Environmental activists think there are too many people on this planet. Guess what? They're wrong. We're nowhere near the max.
I travelled by bus from Washington, D.C. to New York City last week. I saw many tiny communities and countless farms. But I also saw something I had not seen since my last trip to New England back in 2001: miles and miles of wilderness. Towering forests, wetlands and vast tracts of impenetrable bush, chock full of all the very same flora and fauna that occupied these pristine spaces before the first European ever set foot on this great continent.
I grew up on the prairies. Talk about a different landscape. Contrary to what's being taught in school, there are now more wild animals living in the prairie regions of North America than before it was homesteaded.
Sure, the buffalo took a hit, driven nearly to extinction by European and Indian hunters. But with that as the exception, there are now more deer, rabbits, coyotes, eagles and frogs than before settlement.
In New England, as in Upper and Lower Canada, the situation was a bit different. Before transcontinental railways opened the West, most people in North America were concentrated in the East. Nearly every single tree was removed to clear land for farming to feed the ever expanding population.
This caused innumerable problems for early settlers, the most common being erosion which was sometimes so dramatic that an entire field was carried away, along with a farmhouse and barn, straight down a hillside, people and livestock still inside. This risk was eliminated when the flat and highly fertile landscape of the West was settled.
Farms in New England and Upper and Lower Canada were often abandoned as farmers scrambled to take advantage of all the free, flatland being offered. And then something wonderful occurred in the East - the forests all grew back.
To this day, you'd never imagine that the thick forests of maple, oak and pine had once been completely cleared, right down to the bare ground.
Some trees I saw would require five men holding hands to encircle, and they were fifth growth. All previous growths having long since been harvested by the many generations of people who didn't move west to farm, but instead stayed in the East to become woodlot operators and maple syrup producers.
Easterners, along with some westerners, would become captains of industry and drivers of innovation, taking up residence in highly populated cities like New York, thereby leaving more of the landscape to revert to its natural, pristine state.
And so, with this as our model - large-scale farming in areas where the land is flat, with small, family-run woodlots where the landscape naturally sustains forests, and high-density, urban living for everyone else who wants a more standardized white or blue-collar lifestyle - we can extrapolate. And are you ready for the result?
This planet can sustain a human population in excess of 90 billion people, almost 13 times our current population. It's not a goal so much as a guide. To what you ask? To ascertaining just how completely misguided most environmentalists are these days, putting nature above the human race in every equation they devise, and every cause they take up.
How foolish of the environmentalist sect. Thanks to modern technology which allows for more intensive farming on smaller plots of land, combined with high-density urban living, we're now having less impact on the environment than when we first came to this continent, and with a thousand-times more people.
And everything is going to be just fine as long as human ingenuity is allowed to continue to unfurl.
Mischa Popoff is a freelance political writer.