Who says the world is overpopulated? And what does that mean anyway? Hunger? Crowding? Environmental harm? For over 200 years we’ve been told that the world is overpopulated. But is it? Check this out.
In 1798, Thomas Malthus thought the world was overpopulated when world population was under one billion. In his book, An Essay on the Principles of Population, he advocated not supporting the poor and controlling the population. He was wrong.
When world population was about 1.3 billion, Charles Darwin, who’s Theory of Evolution was based on Malthus’ book, thought the struggle for survival would cause the extinction of underdeveloped cultures by developed peoples. He was wrong.
Francis Galton, creator of Eugenics, the so-called science of improving the human race, thought the African races were so inferior genetically that Chinese should be settled in Africa to drive the Negro races to extinction and replace them. He was wrong.
Around 1920 when the population was about 1.9 billion, Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood and a prominent eugenicist, believed we needed to get rid of “human weeds,” including dark skinned people from Southern Europe, Africa and India as well as the mentally or physically impaired. She advocated for sterilization, birth control, and abortion. She was wrong.
In the 1930s when world population was about 2 billion, Adolf Hitler believed the world was overpopulated and sought to gain “Lebensraum” (living room) by invading other countries and exterminating “inferior” people, including Jews and Gypsies. By doing so he sought to create a super race of Arian Germans. He was wrong.
In 1966 when the world population was 3.3 billion, to control population, under President Johnson, US AID began requiring population control quotas as a condition for receiving foreign aid. Mass sterilization camps were set up in poor countries using equipment supplied by the UN and US. He was wrong.
Meanwhile, in the 1960s the Green Revolution of higher yield, more disease resistant and more nutritious varieties, increased crop yields by orders of magnitude, making it possible to feed the world without sacrificing forests and other pristine wilderness areas.
When The Population Bomb was published in 1968 by Paul Ehrlich, world population was about 3.7 billion. He believed the world was overpopulated and required drastic action to reduce the population in order to prevent mass starvation and collapse of the society. He was wrong.
In 1972, after nearly 30 years of controlling disease carrying insects, DDT was banned by the EPA in spite of overwhelming evidence refuting claims of harm; the ban was based more on political fears of growing populations in developing countries than on real science or perceived harm. Before the ban DDT eliminated Malaria in the developed world. Developing countries were threatened with loss of foreign aid if they did not discontinue DDT use. Most did, but India did not comply.
Today the world population is over 8 billion(*). USAID, UNFPA, (UN Fund for Population Activities), UNESCO (UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), WHO, World Bank, International Planned Parenthood, Population Council, Marie Stopes and other groups continue the Overpopulation Myth with abortion, sterilization, IUD implantation and birth control activities in poor countries around the world. They are still wrong.
So, is the world overpopulated? Not by any measure. Let’s look at what we mean by overpopulated.
Do we have enough food for everyone? Yes. Thanks to modern agricultural techniques and high yield crops there is more than enough for at least 11 billion people without any increase in acres cultivated. Advancing technology will probably multiply the yield still further as it has in the past. Myths against modern pesticides, herbicides, modern agricultural techniques and biotech crop enhancements (aka GMO) are used to keep poor countries on subsistence agriculture, which results in deforestation to replace depleted fields.
Is the food distributed fairly? No. Other than disasters and wars, hunger has more to do with local politics than with food supplies. Corrupt governments, propped up by government to government foreign aid, which the poor rarely see, are incentivized to help with international population control schemes, but not to build infrastructure, attract investment and help to raise the standard of living of their own rural poor. As long as the people are kept poor, the aid money keeps coming, so corrupt governments have little or no incentive to improve conditions for their people. Foreign aid must be replaced by foreign and domestic investment in infrastructure with accountability.
Is there enough room for all the people? Compared to the land area of the earth, the population is very small. For perspective, if all the people in the world were placed in an area the size of Texas, each person would have almost 93 square meters. A family of four would have 372 square meters. That’s about 4000 square feet, enough for a 2000 square foot house and a yard or garden. This thought experiment puts population in perspective with the size of the earth. No one is suggesting we actually do this, except for the loony left who are grasping at straws to defeat this argument against the overpopulation myth.
Global average population is 55 people per square kilometer of land area, excluding Antarctica. That’s 17.96 acres per family of four. In 2016, over 54% of the population lived in cities, which covers only 2.7% of the land. That means that 46% of the population is rural and lives on 97.3% of the land area. That calculates to 26 people /km2 in rural areas or 38 acres per family of four. Yes, I know that large areas are uninhabitable. Even if we assumed 50% uninhabitable, that’s still a lot of land per person. The fact that only 10% of the land is actually inhabited doesn’t change the picture. There is still a lot of land out there to accommodate and feed a larger population. All this doesn’t even count the 71% of the earth’s surface that is water, which is a food source and a highway between markets.
Is Overpopulation causing Climate Change? As a part of the biosphere, the human race is a small contributor to the total carbon and carbon dioxide gas, and is exceeded by orders of magnitude by land and sea vertebrate animals, and even more extremely by insects and other invertebrates, both in numbers and total mass. One estimate claims there are 300 pounds of insects for every human pound, or 1.4 billion insects per person. With almost 2 million different species described so far and possibly many more un-described, estimates vary widely, even for human populations, especially in poor countries. Corrupt governments may over estimate numbers and under report economic conditions to receive more foreign aid dollars.
Is the environment being harmed by too many people? No. Poverty, including subsistence farming, not population, causes environmental harm and deforestation. Modern agriculture and higher yield crop varieties can end deforestation and provide surplus crops to sell. Roads, electricity, clean water and disease control can provide a healthy workforce and energy to attract investors and run industry. Historically, improved infrastructure and opportunity also stabilize populations and reduce family size. By keeping the poor in poverty, environmentalists actually are doing more harm to the environment. Raising standards of living means people will be able to care for their environment.
Many developed countries have bought into the overpopulation myth to the point that their birth rates are below replacement value. Japan, which reached one of the lowest global fertility rates of 1.4 in 2014 (#), has started paying people to have children because of the looming demographic catastrophe of too few people to work and support the elderly who cannot work. Some of the highest density areas of the world are the richest. Look at Shanghai. It is not only the most populated city in the world, 24 million, with an average population density of 2050/km2 (3854/km2 urban) but is one of the most prosperous.
Rural poor areas in developing countries are underpopulated. With diseases from insects and contaminated water taking a high toll and attrition from migration into cities by the young and healthy, there are not enough healthy people to build infrastructure and markets and raise the standard of living of the rural poor. They already have population control by disease and poverty. They certainly don’t need birth control, sterilization and abortion.
Is the planet overpopulated? By all measures of overpopulation, the earth is far from capacity to support its people. Since overpopulation advocates have been scaring us for 200 years, why should be believe what they keep saying? Quit worrying about an assumed problem that has yet to materialize. The real problem is with the population control advocates, the abortionists, the sterilizers and the international governmental and nongovernmental organizations that keep paying these organizations for killing off the hope of the future while keeping people in extreme poverty: poor, sick, isolated, ignorant and controlled. Free market solutions are the answer, not money given to prop up corrupt government officials, which the poor rarely see.
The rural poor in developing countries need disease control, electricity and roads to end isolation. They need Employment, Education, Investment, Infrastructure and Disease Control to join the 21st century. It is possible and you can help.
How can you help? Get involved through charities, investments and campaigning against policies that hurt and oppress the poor. Be an advocate for economic development and against population control.
* Population updated to 2022 estimated total.
#Fertility rate update for Japan is 1.3 children per woman for 2020; for US it is 1.6. Neither of which are at replacement levels.
Note: Previously posted as a guest author on What’s Up With That blog at https://wattsupwiththat.com/2019/05/25/overpopulation-the-deadly-myth-behind-the-other-modern-myths/
Updated from an earlier post, on Saving Africa from Lies That Kill blog at https://savingafricafromliesthatkill.com/2020/09/02/overpopulation-the-deadly-myth-behind-the-other-myths/
The roots of environmentalism go back to the eighteenth century in the form of the overpopulation myth of Malthusianism, which was all about limiting the human population to prevent a predicted Malthusian Catastrophe, i.e. mass starvation, and for genetic purity, especially among supposedly genetically inferior groups e.g. certain races, cultures and the chronically poor. This is based on the progressive beliefs in materialism, (i.e. there is no spiritual side, only the material we can see and touch), and humanism, (i e. man is the measure of everything and determines morals to suit his circumstances). From these progressive philosophies grew socialism, communism, fascism, the eugenics movement and environmentalism, all of which are about control of the masses by an elite few, and all are basically anti-human, anti-development and anti-freedom.
In 1798 Thomas Malthus published An Essay on the Principles of Population in which he predicted future starvation based on the assumption that the rate of population growth would far surpass the growth rate of food supplies. Using this, he proposed draconian measures to “fix” an assumed overpopulation problem at a time when world population was below one billion. Malthus made two major erroneous assumptions:
- Genetic inferiority and enhanced fertility of less accomplished peoples
- No improvement in crop yields per acre.
He assumed that the only way to grow more food was to increase the number of acres under cultivation, which limited the total “carrying capacity” of any region and indeed the world. We now know that yields have improved by orders of magnitude through things such as introduction of more prolific, disease resistant plant varieties and high yield hybrids, nitrogen and mineral fertilization, mechanization and control of insect and rodent pests. Nor did he foresee the natural reduction of family size that usually occurs when people are raised beyond near-starvation subsistence, and when diseases are controlled so that high childhood mortality is reduced.
Using these false assumptions as a “reason,” he advocated government measures to reduce population growth rates among the poor such as regulating marriage, educating for moral abstinence, as well as birth control and sterilization. However, he opposed nutritional relief and improved hospital access that would have reduced infant mortality and extended life spans among the poor. In his opinion, helping the poor only made the supposed overpopulation problem worse. He extended this same philosophy to Africa where he observed that the Tsetse fly and Malaria helped to keep human population numbers and lifespans low, which he saw as a good thing.
This same upside down philosophy persists today among progressives who only typically want to manage the poor while keeping them poor. Malthus was pushing evolution and eugenics long before Charles Darwin and Frances Galton. In The Descent of Man, Charles Darwin assumed that the superior races (assumed to be white Europeans) would eventually cause the extinction of the inferior races (assumed to be black and brown peoples). Francis Galton coined the term eugenics for a theory about improving the human race through selective breeding and exclusion from reproduction of supposedly genetically inferior groups.
“At some future period, not very distant as measured in centuries, the civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace the savage races throughout the world.
—Charles Darwin, Descent of Man
Because genetic inferiority of certain races, cultures and the poor has largely been rejected by more enlightened geneticists and the public in general, (but apparently not for powerful population control supporters), along with vastly improved food production rates, environmentalism is the latest cause celebre to cover brutal inhumanity to man in the form of forced or coerced population control in places like China, lndia and Africa. The shift from eugenics or racial purity to environmentalism is based on the false assumption that the world is overpopulated, resulting in harm to the environment. This makes environmentalism and population control a perfect match and a good fit for the progressive elite seeking control.
Is it true that the world is overpopulated? Only if agriculture had remained as it was in the eighteenth century. However, the advances in crop yields are more than enough to feed the world. There is more than enough food for all. The reason for starvation and poor nutrition is usually political mismanagement or worse, such as well-meaning but misguided environmentalism and population control by philanthropic societies, NGOs, UN and local governments intentionally keeping the poorest in their disease ridden squalor without adequate infrastructure to provide for basic needs in order to control the people. A healthy and educated population is much harder for a dictator to control and thereby remain in power.
The best way to stabilize population, if that is the goal, is to raise the standard of living by providing employment, transportation, electricity, medical care, education, clean water and adequate food. It is a well known fact that family size is naturally reduced when living standards are improved beyond the point where excess children are needed to insure replacement of those lost in early childhood to disease and malnutrition. It can be argued that the population is too low in many areas to provide the cooperation and man power to provide better facilities without outside aid. Only cities are overpopulated, and that is usually by choice. As population numbers have grown, the world has seen an increase in the standard of living, as reflected in the global GDP per capita, due to division of labor and shared responsibility for both agriculture and developing infrastructure. We should be doing all we can to raise the world’s poor out of poverty. Caring for the environment is the last thing on the minds of people who are having difficulty feeding their children. Raising their standard of living is the best thing we could do to stabilize the population and protect the environment. Unfortunately, the progressives would rather do the opposite for ideological reasons.
I have seen the benefits of higher population and the negative side of low population myself. I grew up in an area of the Appalachian Mountains where population is low. Services that are available in the cities and towns a couple of hours away are not or only marginally available in these mountainous rural areas. Even finding a plumber or electrician is difficult. Although the situation is better now because of improvements in highways, many in the area still must travel to the cities for proper medical care. Lower population means lower tax basis, fewer businesses, less opportunity. It has been difficult getting businesses, whether they are medical facilities, manufacturing, commercial or food and entertainment, interested in locating in an area where the customer and workforce base are low. It has been particularly difficult getting doctors to come and stay. It hasn’t been that long since the first fast food restaurant came into the area. I bring this up to illustrate the logic of raising the population to improve living standards. Granted, this is a far cry from poor villages in other countries, but it still illustrates the point that higher population brings higher living standards.
 Eugenics is the “science” of improving the human race by selective breeding of genetically superior people and preventing supposedly genetically inferior people from reproducing.
 Thomas Robert Malthus, An Essay on the Principles of Population, 1798, London
 Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species , 1858, London, The Descent of Man, 1871
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