Ignore the Bluster of Demographic Winter Alarmists

January 19, 2010 • PMC in the News

(written by Joe Bish, Population Outreach Manager for Population Media Center)

Can you visualize 850 jumbo jets landing at your local airport today and each deplaning 250 people? If so, you will have a good grasp of daily, real-time global population growth.

Indeed, human numbers increase by over 200,000 every 24 hours. Every minute, 150 additional people need energy, water, food, and space to inhabit. By year’s end, that results in a 78 million person increase. It also creates demand for a significant amount of new resources the Earth must yield.
Illustration by Angel Boligan – Cagle Cartoons (click to purchase)

Arguably, on a planet already showing troublesome effects of a degraded, carelessly exploited environment, this extra passenger load is not good news. It was just in 1999 that we surpassed 6 billion humans, and in less than 2 years, we will pass 7 billion. In light of these trends, many respectable, hard-working environmental advocacy organizations argue that voluntary human population stabilization should be central to our efforts at sustainable development.

Others argue that the current size and growth of human population are only secondary environmental considerations. Most of the resources dedicated to fighting for the health of our planet, they say, should be focused on reducing total carbon emissions, preserving habitat and lowering overall resource consumption. This argument is probably wrong – after all, population stabilization can only help meet all these other goals – but at least it is not based in denial of the true demographic situation of our species.

Incredibly, there are organizations that consistently peddle irresponsible alarm about falling human population. A case in point is the Washington DC based Population Research Institute. Obsessed with the fact that global growth rates have come down from 2.2 percent in 1963 to the current 1.1 percent this organization, with the proverbial straight face, trumpets the imminent onset of a so called global “demographic winter.”

Subscribers to the idea of demographic winter believe – contrary to every shred of evidence –that our species is doomed to disaster because of an imminent and radical population decline. They conveniently forget that in just the past decade, the United Nations has raised its medium population projection for 2050 from 8.9 to 9.2 billion. They also overlook that out of 230 nations listed by the U.N., 129 of them are growing so fast that their populations will double within 70 years. Only 24 show population stabilization or contraction.

Clearly, reports of a demographic winter are just plain wrong.

Some might value Population Research Institute’s one reasonable population position: coercive measures that force women to relinquish control of their own bodies to state interests, (like China’s infamous one-child policy), are morally wrong. Unfortunately, this concern for the welfare of women extends only as far as their interests in never ending population growth do.

Though their homepage makes the euphemistic claim that “every family should have the right to choose the timing and spacing of their children,” one of the featured actions for visitors is to sign the “Stop the Freedom of Choice Act” petition. This proves their real concern for families is that they act as reliable demographic factories.

Such duplicity mirrors ridiculous warnings of imminent global population collapse. Steven Mosher, President of Population Research Institute, should acknowledge that during a 60 minute seminar on demographic winter theory, global population increases by 9000 people, the equivalent of 36 jumbo jets packed full.

No matter what your position on the environmental costs and benefits of population growth, you should at least be working from a fact based perspective. Global population continues to grow. When you hear claims of an approaching demographic winter, take them for what they really are: blustery and wrong.

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