Hoping For A Few Facts This Year
© 2003 By D. Eric Williams
This essay was part of a "point - counter point" exchange in the Adams County Record January/February 2003
In 1798 Robert Thomas Malthus published an essay calling for action concerning the problems of overpopulation and the increasing disparity between rich and poor. Since his day there have been countless others who have taken up the cry demanding a curb on world population growth. And, like Malthus (with his non-existent geometrical population growth vs. arithmetical increases in food production problem), every one of them have been false prophets of doom.
A good barometer of population pressure is the price of primary commodities. If demand exceeds production, then prices will rise. On the other hand, if production exceeds demand, then prices will fall. Therefore, if we are genuinely in the middle of an over population crisis, we should see ever increasing costs for real commodities such as food. But, alas for the proponent of population control policies, real prices for corn, wheat and rice for instance, have plunged by more than 70 percent in the past 100 years! The fact is that in the 20th century there was not a single famine caused by over population. Instead, the causes were things like civil war, malicious intent, natural disaster or unreasonable economic policies.
The facts are these: India is a net exporter of food. China feeds over 20 percent of the world's population on only 7 percent of the world's arable land (Chinese farmers also increased food production by more than 50 percent once the communist government allowed the farming of private plots in the 1990's). And, according to documents prepared for the 1996 World Food Summit, the Food And Agriculture Organization declared that , "world food supplies exceed requirements ...amounting to a surplus approaching 50 percent in 1990 in the developed countries, and 17 percent in the developing regions." A 2001 United Nations report on world population trends says that, "over the period 1961-1998, world per capita food available for direct human consumption increased by 24 per cent, and there is enough being produced for everyone on the planet to be adequately nourished."
Indeed, Colin Clark, former director of the Agricultural Economic Institute at Oxford University, reported that if all farmers were to use the best current farming methods (as practiced in the USA or other developed countries), enough food could be raised to provide an American style diet for over 35 billion people. Over three times as many could be fed on a Japanese standard of food intake. That's over 100 billion people without allowing for any advances in farming technology! There's more: the late Roger Revelle of Harvard University estimated that Asia, Africa and Latin America alone could produce enough food stuffs to feed 35 to 40 billion people, just by using water more efficiently - their existing agricultural techniques notwithstanding!
Moreover, global technological and industrial advances have resulted in "a dramatic growth in average material well-being ...while world population increased close to 4 times, world real gross domestic product increased 20 to 40 times, allowing the world to not only sustain a four-fold population increase, but ...to do so at vastly higher standards of living" (this from the United Nations report mentioned above). In other words, everybody is better off now than 100 years ago; when prices fall on primary goods - even if wages remain static - the global standard of living rises. The gap between the rich and the poor may be increasing, but the poor are richer now than they have been at any time in recorded history. Clearly the doomsday prophets need to sign up for Economics 101 at the local community college.
The fact is that the world is mostly empty not over crowded. The current world population utilizes less than two percent of the earth's ice free land for living space. To put this in perspective think of it this way; if we granted 1000 square feet of living space per person - not per family - the entire world's population could be housed in an area no larger that the state of Texas. We also use less than one ninth of the arable land for food production and other agricultural products.
Nor are we destroying the earth's renewable resources - such as forests. For instance, according to the Washington D.C. based Resources For The Future, "forest cover in the USA has expanded from its low of 464 million acres in the 1920's to more than 728 million acres today."
Truly the population debate must be reduced to the basic presuppositional question, "who is in charge?"
On one hand we have the progeny of Malthus forcing birth control on third world women who don't want it in an effort to regulate the lives of those they have no right to govern (according to Dr. Jacqueline Kasun, "surplus condoms and birth control pills fill warehouses in the less developed world and women flee the birth control workers and beg to have their implants and IUDs removed. U.S. foreign assistance law requires countries receiving American foreign aid to take steps to reduce population growth [you can find this in 22 U.S. Code, sec. 2151-1; 22 U.S. Code, sec. 2151(b)]. Far from meeting an 'unmet need' for birth control, foreign-supported family planners in India, Bangladesh and other countries must pay, or force, their clients to accept it, according to reports from these countries").
It would seem that "unwanted pregnancies" are a problem for the meddlers, not the women of the third world (isn't self determination under God a "basic human right" for all women, or is only afforded to those with light colored skin? One wonders if the meddlers station themselves in the bedrooms to see that proper procedures are being followed...). Indeed one could throw out the "population" in "population control" and be right on the mark. This is what the "less fortunate of the word" resent bitterly - meddling by elitist do-gooders - not riches and power. That's why immigration to the USA from undeveloped nations continues unabated.
On the other hand we have Almighty God as the sovereign Lord of the universe - an item to take into deliberation when considering public policy. If God was concerned with over population, He would have said something along the lines of "thou shalt not exceed 10 billion persons on the face of the earth; thus sayeth the Lord." Instead, God made it clear that large families and well populated nations are blessings to parents and governments respectively. If the life and death of a sparrow is not outside the Father's will, how can we be so foolish to suggest that He has failed to notice the needs of six billion people?
I agree that true patriotism is doing what is right and good for our nation. That being the case, I encourage each of you to take up your pen and write to your senator's, representative and President Bush. Tell them that you don't want to see taxpayer's money wasted on needless international meddling, the spawn of snobbish racist balderdash. Instead, put the money back where it came from in the first place: the taxpayers pocket. That will go a long way in preserving life as we now know it.