Who makes the babies?

John P. Holdren, Paul R. Ehrlich | October 1, 2019 | Leave a Comment Download as PDF

population_sign_myopia

It is more important now than ever to talk about population. What will we do if we continue to grow at exponential rates? What are ethical, viable strategies to decrease population?

This is a blog in the MAHB ‘Let’s Talk About Population’ Blog Series.


This article was originally published on February 6, 1971.

Many middle- and upper-class Americans hold the convenient belief that the growth of the population of the United States is due mainly to excessive reproduction among the poor and ethnic minorities. In reality, fewer than one-third of the babies born in the US. each year belong to the poor, and fewer than 20 per cent to the non-white. Evidently, then, the backbone of our population growth is supplied by the parents of “Middle America,” many of whom assure themselves that having a third or fourth child is reasonable because they can “afford” it. Unfortunately, the heaviest costs of excess births do not show up in the family checkbook. Rather, they are measured in terms of stress on non-renewable resources, on the life support systems of the biosphere, and on the overburdened institutions of our society.

The seriousness of population growth among the affluent is magnified by their disproportionate pressure on resources and environment. This fact is most easily demonstrated quantitatively in an international context by comparing per capita consumption in rich and poor countries. For example, the average American consumes fifty times as much steel, 170 times as much synthetic rubber and newsprint, and 300 times as much plastic as the average citizen of India. The ratio of per capita energy consumption (perhaps the best single indicator of environmental impact) for the same two countries is 56 to 1.

Similar arguments, applied within the boundaries of the United States, indicate that a poor person in our own population has far less opportunity to loot and pollute than does the average American. Thus the slightly higher birth rate among U.S. poor is more than compensated for, in terms of stress on resources and environment, by their lower per capita impact (and the fact that they comprise a relatively small fraction of the population). The higher birth rate is of course a liability, but its consequences are most serious for the poor themselves. Statistically, not only are large families more likely to be poor, they are also more likely to remain poor. It is also worth noting that, although the poor have had relatively little to do with generating our environmental deterioration, they are often disproportionately its victims. The urban poor are confined to the cores of cities where air pollution is heaviest and urban decay and overcrowding are worst. Migrant farm workers may be spared the evils of modern urban life, but they suffer directly from agricultural pollution, especially misuse of pesticides.

It is particularly unfortunate that the Nixon administration has chosen to label the government’s new policy of extending family planning services to the poor as “population control.” This terminology has reinforced the erroneous beliefs of much of the public about the source of American population growth. More importantly, it has aroused considerable resentment among minorities, particularly black leaders, who often see such policies as a form of genocide aimed at blacks.

(Apparently, the public, including non-white minorities themselves, tends to equate “poor” with blacks, Chicanos, and American Indians, because higher proportions of these groups are in low income categories. Nevertheless, the majority of the poor are white, and the majority of non-white people are not poor. For instance, only about 30 percent of black families were classified as poor in 1967.)

In any case, the fears of genocide and economically selective programs have been fed by the attitudes of some population control advocates who seem mainly interested in controlling the reproduction of someone else, and by occasional abuses in existing birth control programs for the poor. Those who have encouraged such abuses, and others preoccupied with variations in the birth rate among different components of our population, should take consolation that a straightforward and non-controversial remedy is available. Specifically, among blacks and other minorities as well as whites, reproduction rates are closely correlated with income and educational levels. (Affluent black couples, for instance, have slightly fewer children on the average than do comparable white couples.) Thus, it would appear that minority and white birth rates will become indistinguishable as soon as minorities are provided the same economic, educational, and social opportunities as are now enjoyed by the rest of us. 

In the meantime, of course, contraception and subsidized abortions should be available to all Americans, white, black, or brown, married or unmarried. No one should be subjected to compulsory pregnancy. Government support of these measures through national health and welfare services is necessary and long overdue. At the same time, it must be recognized that programs envisioned as purely voluntary and non-coercive by Congress and federal agencies may be coercively administered on the local level. To guard against this possibility, local administration should be in the hands of the recipients of the services and their peers.

Finally, the subsidized provision of contraceptives and abortions should not be misconstrued as population control. Rather, these measures are the logical continuation of family planning, which has been part of the American scene for more than two generations. Population control is the conscious manipulation of population size and growth rate on the societal rather than the family level. If the failure of family planning to stabilize the American population necessitates the escalation to population control measures of some sort, the new efforts should certainly be aimed first at the middle and upper classes, where the societal (as opposed to personal) consequences of growth are greatest.


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

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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.
  • JohnTaves

    Cesar Valdivieso, Max Kummerow, Paul Ehrlich, and every other population expert:

    If your descendants average more than 2, everyone else on the planet can have zero babies, but yet, your descendants will balloon in numbers to the point where the population is at the limit and thus causing child mortality. If there is a group in Japan where they successfully pass on their beliefs to more than 2 offspring, everyone else on the planet can have zero babies, but this group’s descendants will rise in numbers to the population limit. Have you proven that this cannot happen?

    PUT SOME THOUGHT INTO THIS!!!!

    1) You have to prove that parents cannot influence how many grandchildren they have in order to have any hope that the demographic transition, that Max and Cesar have expounded on, is some sort of solution. Every population expert should comprehend this. This is not some sort of optional concept you can ignore.

    2) This makes a joke of the scientific techniques being used by population experts. It makes no more sense to sample, average, and extrapolate, fertility rates than it does to use a ruler to measure battery voltage.
    3) Run the clock forward 1000 years and do a survey. Ask everyone how many babies, grand babies, great grand babies, and great greats they created. Are you telling me that it is rational to conclude that nearly 100% will answer that they created no more than 2, 4, 8, 16, because you found a correlation between women’s rights, education, and wealth (oh and fossil fuel consumption) to “low fertility” during the most remarkable few decades in human history? Really?
    4) Did you know that you cannot offset your extras above 2 against others? It must be offset by your own descendants. If I have 3, those three must not create more than 4 grandchildren for me. Who knows this? Why is it not taught?

  • César Valdivieso

    John Taves, I clarify that when I say egalitarian I mean that everyone, especially women, has a good educational level and opportunities to participate in economic and political life. It has been shown that to the extent that women are more educated, and participate more in economic and political life, they tend to have fewer children. Please read: https://worldpopulationhistory.org/womens-status-and-fertility-rates/

    • JohnTaves

      “they tend to have fewer children”– This is simply not good enough.

      If we average more than 2 in this finite space called Earth, the one and only consequence is dead children. “fewer” is utterly irrelevant. There is a magic number 2, and 4, and 8, and 16 (children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, great greats).

      I am all in favor of everyone having a good education. That education should include the concept that correlations are not causation, so that we don’t have population experts using correlations to suggest solutions. It must include the fact that (x-2)/x children must die when we average x babies. It must include the fact that if your descendants average more than 2, they will kill children at the rate of (x-2)/x where x is how many children your descendants average. It must include the fact that because we are consuming resources faster than they renew we have a huge potential for premature death built up. It must include the fact that groups of people suffering starvation related child mortality exist throughout the world, and that this is caused by averaging too many babies world wide.

  • César Valdivieso

    The issue is not to determine which social class has more children, nor to plan coercive or compulsory measures to limit births. This is about designing more egalitarian human societies in which a highly educated population voluntarily understands and practices sustainable family planning systems. Ideally, we would be able to implement that new social model before the environmental and social collapse of the planet. If not, at least we will have advanced the work of the survivors.

    • JohnTaves

      “The issue is not to determine which social class has more children, nor to plan coercive or compulsory measures to limit births.”– Agreed, because no social class must average more than 2. If your descendants average more than 2, everyone else on the planet can have zero babies, but yet, your descendants will balloon in numbers to the point where the population is at the limit and thus causing child mortality. This brutal reality has nothing to do with race, social class, or anything else.

      “This is about designing more egalitarian human societies in which a highly educated population voluntarily understands and practices sustainable family planning systems.” — Um, well NO! This is about comprehending and ensuring everyone comprehends that when we average more than 2, we are attempting to grow the population at an exponential rate which is lethal in a finite environment such as Earth. A “more egalitarian human society” does not explain this at all.

      We will always average too many babies if we do not get off our intellectual asses and start understanding and teaching this brutal reality. Ehrlich, and all the other population scientists are totally failing to understand and explain these most basic concepts.

  • Max Kummerow

    Trying to unpack what Taves says (unclear to me what he’s getting at), I agree if he means that fertility rates (number of children per woman) is a choice people make as individuals–not determined by causal variables in the same sense that melting ice is determined by temperature. We are subjects, not objects. People choose numbers of children for many reasons of various kinds. Some are practical (We can’t afford a bigger house. Or, we need a boy to herd the goats.) Some are cultural (Chinese son preference, pressure from mother-in-laws who want grandchildren). Some are failures of contraception or the “default ‘on’ switch” that makes getting pregnant so easy that at least 40% of all pregnancies are unintentional. When I talk about “completing the world fertility transition” what I mean is trying to replicate the paths by which fertility has fallen below replacement in about 90 countries (out of 200+, about 45% of humanity now has less than 2.1 kids on average). Government programs to educate people about the problems of overpopulation and to point out that families can be better off–longer lived, richer, fewer kids dying–with lower fertility rates can help. Legal abortion and access to subsidized contraceptives helps. Sex education in schools helps. So can economic incentives like scholarships to keep girls in school. Improving the legal status of women so they can have lives and careers that don’t revolve so much around having many children. And so on. Mostly when women have choices they have chosen small families, “more for their children rather than more children” as Bob Engelman put it. My observation, after a visit to Norway, is that if you want to stop immigration, promote fertility reduction in source countries. Fertility reduction leads to rising prosperity. And that means that the fewer, better off people can stay home. Which is where they mostly would prefer to stay if their lives were less crowded and desperate.

    • JohnTaves

      That is a fine description of what the demographic transition belief system is all about. Unfortunately the science behind it is utter garbage. It’s like using a yardstick to measure voltage and drawing conclusions from those measurements.

      I’ve already stated that it is nothing but a bunch of hand picked correlations, and therefore there is no reason to believe it is some sort of mechanism that can be relied upon. It does not seem like you understood that point, so I will state it in a different way.

      Consider what happens if your descendants (your children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, etc) average more than 2 and everyone else has zero babies. The numbers grow to the point where the finite nature of the environment kills children. If your descendants average 3 babies, then 1/3rd of your descendant children will die. (x-2)/x children must die when we average x, where x > 2. That is the brutal reality of reproduction in a finite space like Earth. Do you understand this? Does Ehrlich?

      What bloody difference does it make if 45% of humanity has had less than 2.1 babies on average for the past few decades? If 100% of the countries have zero babies, except for my descendants who average more than 2, the population rises to the limit at an exponential rate.

      Sampling, averaging, and extrapolating are the wrong techniques to use here. If the fertility rate went to zero right now except one couple in Japan, whose descendants average more than 2, population experts would state that humans will be extinct in about 100 years. The techniques population experts use predict the exact opposite result from reality.

      Again, if one cannot prove that parents cannot influence how many babies their children have, this demographic transition belief system is total trash.

      Don’t waste your time giving me or anyone else more elucidation on the demographic transition. I stated that I understood exactly what you were talking about, so it does no good to elaborate. Instead, figure out what happens if parents can influence how many babies their children have. If you don’t understand this, you’ve missed one of the most basic, and important concepts on this topic.

  • Posted on behalf of Joyce Huesemann, Ph.D.

    The old article by Ehrlich and Holdren is fine as far as it goes. However, the elephant in the room is immigration — excessive, uncontrolled immigration fueled by business interests and supported by Democrats and Republicans alike (even though Republicans are making a lot of noise to placate their base). Business interests want cheap labor and more customers. You should be looking at who profits from overpopulation, in particular, overpopulation in the U.S. Here and worldwide, it is greed at the top and ignorance at the bottom, and nobody is examining that. Also, regarding immigration, 85% of future population growth in the U.S. will be caused by immigration. I am aware that this is not “politically correct” among progressives like us, but it needs to be addressed. There are positive and humane ways of decreasing immigration. Why don’t you stop ignoring this major problem in this country? Progressives refusing to address the immigration problem is exactly what has led to Trump as well as other right-wing demagogues coming to power in Europe.

    Neither is anyone talking about the enormous influx of Chinese and East Indians who are overwhelming our universities (both as students and professors), our tech companies, and our national labs. Not just low-level but high-level job opportunities for Americans have shrunk precipitously, and nobody is discussing that. It is hypocritical to chide Americans for having 3 or 4 children, and then let millions of immigrants into the country each year.

    We would do well to have a 1 child policy in this country, but we will have to seriously reduce immigration for it to have any effect at all.

    • JohnTaves

      What is the point of being concerned with immigration? Consider what happens if your descendants (your children, grandchildren,
      great grandchildren, etc) average more than 2 and everyone else has
      zero babies. The numbers grow to the point where the finite nature of
      the environment kills children. If your descendants average 3 babies,
      then 1/3rd of your descendant children will die. (x-2)/x children must
      die when we average x, where x > 2. That is the brutal reality of
      reproduction in a finite space like Earth.

      Have you proven that without immigration there is no one in the USA whose descendants will average more than 2?

  • Howard Goldson

    This article creates a whole other discussion. If as claimed, the major anthropocene population issue is not solely determined by population numbers, but those numbers modified by the use per capita of each person, then the entire analysis must be rethought with the likely result that the living habits of the global north will have to be changed significantly.

    • JohnTaves

      The population issue is not determined by population numbers. It is also not modified by the use per capita of each person.

      It is determined by one thing only. How many babies we average. If we average more than 2, our numbers are attempting to grow to infinity. It makes no goddamn difference whether we consume a lot per capita or a little. The difference between those two only determines the population size when births, which are arriving faster than old age deaths, start causing child mortality.

      This topic is so frustrating because the math is so goddamn simple and yet nobody, not even Ehrlich, gets it!

  • Max Kummerow

    Substituting the word “Trump” for the word “Nixon” this post still sounds as relevant now as then. Perhaps a new factor enabled by the opening of legal immigration to more family members (Trump’s in-laws for example), is the increasing role of immigration in U.S. population growth. A difficult dilemma since we like to welcome “the tired, hungry and poor” but the more come, the more America crushes the environment. The long run answer is to complete the global fertility transition. We don’t get many immigrants from Ireland or Italy or Norway anymore, since they dropped below 2 children/women birthrates and that helped them get more prosperous. Now if we could help that happen in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras (and Africa, Haiti, the Philippines, India, etc.) then the world would be on the right track towards sustainable prosperity.

    • JohnTaves

      “The long run answer is to complete the global fertility transition.” — Sorry, this is nonsense. Yes, I know exactly what the demographic transition is. It’s nothing more than a pile of correlations. Population experts have no goddamn excuse for equating these correlations with causality and suggesting that there is some sort of thing that needs to complete.

      There is no justification for thinking that there is some sort of “transition” that can be “completed”. Nobody has ever proven that parents cannot influence how many grandchildren they end up with. The failure of our population scientists to comprehend this is shockingly bad. Find anyone that states that parents can or cannot influence how many babies their children have! This concept is so fundamental to this topic, yet so totally absent in any discussion of population it is unbelievable!

      This is mind blowingly bad science. Think about it! Population experts have correlated many factors to low fertility in the most remarkable period in human history and are allowing one to conclude that this “low fertility” is here to stay! Why don’t they report on the correlation of low fertility to fossil fuel consumption? Why do any of this if parents can influence how many offspring their children create?!?!?

  • Arnold Byron

    I’m not a population scientist. I am free to think outside of the box that is created from other people’s thinking.

    We are all parts of humanity. Humanity has begun its march into the future. If we try to end humanity’s march we are committing a form of suicide. This means that we must maintain humanity until some natural event occurs, such as the sun going nova in about a billion years. Our challenge is to find the resources to feed the population. The question is: How large a population will fit within the available resources while giving up enough space for the habitation of the myriad species of plants and animals that constitutes nature?

    The population of humanity today is nearly eight billion people. I think back to when I was in high school when the population was at three billion. I was concerned about my life style, i.e., my family, friends, acquaintances and opportunities. People living today have the same expectations as did the people living when the population was one billion, or five hundred-million. Please tell me all of the reasons why we cannot reduce the population to a much smaller number than we have now. I cannot think of any.

    Humanity has already grown large enough to have put itself into overshoot. Humanity is on the march toward collapse. Should collapse occur the population will obviously be reduced, but in a disastrously devastating way filled with pain and hardship for all. Collapse will end when the population has reduced itself to be in sync with the available resources. Being in sync with the available resources means that the population will not be able to grow larger that it will be at that time. The population will not be able to regrow to the overpopulated size it is today. The future of humanity is to become stabilized at a point where resources are available and to remain stabilized forever. This means that no woman can have more than two children ever in the future.

    We are at the point right now where the population needs to be reduced. We are in overshoot and need to become in sync with available resources. Think about fossil fuel and food. We seem to have abundant food right now, but we are living a lie. We use fossil fuel to grow our food. We make our fertilizers out of fossil fuel. Our farm machinery uses fossil fuel. We use fossil fuel to transport food around the world. When the supply of fossil fuel runs out we will not be able to continue raising enough food. Collapse will occur.

    But, if we are smart, we can figure out a way to reduce the population in a nonviolent, non-eugenic, fair, safe and human manner. Mrs. Ehrlich and Holdren speak of using contraceptives to limit the number of children born to each family. Using contraceptives, IUDs for women and vasectomies for men, will give a one hundred percent expectation of birth control. When a couple is ready for children and the world is in a time of population reduction then the child is born woman will be fitted for an IUD and the man would be given a vasectomy. If the world is in a time of maintenance then the need for population control will occur after the second child is born. Every woman will be able to have two children. My guess is that after one generation, everyone will be used to IUDs and vasectomies and will accept this new way. This will be the way of humanity for the future.

    From the beginning of time there was always an abundant supply of resources. Now is the time in the march of humanity that a new paradigm must be accepted, promoted and brought to fruition. This new paradigm must be global. It must reach around the world. In order to institute and coordinate all of the work that will need to be done a global office must be put into place by the nations. this global office will be given limited authority to work on solutions to problems such as; reducing the population, removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, ending the use of fossil fuel, feeding the people and reducing the hazards from all things nuclear and plastics degradation.

    I believe that all of the above are doable. I have made a plan I believe will work. It is called My Plan for the Nations and can be found by using the following links.
    https://www.ofpopulationandpollution.com/uncategorized/46/
    https://mahb.stanford.edu/?s=A+Plan+for+the+Nations

    • Utsav Mulay

      In your plan for nations – what are your thoughts on the new design for smaller nuclear plants developed by Bill Gates and his team – which fundamentally takes the danger of nuclear fallout to zero, uses spent nuclear fuel and can sustainably power the planet at zero emissions?

      Please check out the docmumentary – Inside Bill’s Brain – and share your thoughts. The position on atomic energy may need a rethink.

      • Arnold Byron

        I did not look at the documentary. It appears to be a Netflix product and I do not do Netflix. However i did look around and found an article by Axios that gave information on Bill Gates’s company, TerraPower, and on what appears to be a similar company called NuScale. I am glad that scientists and entrepreneurs are interested in resolving the issue of nuclear waste. Nuclear waste must be made safe for humanity and for nature as humanity marches into the future.

        Creating arsenals of atomic weaponry and creating atomic power plants has been a grave mistake. Tinkering with the atom began about one hundred years and has resulted in a staggering amount of nuclear waste of all kinds and of all half-lives. I welcome the emergence of new technology such as TerraPower and NuScale might provide. Technology that will truly convert dangerous nuclear waste into benign substances that can be safely sequestered will be a godsend.

        The inhabitants of Earth do have an atomic power plant. It is the sun. It is safe. There are three renewable energy sources: the sun (which provides solar and wind), gravitational pull and geothermal action. These three renewable sources will provide all of the energy that humanity will need provided that the size of the population is in sync with the amount of energy that can be captured from these renewable sources. Food to eat, electricity for heat and light, energy for travel and other power needs can all be safely and happily supplied by these renewable resources. But let me reiterate: the population must be reduced until it reaches the proper size to be within bounds of the supply of energy made available by the renewable sources.

        I want to give a big thank you to billionaires, to government taxes, to insurance funds, to other corporation funds and even to tax havens for having a supply of money that can be made available to create and put companies such as TerraPower and NuScale on line. There is enough money in the world to do all of the work that will be needed to devise and bring to fruition all of the solutions that will solve all of the crises that humanity is currently facing. Humanity must decide to fund a superhuman effort to put companies such as these on line as soon as possible. Once on line the atomic energy plants that are currently creating nuclear waste can be shut down.

        Nothing is easy. What I have just written may not be even possible. But I like to think of an axiomatic statement that goes like this: if everybody wants a job to be done and if everybody works at doing that job, then the job will be done.

        I want Bill Gates and his team to develop the technology and the facilities that will make nuclear waste safe for humanity and nature. I want the people to help by making sure there is enough money and wherewithal to ensure the job gets done. I want everyone to understand that when the supply of nuclear waste has been made benign and safely sequestered the facilities will be dismantled and our mistake will be finally corrected.

        The generations living today have to straighten out the mess we are in. There is no one else to do it. We all must change the way we think about the way we live. Things will not remain the same. We all must be willing to change our way of living and be willing to adopt a new paradigm for the future.

      • JohnTaves

        Oh, cool, more efficient power production so that we can enable more humans to live at one time (a larger population) here on Earth…. Great, now explain how that will possibly satisfy the demand if we average more than 2 babies world wide?

        Go ahead and explain how we won’t average more than 2 offspring?

        What goddamn difference does it make if we double the food production, energy production, or any other measure of resource availability? Will it be infinite to match the demand that averaging more than 2 babies produces?

    • JohnTaves

      “From the beginning of time there was always an abundant supply of resources.” — No, there never has been as much resources as our births have attempted to consume. We have always averaged more than 2 offspring and thus our numbers have relentlessly attempted to grow. The limited supply of resources has always throttled that growth by killing children. Dead children is the one and only way nature can stop the attempted growth to infinity that averaging more than 2 causes. We have always had groups of people suffering starvation related child mortality.

      Of course the answer is to use contraceptives. But that totally fails to answer how to ensure that EVERYONE limits themselves to 2 children, or 4 grandchildren, or 8 great grandchildren. There cannot be any belief system that is successfully passed on to an average of more than 2. NONE! It is not a question of how to have sex without making a baby.

      Notice how utterly useless our population expert, Ehrlich, is on this. He discusses consumption?!!?!? WHY? It makes no difference whether we consume a lot or a little. If we average more than 2, our numbers attempt infinity. If we average less than 2, our numbers decrease peacefully. Not once does Ehrlich show any comprehension of that basic math. Not once does he state that your descendants must not average more than 2. NOBODY’s descendants can average more than 2. We must explain the fact that if your descendants average more than 2, your descendants will kill your descendant children, to EVERYONE on the planet.

      The problem is our population scientists don’t seem to get the basic math in this topic and thus fail to teach the basic math that we all must know. If we don’t have our experts on the topic comprehending the topic, we have no chance of educating the rest of the world.

  • JohnTaves

    “Many middle- and upper-class Americans hold the convenient belief that the growth of the population of the United States is due mainly to excessive reproduction among the poor and ethnic minorities.”

    Most, if not all population scientists, including Ehrlich, hold several untenable convenient beliefs. For example they think that population growth is the thing to be concerned with as if we are somehow filling the space here on Earth as if it is not already full,

    Let’s imagine that the subsistence production is stable, so that it is impossible for the population to grow. In this situation population growth is not a problem. More people cannot be fed. It cannot grow. But…. if we average 3 babies in that situation, 1/3rd of the children will fail to become adults. If we average 4 babies, half the children will die. Clearly we should talk about how many babies we average and not the population growth. They are two very separate concepts and there is no excuse for a population expert to confuse the two. What Ehrlich probably meant to say is that “Many middle- and upper-class Americans hold the convenient belief that it is only the ethnic minorities that average more than 2 children.”

    “Unfortunately, the heaviest costs of excess births do not show up in the family checkbook. Rather, they are measured in terms of stress on non-renewable resources, on the life support systems of the biosphere, and on the overburdened institutions of our society.”

    Um. NO! That is not the heaviest cost. This belief is the norm among our population scientists and it is dead wrong, and I do mean that literally. It is murderously wrong. The only cost is dead children. When we average too many babies for too long there is one and only one required consequence: Dead Children. If we average 3 babies long enough in this finite environment, 1/3rd of all children will die before becoming an adult. The stress on the environment and life support systems of the biosphere can be nil or it can be huge, it makes no difference. Ehrlich surely must know this very basic math, so what is going on here?

    I can only guess. The staff of MAHB refuses to discuss this and I have gotten no response from Ehrlich to countless posts here. I can only conclude that scientists are even more entrenched in their beliefs than us common folk, because they believe they are immune to illogical beliefs.

    Here are the guesses:

    1) He assumes there has not been enough time for humans to have grown our numbers to the point where births are causing child mortality,
    2) He has not recognized that at the population limit, dead children is the one and only thing that must happen when our births are attempting population growth that the environment cannot accommodate. Come on people. Do the simple math!
    3) He assumes we will all collectively sacrifice our environment, wealth, and share our subsistence to ensure that children do not die.
    4) He assumes that we magically regulate our fertility world wide to prevent the population from growing to the limit.
    5) He has assumed that the population limit is characterized by mass starvation and misery, and because we don’t have those symptoms, we are not at the point where births are killing.

    There are groups of people suffering starvation related child mortality right now. This proves that:
    1) there has been enough time for humans to run the numbers up to the point where births are killing.
    3) we do not all collectively sacrifice our environment, wealth, and share our subsistence.
    4) we don’t magically regulate our fertility world wide to prevent these deaths
    5) the unbelievably historically enormous wealth we are enjoying today is totally consistent with a population that is at the limit and trying to exceed it and also growing that limit at the same time.

    “many of whom assure themselves that having a third or fourth child is reasonable because they can “afford” it.”

    The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, which is certainly using the conventional wisdom of our population scientists, believes this too. On youtube search for Melinda Gates TED talk about contraception. In that speech she makes it clear that it is OK that she and Bill Gates had 3 children because they can afford it. Let’s think through what happens if we all flawlessly follow that algorithm. Nobody gets pregnant if they will be unable to supply their children with enough nutrition. If we do this algorithm, then no child will die because we averaged too many babies. However, if those that can afford children average 3, then 1/3rd of the children will grow up to be so poor they know that they cannot have a baby. I am saying that we have a huge ignorance problem. The Gates, who are genuinely concerned about overpopulation and are certainly consulting population experts are ignorant of the most fundamental math at the bottom of this topic. This is a huge failure of our population scientists, like Ehrlich, to know this and ensure it is taught.

    “The seriousness of population growth among the affluent is magnified by their disproportionate pressure on resources and environment.”

    Again, Ehrich is stating “population growth”, when he really should be stating “how many babies we average”. This line of thinking makes no sense. It makes no difference how much resources one consumes. If we average more than 2, we are attempting to grow the numbers to infinity at an exponential rate. Children must die wither we consume a lot each or a little each when we average more than 2.

    If your descendants average more than 2 everyone else on the planet can have zero babies, but still the population will grow to the limit and your descendant children will die because your descendant children are averaging too many babies. Let’s say that your descendants have the same per capita consumption as the USA and that the maximum people that can be kept alive at one time with that level of consumption is X. Your descendants will cause the death of children when the population reaches X. For example, if they average 3, then 1/3rd of the children will die when the population reaches X. On the other hand if they consume as much as an average Indian, which is 1/56th of what the USA citizen consumes, then they will kill children when the population is 56 times larger than X. SO WHAT!!! Why do we care that more can be crammed into this finite space called Earth if we consume less per capita? Why don’t we stop the cramming? Why don’t our population scientists get off their intellectual rear ends and start understanding and then explaining the fundamental facts?

    The one and only thing that matters is how many babies we average. If you create another baby when you have 2, or create another when your parents have 4 grandchildren, or create another when your grandparents have 8 great grandchildren, you are attempting to grow the population in a finite space, which is murderously bad.

    If you have extra, then your descendants are the only ones that can correct that. Let’s say you have 3 children. You might be thinking that the neighbor that had only 1 offsets your extra above 2. You are wrong. Only your descendants can offset the extra. If your children create more than 4 total grandchildren for you, then they are attempting to grow the population in a finite space. Again, attempting infinite growth in a finite space is murderously bad.

    Ehrlich, Learn this. Teach this!

  • Greeley Miklashek

    “…the heaviest costs of excess births..” shows up in the deteriorating health of humanity and biosphere. Population density stress is killing us NOW through all of our myriad and rapidly increasing “diseases of civilization”, none of which are to be found in sparsely populated traditional living hunter-gatherer clans/bands worldwide. So, a perspective parent now faces bringing the next child into a collapsing climate, a disease ridden “modern” man-made physical environment filled to the brim with constant stressors, and the end stage of Capitalism, not to forget the nearly $500K price tag just to get the poor bugger to age 18! Child bearing is becoming an increasingly selfish and unjustifiable act. Get a stuffed pet instead, save the lives of the children already suffering here, and save the planet. Stress R Us

    • JohnTaves

      No, sorry, that is fundamentally wrong. Excessive births only kills children and kills only children.

      Imagine there is a machine at every entrance to the building you are in that crams another person into the building every second. You are saying that this machine is going to cause population density stress. Sorry, but it does not have to. It can simply kill. Lock all the doors to the interior rooms to ensure the killing happens near the machine and all the other inhabitants will be just fine. You have the belief that we all make space for the new ones and cram ourselves more and more densely and endure more stress. We don’t, and why should we? The machine will kill at the rate of 1 per second no matter what we do.

      Averaging more than 2 is exactly that machine. It relentlessly shoves more people into this space. The victims of that machine must be children and only children. This is not my opinion. This is not my belief. This is dirt simple math. If more than an average of 2 grow to be adults, the population is growing. This is not possible for long in a finite space like that building or Earth. The one and only thing that can happen to stop that attempt at infinity is to prevent children from becoming adults. That is called child mortality, or killing children.

      “deteriorating health of humanity” Optional
      “deteriorating health of the biosphere” Optional
      “population density stress” Optional.
      Dead children. Not optional.

      If we average more than 2, we are going to kill children regardless of whether we have any of the other symptoms you referred to.