Blog 1: Response to Brown’s Plan B- “Population Pressure: Land and Water”

Water shortages and dust storms are issues I am all too familiar with. I grew up in Phoenix, Arizona, and actually have a very clear memory of April 18, 2001 when the gargantuan dust storm mentioned by Lester Brown in Plan B occurred. I was 12 years old at the time, and remember feeling completely dumbfounded and awestruck by the enormous wall of dust and sand that was making its way toward my home. It was a very frightening sight, even more frightening when it finally reached my house. I remember staring out the window, there was absolutely no visibility. It was like a white out, but brown. The sound of billions of dust particles bombarding my house lasted for about twenty minutes before the storm finally moved past us. The aftermath wasn’t much better….a thick layer of grit covering everything the eye could see, vehicles scratched, people caught outside in the mess were hospitalized with breathing issues; it was something I will never forget. I was amazed, but not surprised recently when I read in Plan B that the dust wall stretched from Arizona all the way to Canada. As a kid, I had no idea what forces could generate such storm. To be honest, at the time I just assumed it was because I lived in a desert and it was a windy day. I would have never guessed that it came all the way from parts of Mongolia and Northern China. It wasn’t until my early adult years that I became aware of how the irresponsible practices of overgrazing and deforestation in some parts of the world can affect others by creating such storms. It makes me wonder what percentage of the population is actually informed about issues like this. Until I started studying environmental science, I certainly wasn’t!

Another issue I became very familiar with during my time out west was water shortages. I remember my parents making us wait until after 9:00pm to do our laundry and take showers because it was substantially cheaper to use water during that time of day. However, twenty miles outside of where I grew up, the town of Fountain Hills, was known for its glorious fountains in the center of town. This always baffled me; how could a state with severe water shortage issues allow such wasteful uses of water for the sake of aesthetics? Especially during a time prior to the most recent recession, when (in Arizona), houses were barely being built fast enough to keep up with the demand of people moving into them. If water shortage was already an issue, and the population was spiking rapidly, why didn’t city and state officials step in and enforce more strict water budget policies? In that context, waiting until late at night to run water seems like a very meager attempt to fix the problem. It has been 8 years now since I left Arizona, but in that time, things haven’t gotten much better. In fact, with drought conditions, they seem to be getting worse. According to meteorologist, Eric Holthaus, in the year 2015, Lake Powell was down to only 45% capacity. It is only a matter of time before the lake dries up, and a place where I made so many teenage-summer memories will be a thing of the past.

The issues out west definitely hit me close to home, but they are only a small part of the overall global issue of water shortage. In class this week, we discussed how to get to the root cause of environmental problems. I think the problems such as massive dust storms and water shortages stem from a demand to provide food and water for a population that exceeds the earth’s capacity to provide. This also includes the staggering populations of livestock around the world that destroy grasslands, contaminate water sources, and simply live to feed a growing need to consume. Despite the excessive abundance of livestock on the planet, there are still more people starving than there are people who are well-nourished. There are countless examples around the world of places that are so overpopulated, people are forced into situations of starvation, poverty, and war. So why do people keep having babies? There are several reasons such as family values, cultural beliefs, necessity for labor/income, lack of education about birth control, rape, and many more that I won’t fully dive into. The question I want to focus on regarding population control (since it seems to be the root issue of most global problems) is: Who on earth has the right to tell someone else, “You are not allowed to have children (or any more children).” Sure, some countries like China have tried to enforce such laws, but is it ethical to do so? Many, including myself, would say no. But then again, is it ethical to overpopulate the earth and doom future generations?

Works Cited

Brown, L. R. (2009). Plan B 4.0: Mobilizign to Save Civilizations. New York & London: W.W. Norton and Company.

Holthaus, E. (2016, February 1). Science. Retrieved from Slate:



5 thoughts on “Blog 1: Response to Brown’s Plan B- “Population Pressure: Land and Water””

  1. What an amazing story. In response to why Arizona didn’t enforce stricter water budgets with a growing population, my opinion is the influx of new people was good for their economy, and enforcing these laws on the people may keep them from wanting to live there. Another situation where money comes before what is best for the Earth. On to the population issue, I believe it is unfair to tell people they are not allowed to have a certain amount of children. However, I do think family planning is necessary in developing countries to cut down on the “accidents”. (For a lack of a better word) With better practices in that sense I think we would see a slight improvement in overpopulation in those developing countries where resources are already scarce.

  2. I agree that there is definitely a lack of knowledge about dust storms. I also thought that they were the product of wind blowing dirt up until I started learning about environmental problems. Most of which were taught in courses that I elected to take in high school and not mandatory ones. I thought you brought an awesome first hand viewpoint to both the ideas of dust storms and water shortages. It does boggle my mind that a state so lacking of water, such as Arizona, would choose to put in aesthetically pleasing fountains without consideration for other things. It does not surprise me, because that seems to be how we function- what looks best/is easiest/ etc. instead of what will have the least impact on the environment.
    When reading the questions you prose at the end, I thought “yeah that’s wrong- a country/government shouldn’t be able to dictate the number of kids one has” but then you brought up a good point. At what point is it okay for the government to take away freedom in order to save the Earth. And just because the founding fathers gave us that freedom- does that mean we have the right to abuse it as much as we have? At what point does the Earth come first?

  3. I’m not sure if you’ve seen the movie Interstellar, but the dust storm you described was almost identical to what was depicted in the film. If you thought that Fountain Hills was bad, imagine what Las Vegas’s water supply is like. They have massive fountains bringing in millions of tourists. It really does seem like an unnecessary use of such a valuable resource though. It always makes me take a second to step back and realize how much people in our area take advantage of a seemingly unlimited resource, but that isn’t the case at all.
    As for your other question, like most questions concerning ethics, there really isn’t a good answer yet. People in America take a lot of pride with the amount of liberty we are given. It would take a lot of pressure for the general consensus to agree on limiting that liberty. That said, this isn’t a problem that is going to fix itself. So, when will more people begin to realize the repercussions of overpopulation and begin to do something about it?

  4. The story about the dust storm sounds terrifying! But unfortunately, they’re only becoming more and more common, especially in China. And if huge dust storms from China are already reaching to the US and Canada, then it doesn’t bode well for the rest of the world.
    As for how to slow world population growth, you make a good point. How can governments have the right to tell their citizens not to have any more children, but again, how can they knowingly overpopulate the earth? It’s a strange dichotomy to think about.

    1. It is strange! And there is not easy answer. It’s something I’ve actually been thinking quite a bit about, lately. I just got engaged over Christmas and I know for sure that we want a family in a few years once we have all our “ducks in a row” so to speak. It does seem hypocritical of me, though. I’m an environmental science major, VERY aware of the population issues the world is facing. Yet, as passionate as I am about my career, I’m equally-if not MORE-passionate about wanting a family. But then I think, “okay, what kind of world am I bringing children into if I have them?” The mental struggle is REAL!

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