Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Seven Billion and Counting

Forerunner, "WorldWatch," September-October 2011

Back in 1968, author Paul Ehrlich, along with his wife, Anne, wrote a book, The Population Bomb, which became the seminal work for population alarmists all over the world. The book posits that human population is increasing so rapidly that the earth will soon be unable to provide enough food to feed everyone. Ehrlich simplistically suggests, "We must rapidly bring the world population under control, reducing the growth rate to zero or making it negative. Conscious regulation of human numbers must be achieved. Simultaneously we must, at least temporarily, greatly increase our food production." Much of the book covers population-reduction schemes, including progressively taxing families for having additional children, giving tax incentives for men to agree to sterilization, adding "temporary sterilants" to municipal water or staple foods, increasing and improving contraceptives, advocating prenatal sex discernment, and legalizing abortion.

In 1968, world population stood at 3.5 billion people. When first published, Ehrlich's book began, "The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate." (This opening was changed in later editions.) Yet, just this fall, the planet's current population crossed the seven billion mark, double the figure that made Ehrlich's knees quiver in fear of imminent famine and mass death. Somehow, the world has found a way to feed twice as many people as were alive in the late '60s.

About India in particular, he writes, "I don't see how India could possibly feed two hundred million more people by 1980." Even so, India now has nearly 1.2 billion people, three times the number counted in the 1960 census. The reasons for the nation's increased ability to feed many millions more are simple: 1) India's political situation stabilized; 2) the stable government rooted out the most egregious forms of corruption; and 3) Western agronomists figured out how to increase crop yields, which they shared with developing nations. No population-reduction plans were necessary.

Even so, fears about over-population still exist, particularly in liberal, globalist institutions, led by the United Nations. As Stratfor explains in a recent "Geopolitical Diary" on the world's demography:

Conventional wisdom tells us that the increase in population is putting pressure on the global ecosystem and threatening the balance of power in the world. As the story goes, the poorer states are breeding so rapidly that within a few generations they will overwhelm the West and Japan—assuming the environment survives the rising tide of people. ("The Earth at Population Seven Billion")
Singing this same tune, The New York Times published a front-page story on world population on May 4, 2011, titled "UN Forecasts 10.1 Billion People by Century's End." It begins, "The population of the world, long expected to stabilize just above 9 billion in the middle of the century, will instead keep growing and may hit 10.1 billion by the year 2100, the United Nations projected in a report released Tuesday." The lead is intended to startle or even to scare the reader into believing that world population must be reduced immediately. Deeper into the article, it soothingly reports that "well-designed programs" of birth control are bringing birth rates down in the developing world, "but at a snail's pace."

However, what the Times is not saying is that this frightening article is based on a United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) report that presents a statistical worst-case scenario. The nose-counters at UNFPA and its sister agency, the UN Population Division, actually developed three different population scenarios—high-, middle-, and low-variant projections. The graph printed in the published report reflects the high-variant forecast, while the wording of the press release, summarized by the Times article, echoes the middle-variant. Totally ignored is the low-variant model.

Yet, it is this low-variant projection that most closely resembles reality. It shows world population rising to about 8.5 billion by 2040 and then declining to around 7 billion by the end of the century. Why is this projection more likely? Because it assumes that birthrates will continue to fall, as they have been doing for more than a century as industrialization and urbanization have spread around the globe. As the Population Research Institute reports:

Some 80 countries representing over half the world's population suffer from below replacement fertility—defined as less than 2.1 children per woman. The populations of the developed nations today are static or declining. . . . Europe and Japan are projected to lose half their population by 2100. . . . Even in the developing world family size has shrunk, from around 5 children per woman in 1960 to less than 3 today. . . . High fertility rates are becoming rare. The UN numbers for 2010 show only 10 countries with population increase rates at or above 3.0 percent.
Thus, while population continues to rise, it is rising more slowly, and in a generation, it will level off and begin to fall. The long-range problem, then, is not over-population but under-population. If these trends continue, after 2050, there will be increasingly too few people to maintain the world's economies at their accustomed levels. With human lifespans increasing, a far smaller number of young adults will be asked to support a huge mass of senior citizens, resulting in a vastly lowered standard of living for everyone.

However accurate their assumptions, these are only forecasts—ones that leave God and the prophecies of His Word out of the picture. Should Christ return in the next few years or decades, all of this angst over population will be for naught, since the Bible predicts that, because "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23), the troubles of the end time will reduce humanity to a remnant, perhaps a tithe. But who knows what devilry population control advocates will do in the meantime?