Last December, the National Geographic Society marked the end of its hundredth anniversary year with a special issue of its magazine, featuring a striking and very unusual cover. A holograph showed, in three dimensions, the world as a beautiful crystal ball and then the ball shattered by a bullet. Underneath was a question: “As we begin our second century, the Geographic asks: “Can man save this fragile earth?”
Too Many People?
“If present population and pollution trends continue,” wrote editor Wilbur E. Garret in a forward to this special number, “the coming decades will see millions more acres of agricultural land scorched into worthless dessert…With added billions of people struggling to survive, poverty and starvation inevitably will provoke massive political unrest and violence.” Similarly the President of the Society, Gilbert M. Grosvenor, wrote in an article entitled “Will we Mend Our Earth?” that “perhaps nothing so illustrates the change from the world of our founders to our own as the leap in human population. One and a half billions people occupied this planet when the National Geographic Society was formed Now there are more than five billion. Although the growth rate has declined, demographers expect the planet’s population to double in this coming century – to ten billion. We are already overpopulated, biologist Paul R. Ehrlich of Stanford University…explains…in an article co-authored wit his wife, Anne H. Ehrlich….”
The article by the Ehrlichs occupies a place of honour, at the end of the magazine, after a whole series of articles, accompanied by beautiful photographs, on the threat to caribou, whales, South American native tribes the rain forests of Brazil, and so on. Entitled “Population, Plenty and Poverty,” it begins with the contention that “A rampant species, Homo Sapiens may be nearing full occupancy of earth’s arable lands. Too many people along with disproportionate consumption by developed nations pose the dilemma of the next century….”
A graph shows the world’s population beginning at the bottom of a left-hand page and almost shooting off the top of the right-hand page. The following pages describe the situation in sex countries – Kenya, for example, is regarded as exploding, its growth rate hovering around four per cent a year; China as coming back from the brink because of a vigorous family planning program; and life in India as being on the edge: “Today India has no margin of safety in the struggle to feed a population steadily climbing toward a billion.”
In the final section, “Two Ways to Cope,” the Ehrlichs say that there is no need to despair. “Human beings have created their dilemma, and they still have the opportunity and ability to solve it. “If efforts of the supply side of the human resources equation are desirable, however, there is no substitute for limits on the demand side: “Limiting reproduction has become essential for civilization’s survival.” The article, and the special issue, concludes with the warning that population control by humane means must be moved to the top of the human agenda.
Time magazine aggress. Its “Man of the Year” for 1988 was a “Planet of the Year” – Earth. Generally speaking, its lengthy analysis of the looming ecological crisis, brought on by man’s reckless ways, was perceptive and useful. One of its eight recommendations for action by the United States, however, was “Support Family Planning.” In 1984, the Reagan administration cut off aid to the U.N. Fund for Population Activities and to International Planned Parenthood, since they were accused of “assisting some local population agencies that provide or pay for abortions.”
“Unless the growth in the world population is slowed,” Time editorialized, “it will be impossible to make serious progress on any environmental issue. The U.S. should immediately restore the aid it withdrew.
In a section entitled “Too Many Mouths,” Time asserted that “Swarms of people are running out of food and space.” Ninety per cent of the expected extra five billion people in the world within a century will live in underdeveloped countries. Some environmentalists are insisting that the growth rate must be cut in half in the next decade. “This means a call for a two-child family for the world as a whole,” says Lester Brown, president of the Worldwatch Institute. “In some countries there may be a need to set a goal of one child per family.
Time therefore recommends the provision of contraceptives to every person on earth who wants them. It does recommend campaigns to promote natural birth-control techniques, though it is a little vague on what they are, in regions where religious objections to contraception exist. But like the National Geographic it underlines the idea that the world has too many people and that it is positively immoral for people to have large families – families with more than two children.
Fact or myth?
Twenty years ago, Paul Ehrlich wrote a book entitled The Population Bomb in which he declared that the world was running out of resources and that it would soon face disaster. One by one, his claims and predictions have been upset. Where he predicted shortages, vast surpluses have occurred – as in food production, minerals, and many other commodities. On the cover of his paperback Population Bomb he said that in the time it took to read the statement three or four people would have died of starvation somewhere in the world. Three or four people in three or four seconds? The statements was absurd; a writer in Triumph magazine did the necessary calculations, and showed that mortality rates could not possibly support it. “In the 1970s, “Ehrlich also wrote, “the world will undergo famines – hundreds of millions of people will starve to death.” They didn’t. There are many inaccurate forecasters on this earth, but Ehrlich must certainly belong with the worst of them.
Problems of pollution and problems of population can be separated; money, technology, and above all the will to manage resources properly will effect the necessary improvements in the environment, whereas foams, spermicides, and condoms will not. In fact, Julian Simon argued in The Ultimate Resource (1981), that the more people a region has, the greater likelihood there is of in producing more food and more energy, possessing a desirable social and economic structure, and having an efficient transportation system. The solution to pollution is to stop polluting, not to coax or prevent people from having children.
For 25 years, Simon wrote in 1986, the World Bank, the U.S> State Department’s Aid to International Development, the U.N. Fund for Population Activities and a host of environmental organizations have described population growth as a bomb or a plague. “But for almost as long,” he continued, “there has been a body of statistical evidence that contradicts this conventional wisdom about the effects of population policy toward less-developed countries.” The population bogey has been the rare sweet issue everybody could agree oh. Meanwhile, the real causes of the problems of underdeveloped countries are ignored.
In her excellent study The War Against Population, published by Ignatius Press, San Francisco (reviewed in The Interim, January 1989), Jacqueline Kasun carries on Simon’s argument. In fact, he contributes a forward, in which he describes her book as surprising in a number of respects. Her description of the literature used for sex education and the motives behind it shocked him; he had thought the movement much more benign that it actually is. Second, the data she has unearthed from State Department files document scandalous and illegal policies in India, Thailand and elsewhere which heretofore have only been the subject of rumour. Third, the data she presents on teenage pregnancies are a big surprise.
As miss Kasun shows, the stream of anti-natalist propaganda seems never-ending. The Select Committee on Population of the U.S. House of Representatives declared in 1978 that the major biological systems that humans depend on for food and raw materials – fisheries, grasslands, forests and croplands – are being strained to the point where they are losing productive capacity. Te Global 2000 report of the Carter administration (1976-1980) stated that : “With the persistence of human poverty and misery, the staggering growth of human population, and ever increasing human demands, the possibilities of further stress and permanent damage to the planet’s resource base are very real.”
Often the world is compared to a spaceship or a lifeboat, which has only a limited capacity, only so much food aboard. From a traveling exhibit designed for schoolchildren, entitled “Population: The Problems is US,” Miss Kasun quotes the following message: “…there are too many people in the world. We are running out of space. We are running out of energy. We are running out of food. And, although too few people seem to realize it, we are running out of time.”
As she shows, however, if we are aboard a lifeboat it is a mammoth one capable of carrying many more passengers than it has at present, and that mankind faces imminent disaster provides the basis for an enormous population-control industry which involved billions of dollars of taxes as well as scores of private philanthropic organizations. Embodies in their agenda is control over families, churches and many other institutions.
Children are taught falsely that the world population is increasing by two per cent a year and the food supply by only one per cent. By graphs and tables, Miss Kasun shows that world food production has actually increased considerably faster than population in recent decades. Some of the most dramatic increases have taken place in poorer countries. For example, rice and wheat production in India in 1983, was three and half times greater than in 1950, more than twice the increase in population. (India has just reported a record grain harvest of over 170 million tons for 1988, eleven per cent higher than the earlier record of 152 million in 1983-84 and 25 per cent higher than the 138 million of 1987).
Nick Eberstadt of the Harvard Center for Population Studies estimates, in contrast to widely quoted U.N. figures, that only about two per cent of the world’s population suffers from serious hunger. Africa is an exception; it is a continent torn by war and suffering from collectivist governments which often seize crops and farm animals. Roger Revelle calculates that the less developed countries are capable of feeding eighteen billion people, six times their present population. As Simon say, the evidence exists to contradict the doomsters, but they are ordinarily the ones who get all the publicity.
Miss Kasun’s fifth chapter, “Promoting the New Philosophy: The Sex Education Movement.” Illustrates how children are being brainwashed. The sex programs instruct them in all methods of blocking fertility – contraception, sterilization and abortion. For instance, she cites an exercise from a widely used values clarification textbook: “The population problems is very serious and involves every country on this planet. What steps would you encourage to help resolve the problem? …volunteer to organize birth-control information centers throughout the country…join a pro-abortion lobbying group…encourage the limitation of two children per family and have the parents sterilized to prevent future births.” Naturally, those who oppose such indoctrination are depicted as enemies of the state because they object to having their schools used as instruments to impose the dogmas of the population control movement. For years a visionary elite, a set of people prejudiced against other people and unrestrained in its reach for power, has flourished and propagated its program through the aid of public funds.
In a review of Christopher Derrick’s Too Many People? A Problem in Values (also published by Ingatius Press, in 1985), Regis Martin agreed with Derrick that it is time for someone to write another book, The Psychology of Doomstalk. What makes people continue to listen to Ehrlich’s nonsense, when his predictions have been consistently wrong? What makes them equate the human race with rabbits, and complain about an over-supply? Against what value background is the question of population being measured? And what would happen if some people took seriously the notion that human beings are created for the honour and glory of God? As Julian Simon, Jacqueline Kasun, and Christopher Derrick all show, there is an ideology at work, behind the population control movement, and it is neither intellectually distinguished nor morally praiseworthy.