The Great Overpopulation Myth

The population of the entire world could fit shoulder-to-shoulder in a space about the size of Jacksonville, Florida.

Ninety-seven percent of the earth’s land surface is empty.

If you allotted to each person 1,250 square feet (which is quite a bit), all the people in the world would fit into the state of Texas.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, world food supplies exceed requirements in all world areas, amounting to a surplus approaching 50% in 1990 in the developed countries, and 17% in the developing regions.

Problems commonly blamed on ‘overpopulation’ are the result of bad economic policy. For example, Western journalists blamed the Ethiopian famine on ‘overpopulation,’ but that was simply not true. The Ethiopian government caused it by confiscating the food stocks of traders and farmers and exporting them to buy arms. That country’s leftist regime, not its population, caused the tragedy. In fact, Africa, beset with problems often blamed on ‘overpopulation,’ has only one-fifth the population density of Europe, and has an unexploited food-raising potential that could feed twice the present population of the world, according to estimates by Roger Revelle of Harvard and the University of San Diego. Economists writing for the International Monetary Fund in 1994 said that African economic problems result from excessive government spending, high taxes on farmers, inflation, restrictions on trade, too much government ownership, and over-regulation of private economic activity. There was no mention of overpopulation.

The government of the Philippines relies on foreign aid to control population growth, but protects monopolies which buy farmers’ outputs at artificially low prices, and sell them inputs at artificially high prices, causing widespread poverty. Advocates of population control blame “overpopulation” for poverty in Bangladesh. But the government dominates the buying and processing of jute, the major cash crop, so that farmers receive less for their efforts than they would in a free market. Impoverished farmers flee to the city, but the government owns 40% of industry and regulates the rest with price controls, high taxes and unpublished rules administered by a huge, corrupt, foreign-aid dependent bureaucracy (Dr. Jacqueline R. Kasun).

The world’s population is expected to max out at around 8 billion by 2050. Then it starts to decline.

That’s when the real trouble begins.

24 Comments

  • Redmond

    February 11, 2010

    Man o man, the overpopulation myth is the one that gets me the most I think, it is probably the most overtly racist one – look at all those teeming masses of dark people (have you seen the way Ehrlich wrote about being in India? I’ll track down the quote and post it) they will overrun the earth with, so irresponsible, having all those children. It is also the one that most exposes the hypocrisy and misanthropy of the environmental movement, because they know that affluence lowers fertility, but we couldn’t do that could we, can’t ease your suffering, anyways it is better to be poor. You are so much more in touch with nature than us in the west.

    It also amazing to hear feminists talk about the need to control womens bodies, I guess only in the third world eh, they must be less than human, not deserving of the right of choice that you fought so hard for. 

    And witness this, from a woman with two children.

    http://www.financialpost.com/story.html?id=2314438

    I guess she must know that the rich in china can buy their way out of it, doesn’t she. And that the Chinese are quietly reversing the policy due to their massive gender imbalance.

    Anyways I am going to expand this into a full post on my blog…

    Great work as always Ray.   

    Oh yeah I thought it was gonna max at 10b?

  • Ray

    February 11, 2010

    Nine billion, ten billion — what’s a billion? small potatoes, I think.

  • Redmond

    February 11, 2010

    Great link, hilariously relevant, I wonder what would happen if we took humans off the fertilty standard and they became a fiat life form? Maybe we could create a central human production centre and it would just create more fully formed human workers whenever the government required it. I am sure we would see human inflation.
    As for what we will do when the global population is decline, the Japanese have that one figured out already-as they are already experiencing it intheir own xenophobic country.
    http://www.zygbotics.com/2009/03/27/robot-nurses-to-care-for-japanese-elderly-within-five-year/
    So Ray – how do I turn that into a link in this comment? I haven’t figured that one out- I tried copying and pasting from word but no dice.

  • Ray

    February 12, 2010

    It’s very difficult to show you in the comments how to turn that link into a comment because the moment you insert the code in the comment box, it doesn’t show up as code; it shows up as a hyperlink. Try this:

    a href=”FULL URL ADDRESS BAR ADDRESS HERE”>Your link word here

    You must leave the quotation marks there.

    You must add at the very beginning, before the a href, a bracket like this <

    Then, at the very end you must put in another bracket, just like the one above, then /a
    Then you close the bracket with this: >

    And that’s it.

  • Redmond

    February 12, 2010

    Thanks Ray!!

    I’ll try this out next time…

  • white rabbit

    February 14, 2010

    ‘The population of the entire world could fit shoulder-to-shoulder in a space about the size of Jacksonville, Florida’

    Now why would they want to do that?

    More seriously, overpopulation is a myth. In parts of Europe (not the UK) they are worried about potential steep population declines. It may be that this will turn out to be a myth too but all the evidence suggest that economic development is the best contraceptive. When children are your pension policy plus social security provision and plenty die in childhood, you will have LOTS.

  • Ray

    February 14, 2010

    rabbit wrote:

    ‘The population of the entire world could fit shoulder-to-shoulder in a space about the size of Jacksonville, Florida’

    Now why would they want to do that?

    Ha-ha! Why, indeed.

  • Den Relojo

    March 28, 2010

    Philippines is damn overpopulated already! And what makes this worse is that no one seems to consider this to be a serious problem. Overpopulation causes pollution, poverty, starvation, crimes, and what-have-you’s. Government has to conduct some program and tell the people the effects of overpopulation. Mother Nature does not need more babies so people should stop breeding!

  • LOL

    March 28, 2010

    Let’s start with you.

  • BedazzledCrone

    March 29, 2010

    Redmond said with the following link attached:
    “It also amazing to hear feminists talk about the need to control womens bodies, I guess only in the third world eh, they must be less than human, not deserving of the right of choice that you fought so hard for. And witness this, from a woman with two children. http://www.financialpost.com/story.html?id=2314438

    BC: I know that Diane Francis calls herself a feminist on The O’Reilly Factor (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y9–Zp-d5Zs&feature=player_embedded#), however, she certainly did not respond as strongly as she could have. I suspect that she was a little unprepared for the type of interview Ingraham does. However, my g*d, she’s a columnist for the Financial Post, which is part of the National Post chain in Canada (about as conservative as you can get). Have you ever read what she writes? I don’t think that you would find her financial writings all that problematic. She got labeled a feminist and liberal leftwinger (which she can’t like) by someone who disliked her blog on Sarah Palin. http://network.nationalpost.com/NP/blogs/francis/archive/2009/07/20/sarah-palin-on-fox-talk-show.aspx. The woman (Diane Francis) is a conservative, always has been, always will be.

    However, her position here is untenable – on this point, I do agree. NO ONE has the right to FORCE a woman to have an abortion just as NO ONE has the right to DENY a woman an abortion. The problem as I see it is that Laura Ingraham would deny women the right to abortion – after all, she said on the program that she was a Roman Catholic and she calls abortion, infanticide. Abortion is not infanticide, no matter what the religious right wants to say. I don’t like Diane Francis’ economics, clearly I don’t like her version of feminism either.

    In the end, the following is what should be aimed for:

    “Wherever women have adequate access to education, the right to work, equality before the law, and contraception, the birth rate plummets. And this is where western liberal proclivities towards cultural relativism start to break down. However much we might want to respect other cultures, those that deny women these rights are directly harming all of us, even if our own society is an equitable, gender-blind utopia. Unless we want a world ravaged by droughts and floods, we are going to have to start demanding women be treated as equal citizens – everywhere. In fact, you don’t even have to call it feminism. You could call it calculated self-interest.” From the Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cif-green/2009/oct/27/climate-change-contraception-women-feminism

    Diane Francis use of the China One Child Policy is unacceptable, and frankly, I am rather shocked, although I probably shouldn’t be. However, people that call her a hypocrite because she (& her sister) has two children are just being silly. Give me a break! Find something better to hang her on.

    If women are allowed the right to an education; if women are allowed to live without fear of being raped, beaten by their significant others (i.e., husbands, dates, male partners); if women become equal before the law – & trust me they still aren’t; if women have the right to choose; if women have the right to equal pay for equal way – & trust me they don’t have that in most fields, then maybe we will see some headway in creating a reasonable society.

  • Redmond

    April 4, 2010

    Hey Den

    Population density of the Philipines: 796 people per square mile.

    Japan – 873
    Belgium – 918
    The Netherlands – 1,035
    South Korea – 1,260
    Hong Kong – 16,442

    And you said

    Overpopulation causes pollution, poverty, starvation, crimes, and what-have-you’s.

    I think you need to re-examine your beliefs.

    Best Regards

    Redmond

  • Redmond

    April 4, 2010

    BC: I know that Diane Francis calls herself a feminist on The O’Reilly Factor

  • BedazzledCrone

    April 4, 2010

    Redmond: and????? I assume you wanted to say more than that. I can only assume that there were other demands on your time

  • Redmond

    April 5, 2010

    Will post – was testing out Blockquotes and Italics tags.

    Ray – sorry for the clutter.

  • Greg

    April 5, 2010

    Redmond, nice stats. Following Den’s logic Hong Kong should have twice the pollution, poverty, and crime than the Philippines. Having just returned from HK three weeks ago, I can report that indeed the Chinese island is clean, wealthy, and safe.

    I suggest any lassiez-faire minded person take a trip and experience the most economically free place on earth.

  • Redmond

    April 6, 2010

    Hello Bedazzled Crone
    I have some issues with what you have written with regards to my comments.

    BC: I know that Diane Francis calls herself a feminist on The O’Reilly Factor

    Your tone suggests that you think she is not a feminist.

    However, my g*d, she’s a columnist for the Financial Post, which is part of the National Post chain in Canada (about as conservative as you can get). Have you ever read what she writes? I don’t think that you would find her financial writings all that problematic.

    It sounds like you are suggesting that because she has financially conservative views, and writes for the National Post, that she could not possibly be a feminist.
    By the way, what does g*d mean? How do you pronounce “*”?
    Let me give you a scenario.
    A woman who has benefited from the feminist movement, and has moved up in the corporate world.
    She is treated fairly by her male colleagues and makes an equal salary.
    She hires male or female employees without thought for their sex, only for their qualifications.
    However, she is financially conservative, and votes that way.
    Is she a feminist?

    She got labeled a feminist and liberal leftwinger (which she can’t like) by someone who disliked her blog on Sarah Palin.

    I thought you said she called herself a feminist… Which is it?

    The woman (Diane Francis) is a conservative, always has been, always will be.

    And? Is she a feminist or not?

    The problem as I see it is that Laura Ingraham would deny women the right to abortion – after all, she said on the program that she was a Roman Catholic and she calls abortion, infanticide. Abortion is not infanticide, no matter what the religious right wants to say.

    Ray Harvey Agrees with you – Although I must admit, after reading a Harper’s article on Late third term partial birth Abortion, I have begun to have some reservations.

    I don’t like Diane Francis’ economics, clearly I don’t like her version of feminism either.

    Why don’t you like her economics? Please elaborate – I don’t know much about it. As for her feminism, again I haven’t read what she has written on Feminism – have you?

    In the end, the following is what should be aimed for:
    “Wherever women have adequate access to education, the right to work, equality before the law, and contraception, the birth rate plummets. And this is where western liberal proclivities towards cultural relativism start to break down.

    Agreed – relativism is BS, and wealth lowers birthrates – Laissez Faire Capitalism brings more wealth – sounds like Diane Francis is right in one area.

    However much we might want to respect other cultures, those that deny women these rights are directly harming all of us, even if our own society is an equitable, gender-blind utopia.

    I don’t respect other cultures at all – at least when they come to Canada. They must obey our laws. Otherwise they can do as they please.

    Unless we want a world ravaged by droughts and floods, we are going to have to start demanding women be treated as equal citizens – everywhere.

    Equal rights for women = fewer droughts and floods? non sequitur alert…

    However, people that call her a hypocrite because she (& her sister) has two children are just being silly. Give me a break! Find something better to hang her on.

    Nope – I’ll hang her on that. Not only is it hypocritical, it is also morally bankrupt, and she is giving support to the green movement, which is collectivist by nature, and has no respect for the free market.
    It is surprising that she can’t see that, given her economic views. I guess she is blinded by the fact that China has adopted the tenets of Adam Smith. Their economic growth however, has nothing to do with their one child policy. And they may find themselves in a bind in about 10 years when all of their spoiled only children don’t feel like working… Gen-Y China style.
    It makes her something of a Useful Idiot.
    Let me know if you have any thoughts on this.

  • Redmond

    April 6, 2010

    As a way of helpng to define the terms of our debate – here is the definition of Feminism, from Dictionary.com

    I don’t see anything about Economic views in this.

    fem·i·nism
    ? ?/?f?m??n?z?m/ Show Spelled[fem-uh-niz-uhm] Show IPA
    –noun
    1.
    the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.
    2.
    (sometimes initial capital letter) an organized movement for the attainment of such rights for women.
    3.
    feminine character.

  • Redmond

    April 6, 2010

    Hello Greg

    Redmond, nice stats.

    Thanks – wiki is good for some things… Not climate science though.

    Following Den’s logic Hong Kong should have twice the pollution, poverty, and crime than the Philippines.

    Not to sound like a jerk, but it is actually twenty-two times.

    Having just returned from HK three weeks ago, I can report that indeed the Chinese island is clean, wealthy, and safe.

    I visited HK and China three years ago – email me at fpwuat@gmail.com and I’ll send you a link to some of my photos.
    May I ask why you were there?
    HK was great, it reminded me a lot of my hometown – Toronto. Except for the English style pubs filled with Filipino hookers.
    But that is another story.

    I suggest any lassiez-faire minded person take a trip and experience the most economically free place on earth.

    Unfortunately it isn’t politically free, but no-one seems to mind the enlightened dictatorship of the Chinese.
    At least not yet.
    Regards
    Redmond

  • Greg

    April 6, 2010

    Good call 22 times the population density, my monkey math was missing an order of magnitude.

    I was in HK on vacation . It reminds me a little of Europe but with exceptional service.

  • Chad

    March 16, 2011

    The OverPopulation of the Earth isn’t just a Myth, it is quite prevelant. Not only economic mismanagement, but the cost on the enviroment to support the overwhelming needs of humans. The mismanagemnets of our enviroment and the ecosystem falling apart. We as Humans are our own worst enemies. We need to work on solving mankinds most pressing delema ever, this bieng Humanism.

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