Ever since Paul Ehrlich released his 1968 book The Population Bomb, many in the modern world have been convinced that maybe the 17th Century British economist Thomas Malthus was right all along: perhaps, if given a chance, human beings will breed like rats and overpopulate the Earth. The “solution” proposed by scientists, the United Nations, and pro-abortion activists in the West has been relatively straightforward: easy access to abortion and birth control in the Third World, regardless of how local Catholic and Muslim populations feel about such measures.

A new study however, appears to pour cold water on such Malthusian conclusions. Dr. Wolfgang Lutz of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Laxenburg Austria, believes the world’s population could peak in 2070 at about nine billion people, and then decline to about 8.4 billion by 2100. Lutz’s study contradicts previous projections, and his numbers are one billion lower than UN predictions for the end of this century. As Lutz said to reporters: “this is the first forecast of a peak followed by a decline as the most likely development¼ our paper suggests that over the course of the century, we will need to reorient our thinking away from the problems of sheer numbers to the problems of living sustainably with the people we will have.”

Overpopulation hysteria has been fuelled in part by irresponsible press releases from the United Nations, argued Ben Wattenberg, a senior fellow a the American Enterprise Institute earlier this year in an opinion column. “The problem is not that the UN has made poor projections,” wrote Wattenberg, “but that it labels fairly high projections as ‘medium’. That word is immediately misinterpreted as ‘most likely’, and in the media it is then further transmuted into ‘fact’. And so we read that the UN is predicting that the world population will rise from about 6 billion to about 9 billion and keep growing – instead of a more likely course of going from 6 billion to about 8 billion and declining.”

The real problem for Europe, Japan and most other developed nations, and even several developing countries such as Mexico, China, Thailand, Cuba, Kazakhstan, and both Koreas, added Wattenberg, is an under-population trend created by low fertility rates. “How will the developed countries sustain their healthcare and pension systems if their populations are aging even more rapidly than we had thought?” wrote Wattenberg. “Reporting growth when the likelihood is decline postpones consideration of these serious issues.” Lutz’s study showed that by the end of this century, 34 per cent of the world’s population will be over the age of 60 compared with 10 per cent today.

UN projections show America’s population growing from 283 million today to 397 million by 2050, but Wattenberg described such a trend as “dubious” considering American fertility rates have been below the replacement rate of 2.1 children per woman for the last 30 years, and rates are falling in countries which have traditionally sent large numbers of immigrants to the United States.

Steven Moore, an economist with the free-market CATO Institute, told The Interim some places might be “overpopulated,” but adds: “it’s not something we need to worry about. (The world’s population) will probably stabilize in the next 50 years, and we have the capacity to feed at least twice the current population.” Moore says today’s population boom is not the result of human beings having too many children, but something much more benign: “the major reason for this growth is that we’ve seen a drastic reduction in infant death rates and a growth in life-spans. This proliferation of human life is actually a good thing.” Not only was Malthus wrong, argues the modern-day economist, but so too was English philosopher Thomas Hobbes: “life (in the Third World) isn’t as nasty, isn’t as brutish, and isn’t as short as it used to be.”

Moore thinks there might be a tinge of racism behind Western plans to control Third World populations, but describes the population controllers as “anti-progress.” “They essentially view human beings as a problem rather than a resource,” says Moore. “The truth is that the world’s greatest asset is the human intellect. Some people see limits to growth, but I don’t believe that to be true. I tend to regard human beings as a resource, not a problem.”