Population Polemics

by Jan Baughman

August 14, 2000


Note from the Editor:  The small strip of land known as the Bay Area, between San Francisco and San Jose, California, is famous for its Silicon Valley and its congestion. People from all over the U.S. and the world, of all possible ethnicities, have been lured by the wealth and opportunities of the area and the opportunity to create more wealth. That means a LOT of people. Not surprisingly and often legitimately, some long-time residents are concerned by the explosion of new businesses and newcomers, even though the housing shortage is driving up the property value. Thoughtfully, they call for more sustainable policies and responsible population control, not only in their communities but around the world. This phenomenon is repeated in many wealthy communities in both Western Europe and America. So, it may well be that Jan Baughman's opinion on population control will cause these certainly well-intentioned concerned citizens to slightly flutter.

Not that one should question the legitimacy of the values and the concerns of the many population control advocates. But one question that always comes to mind when addressing a partisan of population control is, "How many children, and if old enough, how many grandchildren do you have?" The answer often helps to put the issue in a more enlightened perspective! And it also helps to bring to the fore a wider question or two: Is there really a population problem or threat? And, largely unbeknown to those well-intentioned concerned citizens, who is truly behind the population control movements?

You will find a series of Web resources at the end of the article.


The issue of population growth, whether there is too much or too little of it, is fraught with conflicting information and biases, such that it is difficult to sift through the literature and find rational humanistic or scientific arguments. Instead, one is left with underlying social, political and religious agendas and an ethnocentrism that screams "there are too many of them, and not enough of us". Wealthy vs. poor, light-skinned vs. dark-skinned, pro-abortion vs. anti-abortion, they can all be found among the polemists.

According to World Overpopulation Awareness, the world population has doubled in the last 40 years, and it took just 12 years to increase from 5 billion to 6 billion. If fertility remained at current levels, the population would reach 296 billion in just 150 years. Even if it dropped to 2.5 children per woman and then stopped falling, the population would still reach 28 billion. But if you ask the United Nations, global population growth peaked around 1970 and has fallen steadily since, and may peak at only 9.7 billion in the year 2050, assuming we achieve a global birth rate of 2.1 per female.

The notion of limiting birth rates is not new. Plato and Aristotle posited that in a communistic society, the regulation of marriage and birth would insure sufficient support for all citizens. Yet we are far from communalism -- even in our present economic boon, survival of the fittest is the prevailing philosophy.

According to National Geographic, "Population growth has slowed or even stopped in Europe, North America and Japan, but global population is still rising at a rate of about 78 million people per year, most of it taking place in the wold's poorest and least-prepared regions. Even HIV/AIDS is not a panacea for overpopulation." Alas, AIDS was not the panacea we had hoped for...

Over the past few decades, birth rates have declined in most developed countries, nearing the "break even" rate of 2.1 per woman. In Zambia or Nigeria, women typically have six children in their lifetime. Yet how can we expect women faced with high infant mortality, in countries ravaged by an epidemic, with limited resources to limit their birth rate? George Moffett, author of "Critical Masses," a book on population explosion states that "overpopulation is one of the few global problems we know how to solve. There's a crucial connection between a woman's productive role - the improved legal, educational, and economic opportunities that are the source of empowerment - and a woman's reproductive role." But who is lobbying for women in Zambia? Are we doing anything to improve their economic opportunities? Or does the same hold true there as in America, the opportunities are merely theirs to grab?

The birthrates in industrialized countries have decreased from 2.8 in the 1950's to 1.6 today. In the meantime, we are racing like mad to develop new technologies to extend our life expectancy. Those baby-boomers just don't want to die! The notion of investing in therapies to allow us to live to 150 is more appealing than the notion of spending this money on vaccines or food for children. It seems that we are moving toward a population of fewer and older citizens, and we want to make sure we live as long as possible. But who will take care of us, and who will fill all those jobs?

The organization Negative Population Growth posits that a sustainable US population is approximately 150 million. "Only with a much smaller population can we protect our fragile ecosystems, conserve our finite resources and ensure that future generations will inherit a clean and healthy environment where all Americans can enjoy a quality standard of living." All Americans? Well, clearly some of us have got to go, and if you're not an American, you're on the top of the list. But is it the numbers that count, or the attitude and lifestyle? Why can't we just give up our SUVs and decrease our food intake? How about a goal of decreasing our rate of overweight/obesity from 65% to 10%, and focusing a bit on distribution of food and resources, in the spirit of Plato and Aristotle? How about saving some water by discontinuing rice production in arid Southern California? No?

How, then, do we get from 275,000,000 to 150,000,000 inhabitants? By reducing the fertility rate to 1.5, and by limiting immigration. NPG promotes giving an annual cash grant to parents who pay little or no income tax and who have no more than two children. Those with three or more would lose the grant entirely. (Problem is, within our health care and political systems, women who pay little or no income tax, that is, poor women, do not have access to birth control, let alone abortion.) As for limiting immigration well, it's just shifting the population "burden" elsewhere, but very palatable, politically. NPG would reduce annual immigration to an overall ceiling of about 100,000, including all relatives and refugees, so that it roughly balances with emigration.

Meantime, on August 3, the World Life League issued a press release titled "Europe is Dying Because of Population Control Efforts". "If the peoples of Europe do not begin to take steps to increase birth rates, they will be facing their own demise in the next century. It's about time the international community began to take this problem seriously and address its root cause: Europe is dying because of population control efforts." (Wow, Europe is facing extinction?!? Perhaps we could send them some emigrants.) The press release continues, "Despite the prospect of Europe's extinction, organizations that provide aid for family planning and population programs continue to pump money into services and devices that perpetuate low fertility....the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) continues to push its agenda of contraceptive imperialism."....."IPPF is launching a global propaganda campaign to teach audiences about foreplay and intimacy, masturbation, homosexuality, abortion, and safe sex, among other topics."

Just who is the World Life League, and are they even concerned about population issues in Europe? The World Life League is "a division of the American Life League (ALL), an NGO in consultative status with the United Nations". Here is how ALL describes itself:

"American Life League exists to serve God by helping to build a society that respects and protects innocent human life from fertilization to natural death - without compromise, without exception, without apology. The distinguishing mark of American Life League, by which we will be recognized, is our absolute commitment to the sacredness of human life."

Without resorting to doomsday tactics, we can each live simply and prudently and manage our resources wisely. Who knows what the technological future holds in store. We did not predict that food production would increase to its current levels, virtually doubling in developed countries between 1965 and 1988. At the same time, we don't know what the ultimate consequences on water resources and topsoil will be. But whether you believe that human beings are on the brink of extinction, or that their numbers are increasing so fast that the world will dry up and disappear, consider the source of information, uncover the agenda, and contemplate the consequences of the solution: Who will suffer from population policies? And who will benefit?



World Overpopulation Awareness
National Geographic
The Hearthland Institute
Negative Population Growth
World Life League
American Life League
U.S. and World Population Clocks



Resources on the War in Yugoslavia and its Aftermath


Articles Published on Swans Regarding the War in Yugoslavia and its Aftermath

Published August 14, 2000
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