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Thursday, January 15, 2015

SIMPLE SOLUTIONS FOR HUMANITY'S MOST IMPORTANT PROBLEMS: #4 Population Control



KEEP RETURNING TO SEE HOW THIS POSTING EVOLVES.  I publish it, but only with the promise that I will in time provide a simple solution.

The human population of Planet Earth is getting close to 7.3 billion:


The United Nations Population Division has calculated that there is a 95% chance for our population to range from 9 billion to 13.2 billion at the turn of the millennium, 2100.  The low variant for that year is from 6.7 to 16.6 billion.  While the Vienna Institute of Demography has indicated that there is an 85% probability that world population growth will stop by 2100, that UN study says only 35%.

Why such a wide range and lack of any kind of consensus among organizations respected for their work?  Basically, it is not easy to predict the future.  Who could have foreseen in 1980, for example, that the fertility rate for Iran and Bangladesh (left) would drop from 6 children/women to about 2 now?

I had a rather gloomy HuffPo four years ago predicting that the population of Planet Earth would be 7 billion in 2050.  I blame my doomsdayish colleagues for influencing my attitude, for they were adamant about the collapse of the economy, global heating and some kind of Andromeda strain.  In afterthought, today, I suspect 9 billion might be more realistic.

Last year Japan (right) recorded just about one million births, the lowest in recorded  history, BUT, had 1.27 million deaths, the  highest on record.  At the current fertility rate of 1.4 (2.07 to remain stable), Japan's 127 million population would drop to 85 million in 2110.  In Europe, Spain, a largely  (2/3) Catholic country, is facing almost the exactly same decline, also with a fertility rate of 1.4.  

The European Union itself is losing population, and only the immigration of Muslims (about half a million/year) is easing the decline, but has come with increasing local terrorism.  Births in Europe dropped from 7.5 million in 1960 to 5.4 million in 2011.  Hong Kong (1.13), Singapore (1.28) and South Korea (1.32) are especially concerned.   The USA (right)?  1.97.  But about 1 million immigrants/year means continued growth.  

China has had a one-child policy since 1979, and is down to 1.6, while India is at 2.6.  India is expected to pass China in the total number of people in 2028, although China is in the midst of doubling the allowable from one to two children/family.  Yes, there is Boko Haram, but Nigeria already has twice the number of people in Africa than #2 Ethiopia, speaks English and has oil.

Then, there are countries like Niger (7.6 fertility rate), Mali (6.9) and Somalia (6.6), and Africa in general, with exponential growth still expected for some time to come, bringing the world fertility rate average up to 2.5:


Okay, then, what is the optimal human population of Planet Earth?  In a paper written twenty years ago by Paul Ehrlich (of Population Bomb fame) and his colleagues, they postulate that the then current population of 5.5 billion was not sustainable, and that something in the range of 1.5 billion to 2 billion was ideal:
With that low level is an expectation of some  happiness, if not a lot, for all, with sufficient resources to maintain that lifestyle.

The Global Footprint Network says that in 2009 our population was already using 1.4 times over what was sustainable.  More specifically, if the average person is provided a UK lifestyle, the present population would need 3.4 Planet Earths.  Given this one world and population, lifestyles need to drop to the level of Algeria or Ecuador.

Other optimal world populations:
  • Ted Turner:  250-300 million people should be the about right for the world.
  • Lester Brown of the Earth Policy Institute:  we need 1.5 Earths to sustain present population
  • Optimum Population Trust:  we have 2.3 billion too many people already
  • A 2001 UN report estimates a carrying capacity from 4 billion to 16 billion (which is typical for the UN, trying to please everyone)
  • Anyone who tries to arrive at a reasonably high figure for how many people are ideal for our globe will get shown the Malthus error and success of the Green Revolution, where technology and other factors come into play.
  • The combined Gross Domestic Products of Europe, U.S. and Canada will double by 2050, while the rest of the world will grow by a factor of 5, leaving Europe, the U.S. and Canada at less than 30% of the world's GDP--SMALLER THAN WHAT IT WAS IN 1820!
Okay, so based on all the above, let me through the weight of specialist wishes, use 2 billion as the ideal sustainable population of Planet Earth.  So, forget about merely controlling population at the 7.3 billion of today and probable 9 billion of 2050:  WE NEED TO SIGNIFICANTLY REDUCE OUR POPULATION.  How?
  • We can wait for an Andromeda Strain (virus or something microbiological from outer space) to kill off most of us.
  • Alien (macroscopic) attack from Mars or another Galaxy.
  • Nuclear Winter, say, initiated by Israel attacking Iran, where Russia responds in support, bringing the USA into the fray, and through mistake, irrational action, stupidity or whatever, setting off a nuclear war where many of the 16,300 nuclear weapons are exploded.
  • Quickly populate our Moon, Mars, asteroid, Milky Way Galaxy.
We should be able to agree that none of the above events will occur in any timely manner, or at least the probability should be way less than 1%.  Thus, what about doing nothing?  It seems that pure success at economics tends to reduce population growth.  Families in Shanghai, for example, can with ease gain a waiver from one child, but children are expensive and affect lifestyle, so the birth rate has continued to fall.  The fertility rate of the world is expected to drop below sustainability by 2050.  


So, let us sweat out the next century and enjoy a measure of stability sometime in the next millennium.  Of course, the we will not be you nor me.  It will take four generations and more, and, hopefully, there will be no serious tipping point like globe warming, which can cascade into a Venus Syndrome or other doomsday scenario.

So the question is, should society take a more constructive, prudent and proactive path to maximize overall comfort for the population at large?  If so, what are some strategies?  The Worldwatch Institute has views similar to mine.  They say:
  • World population of 2-3 billion to maintain a moderately comfortable lifestyle for all...but not until the 23rd century and beyond.
  • We should acknowledge our dilemma and do something about it.  However, if no consensus can be reached for something like global warming, good luck for population to be solved, considering the religious and cultural connotations.
  • Unfortunately, they provide no further specifics with reference to solutions.
All the above then can be crystallized into eugenics, which can be Hitleresque or, maybe not.  The term was coined in 1883 by Sir Francis Galton, cousin of Charles Darwin, and specifically meant:

a plan to encourage the “best people” in society to have more children (positive eugenics) and to discourage or prevent the “worst elements” of society from having many, if any, children (negative eugenics). Eugenics became solidified into a movement in various countries throughout the world in the first three decades of the 20th century, but nowhere more solidly than in the United States and, after World War I, in Germany.

Wrote in 1952 Bertrand:

Russell explains that eugenics plays a central feature in the construction of any world government scientific dictatorship, stating that, “Gradually, by selective breeding, the congenital differences between rulers and ruled will increase until they become almost different species. A revolt of the plebs would become as unthinkable as an organized insurrection of sheep against the practice of eating mutton.”

In his 1958 essay, Brave New World Revisited, Aldous:

Huxley explained that, “The future dictator’s subjects will be painlessly regimented by a corps of highly trained social engineers,” and he quotes one “advocate of this new science” as saying that, “The challenge of social engineering in our time is like the challenge of technical engineering fifty years ago. If the first half of the twentieth century was the era of technical engineers, the second half may well be the era of social engineers.” Thus, proclaims Huxley, “The twenty-first century, I suppose, will be the era of World Controllers, the scientific caste system and Brave New World.”[2]

And in 1962 Huxley said:

If you are going to control any population for any length of time, you must have some measure of consent. It’s exceedingly difficult to see how pure terrorism can function indefinitely, it can function for a fairly long time; but sooner or later you have to bring in an element of persuasion, an element of getting people to consent to what is happening to them.

Aldous' brother was Sir  Julian Huxley, President of the British Eugenics Society, and later became the first Director-General of the the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).  Said Julian Huxley:

Thus even though it is quite true that any radical eugenic policy will be for many years politically and psychologically impossible, it will be important for UNESCO to see that the eugenic problem is examined with the greatest care, and that the public mind is informed of the issues at stake so that much that now is unthinkable may at least become thinkable

While much of earlier thinking and writing emanated from the UK, more recently, there has been a New Eugenics movement towards general population control, well-explained by American Edwin Black in his 2012 book, War Against the Weak:

 “the incremental effort to transform eugenics into human genetics forged an entire worldwide infrastructure,” with the founding of the Institute for Human Genetics in Copenhagen in 1938, led by Tage Kemp, a Rockefeller Foundation eugenicist, and was financed with money from the Rockefeller Foundation.[22] While not abandoning the eugenics goals, the new re-branded eugenics movement “claimed to be eradicating poverty and saving the environment.”

So there it is:  the best way to influence the masses is to scientifically prove that Planet Earth was being jeopardized by too many people, and the solution was genetics for eugenics.   Religious and cultural factors can be trumped by the need to best provide for a livable future world.  Both the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations have had some rather shameful past.

Matthew Connelly in 2008 wrote Fatal Misconception:  The Struggle to Control World Population:

...population control (specifically in India) was a necessity for the masses, adding that “it is not what they want, but what is good for them.” 

Further, Paul Ehrlich refers to mankind as a cancer upon the world, and we must shift our efforts from treatment of the symptoms to the excision of the cancer.  There will need to be brutal and heartless decisions.  The pain will be intense, but radical surgery gives the patient (humanity on Earth) the best chance for ultimate survival.  But he never quite says exactly what to do.

Should foreign aid be linked to population control?  Well, historically, that is exactly what the U.S. did:
  • Said President Lyndon Johnson:  I'm not going to piss away foreign aid in nations where they refuse to deal with their own population problems.
  • President Richard Nixon:  population control is a must and go hand in hand with aid.
This policy seems to have worked to a degree, as Bangladesh spent a third of its entire health budget on family planning, and India's focus was 60%.  These countries used sterilization, intrauterine devices and the like.  The U.S. International Planned Parenthood Federation and UN Population Fund helped spur China into a one-child policy.  But it is Africa now that is risking the future of the world.

Interestingly enough, Rachel Carson's Silent Spring in 1962, which launched the environmental movement, actually helped decrease population, as DDT was banned and malaria deaths increased.  Then again, a less polluted world meant that more people lived longer, so this could have been a wash.

Today, we have Bill Gates asking his fellow billionaires to help reduce world population.  But his only financial support goes to vaccines and the like to, in effect, actually increase population.

Can nanotechnology and genetic engineering play roles?  Artificial photosynthesis?  Cost effective fusion?  If anything, much of new technology will be utilized to increase population.

This is why I avoided treating population in my books.  Read Ralph Mosher's Population Control.  I have no simple solution for population.  Anything I conjure reminds myself of Adolf Hitler.  or the smarmy need for dictated eugenics.  My moral self cannot support those strategies.  Sorry.  But I'll yet adjust this posting someday when I get a revelation.

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Tropical Cyclone Bansi is now at 130 MPH and moving southeast.


There remains the danger that there could be a sudden shift south, but, all computer projections show Bansi continuing to swing reasonably far east of Mauritius.

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1 comment:

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