Thursday, May 04, 2006

The Overpopluation Myth

A couple of weeks ago there was a letter to the editor in the Deseret News (Salt Lake City) that really bugged me. So I wrote a reply.

http://deseretnews.com/dn/view/0,1249,635202055,00.html

Here's the letter that really bugged me:
Overpopulation affects all

Though enlightened observers are increasingly drawing the conclusion that global climate change really is a moral issue — which it is — a larger moral issue remains sacrosanct. At the heart of this problem is the issue of overpopulation. Directly or indirectly, this touchy subject affects everything we do. The capacity of Earth is rapidly hitting the full-tilt, boogie stage of the game. Global warming, pollution, pandemic disease, endangered species, illegal immigration and war are all by-products of too many humans chasing limited and dwindling natural resources. With our proclivity toward developing every square inch and consuming goods, we have lost sight of our larger problem: man's ego and his desire to spread his seed far and wide.

Horst Holstein
Salt Lake City
What a load of bunk! Incidentally, the D News didn't print everything I wrote, so here is the letter in its entirety:
With apologies to “enlightened observers” like Horst Holstein, overpopulation is an insidious myth. According to a United Nations press release from February 2005, about half the world lives in nations with sub-replacement fertility. The population of 51 countries or areas, including Germany, Italy, Japan and most of the successor states of the former Soviet Union, is expected to be lower in 2050 than in 2005.

Is this good?

Not according to research. It is widely believed that there will be an underpopulation crisis in Japan by 2014. Underpopulation is also believed to be the root cause of the possible future failure of the United States Social Security system. Population levels of the US and Europe have only sustained themselves because of immigration, which Horst lists as an evil by-product of overpopulation. However, the US Census Bureau predicts the level of fertility for the world as a whole will drop below replacement level before 2050. A major consequence of fertility decline is population ageing. Our world is and will continue to become older. Today, 20% of developed nations’ population is 60 years old or over. By 2050 the proportion will be 32%. Who will be at work? Who will keep the world’s economies growing and vibrant? Who will take care of you Horst, when you can no longer take care of yourself? You see Horst, according to all empirical evidence, there is no such thing as overpopulation”.

Therefore, the world’s problems cannot be attributed to there being too many people, as the “enlightened observers” suggest. In fact, according to research, the world’s problems will only get worse as a direct result of “enlightened” people refusing to have children.
The original is a bit more long winded, but I think it's better.

I have not see any rebuttal to my letter since then, but I did find a letter similar to Horst's in the Salt Lake Tribune:

Breeding poverty

In 1986 the “last ever” amnesty made citizens of about 3 million illegal immigrants. The 2006 amnesty will do that for about 11 million illegal immigrants. The next amnesty in about 20 more years will probably include 40 million-50 million new illegal immigrants. Neither proponents nor opponents of these amnesties seem to be concerned about the size of the U.S. population. If we grant the 2006 amnesty, with the promise to stop illegal immigration, that promise will probably be about as effective as the 1986 promise to stop illegal immigration. In 1986 the world population was about 4 billion. Now it is about 6 billion. In 20 years it will be about 8 billion. The number of poor people in the world is large enough and growing fast enough that if we allow them all to come and live in the U.S. then our population will double every few decades. That will hasten the day when our government will have to institute the same stringent birth control measures on our sons and daughters that China does now, recognizing that unlimited population growth is the road to a much worse disaster than government-imposed birth control. Fortunately free immigration is self-limiting. Free markets work. When the billions of new immigrants have made the USA as poor a country as the countries they come from, they will stop coming.

Noel de Nevers
Salt Lake City

I agree that the current immigration debate has its foundations in population levels. However, the crisis is not that illegal immigration will over-populate the US. In fact, the current illegal immigration "crisis" was in fact caused by the overpopulation myth. If Americans had not heeded the "enlightened observers" call to limit family size, there simply would not have been work for the immigrants to take. It is simply supply and demand.

9 comments:

Utah Peaknik said...

Okay, but the question that you should be asking is this: can the world support more than 6 billion people if its not industrialized?

For more explanation, check out my blog. Also check out:

www.lifeaftertheoilcrash.net

Also, pick up a copy of "The Long Emergency" from your local library.

Even if you're right, and there is an underpopulation crisis, do you think that having a continually growing population is good too? After all, human population can't keep growing indefinitely. There's only so much habitable and arable land on the earth, only a fixed amount of water, a certain amount of steel, etc.

Anywho, have a nice day.

Cameron said...

According to the United Nations, it's not a question of "if".

The world will fall below replacement fertility before 2050. The crisis will occur even sooner in countries like Japan.

The two causes of underpopulation are lowered fertility rates and the AIDS epidemic. If these two situations continue unabated, there will be no point in wondering exactly how many people the earth can sustain. Rather, we'll be forced to understand the consequences of too few workers to sustain the world's economies.

Cameron said...

http://www.un.org/esa/population/publications/wpp2002/WPP2002-HIGHLIGHTSrev1.PDF

This is the UN report which documents the world's slowing and ultimately falling population.

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