There have been plenty of false prophets when it comes to doom saying about overpopulation. In the 1800s British demographer Thomas Malthus got it wrong on this issue, and since then many have followed suit. In the 1960s there were plenty of false prophets, most notably Paul Erhlich. He predicted in his 1968 book The Population Bomb that millions of Americans would die of starvation by the 1980s.
Like Malthus before, he got it wrong big time. Indeed, he was so confident of his gloom and doom scenario that he accepted a wager by economic demographer Julian Simon. Simon asked Ehrlich to select any five metals in 1980, and see if they were more expensive a decade later, being more scarce.
Ehrlich avidly agreed, only to have to pay up ten years later for losing the bet. Simon knew that population was in fact the answer to environmental problems, given the nature of innovation and technological development. If one resource becomes scarce, alternatives are often developed or found. A free market economy, coupled with human ingenuity and creativity, are the best answers to natural resources scarcity.
But the doomsayers continue to make their false prophecies, and they continue to demand draconian solutions to the perceived problem. Many of these are actually coercive utopians, who in the name of saving the planet will propose some pretty inhumane and Big Brother-like solutions. I have discussed some of these previously.
And it has been an interesting exercise over the years to see how demographic forecasts have needed to be constantly revised. I have been following projected population peaks for some decades now. I recall when the experts were telling us that world population would peak at 22 billion. Then they were saying 20 billion. Then 18, then 15, then 12, then 10. At the moment the experts are saying world population will peak at 9 billion by 2050, then plateau, and then fall back.
According to the most recent UN projection, while the population will hit nine billion by mid-century, there is a major population implosion going on in the industrial world. The UN predicts that 45 countries will experience significant population drops during the next 4 decades. For example, it predicts that Japan’s population will shrink by 20 per cent, going from 127 million people to 100 million.
The West is currently experiencing a birth dearth, yet some of the doom and gloomers still want radical action taken to reduce population levels even further. A recent column by Angela Shanahan takes up this issue. She begins by noting the absence of large families in Canberra, and the absence of Christmas decorations in the suburbs:
“The limited number of children does not provide an even spread of ages of offspring from babies to adolescents and young adults. Instead, suburbs such as ours have mini designer-baby booms, so that one year the preschool is empty and threatening to close (this happened two years ago), and then for about five years the preschool population will catch up and the childcare centre will be full. Of course if any of these children want to stay in the suburb when they grow up, they will probably find it even harder than the present crop of young couples to do so, and so the shrinking cycle continues.”
She continues, “This mini baby boom phenomenon and the coffin-shaped demographic pattern it reflects has been followed in the country as a whole, and of course in the entire Western world. But then there are those people who would say the Christmas lights that families like us put up, in using electricity, increase the carbon footprints of our already yeti-sized familial tracks. What with our people movers and four-wheel-drives and air-conditioning and pool pumps, blah blah blah, we should not be expanding. In fact the Government should tax our children and penalise us for the babies we have because they consume resources.”
“This is not just one gynecologist in Western Australia pushing this line, as happened recently; this is phase two of global warming brainwashing. A couple of months ago I predicted that the anti-population linking to global warming would get stronger. Did you not notice that all the questions from the audience after the ABC showed The Great Global Warming Swindle earlier this year were about population control? This is the resurrection of one of the most discredited movements of modern times: the zero population growth movement.”
“These fanatics have fostered the persistent delusion that overpopulation is a problem and many people still believe it. But they are not content with having their simplistic Malthusian logic proved wrong so that 30 years down the track we cannot replace our population in the West, a situation that threatens the social and economic stability of the developed world. The old 1960s ZPG-ers are reinventing themselves under the auspices of the climate movement. Some think tanks, notably the Australia Institute, are pushing this line, referring to population as the ‘elephant in the living room’ of the environment debate.”
However, the idea that large families are somehow to blame for global warming and other environmental problems is simply incorrect. “But there is sound empirical evidence to the contrary. The large family living on a suburban block is the most efficient consumer of energy. The more people in a household, the less per head they consume. The research has been done in Sydney by the City Futures Research Centre. They looked at the implications of behaviour in different household types that are usually overlooked in the energy debate: smaller households living in denser housing, particularly high-rise flats, are less energy-efficient than the biggest household type, the family living in the least dense housing type, the single dwelling suburban house block. Theirs is the most energy-efficient household because it is the most efficient social grouping.”
Shanahan concludes, “But if you want to find somewhere where there is an even spread of ages and the population looks pyramid-shaped, as it should in a healthy demographic, go to Sydney’s southwest. There you will see hundreds of young people on the street, driving around in cars with music blaring, meeting friends on the footpath, shopping, going about their business. You will see young families with many children doing all the things that families do. Many of them are Muslims who have a birthrate four times the average in Australia, so they may not all have Christmas lights, but so what? Get used to it.”
Indeed. The Muslims are one of the few groups who are not hung up about the gloom and doom forecasters. They are being fruitful and multiplying, while the rest of us in the West are slowly disappearing. Thus demographics alone may mean an Islamised West sometime in the future.
There is nothing wrong with being environmentally friendly, and doing our bit to save the planet. But for many of the Green crusaders, their idea of saving the planet means culling humans. That hysteria must be resisted. The coercive utopians have tried before to implement their ugly ideas. Recent history is replete with such attempts. And it has not been a pretty sight.