The Corner

Seven Billion People? No Problem

The United Nations has marked October 31, 2011, as the day the global population scale will tip the 7 billion mark. But you won’t feel the weight of the world shift just yet. The U.S. Census Bureau’s World Population Clock has “Baby 7 Billion” arriving closer to March 1, 2012.

So how should we feel about our world population reaching 7 billion?

We should not be fearful in the least. People are not the problem and have never been demonstrated as such. 

The fearmongering over the issue of so-called overpopulation has been well documented. Paul Ehrlich’s famously inaccurate book The Population Bomb (1969) helped ignite that fear with whopper declarations of doom like this: “If I were a gambler, I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000.”

Here we are in 2011, and the earth’s population has doubled since Ehrlich and others started frantically ringing the alarm bell in the late 1960s. And while all is not well, it is far from catastrophic. England and quite few other places are still around, and immigration trends find people moving there of their own free will. 

At 7 billion, there is still plenty room on our terrestrial ball. As both Time and the Guardian report, all 7 billion of us could head on over to Texas and collectively dwell there with no more density than we find in New York City, where a lot of very sophisticated people live. They seem to find the city quite pleasant.

To make it even more interesting, all of us 7 billion folks could move to Rhode Island and have 6.4 square feet per person. That’s not enough room to run around and really be happy, but it is enough for everyone to carefully do some jumping jacks, if they pleased. The rest of this great world could be used for either preservation or production, depending on whether you’re a Democrat or Republican. 

And there is still plenty of food. The Guardian article linked above explains that we are already producing enough grain globally to feed 10 billion people a vegetarian diet. Currently half of the food produced in the world is either intentionally discarded or allowed to waste.

Overpopulation worriers should also know that most of the world is not reproducing anyway. According to a brand new report conducted cooperatively by six different universities, the average woman in the developed world only produces 1.66 children in her lifetime, well below the replacement level of 2.1. In fact, in more than 75 countries around the world (42 percent of the world’s population), fertility is below the replacement level needed to maintain current work levels as well as support and care for aging parents. Countries like Japan are now experiencing economic stagnation due to below-replacement fertility levels dating back to the 1970s. China achieved this in the early 1990s. If a nation wants to maintain its economic strength, it must produce enough people to become the next generations of workers, creators, investors, and consumers. Those types of people start out as babies and many nations are not producing enough of them.

The evidence is clear: People are not problems. Not even 7 billion of them.

— Glenn T. Stanton is the director of family formation studies at Focus on the Family and a research fellow at the Institute of Marriage and Family. He is also author of the recent books Secure Daughters, Confident Sons: How Parents Guide Their Children into Authentic Masculinity and Femininity and The Ring Makes All the Difference: The Hidden Consequences of Cohabitation and the Strong Benefits of Marriage.

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