The New Population Bomb

May 10, 2010 • Daily Email Recap

Thanks to Susan Gibbs for sending me this article from Foreign Affairs. As Susan suggested, “Readers may want to submit letters to the editors of Foreign Affairs. Goldstone argues that ‘21st century will depend less on how many people inhabit the world than how the global population is composed and distributed’ and, in short, that Paul Ehrlich’s population bomb has been successfully defused. While much of the article is cogent and timely, he does not address the growing strain on the earth’s natural systems associated with unsustainable population and consumption trends (and indeed urges policies that encourage higher fertility and in-migration to the industrialized world).”

Goldstone Population Bomb Jan 2010 Foreign Affairs (PDF 102 KB)

Here is a blog posting on the Population Institute’s website by Bob Walker with regard to Goldstone’s article:

Population Matters
Bob Walker
March 10th, 2010

Jack A. Goldstone’s article in Foreign Affairs (“The New Population Bomb” January/February 2010) is generating a lot of discussion. Goldstone offers some sobering insights on how rapid population growth and urbanization in the least developed countries could be economically impoverishing and politically destabilizing, but his suggestion that expanded population growth in rich developed countries is the antidote is simply wrong. The world economy, does not, as Goldstone argues, need “new consumers and new households.” Simply put, adding more high-consuming people to a world that is increasingly constrained by shortages of food, water, energy and scarce resources will only contribute to greater global destabilization. Higher and higher prices for commodities like grain, oil and scarce minerals will only exacerbate the divide between rich developed nations and the world’s resource poor countries.

There is no ‘baby gap’ that needs to be closed. It’s true that aging industrial societies face economic challenges as the ratio of workers to retirees increases, but adding more dependents (i.e. children) is not a recipe for prosperity. If the costs of an aging society are to be borne, and they must be, the proper solution is more savings, not more babies. If the advanced developed nations need more consumers to maintain employment, there are plenty of “new consumers” in China and other rapidly developing nations to employ workers in the U.S. and elsewhere. In the long run, increased productivity, not procreation, will determine whether America and other countries prosper.

If Goldstone is right in arguing that rapid population growth and urbanization in poor developing countries will jeopardize their food security, result in high unemployment, and create political instability, then we should boost support for international family planning assistance, so that women in developing countries can prevent unwanted and unintended pregnancies. Boosting birth rates in industrialized nations will make matters worse, not better.

Posted by Robert J. Walker, Executive Vice President pf Population Institute

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