Tuesday, 4 May 2010

The myth of overpopulation

John Mangun
Outside the Box
Business Mirror

Long before the myth of man-made global warming came on the scene, a more pervasive and potentially destructive idea began 200 years ago—the myth of overpopulation.

In 1798, an Anglican curate (assistant parish priest) published the first of several volumes titled An Essay on the Principle of Population. Thomas Robert Malthus’s basic premise was that population growth would outstrip the world’s food supply and there would be widespread famines by 1890. That did not happen.

In 1968, another expert, Paul R. Ehrlich, wrote The Population Bomb and he predicted: “In the 1970s the world will undergo famines—hundreds of millions of people will starve to death.” That did not happen.

Yet based on faulty math and totally false conclusions primarily from these two men, governments and too many people are convinced that the world is overpopulated.

The first argument is that there are simply too many people on the planet. The world population is about 6.9 billion humans. That seems like a large number. Yet the total world population could easily and comfortably fit in Australia.

The size of Australia is 7,600,000 square kilometers. If the whole world moved to Australia, each man, woman and child would have 1,100 square meters of land, making a population density of 900 people per square kilometer. By comparison, the density of the City of Manila is 43,000 per square kilometer. There is plenty of room for 7 billion people.

But those numbers do not matter if there are not enough resources, primarily food, for the number of people. According to the International Food Policy Research Institute, “For most of the past 50 years, food production has outpaced rising demand. World population has doubled since World War II, but food production has tripled. In the developing world the calories available per person increased from an average of 1,925 calories in 1961 to 2,540 in 1992.” There are fears, though, that the trend is changing.

However, even assuming that food production may be peaking—which is not a fact—the UN’s own Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs says that global population will be peaking and then declining at about the same time (2050) when the food people say supply will become a problem. Further, China’s experience in the last 20 years proves sometimes man is smarter than given credit for. China is the No.1 food producer of the world. China has only 6 percent of the world’s surface area and yet they are able to produce over 20 percent of the total amount of food in the world. China produces an astounding one-third of all fruits and vegetables in the world and the Chinese produce almost twice as much meat as the US does.

But we all know that the basic argument about population control is the poor. The “poor” produce more children, increasing the poverty numbers and the associated problems. Malthus assumed that overpopulation-creating famines would help solve the “problem” of too many poor. But he had another solution. From Malthus’s writings: “All the children born, beyond what would be required to keep up the population to this level, must necessarily perish. We should diligently encourage the other forms of destruction. Instead of recommending cleanliness to the poor, we should encourage opposite habits. In our towns we should make the streets narrower, crowd more people into the houses, and promote the return of the plague.” And, “But above all, we should refuse specific remedies for ravaging diseases.” In other words, let the poor die without medical treatment. The creator of the overpopulation myth provided the “best” and ultimate resolution: Just kill the poor. Over population and poverty both solved at once.

In order to keep a country’s population stable, each woman must bear an average of 2.1 children. More than that, and the population grows and the number of younger people also grows. Less than 2.1, the population falls and the number of older people increases.

If overpopulation is a real problem, Malthus’s harsh solution is the most sensible. The social engineering of population control or popcon has other consequences. China has the most rigorous popcon. By 2025, the median age will be 40 and 35 percent will be over 60 years and only 17 percent under 15 years. That is a dying nation.

Japan is even worse. By 2025, it will have 75 percent over 60 and 10 percent under 15 with median age of 50; that is a dead nation.

What about the Philippines?

According to the UN, the Philippines will reach 2.1 children per woman by 2020 and the growth rate will fall from that point on. By 2030, the Philippines will not be fully replacing its population and any actual growth in population numbers will be due to increased lifespan, not new babies.

The popcon advocates would have us believe that we are doomed unless something is done and done now. In 1950, the average Filipino woman had 7.29 children during her life. Now that number is 2.6 and declining. Life expectancy in 1950 was 48 years, it is now 72 years.

While on one hand, Malthus may have advocated government policy, programs and commissions for social/population control engineering, he also wrote that moral restraint on a wide scale was the best means—indeed, the only means—of easing the poverty of the lower classes. Malthus advocated that couples postpone marriage until they could properly support a family and practice sexual abstinence until that time. “All the immediate checks to population, which have been observed to prevail in the same and different countries, seem to be resolvable into moral restraint.” In other words, Malthus said: Don’t have children unless you can afford to properly take care of them, and have children only within the boundaries of a proper marriage and family.

That sounds like what the Catholic Church has been in support of and campaigning about for a very long time.

E-mail comments to mangun@gmail.com. PSE stock-market information and technical analysis tools provided by CitisecOnline.com Inc.

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