Body count: Population and its enemies : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Body count: Population and its enemies
Stephen Moore
National Review, October 25, 1999

At a Washington reception, the conversation turned to the merits of small families. One woman volunteered that she had just read Bill McKibben's environmental tome, Maybe One, on the benefits of single-child families. She claimed to have found it "ethically compelling." I chimed in: "Even one child may put too much stress on our fragile ecosystem. McKibben says 'maybe one.' I say, why not none?" The response was solemn nods of agreement, and even some guilt-ridden whispers between husbands and wives.

McKibben's acclaimed book is a tribute to the theories of British economist Thomas Malthus. Exactly 200 years ago, Malthus--the original dismal scientist--wrote that "the power of population is ... greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man." McKibben's application of this idea was to rush out and have a vasectomy. He urges his fellow greens to do the same--to make single-child families the "cultural norm" in America.

Now, with the United Nations proclaiming that this month we will surpass the demographic milestone of 6 billion people, the environmental movement and the media can be expected to ask: Do we really need so many people? A recent AP headline lamented: "Century's growth leaves Earth crowded--and noisy." Seemingly, Malthus has never had so many apostles.

In a rational world, Malthusianism would not be in a state of intellectual revival, but thorough disrepute. After all, virtually every objective trend is running in precisely the opposite direction of what the widely acclaimed Malthusians of the 1960s--from Lester Brown to Paul Ehrlich to the Club of Rome--predicted. Birth rates around the world are lower today than at any time in recorded history. Global per capita food production is much higher than ever before. The "energy crisis" is now such a distant memory that oil is virtually the cheapest liquid on earth. These facts, collectively, have wrecked the credibility of the population-bomb propagandists.

Yet the population-control movement is gaining steam. It has won the hearts and wallets of some of the most influential leaders inside and outside government today. Malthusianism has evolved into a multi-billion-dollar industry and a political juggernaut.


American billionaires, past and present, have devoted large parts of their fortunes to population control. The modern-day population-control movement dates to 1952, when John D. Rockefeller returned from a trip to Asia convinced that the teeming masses he saw there were the single greatest threat to the earth's survival. He proceeded to divert hundreds of millions of dollars from his foundation to the goal of population stabilization. He was followed by David Packard (co-founder of Hewlett-Packard), who created a $9 billion foundation whose top priority was reducing world population. Today, these foundations are joined by organizations ranging from Zero Population Growth (ZPG) to Negative Population Growth (which advocates an optimal U.S. population size of 150 million--120 million fewer than now) to Planned Parenthood to the Sierra Club. The combined budget of the groups approaches $1 billion.

"Population growth is analogous to a plague of locusts," says Ted Turner, a major source of population-movement funding. "What we have on this earth today is a plague of people. Nature did not intend for there to be as many people as there are." Turner has also penned "The Ted Commandments," which include "a promise to have no more than two children or no more than my nation suggests." He recently reconsidered his manifesto, and now believes that the voluntary limit should be even lower--just one child. In Turner's utopia, there are no brothers, sisters, aunts, or uncles.

Turner's $1 billion donation to the U.N. is a pittance compared with the fortunes that Warren Buffett (net worth $36 billion) and Bill Gates (net worth roughly $100 billion) may bestow on the cause of population control. Buffett has announced repeatedly that he views overpopulation as one of the greatest crises in the world today. Earlier this year, Gates and his wife contributed an estimated $7 billion to their foundation, of which the funding of population programs is one of five major initiatives.

This is a massive misallocation of funds, for the simple reason that the overpopulation crisis is a hoax. It is true that world population has tripled over the last century. But the explanation is both simple and benign: First, life expectancy--possibly the best overall numerical measure of human well-being--has almost doubled in the last 100 years, and the years we are tacking on to life are both more active and more productive. Second, people are wealthier--they can afford better health care, better diets, and a cleaner environment. As a result infant-mortality rates have declined nearly tenfold in this century. As the late Julian Simon often explained, population growth is a sign of mankind's greatest triumph--our gains against death.

We are told that this good news is really bad news, because human numbers are soon going to bump up against the planet's "carrying capacity." Pessimists worry that man is procreating as uncontrollably as John B. Calhoun's famous Norwegian rats, which multiply until they die off from lack of sustenance. Bill McKibben warns that "we are adding another New York City every month, a Mexico every year, and almost another India every decade."

But a closer look shows that these fears are unfounded. Fact: If every one of the 6 billion of us resided in Texas, there would be room enough for every family of four to have a house and one-eighth of an acre of land--the rest of the globe would be vacant. (True, if population growth continued, some of these people would eventually spill over into Oklahoma.)


Overeating is fast becoming the globe's primary dietary malady. "It's amazing to say, but our problem is becoming overnutrition," Ho Zhiqiuan, a Chinese nutrition expert, recently told National Geographic. "Today in China obesity is becoming common."

Millions are still hungry, and famines continue to occur--but these are the result of government policies or political malice, not inadequate global food production. As the International Red Cross has reported, "the loss of access to food resources [during famines] is generally the result of intentional acts" by governments.


The problem with trying to win this debate with logic and an arsenal of facts is that modern Malthusianism is not a scientific theory at all. It's a religion, in which the assertion that mankind is overbreeding is accepted as an article of faith. I recently participated in a debate before an anti-population group called Carrying Capacity Network, at which one scholar informed me that man's presence on the earth is destructive because Homo sapiens is the only species without a natural predator. It's hard to argue with somebody who despairs because mankind is alone at the top of the food chain.


If some choose to subscribe to a voluntary one-child policy, so be it. But the rest of us--Americans, Chinese, and everybody else--don't need or want Ted Turner or the United Nations to tell us how many kids to have. Congress should not be expanding "international family planning" funding, but terminating it.

Congress may want to consider a little-known footnote of history. In time, Thomas Malthus realized that his dismal population theories were wrong. He awoke to the reality that human beings are not like Norwegian rats at all. Why? Because, he said, man is "impelled" by "reason" to solve problems, and not to "bring beings into the world for whom he cannot provide the means of support." Amazingly, 200 years later, his disciples have yet to grasp this lesson.

The official .gov line on Y2K is that it will be much worse in China and the third world than it will be here. You may read between the lines.

-- QuestionMark (, October 23, 1999


1,2,4,8,16,32,64,128,256,512,1024,2048................................ ...................................................................... .................................

-- Sam (, October 23, 1999.

All I know is that the world population has tripled in my lifetime and the quality of life in many ways has diminished. That's just an observation, not a judgment.

-- Mara (, October 23, 1999.

Would someone kindly slip the relevance card in here somewhere for a dumb footballer??

Night Train

-- jes a dumb ol footballer lookin fer some relevance (nighttr@in.lane), October 23, 1999.

if any of this over population Doom and Gloom is true, then the problem will correct itself

-- doom (doomer@the.end), October 23, 1999.

Well, first all the computers will stop working, see?

Then, without access to power, water or food, most of the world population will succumb to starvation, dehydration, exposure, riots, disease and rogue military and paramilitary bands.

Those of us who have properly prepared for all this will survive comfortably, of course. And once the dust clears, all the undesirables are gone and we live happily in a properly constitutional nation where we have all of our God-given rights without any annoying responsibilities, there will be plenty of room and resources for everyone, see? And no lawyers, no PHM's, no politicians, no manipulative cartels, and everyone's pockets filled with gold. We can hardly wait.

-- Flint (, October 23, 1999.

Here's my take, footballer:

Technological advances have given us the ability to accommodate the growth in population. This system was designed by us humans, who are not perfect by any means, which means that the technology is flawed as well.

The people who designed these systems (shipping/agriculture/energy...yadda yadda yadda) were aware of this, but there's enough fault tolerance in it so it has the capicity to accommodate a reasonable number of the people on this planet, in spite of its growing numbers.

We've become dependent on this technology to keep the world running. If the system begins malfunctioning to the point where it passes fault tolerance levels, or a significant percentage of it fails, the capicity to meet the needs of the world diminishes. A growing population will compete for fewer goods and services from those whose systems are still functional, and someone somewhere is going to suffer, plain and simple.

I'm thankful for living in a developed country where I can live large, eat what I want when I want. I love 30 minute pizza delivery, mints on the pillow at the hotel, room service, and all the other trappings...hope it doesn't end. However, after scanning the boards and sites for over a year now, the pragmatic side of me sez that we may be in for an interesting ride.

-- Tim (, October 23, 1999.

I did a quick check and agree that the Texas figure is correct, although totally unrealistic.

Here is a more relevent statistic based on current census data:

If all the world was placed in a single mega-city having the density of Los Angeles, it would cover the entire continental United States.

-- Hawthorne (, October 23, 1999.

First letter I ever got published. 1-9-89 And it is still bad and getting worse.

UNICEF would have us stop sending axes to the Third World and start sending chain saws and bulldozers to cut the rain forests down faster. We send oral rehydration kits for 2 year olds, then we have to send loads of grain for 12 year olds, then the 18 year olds become either rebels or refugees. The leftists blow up the power lines while the rightists kill the teachers. This planet will support 1 billion living like Americans, 2 billion living like Western Europeans, 3 billion living like Eastern Europeans, 5 billion living like Chinese or 10 billion living like Ethiopians. If we insist on breeding like rabbits, we will wind up living like rabbits; a handful of vegetation per day, a dirt house and no clean water. We can have quality of life or quantity of life, not both.

END OF EDITORIAL, over 10 years old.

I have seen nothing happen to change my opinions. How big a strip-mine/steel mill and how many tankers of oil would it take to give every Chinese a moped? If all the food on Earth was evenly divided, each persons daily ration would be a half cup of starch, a half cup of green vegies, and a piece of meat the size of your thumb. If think Y2K will kill Y6B.

-- woody (, October 23, 1999.

I have been concerned with out-of-control population growth for quite some time. It is one of the many reasons my husband and I decided to stop with one beautiful child. (We also happen to LIKE having one.) What really blows me away is not the people living in third world countries without much access to birth control, but the people living in countries in which they DO have easy access to birth control, even sterilization, and just keep having child after child after child with not a thought for how the planet is supposed to support all these people. ("What? We JUST had EIGHT kids! That doesn't affect things that much!")

Don't get me started.....

-- Preparing (, October 23, 1999.

Don't get ME started.....

Ted Turner has 5 kids!

I have 7 kids and counting. Each will be brainwashed to be conservative right wingers. If I have anything to say about it, the world will not be left to leftists. Any GI population control freaks are on the wrong side. You are on the side of "they" whoever "they" are and you are no better than the government bureaucrats you whine about all the time. You need to be polly's telling everyone you know that everything will be just fine and to just prepare for a 3 day storm.

Hmmmm, maybe there are a whole lot of GI population control folks. Does this account for some of the hope that Y2K will be 10? Maybe a few billion will die and allow their precious god, the earth, to last a few more years.

Maybe Y2K will end up being an 11 and we will all die and leave the earth void of humans and their tyrannical rule over the good earth.

-- the Virginian (, October 23, 1999.

Mandatory sterilization of every newborn male is the answer to overpopulation of this planet, this is the key to exterminating mankind.

-- ~~~~~ (, October 23, 1999.

Surely you don't disagree with this????

I don't know if you've noticed this, Question Mark, but there are more than a few cases of "men" bringing beings into the world for whom they cannot provide support. Have you any idea how many babies are born to welfare moms, for instance?

The rest of this propoganda has been posted here before, and it is still short sighted and misleading.


-- Al K. Lloyd (, October 23, 1999.

Sorry, part of my post didn't make it through the ether, I guess:

<"the power of population is ... greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man.>

Surely, you don't disagree with this,do you, Mr. Mark?

< In time, Thomas Malthus realized that his dismal population theories were wrong. He awoke to the reality that human beings are not like Norwegian rats at all. Why? Because, he said, man is "impelled" by "reason" to solve problems, and not to "bring beings into the world for whom he cannot provide the means of support>

Mr. Mark, have you not noticed a propensity for certain men, women and couples who bring lots of kids into the world to be unable to provide the means of their support?


-- Al K. Lloyd (, October 23, 1999.

There is no wealth greater then life. On one level one can acknowledge the fears that population control advocates bring up. If this "plague", as Turner calls ordinary folks, continues to grow it might cut into profits, use up scarce resources ... take food from their mouths. Many of these type of people did not get to "the top" by being selfless or secure. It does not seem to bother them that they have no right over the lives of others. Their solution to their fears and their faithlessness is to kill, mutilate and sterilize as many as possible. In their rapacious greed they make whole swaths of land unlivable for their multibillion dollar projects, then have the gall to call the poor the unfit stewards of the earth.

If Y2K hardships strike, it brings out a bitter, bitter irony in all this. With the nation's demographics turned on its head, many of those who struggled in the cause of sterility and population control will find themselves feeble with old age with a pronounced shortage of strong youth to assist them and provide their closing years with security and dignity, even as their technology will have betrayed them. Of the 20 somethings in America, well 1/3 of the best friends, 1/3 of class clowns, 1/3 of the wonderful nemesises 1/3 of the older brothers or younger sisters were killed after they were conceived but before they reached "viability". This generation is seething with rage, lawlessness, violence and not even aware of why they are so furious and hurt.

On another level there is nothing that can be comprehended here. It is at root the advocacy of death, it is empty, it is cold, it is abhorent, it is an accusation of us before God. Through the sufferings of Christ our accuser is silenced, the wealth of eternal life is given to us as hope and faith for our struggles in this life and forgiveness is offered as shelter from the eternal gloom which awaits evil doers.

-- PD (, October 24, 1999.

Observation has a lot to teach on this subject.

Animals living without the benefit of human technology exhibit clear Malthusian population tendencies. Population grows to meet food supplies. Population eventually exceeds food. Malnutrition becomes normal among the population. Disease and famine cause a spike in death rates and a plunge in birth rates. The survivors suddenly live in an environment where food is plentiful. The cycle begins again.

Humans have the benefit of technology. Our capacity for discovery and learning finds new ways for us to exploit new resources. In many cases we are competing with other species for the same resources. in the last century, we invariably win. Hence the exticntion of many species.

By expropriating many more resources of the earth for ourselves, we can increase our pop;ulation above historic norms. This DOES NOT mean that we have repealed the laws that govern population growth. Only that we are taking resources that often used to support other species, and we pushed them out of their niche and took over.

This is a finite process. Someday (God knows when, exactly) the limits to our population growth will fall back into the same pattern as deer, rats, lemmings, or any other species. This is not a moral judgement on having children. It is simply observation. This is how God's rules work. We just keep hoping He will change the rules because He loves us. Don't bet on it.

-- Brian McLaughlin (, October 24, 1999.

PD -- Thanks. You whacked that nail right on the head... They rape the earth with their multi-billion dollar projects and then have the gaul to call the poor, poor stewards of the earth. That is only the beginning, isn't it? Ah, well. Time and a divine hand will sort it out in the end. Hope I don't get what I deserve. :)

-- Michael Erskine (, October 24, 1999.

PD sez, < On one level one can acknowledge the fears that population control advocates bring up. If this "plague", as Turner calls ordinary folks, continues to grow it might cut into profits>

I am a population control advocate, and I disagree. It's the self centered, profiteering exploiters who are ENCOURAGING population growth. our whole economy is based on GROWTH. It's so easy to sell all their wonderful disposable "products" when the population keeps expanding. Controlling population numbers threatens these greedy guts, because it eliminates their ever expanding markets. It's the same folks who refuse to control immigration; they want a supply of cheap labor.

< It is at root the advocacy of death, it is empty, it is cold, it is abhorent, it is an accusation of us before God. Through the sufferings of Christ our accuser is silenced,>

I am not advocating death; I am advocating LIFE; I am trying to prevent the suffering and death which are already occurring and will certainly occur in ever greater numbers in the future if we don't keep it zipped up.

Here's a challenge: If you think God will judge me for trying to control overpopulation, I CHALLENGE YOUR GOD to cause my computer to melt down, so I won't continue to espouse this course of action. OK? Come on, God, give it your best shot!!!

Hey, computer's still working fine, thanks. Does that mean God is judging YOU, PD? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe God is sitting back getting a chuckle from our bickering and inability to solve our problems.


-- Al K. Lloyd (, October 24, 1999.

I think the two in the bed (or where ever :-)you are) should decide how many children they want to support, not the gov. or any wealthy elite or socially "concerned" person.

From something you said about they are keeping old people from dying so they are living longer, I wonder is there a ---chart--- or somthing showing the ---age ranges of the current population.--- Heck, we may just have a bunch of old people who will be gone to their eternal home soon and really do not have a problem at all.

I don't think there is a population problem. I think there is just bad economic decisions from the top and wealthy in leading the world. They are trying to keep the lower classes in the bonds of poverty and using the poverty as good PR to try to prove their point so they do not lose any of their power and money. If they diminish the masses then it means more for them in their greedy hands. obo

-- Onebyone (, October 24, 1999.

Onebyone, I would like to point out that the decisions made by the couple in their bed affect ALL OF US, not just the couple. We are all in this together. If the population continues to double every forty odd years, and all the problems that go along with this increase continue to escalate, don't you think that WE ALL have a stake in it?

I would also point out that economics is not the real problem. It's much deeper than that.


-- Al K. Lloyd (, October 25, 1999.

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