Overpopulation Myth

Thursday, March 18, AD 2010

And you, be fruitful and multiply, bring forth abundantly on the earth and multiply in it.

— Book of Genesis 9:7

Lo, sons are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.  Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the sons of one’s youth.  Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

— Book of Psalms 127 [126]:3-5

Biretta tip Rusty Tisdale via Google Buzz.

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16 Responses to Overpopulation Myth

  • 90% of all humans inhabit 3% of all the land on the earth..


    Say this everytime someone dares to say we are “overpopulating” the earth.

    I suspect these statements are usually by people living in a huge and crowded city, who never see the rest of the State, let alone the rest of the nation or world.

  • I believe they are called New Yorkers.

  • Perspective,

    We are overpopulating the Earth.

    If you want to hit me with the statistic that the entire world’s population can fit into Rhode Island, that’s fine. Because the problem is that only a small percentage of Earth’s total land mass is suitable for living. Plus you have a limited supply of resources like water and fossil fuels, which are nonrenewable. In fact, if everyone on Earth led a typical American lifestyle, we would only be able to sustain 1-2 billion people. To sustain 6 billion would require all of us switching to a vegan diet. Even if we did that, the global population is projected to reach 9 billion…

    If you have any other arguments, please post.

  • And you know, I hate to say it but any information from here on the topic of overpopulation has to be carefully evaluated since the website is very biased (being Catholic and all). Please try to look at things from the other perspective too. I myself researched extensively on the issue and found that most overpopulation deniers were either Catholic, or had shallow arguments easily combated by scientific data.

    Oh, and I do want to add that population control does not have to involve forced abortions/sterilizations…

  • Azelais, go google birth dearth, do some reading on the subject, and then come back when you have something other than bigotry and ignorance to contribute.

  • Plus you have a limited supply of resources like water and fossil fuels, which are nonrenewable.

    Um, I’m pretty sure that water is a renewable resource. I mean, it literally falls from the sky.

  • @Donald R. McClarey: Falling fertility rates are mostly only present in industrialized countries (though the U.S. is not one of them with a perfect replacement rate of 2.1). The key point, however, is that the fertility rates of third world countries are rising much faster than the dropping fertility rates of developed countries. Obviously, this equates a net increase in world population.

    Perhaps it is you who needs to “do some reading on the subject” and “come back when you have something other than bigotry and ignorance to contribute”. 🙂

    @Blackadder: I meant that fossil fuels are nonrenewable resources, not water. My apologies for the misleading sentence, which should probably be revised to “Plus you have a limited supply of resources like water, and nonrenewable fossil fuels.”

  • Still haven’t done that reading have you Azelais? Fertility rates are plunging around the globe. For example Iran’s fertility rate is currently 1.7. Keep trying Azelais.

  • Still haven’t done that reading, have you Donald?

    1. For every country with a dropping fertility rate, there is a country with an even faster rising rate. That’s why the UN projects the world’s population to *continue rising* to 9 billion in 2050. According to the CIA World Factbook, Mali, Niger, Uganda, Somalia, Burundi, Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola, Ethiopia, etc. all had fertility rates of over 6 in 2009!

    2. Even if fertility rates were declining, that’s a good thing (for now and the near future). China is an example of a country whose population might decline in the future (thanks to their one-child policy). This would only prove beneficial to them, as the country is too crowded at the moment.

    So overall, the world is already overpopulated. This is why we are seeing resource wars in poor countries fighting over water and food. As I stated before, if everyone were to live an American lifestyle (which I suppose is the ultimate goal- a high standard of living for everyone), we could only sustain 1-2 billion people. The UN Development Program reports that the 20% of the world’s highest-income earning countries account for 86% of total private consumption expenditures, and the poorest 20% a minuscule 1.3%.

    Keep on trying Donald. 🙂

  • Azelais,

    1. No, the reason why the population is expected to continue rising is not because “For every country with a dropping fertility rate, there is a country with an even faster rising rate.” It’s because the fertility rate is a measure of how fast people are being born — it doesn’t take into account how long they live. Given that the world population has been rising for the last 100 years, even if every country on earth instantly went to a 2.0 fertility rate, the population would continue rising for another 50 years or so before leveling off. Further, the fact that the countries you listed has fertility rates over 6 in 2009 does not mean that their rates are rising, it just means they are high. The total fertility rate for the world as a whole has fallen from 5 to 2.5 over the last 50 years:


    2. You can theorize that countries are “too crowded” and would thus do better if they had fewer people, but that doesn’t change the fact that having far more old people than workers is generally very unhealthy for a society.

    Also, your math on the claim that the world can only support 1-2 billion people with an American lifestyle rests on the assumption that the amount of wealth/resources in the world is fixed. This is, however, generally false.

  • “China is an example of a country whose population might decline in the future (thanks to their one-child policy). This would only prove beneficial to them, as the country is too crowded at the moment.”

    What a truly bizarre comment. China is an immense country and is definitely not too crowded. Additionally being crowded and economic performance have little to do with each other as Taiwan, Singapore and the Netherlands amply demonstrate.

    Additionally the one child policy is producing a demographic imbalance in China with far too many males for the available females. That spells looming disaster for any society.


    Keep trying Azelais. The law of averages indicates that eventually you make a comment that is not risible.

  • @DarwinCatholic: You’re right that I shouldn’t have said “rising” fertility rate. What I meant was that for every country with a replacement rate below 2.1, there is a country with a rate above it, sometimes way above it. Like you stated yourself, the population is supposed to continue rising for another 50 years.


    This is a problem because who’s to say that we can sustain 9 billion people? Yes, natural resources are not necessarily fixed, but that doesn’t guarantee that there will be enough for the future. We can’t count on technology to create resources out of thin air- food production is increasing, but not as fast as the population is increasing. Even if we could take a technological optimist point of view, we have to face the very real possibility that a large expansion of agriculture would have a terrible effect on the environment. Further deforestation, species extinction, and pollution from pesticides as farming intensifies are just a few consequences. Additionally, fresh water supplies, on which agriculture depends, are running low worldwide. This water crisis is only expected to worsen as population increases. Finally, fossil fuels simply aren’t renewable at all.

    As for the comment regarding a disproportionate number of old people to workers, we actually see low life expectancy in countries with the fastest population growth. Bottom line is that when a country’s population reaches its limit, natural controls are triggered. They will be the usual- epidemics, wars, famines, etc. – but do we really want to wait for that fate?

    @Donald R. McClarey: It goes without saying that China is “immense”, both in land mass and population. The fact that you claim that they are “definitely not too crowded” causes me to ask whether you have ever visited the country personally. I have been there a few times, and my mother was born and raised in that country. She agrees that it is a very crowded place!

    You point out Taiwan, Singapore, and the Netherlands as countries with a high population density but good economic performance. However, those are all small countries whose cases are the exception, not the norm. They are able to provide for a high standard of living because they “borrow” resources from other countries. In other words, they import massive amounts of resources from other countries because they are not able to produce those amounts in their own country. So in reality, they have a “borrowed” standard of living.

    Concerning the demographic imbalance, enforcing a ban against sex-selective abortions could normalize the sex ratio in the future. This is an option that should be considered, in light of the various benefits of the one-child policy.

  • “They are able to provide for a high standard of living because they “borrow” resources from other countries. In other words, they import massive amounts of resources from other countries because they are not able to produce those amounts in their own country. So in reality, they have a “borrowed” standard of living.”

    Now we get to the heart of your misunderstanding of populations and prosperity. The populations of Taiwan, Singapore and the Netherlands “borrow” nothing. They are successes because the economic politicies and the political systems they have in place allow their populations to buy what they need. Economic and political systems are the decisive factor in human prosperity and not population density.

    As to China, there are huge areas for population expansion within China’s borders. The Chinese have not done so because physical crowding is not the problem in China and never has been. China’s curse has always been governments that have misused the natural intelligence and hardworking cultural qualities of the Chinese. This is seen quite graphically in the fact that Chinese populations in the Chinese diaspora are invariable wealthier than the host populations.

  • Of course those countries don’t literally borrow their standard of living. They buy the products, like you said. But again, the fact that they are all small countries further proves that not everyone in the world could model after them. So while I agree that they do have excellent economic policies and political systems that allow them to buy what they need (and more, to be honest), it would be unfair to claim that those are the ONLY factors in human prosperity. When I replied to DarwinCatholic’s comment, I pointed out that the Earth has a very limited supply of certain resources. That amount is not enough for every country to prosper like Taiwan, Singapore, and the Netherlands, even if they all had the same economic and political systems. So if we cut down to the bare necessities for living- food, water, and shelter- we inevitably conclude that the world’s population cannot continue to multiply.

    As to China, there are definitely not “huge areas for population expansion”. Half of China’s territory is considered uninhabitable, and desertification is on the rise. The government-implemented one-child policy contributed greatly to the country’s economic growth and reduced unemployment caused from surplus labor. It also benefited the individual by causing improved health care, among other things.

  • I find in reading those sites that say that population problems are a myth that their evidence is very sparse and inconclusive. Recently I read Book 1 of the free e-book series “In Search of Utopia” (http://andgulliverreturns.info), it blasts their lack of evidence relative to their calling overpopulation a myth. The book, actually the last half of the book, takes on the skeptics in global warming, overpopulation, lack of fresh water, lack of food, and other areas where people deny the evidence. I strongly suggest that anyone wanting to see the whole picture read the book, at least the last half.
    That ancient 2.2 or 2.1 fertility level is shown to be in error because we are living longer.

  • Projections are NOT scientific Azelias! This is the problem with pseudo-scientific lay people, they assume they can project numbers (which were only gathered during a tiny time fram and therefore are not a suitably large sample to be reliable in the real world) out infinitely and view the speculation as fact. The real world is not a controlled laboratory experiment. You are assuming the only varaible is rate of reproduction. This is ludicrous. Besides–human behavior changes based on circumstances! This is why condoms can lead to increased pregnancy and STD’s. People who use birth control have usually begin to have more sex…ALOT more! If a condom protects you 99% of the 100 times you have sex thats 1 pregnancy (still not good odds-especially with AIDS!) But if the user has sex 1,000,000 times that is 10,000 pregnancies or STD’s. The projections are virtually IRRELEVANT because behavior changes. Then again Progressives tend to deny free will and self-control, but the truth is the truth even if nobody believes it!

The Population Bomb and Politicized Science

Thursday, July 30, AD 2009

Hattip to Alberto Hurtado at Southern Appeal.   The myth of the Population Bomb is a cautionary tale of the dangers of politicized junk science.    Paul Ehrlich’s best seller in 1968 helped propel public policy in an anti-natalist, pro-abortion and pro-contraceptive direction.  As I hope all of our readers know, the book was a heap of rubbish, making wild alarmist predictions about the dangers of population growth, none of which came true.  Good articles on Erhlich’s bomb of a book are here, here, and here.  Rather than a population bomb, we have a population implosion throughout most of the world, including in Muslim states

Now why would a book that was so spectacularly wrong headed have so captured the imagination of policy makers for generations?  Because books like Erhlich’s truly have nothing to do with science.  Science jargon is merely a wrapper for a political agenda;  in Ehrlich’s case one which was both radically pro-environment and anti-human, with a heaping dollop of hatred for people who had more than two kids.  I have a great deal of respect for science, and little but contempt for those who attempt to claim the mantle of science for political agendas through the use of junk science.

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12 Responses to The Population Bomb and Politicized Science

  • “The fetus, given the opportunity to develop properly before birth, and given the essential early socializing experiences and sufficient nourishing food during the crucial early years after birth, will ultimately develop into a human being,”.

    Reminds me of an old lawyer joke, which I will adapt accordingly for the occasion:

    Q: What’s the difference between John P. Holdren and a sperm?

    A: The sperm at least has a 1 in a million chance of becoming a human being.

  • On lawyer jokes:

    Q: How does a Catholic lawyer practice licit family planning?

    A: His personality.

    Told to me, of course, by a loving wife of a Catholic lawyer, with a good sense of humor.

  • So that explains it!

  • Has anyone read Fatal Misconception: The Struggle to Control World Population by Matthew Connelly? I’m intrigued by the review here:


  • not long after Ehrlic’s book there was another pretty much refuting it called “The Great American Stork Market Crash” or something similar. Can’t recall the author.

  • Fatal Misconception was a good book, marred slightly by the author’s apparent need to throw out the occasional anti-Catholic statement to prove he wasn’t a religious zealot.

  • He needed to establish his “street cred,” eh?

    I thought this passage was particularly redolent of something fishy going on now:

    For population experts this was the beginning of constantly expanding opportunities. The budgets, the staff, the access were all increasing even more quickly than the population growth their programs were meant to stop. There was “something in it for everyone,” Population Association of America President John Kantner later recalled: “the activist, the scholar, the foundation officer, the globe-circling consultant, the wait-listed government official. World Conferences, a Population Year, commissions, select committees, new centers for research and training, a growing supply of experts, pronouncements by world leaders, and, most of all, money—lots of it.”

    Not to labor on anecdotes, but I hear from a reliable source in the foundation world that the population control dogma is apparently still very much in fashion there.

  • On the subject of population growth, I’d also recommend Julian Simon. It was Simon, more than any other figure, who helped discredit Ehrlic’s doommongering.

  • Mark DeF:

    LOL! My wife will love that one!

  • j. christian: It is still evidently widely believed in the UK. I read the UK papers and comments sections online fairly frequently and whenever they print an environmental story, it doesn’t take long at all for a commenter to start grousing about “how the real problem we face is overpopulation.” Then other people will chime in. Some even seem to believe that the government is hiding that little tidbit of information from them.

    Given that the UK, like the rest of Europe, suffers from a lower-than-replacement level birth rate, it just goes to show how people latched on to the “population bomb” theory back in the 1970’s and refuse to let it go. Of course, if you forshook having offspring because Ehrlich and Co. scared the granola out of you back then, it would be very difficult to admit you made a mistake. The people who took zero-population growth very seriously were the boomers – too late for them to say, “Gee, I guess I’ll have that second child after all.”

  • The people who took zero-population growth very seriously were the boomers – too late for them to say, “Gee, I guess I’ll have that second child after all.”

    If I were a boomer without children, I might try to rationalize my decision that way. Interesting idea.

  • It was way back in 1840s that a guy named MALTHUS was worred acout OVERPOPULATION; we just have wackos like PAUL EHRLICH continuing this poppycock