The accelerating rate of worldwide environmental damage is inextricably tied to global population increases, said William S. Fyfe, the University of Utah Sterling M. McMurrin Distinguished Visiting Professor.

"This planet of ours is in trouble," said Fyfe, his Thursday night lecture the first of two at the university sponsored by the Liberal Education Program and the College of Mines and Earth Sciences.With his lecture titled "Global Change," Fyfe posed the question: What is the sustainable human population of Earth?

Fyfe did not answer the question directly, but during his 11/2-hour presentation - including lecture, slide show and question period - he made it clear that the Earth has exceeded its carrying capacity.

Compounding the problem is Western society's insistence on consuming the Earth's resources, which has caused a catastrophic social imbalance, Fyfe said.

As examples, Fyfe cited high rates of anemia and loss of longevity in the Third World and noted that in the near future, 20 million African children under the age of five will be orphaned when both of their parents die of AIDS. In Brazil, 12 million orphaned children subsist as feral hunter-gatherers, while 20 million people have become environmental refugees in Africa, he said.

Societies need to abandon the notion that man is the center of the universe, Fyfe said.

"We have been totally immoral," he said. "Tell me why 40,000 children die every year. It is time to be honest, it is time not to be nice, it is time to face the truth."

Fyfe laid blame for global problems on academic dishonesty - the world's top thinkers have become distracted by relatively unimportant concerns, he said - and on social inequities, particularly between the sexes. If females shared global power equally with males, "that would solve everything," Fyfe said.