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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Crowded House

Michelle Duggar is a christian woman from Arkansas who has nineteen children. She doesn't put much stock in the concept of overpopulation. Last week she said something that got me to thinking - that we could cram all of the people in the world in Jacksonville and they would all fit nicely.

"Well, first off, the idea of overpopulation is not accurate because, really, the entire population of the world, if they were stretched shoulder to shoulder, could fit within the city limits of Jacksonville," she told the Christian Broadcasting Network.

I did some checking. I am assuming for the sake of her argument that she meant Jacksonville, Florida instead of the much smaller Jacksonville, Arkansas. It was a good pick by Mrs. Duggar. Did you know that Jacksonville, Florida is the largest city in the lower 48, encompassing 758 square miles?

Technically, if we stacked humans like cordwood or sardines, what she says is correct. My calculations tell me that a square mile contains 27,878,400 square feet. Multiply that by 758 and you get 21131827200 square feet. Now if we assume for the sake of conversation that an average human being occupies about 2 square feet of ground and divide by two we come up with a figure of 10,565,913,600. The most conservative estimate that I could find of human population at the moment is approximately 6,954,087,000 with some spare change at the end because we are breeding faster than the population clock can count.

So she is right. It would be extra cozy and intimate but it could be done. In fact we have a roomy 3.03 square feet per person to nestle the world's population if we all decide to relocate to Jacksonville.


Leo Tolstoy wrote a short story in 1886 titled, How much land does a man need? It is a good question. I have done some checking although the answers are not verified. Some experts say that an agrarian clan of 100 needs roughly 20 square miles to actually survive and sustain themselves. Lifeboat Earth devotees can make a case for fully operational homesteads supporting a family of about 1/4 acre.

I gleaned a tidbit from a man named Gary Stein who sounds like maybe he knows what he is talking about on the internet. He posits that it takes about 200 square yards to support someone living on grains, 1500 square yards for a person on a milk based diet, 4000 square yards for pork subsistence and 10,000 for beef. I will take him at his word.


We are gaining roughly 250,000 people a day on the planet. It has had a devastating effect on biodiversity, namely those other critters we share the planet with. World population is expected to reach 9,000,000 by 2050. Maybe that three square feet per human will look pretty good one day?

Scientists talk about the ability of the earth to sustain life in terms of carrying capacity. I quote from an article by James Hopkins titled Human Population Crisis :
"Hypothetically, if the human population continued to grow at our present rate, the mass of people would be equal to the mass of the earth within 1600 years. In 2300 years at this rate, the mass of people would fill up our entire solar system, and if you were able to create matter from nothing in order to make people, in roughly 5300 years a great sphere of humanity with a radius of over 150 light-years would be expanding faster than the speed of light."

It is hard to argue with people of faith regarding this issue. God has promised them that it will all turn out okay. A little crowded perhaps but okay. Let's hope.

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