“Nothing certain in people figures” was the heading of a Globe and Mail story on June 6
related to the conference on the environment in Rio de Janeiro.

Reporter Christina Mungan pointed out that just establishing how many people there are
in the world today is a major problem.  For example, Nigeria’s 1991 census showed that
Africa’s most populous country did not have the 122.5 million people estimated by the
Washington-based Population Reference Bureau, or the 108.5 million figure given by the
UN. Instead, the census reported only 88.5 million.

Demographers have learned that many of their assumptions are suspect, and they are
producing wider ranges of projections as a result.  As one of them bluntly said, “We can’t
tell the future.  There is a wide range of possibilities – much wider than what our last
projection tended to imply.”

One UN projection holds that if the population continues to grow at the present rate, in a
thousand ears the earth’s people will weigh more than the planet itself.  Another
projection estimates that by 2150 the global population could actually drop by a billion.

In many developmental countries, fertility has stayed markedly below the replacement
rate of 2.06 children per woman for ten years or more.

In Canada, the U.S., Britain and many other Western countries, it is between 1.3 and 1.8.
In other words, in all these countries the established population is dying out and growth is
maintained only through immigration.

France (like Quebec) is sufficiently concerned to offer couples special incentive to have
more children.  Whether or not other countries will level off at replacement rate, or on a
plateau above it, is one of the UN’s main concerns.  At even a hair’s breadth below
replacement rate, over millennia, the human race will die out.