Global Population Speak-Out

This time of year I’ve repeatedly been taking part in the Global Population Speak-Out, reminding my Dear Readers that a lot of humanity’s main problems could (and will) be solved by shrinking the planet’s human population drastically. It’s up to us: either we quit having enough children to replace the people who die, thus easing population down over centuries, or our numbers will crash catastrophically though war, famine and pandemics. In other words: let’s turn down nativity or we will see mortality turned up on us, each producing similar effects.

It is in my opinion unethical for anyone to sire/bear more than two children. If you want a third and a fourth kid, adopt. And support girl schools: educated women have fewer babies.

Previously on Aard about overpopulation: 2008, 2009, 2010.

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Comments

  1. #1 Richard D
    February 1, 2011

    I guess I agree with you, One would hope that alongside such demographic practices, human health and longevity will at least allow for people to work longer to make up for the reduced number of taxpayers coming in to pay for the ageing population.

    As it stand me and my partner aren’t thinking of having any kids.

  2. #2 Martin R
    February 1, 2011

    Allowing Swedes to retire at 65 is ridiculous. They’re in better shape than an Indian 50-y-o.

  3. #3 Larry Ayers
    February 1, 2011

    I raised two kids and had to be talked into doing so; even back in the early eighties I felt that the world had no need of more people. Of course I’m glad to have sired my progeny (and they are even more glad!).

    What irks me are the self-serving doctrines of many religions, those which encourage procreation. Catholics and Mormons come to mind. This made sense a thousand years ago; not so much now.

  4. #4 Martin R
    February 1, 2011

    And Mormonism hadn’t even been invented 1000 years ago.

  5. #5 kermit
    February 1, 2011

    For different reasons, left wingers and right wingers in the US don’t want to discuss this issue. I can usually talk about it to the science community denizens, but the authoritarians and chronically nice people can’t seem to bring themselves to consider this obvious, um, observation.

    I note that economists all seem to consider a company or economy that is merely stable to be a loser entity. I would expect a growth in wealth from improved technology, but any growth that depends on more young people than previous years is doomed to fail eventually. And as you point out, if this issue is ignored, population growth will still fail, most unpleasantly, and probably spectacularly.

  6. #6 Bob Carlson
    February 1, 2011

    I find it interesting that Australia now has a Minister for Sustainable Population. Regrettably, there is yet no possibility for anything like that in the USA, as no American politician would touch the issue with a ten foot pole. They see growth as being necessary for a healthy economy, a viewpoint that seems to be shared by most economists. Hence, American politicians would would be more likely to speak favorably of organizations like Quiverfull than those like Global Population Speak Out. There is a large assortment of videos on YouTube that show the mindset of women in the Quiverfull movement. This is one of them. The interviewer suggested that even rabbits couldn’t keep up with these women,

  7. #7 Martin R
    February 1, 2011

    Hehe, a “healthy” economy, that’s a good joke…

    I wonder how the national economists figure that, BTW. On the one hand, they insist on a certain unemployment rate to counterbalance inflation. On the other, do they demand a constantly growing population?

    Oh, who cares, national economics is still pretty much a pre-scientific morass of political prejudice anyway.

  8. #8 Dragan
    February 1, 2011

    all you scientific coneheads that are for depopulation should volounteer yourselves for martyrdom.Its easy suggesting other peoples lives as remedies do everyone a favor and start at home,\.

  9. #9 Martin R
    February 1, 2011

    Read before you comment. I’m advocating decreased procreation, not the murder of people who are already here.

  10. #10 Phaethon Rhadamanth
    February 1, 2011

    The central premise is gibberish. Fertility rates are directly proportional to wealth and standard of living which is and has been on an accelerating upward trend. Already fertility rates in the wealthiest societies, Europe and Japan, are well below replacement values and they are barely at replacement values in the US due to immigration. The greatest population growth is in the poorest countries of Africa but the rates of increase are slowing and world population will decline from a high of 9 billion mid-century to maybe 4-5 billion by the end. Wealth and prosperity are on an accelerating upward trend and population growth is already slowing and will stabilize before decling naturally

    Gloom and doom prognostications are near universally wrong. Humanity’s greatest Golden age is yet to come. Radical life extension, nanotechnolgy, artificial intelligence etc, wealth and prosperity beyong imagination. This is one non-problem that will solve itself.

  11. #11 Ben W
    February 1, 2011

    “Gloom and doom prognostications are early universally wrong”? War, famine, and disease have been the status quo for civilization, not the exception. So, I don’t agree with the original thesis, but I don’t think going to the opposite extreme is a reasonable alternative.

  12. #12 Bob Carlson
    February 1, 2011

    Hehe, a “healthy” economy, that’s a good joke…

    In America, the concepts of economic health and a healthy economy seem to relate to the wish of Americans for the economy to be the way it was before the “Great Recession,” a period of economic growth discussed by Paul Krugman. Krugman has often opined elsewhere that our government’s stimulus package should have been even larger than it was. The purpose of the stimulus, of course, was to get the economy growing again in hope of reducing the rate of unemployment and, thus, increasing the contentment of voters. To this end, folks in the state of Vermont have started an organization called . It strikes me as a lot of political mumbo jumbo. Another term that has become very popular with American politicians is “grow the economy.” Wondering about the origin of this term, I found an article indicating that this term “was basically unheard of until Bill Clinton started using the phrase during his first presidential campaign.” And here we have Bill Clinton with George Bush in Haiti. Instead of talking about the obvious need for family planning in Haiti, George instead said “he also wanted to encourage entrepreneurship in Haiti to create jobs and grow the economy.”

  13. #13 Pierce R. Butler
    February 1, 2011

    … a lot of humanity’s main problems could (and will) be solved by shrinking the planet’s human population drastically.

    Considering that the more likely “solutions” to human overpopulation will, if the past is any guide, by accompanied by wars, dictatorships, and violent social breakdown, just what “main problems” will be “solved”?

    Phaethon – didja ever hear the one about the guy who fell off a skyscraper being interviewed as he passed the 10th floor?

  14. #14 Barn Owl
    February 1, 2011

    Among my relatives and close friends, there’s such a variety of family sizes and structures that I’m not particularly inclined to pass judgment on the environmental repercussions of others’ reproductive decisions. It’s a discussion that’s not at all easy to have in the US, anyway. Because I’m childfree by choice, many people assume that I don’t like children, which simply isn’t true. I’ve interacted with, and cared for, children on many occasions, and in a variety of circumstances – babysitting, pediatric nurse aide, volunteer mentor, arts and crafts instruction, therapeutic horseback riding. I’ve just never wanted children of my own … and if you’re going to produce children, I feel very strongly that you should want them in your life. They shouldn’t be trophies or dolls or projection vessels for their parents or consolation prizes or targets of emotional and physical abuse/neglect. All too often they are exactly those things, for parents of all backgrounds and income/education levels. Few things in this world make me angrier than that sad truth.

    I have to admit, though, that when parents are annoyingly and vocally smug about their über-green lifestyles, and excessively critical about the failings of others in the realms of eco-friendliness, it *is* quite tempting to be smug in return, and smack them with the rolled-up newspaper (recycled, naturally) of selfish reproductive choices. After all, children become adults, and often have their own children, and once they’ve left your household, you can’t really determine their eco-consciousness and reproduction, unless you’re a pathological control freak. Even when they’re still at home – think of how many teenagers annoy their parents by leaving lights on, taking ridiculously long showers, leaving the refrigerator door open while contemplating its contents, and/or (in the US at least) driving around with no particular destination in mind. I know I did all that crap, and so did most of my friends and acquaintances.

  15. #15 estel laaais
    February 2, 2011

    very interesting that it becomes a ‘hypocrit’ or ‘anti children’ debate. I’m not fantastic with numbers, but if every couple had one or two children, the population would be level or in decline, because when the parents die they only leave their replacement behind. right? so people with children contribute to population maintenance, and not growth, up until the have more than two kids…
    correct me if i am being obtuse!…….

  16. #16 Martin R
    February 2, 2011

    Fertility rates are directly proportional to wealth and standard of living

    Inversely proportional.

    Wealth and prosperity are on an accelerating upward trend and population growth is already slowing and will stabilize before decling naturally

    That wealth-producing machine runs on fossil fuels and emits greenhouse gasses. It’s not going to keep running for very much longer.

    Considering that the more likely “solutions” to human overpopulation will, if the past is any guide, by accompanied by wars, dictatorships, and violent social breakdown, just what “main problems” will be “solved”?

    Environmental degradation. It’s proportional to human population size. And high-tech warfare. It depends on the availability of high tech.

    Among my relatives and close friends, there’s such a variety of family sizes and structures that I’m not particularly inclined to pass judgment on the environmental repercussions of others’ reproductive decisions.

    That just means that you’re more discreet and civil than me, not that our opinions differ.

  17. #17 Phaethon Rhadamanth
    February 2, 2011

    Yes indeed, Gloom and Doom prognostications are near universal wrong. But, they get better press and fear sells more issues than realistic optimism on how great life is today and how much better yet it will be. Life is good, these are the best days humanity has ever seen and it’s getting better at an ever accelerating rate. Do you realize that even War is getting safer and less deadly?! really. by any objective realistic measure War (to take an example on Quality of life measures)is safer now than it has ever been! And the outlook is getting better. Anybody here remember Paul Erlich? The Population Bomb? (1968) he sold a lot of books by forecasting the end of civilization due to accelerating explosive population growth. Never happened. He was full of fecal matter but people like to be scared. For the most realistic appraisal of reality I’ve ever seen read “The Rational Optimist” by Matt Ridley. But for some reason gloom and doom sells better than realistic, intelligent, rational optimism. Life is Good, It’s getting better and you ain’t seen nothin yet, I ain’t worried

  18. #18 Phaethon Rhadamanth
    February 2, 2011

    For example:


    Dr. Paul Ehrlich is a Stanford University biologist and author of the best-selling book The Population Bomb. Since the release of this book in 1968, Ehrlich has been one of the most frequently cited “experts” on environmental issues by the media, despite the fact that his predictions on the fate of the planet, more often than not, have been wrong. In The Population Bomb, Ehrlich predicted that hundreds of millions of people would die of starvation during the 1970s because the earth’s inhabitants would multiply at a faster rate than world’s ability to supply food. Six years later, in The End of Affluence, a book he co-authored with his wife Anne, Ehrlich increased his death toll estimate suggesting that a billion or more could die from starvation by the mid-1980s. By 1985, Ehrlich predicted, the world would enter a genuine era of scarcity. Ehrlich’s predicted famines never materialized. Indeed, the death toll from famines steadily declined over the twenty-five year period. Though world population has grown by more 50% since 1968, food production has grown at an even faster rate due to technological advances.

    Perhaps Ehrlich’s best known blunder is a 1980 bet he made with University of Maryland economist Julian Simon. Dr. Simon, who believes that human ingenuity holds the answers to population growth problems, asserted that if Ehrlich were correct and the world truly was heading toward an era of scarcity, then the price of various commodities would rise over time. Simon predicted that prices would fall instead and challenged Ehrlich to pick any commodity and any future date to illustrate his point. Ehrlich accepted the challenge: In October 1980, he purchased $1,000 worth of five metals ($200 each) — tin, tungsten, copper, nickel and chrome. Ehrlich bet that if the combined value of all five metals he purchased was higher in 1990, Simon would have to pay him the difference. If the prices turned out to be lower, Ehrlich would pay Simon the difference. Ten years later, Ehrlich sent Simon a check for $576 — all five metals had fallen in price.

  19. #19 Martin R
    February 2, 2011

    One guy being wrong about what would happen in the 70s and 80s is hardly a strong argument either way about what will happen in the coming century.

  20. #20 Dunc
    February 2, 2011

    Man, I love how people refer to Erlich’s 1980 bet as if that were the last word on the subject…

    What’s been happening to commodity prices lately, genius?

  21. #21 Sorcha
    February 2, 2011

    I always feel uneasy when I see adoption suggested as a “solution” to population issues (or indeed to infertility). Adoption is wonderful if you are prepared to whole-heartedly bring a adoptive child into your own home, but it should be about the child and not about some esoteric “save the earth” motivation.

    Note I said “child” and not “baby”. In most developed countries, the number of infants available for adoption is dwarfed by the number of couples willing to adopt them. Even in developing countries, most adoptable children are older than 2. If you are planning to adopt from abroad, please make sure that the country has signed up to the Hague Convention on International Adoption, which is responsible for regulating this tricky area and preventing abuses.

    In all likelihood, you will not be getting a tiny newborn, but an older child who has already experienced some trauma in his/her life. As I said, adoption can be a wonderful way of building a family, and more importantly of providing a family for a child who really needs one. But you need to do it because you really want to, and to prepare yourself for a very bumpy ride.

  22. #22 Martin R
    February 2, 2011

    Fully appreciated. But let’s remember that a childhood spent in an orphanage is not an unbumpy ride either.

  23. #23 Birger Johansson
    February 2, 2011

    (OT) Regarding ”Swine flu vaccine likely causes child narcolepsy: study” http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-02-swine-flu-vaccine-child-narcolepsy.html
    So far, an unusual spike in narcolepsy patients has only been observed in Finland (fifty-two out of sixty cases had the vaccine) and Sweden (sixty cases total) despite the fact that the vaccine Pandemrix has been used on more than 90 million people in 19 countries.

    It woud seem there is a regional, strongly contributing factor at work in the Fennoscandian area

    Has anyone found an english-language link with more details than the one above?

  24. #24 Birger Johansson
    February 2, 2011

    The population issue needs to be brought up in Europe and elsewhere in the world. The debate in USA is so politicised that nothing will happen there.
    Ironically, the rising world economies such as China take this issue far more seriously than the political class in USA (but that would be another long discussion about the role of denial in economic and political decline).

  25. #25 Birger Johansson
    February 2, 2011

    (OT) I just found the book “Himlavalvets händelser-Astronomi för forntidsfolk” by Lars Bägerfeldt.

    The background facts about astronomy seem solid, but the conclusions the author draw about the impacts of astronomical events on people is anothe matter. He refers to the research of some Göran Henriksson on several occasions. Is this trustworthy?

  26. #26 Birger Johansson
    February 2, 2011

    “Anthropologists discover earliest cemetery in Middle East” http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-02-anthropologists-earliest-cemetery-middle-east.html A 16,500-year-old site in northern Jordan

  27. #27 Barn Owl
    February 2, 2011

    @ Martin R – Oh, I think our opinions differ very little, if at all; I’m just not brave enough to be outspoken about it around people at work and in my community. Remember, though, that I live in a society that lionizes and rewards people like the OctoMom and the “19 kids and counting” Duggars, and in which the Quiverful mentality is not uncommon. Americans typically think it’s great when white people reproduce with other white people – most are not so keen on the brown people in other countries reproducing, though. Worst of all is when the brown people cross the border and have babies in the US – OMG righteous outrage!!ELEVENTY!11!! Endless rationalizations for their own reproductive choices, utter hypocrisy when discussing those of others, and as Birger Johansson points out, so politicized that nothing will change.

    Can I emigrate to Sweden? Please? ;-)

  28. #28 Martin R
    February 3, 2011

    Birger, I suggest you avoid the archaeo-astronomical work of Bägerfeldt and Henriksson. It has met with severe criticism. No, strike that, it has met with universal scorn in academic circles.

    Owl, you would be most welcome in Sweden! Even if you should be a fecund brown person. (-;

  29. #29 Birger Johansson
    February 3, 2011

    “…in a society that lionizes and rewards people like the OctoMom and the “19 kids and counting” Duggars, and in which the Quiverful mentality is not uncommon.”

    Yes, I am reminded of Il Duche who used to hand out medals to Italian women who had given birth to extra many children. Martin, thanks for the warning.

  30. #30 Sorcha
    February 3, 2011

    Who “lionizes” the Octomom? I’ve only ever heard her reviled.

  31. #31 Barn Owl
    February 3, 2011

    @ #30 Sorcha – Before it became known that she had several other children and that she was living on public assistance, the OctoMom was praised by some for “rescuing” her frozen embryos for implantation. Certainly she has been rewarded with attention (though much is negative now) and money, and continues to be – apparently she will be the subject of a reality TV program. If I’m not mistaken, that usually doesn’t happen to single mothers on public assistance who have one or two children, or to economically disadvantaged grannies and aunties and foster parents who may be the sole caretakers for several children.

    The Duggars continue to be both lionized and rewarded; take a look at the largely glowing Wikipedia page for their reality TV program, with a handy-dandy table o’ offspring. “Debt-free”, “built their own house”, “devout Christians”, “limited TV and internet use”, etc.

  32. #32 Phaethon Rhadamanth
    February 3, 2011

    erlich is merely an example to illustrate but not define the point. His being wrong is something most of his fellow pessimists are so very good at on this and many, many areas. in my lifetime so far as i became conscious of a world outside my immediate family a war without end was raging in Vietnam but that didn’t really matter since a bigger war with the Soviet Union was imminent that would destroy all humanity in a nuclear fireball leading to a winter without end. But if that didn’t happen the wars of the middle east had cut off the supply of oil and our oil based economy would soon collapse anyway. Before getting my first drivers license it looked like i never would, the govt even had printed up fuel ration cards and were ready for it. Since the days of the first oil crisis the world has consumed far in excess the total known reserves of oil available at that time and known reserves available now are well in excess of that while new sources of hydrocarbons continue to be discovered and we haven’t even touched the tar sands and coal. yeah, the supply of hydrocarbons is finite and “someday” at present rates of consumption “if” nothing changes we “may” run into problems. That day, even under the most pessimistic guesstimates (which historically are near universally wrong) is a long ways off and even so long before that date arrived we will have moved onto something better, cheaper, more abundant. We will stop using oil when and because we have developed something better not because supplies have been exhausted. Historically depletion of renewable resources have been a bigger problem. Never in human history has depletion of a non-renewable resource caused a problem whereas renewable ones have. (where are the whales? the cedars of lebanon? the vast supplies of fish in the oceans? et al etc). Gloom and Doom prognostications did not start or end with the first oil crisis, the various wars and rumours of wars since. Haven’t heard much about acid rain in sometime now, the world did not end on 1/1/00 (at midnight!) Population shrinkage is a bigger real problem in the weathy west and the rate of increase is slacking in the undeveloped world as they catch up. They still have a ways to go but they’ll get there. We have food and other resources more than sufficient to sustain all of humanity into the forseeable future. I just shake my head at the latest predictions of gloom and just say that this too will pass. What’s the next crisis? Gray Goo? :-)

  33. #33 Carlos
    February 3, 2011

    What’s this Neo-Malthusian crap on an otherwise good blog? Population growth is already slowing down and stabilizing the last several years. The really big growth was in the postwar years, but we’re past that now. Population isn’t that big of a concern that it was in the post-war years. And some scientists even predict that we will have a negative population growth in the future – e g. less people.

  34. #34 Riman Butterbur
    February 3, 2011

    Phaethon Rhadamanth thinks he can ignore warnings of future problems because sensible people took previous warnings seriously and took decisive action to prevent them from coming true.

    Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be happening with climate change. The prognostications on that front keep getting worse, not better. And the US, at least, still has it’s head in the sand.

  35. #35 Dragan
    February 7, 2011

    if you’re saying that so called overpopulation is the cause of ” war, famine and pandemics” I think you’ve been in the global warming sun to long.Every war was “made” for someones political or financial gain.Famine is also a weapon of your eugenics friends as well as the IMF.Read about how the IMF brought riches and prosperity to countries like Haiti,Jamaica etc etc.

  36. #36 Tanja
    February 8, 2011

    To # 23 (Borger Johansson):
    There is something in the pages of THL (Finland): http://www.thl.fi/en_US/web/en/pressrelease?id=24103
    which seems to have a lint to WHO as well.

  37. #37 Robert H. Pike
    February 13, 2011

    As an science educator and ecologist since 1967, I’ve been teaching and preaching the basic root statement of this article. Malthus said it elegantly and simply; “as the quantity of population increases, the quality of life decreases. We are increasing (more births than deaths) around 210,000 people per day. More mouths needing more land, more resources more clean water. John B. Calhoun did a simple experiment (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1501789/pdf/califmed00143-0080.pdf)called “Population Density and Social Pathology” and warned us – back in 1970 – that the more crowded we get, the more abnormal we will behave. More wars, more crime, more abhorrent sexual behavior, more violence in relationships.

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