Four False Ideas about Overpopulation

Steve is a left-leaning commenter who posted a video with a deceptive title that nevertheless has some interesting things to say about overpopulation – namely, the global birth rate is at replacement, all nations are trending downwards, and many 3rd World countries are trending towards replacement level also. Global population, instead of growing exponentially,  will instead hit 11 million around the year 2100 and will level off after that.
However, I disagree with the scientist who made this video that world overpopulation is therefore no big deal. This is simply a Pollyanna view of things.

This is in HD and the real title is ‘don’t panic- the truth about population’.
http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x175qup_bbc-this-world-don-t-panic-the-truth-about-population-h264-1280×720-aac-rmac_news

There are two sources of some very crazy views about overpopulation, one from the Right and one from the Left. A third view held by elites and even US liberals, is not much nuts as it is just wrong. The fourth view, which is portrayed in the Steve kindly linked to, is the most rational anti-overpopulation view of all. While certainly positive and hopeful, this view founders on the shoals of blind optimism.
. Hard rightwing economic liberals or Libertarians who believe that in order for capitalism to succeed, you need a population that grows forever. These nuts, one of whom is named Simon (some Jew, figures), offer the Netherlands as an example. As if the whole world could be as overpopulated as the Netherlands and still function!
The other nutcases are on the Left. These loons hate all talk of overpopulation because it shuns aside the causes of poverty, instead blaming poverty on poor people “having too many kids!” This is true to some extent, but it glosses over the fact that overpopulation is indeed a horrific problem in the Third World for many reasons, not least of which is the destruction of ecosystems, species and whatnot.
And many 3rd World countries are not the slightest bit overpopulated. For instance, Bolivia is not the slightest bit overpopulated. If anything, they are underpopulated. Bolivia is one of the most underpopulated places on Earth. Why are they so poor? Because income is distributed so poorly.
Others have high incomes but distribute wealth very poorly. For instance, Mexico, with a PCI of $15,000/yr, is a relatively wealthy country. Many nations with PCI’s like that are nice, modern and pleasant places to live. Not 3rd World at all. In fact, $15,000/yr is approaching 1st World incomes. Yet recently up to 50% of Mexicans lived in poverty, and 28% have no sewage treatment and presumably have no access to safe water either.
Mexico City’s slums are horrifying. There is so much shitting outside going on that there are tiny bits of toilet paper and shit floating around in the air of Mexico Shitty all the time. I call this phenomenon “shit air,” and I assume Mexico Shitty is not the only place where even the very air you breathe is literally full of shit.
The argument here is, “Mexico has too many people!” Actually they do not. California is more crowded than Mexico. Anyway, at $15,000 PCI there should be plenty to go around.
There is a third false view about the overpopulation problem. This view is not so much crazy as it is simply self-serving and false. One group (often Democratic Party liberals and liberal or elite types in other nations) likes to put all the blame for 3rd World poverty on poor people having too many babies. If you mention that Bolivia is actually underpopulated, you get a wild argument that, “They have too many kids!” Yet with such an underpopulated country, even a fairly high birthrate should not be a major problem. They do not wish to discuss distribution problems because presumably they don’t really support redistribution of income.
The other group (the Leftists) says that overpopulation is not a problem and anyway, saying 3rd Worlders have too many babies is racist. They also say that focusing on overpopulation takes away focus on income maldistribution, which is true.
The third group is simply insane. High birth rates? No problem, good for growth. Overpopulated countries? Cool, the better to grow your economy with, my dear. The whole world can easily be as overpopulated as the Netherlands with no issues whatsoever. This argument is so insane that there is no use refuting it.
These arguments are a bit circular. Poor people tend to have lots of kids. Telling them to stop making kids doesn’t really work. They rely on kids for labor and social security when they get old because the state has no elderly pension program. Until you distribute income better, you will never get low population growth. And as you stabilize incomes the way the loony Leftists want, the population naturally stabilizes anyway as women who have stable lives prefer not to have lots of children.
Really all four of these groups are just wrong.

  1. The whole world cannot live like the Netherlands. Explosive birth and growth rates are hardly good for growth. Look at Latin America, the Philippines, India and sub-Saharan Africa. Babies popping out all over the place. See any growth there? Of course not. Exploding population growth seems to coincide with mass poverty.
  2. Overpopulation is indeed a problem in many ways. If you are a blind Leftist and can’t see that, there’s no hope for you. You are simply an irrational ideologue.
  3. Maldistribution is indeed a problem and it needs to be fixed, whether you liberals like it or not. Income inequality is a terrible thing, and it causes a whole witches brew of problems in and of itself.
  4. It is very positive and hopeful that the world’s birth rate is at replacement level, the birth rate is trending down in most nations, and even 3rd World countries are now at or near replacement birth rates. Nevertheless, this rose colored glasses view glosses over the problem that 7.2 billion people is already far too many for our carrying capacity and is causing many problems in the world in and of itself to both human and nonhuman life and environments. If 7.2 billion is already disastrous, one can imagine how much worse 11 billion is going to be. This false view seems to be that “a positive trend equals a positive result.” That is very tempting thinking, but the more you think about it, the more you realize its fallacious nature.
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27 thoughts on “Four False Ideas about Overpopulation”

  1. I don’t really get this article man.
    First you describe me as a liberal, which isn’t really true, and then claim that I don’t think overpopulation is any sort of problem, which I didn’t say. Then you describe people who think overpopulation is not a problem as nutcases, which view you had just attributed to me (thanks).
    You know, if you don’t like me, just say so. It seems every time you refer to me at the start of a post, it is negative.
    The whole point of my comment was a few important pieces of information:
    1) on all continents except Africa…poor people do not have too many kids! In Bangladesh, India and Vietnam, the most common family is a two child family.
    2) The global fertility rate is at or slightly above replacement rate. If it stays like this or reduces further, there will be no more kids in 2100 than there are today! The world has reached ‘peak child’.
    Heck, just read it (I’m not sure you did before):
    ‘The global total fertility rate is something like 2.5 or so. Its at or very near to replacement rate. The world has already reached ‘peak child’. In 2100 there wont be anymore children than there are now if current birth rates continue.
    All the remaining population growth that will take us from 7 billion to 10 billion will be due to a filling out of the age structure. So imagine an age pyramid where the bottom is fatter because there are more young than old; as the decades pass and the young ones age, the fat bottom will move upwards and fill out the top of the pyramid so its a like a block. Get it? That’s most of the population growth this century.
    The only place where fertility rates are significantly above replacement is in Africa.
    In the link below, move the tab across to see it change over time. As life expectancy increases, fertility rate falls- same pattern everywhere. Throughout most of human history, women had 6 kids and 2 survived. When all your kids have an excellent chance of survival, most people just have 2.
    http://www.google.co.uk/publicdata/explore?ds=d5bncppjof8f9_&ctype=b&strail=false&nselm=s&met_x=sp_dyn_le00_

    ‘*also some will occur because people are living longer but mostly its the more populous younger cohort ageing.’
    Sorry for trying to give you some valuable information and a link to an enjoyable lecture/documentary.

    1. I didn’t even watch the video because I thought it was the usual nuttiness.
      Instead this is a fourth liberal-Left type argument, that birth rates are dropping anyway, so no worries. It is correct that birth rates are dropping in many parts of the 3rd World and this is a great thing. Population may well bottom out at 11 million. But I still think he is wrong to say that overpopulation is not important as it is fixing itself anyway. That blind optimism is just wrong.
      There are two crazies in this argument:
      The Right: The whole world can be like the Netherlands, exploding growth is great for the economy!
      The Left: Overpopulation is not a problem. The problems is maldistribution (and when are we going to get around to fixing that?). These loons often cart out the same rightwing arguments about the Netherlands and whatnot, showing that the Right and Left start to meet at some crazy point at the bottom of a circle of political belief.
      The third argument, that maldistribution is not a problem (and we don’t want to fix it anyway as we are White middle class Americans), the problem is too many babies! This argument is so much nuts as it is just wrong.
      The fourth argument, which I am just now learning is espoused in your video, is the sanest of all. The problem is correcting itself anyway (to some extent, it is indeed! Cool!) and therefore it’s not a problem because it bottoms out at 11 billion anyway.
      The “don’t worry, be happy” part in the final clause is what is irrational. Overpopulation is still a problem, whether it is slowly fixing itself or not. And 11 billion is way too many.
      And you are indeed a liberal, if not a Leftist. I think more liberal than Leftist. In the US, you would definitely be on the Liberal-Left. Not sure where you are on the British scale.

      1. There’s no such thing as human overpopulation. Humans are bacteria living on a petri dish and the sooner or later the population will be self-regulated according to availability of food and resources except two difference because the human bacteria is a very tough bug:
        1)The human bacteria can eventually consumption the material that makes the petri dish. What I mean is human can turn previously unusable material into something useful(or edible) through technology,like wood fibre into textile fibre,
        2)The human bacteria might be able to spread to other petri dishes(planets)

    2. Thank you for the documentary and exposing me to the 4th and sanest view of them all.
      You disagree with me a lot in the comments, so it ought to follow that I am going to disagree with you a lot in posts.
      I don’t often quote commenters if I agree with them. I quote them more often if I don’t.
      I like you just fine. You are one of my favorite commenters. I disagree with some of what you say, but that is really ok as we are both on the Left, and mostly where I disagree with you is where you are more leftwing than I am. I don’t always agree with folks to my Left, but I generally like them and respect their views.
      I do not think you are a nutcase. You do tend towards the blind optimism stuff for some reason. Maybe you prefer to see the world rosy like that.

      1. I put that talk on facebook and one of my friends had more or less the same reaction. He said that the optimistic tone is unjustified as there will be too many people and its going to be a huge problem, however that growth occurs.
        I agree that there may be significant problems as a result of having billions more people. I’m not really disagreeing with that. But I think most people imagine that global birth rates are really high and there is some kind of exponential growth with no end in sight. I think its worth pointing out that this isn’t true, even right now, and I do believe this is significant good news.
        In theory at least, 3 billion people can plunder and destroy the earth while 10 billion could live on it carbon neutrally. That is a million percent possible. The only question is will we do it in time.
        As an aside, if people would only reduce their meat consumption, it would be possible for 10 billion people to live on earth and use significantly less farmland than the 7 billion of us currently uses. I don’t know the exact figures and I can’t be bothered to look them up right now but it takes much more land to produce a calorie of beef than a vegetable/grain calorie.
        “26% of all land worldwide is used for grazing. The total agricultural land dedicated to feed crop production amounts to 33%. 70% of agricultural land and 30% of the global land area are used for livestock production.”
        (http://www.globalagriculture.org/report-topics/meat.html).
        I’m not in any way optimistic that this will happen any time soon- ‘the eternal treblinka’ for animals will tragically get worse for some time to come. In the longer run I’m more optimistic. And its true that I tend towards an optimistic and positive view of the world. I have my reasons.
        Its also true that I disagree with you a lot in comments. Thanks for pointing that out and I suppose I should take it then. Its good to know its nothing personal because I do like you. We are both left leaning race realists so our views cannot be so different.
        I am more left leaning on economic issues than on social issues, which is why I would identify more with socialism than being a liberal. On social issues, I’m a conservative sympathiser and the modern atheist-liberal types actually tend to rub me up the wrong way. Feminist gender is socially constructed morons bug me too.
        So see, our views are not so different.
        It would be interesting to know why you so readily identify me as a ‘liberal’, a term I sometimes use in a derogatory fashion when complaining about various social ideas I disagree with.

    3. By the way Steve, i remembre how the other day you said i Was a trola, despiste not having proof, i think it Was rude and Was offended, please apologize to me NOW

      1. or one of the others. I think that’s a sock puppet. I remember a commenter called something proudfeministgirl and that sounds similar.

        1. Not Coward.
          The poor grammar is real. English is their sedond language.
          I fixed the article up a lot so it’s now completely fair to you and your POV, which unfortunately, I misunderstood.

        2. See Steve? i am not other commenter, much less someone called Coward, as i am brave and dislike submissive and pathetic traits, 1of the reasons i am not fan of Mexicans, so i deserve an apology

        3. Robert, why are you convinced this is not coward? Is the IP address the same for every comment?
          I’m still not sure about you braveatheistgirl. Something smells fishy to me.
          IF I am wrong, then I apologise.

        4. Steven! I know not only the IP’s but the posting styles, handles and emails used of all commenters. I can spot almost all of you characters even if morph or change handles.
          It’s NOT Coward.

        5. Thank you Steven, just give up it, by the way do you recommend me to blog? I would love to Write about Atheism as is the ideology i follow 🙂

        6. If you were really a girl and really a new commenter, then I’d be friendlier but I saw you on Dota’s site and with all the sock puppets flying around there, and all the different impersonations coward has been doing successfully, I don’t really trust you. Its not usual for me to not trust somebody but that’s just the way it is in our case at this point I’m afraid. Good luck.

  2. Well, I looked up a file on my computer, entitled “Overpopulation”. I wrote it for school in the year 2000. These were my thoughts about it at the time:
    “I believe that the root problem for all of humanity is overpopulation.
    Ultimately, to tend to other matters that are a part of the global issues
    concerning us all is futile, unless we as a species actively address this
    crisis. Currently there are 7 billion people that this planet sustains life
    for, a number which reflects a drastic increase in our reproduction over
    millenia. At this rate, in fifty years there will be a serious conflict
    between us and the Earth, whose demands of ours on her are unceasing.
    In light of the obvious delimma before us, the simple idea of population
    control naturally arises. It is inevitably controversial for a body of
    government to decide for a people how many children each family or parent
    should have, so gaining support for such a policy to be enacted is
    difficult. Unfortunately as well, there may not be a popular interest for
    this issue until it is too late. However, a policy of population control has
    already been set in place, in select corners of the Earth, most notably in
    China. The red nation, already infamous for its disregard over human rights, faces an obsolete opposition to their “one child to per family” initiative. Nevertheless, it is a hard policy to refute or question anyway, since China alone holds one billion or so inhabitants, aside from the fact that it is a Communist country, something that little can be done to change.
    There are definitely no easy solutions for the problem of overpopulation on
    Earth, so I’m a little cryptic in my views about humanity’s ordeal with it,
    as well as what should be done about it. I know this may sound sick, but
    where there is a lot of death in this world, I am often relieved a little
    bit. From a scientific point of view, this makes more sense. 200,000 people
    a day die, and most of them wake up thinking “Not me, not today” anyway.
    We’re all going to die as it is, so while we live, a perspective to make
    life work most managerially for the majority is the only practical approach.
    I also feel that welcoming a lot of death in a world where there is so much
    life makes sense from a spiritual perspective as well. The cycle of life with all its truths should be acknowledged and respected. We all have a life cycle connection to the Earth which shouldn’t be rebelled against with abnormal reproductive habits and age-defying feats. I’m not thrilled like many other people are to learn about all the new ways in which we’re pioneering in longevity. Maybe there’s a reason why we can’t cure cancer and aids anymore than we can prevent natural disasters or even plane crashes from happening. I’m also glad that abortion is legal, not because I don’t care at all from a religious standpoint, but because I don’t see the point in there being unwanted children in a world with too many people in it already. Tens of thousands in this country are living their entire
    childhood in the foster home circuit, never to be adopted. Religious advocates say about fetuses that it’s “their right to live”, but I say “their right to live what, a miserable life? Their right to live to put up with our dysfunctional care for them, in a world socio-economically out of control? Their right to increase the burden on our planets natural resources, so that they can grow up in the ghetto, in the foster shelter, or starve to death in the third world?” To sum up my point, changing our attitude towards our dominance over the planet, where we feel entitled to overcome all that prevents us from achieving immortality, would be a start in the right direction. It will take the cooperation of all, to make harmonious goals of life on Earth possible, and only a rise in consciousness will ultimately help benefit us in this endeavor.”

  3. In most of countries fertility and birth rate is pretty low already. but mostly in subsahara africa it is still pretty high: usually around 5-7/ woman fertility rate.
    I cant see how countries like Nigeria or Somalia could see a reduce in their fertility rate so there will be around 5 billion blacks in Africa year 2100, those current estimations are based on that somehow they learn to use condom and their fertility will drop to 2.1/ woman soon.

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