Is the world overpopulated?

At the website for Fathers for Life, the web page that displays population pyramids for selected countries is the sixth-most-popular web page at the site.

That web page has a footnote I thought to quote in the following.  I want to show the footnote because of an addition I made to it today on account of something I read that supports the assertions I made in the footnote.  I had said that all of the world’s population could fit into a land area the size of Alberta, with a house for each family (of three, on average) and enough land for each house to supply some of the food each family needs.

I know that some people feel that assertions like the ones I made are ridiculous, but, believe it or not, what I read today makes the assertions I made look puny.

Read the footnote and the information I found today.

Is the world overpopulated?

If all of the world’s people were located in the Province of Alberta (just a touch smaller in area than the State of Texas) and each were to have an equal share of all of the land in Alberta, then each of the world’s people would have 98.6m2 of land to live on.

Assuming that the average household consists of three people, a family of three would have enough space (3,184 ft2) for a moderately-sized house and a garden large enough to grow some of the food consumed by the family.

  • Alberta land area: 661,565 km2, 255,541 miles2
  • World population: 6,706,993,152 (Source: CIA World Factbook, July 2008 est.)

See also: The 1989 Montreal Massacre in the context of men’s sacrifices, 2008 12 07, by Professor Jeffrey Asher.

Update 2010 08 26: I don’t know whether anyone ever read the assertions contained in this footnote.  If the assertions were read, then everyone having read them must have thought that they were so outrageous and so totally-out-to-lunch that they were not even worth commenting on, because no one ever commented on them.  That is odd, given that so many people claim that humanity must be drastically reduced so as to avert ecological catastrophes of epic proportions.  However, consider something else, Phytofarm, that is: farming by means of the use of artificial light.

At the current efficiency of PhytoFarm, the entire present population of the world can be supplied from a square area about 140 miles on a side – about the area of Massachusetts and Vermont combined, and less than a tenth of Texas. This represents only about a thousandth as much land as is needed for agriculture at present (give or take a factor of four; for illustrative purposes greater exactitude is unnecessary). And if for some reason that seems like too much space, you can immediately cut the land space by a factor of ten: just build food factories ten stories high, which should present no more problems that a ten-story office building. You could economize even more and build a hundred stories high, like the Empire State Building or the Sears Tower. Then the surface area needed would be no more than the space within the corporate limits of Austin, Texas, to pick the first alphabetically among the many U.S. cities large enough.
PhytoFarm techniques could feed a hundred times the world’s present population – say 500 billion people – with factory buildings a hundred stories high, on one percent of present farmland. [My emphasis — WHS]  To put it differently, if you raise your bed to triple bunk-bed height, you can grow enough food on the two levels between the floor and your bed to supply your nutritional needs.

The Ultimate Resource II: People, Materials, and Environment (1998), by Julian L. Simon

I know, I know.  You must think about where all of the energy to produce the required light will be coming from.  Never fear, Julian Simon thought of that.  Read the book and you will find out.  Come on!  If you are sufficiently worried about over-population that you feel driven to stop reproducing and even try to limit other people’s wish to propagate, you must be interested enough to read just one book.  No?  You mean you have your mind so firmly made up that no facts will confuse you?

Update 2010 09 01: Well, you seem to be ready to accept some facts.  Here is an essay that will convince you, if any convincing is necessary, and confirms that the world is not running out of anything and will not run out of anything even if the size of the world population grows to several times its present size:

There Is No Shortage of Stuff

Functionally Unlimited Resources Exist

The worry is often put forward that we are going to run out of resources. That as population increases we just MUST run out of stuff. In this article I will be presenting a selection of examples of why this is not so. Please remember that this is far from a complete list. I have left out more resources and technologies than I’ve put in the article. These are just a sample sufficient to prove the thesis, the others were left out not due to lack of merit, but due to lack of space….(Full Story)

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2 Responses to Is the world overpopulated?

  1. ProfBob says:

    I find in reading those sites that say that population problems are a myth that their evidence is very sparse and inconclusive. Recently I read Book 1 of the free e-book series “In Search of Utopia” (, it blasts their lack of evidence relative to their calling overpopulation a myth. The book, actually the last half of the book, takes on the skeptics in global warming, overpopulation, lack of fresh water, lack of food, and other areas where people deny the evidence. I strongly suggest that anyone wanting to see the whole picture read the book, at least the last half.

    The outdated fertility replacement rate of 2.1 is also clarified.

    Response by F4L: You need to either quote something from the book or at least summarize or paraphrase a point or two made in the book to show that it throws reasonable doubts on the potential of the PhytoFarm concept or on the other figures shown in the posting. Otherwise the readers don’t even know for sure whether you disagree with one or the other view point.

    Even “he-said, she-said” arguments don’t carry much weight if you don’t explain in comparable detail that what she said contradicts the detail of the information he stated.

    Surely you can do better than to direct readers to read “at least the last half” of a book without telling them at least what they should be looking for and why, unless, of course, you are not even close in your mind to what it is you are objecting to.

    Otherwise it would seem that the last two sentences in the last paragraph of the posting you responded to describe you fairly well. It is up to you to improve on that impression.

    Perhaps I can do a little better than you did about the book with which you try to refute optimistic and substantiated views about the ability of our planet to support a thriving and growing population.

    “In Search of Utopia” is truly and unabashedly a science-fiction book:

    Overpopulation is responsible for many of our planet’s problems–global warming, the lack of fresh water, poverty, high gasoline and food prices, air and water pollutions, the scarcity of natural resources, the excess of wastes and their proper disposal, and even some wars.

    In the year 2025 Commander Lemuel Gulliver XVI returns from a twenty-five year odyssey around the solar system, searching for sites where the world’s excess people can be re-located. He found none. On his return he vows to search for solutions to the planet’s most pressing problem….

    Well, the book should not be considered science fiction after all. It seems that it more correctly should be assigned to the category “science fantasy”.

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