Why is the World Not Overpopulated?

Because there is plenty room and plenty food. The problem of world poverty, degradation and malnutrition is caused not by the wonderfully abundant and spacious world God has given us, but by the sinfulness of men: political strife, war or mal-distribution of the ample available resources.

SO YOU DON'T BELIEVE THE WORLD IS OVER-POPULATED?

No, most pictures of starving children seen on TV are pictures of the victims of war. And whilst one starving person is one too many, the numbers of people who actually die of starvation are grossly exaggerated. For example, according to the World Bank Development Report, 1,644 people died daily from hunger related illnesses in the developing world in 1993 as opposed to the '60,000 a day' slogan commonly alleged by over-populationists.

SO HOW MANY CHILDREN DO YOU WANT?

I don't see God putting a figure on it; so neither will I. All God ever said about population control was, 'Go forth and multiply'. He never said go forth and have 1.8 children. But I'm not going to be silly about it. For unselfish and serious reasons, the Church permits married couples to use Natural Family Planning. NFP works. Anyone who supports small family size ought to reflect on the fact that most (if not all) people are descended from bigger-sized families. Had our ancestors held small-family-size views most (if not all) of us currently living would not now exist. If Joe Bloggs supports 2 children only per family and he was the third or fourth child in his family, then Joe ought to perhaps reflect that had his parents held the same 2-child per family views that he does Joe Bloggs would not now exist.

SOON THERE WILL NOT BE ENOUGH FOOD FOR EVERYONE.

Rapid technological progress in agriculture has greatly increased the availability of food. With each year that passes it takes less land to grow each person's food requirements. By the mid-1990s the world's farmers were actually harvesting several hundred million tonnes more grain each year on tens of millions of acres less land than formerly. For example, a typical field in the 1990s produces more yield from a smaller surface area than it did with a bigger surface area in the 1970s. The Earth is capable of producing enough food for seven times the current population, while leaving nearly half of the land surface in conservation areas.

SURELY THE WORLD IS OVERCROWDED?

No, throughout recorded history we've always worried about it, eg Plato, Aristotle and Confucius all worried about overcrowding centuries before Christ. But not far beyond our crowded cities the world is virtually empty, as we can see outside the windows of our aeroplanes.

THE EARTH IS FAST RUNNING OUT OF SPACE.

Not true. The quantity of agricultural land is increasing world-wide. The population of the entire world, as amazing as it might seem, could fit into the state of Texasâ€"with 1300 square feet of land allotted to each person. While the population density of this giant city would be about 21,000 people per square mile, somewhat more than San Francisco and less than the Bronx, the rest of the world would be completely empty, available for all of mankind's agricultural, manufacturing, educational and recreational activities.

OVERPOPULATION CAUSES A DRAIN ON OUR RESOURCES.

This fear is grossly exaggerated. Major studies of raw materials have found no evidence of increasing scarcity over the past century. Even if oil runs out, supplies of coal are sufficient for thousands of years at present rates of use, not to mention other energy sources (eg solar power).

OVERPOPULATION = ENVIRONMENTAL DISRUPTION AND POLLUTION.

Not necessarily. Air and water pollution are the result of technological change and inadequately defined property rights, rather than population growth. Other environmental problems such as deforestation, whaling and fishing can be shown to be the result not of overpopulation but bad policy. Population growth is more likely to help environmental improvement, because larger numbers of people see and feel the effects of environmental degradation and hence support appropriate controls eg logging practices in the US are more controlled now than when the North American population was smaller.

INCREASED POPULATION ADVERSELY AFFECTS ECONOMIC GROWTH?

Economists around the world, including those in one-child-policy China (eg DaHai Ding), have not found population growth adversely affecting the economy. In fact, some of the most densely populated countries have achieved extremely high levels of output and wealth (eg Holland, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan). Population growth encourages investment and people devote more effort to work as their family size increases. Investment depends on opportunities to make profit, not on the birthrate. Contraception and abortion not only kill people, they kill economies.

Today, more and more economists are admitting that 'human capital' is the most important resource in a modern economy. Human capital is the creative potential of all economies and it has its origin in the family. Mounting evidence indicates that the best nurturing ground for human capital is the traditional family based on marriage. Human beings are a valuable resource and their wanton destruction through population control is not a help, but a hindrance, to economic development. Mother Teresa once said of AIDS that we have probably aborted the genius who would have found a cure for it.

By having relatively few children, people today are eroding the population base that should pay for their pensions in their old age. In 1955 there were nine American workers to support each Social Security recipient. Today there are three. There is likely to be a lot more personal sadness ahead. There will be missing children and missing grandchildren. Is the rest of the USA destined to look like Manhattan, which has that country's largest concentration of people living alone (48 percent)? All developed nations are in the same dire straits.

The most notorious example of coercive population control is China, where for years the government has mandated the insertion of intrauterine devices after one child, sterilization after two children, and abortion for those pregnant without permission. It is a well known fact that family sizes reduce whenever a country becomes more affluent. But forcing people to have less children is a violation of a person's civil liberty.

SURELY INCREASED POPULATION CAUSES UNEMPLOYMENT?

No, unemployment is not a necessary or even a usual concomitant of population growth. For example, the mass unemployment of the 1930s in the US and Europe occurred along with very low rates of population growth.

WHAT ABOUT CURRENT RATES OF POPULATION GROWTH?

There are now 79 countries â€" representing fully 40% of the world's population â€" with fertility rates below the level necessary to stave off long-term population decline. The developed nations are in the worst straits. Already 15 of them, including Russia, Germany and Italy, each year fill more coffins than cradles. In the less-developed world, birth rates are also declining, but, because death rates are lower than birth rates, population continues to grow but at a slower rate than during the 1950s and 1960s. While the population of portions of Africa, Asia and Latin America will continue to grow for several more decades, the rest of the world will soon be in demographic free fall. The bottom line: Population will peak at seven billion or so in 2030, and then begin a long descent (unless better counsels prevail). This is essentially the UN Population Division's 13 November 1996 'low variant' prediction, with African, Asian and Latin American total fertility rates adjusted to converge on those of present-day Europe, or 1.35 children per woman.

WHY IS COERCIVE GOVERNMENT POPULATION CONTROL UNNECESSARY?

Because, throughout history, human beings have adapted their child-bearing to meet their economic circumstances. Families have no tendency to overpopulate because they have always understood that the result is poverty and hunger. The reason why developing countries have a relatively high birth rate is because the infant mortality rate is very high. People in developing countries will shun contraceptives because they only serve to limit even further the number of children they will have who will reach adulthood.

WHAT DOES THE CATHOLIC CHURCH TEACH ON POPULATION CONTROL?

NFP, health care & education, self-sufficiency, clean water, farming technology, canceling debt.

References:
The Population Research Institute, PO BOX 1559, Front Royal, Virginia, 22630, USA; Keane, E., Population Control? Population Explosion! The Greatest Myth of Modern Times; www.pop.org or Email: popri@ix.netcom.com & www.ozemail.com.au/~gerard/apj; Kasun, J., The War Against Population, Ignatius Press.

* Please note that this text should be read in the context of the whole work and in recognition of the appropriate paragraphs of the Catechism of the Catholic Church highlighted in the index.