November 19, 2022
by Alexis Tarkalson
This last Tuesday the world saw its population officially reach eight billion. Reactions were mixed but unfortunately the loudest reactions were cries of dismay. The fear of overpopulation, climate change, and dismal conditions of the world were the prevailing backdrop for the articles covering this particular news update.
The UN’s response to Baby Eight Billion
The United Nations provided a spokesperson in the form of Natalia Kanem, the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund. She delivered these words:
“A world of 8 billion is a milestone for humanity – the result of longer lifespans, reductions in poverty, and declining maternal and childhood mortality. Yet, focusing on numbers alone distracts us from the real challenge we face: Securing a world in which progress can be enjoyed equally and sustainably.”
On a similar wavelength, UN Secretary-General António Guterres stated:
“Unless we bridge the yawning chasm between the global haves and have-nots, we are setting ourselves up for an eight billion-strong world filled with tensions and mistrust, crisis and conflict… we are heading straight for climate catastrophe, while emissions and temperatures continue to rise.”
It seems they are utilizing this record-breaking moment to capitalize on the opportunity to increase fear where they deem admissible. For instance, Ms. Kanem quickly inserts that, “To succeed, all population policies must have reproductive rights at their core…” hoping to show that although she thinks our world is #8billionstrong, she still thinks we should be taking preventative measures (abortive measures) to slow that growth.
Both Ms. Kanem and Mr. Guterres create a facade of joy at hearing the words “eight billionth baby”, a façade in which they expertly tear through its prefabricated walls by expressing concerns that maybe, just maybe, this world isn’t good enough for the onslaught of children being born worldwide every day. And if we can’t fix the issues outlined by Ms. Kanem and Mr. Guterres very soon, then we have a situation under which those children could be justifiably aborted.
As famous actress Anne Hathaway put it, “abortion can be another word for ‘mercy’.” To them, reproductive rights are a compassionate alternative to raising children in a “world filled with tensions and mistrust, crisis and conflict”, to quote Mr. Guterres.
What they don’t realize is that abortion, or even rectifying their imminent problem of climate change (let it be recognized that the countries that emit the most dangerous emissions are those with already slow or negative population growth rates), will not fix the bigger issue here. The bigger issue is that eight billion isn’t enough.
Even the UNFPA admits it through their #8billionstrong campaign that outlines eight trends for our global population:
- Slowing growth
- Fewer children
- Longer lives
- People on the move
- Ageing populations
- Women outliving men
- Two pandemics
- Shifting centres
Under the “slowing growth” trend, they point out that in 1963, our growth rate was at 2.3% and now we are only seeing a 0.8% population growth. Under these projections, our global population will peak in the 2080s at 10.4 billion and then flatline, and then inevitably take a nosedive.
Women must have a replacement rate of children, meaning at least 2 births. Anything less, and our predestined nosedive will be happening much sooner than expected. Unfortunately, due to the pervasive anti-motherhood trend in much of western culture, the chances of that are higher than we are probably comfortable with. The results? Economy crisis and cultural shifts unlikely to recover.
Fertility rates are already in the negatives with regards to replacement rates in countries like Australia, Europe, North America, and parts of Asia. African countries actually have some of the highest reproductive rates currently, with particular attention being paid to Sub-Saharan Africa as it is estimated to make up around a third of the global population at the end of the 21st century.
There is a common fear that more people means less food and wealth to go around. The fact of the matter is that poverty and hunger has been cut in half in the last twenty years. In the last twenty years we made it to eight billion, and starvation is seen less and less. What causes hunger and poverty are restrictive governments; what encourages growth and wealth is specialization and exchanges in economy. With the enhancement of food growth and distribution through modern day technology, we are allowed to worry less about where our next meal will come from than ever before. Don’t underestimate the innovative nature of human beings because more often than not, where there are shortcomings we find solutions.
What does this mean for our elderly?
Some are just fine with the slowing population growth and the eventual stop of growth. I will show you why it is an issue though.
Under the “ageing populations” trend, the UNFPA says, “Because fertility has been falling at the same time as people have been living longer, the age structure of the population is shifting. In 2018, for the first time ever, people aged 65+ outnumbered children under 5.” They project by the year 2050, not only will the 65+ population be larger than the toddler population, it will also be at the same as the number of twelve year olds.
The way in which this will completely reshape our societies is incomprehensible. Who will take care of them? Who will pay for the existing social safety-nets (social security, Medicare/Medicaid) as the demand for them grows larger and larger? It certainly won’t be the generation so caught up in chasing their big careers they won’t even consider carrying their child to full-term. With euthanasia popularity on the rise, things are not looking good for our elderly. Specifically in China, where they are projected to see 28% of their population be older than 60 in 2040. That is 402 million people, larger than the population of the United States. Once again, who will see to their needs and what plans are being implemented?
While mud is being slung at Baby Eight Billion for the uncertainty he or she represents, UFI would like to formally welcome this baby to a world capable of so much beauty, hope, and love. We likewise can’t wait for Baby Nine Billion or even Baby Ten Billion.