thoughts on how to slow or stop population growth

thoughts on how to slow or stop population growth

Home Forums MAHB Members Forum thoughts on how to slow or stop population growth

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    • #9283
      Harry Cowan

      How about giving an incentive to the people who are most at risk for over-populating when they start early and who it’s most costly to in terms of restricting their future life options. I’m talking about teenagers.
      We tell them it’s a good idea to stay in school and to not get pregnant but hormones have a way of short circuiting any good intentions.
      My premise is based on it being more costly to society for 30% of teens to have a baby (or more) than for society to pay teens not to have kids. This incentive also applies to staying in school.
      Starting in grade 7 (age 12?) put away $100 a month (nominally $1000/year) in a trust fund, administered by the school system, making sure to give the kids online access to watch that amount grow with each passing month. The $6000 would be available for tuition, etc. on starting college or university. By that time they’ve had 6 years of it being drilled into them (by school AND parents). If they choose not to seek higher education, the money would be paid back out to them, say at $100 per month, just so they don’t go nuts with $6000 in their 18yo pockets.
      Those who leave school or are involved in a pregnancy get nothing.
      Some options –
      The parents could be asked for supplementary contributions for even more incentive.
      If kids need more immediate gratification, a certain percentage (say 10-20%) could be made available for cash withdrawal.
      The program could be continued through college.
      This could also teach kids financial responsibility.
      I think everyone agrees that the older and more educated kids will have fewer children.

    • #10009
      John Taves

      First we need we to understand and teach the fundamentals of population so that everyone can know the cost of averaging too many offspring.

      We must know the following:

      1) Our numbers are at, and have always been at the limit, where births are causing child mortality. Like all species, adult humans average too many babies and that excess forces child mortality to rise to ensure the population does not grow faster than nature can accommodate.

      2) We are unable to keep our numbers alive without destroying the resources necessary to achieve that feat. This tells us we must average less than 2 children until it is not necessary to consume resources faster than they renew in order to keep our numbers alive.

      3) Averaging too many children is a worse evil than infanticide. (Note, this is not my opinion, it is an objective fact. see )

      4) If your descendants average more than 2 children, they will overpopulate the planet even if everyone else has no children.

    • #11075

      This is a million dollar question but I would also opt for incentivising those who choose to live without offsprings or limiting their family numbers to one offspring. Definitely we must challenge common assumptions even in the West where families believe that since the West has low population growth it is desirable or even a responsibility to have more than one child per family to keep the national interests at check. Many of my peers end up with 3 children which as we know have higher ecological footprint than average 7 children from, lets say, Bangladesh or India.

      So population myths must be challenged! Lets put together a list of such assumptions in this forum.

      • #11083
        John Taves

        I don’t see why the 4 concepts above are not just the thing you are looking for. These 4 concepts are not understood by either population scientists or the general public.

        For example, as far as I can tell the Ehrlichs have never said that births are killing, which is what #1 above says. The Ehrlich message is effectively “if our population keeps growing the environment will be degraded.” Their words are putting the problem into the future, and failing to state that premature death will be the result of our actions. Worse is that they do not identify the action, averaging too many babies. In effect, their words speak to nobody.

        I am identifying facts that are unknown, but you asked for myths. I don’t know why the Ehrlichs do not know those facts, but I will speculate. Maybe it is because they have the belief, or myth, like Malthus had, that people do regulate their births and that somehow magically this ensured that the population limit has not been hit yet.

        Myth #1: Malthus described the process where the poor consciously or unconsciously reduce their fertility in their struggle to stay alive. The myth is that this sort of individual fertility reduction magically adds up across the whole population such that the population is not attempting to drive our numbers to the limit.

        Myth #2: When the population hits the limit, there will be famine wars and vice that will limit the growth the ugly way. This myth was started by Malthus. The myth is that the effects of too much population growth will be obvious.

        Myth #1 and #2 are two sides of the same coin. If you believe that the population has not hit the limit, then you have to invent some mechanism that ensures we do not average too many babies. Of course you believe that humans are different from other species in that we can control our fertility, but if you want to believe that this individual control adds up to some overall good, then you have to believe that we are not at the limit now and therefore the symptoms we see today are not enough starvation, conflict, and vice.

      • #25027
        Eric Hiatt

        Myth #1: Malthus described the process where the poor consciously or unconsciously reduce their fertility in their struggle to stay alive. The myth is that this sort of individual fertility reduction magically adds up across the whole population such that the population is not attempting to drive our numbers to the limit.

        Myth #2: When the population hits the limit, there will be famine wars and vice that will limit the growth the ugly way. This myth was started by Malthus. The myth is that the effects of too much population growth will be obvious.

        Malthus didn’t have a sense of how an environment of impoverished organisms would regulate itself as a collective “super-organism”. I’ll outline just a few aspects of this super-organism since all of them certainly aren’t known, and one person wouldn’t be able to understand them all if they were. Note that I don’t think anything that could be called “free will” exists. The Ehrlichs, or at least Paul, think such a faculty exists, but I’m not sure how they justify it.

        Perspective is important because it allows more depth to words. I think it’s rational for some people to take a “deterministic” perspective since we must explore the solution space of existence, and no one can guarantee the correct model right now, so we must explore a multiplicity. Of course, I think “determinism” is correct and I think “free will” is a harmful concept, but that’s another long topic. The quotes around “determinism” are just to allow for anti-intuitive possibilities in the mathematical models of the Universe, where perhaps the conceptions of determinism, like free will, break down under scrutiny. This would not surprise me. The whole concept of “causality” bothers me on a fundamental level. It’s macroscopically “apparent”, and entropy seems to be an aspect of causality – the cost of it. I just mean, when I think about the Universe existing “moment to moment” – and whether that can even be defined – can we find something that can be said to be “causal”?

        People will try to say, for example, that gravity causes objects with mass to exert an attractive force on one another. Or because of distortions of spacetime will move closer, or whatever. Well, “forces”, which are just mathematical models and not the phenomena themselves, don’t explain anything. It’s like how a painting of a tree doesn’t explain a tree. Mathematics doesn’t explain what makes a force “work” – it’s just a “painting” of the shadows of Universal relational aspects we call “forces”. I then don’t understand what it means for concepts of unknown and probably intuitively impossible to grasp ontological status to be “causing” anything. Causality would intuitively seem to require a mathematical definition, and yet saying a force is a “cause” is not saying anything. How is the Universe “updating” itself “moment-to-moment”? I know that we don’t know the answer to this. Therefore, this “causality” concept is suspect.

        And then note that “free will”, in wanting to cause an organism to do something, is left with two mysteries – the nature of causality and the nature of free will. Interestingly, free will seems to manifest the causality inherent in the Universe while not being utterly determined by it. This is a strange idea.

        But back to Malthus. Human beings are driven by homeostatic pressures – to eat, have sex, nurse an addiction, etc. To understand why the poor have so many children might be to understand if there’s some energy-survival curve being traversed which manifests in biological adaptations to a harsh environment. Instead of this being a case of poor people being “mysteriously masochistic” or some such, maybe they’re at the mercy of a complex of environmental and biological pressures. I think people have tried to use k/r selection theory to explain this, appropriately or not. And I think theories have moved on from k/r – becoming more complex. The point is that we should understand the pressures that create this reproductive situation so they can be mitigated. It’s hard to fault Malthus for not seeing this complexity. We still don’t see it. It must be there, however. People have epigenetic responses to stress and malnourishment that can last for generations, for example. These changes to individual organisms will change the relationships between the population, which will change the character of the super-organism. Perhaps having a lot of children is more ideal for this impoverished super-organism, or perhaps the benefits don’t manifest clearly at that level, but only at the family-node level. These poor people certainly aren’t going to have the meta-cognitive capacity to understand the biological underpinnings of their emergent behavior.

        As to the second point I don’t think Malthus was wrong. Again, he couldn’t predict the explosive impacts of technology – on our ability to create so much food. And it’s trivially easy to see that he’s right. If a trillion people were suddenly put on the planet, could we feed them? If not, then there’s a limit. How then does a species approach this limit? This is aside from the fact we have a few billion starving/malnourished people on the planet. It’s a disgrace.

    • #11079
      Michael Tobias

      My life partner and I have no children. We promote no children. We equally promote veganism and have done the math to know what 7.3 billion+ vegans would mean for the five primary Kingdoms of Life.
      It is an obvious calculation if anyone takes the time to examine it. The ethics, underlying the math, are self-evident.

    • #11807
      Didem Aydurmus

      More thoughts
      1. I find a money incentive immoral (even if it works to a certain extent). It would be effective in a sense, but mainly for poor people whose footprint is not comparable to the consumerist class anyway.
      2. Norms and morals need to change. Having children needs to be understood as a selfish act and not the opposite. Parents need to clearly understand that having more than one child means stresses the resources for the other one i.e. stealing from the future. This is connected to making parents in general aware of their responsibility towards their offspring and that driving them to soccer practice is not doing any good for them.
      3. Feminism is a huge problem, since parenthood should not be understood as a personal choice but as a burden on society and non-human animals.
      4. If monetary incentives are necessary, get men involved (already young men). Celebrate those men who get a vasectomy. And give something back (make sure it won’t be spent on buying a car) – conditional monetary incentive.
      5. Education helps but has a huge time lag.
      6. If we financially burden families with children, we probably end up burdening the children who are innocent.
      7. Anything super effective might borderline human rights violations, but on the other hand future generations’ survival is at risk, so are we going for greater evil for the fear of doing something that seems inappropriate?
      8. Fertility clinics need to be outlawed.
      9. The psychological damage policies might cause needs to be balanced with the putative physical damage inertia costs.

      I’d loved some feedback.

      • #12461
        John Taves


        I suggest you read my posts on this topic. The fact that births arriving in the world so frequently that they are causing child mortality should have some effect on what you think is moral. These facts need to be known. If a large percent of the population comprehends these concepts, the morality should be different from what it is now, which should have profound effects how your 9 options are perceived.

        Regarding your #7 “future generations’ survival is at risk”, the fact of the matter is that the births are causing death right now. This is not some future possibility.

        I don’t understand #3.


      • #25029
        Eric Hiatt

        It’s interesting that you think feminism might be a problem. I’ll have to ask some feminists this question. Life creates entropy, so every child you bring into the world is competing will all other life – current and future – for resources. This perspective should be drilled from a young age. It doesn’t mean we have to live dull, ascetic lives either. It should be tied to specific responsibilities and still be generally adaptable.

        I think “super-effective” would be getting mothers to have sterilizations after one child, if the child could be promised quality health services and education. If the child had something like autism, there could be clauses for handling those situations as well.

        We need to cut down on population, period. This idea needs to become part of the “zeitgeist”.

    • #13829

      In considering this topic, we need to KNOW that out of more than 220 Global countries in more than 110 the fertility rate is already less than 2.1 child per woman . For that reason we need to find the ways to encourage countries like Nigeria, Rwanda, Madagascar, India and many other poorer countries to educate their people to reduce fertility of more than four or five ch/woman to the replacement level of 2.1 ch/woman. Only than we could hope that standard of living in most countries would reach a comfortable sustinance level, and save the local environmental health. Dan Kustudich

    • #15605
      greeley miklashek

      This is a critically important discussion for the survival of humanity and the biosphere. We have long ago surpassed the Earth’s sustainable carrying capacity for our numbers and I suggest that the increasing world-wide disease load being bravely countered by our dedicated medical professionals, with ever more heroic and expensive techniques, is the clear indicator of our population overshoot. My researches have uncovered an over-active stress response in the vast majority of modern humans, which underlies virtually all disease, and controls populations of all other mammalian species, except those we artificially support with many of the same techniques that are increasingly necessary to keep us alive. Only by continuation of Earth resource exhausting techniques will we continue to abate the inevitable coming human population collapse, unless we quickly move to one-child families world-wide and begin voluntary human population reduction. For anyone interested, exhaustive documentation may be found in my MAHB Library contribution, “STRESS R US”.

    • #16813
      Randolf Richardson

      When I look at various countries throughout the world, I’ve noticed that in higher educated societies that also value freedom (to speak, to write, to think, to make personal health decisions, etc.) generally tend to have lower birth rates. I suspect that one of the reasons for this is that education inspires many people to take a more academic interest in different aspects of life, and thus possibly hindering the desire to have large families — people still want to be parents, but because they have an educated mindset they would likely be more naturally inclined (because they are educated) to consider the long-term ramifications of serious decisions like having children (and may even be more motivated to adopt, etc.).

      In countries where there is less education (which seems to coincide with more poverty), people generally have larger families. One correlation I’ve also noticed is that in these countries it seems that religion is a lot more popular, and of course religious are typically against birth control methods like contraception, abortion, etc., and generally encourage people to have more kids (although this seems to be encouraged unofficially as an attitude).

      So, three things that come to mind for me immediately as the most important elements in reducing the rate of population growth are:

      1. Ensuring that everyone has access to evidence-based education (Kindergarten to Grade 12 needs to be free at the very least).

      2. The empowerment of women to have full freedom to make decisions concerning their own health, and without having to have their decisions questioned (that also means that laws, politicians, and religious institutions must not be permitted to interfere in any way with any pregnant woman’s choice to have an abortion).

      3. Protecting everyone’s freedom to express any idea, and question any idea in any manner, regardless of what the idea is or its source (e.g., political opinion, government policy, scientific fact, religious claim, etc.). These freedoms (and many others) need to be protected as inalienable rights so as to foster openness, honesty, and transparency in society at all levels from individual citizens to all aspects of government.

      In the long term, I believe that education, empowerment, and freedom are important keys to improving the population rate problems that are of concern today, and that they make it possible to do so without the need to impose population controls.

    • #24989
      Dave Gardner

      While progress has been too slow, at least it is finally becoming “okay” to discuss responsible family size decisions. The GrowthBusters team filmed this video

    • as we approached random strangers on the street to see if they were ready for this conversation. We got surprisingly little pushback. It’s a start. Sharing this video is one way we’re working to make small families the new norm.

  • #25281

    Thanks Mr. Gardner for the information. Growthbusters is a great information site. As a new member, I find all the comments on the MAHB informative as well. Surprised that comments are spread so thin over 3 years.
    Family planning is a key issue and empowerment of women leads that. Maybe the best way to show the world how serious overpopulation is would be for the so-called ‘developed’ countries to lead the way and begin an active campaign of birth control, as the GB site said, one baby in a developed country has far more of an impact on carbon reduction than a third world country. By leading the way and reducing populations this can send a signal to all nations how serious the threat is. And the positive side of that is that developed countries will have more room for climate refugees and education for those children. I could go on but this can lead into many positive opportunities.

  • #25285
    MAHB Admin

    @jimbo1968 and @emdelmarglobaltrust-org, thank you for taking the time to respond to this thread, we are looking forward to having you involved with the MAHB. It is wonderful to see you taking advantage of the forum and the MAHB is looking at ways to increase engagement with this space. Would you be willing to share your thoughts as users on ways it could be improved?

    I also wanted to point you in the direction of the MAHB Blog where a lot of additional comments have been shared on these topics. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me at

    Thanks! Erika (MAHB Communications Officer)

    • This reply was modified 5 years, 3 months ago by MAHB Admin.
    • This reply was modified 5 years, 3 months ago by MAHB Admin.
  • #25229
    Elena Marszalek

    It is important to note that there are 214 million women worldwide with an unmet need for contraception – a number that is projected to increase due to Trump (defunding UNFPA and reinstating and expanding the Global Gag Rule/Mexico Policy).

    Discussing family planning is still very controversial in the United States, but investment in this area must increase.

    (Moderator’s note: this response was edited 8/23/2017 to include “million” following 214 in reference to the number of women worldwide with an unmet need for contraception)

    • This reply was modified 5 years, 3 months ago by MAHB Admin.
    • This reply was modified 5 years, 3 months ago by MAHB Admin.
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