In Genesis 9:1, we learn that God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, Be fertile and multiply and fill the earth.

Check.

An Israeli study a few years back found that humanity and our domesticated animals now account for 96% of all the mammal biomass on the earth.

That’s a lot of fruitfulness and multiplying, and we can pat ourselves on the back, going from the eight survivors on the ark to the estimated 7,953,500,000 today.

Even if we prefer the scientific estimate of the earth’s human population at the time Noah is thought to have lived, about 2000-1500 B.C., humanity surged from 27 million to 8 billion.

Most of the multiplying has happened in the past few decades. It took humanity until about 1800 A.D. to reach a billion people, and it took more than hundred years more to reach 2 billion. In 1972 we were at some 3.8 billion, about 68 people per square mile (according to Worldometer.com) if you were to even out our numbers over lands but not the oceans. We’ve about doubled that now, with more than 135 people per square mile.

According to Pope Francis and Catholic theologians, this shouldn’t be a problem as long as we make some adjustments.

In the same way that 20 people living in a house must live differently than if just a couple people were living there, we need to be more respectful, share more and take less. Probably stop yelling so much.

At the same time, we need to continue working to raise the standard of living for the poorest of God’s children. That will require yet more of the earth’s resources.

And unless Elon Musk manages to safely take billions of us to Mars, it’s not going to get any easier to protect what wilderness is left.

“Overpopulation” has been debunked, but we still need to pay attention and be open to ameliorating the complications and risks our immense numbers create.

It makes Pope Francis’ environmental encyclical, “Laudato Si’,” timelier than ever. Let’s agree to be sustainable, hopeful and thoughtful. This too is part of a pro-life ethos.