Change Alley

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Population Matters

with 40 comments

How times change. It seems like only yesterday that anyone who dared to suggest the world’s environmental problems could be fixed by a healthy dose of population control would be accused of racism or imperialism or any other -ism you can think of. This week, the new head of London’s Science Museum says that reducing population is a much more cost-effective route to cutting carbon emissions than investing in renewable energy sources.
In a recent Observer interview, Professor Chris Rapley, currently head of the British Antarctic Survey, says:

“I am not advocating genocide. What I am saying is that if we invest in ways to reduce the birthrate – by improving contraception, education and healthcare – we will stop the world’s population reaching its current estimated limit of between eight and 10 billion.

“That in turn will mean less carbon dioxide is being pumped into the atmosphere because there will be fewer people to drive cars and use electricity. The crucial point is that to achieve this goal you would only have to spend a fraction of the money that will be needed to bring about technological fixes, new nuclear power plants or renewable energy plants. However, everyone has decided, quietly, to ignore the issue.”

He’s not the first to come out of the closet on population issues. The Optimum Population Trust, of which Professor Rapley is a patron, has published a report advocating voluntary population stabilisation programmes, concentrating on education, awareness and removing barriers to women’s control of their own fertility. A combination of high population and rising consumption levels means that humanity is currently outstripping the biological capacity of the Earth by 25 per cent each year. The author, Professor John Guillebaud, said: “No one is in favour of governments dictating family size but we need to act quickly to prevent it.” By investing in voluntary schemes now, such as the ‘two-child’ policy in Iran which halved fertility in eight years, it may still be possible to prevent the introduction of coercive measures by governments in the future.

OPT report “Youthquake”


Written by Pete Smith

July 27, 2007 at 12:16 am

40 Responses

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  1. FYI: You might find this an enlightening look at nuclear power, mentioned above as an alternative to reduced breeding.

    James Aach

    July 27, 2007 at 4:47 am

  2. Didn’t know Iran had a 2 child policy.

    > ….concentrating on education, awareness and removing barriers to women’s control of their own fertility.

    Yes, this approach has been found to work, with countries like Egypt achieving significant improvements, with fertility rates declining via education and empowerment programmes. Naturally enough, once a women is given the power to make these decisions herself she decides to have maybe only 2 or 3 children rather than 7,8 or 9.

    Interesting approach the authors have comparing costs of fertility programmes with energy investment. I see the link but wouldn’t be surprised if women find it a little cold and calculating; a very male approach to problem solving!


    July 27, 2007 at 7:20 am

  3. Hi James,
    I’ve discovered that this is a shameless plug for your novel, not a link to the use of radiation in population control.
    It seems that ‘Rad Decision’ has been well received, so I’ll follow the herd and leave this advertisement here for others’ benefit and enlightenment.
    I probably won’t get round to reading it myself, so don’t expect a review 🙂

    Pete Smith

    July 27, 2007 at 9:56 am

  4. Hi Matt,

    This link is an interesting brief history of family planning in Iran, and the social and political factors that affected its success.

    “Iran’s population growth rate dropped from an all-time high of 3.2 percent in 1986 to just 1.2 percent in 2001, one of the fastest drops ever recorded.”

    Pete Smith

    July 27, 2007 at 10:01 am

  5. That kind of scheme is certainly very positive, it would be a paranoid soul indeed who considered it to be genocidal or what have you. We should not be swayed by the terrifying excesses of Mrs. Gandhi or the heavy-handed Chinese approach; there is definitely room for (indeed, a need for) Third World countries to reduce their population growth.

    But that’s not why people are so touchy about the subject. You missed out a few words in your dismissal of our suspicions; it could have read “anyone IN THE WEST who dared to suggest the world’s environmental problems could be fixed by a healthy dose of population control IN THE THIRD WORLD…”.

    It’s true that with fewer people to drive cars there would be less pollution from cars – but that’s a pretty skewed way of looking at the world. It might also help if the richest billion or so drove smaller cars, less. In terms of emissions, we could acheive a lot more by reducing per-capita emissions at home than the number of capita abroad. Given our reluctance/inability to get our own house in order, it’s only right that preaching to the Third World be met with suspicion, as an hypocritical attempt to distract from our own failures or – more likely post-Live8 – as a stealthy way of getting an even greater amount of control over former colonies’ economies.

    Population growth has relatively little relation to the causes of climate change, but it is of course of immense importance in mitigating its consequences. Beyond superficial markers like global mean temperature and even sea level, climate change predictions make for terrifying reading; massive famines are all but inevitable and global famines a very real risk. In these terms, it’s obvious that we must prefer a gradual, controlled decline in numbers, through contraception etc, than a catalcysmically sudden one through mass starvation.

    But look again at the countries with coherent strategies for dealing with this problem: Iran and China. These are two countries almost unique in their level of independence from Western (and previously Soviet) neocolonialism – note the level of scaremongering from Western politicians and media, you’ll find more mentions of China and Iran than pretty much any other states put together. Venezuela isn’t far behind, but its independence is still in its early days; I’d still be willing to bet on it being the next country to implement the Iran strategy or a variation thereof. It certainly won’t be Ethiopa, Colombia or Pakistan.

    Many European governments (see France and Spain in particular) are, in fact, courting disaster by trying to increase the fertility of the “indigenous” population, hoping to prevent us from being “flooded” by people with darker skin and funny names. Nevertheless, these attempts are yet to have much of an impact, and population growth is largely a Third World issue. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t care – far from it – but we should recognise that the best thing the G8 nations and corporations can do to help the Third World is not to come to their rescue but to get out of their way.

    Dave On Fire

    July 27, 2007 at 10:46 am

  6. “anyone IN THE WEST who dared to suggest the world’s environmental problems could be fixed by a healthy dose of population control IN THE THIRD WORLD…”

    Yes Dave, that’s become the standard response. It’s assumed that anyone IN THE WEST proposing population controls is only talking about THE THIRD WORLD. Frankly, we are all faced with resource shortages of one kind or another that arise from too many people chasing too little ‘stuff’, e.g. the UK’s current shortage of suitable land to satisfy our pent-up demand for houses. It’s not just a climate change issue, it’s food, water, energy, the works. And it’s also about the abuse of power to divert scarce resources to ‘us’ and away from ‘them’.

    The Optimum Population Trust have been saying for years that that the UK’s sustainable population level in the 22nd century may be as low as 30 million. They’re running an online petition saying “I support OPT’s call for the government to introduce a policy enabling UK population to stabilise and then gradually to decrease to an environmentally sustainable level”

    Pete Smith

    July 27, 2007 at 11:08 am

  7. Well, you do start by quoting someone’s plans to stabilise and ultimately reduce the world’s population; looking at where most of the growth is happening that does mainly involve the Third World, and your speaker was head of a Western institution.
    Calling for the UK to stabilise its own population is another matter entirely; that the valid critiques you seem shrug off as knee-jerk paranoia don’t apply to this particular initiative doesn’t make them irrelevant to discussions on population stabilisation.

    Dave On Fire

    July 27, 2007 at 11:18 am

  8. Japan is also paranoid about it’s ageing population and it’s younger population’s desire to put off having kids or even not having them at all. OK, there is a pension bulge to fund for a generation but, after that there surely can’t be a good reason to resist their population declining in numbers to a more sustainable level.

    So I could support OPT’s ideas for the UK too. Makes perfect sense.


    July 27, 2007 at 11:22 am

  9. Well Dave, you’ve pretty much proved my point. I didn’t say anything about ‘North’ preaching to ‘South’ about cutting their population, nor did the guy interviewed in the article, you brought that up. I kinda knew someone would. And if you’d glanced at the OPT web site you’d see that their emphasis is very much on UK population reduction.

    And I didn’t use the phrase “knee-jerk paranoia” …..

    Pete Smith

    July 27, 2007 at 3:23 pm

  10. Pete:

    I didn’t say anything about ‘North’ preaching to ‘South’ about cutting their population, nor did the guy interviewed in the article

    You’re defending yourself from accusations I didn’t make. You said:

    anyone who dared to suggest the world’s environmental problems could be fixed by a healthy dose of population control would be accused of racism or imperialism or any other -ism you can think of


    Now fair enough, “knee-jerk paranioa” was my turn of phrase, not yours, but the implication is that these are generally unfounded/misinformed diatribes getting in the way of serious debate. Now, if I’d pointed at Chris Rapley yelling “fascist! fascist!” you’d have had a point, but frequently population growth is used as an excuse to shift the blame for our problems from North to South.

    Population growth across what we’re now calling the North-South divide is highly assymmetrical, and to talk about stabilising world (not UK, world) population without addressing the geographical dimension often leads to a pretty skewed debate – and in our media, things are rarely skewed in favour of the poor or against imperialism.

    I had hoped it was clear, by the way, that my explanation of the North-South dimension of overpopulation debate was not intended as an attack/criticism/accusation towards Dr. Langley, the OPT or yourself – all of whom seem to be focusing, rightly, on the phenomen within the but as a response/counterbalance to your apparent dismissal of those concerns. I certainly wasn’t the one who brought them up, I was defending them from what I saw as unfair trivialisation.

    Dave On Fire

    July 27, 2007 at 4:31 pm

    um, i seem to have deleted a few crucial words somewhere in that last paragraph. it should read:

    …yourself – all of whom seem to be focusing, rightly, on the phenomenon within the UK/Europe, which I applaud and hoped to add to by bringing up the perverse pro-fertility measures in Spain and France – but as a response/counterbalance to…

    Dave On Fire

    July 27, 2007 at 4:48 pm

  12. Hi Pete,


    Hi DOF,

    It doesn’t matter how many people drive cars. If one person does, then everyone will desire the same standard of transportation. It also follows that, regardless of the tiny, fuel efficient nature of one’s vehicle, most people will want a larger, more comfortable and fun to drive model. The same goes for air conditioning, heating, refrigerators, TVs, computers, homes, telephones, food, clothing, and, well, just about everything else. While the socialist ideal has everyone eking out a meager, but consistently equal, existence in harmonious blandness, it’s really time that you face the facts and understand that this just isn’t going to happen.

    Fortunately, the capitalist ideal, where everyone has the opportunity to participate in a constantly improving life style, also has proved to have a limiting effect on population growth. Look up the statistics for any developed country, and you will find that, without immigration, their populations are shrinking. Thus, any rational person would see the need to encourage capitalist ideals in all countries as the best method of solving the world’s problems.

    the Grit

    the Grit

    July 27, 2007 at 9:34 pm

  13. Hi Grit,

    “Finally” what?

    Hi Dave,

    Doesn’t sound as if we’re poles apart on this one after all. I think the main source of friction is generally semantic. Talking about a ‘global population problem’ leads one to think of a global solution. You’re quite right, talking in those terms can open up issues such as ‘blaming’ developing countries for higher populations/birth rates, and developing countries saying “why should we reduce our birth rates if you won’t?”
    That’s why, given as you rightly say an asymmetrical population profile between ‘north and ‘south’, it’s vital that population programs are tailored to local requirements and initiated from within, rather than imposed. At the same time, it’s also important to continue talking about population issues in general terms to bring them out into the open, in spite of the hostility they can cause.

    Pete Smith

    July 28, 2007 at 10:30 am

  14. Pete:
    Yep, pretty much. Still, per-capita carbon equivalent emissions of the richer developed countries can be as much as 400 times higher than some of the poorer developing countries, and I think lowering our emissions could still be a reasonable prority.

    Where to start? It’s true that the more and the better choices people – especially women – have in life the less they tend to be inclined to squeeze out baby after baby. But there’s no evidence of a capitalist-socialist divide here; capitalism is an extremely divisive system, sending the poor poorer and the rich rich, and those at the bottom of the pile don’t have much chance. You seem to be equating “capitalism” with “developed countries”, which is a completely false equivalence.

    Dave On Fire

    July 28, 2007 at 1:07 pm

  15. Dave, I take your point about per capita emissions. However, as I said before, population is a matter of resources in general, not specific to emissions. Nor would I present population control as the only way of reducing emissions, or resource consumption, or waste products. It’s just one of a portfolio of policies, which includes, as you point out, reducing per capita consumption/emission in developed economies.

    Pete Smith

    July 28, 2007 at 2:14 pm

  16. “Look up the statistics for any developed country, and you will find that, without immigration, their populations are shrinking. Thus, any rational person would see the need to encourage capitalist ideals in all countries as the best method of solving the world’s problems.”


    You may well be right that there’s a statistical correlation between ‘capitalist lifestyle’ and shrinking populations, I really can’t be bothered to check it out. A truly rational person would ask whether there was a direct causal link. They might also wonder whether we can afford to wait the couple of centuries or so until today’s developing countries achieve developed status before their populations start shrinking as ours have.

    As for the rest of your post… it’s peppered with words such as “want”, “desire”, “larger”, “fun”, “comfortable” and the old chestnut “constantly improving life style”. Do you really believe that this dream world of exploding consumerism will continue? We live in interesting times, and it’s going be jolly interesting to see how the consumers of the ‘developed’ economies manage when their life suddenly loses its style and becomes a matter of getting by with what they actually need, if they can get it.

    Just out of interest, of all the many flavours of capitalism, which one would you recommend as most likely to save the planet?

    Pete Smith

    July 28, 2007 at 4:36 pm

  17. > We live in interesting times, and it’s going be jolly interesting to see how the consumers of the ‘developed’ economies manage when their life suddenly loses its style and becomes a matter of getting by with what they actually need ….

    The flooded of Gloucester are apparently more interested in getting their water back on than their TV.


    July 28, 2007 at 6:09 pm

  18. I grew up in Gloucstershire, and unless things have changed a great deal I suspect there’s still a sizeable minority who given the choice would prefer to get the telly back. Probably the same types who pissed in the water tanks.

    Pete Smith

    July 28, 2007 at 6:22 pm

  19. Probably why you left Pete.


    July 28, 2007 at 8:45 pm

  20. Hi Dave,

    I would only point out that socialism is designed to deprive people of choices, so, since in this area you agree that choice is necessary, socialism must be taken off the table as a viable means of achieving the goal under consideration.

    Hi Pete,

    Skipping the part where you don’t want to do any research, the key point, as I see it, in your comment is “the couple of centuries or so until today’s developing countries achieve developed status.” Considering that Japan went from a condition of total devastation to major industrial power in 40 years, much like Germany and France, I fail to see why centuries are required to improve the lot of any nation. Oh, wait. I forgot that such development would require cooperation between the Governments of the “developed’ nations to achieve. Never mind.

    the Grit

    the Grit

    July 29, 2007 at 12:35 am

  21. Grit

    Generally speaking The Marshall Plan cannot be compared to the way capitalism works today. The Marshall Plan was directed by governments. Capitalism today is directed by no-one; manipulated maybe but not directed.


    July 29, 2007 at 11:14 am

  22. Grit,

    Re my reluctance to research the suggested correlation between ‘capitalist lifestyle’ and shrinking populations. There’s only so many hours in the day, the proposition was so vaguely worded and the concepts so ill-defined that I could see it becoming my life’s work if I got down to it.

    Interesting choice of examples to back up your theory. Germany, France and Japan were already major industrial economies before they were trashed during WWII. While it was a significant, and expensive, effort to reconstruct the physical infrastructure, these countries’ rapid recovery was given a headstart by their surviving institutions, a culture that accepted industrial working practices, and a reservoir of literacy, numeracy and technical skills. The fact that they were disarmed, worn out by war and pacified by armies of occupation didn’t hurt either. Nor did the financial order imposed by international financial institutions.

    For countries like Chad or Dahomey to become thriving industrial economies in 40 years will take a lot more than just building the factories and other infrastructure and leaving them to it. And to revisit your original proposition, can we afford to wait even 40 years for the associated population shrinkage to kick in?

    Pete Smith

    July 29, 2007 at 11:57 am

  23. Especially for Grit;

    Capitalism; it’s a matter of perspective.



    July 29, 2007 at 6:48 pm

  24. Hi Matt,

    I really am astonished at your comment! Don’t you follow the news at all? Of course capitalism is lorded over by Government. Taxes, tariffs, trade treaties, inspections, union protections, building standards, safety standards, and the list goes on and on. Thus, if the rich Governments decided to lift up the rest of the world, we could at least give it a good try.

    Hi Pete,

    “The least developed countries were characterized by three “highs” — high fertility, high mortality and high population growth, she said. Today, women in those countries still gave birth to 5 children on average. And even though predictions showed the fertility rates in the LDCs dipping rapidly over the next 45 years — to about 2.6 children — it would still not reach the level of other developing countries. Life expectancy in those countries was barely 50 years, mainly because 31 of the 50 United Nations-recognized least developed countries were affected by HIV/AIDS.

    At the same time, the other countries were also plagued by infectious diseases and poor health standards. “We’re being very optimistic and predicting that they will be able to turn back those challenges and raise life expectancy to 66 years by 2050 — if they are lucky”, Ms. Zlotnik said. Still, that figure represented the average life expectancy of people in the developed world almost fifty years ago. The high mortality rates would be counteracted because of continued high fertility, she said, noting that the population of the LDCs, which today stood at about 800 million, would more than double to 1.8 billion by mid-century.

    At the other end of the spectrum, the more developed countries largely completed their demographic transitions and were now “headed into areas heretofore unknown to human history”, where both mortality and fertility were trending lower virtually simultaneously. If this continued, with fertility levels at or below replacement levels, the population in the developed world would decrease, she said. ”

    Two minutes over a dial up connection.

    As to the rest, I would ask what the alternative is? Abandon most of the world to poverty, suffering, and early death? Kill them? Do the best we can to help? I’m open minded, so you pick.

    the Grit

    the Grit

    July 29, 2007 at 10:17 pm

  25. Grit,

    Could you explain, in your own words, what is capitalism? Thanks.

    Dave On Fire

    July 29, 2007 at 10:20 pm

  26. I do wish people who talk the talk about population control would walk the walk and reduce those numbers by one!

    It is always other people who need to stop having kids, and its always for the common good.

    Both Germany and Japan have a negative birth rate, and although the UK is likely to reach its maximum population of 67 Million within the next 40 years, our growth rate is only really being increased by the numbers of 1st and 2nd generation immigrants having bigger families out of habit!

    I wonder if you remember that film from years ago – Logan’s Run? That is what the future holds if these population nuts get their way. An automatic death penalty at the age of 30!

    Sometimes sci fi is a real pain when it becomes real!


    July 30, 2007 at 3:04 pm

  27. Logan’s Run, yup, remember that.

    That was before the combination of climate change, high oil prices, food vs biofuels, drought & floods, HIV, increased wars for scare resources …. came along.

    I hope you’re not over thirty … 😉


    July 30, 2007 at 5:18 pm

  28. “It is always other people who need to stop having kids, and its always for the common good.”

    I think we’ve established that there is no ‘us’ and ‘them’ when it comes to reducing population.

    If it’s truly for the common good, what’s the problem? We all get a share of the benefit, that’s what “common good” means.

    Pete Smith

    July 30, 2007 at 6:54 pm

  29. Impressive research Grit. 2 minutes on dial-up? Must be because you’re so close to the centre of the interweb. Just a coupla minor points:
    No references or links, so we can’t check that you didn’t make it up.
    Your quote doesn’t address the question.

    Pete Smith

    July 30, 2007 at 9:44 pm

  30. “I hope you’re not over thirty …”

    I’m rehearsing for the Peter Ustinov role.

    Pete Smith

    July 30, 2007 at 10:42 pm

  31. Hi Pete,

    Sorry I didn’t add a link. Really, I didn’t want to drag the discussion down to the level of my references verses yours. On the other hand, that you believe I could make up that much stilted crap on the fly is quite the complement. I would, however, point out that, while I enjoy your blog, I have more than enough other things demanding my attention to keep me from taking the time to fake quotes.

    Hi DOF,

    The real question is which “developed countries” don’t practice some form of capitalism? Even China has put aside their pure Communist ideology in this area and given in to the most efficient method of regulating production developed so far.

    Hi Matt,

    Well over 30. However, we did only have one child, and can’t have any more, which I’m hoping gives me a pass in this area 😉

    the Grit

    the Grit

    July 31, 2007 at 10:01 pm

  32. Grit: exactly. developing countries have higher mortality, fertility and all. no-one disputed that, they’re all things almost synonymous with being poor. now what are you claiming that has to do with capitalism again, i’m confused? Are you saying that capitalism brings fertility down, yet all these over-fertile countries are already capitalist?

    Dave On Fire

    July 31, 2007 at 10:13 pm

  33. Coming from the second largest populated nation in the world…(also the largest democracy) I have been told that population as something the West (or the North of the North-South debate) thinks….is the causative factor of the World’s ever-increasing problems.

    Meanwhile…one of the books mentions…that the United States has 5% of the world’s population and it uses 30% of the world resources.

    Developing countries thus contribute relatively nothing to problems such as global warming!!!! However, there are people who now say….cattles release a lot of methane….and since developing countries have most of them…so the global warming. But..cattles and animals have been doing that for ages…it is all but NATURAL…….releaseing fossil fuels back into the atmosphere is NOT.


    August 1, 2007 at 9:01 am

  34. Indeed Govind, the difference in per-capita emissions between rich and developing countries can be of the order of several hundred; as far as global warming goes it is very much the responsibility of us in the North to curb our emissions.

    However, as Pete has already pointed out, there’s more to 21st century ecological collapse than global warming. The ecology of India, to take your example, suffers as much from water-mining and deforestation as from global atmospheric changes. The combination of global and local ecocide makes it a very fragile place, and the subcontinents’ already finite resources are going to become even more limited.

    When population expands and resource contracts, there’s a real risk of shortfall; if 2 billion Indians were to find themselves with an ecology capable of supporting only 500 million, things could get very nasty indeed. Those in the West/North who use this to distract from their own responsibility and obligations are hypocrites of the worst kind, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to worry about.

    Dave On Fire

    August 1, 2007 at 3:47 pm

  35. I think your points Dave are fair and balanced.

    Hello from Norway by the way. Any ideas for offsetting the carbon?! Maybe I’ll give some more money to the BBC Planet Earth fund raiser. The tigers in India me thinks.


    August 1, 2007 at 10:47 pm

  36. True…there is no one BIG problem…but several smaller problems…the cumulative effects of which….seem to be taking us towards a catastrophic tomorrow. Amidst all of that, the Planet’s both sick and confused. Confused…cause it doesn’t seem to understand anymore….as to what weather pattern to follow…where to shine…where to rain…and how much….

    The problem is also with our attitude. While we keep thinking we are nobody to be so great to alter the earth’s environment (viz. we never did global warming!) ….we also think the world works to maintain out standard of living!!

    Hm @matt…funding is good….but only if made to the right organisation. Just yesterday I read this long article on the amount of money going towards ‘global warming’ funding being directly proportional to the amount of noise the said NGO/country is making!!! BBC should be good though!


    August 2, 2007 at 1:11 pm

  37. I second that, be very careful with where your money goes. It’s now very hard to ignore environmental concerns, but since they are often contrary to both business interests and consumer aspirations there’s a tendency for people to talk green and superficially think green but avoid looking into it too far.
    In such an, um, climate, it’s very easy to invoke environmental as a spurious justification for pretty dodgy schemes. Many offsetting projects have pretty much zero impact on pollution, but help people avoid thinking about the damage they are doing – that’s obviously quite counterproductive. Some are more sinister still, essentially enclosure measures whereby common land or other resources are taken by governments, companies or NGOs dispossessing the dependent local population.
    For my money, the best you could do is give to a politically active environmental pressure group like Greenpeace and try and bring aout the political will to change things rather than just painting business-as-usual in greener tones. Otherwise, remember that NGOs are most accountable to their largest (institutional or corporate) donors and least accountable to their beneficiaries – be suspicious of very large or interventionist policies, and prefer groups like WaterAid (or a more environment-oriented organisation with similar methodology) who bring tangible, localised solutions to the communities that need them.
    Or – and please forgive the plug – just sponsor me 🙂

    Dave On Fire

    August 2, 2007 at 1:31 pm

  38. Hi Grit,
    We strive for academic standards around here, so a direct quote deserves a link to the original source. It only takes a moment to paste the url.

    If I understand you correctly, you expect that once today’s developing countries embrace the “capitalist lifestyle” they will go through the same demographic transition as developed economies did while they industrialised. This will entail substantial population growth as incomes grow and health and nutrition improve. At some point in the future, perhaps 40 years, perhaps 100, that process will end and population growth will start to decline as ours is doing now. You suggested that encouraging capitalist ideals in all countries is “the best method of solving the world’s problems”.

    Unanswered question 1: How long will it take for the first demographic transition to complete?
    Unanswered question 2: How large will populations have become before growth rates start to decline?
    Unanswered question 3: Is there a true causal link between capitalism and declining birth rates?
    Unanswered question 4: What flavour of capitalism stands the best chance of achieving your population scenario?

    Pete Smith

    August 3, 2007 at 9:39 am

  39. Hi Pete,

    Well, since the countries of which you speak have already undergone the population boom caused by increased standards of health care, I would think that similar increases in the standard of living and education, could only help on the population growth front.

    As to your unanswered questions:

    1: who knows, or can know?
    2: see number 1, but the sooner the transition starts the better.
    3: yes.
    4: while the Chinese Communist capitalist experiment seemed, for a while to have the edge in this area, current trends are favoring traditional democratic/capitalist forms of government. Although, a decision on the winner in this area has to be delayed until the Russians complete their experiment. They definitely have the upper hand on the fertility decline front at the moment, but we’ll have to wait and see if they can maintain some semblance of capitalism while their government sorts itself out.

    Hi DOF,

    Yes, becoming a developed country, which is generally determined by adopting both capitalist and democratic values, does tend to reduce fertilely rates. Generally, this is because women gain the ability to earn their own income, and gain access to birth control. Of course, this isn’t true in such backward countries as India where, even though they have adopted a form of democracy and capitalism, they haven’t had time to adapt their culture, which traditionally represses women, individual freedom and any mention of sex, to the new concepts. However, if your follow their news media, you’ll see these are the areas where that their Government is trying to change.

    the Grit

    the Grit

    August 3, 2007 at 9:24 pm

  40. This comment thread seems to have been through a bit of a sand storm to reach what looks like its conclusion … or is it.

    As Pete’s latest post on India shows experiments in population control continue and in that case, probably ineffectively. I agree with what Pete implies within his last comment; that possibly planet earth doesn’t have time to wait for the global population to stabilize via the capitalist-bell-curve approach. Having said that no other ‘politically acceptable’ method has worked before.

    Maybe all we can hope for is that the emancipation of women in places like India and other similar countries can happen much faster. The balance between the desire to have less children but, to consume more per capita may be struck in future but, it can’t be at the same rate we in the west still insist on. There has to be a sea change in the west with attitudes to production and consumption; to reduce wastage in all areas of production and consumption. Some manufacturing may need to return to western countries for control in this to be regained and be visible again.

    The markets could decide this, as we see currently with China pushing up world commodity prices as a result of their demand. Efficiencies in resource use have to be improved so that there’s enough to go around for all countries. That way we lessen the chance of more wars happening in future.

    Otherwise we have the alternative scenario, which is not pretty and is certainly not a world I want my two children to grow up in.


    August 9, 2007 at 11:56 am

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