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Birth dearth?

By Murray Bourne, 16 Dec 2004

The local Singapore paper ran an article about the rapid drop in fertility rates over the last decade being "bad news" for the world. The article argued that since many countries have dropped below the magic 2.1 fertility rate (under which the population will not sustain itself), then we would become extinct.

They also rubbished the "small is beautiful humbug of the 1960s and 1970s". But things were critical in the 1960s with a huge post-war baby boom which peaked in 1960.

I wouldn't worry about the world population dropping anytime soon. We are still increasing at about 4 people per second and the top contributors to population growth (except China) do not seem to be making plans to do anything about it. Following are the growth figures in millions of people per year:

India 13.4
China 7.7
Pakistan 3.5
Nigeria 2.7
United States 2.9
Indonesia 2.4

(Source: Based on UN data)
See also animation showing current population at Interactive Mathematics.

Singapore, Japan, Australia are all worried about their low fertility rates and greying population. Well, the world is not short of people - immigration (or adoption of unwanted children) has to be considered. [Japan hates the thought of immigration of course - it is a very homogeneous population...]

But I say - let the population drop and remove the unsustainable pressures on air, water and land resources. Now, there's a pleasant thought.

See the 4 Comments below.

4 Comments on “Birth dearth?”

  1. Tang Kim Seng says:

    I think from the world's perspective, any decline in world population would be deemed as positive 'cos with less demand (i.e. people), resources (e.g. air, water, land) abound. Theoretically speaking, there's a bigger piece of pie to share (assuming all things being equal). However, that same viewpoint may not be agreed by many countries which need to safe-guard their own existenace and serve their own self-interests.

    Any underdeveloped country would not favour the idea of a population boom for obvious reasons. Everyone is struggling for survival, why make it worse with more mouths to feed ? For the more developed countries, their own existence may strive on people with good moral values for governance, people with creativity and imagination to prosper in businesses and enterprises, people with good education to serve the public at large, etc. Immigration may be the solution short of its own people (but not the total solution). Then, countries like Japan or Germany with a more homogeneous society may not like the idea of immigration to solve their manpower shortage problem. Singapore may be more accomodating in this aspect.

    So in effective, there's no one solution to address all the countries' woes!

  2. Reynir says:

    A drop in world population would be great... already at 6.7 billion we are putting an unacceptable stress on the Earth just to feed ourselves, let alone all the other consumption. Currently humans, our livestock and our pets are 97% of all vertebrates on the earth (by mass). That's a sobering statistic.

    (source: Paul Maccready On Nature vs Humans)

    And there are many other frightening facts than that one... so I say let's SPREAD THE WORD that the world population needs to drop. The only (non-evil) way to do that of course is to lower the birth rate. So spread the word that the birth rate NEEDS to go down and that people should feel PROUD, not guilty, for not having kids. Also, encourage those that sincerely want kids to adopt orphans from poor countries. That way they get to become parents, they perform a massive good deed for the child and the development of his/her country AND they do not overpopulate the Earth any further. What a massive win-win!

    Oh and to hell with nationalism, it's just primitive tribal xenophobia/chauvinism on a larger scale, and does almost nothing but harm these days when you think about it.

    "The world is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion"

    (just to clarify possible misunderstanding, this is not meant to stipulate atheism, but rather to say that good will and good deeds should form the core of your religion, NOT corrupt sentiments like "convert or exterminate all those who do not adhere to our particular holy scripture")

  3. Murray says:

    Thanks for the input, Reynir.

    You would enjoy Jeffrey Sach's Common Wealth - Economics for a Crowded Planet where he identifies population reduction as a key to poverty reduction.

    It's an interesting book.

  4. Reynir says:

    Thanks, I'll definately check it out... I put it on my book list right after the one I'm currently reading. =)

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