An interesting video, but more for what it omits than for what it contains. The world is a finite size, right? Without major advances in housing and food technology, there will come a time when the population is simply too large for the space we have available.
Like many of these sorts of things, they aim to make their point by misleading people with statistics from important-sounding bodies. What a shame so many people are unable to think critically and outside the confines of what’s presented to them.
It’s this sort of woolly thinking from which we get religion.
The assumption underpinning your first paragraph – that the population will continue to increase – is incorrect.
The United Nations predicts peak population of just over 9 billion between 2050 and 2075, or thereabouts, and a decline after that. By 2050, according to some UN demographers, one in every two Europeans will be over 60. It’ll take till after 2100, on current trends, for the world population to be shrinking quickly. Those born now won’t have sufficient children to replace them, but most of them will grow old before they die, keeping the population large in the next century. The size of the world population in 2150 depends on whether and how quickly developing nations follow the trend to smaller family size – but the UN low growth scenario suggests it could be as low as 3.4 billion, and they’ve already had to adjust their figures down several times.
I heard a conversation on the train last Friday, and saw a piece on the news this morning, on the 7th billion baby. In both, unlimited population growth was taken for granted. As you say, KA, “what a shame so many people are unable to think critically and outside the confines of what’s presented to them”.
Let’s say for the sake of argument that ‘the new evangelisation’ is a great success, and the vast majority of the world become Catholics who marry, fully follow Church teaching on contraception and have large families. That would blow the 9 billion projection out of the water
Funnily enough, that’s exactly what’s happening in the world of Islam. If you examine birth rates in the Islamic community, they about equal the birthrate of the underdeveloped Catholic countries. No, until the Islamic and Third World Catholic countries grow up, I think that there is a real threat of over-population.
Of the 81 countries with a fertility rate greater than 2.5, nine have a population that is more than 50% Catholic. Five of the top 10 are majority Islamic, only one is majority Catholic.
Fertility rates are dropping all over the world – even (perhaps especially) in developing countries. And the form of intervention found to make the most difference for a smaller population is to keep girls in school.
Yes, people who are committed to a religion (it doesn’t seem to matter which one) appear to be more likely to have more than one child – in both the developed and the developing world. Because they have more confidence in the future? Because they are less – or perhaps more – self-centred? I haven’t seen any research into reasons. Perhaps it is simply that communities of faith enjoy families, so people with more than one child feel affirmed.
But still, by 2050 we’re looking at a world total fertility rate (TFR) of 2.05, which is under replacement. (Currently replacement is 2.33, but decent healthcare in the developing countries would bring it down to 2.1.) World TFR was 4.95 in 1950, and is currently 2.44. (UN figures)
I think you are overlooking the effectiveness of modern methods of natural family planning and Catholic teaching that the parents have the responsibility to decide family size for themselves. The Church teaches that family size may be limited for grave reasons which Pius XII said were common even back in his day.
I find the whole Catholic contraception thing really weird (even more weird than most Christian theology). There is little to no biblical justification for it, but more importantly, the Catholic methods of birth control are just contraception by any other name. Let’s be honest, Catholics who use the ‘approved’ methods of birth control are doing so in order that they don’t procreate. Even condoms and the pill have their failure rates, so it’s always a bit of a lottery whichever method you use. All seems a bit hypocritical of the Catholic Church to me.
Large families in a strongly Catholic population aren’t necessarily the precursor to a population rise, Jerry. It all comes down to the maternal fertility rate. We might also see women delay marriage into their less fertile years (while remaining continent until marriage, as has happened in previous centuries), or in large numbers choosing consecrated life instead of marriage. This would be a perfectly logical outgrowth of the new evangelisation.
The result would be a small proportion of the female population producing large families, while the rest have one child or are childless. Such a result would still give us a stable population – even if the entire 9 billion were Catholic.
I keep posting these things because too few people question the received wisdom that our world is going to hell in a handcart because it has too many people. (With the subtext always that it is too many of ‘people not like us’.)
What will the future hold? Who knows. But what we do know is that Malthus was wrong. We didn’t eat ourselves to death in the 20th Century. Ehrlich was wrong – or at least (as he puts it himself) the world turned out to be more resilient than he expected. Shouldn’t that give pause the overpopulation doomsday predicters?
We might also see women delay marriage into their less fertile years (while remaining continent until marriage, as has happened in previous centuries)
Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t it the case that in those long past times, women typically married in very early puberty?
Today, marriage is frequently delayed until the early thirties. So one is expecting young ladies with all the natural urges (probably even more these days given cultural and media influences) to wait fifteen years.
That’s a nice idea, but the practical problems with it are evident.
Also, I’m not sure they did mostly remain continent. Shotgun weddings and marriage because of pregnancy seem to have been quite common.
Yes; you’re wrong. But it is a common misconception. Early marriage was common in pre-modern Europe in the upper classes, but most people (both men or women) delayed marriage until they had settled in their trade or craft.
Don’t go with your gut on this one, Chris. Check what the scholars who research this stuff are saying.
“Also, I’m not sure they did mostly remain continent. Shotgun weddings and marriage because of pregnancy seem to have been quite common.”
‘Quite common’ and ‘mostly’ are not contradictory. If – say – one in 20 marriages were because of pregnancy (I’ve seen research based on the date of birth of first child, and it’s somewhere about that – we still have the majority of young people waiting (or being very lucky).
Well hopefully the world won’t go to hell in a handcart.
I’m happy to bracket abortion from any discussion of what is needed with respect to “family-planning”. There is no need to promote it in the way some groups do, and plenty of moral arguments against it.
However — the single most effective way to break the poverty cycle in an under developed society is to work for the emancipation of women. In all areas, including teaching girls to read, supporting their receiving an education that is not terminated in adolescence, ensuring that marriage is a free and adult choice, ensuring that it is possible to safely and without stigma leave bad relationships, working to ensure equal oppurtunities in employment, working to promote access to safe and modern forms of contraception. and working to debunk the implicit and explicit sexism of religious conservatives of all stripes — Hindu and Muslim being especially bad.
That’s to give a different meaning to the term ‘overpopulation’, Toad. You’re suggesting a place is overpopulated if people aren’t being fed. So even if there are warehouses full of stored food, if the people are starving the place is overpopulated?
By that measure, If I have people arrive unexpectedly for dinner, and I’m cooking two chops and haven’t anything I can defrost in a hurry, my dining room is overpopulated.
And there is sufficient food so that people don’t have to starve – it just isn’t getting to the people who are starving (because of human greed etc
Or perhaps overpopulation is too many people for the local environment to support. By that measure, New York is overpopulated. London is overpopulated. None of the world’s big cities can support themselves without importing food and other resources.
Toad apologises for bloviating on about this, but we agree it’s important.
“You’re suggesting a place is overpopulated if people aren’t being fed. So even if there are warehouses full of stored food, if the people are starving the place is overpopulated?” says Joyful.
OK, just(!) suppose the warehouses are empty. Would a place then be overpopulated?
“And there is sufficient food so that people don’t have to starve – it just isn’t getting to the people who are starving (because of human greed etc…”
That is a pretty big ‘just’ so I’ve put it in bold.
Greed is one factor. As are logistics, costs, priorities, etc.
The question is, under what circumtances, if any, would Joyful consider the world overpopulated?
Under what circumstances, if any, would she regard New Zealand as overpopulated?
Under what circumstances, if any, would she regard Calcutta as overpopulated?
My problem with your questions is that I don’t think we’re using the term ‘overpopulated’ in the same way. Calcutta has about half the population of New York. Is New York overpopulated?
To me, the use of the term overpopulation implies that the problem would go away with fewer people – and certainly that is the way the term is often used by those who claim that overpopulation is the cause of poverty etc etc etc. I think that argument is the wrong way around. As you say, the issues are greed, logistics, costs, priorities, and so on – none of which will be solved simply by reducing the number of people.
By that reading of the term, places are overpopulated if the number of people is the cause of the problem, as occasionally happens in sports stadiums and buses. But overpopulation is not the cause of poverty, neglect, and misery in Calcutta any more than it is in the much larger city of London.
You still haven’t answered the basic question, Joyful.Do you think the world could ever be overpopulated?
As to does Toad think New York is overpopulated?
Yes, and many New Yorkers would agree. But in a way that you and I might agree on,that it is often dirty, noisy, angry people being jostled, crammed together on subways, etc.
Its population, however, relative to Calcutta,is immaterial.
When one sees families sleeping, eating and living full-time on the pavements, as in India, normal peoples’ reaction is to think, “too many people in too small a space.”
But you do not? Give them shelter, you say. But where are you going to build it? On the pavement?
So, is there, ever in Joyful’s mind a world that might be considered overpopulated, or even the possibility of such a thing?
What would it look like?
(Toad does see what she is getting at. It’s the good old, “everything is for the best in the best of all possibe worlds.” syndrome. It’s the “I can have all the kids I want – I can afford it.” syndrome.” It’s the “I can drive a Hummer. I’m rich,” syndrome.)
Do I think there can be too many people and too few resources in one place or another? Of course there can. And are, in many places. Three people in a love seat is one too many. 77 billion people on artificial habitats spread through the solar system may not be too many.
It all depends what you mean by the term ‘overpopulation’.
I reject the idea that the solution to poverty and inequality is preventing people from planning the size of their own family.
No, Toad retracts the last bits about the kids and the Hummer. He knows Joyful’s not like that.
At least, he hopes she’s not.
But, surely, she agrees things are in a shocking state right now? Far too many young people in the world with no jobs and no prospect of a decent future.
And they have a long time to wait for the pie in the sky.
Unless, of course they strap on the explosive belt and take a shortcut. What’s that got to do with overpopulation?, you ask.
Nothing. Or has it?
“I reject the idea that the solution to poverty and inequality is preventing people from planning the size of their own family.”
Says joyful, and it’s another thing she agrees on with Toad!
Because there is not, and never will be, any solution to poverty and inequality.
Even Christ admitted that.
However, Toad, while very much not in favour of “preventing” people from having as many kiddywinks as they want (Anti-Copulation Police?) – is strongly in favour of suggesting that if they don’t want more nippers, there are perfectly reasonable and safe ways of avoiding it. Which usually work.
Surely nobody can have a problem with that?
(And his tiny attention span has now quit on ‘overpopulation.’ We hope. )