Future Population Growth Fantasy
"Future population growth.
Population forecasts are published with confidence and fanfare. Yet the record
of even the official forecasts made by U.S. government agencies and by the
UN is little (if any) better than that of the most naive predictions.
For example, experts in the 1930s foresaw the U.S. population declining, perhaps to as little as 100 million people well before the turn of the century In 1989, the U.S. Census Bureau forecast that U.S. population would peak at 302 million in 2038 and then decline. Just three years later, the Census Bureau forecast 383 million in 2050 with no peaking in sight. The science of demographic forecasting clearly has not yet reached perfection.
Present trends suggest that even though total population for the world is increasing, the density of population on most of the worlds surface will decrease. This is already happening in the developed countries. Although the total populations of developed countries increased from 1950 to 1990, the rate of urbanization was sufficiently great that population density on most of their land areas (say, 97 percent of the land area of the United States) has been decreasing. As the poor countries become richer, they will surely experience the same trends, leaving most of the worlds surface progressively less populated, astonishing as this may seem."
Julian Simon, 1996
The Ultimate Resource 2
Simon's comment demonstrates a commitment to either insulting the intellegence of his reders or appealing to their extreme tunnel vision. When he states "Present trends suggest that even though total population for the world is increasing, the density of population on most of the worlds surface will decrease", the average reader apperently is expected to overlook the term "most." So, what if "most" of the world's land surface is becoming less densly populated? The overall density is increasing nevertheless and those people still need a balanced diet and sufficient calories, not to mention clean air, sufficient recreation areas and freedom from terrorists. It does not matter that the entire world's human population could be fitted into the state of Texas. That population must have sufficient food and clean water to survive. And what kind of life would it be to be crammed into such a small space? Try living in the slums of New York. I'm sure Simon's home or business addresses were never there. Or what about the townships in South Africa, shanty towns in Mexico or similar places in Hong Cong, Calcutta or Bombay. Would Siman have invested in a home in those places?
The average stock broker, business executive or corporate CEO will simply overlook the term "most" and see only that the density of the earth is decreasing even though the population is increasing!! The math of that contorted logic borders on sheer lunacy. Yes, worshipers of Julian Simon, agreed when he said that "even though total population for the world is increasing....leaving most of the worlds surface progressively less populated , astonishing as this may seem...." , the term "astonishing" is the gross understatement of the century.
"Poor rural migrants have become like characters in the folk-tales and fables they no longer tell their children: fleeing the countryside to escape the evil spirits of want and poverty, they find the old enemies lying in wait for them in the urban slums which are their destination.
Global poverty is in flight; not because it is being chased away by wealth, but because it has been evicted from an exhausted, transformed hinterland. The UN estimates rural populations have reached their peak, but there will be a further 2 billion urban settlers in the next 30 years. About 70% of these will live in slums, adding to the 920 million already there.
Poor people have taken their bundles to the unwelcoming cities of Asia, Africa and Latin America. Few go in search of bright lights or easy pickings. Most depart in sorrowful resignation, because they have dependants - children and elderly parents - to sustain and insufficient means to do so.
The earth they farmed, addicted
to fertiliser and pesticide, no longer yields a surplus to sell in the market.
Water is contaminated, irrigation channels are silted up, well water polluted
and undrinkable. In any case, land was sold for a dowry, or to finance a family
member in the Gulf, from where she sent her domestic servant's wages each
month until the contract expired. Land was taken by government for a coastal
resort, a golf course, or under the pressure of structural adjustment plans
to export more agricultural products."
Jeremy Seabrook, 2004
Powder Keg in the Slums
THE SLUMS OF INDIA
"India's Population Time Bomb
It has been two decades since I last visited India, yet I was not prepared for the extent of poverty and squalor and the great number of beggars that we encountered on virtually every street corner and back alley - this has increased enormously since my last visit - and it deeply shocked IHEU delegates from the Western world. India now has over 960 million people, and demographers predict that its population will eventually outstrip China's. Twenty years ago the Indian government was committed to making birth-control information available - including contraceptives, vasectomies, sterilizations, and abortions - but these programs were driven by purely demographic objectives, treated women as statistics, and were deeply unpopular. It is significant that in one state in India, Kerala, where for decades individual well-being has been the driving force behind social programs, family sizes have fallen, so population growth has slowed, life expectancy is as high as in the United States, and the quality of life has raced ahead. But Kerala is the exception. In most of India today these programs are languishing and the misery index seems to be rising as a result. Many Indians believe that children are "gifts of the gods," or they wish to have large families - especially many sons - to support them in their old age. Our taxi-cab driver during the Congress, a friendly Muslim, related to us that he had six children, and that they lived in a room 10' x 10', yet he wished to have still more children! Unfortunately, many families still do not have adequate contraceptive information or the means to practice birth control. Obviously, some people might like to have smaller families, but they don't know it's possible, particularly if they are illiterate.
.....there is strong resistance to population policies, particularly by both Muslim and Hindu fundamentalists. An estimated 300 million Indians are now below the poverty level. Unless there is a deceleration of these growth patterns, many predict a social explosion in coming years. The infrastructures of cities such as Mumbai are stretched to the limit. Mumbai is India's leading commercial city, yet its water, sewer, and sanitation systems and roads are decaying. The plight of other cities and villages in the interior is far worse. According to Amartya Sen, India's Nobel Prize-winning economist, the literacy rate in India is 52% of adults, and malnourishment strikes 64% of its children. A recent study showed that more than half of the children under 12 in seven Indian cities are afflicted with lead poisoning. The situation is grave.
There are surely some bright spots in India. It is still the largest parliamentary democracy in the world. Moreover, since 1991 large-scale capital has been invested in India, and a new software computer industry has developed in Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, and elsewhere. This is due in large part to the removal of burdensome governmental regulations and the opening up of a free market for foreign capital. Indian computer specialists are now regarded among the best in the world. As a result of this and other industrial developments, a growing middle class of some 250 million people is emerging. Yet for every step forward, the growth of population drains resources and impedes any appreciable advance in the standard of living. Mumbai's pollution is enormous - there are few catalytic converters on automobiles and taxis and unbelievable traffic jams fill the air with unbreathable smog. With open sewers everywhere in evidence, health standards, particularly for children, are difficult to maintain. Indeed, at the Centre where we met, nearby swamps were infested with mosquitoes, and many IHEU delegates were fearful of contracting malaria, filariasis, and other diseases.
The United States had taken a leadership role in family planning and population assistance in earlier decades. Unfortunately, the Christian Coalition, in alliance with the Vatican, has in recent years sought to stall such efforts in the U.S. Congress - largely because of theological opposition to both abortion and contraception. Humanists need to persuade their fellow citizens - religious and nonreligious alike - that there is a compelling need to provide contraceptive information to the developing world. Religious Americans, including Roman Catholics and Protestant fundamentalist- that there is a compelling need to provide contraceptive information to the developing world. Religious Americans, including Roman Catholics and Protestant fundamentalists as distinct from their leaders, are willing to use contraceptives at the same rate as other Americans. Why not make these services available to men and especially women in the developing world who desperately need them?"
Free Inquiry Magazine, Volume 19, Number 2.