Those may seem fighting words given that the world’s population has doubled since the 1950s, and is expected to reach 9.2 billion by 2050. By this time the population will be peaking, and the slope likely to turn downwards. This issue certainly exercises the minds of some blog contributors, who see this as one of the greatest threats we face – and one that will contribute mightily to global warming.
But, by and large, it is over. The rate of world population increase has fallen by about a half since the 1960s. More and more people in poor countries are now using contraception, although Africa remains a problem for a variety of reasons (economics and high infant mortality among them). In fact people take to contraception like ducks to water wherever free facilities are readily available.
I make no claim to expertise here, and I have no doubt that those who have studied the question in depth will have some comments to make. I look at the UN projections, and I see estimates which vary between 8 billion and 10 billion by 2050. The major growth will take place in the less developed countries, while the developed countries continue to decline. Current world population is nearing 7 billion of which 60% is in Asia and 14% in Africa. Europe accounts for 11%.
The major factors in the assumptions are the control of disease. (Aids is important here) and the rate of fertility (changes in half a child per woman, up or down, make a substantial difference). These in turn depend on prosperity.
We are exhorted not to look at contraception as the solution to problems in Africa, but rather to put our energies into lifting Africa out of poverty by promoting sustainable development through different and positive means. But of course if that should be achieved it will certainly be accompanied by widespread use of contraception. That’s an interesting dilemma.
But lowered fertility rates are a mixed blessing. As they drop so the proportion of the elderly tends to increase, and this is accelerated by prosperity extending life expectancy. Were the overall fertility rate to drop below replacement level (as is already the case in Europe) the world would eventually decrease, and continue to decrease, in population. One would expect this to have a deflationary effect as consumers become fewer and the efficiency of production grows. And I take no account here of the demographic effects of global warming.
Population projections since the days of Malthus have tended to be over pessimistic, and the ingenuity of mankind to increase our ability to support population has proved remarkable. But there seems to be no doubt that there will continue to be many problems between now at 2050. And these will steadily grow. By that time I shall be aged 116, But many of you will be younger. Good luck!