Our current world wide population is approaching 6 billion, and -- growing. Researchers in this area estimate that by 2050 our population will be 13 to 14 billion.
It was Malthus, in 1798, who surmised that population, when unchecked, increases in a geometrical ratio. Subsistence, on the other hand, only in an arithmetical rate. A slight acquaintance with numbers1 will show the immensity of the coming problem. Julian Huxley put his finger on it: "Human fertility represents the number one threat to the present and future welfare of the human race."2
The issue is not whether high levels of human population will strip the earth and ruin the general environment for the continuance of life as it has evolved.3 The issue is whether, through concerted human action, that a ruinous high level of human population might be avoided, before, nature takes care of the problem through its own natural governmental functions of war, famine, and disease. Internationally, there seems to have been efforts to convince the growing populations, such as is found in Asia, India and Africa, that constraint should be exercised through the use of birth control.4 I frankly don't know what success, if any, these international efforts have brought: little, I suspect. The main problem -- if not the view that children are needed to carry on primitive family farms -- are beliefs or practices founded upon fear or ignorance. I write of superstition driven by "unreasoning awe or fear of something unknown, mysterious, or imaginary, especially in connection with religion."5
The western nations have had some success, it would seem, in stabilizing their own population rates. This has come about, I suggest, not because of state or government policy, but in spite of it6. It has come about because of an educational process, self driven. When individuals rationalize their lives on the basis of that which is self-evident, and, dumping superstition, apply scientific principles; they begin to think for themselves and take personal and individual steps to better their lot, which, of course means bringing fewer children into the world. As for state or government policies which promote fewer people, well, there are no such policies. Indeed, when one considers the state's policies in respect to: sterilization7, abortion, and assisted suicide -- one will see that existing policies run contrary to the very important objective of reducing the rate of population growth. Look! In the defence of voluntary assisted suicide and voluntary induced abortion: one should take to the moral high ground, -- life is precious. It is this very reason, -- to this generation and to all the generations to come -- why one should take no objection to suicide and abortion. It is a short sighted person who fails to consider the prospect of masses of suffering people as slowly they starve and bear the effects of environmental poisoning, all of which will slowly lead to the eventual extinction of the human species, an inevitable scenario considering their increasing population and the tendency of emerging nations to ape the western nations in the disastrous use of scarce world resources.
1 A geometrical ratio is the relationship between two quantities which is expressed by dividing the first by the second. A geometrical progression is a series in which the ratio between the successive quantities is constant, as 1:3:9:27:81, etc. This is to be compared to an
arithmetical progression where the series proceeds by a like difference of quantity, that is the numbers increase equally as 3:5:7:9, etc.
2 As Bertrand Russell put it: "We require a certain number of cattle and sheep, and we take steps to secure the right number. If we were as indifferent about them as we are about human beings, we should produce far too many, and cause the surplus to die by the slow misery of under-feeding. Farmers would consider this plan extravagant, and humanitarians would consider it cruel. But where human beings are concerned, it is considered the only proper course, and works advocating any other are confiscated by the police if they are intelligible to those whom they concern." (Icarus.)
3 This subject is not directly addressed by those who drive "social policy." They are too shortsighted. They wish to be seen as doing "good things." However, the control of population, through benign steps, should likely be one of the prime functions of government. Though never confronted dead on, the problem of overpopulation is a problem that has been with us for a very long time. It was Aristotle who said, "The neglect of this subject, which in existing states is so common, is a never-failing cause of poverty among the citizens; and poverty is the parent of revolution and crime."
4 Incidentally, the position of the Catholic Church on birth control is to be condemned by one and all.
5 I take the words from the OED. Superstition, I might add, is something which political demagogues, have, down through the ages, used to gain control and power for themselves and their friends.
6 Certain "social welfare programmes," for example, have promoted the "business" of having babies: young unmarried women have been having babies in this country in record numbers. Why? Well, I suppose it would make for an interesting study. But the fact is that having babies gets them away from parental control and puts state money into their hands. This situation does nothing to assist, indeed aggravates, the very serious problem of an increasing world wide population.
7 Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, in a celebrated case (Buck v. Bell, 1927) which I believe was a case concerning enforced sterilization, was of the view that the "principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes."
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December, 1998 (2019)