Is human population expanding? Or dwindling? Should we neuter ourselves at the SPCA? Or multiply like the Octomom? The answer is... both?! Yes. Depending on your GPS coordinates, human numbers are wiggling UP like sperm in an unprotected vaginal canal, or swirling DOWN like a condom in a flushed toilet. Humanity is simultaneously exploding and imploding.
Who’s always pregnant? Niger is Fertility Champ with its women producing an average of 7.19 children each. Malaria removes 20% of the tots, but Niger’s population still expands at a 3.49 annual population growth (PG) rate, good for 6th place behind Liberia, Burundi, Afghanistan, Western Sahara, and East Timor. Liberia’s population will double in 16 years, in Niger it’ll drag out to 20.
Notice the anti-intuitive equation? Poverty + War + Disease = Booming Population. Bloody, poor, sick nations often reproduce the fastest. We think everyone’s dying in the genocidal Democratic Republic of the Congo, but it’s #9 in PG rate because “war babies” are churned out at a 6.7 fertility rate. Other top PG rate nations with recent conflicts are Eritrea (7th), Uganda (8th), Palestine (10th), Somalia (16th), and every nation in the Top Five listed above.
However, war/poverty/disease isn’t really the catalyst that pumps PG rates. The actual cause is rurality/repression/religion. Peasant women trapped under the male thumb of fundamentalist religions are often denied education, equal rights, job opportunities, and birth control. Large families are also seen as a benefit in the boondocks because children provide free farm labor.
Meanwhile, where’s India in the overpopulation picture? China? Pakistan? Indonesia? The Philippines? The United States? Ethiopia? Egypt? Nigeria? Bangladesh, drowning under the weight of its multitudes? These large, dense nations have PG rates smaller than the premier baby-makers, but their enormous base numbers make them the primary contributors to the global increase. India accounts for 21% of all children born, and around 60% hail from the ten nations listed above. Earth’s current population of 6.8 billion is definitely increasing, but experts suggest different forecasts—the United Nations warns of 8.9 billion in 2050, while The Quaker Economist suggests only an incremental 7.0 billion peak by 2040.
Will hordes of dark-skinned illegal aliens, bred in madrasses, overrun the Western world?
Even if we accept a high estimate, is 30% more in 40 years an “Explosion”? Or is it just a final weak aftershock from the Giant 20th Century Population Bomb that vaulted the earth’s population from 1.65 to 6.0 billion? Every nation had a high fertility rate back then. Perhaps even your parents or grandparents had Niger-sized families. But now—do you know anyone with even 2.1 kids? The number needed for ZPG? What about everyone with no spawn at all? Where are we headed?
That’s right—it’s implosion time. At the bottom of the TPG charts you’ll find numerous... shrinking nations! Japan and Russia are contracting, as is Germany, Italy, Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, Ukraine and every other nation in Eastern Europe. Peek just north of ZPG and observe the rest of Europe barely keeping its numbers, with Japan followed down by its neighbors Taiwan and South Korea.
Fertility rates have been in a global free-fall for decades: Thailand dropped 50% since 1950, Colombia 60%, Hong Kong 75%, Brazil 50% in the last 25 years. By 2050 implosion is predicted in at least 39 nations, with histrionic forecasters claiming 75% of nations will exhibit decline. (The variability of estimates is due to United Nations graphs that exhibit a wide range between high and low projections.) Russia, Japan and other current shrinkers may lose 14%-40% of their citizenry. 104 million Europeans might vanish, dropping their continent to a mere 7% of the world total. Canadians and Latin Americans will halt or decrease. China, with its one-child policy, could lose 20% or more of its populace. Even India might stabilize; the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu already dropped below ZPG in 2003. The only populations assured of expansion in 2050 are the Middle East, Africa... and the USA, where immigrants and their offspring could buoy America 25% to approximately 420 million.
Explosion and Implosion
So what should we do? Move to Minsk and breed with Belarusians while commuting to Africa and dispensing free condoms? Or is none of this really a problem?
First, let’s examine the “Explosion.” Eco-worriers say our resources aren’t sustainable; they claim we’ll perish due to water/food/land/ozone/energy/fish/democracy/wealth/oxygen shortages or epidemics/pollution/terrorism. My advice is to ignore these Luddites because they disregard technology’s potential to solve human problems. Malthus was wrong in 1798, Paul Ehrlich was ludicrous in 1968. But still, if you’re concerned about ballooning numbers between 2010-2040, I offer a short to-do list:
(1) Get the whole world online. Internet access improves education, health, wealth, and democracy—leading to zero population growth. We need satellites soaring over Africa so villagers can log on with donated laptops.
(2) Help alleviate global water shortages by promoting desalinization and compost toilets. Cleaned-up ocean water is needed in China, India, and Australia, plus thirsty cities like Los Angeles, Mexico City, Katmandu, Khartoum, Lima, Damascus. Compost toilets save 1.6 gallons per flush. If you flush four times daily, that’s 2,000 gallons a year. (Not that I need to know.)
(3) Support in-vitro meat research. Healthy, cheap laboratory-grown protein will feed malnourished people and bankrupt cattle ranches where methane farts holes in the ozone. Reclaimed land can be given farmers who will grow ten times the food in plant matter. When we do this the vegans will be so happy they’ll wet their hemp underwear.
(4) Encourage urbanization. Rural areas are infested with caste violence, religious superstition, societal taboos and sexism, plus they lack birth control, schools, and career options. Urbanity breeds non-breeding.
Next, let’s open up the “Implosion” box. Is lowering our numbers an actual problem, or does it only damage real estate speculators and baby-food manufacturers? Fewer humans provides more resources for the rest of us, right? We’ll obtain lovely vacation homes due to myriad vacancies. Unfortunately, there’s a growing horde of implosion paranoiacs—many of them Christian jeremiads who blame it on abortion—who fear that Earth will become a giant, filthy, impoverished convalescent hospital ruled by ancient parasites that produce nothing except votes for continued senior citizen benefits. Transhumanists need to squish the scapegoating of future elderly—Max More’s essay in "The Longevity Meme" [see Resources] succeeds at this stunningly. Implosion-haters also have “immigrant nightmares.” Will hordes of dark-skinned illegal aliens, bred in madrasses, overrun the Western world? I offer two tips below if you want to work at calming yourself:
(1) Be an active, visionary oldster! You’ll be the Dominant Demographic. By 2050, the age group 65+ will be more than 50% of the population in many parts of the world. We’ll be the wisest, most astute policymakers in history, maybe smart enough to hand leadership over to ethical robots (but that’s another topic).
(2) Support “friendly” mass immigration. For every mullah demanding sharia law, there are dozens of commendable refugees seeking liberation, like Taslima Nazrin and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Perhaps Europe can purchase “sex criminals” from the Middle East (i.e., teenagers caught kissing, homosexuals, adulterers, and rape victims), rescuing them before they get their noses cut off, or they’re stoned to death, or punished in “honor killings.”
Explosion. Implosion. Let the challenges gestate in your mind, but stay optimistic.
Hank Hyena wrote columns for Salon.com ("Naked World"), and SFGate.com ("Odd Barkings"), plus he's producer of "Atheist Film Festival," and "SF Utopia 2012."
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