skip to main content









Donation Heart Ribbon

Leading Expert Talks Overpopulation At SDSU

Evening Edition

William Ryerson, the CEO of The Population Institute, talks to KPBS about overpopulation problems.

Aired 1/30/13 on KPBS Midday Edition.


William Ryerson, CEO, The Population Institute


Aired 2/6/13 on KPBS News.

The Earth's population has nearly doubled in the last 100 years. Add climate change, lack of land to grow food and overconsumption to the mix and life as we know it on the planet appears to be in peril.

Is there a limit to the number of human beings the Earth can sustain? And if there is, are we getting close to that number?

One of the world's leading experts on population growth is speaking at San Diego State University on Wednesday. It's a sensitive topic for many people and nations, but the growth of human population may also be the most important topic facing the future of the human race.

Ryerson told KPBS that the United Nations estimates our population will be between 8 billion and 10.1 billion by 2050. There are currently about 7 billion people on the planet.

He said energy consumption and water are major concerns as our population continues to rise.

"The top-three grain producing countries of the planet, India, China are the United States, all have unsustainable pumping for irrigation," he said. "And water tables are sinking in these countries dramatically. In India, the water table is sinking by about 10 feet a year. And more and more farms are turning to desert as farmers can no longer reach the water, there are about 150 million people in India now being kept alive through unsustainable pumping of underground aquifers. When that water returns out, those people will face immediate starvation."

Ryerson said he calls attempts to boost conservation and efficiency "greening the Titanic."

"In reality, the problem we have is not climate change, it's not water shortage, it's not loss of biodiversity, it's not degradation of soils," he said. "It is overuse of the Earth's resources by the human endeavor."

But population control is a sensitive issue, Ryerson said. He said China's one-child policy has been a "black eye" for the topic.

"People suddenly started associating the concern with coercion," he said. "In fact, in China, much of what they accomplished has been done through persuasion."

Claire Trageser contributed to this report.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.


Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | January 30, 2013 at 12:35 p.m. ― 4 years, 1 month ago

What are the details? When and where? Can the public attend?

This is absolutely the most important issue facing our world.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | January 31, 2013 at 8:50 a.m. ― 4 years, 1 month ago

Neo-Malthusians like Paul Ehrlich and others from both the Left and the Right have been saying this since the late 60s, early 70s. Little has actually come to pass. Ironically the chief reason for this, which they conveniently forget of course, is the decline in infant mortality, the product of medical/scientific progress in the 20th century.

As to the present, already countries like Germany, Italy and even larger ones like Russia have achieved ZPG or average levels approaching it.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'llk'

llk | January 31, 2013 at 9:58 a.m. ― 4 years, 1 month ago

I'd love to attend this lecture if I could. When is it? I agree with CaliforniaDefender that this is the single most important issue in the world.

There is no one or easy solution, but it seems to me that reducing the problem begins with empowering women worldwide, especially in developing nations. Allow them to make their own decisions and control their own lives. Provide access to education and birth control.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | January 31, 2013 at 12:13 p.m. ― 4 years, 1 month ago


Paul Ehrlich: “The mother of the year should be a sterilized woman with two adopted children.” No arguments there.

All developed nations have a critical and pressing duty to help the developing world reduce growth rates as quickly as possible.


You're absolutely correct. It all starts with education and empowering women to freely utilize birth control. But there's incredible resistance from the religious and patriarchal societies that dominate the 3rd world. We need to shift funding and resources from artificial food programs to birth control and education to make any positive change.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'Marissa Cabrera'

Marissa Cabrera, KPBS Staff | January 31, 2013 at 1:45 p.m. ― 4 years, 1 month ago

There's another event tonight if you missed Bill Ryerson at SDSU yesterday.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | January 31, 2013 at 4:06 p.m. ― 4 years, 1 month ago

I can see this leading to discussions on eugenics.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'llk'

llk | February 1, 2013 at 8:43 a.m. ― 4 years, 1 month ago

Do you want it to lead to a discussion on eugenics?

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | February 1, 2013 at 2:19 p.m. ― 4 years, 1 month ago

No, I don't really care where it leads, but it seems to be the only logical step to controlling the population. If we are going to have less children, why not pick the better children to be born?

( | suggest removal )