The Greatest Evil: The Population Explosion

I am writing about the obvious: If, by some magic, we could cut the population in half, it would reduce the demand for oil by half, reduce carbon dioxide pollution by half, reduce the need for food and water by one half, and so forth.

Of course, reality would be more complicated than simply dividing by 2. But the general idea remains valid.

I call the population explosion “the greatest evil” because it is the basis for much of the conflict in the world today. The “have-nots” need more food and water, but near-maximum output has been reached. Everybody has to drive a car, but the price of gasoline keeps increasing as it becomes more difficult to extract the precious stuff. Since many articles and books have been written about this complicated subject, what can I add in this short essay? I can add that, despite the obvious problems, almost nobody mentions the population explosion!

Here is a prime example: C.N.R. Rao wrote the guest editorial in Science magazine on 10 July 2009. He is a National Research Professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research in Bangalore, India. Here is the first paragraph of his “Science in the Future of India”:

“India has voted for science. In May, half a billion people cast their ballots, and they decisively favored spurring the development of the world’s second most populous nation. The reelected Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his new coalition government have made a commitment to reduce poverty and disease, create employment, and stimulate rural and industrial development. Attaining these goals will require substantial new investments in science and technology (S&T) plus much greater investments in human capital.”

Not a word here, or in the remainder of the editorial, about the disastrous population explosion, despite the fact that 60% of the Indian population is below the age of 25. Apparently Rao (and others) do not consider it to be “disastrous.” Why is this so?

Perhaps it is tied in with religion. The theory is that only God can make a baby so, despite DNA evidence about a “blueprint,” each pregnancy is regarded as a “blessed event.” A second viewpoint is that more people translates into more persons “of faith” who will join and support the religious establishment. Third, as people become more miserable, they turn to a belief in God, and prayer, as their only hope.

Perhaps Rao is motivated by patriotic fervor: Let’s have large families to supply “cannon fodder,” suicide bombers, and terrorists who, when they grow up, will blow up the infidels. But there are non-religious and non-patriotic aspects, such as wanting a large family to assist in running the farm or business, and insurance against being left alone in old age. And then there are the individuals who think that making babies is fun, and why worry about responsibilities that may surface nine months later?

Whatever the reasons for Rao’s reticence, the rest of us could constantly proclaim that the population explosion is evil. We could applaud every exhortation that the average woman should have a maximum of three pregnancies. There could be government-sponsored financial incentives towards a limit of three pregnancies. There is much wringing of hands over today’s low employment in the construction industry, but we could have mixed feelings about that: The industry could repair and replace existing homes, not build new homes for the “baby boomers”; the latter can occupy ancestral hand-me-downs.

But hope springs eternal. As it is recognized that a maximum breeding density has been reached, the population explosion has shown signs that it is leveling off.


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