Few seem willing to come right out and say that there are simply too many people on this planet. Two recent examples have brought this home to me - one was Mike Nickerson talking about sustainability and the other was a report by HSBC Economist Karen Ward. Mike gives a great speech on how the planet we are on cannot continue indefinitely with the growth that everyone seems to want. Resources will run out - food supplies such as fish and grains plus forests, clean air, oil and minerals all have a limit. Mike preaches sustainability and while that is a necessary close-in goal it won't by itself solve the problem in the long term. As Mike points out, corporations and economists insist on growth - without growth we get a recession and economic pain. But he avoids saying the obvious - there are too many damn people.
Then I read about a report issued by Karen Ward that says that by 2050, the top 10 countries in economic output will be (in order):
China, US, India, Japan, Germany, UK, Brazil, Mexico, France, Canada. Yet she predicts that in 2050 the top 10 countries ranked by income per capita will be (in order): Japan, US, Germany, Canada, Australia, UK, S. Korea, France, Italy, Spain. Rising quickly are Turkey, Indonesia, Malaysia. (here's one report on the report). From these numbers, it is clear that although China will still have a low income per Capita (less than half Spain), it will be the biggest economy. The reason is obvious, the sheer large number of Chinese people. And make no mistake, at current trends, the population and demand for food and other resources will continue to grow . Look at these charts:
A good trend is that as countries get more developed, they have slower growth. But even with that, population continues to grow. So where will the resources for all these people come from? Obviously, sooner or later, resources will run out. You can argue about the ingenuity of man to find more oil and his ability to farm fish but sometime in the next 25 to 300 years people will starve or not get a job - Growth will stop.
But an obvious solution that is rarely mentioned is to limit the number of people. The only country to do this with a stated policy (so far) is China. The birth rates for Western European countries are low so they are "doing their bit". In fact, most western countries - with the notable exception of the US - have a low "fertility rate"
There are some public numbers on fertility rates (number of live births per woman) and I have graphed them here:
Generally - although not a complete correlation - the more developed and the more secular, the lower the fertility rate. Certainly the highest fertilities are the Muslim and Hindu countries. For its level of development, the US has a high fertility at 2.1%.
These countries are also poor so it may be primarily level of development and not religion that makes a difference but since the U.S. is religious, I'm inclined to believe that religion is the main factor. Let's face it, Catholics have long been known to be against birth control. Fortunately most Catholics ignore this teaching - look at France, Brazil and Spain. But in Africa, preaching against birth control fits with the existing bias to produce babies to support the parents. The anti-abortion movement also makes birth control more difficult and any thought of limiting population is somehow "not Christian". And without children, Islamic Patriarchs would have only a single person to boss around.
Apart from Religion, the other big factor encouraging population growth is business. Mike Nickerson is right about one thing - corporations and even countries count on growth. No growth and they die. There's no real reason why that should be so - the little corner shop businesses seem happy to stay as they are. And the independent tradesmen are happy to keep earning a fair wage.
But even if it is embedded in our view of how the world should run - it's not sustainable. Sooner or later the population will have to decrease - and the sooner we face up to that, the better. Maybe we should pay Africans and Arabs to NOT have babies? Let's get creative.
Quoting the bible like Congressman Shimkus did last year won't be good enough. He has faith that God will protect us from possible problems with Climate change. (You Tube). I remember an old Christian saying that goes: "God helps those who help themselves". That's because God is of no help at all - and belief in him gets in the way.