Ever since Malthus made his famous (infamous?) predictions we have been hearing this refrain. Overpopulation was going to kill us. It’s easy to point to trends in population and say “if this goes on…”
Well, when Philip of Macedon sent a message to the Spartans, he told them “You are advised to submit without further delay, for if I bring my army into your land, I will destroy your farms, slay your people, and raze your city.” The Spartans replied with a single word:
I have written before about the folly of mindlessly extrapolating trends into the future and how it leads to bad public policy because whatever the current trend might be, it rarely continues unchanged. However there is a more basic problem when it comes to this trend. And that is that I simply do not believe it. I do not believe published population figures and I do not believe the growth rates extrapolated from them.
First, one has to consider the source of many of these figures. There is no global census undertaken by people going door to door enumerating every individual and sending results to some clearing house to be tabulated. Nope, the numbers are simply reported by the governments of the various countries and they’re just added up later.
So, just how much do you trust those countries to report their numbers accurately? If you’re me, not very much. Look at the incentives. There are plenty of incentives for nations to over-represent their population numbers. For the poor countries foreign aid (which largely ends up in the hands of kleptocrats rather than helping people, sad to say) is to at least some extent driven by how many people are “in need”. Kleptocrats claiming more starving people can wring more foreign aid out of wealthier nations, more “foreign aid” to stock their own palaces and other luxuries. Simple prestige can be an incentive. Being able to claim to rule a larger population than ones neighbors is worth “points” on the international “my country’s better than yours” contest. Intimidation: “my country’s bigger than yours so I can field a larger army. Better not mess with me.”
Incentives to underreport population? Um. I’m trying. Can’t think of one. Okay, okay. If you want to claim that you’re doing a great job on controlling the overpopulation issue and… Is anybody actually doing that? China maybe, wanting to tout the success of their “one child” policy, but that’s about it.
Even in the US, there is a direct incentive for states to over-represent their populations in the decennial census: Higher population means more representation in Congress. A great deal of effort is made to keep the count accurate but even that is unlikely to be totally successful. So even here the numbers should probably be taken with a grain of salt.
So not only is it folly to mindlessly extrapolate trends into the future as many folk are wont to do, it’s also dubious to even accept current population figures at face value.
So, no, we are not in any imminent danger of an overpopulation crisis leading to disaster. The people telling you that we are are selling something.
5 thoughts on “Overpopulation is Going to Kill Us!”
How many here have read Harry Harrison’s “Make Room, Make Room”?
If we look at the world of Harrison’s story (set in Dec 1999) and compare it to the world of the real Dec 1999, then we see a major difference between his “prediction” and what happened. 😈
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Which means, as Bernie tells us in a roundabout way, he’s got to go kill more minorities.
I’m convinced that a deep seated hateful racism permeates the Left. Sure, they may want a few around as pets, the same way that some people keep big cats, or kept in special indigenous wildlife preserves. They may even give specially trained ones a place on the stage.
But thinking that the brown and yellow and red people are actually people, humans like Bernie and Nancy and Hillary and others who went to the fancy schools are humans? With individual personalities and agency and the rest?
Don’t be silly.
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They seem to be convincing mostly Westerners of the whole ‘don’t breed’ thing; they’re not bothering to TRY convince the ‘not white’, because… well, as pointed out by someone lately enforcing the green initatives will ‘take care’ of the populations that are deemed, ultimately, ‘lesser’ and ‘unwanted’ by making things like electricity and self-advancement (economic or otherwise) too expensive to have. (Unwanted being those who are too old, or otherwise deemed ‘surplus’, by the self-declared elite.)
“A great deal of effort is made to keep the count accurate but” up to and including counting illegals in order to get them Congressional representation.
Shadow, “enforcing the green initatives will ‘take care’ of the populations”. You are assuming that the green will be enforced outside the US and Western Europe. I can guarantee you that every third world country will not only be developing but will do so with financial assistance from the USA.
Nothing of the sort. From the greens I think they will just piously withold technological advancements or aid unless the local populace capitulates to their demands, and then they’ll forget about those places when it’s convenient to do so and no longer benefits them in terms of PR.
I rather expect that any of those third world countries that manage to advance despite internal corruption (I’m from the Philippines, this corruption is a source of vast irritation to me, and we’re considered somewhat industrialized) will do so in hiccuping bursts forward, if possible, with comparatively ‘dirty’ sources of energy, which will be frequently badly mismanaged, with occasional good management, and financial assistance will often be squandered unless very, very very strictly overseen by the source of the funding. In the more violent regions, (such as Africa) I rather expect that the places that will keep their improved infrastructure secure will be the ones who have greater firepower over raiding local terror groups and maintain constant vigilance over rural villages that have benefited from Western aid putting in things like wells, small wind-power generators, etc. There are those punitive raids as well that think the West a malign influence on the populace, and seek destruction thanks to ideological push. (Think Boko Haram, which considers books evil.)
Financial assistance isn’t enough in such circumstances (and I wouldn’t be surprised if such things happened in other places too.)