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April 16, 1997

Population Note

Defusing the "bomb" myth

I've long found it ironic that there should be so much concern over supposed resource depletion while we continue to squander the most precious resurce of all--the creative power of educated human minds, especially of young people--so recklessly. Some actual figures to offset the ongoing hype about the population "explosion" are interesting ("NY Post," March 28, 97). Under modern conditions it takes 2.1 children per woman to keep a population constant. In the last decade the rate for Europe has plunged 21 percent, from already record low levels, to 1.45--in Italy 1.2, lowest in world history. Japan is at 1.5, the U.S. 1.98, with Third World declining from 6.0 to 3.1 over the last 30 years, the most dramatic being since 1990. China, always the favorite cited by alarmists, is at 1.8 and falling.

The astounding thing is that these facts are not acknowledged in the projections concocted by the U.N. and fed to the media--presumably because they fail the test of political expediency. Countries with below replacement fertility rates are automatically taken up to 2.1, increasing projections for Europe's 2050 population by 38 percent. Conversely, rates for Third World countries with below replacement rate (currently numbering 27) are set no lower than 2.1. The result, according to many leading demographers, is that the totals being touted at 10 to 11 billion for the middle of the next century could be high by 3 billion, and after that we might well see a decline. Yes, decline.

Yet another example of tailored computer models replacing reality for policymaking: Garbage In, Gospel Out.

The neo Malthusians who fuel the hysteria about population growth should remember that populations decline geometrically too, and when such a trend sets in it's almost impossible to reverse. Many civilizations have collapsed in just this way.

 
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