offer. We as humans tend to consume as much we can because we can, even at the expense of others going without. Yes we have food distribution problems, yes we are eating to many food products and not enough whole foods, but even if everyone lived within their means we wouldn’t have enough resources to feed everyone. There are simply too many people.
Over-consumption is a major problem, but it’s compounded by the hugeness of our population.

In a separate conversation I was told there’s nothing that can be done about it. I disagree. I don’t disagree that there’s no short term solution to overpopulation, it would likely take decades or longer to decrease the human population to sustainable levels. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing we can do about it today. I used to want to have 4 children, now I see that that would be irresponsible of me, and would now only ever decide to give birth to one child. There are plenty of children in the world without parents to adopt if I wanted another child. I know this would only make the tiniest of impacts, but I like to look at it as a step in the right direction. Raising awareness of the issue would probably have a bigger immediate impact. I don’t pretend to believe that everyone would change their life plans upon hearing about this issue, but I’d like to believe that a few might;  a lot of little steps today could make a big noise tomorrow.

While the issue of overpopulation might not be  correctable in my lifetime, over-consumption is something that might be. There are many ways to encourage people to consume less, reuse more, waste less, etc. I hope to join the Solar Living Institute this summer as an intern. I will gain skills in irrigation, plant care, pond and greywater systems, PV systems, and permaculture design. I can use this knowledge to do what I was thinking of before, making conventional homes more sustainable!

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