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John Bongaarts
on Mon, January 7, 2013 at 06.54 pm
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Population Dynamics

Why rapid population growth is a problem

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John Bongaarts:

Population growth remains rapid in many poor countries. For example, the population of West Africa is expanding at an annual rate of 2.6 % and is expected to more than quadruple in size by the end of the century. The projected addition of one billion people to the region’s current population of 320 million is an obstacle to development and makes it difficult to be optimistic about the future of this and other regions with similar demographic and socio-economic conditions. There are several reasons for concern:

-Environmental degradation: Global environmental problems (e.g. climate change, decreasing biodiversity) receive much media and scientific attention in the West, but are not a high priority for policy makers in poor countries, except where substantial populations live in low lying coastal areas (e.g. Bangladesh). Instead, most developing countries have critical local environmental problems that require urgent attention, including shortages of fresh water and arable land, and water, air and soil pollution. Environmental stresses have been building up over time and are likely to become much more severe as populations and economies expand further.

-Economic stagnation: In poor societies population sizes often double in two or three decades. As a result, industries, housing, schools, health clinics, and infrastructure must be built at least at the same rate in order for standards of living not to deteriorate. Many communities are unable to keep up, as is evident from high unemployment rates, explosive growth of slum populations, overcrowded schools and health facilities and dilapidated public infrastructure (i.e. roads, bridges, sewage systems, piped water, electric power, etc)

In addition, rapidly growing populations have young age structures. The resulting low ratio of workers to dependents depresses standards of living and makes it more difficult to invest in the physical and human capital needed for expanding economies. The size of the formal labour force is also limited by the need for women to remain at home to take care of large families.

-Maternal mortality: High birth rates imply frequent childbearing throughout the potential reproductive years. Each pregnancy is associated with a risk of death, and this risk rises with age of the mother and the order of the pregnancy. In the least developed countries the life-time risk of dying from pregnancy related causes is near 5% and many more women suffer related health problems or disabilities.

-Political unrest: Half the population of the least developed world is under age 20. Unemployment is widespread because economies are unable to provide jobs for the rapidly growing number of young people seeking to enter the labour force. Vigorous competition for limited numbers of jobs leads to low wages which in turn contributes to poverty. The presence of large numbers of unemployed and frustrated males likely contributes to socio-economic tensions, high crime rates and political instability.

Of course, population growth is not the only or even the main cause of poverty in the developing world. Nevertheless population growth has pervasive adverse effects on societies and hinders development efforts. Poor countries would be better off with lower population growth rates.

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David Lam:

I agree with John Bongaarts that rapid population growth continues to pose serious challenges for many poor countries, especially in Africa.  John provides a clear statement of several of these important challenges.   John argues that these countries’ rapid population growth makes it difficult to be optimistic about their future.  While I also worry about the future of the world’s poorest countries, their demographic conditions alone should not be viewed as preventing economic development.  To see why, we need to put these conditions into a historical perspective.

The 2.6% annual population growth rate that John reports for West Africa is indeed very high and a cause for concern.  It is important to keep in mind, however, that many middle income countries experienced similar growth rates.  Brazil and Thailand, for example, had annual population growth rates of 3% per year in the 1950s and at least 2.6% per year in the 1960s.  Both had over half their population under the age of 20 throughout the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, similar to the percentage John reports for the poorest countries today.  In spite of these demographic challenges, both countries have had strong economic performance.  Brazil’s per capita income in 2011 was about 3.3 times its 1960 level; Thailand’s per capita income in 2011 was about 8.4 times its 1960 level.

Brazil and Thailand have both had large declines in fertility, a factor that has contributed to their economic success. But both had rapid growth of per capita income during the 1960s and 70s, a time when their populations were growing as fast as West Africa is growing today.  And while Brazil and Thailand have been particularly successful, they are broadly representative of Latin America and Southeast Asia more generally.

There are two lessons here.  First, the demographic challenges we see in the poorest countries today are similar to those experienced by other developing countries in the last 50 years.  Second, it is by no means impossible to have rapid economic growth at the same time as rapid population growth.  Africa’s high population growth may be more a symptom than a cause of poor economic performance, a theme I will return to in future entries.

 

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Tags:
bongaarts, lam
Topics:
Population Growth, Environmental Degradation, Water, Health, Growth
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Africa, Bangladesh, Brazil, Thailand, Asia
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Africa Youth on Rio +20 (Earth Summit 2012)
Sun, November 23, 2014 at 03.31 pm
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Randolph Femmer Biologist (marine biology and whole-systems ecology)
Wed, July 2, 2014 at 12.02 pm
There are several problems with the CGEC, IUBAT post below (one of which is that its erroneous assertions are repetitiously-posted five times).

A far more SERIOUS problem, however, is its supposition that Earth's thin-films of biospheric life-support machinery (that produce each day, for example, the molecular O2 that we each inhale every few seconds) are indestructible, and should be counted upon to always continue to function no matter how much damage, degradations, poisonous wastes, and non-stop, continuing, and ever-widening eradications that humankind's collective billions inflict upon them.

How much damage should any complex system be expected to endure and still continue to function as it has always done in the past? Would the IUBAT representative inflict daily, continuing, ever-increasing degrees, and vast percentages of damage upon a family automobile, for example, and expect it to continue to function as it has always done in the past?

(Would he entrust himself or his family to an elevator or an airplane or a space vehicle that has been and continues to be subjected to ongoing, non-stop, ever-increasing, and vast-percentage eradication of its systems and components?) (Would he inflict ongoing eradications and damage upon a key farm animal such as a cow, for instance, while saving tiny “representative” sample portions of its body parts, such as 10% of its circulatory system, 12% of one kidney, 5% of its liver, and an ear and part of one eyelid?) Not a very wise policy, right?

Do we know anyone, however, who appears to treat the ONLY planetary life-support machinery so far known to exist anywhere in the universe in a similar way? (For more on carrying capacity we suggest http://www.scribd.com/doc/118659074/Population-Carrying-Capacity-and-Lim... ).

In a more human context, a current article on crowding, malnutrition, and poverty in Bangladesh (accessible at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poverty_in_Bangladesh ) suggests that too many citizens in IUBAT’s country face considerable population and crowding deficiencies that other, less crowded countries do not face. Examples cited in the above article, for instance, include significant degrees of poverty in both rural and urban areas, food insecurity, childhood malnutrition, lack of services such as education, health clinics, and limited access to clean drinking water. In addition, with 51% of its population under the age of 24, Bangladesh is going to face massive instability if it cannot suddenly produce millions upon millions of non-poverty jobs. Lastly, because education constitutes a powerful “pathway out of poverty,” parents who are not able to afford to send a large number of children to college have a better chance of sending their offspring to college if they are working with a smaller family size of just one or two children.
Lal Manavado undefined
Fri, July 4, 2014 at 07.24 am
Dear Randolph Femmer

It is seldom one sees cogent arguments put forth to demolish the fallacies inherent in reductive approaches. I hope your remarks would induce people to take an impartial look at their pet 'theories' and impart to them the intellectual courage necessary to revice or reject them, for if we flatter ourselves as sapient beings, we must of necessity let the once 'good reasons give place to better'.

Best wishes!

Lal Manavado.
Lal Manavado undefined
Fri, July 4, 2014 at 07.24 am
Dear Randolph Femmer

It is seldom one sees cogent arguments put forth to demolish the fallacies inherent in reductive approaches. I hope your remarks would induce people to take an impartial look at their pet 'theories' and impart to them the intellectual courage necessary to revice or reject them, for if we flatter ourselves as sapient beings, we must of necessity let the once 'good reasons give place to better'.

Best wishes!

Lal Manavado.
Lal Manavado undefined
Fri, July 4, 2014 at 07.23 am
Dear Randolph Femmer

It is seldom one sees cogent arguments put forth to demolish the fallacies inherent in reductive approaches. I hope your remarks would induce people to take an impartial look at their pet 'theories' and impart to them the intellectual courage necessary to revice or reject them, for if we flatter ourselves as sapient beings, we must of necessity let the once 'good reasons give place to better'.

Best wishes!

Lal Manavado.
Barbara Rogers """Barbara Rogers, independent writer and researcher. Author of """"The Domestication of Women""""."""
Wed, July 2, 2014 at 03.03 pm
The argument that population growth somehow creates economic growth would become a lot clearer if the economists started (from today?) to express GDP and its growth in per capita terms. It would then become clear that in many countries, economic growth is simply not happening for people, even though the figures on the chart might look pretty. They simply do not reflect a reality of any improvement.
Come on, World Bank and United Nations, stop promoting illusions of growth. Tell it like it is: GDP per head. Acknowledge that more people equals more needs., and of course more demands on the earth which it cannot sustain.
Louise from
Wed, July 2, 2014 at 09.38 pm
Water, ocean acidification, resource scarcity, conflict or collaboration? The elephant in the room is GDP. Why continue the growth pretence why not accept that so much growth is due to women's reproductive work. Unpaid, not valued and not recognized . The need for GDP to be replaced is essential as the services of Mother Nature are not valued either. Do go back to Marilyn Waring's book " Counting for Nothing" from 1987!
Do value caring work. Do recognize the unpaid work load and allow women to control their fertility . Do engage with a collaborative approach as it is the only solution. Conflict destroys. Infrastructure, homes and lives and the communities we live in. Wake up and use the technology and information we have today to realise social justice principles and value the small planet we live on and need to be in harmony with so that future generations can survive and thrive. Education for all is a key principle as is gender equality.
Louise
CGEC, IUBAT—International University of Business Agriculture and Technology
Fri, June 13, 2014 at 01.45 pm
Population is not a problem but an asset. So-called carrying capacity of the earth designed by the western philosophers is absolutely vague term. The strongest countries are those have more population. Bangladesh is a small country with an area 147,570 sq km but carrying 170 million people. On the other hand Australia and Saudi Arabia are many times larger than Bangladesh but having 35 and 25 million people. If all Bangladeshis migrate to Australia or Saudi Arabia, can they feed these people? But it is sure that if all Saudis and Australians come to Bangladesh it can easily feed all of them. What is the miracle? It is the soil. The soil of monsoon and Mediterranean regions has the largest capacity in the world. But what happened with this resource? Europeans migrated most- but why? Not the Indians or Chinese or Malayans!! In the name of Technology, they (the Europeans) spoiled the soil of Mediterranean region and also later on are destroying other parts of the world in the name of development. In the temperate region, there is only scope for one crop but in the name of modern development many of the temperate crops spread over the Monsoon and Equatorial regions and destroyed the cultivation practices and imposed their so-called technologies with trade and business or by directly ruling many countries and with so-called segregation or monoculture and estate farming. There are hundreds of examples of the colonial rulers who did this only after the 16th century. If you consider the J-curve of population growth and analyze the causes of deaths, life span, then it becomes clear the reasons of population boom in the western countries. So, please do not kill the soil and water; preserve the biodiversity and landscape of the earth and the earth will feed and save you. Please learn from the pigeon but don’t killed them with Broiler Chicken. Thank you….. Mohammed
CGEC, IUBAT—International University of Business Agriculture and Technology
Fri, June 13, 2014 at 01.41 pm
Population is not a problem but an asset. So-called carrying capacity of the earth designed by the western philosophers is absolutely vague term. The strongest countries are those have more population. Bangladesh is a small country with an area 147,570 sq km but carrying 170 million people. On the other hand Australia and Saudi Arabia are many times larger than Bangladesh but having 35 and 25 million people. If all Bangladeshis migrate to Australia or Saudi Arabia, can they feed these people? But it is sure that if all Saudis and Australians come to Bangladesh it can easily feed all of them. What is the miracle? It is the soil. The soil of monsoon and Mediterranean regions has the largest capacity in the world. But what happened with this resource? Europeans migrated most- but why? Not the Indians or Chinese or Malayans!! In the name of Technology, they spoiled the soil of Mediterranean region and also later on are destroying other parts of the world in the name of development. In the temperate region, there is only scope for one crop but in the name of modern development many of the temperate crops spread over the Monsoon and Equatorial regions and destroyed the cultivation practices and imposed their so-called technologies with trade and business or by directly ruling many countries and with so-called segregation or monoculture and estate farming. There are hundreds of examples of the colonial rulers who did this only after the 16th century. If you consider the J-curve of population growth and analyze the causes of deaths, life span, then it becomes clear the reasons of population boom in the western countries. So, please do not kill the soil and water; preserve the biodiversity and landscape of the earth and the earth will feed and save you. Please learn from the pigeon but don’t killed them with Broiler Chicken. Thank you….. Mohammed
CGEC, IUBAT—International University of Business Agriculture and Technology
Fri, June 13, 2014 at 01.40 pm
Population is not a problem but an asset. So-called carrying capacity of the earth designed by the western philosophers is absolutely vague term. The strongest countries are those have more population. Bangladesh is a small country with an area 147,570 sq km but carrying 170 million people. On the other hand Australia and Saudi Arabia are many times larger than Bangladesh but having 35 and 25 million people. If all Bangladeshis migrate to Australia or Saudi Arabia, can they feed these people? But it is sure that if all Saudis and Australians come to Bangladesh it can easily feed all of them. What is the miracle? It is the soil. The soil of monsoon and Mediterranean regions has the largest capacity in the world. But what happened with this resource? Europeans migrated most- but why? Not the Indians or Chinese or Malayans!! In the name of Technology, they spoiled the soil of Mediterranean region and also later on are destroying other parts of the world in the name of development. In the temperate region, there is only scope for one crop but in the name of modern development many of the temperate crops spread over the Monsoon and Equatorial regions and destroyed the cultivation practices and imposed their so-called technologies with trade and business or by directly ruling many countries and with so-called segregation or monoculture and estate farming. There are hundreds of examples of the colonial rulers who did this only after the 16th century. If you consider the J-curve of population growth and analyze the causes of deaths, life span, then it becomes clear the reasons of population boom in the western countries. So, please do not kill the soil and water; preserve the biodiversity and landscape of the earth and the earth will feed and save you. Please learn from the pigeon but don’t killed them with Broiler Chicken. Thank you….. Mohammed
Krishna Kant Jha from
Tue, June 10, 2014 at 02.25 pm
It is true that that countries like USA preferring stabilizing population remains winner and countries like India allowing population explosion is loser in terms of development and quality of life. In Indian case I have observed that traditional irrational approach towards population growth is responsible for the disaster. Attitudinal change through cultural education since childhood through specially trained teaches could be the remedy. But political leaders could not afford to do this keeping an eye on vote bank. China is trying for population control (having advantage of being single party Govt.) may be able to control the situation. International policy centrally decided and planned to implement across the world may be helpful. Success of any positive action plan is possible only by well educated people through rational approach.
Krishna Kant Jha educationist and development economist
Tue, June 10, 2014 at 02.21 pm
It is true that that countries like USA preferring stabilizing population remains winner and countries like India allowing population explosion is loser in terms of development and quality of life. In Indian case I have observed that traditional irrational approach towards population growth is responsible for the disaster. Attitudinal change through cultural education since childhood through specially trained teaches could be the remedy. But political leaders could not afford to do this keeping an eye on vote bank. China is trying for population control (having advantage of being single party Govt.) may be able to control the situation. International policy centrally decided and planned to implement across the world may be helpful. Success of any positive action plan is possible only by well educated people through rational approach.
BUSINESS INNOVATION RESEARCH DEVELOPMENT
Mon, June 9, 2014 at 09.54 am
Hello, thank you for the post. It is true that fast population grow is consumming more resources than the slow grow (Malthus principle). So, we need anothe earth planet (maybe). The fact is the planet is not growing quickly -or will not grow quickly by 2050-2100 (10 billion is the expected plateau of the grow curve (UN). Most population are ageing. There will be more old people in the world soon than young people -due to the increase of the life-expectancy-
BIRD-http://fr.slideshare.net/gsradjou
Randolph Femmer from
Mon, June 9, 2014 at 06.09 pm
First of all, before accepting the above supposition of some soothing "plateau" by 2050, every citizen on Earth should note that biologically and biospherically speaking, Earth's carrying capacity for a modern industrialized humanity with a prosperous standard of living for all is on the order of two billion or even somewhat less (this is not just food and resources, etc., but also admits to the massive, rapid, non-stop, increasing, and ever-widening avalanches of worldwide damage, eradications, and wastes) - and, of course, we were already inflicting damage, wastes, and massive eradications all around the world by 1987 with five billion and 1999 with six billion.

Now let us address recent U.N. projections which contemplate 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, or 15.8 billion by century's end - (and. speaking biospherically, anything even approaching the latter higher-end numbers constitute the demographic and biospheric equivalent of a collision trajectory with a near-Earth asteroid). (a) Fertility declines that demographers once anticipated for many of the world's poorest and least-developed LDCs have not developed as expected and have instead stalled. Note that this already begins to undermine the mid-range estimates. Secondly, in 2011 two of the world's foremost demographers (Joseph Chamie and Carl Haub) wrote several articles expressing worries and/or assessments that the U.N.'s HIGHER-END projections may be the ones most likely to emerge. We will excerpt two of three sample observations from the those 2011 articles which we list below:

1 Chamie, J. 2011. As Africa Multiplies http://www.theglobalist.com/StoryId.aspx?StoryId=9228 (11 July 2011)

2 Chamie, J. 2011. Africa’s Demographic Multiplication http://www.theglobalist.com/storyid.aspx?StoryId=9167 ( 13 June 2011)

3 Haub, C. 2011. What If Experts Are Wrong On World Population Growth? http://e360.yale.edu/feature/what_if_experts_are_wrong_on_world_populati...

In his article, for example, Haub wrote of “the real possibility of fertility decline stopping before the two-children level is reached requires demographers, policymakers, and environmentalists to seriously consider that population growth in the coming century will come in at the high end of demographic projections. The UN’s middle-of-the-road assumption for sub-Saharan Africa — that fertility rates will drop to 3.0 and population reach 2 billion by 2050 — seem unrealistically low to me. More likely is the UN’s high-end projection that sub-Saharan Africa’s population will climb to 2.2 billion by 2050 and then continue to 4.8 billion by 2100”.

In his articles Joseph Chamie, former Director of the United Nations Population Division, reports that the population of middle Africa, for example, “is projected to triple by 2100,” while the populations of eastern and western Africa, where populations are currently 324 and 304 million respectively, “…are projected to more than quadruple, with each having 1.4 billion people by 2100”.

Let’s let those numbers sink in for a moment: First, 1.4 billion in eastern Africa by the end of this century, plus another 1.4 billion in western Africa adds up to: 2.8 billion persons residing in east and west Africa alone by the year 2100 - and that is without even including the rest of the continent such as North Africa, South Africa, and middle Africa.

What might that be like? We can think of it this way: 2.8 BILLION people is approximately like combining the ENTIRE populations of BOTH CHINA(1.338 billion) AND INDIA (1.189 billion) today and settling half of them in the nations of eastern Africa and the other half in the nations of western Africa – (and that is, again, without even including the rest of the continent).

(a) For human conditions (food, water, education, health care, and employment) it would be difficult for even the richest countries to make such adjustments, and (b) As we have pointed out elsewhere, there are unbendable matters of environmental and biospheric limits to the abilities of functioning biospheric systems to survive and continue to function in the face of 90%-80%-60% -etc. eradications and non-stop, ever-increasing quantities of wastes. If policymakers and business entities remain illiterate in biospheric matters of carrying capacities and limiting factors (or in willful or deceptive denial thereof) their legacy will be that of the captain and officers of the passenger liner Titanic, who, in the 24 hours preceding the ship's calamitous collision, received six specific and repeated warnings of ice ahead. Since however, they FELT QUITE SURE that THEIR vessel was entirely "unsinkable" (it had, after all, never sunk in the past), what did they do? They went ahead and sailed their ship right into the iceberg.

Notice that no amount of technology, economic theory, innovation, human ingenuity, free markets, or the scientific community or additional Einsteins were able to save the Titanic (or the Concordia) and their passengers from "Deciders-in-Chief" and other policymakers who were quite sure that they didn't have to worry about rocks and icebergs and collisions with obstacles that don't bend. In this case the vessel at risk is planet Earth with its ONION-SKIN-THIN films of atmosphere, water, and life - and the ONLY planetary life-support machinery so far known to exist anywhere in the universe.
Krishna Kant Jha Educationist and a development economist
Sun, June 8, 2014 at 04.15 pm
Population explosion in some countries like India, I feel, is the side effect of social and religious blind faith far from rationality which has created a vicious circle of poverty in terms of poor quality of life. Effective education for attitudinal change since childhood is the need of the hour. this will equip the new generation to plan an optimum population leading towards the best quality of life.
Krishna Kant Jha Educationist and a development economist
Sun, June 8, 2014 at 04.15 pm
Population explosion in some countries like India, I feel, is the side effect of social and religious blind faith far from rationality which has created a vicious circle of poverty in terms of poor quality of life. Effective education for attitudinal change since childhood is the need of the hour. this will equip the new generation to plan an optimum population leading towards the best quality of life.
Krishna Kant Jha Educationist and a development economist
Sun, June 8, 2014 at 04.15 pm
Population explosion in some countries like India, I feel, is the side effect of social and religious blind faith far from rationality which has created a vicious circle of poverty in terms of poor quality of life. Effective education for attitudinal change since childhood is the need of the hour. this will equip the new generation to plan an optimum population leading towards the best quality of life.
Krishna Kant Jha Educationist and a development economist
Sun, June 8, 2014 at 04.15 pm
Population explosion in some countries like India, I feel, is the side effect of social and religious blind faith far from rationality which has created a vicious circle of poverty in terms of poor quality of life. Effective education for attitudinal change since childhood is the need of the hour. this will equip the new generation to plan an optimum population leading towards the best quality of life.
Eric from
Sat, June 7, 2014 at 12.12 am
Exactly my point! The fact is, if something is too stressful for the human mind to bear, the human mind rejects it is a possibility. This is called denial. We deny that this possibility of overpopulation is possible, but using logic and math, this is proven to be highly true. Although denial is bad in most cases, it is good in a few ways. If we didn't have denial then in the morning when we get up the first thing that would pop up in our minds would be all the ways to die. That's pretty much all denial is used for. Now, back to the point-our population is over 7, 100, 000, 000. Any scientist would tell you that 4, 000, 000, 000 would be ideal if mankind is to survive for longer than a century. The sad part: we're already almost double what we should be at. Unfortunately, this can be countered by three things that we're really bad at- killing one another, stop using drugs that prolong human life or cure diseases (when we didn't have drugs the world had a 0.03% increase each year. Now? 1.2%, a staggering change) ,or stifling the 80 million babies that are produced every year. To the WHO, or World Health Organization. all of them aren't is acceptable, so we're back to square one. Our offspring will literally see the end of the world as our population grows bigger and bigger, depleting Earth's resources before it could heal. All of Earth's problems should be blamed on this- CO2 emission, starvation, clean water shortage, and others as lees people mean less problems. We need to solve this problem fast or the world will go exactly as Thomas Malthus' Theory of Population, which to cut short, is summed up in this sentence: too many people, too little resources=a living hell. That summarizes my comment.
Randolph Femmer from
Fri, January 11, 2013 at 03.44 pm
Responding to the above article by John Bongaarts: First, we believe that this discussion should include a graph of the worldwide population growth of our species which is a J-CURVE ( image is accessible at http://www.flickr.com/photos/pali_nalu/6611789641/) and note that humankind is, on a global scale, skyrocketing upward along the y-axis of our curve almost exactly like the fission progressions that flattened Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II. Although it has become fashionable in some literature in recent decades to depict or envision worldwide population growth as an "s-curve," it is important to note that the authors of such "s-curve" graphs are only able to generate such a shape by: (1) conveniently ignoring and omitting the first 9,900 years of civilization from their graphs, so that their graphs begin sometime in, for instance, the 1970s or 1980s, and then (2) graphing the data from the 1970s or 1980s up to the present, and then (3) projecting their graphs for another five or six decades into the future on the basis of their own guesses, hopes, assurances, and suppositions in order to portray humankind's demographic future as some happy equilibrium of sustainability and environmental bliss. (If a J-curve of this shape were to appear on the monitor screens of a nuclear power plant, it would send the plant's engineers scrambling for the exits.)

As a second observation concerning Dr. Bongaart's post, for some reason there appears to be no mention (nor contemplation of?) of classical real-world population terms such as carrying capacity, or limits, or thresholds, or tipping-points, or overshoot, or the OTHER type of real-world population outcomes known as "Climb-and-collapse." The careful reader must wonder why not? Why are such crucial, classical, and quintessential real-world life-and-death realities missing and not even referenced or mentioned when we are looking at (1) a J-curve;
(2) the greatest single risk in the entire history of our species, and (3) what appear to be calamitous damages to and eradications of the only biospheric life-support machinery so far known to exist anywhere in the universe?
Randolph Femmer from
Fri, January 11, 2013 at 03.44 pm
Dear David: In your reply to Dr. Bongaarts, you say "...it is by no means impossible to have rapid economic growth at the same time as rapid population growth." Don't you think that residents, young people, and leaders in the world's least-developed and highest-fertility nations would have a BETTER CHANCE of raising standards of living if they were working with stable populations? Hasn't the formula that your comment seems to suggest (as quoted above) already been tried across vast regions for many decades now? (List the nations with the world's highest-fertility rates and most explosively-growing populations, together with a listing of failed states, poverty, hunger, unemployment, instability, and inadequate access to education and health care and notice how well the two lists match up.) These nations have already tried the explosive population growth strategy now for two and three decades and more, and despite years and years of foreign aid efforts, assistance, and tons of money, that strategy has failed.

To quote the familiar saying, if one is trying to escape from a hole, the first rule is to stop digging. In other words, over the past thirty years, as the citizens and leaders in the world's poorest countries can attest, the high-population-growth way forward that you seem to suggest has already been tried and that policy hasn't worked. And lastly, it seems worth noting that one of the countries with the LOWEST fertility rates in the entire world over the past three decades at the same time was able to achieve some of the most dramatic advances in economic growth and in standards of living.
DAVID SATTERTHWAITE researcher
Sat, June 7, 2014 at 11.20 am
Oh dear. Another paper blaming population growth for climate change. And depletion of the world’s resources. It’s the number of consumers and the scale of their consumption levels (and global production systems that stimulates and serves this) that drives human induced climate change. China has contributed far more to the increase in greenhouse gas emissions than Africa yet China had a rapidly falling population growth rate and Africa had a rapid growth. Many of the poorest nations in Africa actually have large natural resource bases too – look at ratios of population to agricultural land area.
Randolph Femmer from
Sun, June 8, 2014 at 12.51 pm
Am ignoring D.S.'s dismissive "oh dear" population post above for two reasons: (a) Having re-read my two previous comments here , neither one raised the issue of climate change (though that is important) nor of resource depletion (although that too is important), and (b) Secondly, once we get past his "oh dear" frustrations, the remainder of his post manages to internally-refute his own contention. For example:

Sentence fragments two and three of his post suggest that we should not blame "population growth for climate change," nor for "depletion of world resources." (Why not, one may ask?) In the very next sentence, D. S. explains to us that it is "the number of consumers and the scale of their consumption levels...that drives human induced climate change."

So D. S., can we figure this out? Since TODAY we don't have THREE billon consumers (as the world had in 1960) (and who, no matter how nice we are, are also impacters, and waste and damage inflicters) or FOUR billion consumers (as the world had in 1975) but instead, as of today, we have added billion number FIVE by 1987, and billion number SIX by 1999, and billion number SEVEN by 2011, couldn't we just say that because of all of that "population growth " (notice that those amount to one ADDITIONAL billion every twelve years ) "the number of consumers" (and 'impacters' and 'waste' and 'damage inflicters') has increased like an obliterating runaway avalanche?

And, of course, according to U.N. projections we may be headed toward 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, or 15.8 billion by the end of this century. Plus, as we have posted elsewhere, each of our billlions is a VERY, very, very LARGE number, and EACH of our billions inflicts massive and ever-growing and ever-widening damages, wastes, impacts, and eradications upon the ONLY biospheric life-support machinery so far known to exist anywhere in the universe.

We suggest:

(1) A quick thought-experiment as follows: Envision a variety of complex systems (such as, for example, an automobile, an airplane, an elevator, a space capsule, a computer program, a living vertebrate, or an interacting biospheric system) and then ask how much damage, impacts, wastes, and eradications can be safely imposed on ANY such complex system and (a) expect it to continue to function as it has always done in the past and (b) safely avoid complete systems-failures and collapse.

(Suppose, for instance, that world corporatism gives in and agrees to "save" approximately 10% of the components of any or all of the above systems. Can ANY of the example systems cited above survive 90% eradications? 73% eradications? 33% eradications? The point to be made is that planetary carrying capacity considerations are not solely matters of seemingly-instinctive "running-out-of" and "vast-open-space" suppositions, but also involve the functional capacities of complex systems to accomplish self-maintenance, self-perpetuation, and self-repair.) and,

(2) We suggest viewing a sample carrying capacity - limiting factors PowerPoint which is accessible at http://www.scribd.com/doc/118659074/Population-Carrying-Capacity-and-Lim... .
Barbara Rogers Barbara Rogers is an independent researcher and author
Tue, June 10, 2014 at 08.37 am
I am amazed that you can discuss numbers without considering the means by which people can decide on those numbers, at individual and family level. For a UN consultation, this debate is welcome but incomplete.
Let's look at the good news, for a change: programmes to provide choices about whether and when to have children are increasingly effective, cost-effective, thoroughly evaluated and often very successful. They particularly help women and their children. But offering these programmes to all is being held back by the blocks on funding, the vicious opposition of the pro-lifers and fundamentalists, and the self-imposed ban on UN agencies doing anything to help (with just one exception, the UNFPA). Increasingly, it is down to individual governments to decide this is a priority, with support from their own voluntary sectors and international organisations. This means a clear-cut split between winners and losers: the winners with stabilising populations, and the losers with runaway growth which is making real human and social development increasingly difficult.
An obvious point, perhaps, but someone has to make it: this has been an all-male debate. Not to dismiss your views, many of which I agree with about the disaster of rapid population growth. But until there are many more female voices in this debate, and voices from the "family planning" sector, we won't have a constructive outcome. Where is UNFPA???? Somebody call them in, quick!
Barbara Rogers Barbara Rogers is an independent researcher and author
Tue, June 10, 2014 at 08.37 am
I am amazed that you can discuss numbers without considering the means by which people can decide on those numbers, at individual and family level. For a UN consultation, this debate is welcome but incomplete.
Let's look at the good news, for a change: programmes to provide choices about whether and when to have children are increasingly effective, cost-effective, thoroughly evaluated and often very successful. They particularly help women and their children. But offering these programmes to all is being held back by the blocks on funding, the vicious opposition of the pro-lifers and fundamentalists, and the self-imposed ban on UN agencies doing anything to help (with just one exception, the UNFPA). Increasingly, it is down to individual governments to decide this is a priority, with support from their own voluntary sectors and international organisations. This means a clear-cut split between winners and losers: the winners with stabilising populations, and the losers with runaway growth which is making real human and social development increasingly difficult.
An obvious point, perhaps, but someone has to make it: this has been an all-male debate. Not to dismiss your views, many of which I agree with about the disaster of rapid population growth. But until there are many more female voices in this debate, and voices from the "family planning" sector, we won't have a constructive outcome. Where is UNFPA???? Somebody call them in, quick!
Louise Grandmother
Wed, June 11, 2014 at 01.23 am
Well said Barbara. I support your comments whole heartedly. More women should be involved in their reproductive health and in any relationship decision making.
Why should government politicians make decision for women in so many cases based not on up to date know ledge but on outdated traditions. Power games have no place here. Women are deeply involved in the future of all as they give birth and nurture the future generations.
Louise
Barbara Rogers "Barbara Rogers, independent writer and researcher. Author of ""The Domestication of Women""."
Wed, June 11, 2014 at 08.41 am
Thanks, Louise! There is really good news: several developing countries have very successful programmes to give women the power to decide (involving men too, obviously, as much as possible). There are also some exciting local projects like Blue Ventures, which care for the environment and people's livelihoods while helping them achieve a stable community.
The bad news: UN meetings on this issue are increasingly being obstructed by an unholy alliance of pro-lifers, fundamentalists and the Vatican, who are constantly pushing back the proposals for better funding and a higher priority for this issue. Our side's arguments about including the freedom to choose in the Millenium Development Goals are possibly a losing battle. International funding for contraception has stalled, and some has been diverted to issues which should have had additional funds, especially HIV/AIDS. Many of the UN specialised agencies have been scared off - check out Unicef, for example. It's ridiculous, because this is one of the most cost-effective ways of promoting economic and social development.
The opposition are well funded, well organised and well trained in international nit-picking. We really need a campaigning organisation to oppose them. We also need women's groups to get behind this - at the moment some of them are far too inhibited by the antis.
Barbara Rogers "Barbara Rogers, independent writer and researcher. Author of ""The Domestication of Women""."
Wed, June 11, 2014 at 08.40 am
Thanks, Louise! There is really good news: several developing countries have very successful programmes to give women the power to decide (involving men too, obviously, as much as possible). There are also some exciting local projects like Blue Ventures, which care for the environment and people's livelihoods while helping them achieve a stable community.
The bad news: UN meetings on this issue are increasingly being obstructed by an unholy alliance of pro-lifers, fundamentalists and the Vatican, who are constantly pushing back the proposals for better funding and a higher priority for this issue. Our side's arguments about including the freedom to choose in the Millenium Development Goals are possibly a losing battle. International funding for contraception has stalled, and some has been diverted to issues which should have had additional funds, especially HIV/AIDS. Many of the UN specialised agencies have been scared off - check out Unicef, for example. It's ridiculous, because this is one of the most cost-effective ways of promoting economic and social development.
The opposition are well funded, well organised and well trained in international nit-picking. We really need a campaigning organisation to oppose them. We also need women's groups to get behind this - at the moment some of them are far too inhibited by the antis.
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