If thereâ€™s not enough to worry about â€” what with climate change, unrest in the Middle East and stubborn unemployment â€” then people can worry about there being too many people.
Population alarmism is back, and naturally, weâ€™re being told that our unnatural species is a threat to the planet.
â€śOn a recent trip to Mexico, I sat in the central square in Guanajuato watching a lively scene of children at play,â€ť author Laura Carroll wrote for the Huffington Post recently. â€śAdorable as they were, I couldnâ€™t help but notice how many of them had pregnant mothers with two or more children already in tow. Scenes like this bring to mind the question of whether we have not only reached but already gone over a tipping point where the worldâ€™s finite resources will no longer support our growing population.â€ť
Thereâ€™s even a term for the kind of people who believe children are a blessing.
â€śThe current bedrock of social and cultural conditioning rests in pronatalism â€” a set of beliefs that is pro-birth, encourages reproduction and exalts the role of parenthood,â€ť Carroll wrote. â€śPronatalism promotes the denial of the realities of population growth today.â€ť
The â€śrealities of population growth todayâ€ť are presumably like the realities of population growth in the 1960s, when Paul Ehrlich was making some of his most alarming predictions in â€śThe Population Bomb.â€ť
â€śThe battle to feed all of humanity is over,â€ť he declared in 1968. â€śIn 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.â€ť
Last year, the (London) Telegraph examined some of his claims in the light of actual events.
â€śSince Ehrlich wrote, the population has more than doubled to seven billion â€” but the amount of food per head has gone up by more than 25 per cent,â€ť that newspaper said. â€śOf course there are famines, but the death rate has gone down.â€ť
Ehrlich predicted a terrible fate for the United Kingdom.
â€śBy the year 2000 the United Kingdom will be simply a small group of impoverished islands, inhabited by some 70 million hungry people,â€ť he wrote. â€śIf I were a gambler, I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000.â€ť
The Telegraph merely noted that England does, in fact, still exist.
Another of Ehrlichâ€™s claims is also falsifiable with no comment necessary: â€śIf our current rape of the watersheds, our population growth, and our water use trends continue, in 1984 the United States will quite literally be dying of thirst.â€ť
Yet Ehrlich is still taken seriously, as are writers such as Laura Carroll, who is now calling for a substantial decrease in birth rates (though she doesnâ€™t say how this should be achieved).
â€śWe have an obligation to leave future generations as healthy a planet as possible,â€ť she wrote. â€śAnd the most powerful thing we can do to this end is reduce our reproduction.â€ť
Thatâ€™s fine for those who choose it. But the rest of us neednâ€™t worry.