The Population Crisis – A Call to Arms

Rimmer, Eric | November 30, 2017 | Leave a Comment Download as PDF

I Can't See You... by Peter | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Paul Ehrlich could not have known when he wrote The Population Bomb with Anne Ehrlich in 1968 that mankind would respond by investing a vast quantity of our precious, shrinking resources to prop up unprecedented levels of population growth, rather than trying to prevent it. He could not have foreseen that the uncountable billions of the invertebrate world would be cut in half, in a matter of 40 years. Fifty years later, he must be appalled that human population has more than doubled, at the expense of all other species and many rare resources!

According to global monitoring data for 452 species, there has been a 45 percent decline in invertebrate populations over the past 40 years. Dirzo, Science (2014)
According to global monitoring data for 452 species, there has been a 45 percent decline in invertebrate populations over the past 40 years. Dirzo, Science (2014)

He must surely be driven to distraction by the global ignorance of these facts, and of their fearful consequences! But like the rest of us, he soldiers on and tries to find a way to influence the dense thickets of human indifference.

We now know that the only way to minimise a huge die-off, and to avert the accompanying environmental destruction, would be to stop and then quickly reverse population growth. We also recognise the arithmetical fact that only universal, voluntary, one-child families could produce that change – however unlikely it is that we could achieve global agreement to it (See Population Workbook).

But we must try – and meanwhile, plan how best to deal with nature’s imposed solution of human deaths rapidly accelerating into billions. And at the same time, we must find the best way to minimise the inevitable war-torn competition for resources, fast-growing starvation, epidemic levels of disease and massive movements of people who in their fight to survive, will not respect any political boundaries.

In considering these threats my heart sinks as I contemplate the millions of men around the world, beating their chests in pride at the number of children they are fathering – not realizing that they are operating a self-destruct mechanism. My attention is drawn to new figures about male fertility – reaching an appalling 13.6 in Niger. It is above 8.5 children per man in half of the 41 sub-Saharan countries for which we have data, and above 10 children in one quarter of them. It is time that we openly confront the males of our species about the incredible global damage they are causing – and about their ancient and outdated belief that females are inherently inferior.

And it is also time that the UN Organisation was able to negotiate the freedom to move from merely supplying population figures, to an active and wholly involved position in fighting population growth. The forces marshaled against our so-far puny efforts to control population are massive and relentless.

As Dr. Glen Barry says:

Gaia, the living biosphere, is infested with humans. Not just any humans, but the type that grow fat and reproduce exponentially by liquidating natural ecosystems. The population bomb has burst and we are seeing daily the predicted consequences of collapse and death in the climate, water, oceans, and on the land. Having spent much of my life working to protect Earth’s last naturally evolved primary forests from logging for inequitable over-consumption, I am today ready to declare defeat. Preserving Earth’s last large old-growth forests is a lost cause as there are simply too many people.”

If we are going to make any real progress on these problems, most of the world must know the true facts – and most of them do not.  Perhaps with UN assistance, we may begin with each of the world’s leaders and then move to influence education systems. How can we expect wide understanding of our plight, if all the facts are not made easily available and are not part of world-wide education systems?

Those facts must include at least:

•  The numbers and distribution of world population.

•  An overview of how these numbers have changed – and are changing.

•  The arithmetic facts about the necessity for one-child families.

•  A summary of the world-wide destruction we are wreaking – including climate-change.

To make those facts understandable and credible is a massive challenge for all of us. Let us begin now!

The MAHB Blog is a venture of the Millennium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere. Questions should be directed to

MAHB Blog:

Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedIn
The views and opinions expressed through the MAHB Website are those of the contributing authors and do not necessarily reflect an official position of the MAHB. The MAHB aims to share a range of perspectives and welcomes the discussions that they prompt.
  • stevenearlsalmony

    A letter of mine was published yesterday that could be something those in the MAHB network might find informative. It is presented in the following link,

    The way I see things each and every elder has both a responsibility as well as a duty to do whatever we can to speak out about what somehow could be real. If we choose to take this path, then we can securely hope for the best. I remain vigilant and hopeful that a sustainable way to the future will be found and taken. It is unadulterated fantasy and extraordinary hubris for the rich and powerful leaders among us to believe that they are “masters of the universe.” None of us can realistically lay claim to such status. Humans are wondrous and miraculous beings, but we are evolving creatures of Earth. In all our human-ness we have stumbled into a very serious predicament that appears to be of our own making. If we choose to own our marvelous creatureliness as well as our singular attributes as humans, there is no doubt that human beings can deliberately undo any knot that we have inadvertently tied.

    Then we can take necessary steps collectively by responding ably to any human-induced and -driven existential threat to future human well being and environmental health. A first step: immediately provide universal, free, safe, easily accessible, voluntary male conception. The ease with which patriarchal societies burden females alone with the whole task of restraining births is the greatest unfairness of my lifetime. Now here males must become equally engaged by acknowledging, addressing and overcoming the human population explosion. Historically, males have behaved in woefully inadequate, irresponsible ways when it comes to moving forward sustainably. Elder males and all self-proclaimed masters of the universe in my generation can claim responsibility for mortgaging the future of children everywhere and stealing their birthright.

  • stevenearlsalmony

    Gandhi said, greed of some results in need for others. Yes, there are people in need of substantial sustenance in Japan and many too many other countries. I cannot think of one country on the surface of Earth in which food distribution is fair and equitable to such an extent that people are not starving every day. Good people, imagine for a moment that we are looking at an ocean wave, watching it move toward the shore where it crashes finally at our feet. The wave is moving toward us; however, at the same time, there are many particles in the wave that are moving in the opposite direction, against the tide. If we observe that the propagation of the human species worldwide is like the wave and the reproduction numbers of individuals in certain locales are like the particles, it may be inaccurate for the latter to be looked at as if it tells us something meaningful about the former.
    Abundant research indicates that most countries in Western Europe, among many other countries globally, have recently shown a decline in their total fertility rates (TFRs) of human population growth. These geographically localized data need not blind us to the fact that the absolute global human population numbers are skyrocketing. The world’s human population is like the wave; the individual or localized reproduction numbers are like the particles.
    Perhaps a “scope of observation” challenge is presented to everyone who wants to adequately understand the dynamics of human population numbers.
    Choosing a scope of observation is a forced choice, like choosing to look at either the forest or the trees, at either the propagation numbers of the human species (the wave data) or localized reproduction numbers (the particle data). Data regarding the propagation of absolute global human population numbers is the former while individual or localized reproduction data are the latter.
    From this vantage point, the global challenge before humanity is a species propagation problem. Take note that global propagation numbers do not vary with the localized reproduction data. That is to say, global human propagation data and the evidence of reproduction numbers of individuals in many places, point in different directions. The propagation data are represented by the wave; the reproduction data are represented by the particles moving against the tide.
    In the year 1900 world’s human population was approximately 1.2 to 1.6 billion people. With the explosive growth of the global human population over the 20th century in mind (despite two world wars, ubiquitous local and regional conflicts, famine, pestilence, disease, poverty, and other events resulting in great loss of life), what might the world look like in so short a period of time as 32 years from now? How many people will be on the planet at that time? The UN Population has recently made its annual re-determination that the world’s human population will reach 9.8 billion people around 2050, and then somehow level off. No explanation is given for how this population stabilization is benignly and automatically to occur.
    We can see that the fully anticipated growth of absolute global human population numbers is about 8+ billion people for the 150 year period between 1900 and 2050.
    Whatever the number of human beings on Earth at the end of the 21st century, the size of the human population on Earth could have potentially adverse impacts on the number of the world’s surviving species, on the rate of dissipation of Earth’s resources, and on the basic characteristics of global ecosystems.
    For too long a time human population growth has been comfortably viewed by politicians, economists and demographers as somehow outside the course of nature. The potential causes of global human population growth have seemed to them so complex, obscure, or numerous that a strategy to address the problems posed by the unbridled growth of the human species has been assumed to be unknowable. Their preternatural, insufficiently scientific grasp of human population dynamics has lead to widely varied forecasts of global population growth. Some forecasting data indicate the end to human population growth soon. Other data suggest the rapid and continuous increase of human numbers through the 21st century and beyond.
    Recent scientific evidence appears to indicate that the governing dynamics of absolute global human population numbers are indeed knowable as a natural phenomenon. According to heretofore unchallenged scientific research, the population dynamics of human organisms is essentially common to, not different from, the population dynamics of other organisms.
    To suggest, as many politicians, economists and demographers have been doing, that understanding the dynamics of human population numbers does not matter, that the human population problem is not about numbers, or that human population dynamics has so dizzying an array of variables as not to be suitable for scientific investigation, seems not quite right.
    If I may continue by introducing an extension of my perspective.
    Data indicate that the world’s human population grows by approximately two percent per year. All segments of it grow by about 2%. Every year there are more people with brown eyes and more people with blue ones; more people who are tall and more short people. It also means that there are more people growing up well fed and more people growing up hungry. The hungry segment of the global population goes up just like the well-fed segment of the population. We may or may not be reducing hunger by increasing food production; however, we are most certainly producing more and more hungry people. The magnificently successful efforts of humankind to increase food production in order to feed a growing population has resulted and continue to result in even greater human population numbers.
    The perceived need to increase food production to feed a growing population is a widely shared and consensually validated misperception, a denial both of the physical reality and the space-time dimension. If people are starving at a given moment of time, increasing food production cannot help them. Are these starving people supposed to be waiting for sowing, growing and reaping to be completed? Are they supposed to wait for surpluses to reach them? Without food they would die. In such circumstances, increasing food production for people who are starving is like tossing parachutes to people who have already fallen out of the airplane. The produced food arrives too late; however, this does not mean human starvation is inevitable.
    Consider that human population dynamics are not biologically different from the population dynamics of other species. Human organisms, other species and even microorganisms have essentially similar population dynamics. We do not find hoards of starving roaches, birds, squirrels, alligators, or chimpanzees in the absence of food as we do in many “civilized” human communities today because these non-human species are not annually increasing their food production capabilities.
    Please take note that among tribal peoples in remote original habitats, we do not find people starving. Like non-human species, “primitive” human beings live within the carrying capacity of their environment. History is replete with examples of early humans and more remote ancestors not increasing their food production annually, but rather living successfully off the land for thousands upon thousands of years as hunters and gatherers of food.
    Prior to the agricultural revolution and the production of more food than was needed for immediate survival, human numbers supposedly could not grow beyond their environment’s physical capacity to sustain them because global human population growth or decline is primarily determined by food availability. Looked at from a global population perspective, more food equals more human organisms; less food equals less human organisms; and, in one and all cases, no food equals no humans.

  • Justin Beck

    I don’t really disagree with this article per say although blame on the overpopulation of the Global South leads in a bad direction. but funny to see this article immediately afterwards which is what I just bumped into:

  • Honestly people please join of the UN Population Fund, the largest, most widespread family planning actor in the world. We’ve been going since Bush defunded in 2002, now Trump, absolutely horrible man. Cheers, Jane Roberts

  • Jane O’Sullivan

    Bravo Eric. Great to focus on men’s share of the responsibility – but let’s remember that it’s not all men, and that women (even women we might view as repressed) also perpetuate anachronistic cultural norms. There are great men and women across Africa and South Asia working to change those norms and to deliver effective birth control, although they lack the scale and systemic support of the high-priority national family planning programs that were such a success in the 1970s and 80s. But the understanding that the new norm needs to be less than 2 is not yet there. Most seem to believe it’s enough to reduce family size by one or two per generation. It’s too late for that – it’s not going to avoid famine and bloodshed, let alone stem extinctions and deforestation. At least a score of countries got below 2 in one generation, so we know it can be done. Emphasising the benefits of well-below replacement – and that the greater demographic ageing associated with declining population is entirely manageable – are generally beyond the understanding even of those most dedicated to fertility decline.

  • Here’s two more trends that are actually more of a priority right now: 1. the trend towards authoritarianism and fascism 2. Religious fundamentalism. Both these trends means that pressing for one child families and birth control information will backfire. Economic growth and higher education for women are the two most powerful means of slowing population growth. We should concentrate on these because they are positive, uncontroversial and doable. The problems with authoritarianism and religious fundamentalism are much more immanent. What we are seeing as a result of these trends are the politicizing of knowledge and the increasing likelihood of war. Openly trying to reverse population growth is a non-starter on so many levels. It is far more likely to backfire and make things worse. Telling people they should have fewer children will almost always be perceived as an existential threat. Nature has all the trump cards here. We need to do what we can to preserve our civilization while we still have the chance.

    • Mike Hanauer

      There is much evidence that people become better off because of having a smaller family rather than the reverse. Further, I believe hiding the truth because it is unpopular has proven to be a failure. It is talking, not quiet, that evokes change.

      • People in developed countries are better off with small families, not so for undeveloped countries because of childhood survival rates and the need for more hands. What is the truth? That there are too many people? Which people are too many? Where? What should we be open about? Every answer one could give will be political. That’s why I say it is not a good way to frame the issue. Frame it in terms of development and education. Otherwise the supposed solution is worse than the problem.

      • Hear hear, Mike !

    • dono

      I disagree, it worked well in countries like Thailand where it was done as an education campaign that illustrated the advantages of small families.

      • I would say that economic growth is what is driving a slower birth rate in Thailand.

        • dono

          Thailand: A Family Planning Success Story – Context Institute
          Use of *contraceptives* among married couples has increased from 15 to 70 percent, and in 15 years*Thailand’s* population growth rate has been cut in half. It did not work in the Philippines largely because of the catholic church’s opposition.


          • Interesting. The article noted that the start of the population policy by the Thai government coincided with economic growth that led to an eventual doubling in per capita income. Perhaps the rise in income helped willingness to implement the policy. I’d be very surprised if the policy led to the increase in per capita GNP. Obviously not a one-size fits all solution. There are many countries in Africa and the Middle East where people would not take kindly to limiting offspring.

          • dono

            In the mid-1950’s, researchers in the Philippines believed that the countries population, then under 20 million, could easily support a population of 2.5 times its size. During this time the country leaders and Church officials, saw no need for population control since overpopulation did not exist in the Philippines. Yet later in that decade Jesuit demographers recognized that although the Philippines may not have an immediate population problem, the rate of growth was such that severe problems would arise in the near future.2 Coming from the Catholic church this may seem surprising but their position on population has always been inconsistent. In the Church’s early history, Thomas of Aquino 1225 – 1274), an Italian Dominican friar, Catholic priest, Doctor of the Church and now a saint, believed that it was not possible for a country to allow unlimited growth and he approved of laws limiting population size. He probably wasn’t the first to reach this conclusion but it puts him about 800 years ahead of many politicians today. However the decline in the number of Catholic faithful in Europe prompted Pope John Paul to encourage Brazilian couples to have more children to help solve the shortage of priests in the world.

            Early in his presidency Marcos solicited the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to assist his government in initiating population control measures, a process that had to be achieved discreetly by masking some of its family planning assistance through larger programs on maternal and child health. However Church support increased as they began to seriously react to the country’s population growth rate. By identifying population growth as a crisis and calling on the Church in Manila to take action, Frank Lynch, a Jesuit priest, called on other priests to take responsibility to further discuss population concerns with the body of the Church. Specifically, he wrote that;

            *It is my hope, shared (I dare say) by the majority of well-educated Catholics in the Philippines that the Church may soon speak more directly to their members, telling them in clear and certain terms…that the folk or folk-Catholic belief that one should place no control on family size or child spacing is opposed to the Church’s official position on the responsibility parents have toward children…. Catholic bishops and priests…have to speak openly and often against the false morality of those who extol large families and abandonment to Divine Providence as a prima facie evidence of supreme virtue. *

            As a result, the RCC and the government began to work together to address the issue of population growth in the Philippines. President Marcos institutionalized a national family planning program by creating a Population Commission (POPCOM)3 to study the issue and advise on a national policy. The focus of the commission was to decelerate the nations high fertility rates, yet consensus on how this was to be accomplished was considered problematic and, at best, unclear. At the time Lynch delivered his message, other Catholic sociologists brought an increased awareness of population problems and RCC officials started to become involved in the government birth control plan, making no objections and even sat on the POPCOM board. When POPCOM was first established, the RCC insisted that the rhythm be included in the methods offered, but did not insist on the exclusion of other forms of contraception. “Rather than either acceptance or condemnation of contraception, there was a tacit agreement by the Catholic hierarchy not to raise the issue.” This cooperation was sustained for many years, but would later have a bitter parting.

            As the 1980’s approached, POPCOM began to lose support and was repeatedly challenged by researchers who felt that an increase in population was needed for economic development. Withdrawing from POPCOM, the RCC began to challenge the government program with the sense that “it is not the number of people but the unequal distribution of income which causes poverty.” Critics of the RCC argued that, *”the big debate in the Philippines regarding population and development is not over the redistribution of resources, but about the morality of managing population growth through the use of artificial means of contraception.”*

            Further harming the potential growth of a strong population control policy at that time, the RCC began to publicly damage the advances previously made in support of a government family planning program. The government began to be attacked for having a population control orientation and, likewise, services suffered in their efforts to provide family planning assistance in the hopes of reducing the rapid population rate. In response to POPCOM’s weakened efforts, Catholic bishops declared the government program unjust because it used money that could have gone to alleviating poverty, was based on the false assumption that population hinders economic growth and was supported by the World Bank and “other agencies” Such language set government and church leaders on opposite ends of the spectrum and divided program supporters.

            All of which damaged POPCOM but may not have proved fatal if it were not for Marcos’s unpopularity and his involvement in the assassination of political rivals. The leader of the Catholic Church in Manila, a Cardinal with the unlikely name of Sin, *(he referred to his home as the house of Sin)* was an outspoken critic of the Marcos Government and waged a campaign to prevent the imposition of population-control policies. His speeches included the claim that the Philippine Government should follow the church because the Philippine population is predominantly Catholic it is therefore bound under pain of sin to obey the teachings of the Catholic Church. The concept of separation of church and state has always been a difficult concept for the religious. Priests throughout Manila preached sermons about the sanctity of life and the blessing of motherhood after an announcement by Prime Minister Caesar Viral that steps must be taken immediately to prevent the Philippine population, at that point 50 million, from eventually exceeding 115 million, the upper limit of the country’s resources.

            Marcos was eventually ousted and Cory Aquino rose to power by the true vote of the people but her support for a population control program became a victim of her need for Church support. As a result the government program took more of a pro natalist and child welfare stance as a requirement for the full participation of the RCC.

            As the only Christian Southeast Asian country, the Philippines still has one of the regions highest rates of population growth with its population now at over 100 million, up from 20 million in 1950. Twenty six percent of the population are living below the poverty line,4 an estimated 4 million slum dwellers in Manila alone, many with large families with up to10 children because the only the comparatively well off have access to contraceptives. Abortion is illegal with no exceptions for endangering a woman’s life, rape, or fetal impairment. This is a position taken by a group called the Alliance for Family Life International (AFLI) who attempt to advance a non-medical definition of pregnancy in the hopes of not only making contraceptive implants unavailable to Filipino women, but who would also prefer to see the whole Philippine POP Law tossed into the dustbin of history.

            The illegality of abortion has only made it more dangerous, estimates in 2012 show that 610,000 women resorted to abortion,5 over 100,000 women were hospitalized and 3 women die every day due to unsafe abortion complications. Forty percent of Filipinos considered “having enough to eat” every day among their biggest problems and while unemployment is officially 6.1% wages are minuscule for the unskilled.

            In order to survive many seek employment outside the Philippines especially in the middle east and Japan where they work as domestic servants or “hostesses” usually meaning prostitution. Poor families are forced to allow their children to be taken away from their families with the promise of good wages and a new life and even education, but wind up trapped by broken dreams, debt and the threat of violence. There are an estimated 4 million enslaved or exploited in child labour in the Philippines by a number of industries ranging from domestic service, mining, fishing, sugar plantations, to commercial sex and the selling drugs. To add insult to this list of injuries economists claim they were right about population fuelling economic growth because the Philippines, with a GDP growth rate of 6.8% has the highest economic growth in the region. It also has over 26 million people who aren’t impressed with economists.

            Its difficult to imagine what might have been if Cardinal Jamie Sin had the same grasp of exponential growth mathematics as Frank Lynch but whatever the outcome it surely must have been better for the Philippines. And perhaps elsewhere, Latin America, also largely Catholic, has a lower rate of poverty at 20% but with its higher total population it means there are 130 million in chronic poverty. Africa is in much the same position, The Vatican was able to keep their flock wary of modern birth control in part by linking it to colonialism: The West, the argument went, wanted to control poor people and reduce their numbers, instead of addressing the causes of their poverty. Largely as a result of the Vatican’s opposition to condom use Sub-Saharan Africa experienced the most serious HIV and AIDS epidemic in the world. In 2013, an estimated 24.7 million people6 were living with HIV, *accounting* for 71% of the global total, all because of what can be shown as a manipulation of the bibles teachings. 7

          • Fascinating. It seems to me that religion has become more of a factor now, instead of less. The Catholic Church leaders appear to understand that the church has a better chance of survival if their adherents remain poor.

  • JohnTaves

    I disagree with the minimum set of facts that must be a part of the world wide educational system.

    • The numbers and distribution of world population.
    • An overview of how these numbers have changed – and are changing.
    Both of these are irrelevant. They speak to nobody. These facts do not make the case that we must limit the number of babies we each create. And let’s be honest, every population expert and every population organization, starts with those facts and they have accomplished little for their efforts.

    • A summary of the world-wide destruction we are wreaking – including climate-change.
    This is also useless. There are an equal number of experts that will argue that there are plenty of resources, we just need to distribute them better. For example, there are articles here on MAHB where the author argues we need to conserve and share resources better. Whenever I attempt to point out the mathematical futility of discussing, thinking about, and cajoling for better sharing and less “overconsumption” by pointing out that averaging more than 2 babies attempts infinite population, I get absolutely nowhere. The fact is that almost nobody comprehends the basic principles of reproduction in a finite space.

    • The arithmetic facts about the necessity for one-child families.
    This is close to being useful. However, it makes it clear to me that Eric Rimmer does not really comprehend the fundamental principles, because if he did, he would not have worded this poorly and would not have wasted time writing about the other 3 bullet items.

    Here are the principles that must be known by our population scientists and taught to everyone in the world. These are facts. They are not my opinion. If you disagree, you don’t understand them. The wording I am using is providing you with a different meaning than I intended. I am totally willing to discuss the new phrases contained here. I had to create the phrases because the existing phrases from the population sciences are technically wrong or useless.

    1) Averaging too many babies for too long kills only children and only kills children.
    2) Humans and all species have always averaged too many babies. The starvation related child mortality that we see clumped into groups of the poorest people is proof. The poverty suffered by these families, villages, and tribes are caused by averaging too many babies world wide.
    3) Right now “too many” is 2 or more, because we are depending on consuming resources, such as fossil fuels, to keep our current numbers alive. We must average less than 2 until we no longer use resources faster than they renew.
    4) Your descendants will kill children if they average more than 2. You must teach them these facts to ensure they do not average too many. In order to ensure you, and your parents and grandparents do not contribute to averaging too many babies, you must not have another baby if you already 2, and you must not have another baby if your parents already have 4 grandchildren, and you must not have another baby if your grandparents already have 8 great grandchildren. (However, note that given #3 above, these maximums are too high right now. Right now, we must limit ourselves to 1, until such time as governments are helping to coordinate this.)

    For population scientists. The following is necessary to “deprogram” population experts current thinking. They have serious difficulty comprehending what I am writing because subconsciously they interpret my words into their own belief system.

    a) Note the difference between fertility rate and “averaging 2”. When I say “averaging 2” and in reference to the concepts in #4 above, people will not count their dead children. This means that 2 is the exact replacement number. In other words, I am inventing a different unit of measure that is NOT the same as fertility rate. The fertility rate replacement number used by population scientists of approximately 2.1 and is not useful for #4 above. It is also bogus because population scientists do not comprehend #1 above and therefore have not even attempted to factor out the deaths caused by too high a fertility rate, thus making the replacement rate a circular pile of crap.

    b) Extrapolating the trend of recent falling fertility rates into the future is horrible science. It is an inexcusable abuse the extrapolation technique. See #4 above. If your descendants average more than 2, all 7+ billion humans on this planet can have zero babies and yet the population still attempts to grow to infinity. This extreme example shows that extrapolating “low fertility” from the developed countries into the future is horseshit math. In order to extrapolate with any rational expectation that these projections will be relevant, you must prove that no beliefs that affect how many babies one has can be passed from one generation to the next. If any belief can exist that is successfully passed on to an average of more than 2, the population attempts to grow to infinity. Notice that no population scientist has every attempted to make that claim. This renders just about every conclusion from the demographic transition data nearly useless. This is simple math. This is not my opinion, and if you don’t understand what I just stated, you need to ask questions to learn it.

    c) Average wealth and average quality of life are useless measures for this topic. They are mathematically unsound, because dead children is the one and only consequence of averaging too many babies, and dead are never included in any average. We do not sacrifice wealth in order to keep other groups from suffering the consequences of averaging too many babies. We do sacrifice wealth to keep those nearest to us alive, and that is why we have the horrible side effects of grinding poverty and low adult life expectancy in the groups that are experiencing high rates of child mortality. The groups of people suffering starvation related child mortality proves this. Population experts have the nonsense belief that the consequences of averaging too many babies for too long has not happened yet because we have the highest average quality of life ever experienced by humans. They expect that as our numbers reach the limits, these measures will decrease.

    d) (x-2)/x children must die when we average x babies. If 1) the adult life expectancy is falling, or 2) the average age of the new parents is increasing, or if 3) the subsistence supply is increasing, then fewer than that formula dictates must die. More subsistence supply is also effected by reducing the income differential. The subsistence supply has been increasing for the past few hundred years, thus making it difficult for us to observe the obvious math formula in action. Notice that none of these 3 factors can be changing for long. They are all bounded.

  • Margit Alm

    What a wonderful article, absolutely spoken from my heart.
    But how can we get action? Start today with population decline in all countries that do not already practice de-growth.
    Contraception/family planning/improving life styles: As Virginia Abernethy pointed out in a study, that may not necessarily work. People may actually have more children if they can afford so; if for example the west gives aid to the third world that may lead to more children.

    Break the cultural traditions: That to me is the most important step. The desire for large families, seeing a status symbol in large families, preferencing males over females, needing children to look after the third agers – all that needs to be changed through a type of education that will convince those who get taught, in conjunction with economic improvements and the opportunity to provide really well for your one (or in exceptional cases two) child/children.
    (I am not opposed to cultural traditions. It is just that we have to separate the good traditions from the bad traditions.)

    In western countries we need to move away from the dependency on the state, the nanny state.
    Reproduction is not just a right, it is also a responsibility to bring up the child to a point where it reaches its full potential and becomes a contributing member to society. Thus, a parent (or parents) must be physically, mentally, intellectually, emotionally, socially and most of all financially be in a position to provide for the child

  • Marc

    “My attention is drawn to new figures about male fertility – reaching an appalling 13.6 in Niger. It is above 8.5 children per man in half of the 41 sub-Saharan countries for which we have data, and above 10 children in one quarter of them. It is time that we openly confront the males of our species about the incredible global damage they are causing – and about their ancient and outdated belief that females are inherently inferior.”

    You mean the males of Niger and of similar countries? You are making a gross over-generalization about the male-kind when you say “males of our species.” It reads like “let’s face it, males are evil, females are good” and creating a false equivalence between ecological problems and gender. Male fertility rates are already low in developed countries.

    Don’t rubber stamps this to gender. Ecological problems has little to do with gender. It is a problem of culture, religion, economic models, consumption, and lifestyle combined. Males and females together are both the unwitting creators and the victims of these forces.

    On a personal note, UN is a failed organization, like its predecessor League of Nations. You are fishing in the wrong territory. The change can and only can come from grassroots movements.

  • I’ve been writing about sustainability issues for over two years. I hadn’t even finished reading this call to arms before I added a link to it featured on my home page. I’ve considered a one child policy, actual somewhat less, as I proposed that birth certificates be transferable upon death, but only if death is non-Malthusian, and that during the ‘transition’ two ‘natural’ deaths be required for each birth per will of prior owner. Even if universally and voluntarily adopted, degrowing the population to a sustainable level could take 300 years. Such a ‘plan’ seems increasingly ‘feel-good delusional’ and I see the need to develop a better plan. On the inferiority of women meme, the data, first examined by Ashley Montague in ‘The Natural Superiority of Women’, tells a different tale. I differ from Eric, as in beg to, only in that I don’t believe in political ‘solutions’.

  • Rob Harding

    Thank you for this, Eric. Interestingly, I recently spearheaded an initiative to seek the UN’s involvement like you wrote about here. My goal is to catalyze an international campaign that leads to the UN establishing a Framework Convention on Population Growth.

    The initiative has received quite a bit of support already and it appears we are natural allies, so let’s talk. Please email me so we can set up a time to chat: Thanks!

    • Jane O’Sullivan

      Good thought Rob. Could we better start with an International Panel on Population Growth? Mirroring the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). That is a less political institution than the UNFCCC. An IPPG would not initially require buy-in from governments, just a panel of scientists willing to do the work. It would collate, distil and disseminate the facts, the options and their consequences.

      • Rob Harding

        Thanks Jane. I like your idea as well. I would say both are in order, given the circumstances. Perhaps we would lead with forming the IPPG, although time is not on our side and we don’t really need more studies when we already have a sufficient grasp of the viable options for lowering fertility rates and sustaining such lowered rates for the foreseeable future.

        In case this is of interest, I submitted a pitch for this idea to the UNEP ahead of their 3rd Annual Environment Assembly next week. It’s been received and submitted to their Head of Advocacy, and I requested that the proposal be brought up for discussion during the event. I won’t be in attendance and it was too late to work through their formal processes (i.e. the Global Major Groups and Stakeholders Forum).

        As a bit of context, when asked the UNEP confirmed the bizarre reality that their scientists and policy experts are not currently considering family size decisions as an environmental issue in their work. Clearly some room for improvement.

      • A great thought, ane !

  • Geoffrey Holland

    Essentially, every global scale challenge we face is driven by the simple fact that we have already overpopulated our Earth with humans. Literally billions of people are suffering from the simple fact that there are not enough resources on the planet to meet the needs of 7.5 billion humans.

  • Luis Gutierrez

    The following article is a comprehensive discussion that takes into account the social sensitivities as well as ecological anthropology:

    Discussing why population growth is still ignored or denied
    Helen Kopnina & Haydn Washington
    Chinese Journal of Population Resources and the Environment, April 2016

    • Rob Harding

      Thank you for sharing this article, Luis. For anyone on the fence, it’s certainly worth reading.

      I contacted Helen and Haydn, whose work I have followed through The Ecological Citizen as well as the Ecocentrism group on Facebook.

      My goal is to catalyze an international campaign that leads to the UN establishing a Framework Convention on Population Growth. The initiative has received a fair amount of support already across countries and continents and it appears that we are natural allies.

      Let me know if you’d like to discuss it further.

      • Luis Gutierrez

        Yes, I certainly would!

        • Rob Harding

          Ok great. Please email me:

          • stevenearlsalmony

            Dear Rob Harding, I would be willing to do as I am able to support your initiative at the United Nations. My contacts in the UNFPA may be helpful, provided they have not retired from the UNO. Jane Roberts would surely be a worthwhile advocate in your effort. She founded the 34 Million Friends of the United Nations Population Fund in 2002. She would also welcome any support you care to provide her 15+ year effort.

          • Rob Harding

            Thanks Steven. I appreciate your support. An introduction to your contacts at UNFPA would be very helpful, and I saw Jane’s comment on here as well as the 34 Million Friends website so I can contact her directly.

            As of now I’m in communication with the UN via UNEP, the UN Foundation, and the Harmony with Nature program. Just last week I asked my contacts at the UN Foundation if they can introduce me to leaders at UNFPA, UN Women, and the UN Population Division, but I haven’t received a response yet.

            There are supporters of this initiative in at least 10 countries across 5 continents so far – very exciting!

            In any case, you have my email address. Please consider introducing me to your contacts at UNFPA, or feel free to email me if you’d like to discuss this more. Thank you.

    • Thanks for article, Luis !

    • stevenearlsalmony

      Dear Luis Gutierrez, Happy New Year to you and All. Thank you for sending us this important article. As Rob Harding notes in this thread, this paper is well worth reading by anyone who is serious about finding the cause of global human population growth. Please note, however, that this well-documented perspective fails to plumb the depths of the vital question, “Why is the worldwide human population exploding.” The authors ignore extant scientific research of human population dynamics. If human population dynamics is essentially similar to (not different from) the population dynamics of other species, then human population numbers can be recognized as a function of food supply. Food not population numbers is the independent variable in the relationship between food and population of all species, just as food is the independent variable in the food-population relationship of other organisms. If this was not the case, the human species would be placing itself outside the scope of science. Human beings would have to be viewed as separate from (not a part of) the natural world of living things as well as beyond scientific inquiry. Human population dynamics would have to be discerned somehow as exceptional. Can humankind be realistically seen as a species apart from the natural world where it has evidently evolved? After all, the object of science is God’s Creation, nothing more or less, is it not? Whatsoever is IS, is it not?

  • Dane

    Here in the US, the fertility rate is not at replacement. Immigration is the only thing increasing the US population. While there is a lot that can be discussed around immigration, I would like to keep the discussion on fertility.

    The population could very easily be reduced without coercion, while saving money, while helping individuals, society and the environment. It can be done with one simple question, “Are you planning on becoming pregnant over the next year?”. If this question were asked by doctors and other medical professionals it would often lead to “Would you like some information about the contraceptives available for you?” This would decrease the 45% unplanned pregnancy rate dramatically leading to a reduction in the population (as well as the number of abortions)

    This of course could be done worldwide as well.

    • Margit Alm

      OK, that works in the US and may work in Australia or Europe or anywhere in the western world. But not in Africa or a lot of other third world countries where people are poor, women are oppressed, men just want to have fun

      • JohnTaves

        But it doesn’t work at all. It is fundamentally incorrect. You cannot ensure that we do not average too many babies by decreasing unplanned pregnancies. To understand this read #4 in my comment.

        Note, I do not mean to imply that decreasing unplanned pregnancies is not a good thing. It is a very good thing.

    • JohnTaves

      Decreasing the unplanned pregnancy rate by 45% will not stop us from over breeding. This is not an opinion, or some belief. I am merely stating a mathematical fact. See #4 in my comment above to understand why this is so.

    • dono

      Well the good men at the Vatican might not agree.

  • Jason G. Brent

    We must stop population growth today and not tomorrow. No that is not correct. We must substantially reduce the human population starting today. Neither stopping population growth nor decreasing the population will occur by voluntary action in time to prevent the collapse of civilization, the deaths of billions and even the extinction of our species.. We must institute coercive population control on a world-wide basis immediately. We must stop using the stupid words “family planning” and instead must use the correct words “birth control”. We must clearly state what should be obvious–anyone having more than one or two children is a mass murderer, depending on if we must stop population growth or if we must reduce the human population to survive. The latest UN’s numbers predict/estimate/project that humanity will attempt to reach about 11.2 billion by 2100, an increase of about 3.8 billion in just 83 years. Those numbers take into account that some nations are currently below replacement growth and some additional nation will become below replacement growth in the near future.Every human right, except the right to overpopulation and destroy humanity, is in some manner controlled by society when the exercise of that right harms another person. Cowardice rules.

    • Malthus2

      Hey, in case you haven’t noticed, coercion has not worked too well. Iran stabilized its population as fast or faster than China without resort to coercion. India had a backlash. Voluntary family planning is what will work to reduce births. Will it save humanity? Probably not, but neither will coercion which will cause a backlash that is regressive. Humans are clever but not wise and our demise is imminent because we are also short-sighted and greedy. Some of us have seen the problem for 50 years and have been writing and speaking out about it, but little has been done, because of apathy, religion and plain willful ignorance.

      • Jason G. Brent

        Please provide a detailed and factually supported analysis that voluntary planning will succeed in controlling population in TIME to prevent the collapse of civilization and the deaths of billions. The UN’s latest numbers predict that population will attempt to reach about 11.2 billion, a gain of about 3.8 billion, by the year 2100, just 83 years from now. And according to the UN, the human population will continue to grow after 2100. Have you analyzed all the problems presently facing humanity to determine, as best it can be determined, what is the chance that voluntary population control will fail to control population growth such that civilization will collapse? Only a fool would state that there is zero chance that voluntary population control will not fail.—there is some chance of failure and anyone who denies that fact is an idiot. What chance of failure should require the imposition of coercive population control? It is an act of insanity to rely on voluntary population control without determining, as best as it can be determined, the chance that voluntary control will fail. Voluntary population control will fail on a world-wide basis, in my opinion, so long as religion is opposed to the use of the most modern means of birth control and abortion.Can you provide evidence that my opinion is incorrect? Please provide a detailed time line as to when you believe voluntary population control will reduce population growth to zero and what the level of population will be when zero growth is reached. In addition, provide evidence that the earth can provide the resources to maintain that level of population at that level of resource usage for only 1,000 years.

        • Malthus2

          Here is what I said, “Voluntary family planning is what will work to reduce births. Will it save humanity? Probably not, but neither will coercion which will cause a backlash that is regressive.”

          NO, I don’t think voluntary family planning will necessarily save humanity as we are already way past carrying capacity and in overshoot mode. I am just telling you that you are not going to accomplish anything by offering coercion as the solution. It won’t work. Most people want fewer children than they are having, so give them the means to control fertility and fertility will drop and that has happened in Europe and Japan. It would only take about 1.5 percent of our bloated defense budget to provide contraception to everyone on the planet. It would be a good thing to do to minimize the agony of a population crash. Will that save civilization. Hell, it is likely too late already!! Also no need to worry about immigration, it is one planet, one humanity that is at stake here no matter where they live or move to.

  • Mike Hanauer

    And, we must react and act on Overpopulation, not just as a global problem, but also as a national and local problem — including in an Overpopulated USA. OverPop is not just “over there”. There is no global government – which greatly restricts global solutions – and while more UN guts would be helpful, “Think globally, act locally” must be a major part of the answer.

    • Rob Harding

      I agree, Mike. Yet as counterintuitive as it may sound, engaging on this issue through the UN will help us focus our efforts on national & local overpopulation so that every country on the planet is prioritizing efforts to pursue sustainable, stabilized human populations. Like I said to Eric, let’s talk about this some more. I’ve received a lot of great feedback so far and can feel the momentum building for the UN treaty initiative.

      • Mike Hanauer

        Rob, I do agree on a UN treaty initiative as a part of raising awareness! It is a part of a solution and appreciate your work here. Major obstacles I suspect include the USA and the Catholic Church.

  • stevenearlsalmony

    Simply superb presentation of the proverbial “mother” of all human-induced global challenges. If humankind were to completely solve derivative, secondary emergent and convergent global threats (climate destabilization, biodiversity loss, deforestation, global warming, oceans/rivers pollution, smog, etc.) to future human well being and environmental health, but fail to acknowledge, accept, address and overcome the challenge posed by the colossal as well as increasing size of the human population worldwide, then all the solutions to the secondary ‘symptomatic’ threats will have been in vain. We will have won a considerable number of Pyrrhic victories but lost the struggle for survival itself and the future of life as we know it. Three cheers for Eric Rimmer!

    • stevenearlsalmony

      “We have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men [and women].” — George Kennan

      “[N]ever before have we been so aware of what we are doing to our planet – and never before have we had such power to do something about it…..Surely we have a responsibility to care for the planet on which we live? The future of humanity, and indeed of all life on Earth, now depends on us doing so.” — Sir David Attenborough

      “It is no use saying ‘we are doing our best.’ [We] have got to succeed in doing what is necessary [now]…..The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays is coming to its close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences.” — Sir Winston Churchill

      Our children will rightly look back in anger and with utter disbelief at what my woefully misguided generation of elders has done so profanely to ravage what is sacred — a scintilla of God’s Creation, a planetary home for life as we know it to be — while claiming to be protecting and preserving it. Before their eyes we are stealing the children’s birthright to a good enough future. For all our greed, hubris, and cleverness, for our wanton destructiveness….for all these things we will not be worthy of even being remembered, I suppose.

  • GrowthBuster

    Very well articulated, Eric. Bravo! It is mind-numbing what a small percentage of the general population have any knowledge or awareness of this.