Is there is a global overpopulation threat? How serious and urgent is it? If so, is there anything we can do to prevent it? This article tries to answer these questions.
According to Wikipedia, “the world population … was estimated by the United Nations to have exceeded 8 billion in November 2022”: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_population.
According to Live Science, “most experts think planet Earth can support about 10 billion people”: https://www.livescience.com/16493-people-planet-earth-support.html. By then, we will be obliged to turn vegetarians because it will be too uneconomical to rear animals (livestock or poultry) for meat. The video says that if all the 3.5 billion acres of farmable land on Earth is converted to grow food for people, and we all become vegetarians, the planet can only support 10 billion people at most.
Confirming this, in his book “The Selfish Gene,” evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins writes,
“The present population of Latin America is around 300 million, and already many of them are undernourished. But if the population continued to increase at the present rate, it would take less than 500 years to reach the point where the people, packed in standing position, formed a solid human carpet over the whole area of the continent. This is so, even if we assume them to be very skinny—a not unrealistic assumption. In 1,000 years from now they would be standing on each other’s shoulders more than a million deep.” (p. 111)
1,000 years is not that far away: considering that, according to “Wikipedia,” we humans have existed for 300 times as long: “Homo sapiens … [is] the only extant member [of the genus Homo]. Anatomically modern humans emerged around 300,000 years ago in Africa”: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human.
If, by any chance, some readers think that this problem of overpopulation is limited to the Latin American continent, think again. This is what theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking writes about the world’s future in his book The Universe in a Nutshell.
“If the population growth and the increase in the consumption of electricity continue at their current rates, by 2600 the world’s population would be shoulder to shoulder, and electricity use will make the Earth glow red-hot.” (p. 158)
Is there a solution?
I think there is a rather simple solution that does not require abortion or sexual abstention. In my opinion, abortion at any stage is the equivalent of murder because, once a human zygote is conceived, there is no way one could re-conceive that future individual. Although helpless, as a unique future person, it should be protected as a baby normally is. This is not the case if some form of ‘non-abortive’ contraception is used during sexual intercourse because the zygote is not conceived yet.
The formula for population growth, starting from a single couple, is as follows:
Pn = 2x[C(n-y+1)]x[Cy-1]/[C-1] (from In the Minds of Men by Ian Taylor, p. 440), where Pn is the population in n generations; n is the number of past and present generations = (elapsed time)/(average lifetime); y is the number of living generations (e.g., y=3 if grandparents live to see grandchildren), and C is half the number of children per female.
According to this formula, assuming an average of only three children (C=3/2=1.5) per female and people living an average of fifty-odd years, it will take approximately 30 years for the world population to grow from approximately 8 billion to about 10 billion. In other words, according to Live Science, we should be seeing a global population crunch in the next generation or so.
So what is the solution?
The interesting thing, in the above formula, is that if (C=2/2=1), there will be no population growth: it will remain relatively constant. Consequently, we must, voluntarily, limit the birthrate to two children per female using non-abortive contraceptives, without our trying to choose their sex either, because it creates other problems.
My (nominal) Church, the Roman Catholic Church, is very wrong in disallowing any use of contraceptives (apart from the rhythm method): I guess it wants more children so that it can grow numerically.
There are various temporary methods of non-abortive contraception: mechanical, chemical, and hormonal; the most common are the condom, a spermicide, and the pill respectively. There are also permanent methods of contraception: a vasectomy for men and a tubal ligation for women. To prevent global overpopulation, the important thing is that every female limits her lifetime offspring to only two births.
On the other hand, I think the Catholic Church is right in disallowing abortion. I’m sure there will be many women who will disagree with me here, claiming that they have the right to do what they like with their own body. The fact is, however, during pregnancy, besides one’s body there is another person involved: the zygote, embryo, or fetus. And when it comes to ‘choice,’ one doesn’t really have a choice to do something wrong. Not only that, but even those women who generally disagree with abortion object strongly to retaining the zygote, embryo, or fetus to its completion (birth) in the case of rape. However, fact is the unborn offspring is innocent as it did nothing wrong. Besides, “two wrongs do not make a right”: murder doesn’t fix the rape. Naturally, the newborn may be given up for adoption, once it is born.
I can almost hear some women retort that I’m saying this because I am a man; but, very often, one shouldn’t be emotionally involved to be truly able to discern what is right or wrong—albeit I understand the aversion of bearing a child under such repulsive circumstances, and I do admit it might be very difficult to come to terms with it. Of course, whatever decision the mother makes, God alone will be her best judge.
In my opinion, the only circumstance in which abortion is justified is when both the mother’s and the baby’s life are threatened, say during childbirth. In such a case one should usually make the decision to save the mother as she’s more important to the family than the baby: one sacrifices a life for another’s life. In that case, I think, God is asking the husband to make a quick decision, and not to wait for nature to take its course, as the Catholic Church suggests: that is, letting one of them die; it might then be too late to save the other. This is like grabbing and saving one of two children who are drowning: when one knows full well one cannot save them both—a life for another life. One doesn’t wait for one of them to die: that might be too late.
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Dawkins, Richard. The Selfish Gene; New York, NY: Oxford University Press Inc., 2006. (ISBN 9780199291151)
Hawking, Stephen. The Universe in a Nutshell; New York, NY: Bantam Books, 2001. (ISBN 055380202X)
McGuigan, Martin. “How Many People Can Earth Support” in Live Science, last updated July 22, 2022: https://www.livescience.com/16493-people-planet-earth-support.html.
Taylor, Ian T. In the Minds of Men: Darwin and the New World Order. Toronto, ON: TFE Publishing/Creation Moments Inc., 1991. (ISBN 0969178840)
Wikipedia, s.v. “Human,” last edited November 27, 2022: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human.
Wikipedia, s.v. “World Population,” last edited November 27, 2022: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_population.
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