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Overpopulation Debate as a Psychosocial Hazard

Development of safety guidelines from handling other hazardous materials (Part #1)

Psychosocial hazards of overpopulation debate
Sexually sensitive matters: relevance to handling overpopulation debate
Biohazards: relevance to handling overpopulation debate
Psychosocial adaptation of biohazard safety levels
Radioactive contamination: relevance to handling overpopulation debate
Security threat management: relevance to handling overpopulation debate
Document classification: relevance to handling overpopulation debate
Relevance of interaction with highly proactive advocates of alternative views
Psychoactive drugs: relevance to handling overpopulation debate
Challenge of psychosocially hazardous encounters with otherness
Psychoactive hazard warnings: symbols relevant to overpopulation debate
Conference centres as psychosocially safe environments: Copenhagen, 2009?
Mapping hot spots and degrees of psychosocial hazard

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Produced as a contribution to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (Copenhagen, 2009)
on the occasion of publication of the UN's State of World Population (2009).


Any discussion of the challenge of overpopulation has come to be considered such a political "hot potato" that the question of how to discuss it merits consideration in the light of well-developed ability to handle radioactive hazards and biohazards. The argument here focuses on how issues deemed politically hazardous can be discussed without endangering the discussants. The approach taken is to use the handling of hazardous materials, if only as a metaphor, through which to identify viable procedures appropriate to the perceived level of threat to psychosocial health from any such topic.

The concern follows from earlier reviews of systemic avoidance of any discussion of overpopulation (Institutionalized Shunning of Overpopulation Challenge: incommunicability of fundamentally inconvenient truth, 2008) -- most notably reflected in the analysis of climate change (United Nations Overpopulation Denial Conference: exploring the underside of climate change, 2009). The purpose here is however to focus on the challenge of debate on highly controversial topics and not on the specifics of overpopulation -- given that there are neither the global arenas in which such discussion can now safely take place nor the articulation of their dimensions to enable that discussion.

Although overpopulation is treated as the prime example here, the argument is relevant to debate about other "hot" topics and related denial (Checklist of Peak Experiences Challenging Humanity, 2008; Lipoproblems: Developing a Strategy Omitting a Key Problem, 2009; Guidelines for Critical Dialogue between Worldviews, 2006). At the time of writing for example, the failure to address official overestimation of oil reserves has been highlighted with the consequent constraint on capacity to grow adequate supplies of food (George Monbiot, The one thing depleting faster than oil is the credibility of those measuring it, The Guardian, 16 November 2009). With more than 1 billion people suffering from hunger, the World Summit on Food Security (Rome, 2009) was snubbed by the world's leaders, failed to deliver binding aid commitments, and did not set a target date for the eradication of hunger. The United Nations Climate Change Conference (Copenhagen, 2009) is set to follow that pattern, however the outcome is finally spun.

The concern addressed here follows from a more general preoccupation with the evident incapacity to respond to recognized global strategic challenges (Recognizing the Psychosocial Boundaries of Remedial Action: constraints on ensuring a safe operating space for humanity, 2009). The recent focus on moral hazard in relation to extreme financial risk-taking has also tended to obscure the associated moral and ethical hazards of inappropriate responses to other risks, notably those engendered by unsustainable population growth. More problematic is that debate on such matters is now itself effectively framed as psychosocially hazardous.

hat debate on such matters is now itself effectively framed as psychosocially hazardous.

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