The myth of over-population

By Antonia Feitz
web posted May 8, 2000

The world is over-populated and heading towards demographic catastrophe, right?

Wrong. According to Max Singer, writing in The Atlantic Monthly of August 1999, "Unless people's values change greatly, several centuries from now there could be fewer people living in the entire world than live in the United States today." How does he come to this startling and unorthodox view? Simply because no demographer predicted that when fertility dropped to replacement level - which is 2.1 child per woman per lifetime - it would keep falling. But it has. In Western Europe, Japan and the East Asian tiger economies, the total fertility rate (TFR) is 1.5. and falling. Italy's has fallen to a national suicidal 1.2. North African immigrants look like inheriting Italy.

Fearing a population explosion because the population grew exponentially over the past two centuries is like fearing your baby will grow to 1000 pounds because it doubles its weight three times the first seven years, says Singer. In the 1960s, population grew at 2 per cent. It's now growing at 1 per cent and if it continues to drop as the pattern suggests it will, it will head into negative numbers. Many demographers now think the world's population will peak at 8 billion within fifty years or so, and then go into a rapid decline. So far from facing a population explosion, we're more likely looking at a population implosion.

According to Pierre Chaunu, professor emeritus of the Sorbonne and member of the French Academy, the implosion began fifty years ago. He said there's been little recognition of the demographic collapse of the West, which will take a time lag of thirty years to become obvious because of longevity. "According to my calculations, in the totality of the planet, the generations will not be replaced beginning the year 2020." [1]

Though the UN announced that the world's population reached 6 billion on October 12 1999, Chaunu denounced the claim as "false". He says that African population figures are inflated, doubts China's figures, and notes that in the former USSR, where there is one live birth for every 7 abortions, 292 million people have never existed. Then there's the 80-120 million killed under communism who haven't been officially recognised as being not part of their countries' population statistics.

So why the population explosion scare? Chaunu says the international agencies have to justify the huge sums spent on imposing authoritarian birth control programmes in many countries. So they claim imminent danger for the planet through 'over-population'. He also indicated that a "certain number of North American experts play with fear: fear of invasion and asphyxiation by the citizens of the third world." In plain English, they're playing the race card: there's not too many people, just too many of THEM.

Now we're getting the picture. There's even a Voluntary Human Extinction Movement. Its website ( proclaims the usual people-hating message with the usual pagan overtones in the usual emotive rhetoric: "...the hopeful alternative to the extinction of millions, possibly billions, of species of plants and animals is the voluntary extinction of one species: Homo

"Each time another one of us decides to not add another one of us to the burgeoning billions already squatting on this ravaged planet, another ray of hope shines through the gloom. When every human chooses to stop breeding, Earth's biosphere will be allowed to return to its former glory...Good health will be restored to the Earth's the life form known by many as Gaia. It's going to take all of us going." [2]. Such self-loathing is pathological.

Then there's Sister Miriam MacGillis, an American nun who presents seminars on ecology and spirituality. Though her own God charged man to be fruitful and multiply, she claims humans are like cancer cells devouring the host. Ozone depletion, global warming, genetic deformities and deforestation are all symptoms of the human 'cancer' destroying the environment according to her warped and decidedly un-Christian thinking.[3]

The likes of her are talking nonsense. Some readers may be surprised, but there is no scientific consensus that global warming is actually a problem. Many scientists think it could even be beneficial. And what arrogance it is to suggest the world's climate should remain exactly as it was in the baby boomers' youth! Sea levels have risen and fallen before. Antarctica was once lush. Ice ages have come and gone. Perhaps we should have the humility to accept that Nature knows what she's doing.

Though about $2 billion a year is spent on projects designed to produce "evidence" to justify the harsh global energy rationing, they have failed to deliver the goods. Consequently, despite strong political pressure to support the Kyoto Treaty, more than 17,000 scientists, two-thirds with advanced degrees and many in climatology, have signed a petition which reads as follows:

"We urge the United States government to reject the global warming agreement that was written in Kyoto, Japan, in December, 1997, and any other similar proposals. The proposed limits on greenhouse gases would harm the environment, hinder the advance of science and technology, and damage the health and welfare of mankind.

"There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing, or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth's atmosphere and disruption of the Earth's climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth..." [4]

Compare their informed testimony with the astonishing fact that President Clinton has issued a directive to his President's Council on Sustainable Development (PCSD) that the science of global warming is not to be discussed any more! [5]. Yes, despite the scepticism of reputable scientists, the UN has banned discussion of the science of global warming. Instead the UN, the NGOs, and compliant governments continue to spend millions of dollars on propaganda campaigns.

With this level of propaganda, no wonder it's hard for people to contemplate the idea that over-population might be a myth. Yet according to Nicholas Eberstadt, who holds the Wendt Chair in Political Economy at the American Enterprise Institute, the planet-wide TFR decline over the past four decades "has already curbed the relative and absolute pace of world population growth, in spite of increased life expectancy." In the early 1950s the planet-wide TFR was 5; in 2001 it will be 2.8. And falling. [6].

The figures he quotes are astonishing: 79 countries and territories, with 44 per cent of the world's population, are now in the below-replacement category. These include 27 of the 29 OECD countries, plus Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan. Bulgaria has the lowest TFR ever witnessed in a modern nation not at war - just 1.14 births per woman per lifetime. If that rate remains, each new generation in Bulgaria will be half the size of the preceding one. That's how quickly things can change.

Then there's the above-replacement but rapidly declining group of countries. According to the UN Population Division, TFRs for the less developed regions dropped by half in the past four decades - down from 6 births per woman per lifetime to 3. And falling. In Asia, TFRs have dropped by half as they have in Latin America and the Caribbean. Coercive family planning programmes are not needed: the fertility decline in Brazil, which never sponsored family planning, has been almost identical to Mexico's which did.

And finally there is the high and resistant high fertility group. These are sub-Saharan Africa and the Arab Middle Eastern countries which comprise under a sixth of the world's total population. Some people are beginning to describe them as child rich.

It's all very interesting and contrary to the environmental doomsdayers' predictions. It seems we are not facing the Malthusian spectre of uncontrolled breeding. Quite the contrary.

The Japanese island of Oshima is giving us an inkling of what the future may be like. Children are so rare that an old people's home set up dummies of a little boy and a pig-tailed little girl waving on the front porch "to soften the atmosphere of the place", according to the manager. [7]

The majority of people are old. Octogenarians outnumber teenagers three to one; septuagenarians outnumber teenagers by seven to one. The paper seller is 84, as is the barber. The workers who manoeuvre the heavy ferry gang-plank are grey-haired. A sprightly octogenarian prepares meals-on-wheels for the housebound. Many schools are empty as there are so few children. As people die, houses are abandoned.

Twenty years ago, one village had 500 people; now there are 230; in another twenty years there might be none. The town of Towa's population was 20,670 in 1945; under 10,000 in 1970; and 5553 in 2000. There's just one little eight-year-old girl in second grade at Towa's elementary school. According to the reporter, "what has happened here will also happen, to one degree or another, throughout Japan - and in many other developed countries."

Japan's TFR is 1.39. The Japanese government is in a state of "low level panic", realising it's too late now to reverse the inevitable decline. It has estimated that without any increase in fertility, "its population will have fallen from 125 million today to just 500 by the end of the next millennium... " (News Weekly, 6/11/99).

Of course that won't happen, but it's very exotic food for thought.

1. "French Demographer Denounces UN World Population Claims",10-7-99, PARIS (ZENIT)
2. Washington Times, 3/3/99.
3. The Evening Post (Wellington, New Zealand), 19/2/99.
5. Charles Lamb, "Not Another Dime for the UN", WorldNetDaily, March 30 1999,
6. News Weekly (Australia), 12/2/00.
7. The Australian Magazine, 8-9/1/00.

Antonia Feitz is a senior writer for Enter Stage Right.

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