Book review:Life on the Brink: Environmentalists Confront Overpopulation

Parts one and two of an eight-part book review on:

Life on the Brink: Environmentalists Confront Overpopulation
Authors: Philip Cafaro, Eileen Crist
Publisher: The University of Georgia Press
ISBN: 978-0-8203-4385-3
Price: $24.95


The brilliant Harvard University biologist, Edward O. Wilson, addressed human overpopulation with this statement,

It’s not the Nature of human beings to be cattle in glorified feedlots. Every person deserves the option to travel easily in and out of the complex and primal world that gave us birth. We need freedom to roam across land owned by no one but protected by all, whose unchanging horizon is the same that bounded the world of our millennial ancestors. Only in what remains of Eden, teeming with life-forms independent of us, is it possible to experience the kind of wonder that shaped the human psyche at its birth.”

Unfortunately, as humanity piles itself up at 80 million net gain annually, 1 billion added every 12 years and on its way from 7.1 billion in 2013 to over 10.1 billion by 2050—all life on Earth faces a portentous path.

In the face of that future, Colorado State University philosophy Professor Philip Cafaro and Professor Eileen Crist of Virginia Tech, authored: Life on the Brink: Environmentalists Confront Overpopulation.

While many Americans watch the political unrest of countries in Africa such as Egypt, Syria and Libya, few connect the dots as to endless human population growth, food shortages, water depletion and energy exhaustion.

At an unsustainable 80 million today in Egypt, demographers project that country to exceed 138 million within 38 years. Their only form of birth control remains to dig yet another canal off the Nile River and fill it with mud dwellings, no sewer, little food and accelerating poverty. While Africa houses nearly 1 billion in 2013, that ancient land expects to grow to 1.8 billion by 2050 and on to 3.1 billion by the end of this century.

The question begs an answer: where will the wild things go for food, water and raising of their offspring? How will they survive the human horde scavenging the land for food? Answer: they won’t!

Today, over 2.5 to 3.0 billion people live on $2.00 per day. Over 2.5 billion lack toilets and running water. Yet, humanity plunges into accelerating fecundity with intrepid stupidity.

As of 2013, according to United Kingdom Oxford’s Norman Myers life-long studies on human encroachment on animal habitat around the world, extinction rates run from 80 to 100 creatures DAILY around the planet. Those numbers cannot help but accelerate with the added 3.1 billion added humans within 38 years.

Upwards of two hundred species…mostly of the large, slow-breeding variety…are becoming extinct here every day because more and more of the earth’s carrying capacity is systematically being converted into human carrying capacity. These species are being burnt out, starved out, and squeezed out of existence. Thanks to technologies that most people, I’m afraid, think of as technologies of peace. I hope it will not be too long before the technologies that support our population explosion begin to be perceived as no less hazardous to the future of life on this planet than the endless production of radioactive wastes.”
Daniel Quinn

In this book, Cafaro and Crist feature over a dozen of the finest environmental minds on the planet. These “Galileo’s of the 21st century” bring you the stark realities that humanity faces.

Can our species change course? It will take a “consciousness shift” through books like this one that educate Americans, Canadians, Europeans, Australians, Chinese, Indians, South Americans and Africans. Once educated, a profound “critical mass shift” must take the knowledge into action. That allows a “tipping point” where humanity stabilizes, then reduces its numbers gracefully via birth control and family planning all over the planet.

If we humans refuse to move on the knowledge within this book and many other emerging books like it, Mother Nature will bring her weight onto the environmental ball field. As we have seen with Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, she grows merciless. And, she always bats last.

This book must be read by every citizen and passed on to the leaders of all countries in order to create the new paradigm where humanity lives, works and stabilizes its numbers into a sustainable balance with all life on Earth.

“The raging monster upon the land is population growth. In its presence, sustainability is but a fragile theoretical construct. To say, as many do, that the difficulties of nations are not due to people, but to poor ideology and land-use management is sophistic.”
Harvard scholar and biologist E.O. Wilson



Part 2:

Have you ever seen the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? It encompasses a floating island of plastic debris out in the Pacific Ocean the size of Texas, about 60 to 90 feet thick, 1,000 miles off San Francisco. It kills millions of marine creatures and avian life in our oceans across the world annually. Over 46,000 pieces of plastic float on every square mile of Earth’s oceans. (Source: Whitty) Humans created it, but humans refuse to enact simple 10 cent deposit-return laws to stop it. Some estimates show humans tossing 2.5 million more plastic containers into the world’s oceans every hour.

Such a gross contamination of the oceans continues unabated because humans refuse to clean up after themselves. It brings the question: does any of the other life on Earth matter to human beings?

In the end, do we even care about our own species as we explode our numbers across the planet? Even as 10 million children starve to death annually around the world, we gallop recklessly forward to adding 3.1 billion of ourselves within 38 years. (Source: World Health Organization)

Canadian Reid Westland said,

There are some really unbelievable temperatures and fires in Australia with no let up in sight. Yet, no direct talk about global warming and no word on human numbers and behaviors contributing to it. We are going to have to be struck solidly between the eyes before any real concerted action is taken. Can you imagine the unrest when wheat hits $10.00 a bushel and corn holds a similar high, not to mention soybeans at $18.00 a bushel? Egypt is a hell hole now and they can’t feed themselves. How are they going to buy food? On credit! If there is insufficient grain and credit dries up, they will consume what little is left of the “natural world”. From 10 million elephants in 1900 to less than 470,000 in 2013, can you imagine as we eat and carve up the last of them for trinkets? We are at war with global warming and the enemy is us! We just refuse to face up to our actions and profligate numbers. We are at war with the natural world to keep our numbers growing! Wolves, grizzlies, mountain lions, deer, moose, elk and big horn sheep have lived in a dynamic state of equilibrium for eons. The great jungles and Serengeti’s of the earth weren’t denuded by any creature but man.”

In Life on the Brink: Environmentalists Confront Overpopulation by Professor Philip Cafaro of Colorado State University and Professor Eileen Crist of Virginia Tech, we find the top authors and scientists in the world attempting to alert humanity to its impending future viability on this planet.

Apparently, we humans lack the common sense of a Canadian goose. We fail to act on our present realities of pollution, poisons, cancers, scarce water supplies and dwindling energy sources on our breakneck race to add another 1.1 billion of ourselves every 12 years.

At this point, it’s almost certainly too late to manage a transition to sustainability on a global or national scale, even if the political will to attempt it existed, which it clearly does not. Our civilization is in the early stages of the same curve of decline and fall as so many others have followed before it. What likely lies in wait for us is a long, uneven decline into a new Dark Age from which, centuries from now, the civilizations of the future will gradually emerge.”

That quote does not warrant manifestation if we take action in 2013. It will certainly manifest if we fail to act.

Crist and Cafaro said,

The explosion of humanity has decimated many animal and plant populations, extinguished species and sub-species, and caused collapsing ecologies and the shrinking and fragmentation of wild places. Ocean life has been reduced to food and by-catch; rainforests razed for meat and soybeans, boreal forests cut down for wood, mountains detonated for coals and natural gas and grasslands overgrazed and converted strictly into human breadbaskets while freshwaters are dammed, dumped into, overfished and channelized.”

All of these actions destroy animal habitat and reduce wildlife to penury on a scale that few understand or see. Both authors submit that humanity must change course and make radical changes in the human population equation.

Cafaro and Crist said, “We have to make revolutionary changes in how we live on Earth—including limiting how many of us inhabit it.”

Less than 150 years ago, we humans counted a total of 1.5 billion of our numbers. Today, at 7.1 billion and adding 80 million net gain annually, 1 billion every 12 years—none of the other creatures on this planet stand a chance as we devour everything in sight—water, energy, land, food, resources and more.

Our greatest challenge stems from the fact that most of us cannot and do not “see” what damage we wreck upon the Earth. Not 1 percent of humanity has seen or knows about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Not 1 percent of humanity knows that human encroachment on habitat causes the extinction of 80 to 100 creatures daily in 2013 and that’s been proceeding for over 30 years as our numbers explode. Not 1 percent of humanity is doing anything about it.

This book will bring it home to you. It will prove one of the most important books of the 21st century. Let’s learn and let’s change course.

We’ve poured our poisons into the world as though it were a bottomless pit…and we go on gobbling them up. It’s hard to imagine how the world could survive another century of this abuse, but nobody’s really doing anything about it. It’s a problem our children will have to solve, or their children.”
Daniel Quinn

At some point, the problem will become unsolvable and irreversible. Which means all life on Earth will suffer enormous consequences.


Read all eight parts of the book review: Life on the Brink: Environmentalists Confront Overpopulation.


Frosty Wooldridge has bicycled across six continents – from the Arctic to the South Pole – as well as eight times across the USA, coast to coast and border to border. In 2005, he bicycled from the Arctic Circle, Norway to Athens, Greece. In 2012, he bicycled coast to coast across America. His latest book is: How to Live a Life of Adventure: The Art of Exploring the World by Frosty Wooldridge, copies at 1-888-280-7715. Motivational program: How to Live a Life of Adventure: The Art of Exploring the World by Frosty Wooldridge.