And introducing Chez Us-a rare spot where Canada laughs at itself
D. A. CHANT
WHEN CONFINED in a test tube, a population of bacteria first explodes and then falls to extinction. It has exhausted the resources of space, air, water and food. Our planet is as closed and finite a system as a test tube. For all our technology and intelligence, we can’t escape the fate of the bacteria, unless we limit our population to a level our environment can support. This applies to Canada as much as everywhere else.
The average Canadian is often too quick to agree that India, China and Latin America are the countries with serious problems of overpopulation. He equally quickly rejects any suggestion that Canada, too, suffers from this affliction — after all, we have a vast uninhabited northland.
Dr. D. A. Chant is Chairman of the Department of Zoology, University of Toronto.
Nowhere, though, is the gravity of the population crisis more underestimated. Canadians seem convinced that a population increase in our country is not only inevitable but also essential to national well-being. Our business communities tell us to fill up the wide-open spaces, develop the north, exploit every natural resource, pave over land to expand our cities.
Many scientists, however, have serious misgivings about the desirability of continued population growth in Canada. They know that pollution is a direct consequence of people and uncontrolled technology. (As our population increases, our environment deteriorates.) North American affluence is based on the principle of "have now and pay later” with regard to environment. But will the cost be too great if we continue to exploit the world’s natural resources?
Our continent has seven percent of the world’s population and consumes about half of the world’s raw materials. Even if our population could be held at its present level, there would still be drastic shortages of vital commodities within the next few decades. Meanwhile, our population grows at an alarming rate — and seems likely to double in the next 40 years.
One Canadian has about the same .environmental impact through resource exploitation and pollution as 50 people in India. In terms of global environment, our effective population is not 21 million, but 50 times that figure — about one billion. From the world’s point of view, who is creating the greatest problems of over-exploitation and pollution — India or Canada?
Who hasn’t had to fight rush-hour traffic and crowded sidewalks, line up to tee off for a game of golf, deplored the fact that our vacation areas are becoming ever more con-
gested, or complained at the rising costs of higher education? All of these things point to the fact that there are simply too many people — even on this portion of the planet that we call home.
While population and its economy have been expanding, our individual freedom has been shrinking. Stronger controls are applied to everyday living — only to be increased if we do not limit growth. The use of automobiles, boats and airplanes will become even more constricted. Use of recreation areas will be rationed. Bureaucracy will thrive as government tries to solve its problems with less success. The voice of the individual will seldom be heard.
Can we slow down the explosion of humanity before it is too late? Perhaps, yes — for the very reason that an increasing number of citizens has decided that merely talking about overpopulation is not enough. In the United States, the most powerful organization fighting the population problem is Zero Population Growth Inc., with more than 14,000 members.
In Canada, a group of eco-activists has started a parallel but independent ZPG organization, at the Department of Zoology, University of Toronto, with chapters from Vancouver to Fredericton.
ZPG is preparing a massive program to support the case for a national population policy. Members are speaking to the people. No one seriously advocates government action to ban babies. We believe our population can be controlled in more acceptable ways: tax incentives, no
baby bonuses, liberalized abortion, more effective family planning services, and education. Overpopulation is a global problem and Canada has an opportunity to show other countries by example that the population problem can be solved. □
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