Lifeboat Earth

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The earth is frequently compared to an overcrowded lifeboat. Population control activisists often paint a picture of a tiny lifeboat crammed with people who barely have room to sit, never mind having enough supplies for all of them.

Just how crowded is our "lifeboat Earth", really?

Suppose the earth really was the size of a lifeboat. How many people would be on it? Let's assume that each person on the lifeboat has the same amount of space that the average person on earth has in real life.

We could quibble over how big a "lifeboat" is. Do we mean some little two-man (oops, two-person) dingy, or some larger boat? Well, for the sake of argument, let's assume we have a fairly large lifeboat. Let's assume our lifeboat is, say ...

... the USS Nimitz.

The Nimitz is one of our nation's largest aircraft carriers. It's flight deck is 1088 feet long and 252 feet wide. (It's not a perfect rectangle, so simply multiplying this length and width gives an area somewhat bigger than the true size.) It's actual crew is 5700, but if it had the same population density that the earth has in real life, how many people would be on it? Give it your best guess before you read on.

If the USS Nimitz had the same population density that the earth as a whole has, the number of people on board would be ... less than one.

That's right, not quite one whole person. The earth has about seven acres of land per person (that's just land, not water, and not counting Antarctica). The Nimitz' deck is less than six acres.

One person on an entire aircraft carrier is the desperate overcrowding that so concerns the population control activists. And their solution to this problem? Why, to start throwing people overboard, of course. Starting with the unborn, through abortion. An easy prediction to make is that their next proposal will be to get rid of some of the "useless" elderly or seriously ill through euthanasia.

Since we published the first draft of this article, many anti-populationists have objected that we are being simplistic. There is much more to the issue than simple "standing room". The funny thing about this objection is that it is they who brought up this analogy, not us. If comparing the earth to an overcrowded lifeboat is a meaningless, irrelevant comparison, then why do they use it regularly? It wasn't until we actually did the simple math and showed that the analogy favors our side and not theirs that they suddenly decided it was a dumb idea to begin with. But more to the point, it is quite true that there are other facets to the debate besides standing room -- and we address them in other articles.

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Posted 10 Sep 2000.

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