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The notion that the world is being overrun by people has been around for a long time.  “We can’t produce enough food to feed the masses.”  “The world will become so crowded it will become a living hell.”  Perhaps its most famous proponent is Reverend Thomas Malthus who stated:  “The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man.” The neo-Malthusians are alive and well today, but are they right?

“Never before in human history have global fertility levels dropped so much, so fast,” states a recent UN Secretary-General report.   World fertility has declined over 50 percent in 50 years.  Recently, the U.S. also dropped below the replacement fertility level – that rate being 2.1 children per couple.  Today, 30 developing countries, representing 40 percent of the population of the developing world, also have below-replacement fertility. (UN Secretary-General Report)

This has not stopped the population control folks from continuing their mantra of “too many people!”  They cite population momentum – population growth continues for a time after fertility drops – as a reason to continue “family planning” programs in the developing world.  The UN’s medium variant indicates that around 2045, world population will top out at 8.75 billion.  UN demographers acknowledge that the population will then stabilize for a time and then begin to decrease.

Here are some statistics on population and whether the world has too many people:

  • By about 2020, for the first time, the global fertility rate will dip below the global replacement rate of 2.1.
  • About 44% of the world population lives in nations with sub-replacement fertility.
  • At a fertility rate of 1.4, a country will lose one-third of its population in a generation (a generation = 26 years).
  • Approximately 17 European countries currently have fertility rates of 1.4 or below.
  • All European countries (except Turkey) have below replacement level fertility rates with an average European fertility rate of 1.5.
  • The number of people in the world is closing in on 7 billion.  The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN estimates the earth can easily support 8 to 12 billion using existing agricultural technology.  Joe Woodard, “Rome’s Other Ghosts:  Population Control at the Food Summit,”  PRI Review , (January/February 1997):  9.

“Rapid population growth originally commenced not because human beings suddenly started breeding like rabbits but rather because they finally stopped dying like flies.” – Nicholas Eberstadt


Statistics on Population and Prosperity:
Is There an Effect?

Country Population
per square km
Pop. per sq. km
arable land
Income per capita Life exp.
Bangladesh 1218 2,215 $1,700 70
China 140 931 $7,400 74
Denmark 128 247 $36,700 78
Germany 228 691 $35,900 80
India 362 754 $3,400 67
Israel 360 2,398 $29,500 81
Japan 335 2,789 $34,200 82
Mexico 58 445 $13,800 76
Switzerland 185 1,850 $42,900 81
Taiwan 641 2,672 $35,800 78
United Kingdom 257 1,120 $35,100 80
United States 32 178 $47,400 78

The CIA World Factbook (2010)   

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