We wrote about population in the economics chapter of our book “No oil in the lamp”. A week or so ago I read a very provocative post on the site “Seedbed” on population. Its with some trepidation I blog on this subject matter, since its a minefield. You don’t have to move too far into it and you are in the highly controversial areas of abortion, contraception and eugenics.
There are a number of criticisms of Adam Roe’s article I would make. The first is that people are not worried about population. As we wrote in our book this is not true at all. We cite a number of different writers and reports in our book that show continuing concern about the earth’s rising population. Amongst them is the “Christian Medical fellowship”. As good background reading on this issue this short paper is recommended. There are a number of projections made about the population to come, the range used by the UN is from 7.7 to 10.5 billion. This is a significant increase in population from (roughly) 6.5 billion now by anyone’s standards. Whilst the rate of population growth increase is plummeting in dozens of countries, but there is lag in the system since many humans of reproductive age are now born. In addition Adam Roe’s analysis of what is happening in the USA is only partially correct. Whilst the birth rate has fallen slightly below replacement level (taken as 2.1 births) its still high by developed country levels at around about 2.08. births. Live births are in any case not the whole story you have to take immigration into account. Both the relatively high replacement rate and immigration are expected to increase the US population from 317 million today to nearly 500 million in 2050. See this reference for full details.
This brings me to the next criticism – this time implicit rather than explicit, that endless economic growth is possible. This is why in our book this subject was raised in the economic chapter. All the 1.2 to nearly 3 billion extra mouths need to be fed, watered and provided with energy. Something the CMF paper raises, being surprisingly peak oil aware. As we have blogged on and raised repeatedly on our Facebook page there is growing realisation we are facing a global food crisis (there are updates on this in the new ebook). All are not equal- a baby born in Africa currently uses many less of the worlds resources than one born in the West. As we have tried to get across in our book, endless growth of the type we have now is simply not possible as we bump up against physical limits.
I’ve got more to say to criticise this article but this is for another post.