The Pros and Cons of Population Control
Professor David Terrell
Warner Pacific College
June 9, 2011
“The hungry world cannot be fed until and unless the growth of its resources and the growth of its population come into balance. Each man and woman- and each nation- must make a decision of conscience and policy in the face of this great problem.” –Lyndon B. Johnson
For the past several thousand years the world population has grown at an incredibly fast rate. A recent estimate on the About.com Geography website (2011), puts the current total to around 6,852,472, 823. When I was born in 1971, the total world population was around 3.7 billion people. Since that time, the population has almost doubled!
If we look beyond the falsities of the neoclassical economic views of our planet, we can see that we live in a world that does not have an infinite amount of resources for us to haphazardly exploit. With our population increasing at a dizzying rate, what if anything can we do to achieve the balance that Lyndon Johnson spoke about? Some believe the answer to this question is population control. In this essay, I will explore the pros and cons of population control and hopefully provide a balanced view on the subject. Before I begin, let me define the term “Population Control.” According to TheFreeDictionary.com, it is defined as: A government program to limit or slow population growth, as by birth control education, the wide availability of contraceptives, and economic incentives.
The issue of population control is not new. A number of ancient philosophers and writers shed light on this issue before the birth of Christ. In about 300 BC an Indian philosopher named Kautilya, considered population as a source of political, economic, and military strength. In ancient Greece, Plato and Aristotle believed the best population size for Greek city states should be small enough to provide efficient administration, but large enough to defend themselves against their enemies.
In the 1960’s and 70’s there was a large population control movement taking place. Paul R. Ehrlich, a US biologist and environmentalist, published the book, “The Population Bomb,” in 1968, advocating population control policies.
Advocates of population control site some of these benefits:
• In the online article by Katherine Mieszkowski, “Do we need population control?”(2008), Paul Ehrlich says that controlling population will help keep more children alive once they are born. According to The World Food Bank, there are around 1.4 billion people living on less than $1.25 a day. Many millions of children die of malnutrition.
• Birth control education and the availability of contraceptives can help control population. According to The CDC website, half of all pregnancies in the US are unplanned.
• In the article by Niki Fears titled, “New study suggests benefits of population control to reduce carbon emissions,” a recent study released from the London school of economics suggests that population control could help reduce the effects of carbon emission.
• Overpopulation has been blamed for a variety of issues such as: increased poverty, environmental depletion, high unemployment, famine, and even genocide.
Those in opposition of population control point out these cons:
• In his book, “Population Control,” Steven Mosher, opposes it based on the belief that each person has a unique value, more people mean more for all of us- more economic production, more potential for creative and scientific achievement.
• In The Washington Times article, “Taking on the overpopulation myth,” (2008), Steven Mosher talks about how population control could lead to human rights abuses by governments eager to meet their population reduction goals. In China for example, unauthorized births are punished by fines. There have even been allegations of illegal forced abortions and sterilizations.
• According to Ehrlich as quoted in Mieszkowki’s (2008) article, reducing the size of the population does not address the subject of consumerism. “If we cut the population in half over the next 50 years by any means, and we double each person’s consumption, we are exactly back to where we are now”. (p.1)
Both the supporters and opponents of the population control issue have some valid points. I believe our answer does not lie on one side or the other, but more likely somewhere in the middle. Learning to develop alternative sources of energy, educating people on how to live a “greener life,” preserving specific areas of wildlife, and providing education on contraceptives is a starting point. Our creator made us stewards over this planet, and it is our responsibility to take good care of it. We owe it to our children and the future generations.
“Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect. –Chief Seattle, 1854.
Fears, N. New study suggests benefits of population control to reduce carbon emissions. Retrieved June 7, 2011 from http://www.examiner.com/environmental-news-in-national/new-study-
Mieszkowski, K. (2008). Do we need population control?
Retrieved June 7, 2011 from http://www.salon.com/news/environment/feature/2008/09/17populati
Mosher, S. (2008).Taking on the overpopulation myth
Retrieved June 7, 2011 from http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2008/jul/27/taking-on-the-ove
Rosenberg, M. (2011). Current World Population
Retrieved June 8, 2011 from http://geography.about.com/od/obtainpopulationdata/a/worldpopulation.htm