Seven Billion is Good News, Not Bad News

Something will soon happen on planet earth which has never occurred before. The number of people on the planet as of Monday will become 7 billion, at least according to the UN. In two day’s time some person on earth, newly born, will be able to claim that unique honour.

Of course this can be either good news or bad news, depending on where a person is coming from. Indeed, for some, it is terrifying news, and the cause of great panic. They think any new person is only a case of bad news. Consider this very simple chart of human population milestones:

1805: 1 billion people
1927: 2 billion people
1960: 3 billion people
1974: 4 billion people
1987: 5 billion people
1999: 6 billion people
2011: 7 billion people

In what appears to be wildly exponential growth, it seems that the world is surely doomed: we will soon – if not already – have far too many people and disaster will occur. The gloom and doom brigade will look at such a chart in sheer horror.

But a few things need to be said about this chart. As frightening as it may look, it of course only tells us part of the story. We need to look at how the chart is likely to continue. What will these numbers be in the future? Admittedly, such forecasts are always difficult and imprecise.

Indeed, for decades now I have been following the various forecasts made by the UN Population Division and other bodies as they seek to predict where world population levels will be heading to. The interesting thing is how the predictions have had to constantly change over time.

Back in 1968 one noted gloom and doomer, Paul Ehrlich wrote The Population Bomb. In it he assured us that because of our “population explosion” the battle to feed the world’s population was over, and we could soon expect catastrophe big time. Of course things did not quite pan out the way he promised, but he still, even today, keeps on with this dark message.

In fact, he said as late as 2009 that “perhaps the most serious flaw in The Bomb was that it was much too optimistic about the future”! So he is a true believer, and no amount of evidence will persuade him to abandon his Chicken Little worldview.

But as I said, the experts have been revising downwards their estimate of peak global population for decades now. I clearly recall being told some years ago by the experts that the world would reach a peak of 25 billion people in the near future. Then they said 22 billion. Then 20.

On and on went the downward revisions: 18; 16; 15; 13; 12; 11; 10; and now the 9 billion people peak, predicted to arrive around mid-century. Then things level off and even head back downwards. And some are now arguing that we will not even reach the 9 billion figure. So population forecasting is a tricky game, and many wrong predictions have been made over the years.

And as also already mentioned, the numbers are open to widely differing interpretations. Are the figures good news, bad news, or should we simply be indifferent about them? Should we be panicking or celebrating this newest arrival on Monday?

One expert who thinks we should be popping the champagne cork is demographic expert Steven Mosher, President of the Population Research Institute. He believes this is good news, and not something we should be wringing our hands about. As one news item recently put it:

“The United Nations Population Division has projected October 31st 2011 as the day on which the world will be home to seven billion people. ‘This is a happy occasion,’ says Mosher, a leading population expert and best-selling author.  ‘The world’s population has more than doubled since 1960, and humanity has never been so prosperous.’

“Family-planning groups, Mosher contends, supported by many feminists and environmental groups, and no-growth types, are abusing this milestone to promote the myth of overpopulation and to raise more money for anti-people projects. ‘The attitude of the anti-people types is arrogant and elitist,’ says Mosher. ‘They say, in effect, to Africans, Asians and Latin Americans: “there are just enough of us, but there are way too many of you”.’

“According to Mosher, ‘contrary to what you might hear, the most pressing problem in country after country today is not overpopulation, but underpopulation.  In a time of fiscal austerity, the last thing that we need to be doing is spending more tax dollars to drive down the birth rate, reducing the amount of human capital available, and making us all poorer in the long run.’

“‘We are grateful that Baby Seven Billion will come into this world,’ Mosher says. ‘Baby Seven Billion, boy or girl, red or yellow, black or white, is not a liability, but an asset; not a curse, but a blessing for us all. Humanity’s long-term problem is not going to be too many children, but too few children.’

“Mosher’s analysis of world population trends stands in contradiction to the United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA) report on The State of World Population 2010, which Mosher contends is misleading. Further U.S. funding of the UNFPA is presently in jeopardy because of UN population control agency’s continued involvement in China’s coercive one-child policy. PRI investigations have repeatedly shown that the UNFPA is complicit in a policy that is carried out by means of forced abortions and forced sterilizations, and which has eliminated some 400 million Chinese.”

The PRI website is well worth visiting at in this regard. The videos which appear on its home page are especially invaluable, and everyone should give them a look, including this one:

Also very much worth reading is this article, and the graphs which accompany it:

The truth is, human population growth rates are slowing big time. Fertility rates all over the world are in steep decline, and our big problem now is a birth dearth. A population implosion, not a population explosion, is our main problem. We will soon reach our peak population, and a steady decline afterwards will take place.

People are a blessing and a boon, not a curse. But I argue elsewhere about the dangers of our declining population rates. See the 31 other articles in my population section of this website for more details. So I for one will look forward to this newest arrival on planet earth. I hope you will as well.

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10 Replies to “Seven Billion is Good News, Not Bad News”

  1. The biggest problem with most estimates of doom regarding world population in the past is that they have been based on extrapolation. Anyone with half a gram of experience in forecasting knows the dangers of that method – yet it is consistently used and abused in this area.

    John Symons

  2. Bill:
    1805: 1 billion people
    1927: 2 billion people = 122 years
    1960: 3 billion people = 33 years
    1974: 4 billion people = 14 years
    1987: 5 billion people = 13 years
    1999: 6 billion people = 12 years
    2011: 7 billion people = 13 years

    Nothing wildly exponential about that time series is there? The rate of population growth has been fairly stable since the 1960s/70s.

    The question is what was going on between 1805 and 1927, and again to 1960? Well, a lot of medical science advances cut the death rate dramatically – especially paediatric deaths. So the OT call of God to “choose LIFE” was being fulfilled for a time.

    John Angelico

    And as people saw that a huge family was no longer required to provide workers to support them (because of the vastly improved survival rate to adulthood), parents slowed on the birth rate.

    That may or may not be in line with God’s call to be fruitful and multiply, but it forms a natural check on the idea of “runaway population growth” – Paul Ehrlich’s idea was being refuted by events even as he was writing.

  3. My dear christian friend who has 8 children once told me “we aren’t trying to take over the world, we’re just trying to outnumber the idiots”. Can I suggest that large U.N. Population councils count in this number?
    Ben Mathewson

  4. Here are a few sites about population control.
    Population Control
    Death by vaccination
    More death by vaccines
    and it was all talked about in the 70s
    Who put these people in charge?
    Get ready to be shot, with a needle or a gun, your choice
    And of course the UN, with Agenda 21

    One of the posted comments in one of the linked sites said to the effect:
    We should celibrate the milestone and enjoy each others company, and let God worry about feeding everyone. Remember we are all unique, there is no one else like you….

    I agree

    oh and did you notice that the announcement will be made on halloween, it makes you wonder…because 7 billion people is scary.
    Jeffrey Carl

  5. I was just listening to that representative of the unrepresentative elite – Margaret Throsby on CLASSIC FM – and she is interviewing Paul Ehrlich this week. To quote her “the man who blew the whistle on population growth”.
    Sounds like a crime to have more people. I think that Ben Matheson’s friend got it right “more people ….to outnumber the idiots”.
    Wayne Pelling

  6. An interesting letter in “The Record” – local Catholic paper – gave the following figures:
    -Population density in Europe = 170 people per sq. km. – no complaints of overpopulation there – no outcry!

    -Area of Australia 7.6 million sq. km.- multiply that by population density of Europe and you get 13 billion i.e. nearly twice the current world population.

    So TWICE our planetary population (if we collected and distributed our rainfall wisely) could live in Australia at the current European population density and there would not be a living soul anywhere else on the planet!! Folks are not exactly crushing the shoulders off each other in Europe so far as I know. Maybe someone should tell Paul the good news.

    Anna Cook

  7. Ten Billion people each with one hundred square metres needs one thousand billion square meters (or one trillion square metres) which is a square with 1,000 km sides. Which would fit several times over in Australia.

    And if ten billion people get together and we allocated ten-square metres per person, that’s 100 billion square metres or 100,000 square km – a square with sides of 316km or about 200 miles.

    I don’t think we’ve run out of space yet.

    Peter Newland

  8. In Anna Cook’s paradigm above, Australia’s population would be 1.3 billion, NOT 13 billion.

    Spero Katos

  9. Apparently one simple (though not necessarily easy) way to slow population growth is to replace subsistence farming with modern agriculture. Seems that the countries with subsistence farming have the higher levels of growth of population.

    Of course the greenists would never agree with this. Far better to have abortion & euthanasia than disturb the environment and feed more people.

    David Williams

  10. Another very good article can be found here:

    “This month, as world population reaches seven billion, countries and international agencies alike could benefit from a review of the last forty years. There never has been a direct link between overpopulation and poverty, and in many places–such as Japan and India–larger populations have been the source of much economic growth. Between the years of 1971 and 2011, India’s population doubled, while its economy grew faster, and it now boasts an expected new working-age population for 2010-2020 of 123 million. This number is five times that of China, which suffers from a graying workforce thanks to its one-child policy, which began in 1978.”

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

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