Overpopulation is a Myth: Plenty of Food and Space Exists

Opinion   |   Mia Harren   |   May 29, 2011   |   5:56PM   |   Anchorage, AK

Proclamations of overpopulation have circulated for decades. Are they true? First off, what is meant by the word “overpopulation”? It has nothing to do with the amount of people but rather to the resources and the capacity of the environment to sustain human activities.

To be overpopulated, a nation must have insufficient food, resources and living space.

With the world population  at around 6.8 billion last year, food and living space are hardly a concern. In 1990, it was estimated that the world could feed up to 35 billion people. Most sources estimate that the global population will level out at around 9.2 billion in 2050, and then start to decline.

Indian economist Raj Krishna estimates that India alone is capable of increasing crop yields to the point of providing the entire world’s food supply.

Lack of food is not the problem but rather the need for more efficient distribution.

Another supposed problem is living space.

In 2003, the entire population of the world could fit inside the state of Arkansas. The world may seem crowded, but it’s because humans cluster together for trade and companionship, not for lack of room. Even so, there are those who insist that we will continue to breed exponentially, causing a population explosion.

Paul Ehrlich first introduced this idea in 1968 with his book, “The Population Bomb.” It succeeded in scaring the masses, just as Thomas Malthus did, but these theories suffer under the impression that humans are the only thing fluctuating.

“Population rose six-fold in the next 200 years. But this is an increase, not an explosion, because it has been accompanied, and in large part made possible, by a productivity explosion, a resource explosion, a food explosion, an information explosion, a communications explosion, a science explosion, and a medical explosion,” wrote community development specialist Abid Ullah Jan in an article published in 2003 called “Overpopulation: Myths, Facts, and Politics.”

Poverty, too, is not the effect of overpopulation, but rather the aftermath of poor leadership. In Ethiopia, government officials are blamed for causing poverty by confiscating food and exporting it to buy arms.

In Africa, economic problems are seen as a result of excessive government spending, taxes on farmers, inflation, trade restrictions and too much government ownership.

Depopulation is more likely to cause economic distress than these other factors.

Consumers are the largest component of GDP. If you drop that, it drags down the whole economy. Schools close for lack of students, neighborhoods are void of children, labor shortages cramp productivity and the list goes on.

With fewer children we would be faced with an aging population causing generational warfare on government spending. Social Security and Medicare are unsustainable unless each generation of taxpaying workers is larger than the one before it. Fertility should be encouraged, not seen as a crime.

The myth of overpopulation has been exposed as fertility rates continue to fall drastically, in many cases below replacing rate. The lowest replacement rate is 2.1 children per woman, yet many countries like Italy and Russia are closer to 1.69.

Even without so-called “population control,” fertility rates have dropped as women put off marriage and children to pursue higher education.

Population control, often mislabeled as “reproductive rights,” today consists of sterilization, contraception, abortion and open discouragement of fertility.

China’s notorious one-child policy which includes forced abortions and sterilizations will lead to a collapsing culture as the population plummets.

The sad reality of sterilization is if a woman has a child, and gets sterilized afterwards, and her child tragically dies young, she can never have another.

Not only are forced abortions  a waste of human potential (which developing child could have been the next Mozart or Einstein?), abortion drugs administered to women in foreign countries also often cause serious complications. Medical posts in Africa or Peru are filled with contraceptives and other population control related items, but they often lack basics needed for overall health.

These options are wrong, not just morally, but logically and medically speaking. If the money spent on population control were moved to child survival programs, imagine the positive results.

Instead of pushing so-called “safe sex” we should promote the Catholic Church’s teachings on responsible parenthood. In this modern world, sex has become solely a source of pleasure, with children as a side effect. Sex should be recognized for what it is — an act of life.

Natural family planning, in which couples are open to the miracle of new life, is the only form of spacing of children acceptable to the church because it does not separate the two components of the sexual act — union and procreation. Catholicism stresses heavily the importance of both components being present.

Our faith calls us to be generous in welcoming children into this world.

Yes, our lifestyles need to change, but not in the way population control advocates prescribe. The world’s problems cannot be defined by one false theory.

The myth of overpopulation needs to be dispelled. The proof is before our eyes.

LifeNews.com Note:  This column was adapted from Mia Harren’s first place essay in the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church Respect Life Essay contest for 11th and 12th grade students in Anchorage. Harren is a junior at Service High School. This article originally appeared in the Catholic Anchor newspaper and is reproduced here with permission.