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Abundant EarthToward an Ecological Civilization$
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Eileen Crist

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780226596778

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226596945.001.0001

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Welcoming Limitations

Welcoming Limitations

(p.185) Eight Welcoming Limitations
Abundant Earth

Eileen Crist

University of Chicago Press

“Welcoming Limitations” argues for shifting perspectives on carrying capacity away from the definition of the maximum number of people the planet can support toward an ecological touchstone: the number of people an ecologically sound food system can support. Since the industrial food system is the most destructive, revamping the food system is imperative. This has implications for human population size. In line with Paul Ehrlich and others, the chapter argues that a population of around 2 billion is a defensible goal, enabling the conservation of biodiversity, an interconnected global civilization, and the co-flourishing of humanity and biosphere. This conclusion raises the specter of "the population question," wherein even mention of overpopulation is assailed as politically insensitive. Concerns are allayed by reframing the population question, including: redefining overpopulation as a global issue and not strictly a developing world one; clarifying that population size is a significant driver of excessive consumption, and not a variable independent of overconsumption; and countering the silence surrounding overpopulation, endeavoring to promote broad agreement about the population problem through thinking about it from new angles. Reframing the population question is followed by a discussion of a human-rights framework through which population can be stabilized and slowly reduced.

Keywords:   human population, overpopulation, carrying capacity, human rights, family planning, women's empowerment, sexuality education, scaling down, livestock population

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