Welcome to Demography Is Destiny, MercatorNet’s blog about human dignity and population. We launched this after seeing two themes crop up constantly in the media: that humans are a cancer which is destroying our planet and that world population is spiralling up to unsustainable levels.
Although many people dress up these concerns in global warming T-shirts, the underlying issue is the Population Bomb. Back in the 1960s the Stanford biologist Paul Ehrlich proclaimed that Malthus was right: the world faced mass starvation because there was too little food and too many people. Well, Ehrlich was proved wrong over and over again, and over and over again the fear comes back, like a vampire sucking optimism and hope out of modern society. I hope that this blog helps to put a stake through the heart of this dangerous and indefensible idea.
Dangerous, because the unsupported notion that the world cannot support its population is being used to promote human rights abuses, including coercive population programs. And indefensible, because world population, is actually on track to a steep decline. You could call it catastrophic, except that we are trying to avoid fostering apocalyptic fears on MercatorNet. We prefer to leave that to climate-change scaremongers. But it will certainly bring about enormous problems. At the moment, world population is about 6.8 billion. By the year 2050, it will rise to 9 billion, according to a United Nations scenario for mid-range fertility rates. But this global statistic conceals the fact that populations in many developed countries will actually decline. The number of elderly will increase enormously. Russia’s population will decline by one-fifth by 2050, for instance.
Huge problems are looming because of this “demographic winter” – social, financial, human rights, geo-political, cultural, and religious. We hope to track these changes, puncture illusions, and foster hope with Demography Is Destiny. And there is plenty of room for hope. After all, in the oft-quoted words of economist Julian Simon, people are the “ultimate resource”. We may not be over-populated, but we do have plenty of intelligent, inventive, adaptive people.
Where did we get the name? The catchphrase “Demography is Destiny” has almost become a cliché. It seems that it was coined by the French philosopher and sociologist August Comte in the 19th Century. But it still rings true.