ARTICLE 8) The Overpopulation Menace
Author: William B. Dickinson, Lawrence, Kansas.

Six Billion And Still Growing!

Dear Fellow Citizen:

Here we go on the final countdown to the millennium, a date with cosmic significance to millions of Americans. While we're skipping down the yellow brick road, I suggest that we pause to ponder a date coming up in mid-July. That's when, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's international database, world population will hit 6 billion.

The significance of this number becomes apparent when we compare it to other population landmarks, past and future. Let each reader judge the pace of human reproduction by considering the following:

       Year   World Population
     1 A.D.......300 million
    1000........345 million
  1800........1.0 billion
  1950........2.5 billion
  1999........6.0 billion
   2010........6.8 billion
   2030........8.2 billion
   2050........9.3 billion

If the demographers are correct, today's teenager can expect to live to see world population increase by 50 percent over the next half-century. Fueled by immigration, U.S. population also is projected to grow by 50 percent, from today's 272 million to 394 million by 2050. Because few people regard such increases as a blessing, the fashionable solution has been to deny it will happen. The AIDS pandemic, famines, natural disasters, ethnic wars, lowered fertility, technological progress - something will come along to rescue our species from the consequences of global overcrowding.

Trouble is, the projections already incorporate a slowing fertility rate. But population momentum threatens to push the numbers relentlessly higher. (See "Before the Next Doubling," Worldwatch magazine. Jan/Feb, 1998.) We comfort ourselves with the fact that the indigenous populations of the United States and Europe are not reproducing themselves. The slack, however, is being taken up by the world's poorest countries, where 90 percent of the births will be taking place.

Even assuming, as the song goes, that the future's not ours to see, what can we make of what we know? We know that while it took humans from the beginning of time to 1800 AD. to reach 1 billion, it has taken us just 12 years to go from 5 billion to 6 biliion. Can anyone still doubt that this population explosion is straining our ecosystem, the one in which we evolved?

America's prosperity - 94 straight months of economic growth - masks the plight of poor nations as we approach the millennium. About 35 percent of the world is in recession. Russia's collapse, the Asian contagion, Africa's chaos, the fragile state of Latin economies all are signs of the coming times. I regret holding this pessimistic view. Indeed, I am admonished by the globalists and free-marketers to think positive. An example is Virginia Postrel's new book, The Future and Its Enemies. She argues that Americans will prosper as long as we allow our trust in "dynamism," freewheeling change, to overcome our fear of the future.

Such modern-day mantras may work for Americans riding atop a stock market boom and benefiting from cheap imports and low commodity prices. But what of the rest of the world? Poverty and the forces of overpopulation are pushing people out of their homelands and into migration patterns that, in the end, will overwhelm our capacity for caring and sharing.

Nations that do get a handle on their overpopulation are likely to receive a scolding from globalists. Consider Japan, where 126 million people are crowded into a land area the size of California. Annual population growth has dropped to two-tenths of 1 percent. Rather than getting credit for halting unsustainable population growth, Western economists and politicians chastise Japan's leaders for lack of economic performance. Japan is advised to grow itself out of recession so that other Asian nations with less discipline can resume their growth. Some even urge the Japanese to admit larger numbers of immigrants to pump up demand for goods and services. Whatever became of the age of limits?

Another great myth propagated by America's economic libertarians is that a rising tide lifts all ships. All domestic ships, maybe. But how can hard times elsewhere be explained? Globalists say the former communist and authoritarian governments haven't privatized rapidly enough, or that corrupt leaders have stolen the wealth, or that international currency speculators popped the bubble. I find it just as plausible to look at the population table and see a world growing people faster than it can grow resources, including ample water, clean air, arable land, renewable forests and fisheries.

What positive spin can be put on the prospects for nations such as Iran or Iraq, where population has doubled in the past 20 years? Nigeria is on track to triple its population by 2050. Even nations with small populations are at risk when their fertility rate accelerates. In postcommunist Mongolia, half the population is under the age of 21, with little prospect of employment. Even if there is enough bread or rice to go around, these economies fail to provide housing, education and jobs. By one estimate, jobs in Latin America are increasing at only half the rate needed to absorb the millions who reach working age each year. Can we really add 200,000 people to our planet every day and not worry about the consequences.

Those of us who argue for population stabilization are portrayed by believers in the "New Econony" as enemies of the future. But who are the real enemies of our posterity? Biologist Garrett Hardin addressed this question when he said: "I learned my first basic lessons about population and carrying capacity on the farm. All my life, I have been haunted by the realization that there simply isn't room for all the life that can be generated. The people who refuse to cut down on excess populations of anything are not being kind, they are being cruel. They are increasing the suffering in the world."

For myself, I would like to see the new century unfold with some prospects for a better quality of life for all people. Our planet of 6 billion souls is overcrowded today. The wild-eyed optimists who see each new human as a potential consumer must be challenged. We must never accept as inevitable or desirable the kind of runaway population growth that can only worsen the human condition everywhere.

For more on this topic:
International Academy For Preventive Medicine
Website: www.iapm.org

The Biocentric Institute
International House
7078 Airlie Road
Warrenton, VA 20187

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