The People's Problem: Population
Math makes sense but not solidarity
Did you know that the U.S. government, in entirety, consists of less than 1% of the American population? It is true. I added up the most recently published populations of congress, local governments, police, and military for a calculated sum population of about 2.1 million. If you take out the military of 1.3 million, the “government” is only about 800,000 people. In retrospect, according to data in 2020, the total U.S. population is currently about 331 million. How does such a small number of people, have so much power and hold so much authority over such a massive population?
In correlation, according to statistics published in 2017, the number of people working in journalism and the media industry was reported to be a sum population of, coincidentally, also about 2.1 million. This establishes an enormous platform to interfere with politics and public affairs. Equipped with the superpower uses of technology, mass media is the most influential entity in the country. Instead of reporting on information and knowledge that is verifiable, media has curbed more towards entertainment, offering visuals and stories aimed at increasing social engagement and going viral.
The constitutionality of current events has recently been in question and caused a lot of controversy throughout society. Focusing on Bartlett’s perspective of overpopulation and how it effects democracy, I referred to an article he wrote warning the public entitled, “Democracy Cannot Survive Overpopulation,” published in Population & Environment: A Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies, over 20 years ago in 2000. Connecting his research to the current political and social climate we are experiencing today in 2021, proves to paint a very worrisome picture of our future and where we are headed.
Al Bartlett was a Professor Emeritus of Physics at the University of Colorado. He is most well-known for explaining how the idea of sustainable growth is not realistic due to the exponential power of an increasing population. Providing many reasonable and logical examples to prove his theories, Bartlett won numerous awards throughout his lifetime for shedding light into the dark shadows of idealistic sustainable growth. Moreover, his life’s work revolved around informing and educating as many people as possible to the dangers and problems we would soon face in society and as a species, in an overpopulated nation and world.
Using basic math as a fundamental tool of reason, in 2000, Bartlett summarized how democracy becomes more and more diluted as the population continues to grow exponentially. For example, as set by the Constitution, our democracy is compromised of a House of Representatives, which stays constant at a total of 435 seats. However, in 1790, the total U.S. population was less than 4 million. Using simplified math, 4,000,000/435 tells us that each elected official in the House at the time represented approximately 9,195 people.
Advance the timeline to Bartlett’s publication in 2000, and the total U.S. population had increased to 274 million. Using the same basic division formula, 274,000,000/435 tells us that each elected official in the House then represented approximately 629,885 people. In a wide span of over 200 years, each House representative seat has continuously gained an increase of more political power and human capital. Due to the exponential growth of population, each representative gained the ability to speak for 620,000 more people in the year 2000 than they had in the 1800’s. Fast-forward to today. According to data obtained in 2020, the current total U.S. population is about 331 million. 331,000,000/435 tells us that each elected official in the House of Representatives today, is intended to represent approximately 760,919 people. This exponential increase in population has drastically diminished the integrity of democracy and the value of a vote in any election process.
To compare, it took 200 years of exponential population growth for the power of human representation to grow by 620,000 people. Since then, it has only taken 20 years for it to grow by another 140,000 people. What I want to make extremely clear is that math is objective. It cannot be changed. Still, these are far from just numbers on a piece of paper. We are talking about hundreds of thousands of people with hearts, minds, and individual perspectives and beliefs all being represented by 1 elected agent as the spokesperson for them all, within 1 geographically defined location, inside of a much larger land area. The complexity can be intimidating, but it is explicitly systematic and structured.
As democracy has continued to become more and more diluted, our collective desires for civilization and our cultural definitions of freedom seem to become more and more divergent. What does it really mean, today, to be an American? Perhaps, democracy has seen better days because it was designed for a different time. Maybe, diversity is on the rise because finally, we will be willing to put our differences aside and find a way to compromise on doing what is right, not for each other, but for all of us. How much bearing does the constitution hold if less than 1% of people get to pick and choose how it should be used within a governing body?
Another consideration that must be noted is that population growth has residual exponential effects on all other aspects of life as we know it. To demonstrate, imagine you only have 1 loaf of bread to eat for a week. When it is just you on your own, you may not even finish the whole loaf and wind up with leftovers by the end of the 1st week. So, when the next week comes you decide to share your loaf with a friend because you had extra the week before. By the end of the 2nd week, you might have had just enough for the 2 of you. Then, during the 3rd week, you and your friend get an unexpected visitor and you invite them to stay for dinner. After all, it would be rude not to, right? Unfortunately, now by the end of the 3rd week, you are out of food and left to go hungry because you lived outside of your means and exceeded the capacity of your resources; you gave away too much of your food, lessening the value of your loaf, until you were left with nothing. The infamous Albert Einstein once said, "I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones".
Apply this concept on a larger scale to the overall effects of exponential population growth on American agriculture, healthcare, public services, infrastructure, education, etc. The list is never-ending because it impacts absolutely everything. Also, let us not forget that more people and more problems means more fund-raising, more taxes, and more profits for the politicians who are quick to send foreign aid when our domestic environment is all but crumbling in debt, poverty, violence, and social discord. When will enough be enough? What is going on?
Protests are important because they concentrate large numbers of people into a single place. That type of public pressure raises congressional standards with a strongarm to stimulate action and facilitate change. There is very much strength in numbers. For every 1 of the 2.1 million individuals wrapped into the government, there are 157 civilians on the sidelines. It is quite a scary thought, isn’t it? Overpopulation is a problem, and it might take overthrowing the government to solve it. If just 10% of people came together, we could form 15 governments the same size of the current one. I wonder if this is where the future will lead. Will we transition from a single united nation to several independent factional communities? Isn't that more or less what states are already supposed to be? The pot continues to boil but I see society running out of steam, and the plot might just be thickening too much to spread. Something has got to give.
By: Amanda Spradlin
Bartlett, A. A. (2000). Democracy Cannot Survive Overpopulation. Population & Environment, 22(1), 63–71. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1006681515521