Questions About Population Control

Organisations concerned about over-population seem to have their views presented in the media quite often. They regularly appear in the press expressing fears about over-crowding in Australia. Many express concern that Australia is over-populated and that urgent action must be taken to overcome the problems.

Unfortunately there is more than just hand wringing going on. There are some well-respected Australians who are calling for some pretty radical solutions to our supposed population problems.

Consider, for example, Australian Museum palaeontologist Dr Tim Flannery. He told a population conference recently that Australia should perhaps aim for a population target of about 10 million people. What will become of the other 8 million Australians is anybody’s guess.

Even more interesting is this proposal, offered several years ago by Gosford councillor James Adams. He told an inquiry into population control that people who choose to have three children should be compulsorily sterilised and forced to pay the government $200 per fortnight. He also said that couples who choose to have no children should be given a “community service award” of $50,000 and $200 a fortnight until they are 45.

In 1992 the then Leader of the Democrats, John Coulter, told a Sydney audience that no Australian family should have more than two children. More recently Governor-General Bill Hayden spoke of “unproductive burdens” which we need to be “disencumbered” of via euthanasia.

Similar types of proposals have been made in America. Paul Ehrlich is one well known example of one whose concern about pollution and population problems has resulted in some pretty radical proposals. For example, he toyed with the idea of adding sterilising agents to water supplies or staple food to achieve compulsory birth regulation. He even called for “luxury taxes” on cribs, nappies, toys, etc., as a means of controlling birth habits.

Also in America, CNN owner and social activist Ted Turner, who has become a militant green, has recently proposed a plan to cut back the current 5 billion human beings to no more than “250 million to 350 million people”. Of course one has to ask, “How will this be achieved?” Will Turner and wife Jane Fonda lead the way? ? When the Heaven’s Gate cult ended in mass suicide, Turner said: “there’s too many people anyway.” He called the tragedy “a good way to get rid of a few nuts”. More recently he has argued that the world should adopt a one-child policy.
Nobody would deny that it is important to be concerned about our environment. But what needs to be asked is this: are the population controllers right? Are we overcrowded? Or is concern about over population used by some of these folks to promote an anti-family agenda?

A number of respectable scientists have dismissed claims that planet earth is overpopulated. Indeed, the prophets of doom have constantly been proven wrong. For example, Paul Ehrlich wrote in The Population Bomb (1968) that the “battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s the world will undergo famine – hundreds and millions of people are going to starve to death.”

Quite to the contrary, world food production continues to outstrip population growth, and other resources continue to grow in availability (as evidenced by their lower prices). Indeed, most of today’s famines are man-made, whether in Stalin’s Ukraine, Mengistu’s Ethiopia, or the Khmer Rouge’s Cambodia.

The United Nations estimates that by the year 2020 world population will exceed 8 billion, up 45% from today. Yet organisations like the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington predict that the “world is perfectly capable of feeding 12 billion people 100 years from now.”

The real problem today is not over-population but a “birth-dearth”. The world’s total fertility rate has declined to 2.9 children per woman, its lowest level ever. This is down from 4.2 in 1985. Bear in mind that 2.1 is necessary for a stable replacement rate. There are now around 80 countries – representing 40 per cent of the world’s population – with fertility rates below replacement level. For example, Russia, Germany and Italy now fill more coffins than caskets. Italy’s fertility rate is an amazing 1.24. In Australia the rate is 1.8.

Concern about overpopulation is often brandished about as an excuse for abortion. Some women even claim they will get an abortion to do their bit for the environment. And increasingly one can expect the overpopulation mantra to be used in arguments for euthanasia. After all, if we are overpopulated, why not get rid of some of our least productive members?

Another danger in the overpopulation hysteria is the very horrid practice of forced abortion and forced sterilisation as a means to curb population growth. China has routinely promoted this tragic practice, so much so that whereas a normal population produces 105.5 baby girls for every 100 baby boys, the ratio in China is now 118.5 boys to every 100 girls. That means 1.7 million girls go missing every year.

In a recent Papal Encyclical, the Pope has referred to modern culture as a “culture of death”.  He is certainly right. Governments are increasingly promoting pro-death measures like abortion and euthanasia, making some ominous parallels with 1930’s Germany. The pity is many of these politicians who introduce such measures seem to think they have the public good in mind.

Robert Nisbet once remarked that environmentalism has become the third great redemptive movement in human history, following Christianity and Marxism. Indeed it already has its notions of sin, guilt and redemption, its sacred texts and venerated leaders. And like all false religions, radical environmentalism has its share of zealots.

As G.K. Chesterton once said, “The danger when men stop believing in God is not that they will believe in nothing, but that they will believe in anything.” Environmental zeal can match that of any religious zealot, often with harmful consequences. Population control zealots are certainly no exception.

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