Soooooo… you know that whole thing about there being way too many people on the planet? You know the one where we would have to conduct draconian population control measures to reduce? How if we didn’t the whole planet would become some dystopian wasteland due to the extreme demands on Earth’s resources to feed our population? Well, it’s a funny story really.
This view of a population crisis came into vogue during the late 1960s and 1970s namely with the publication of the 1968 book The Population Bomb by Paul Ehrlich. As the title would belie, his thesis is that the population growth that the planet was facing at that point in time was simply unsustainable. That we humans to meet the demand of making so many more humans were going to strip the planet bare. That we needed to control this population growth. This argument soon took its place in the anti-natalist pantheon.
The roots of this theory of population go back over two centuries with the theories of English economist Thomas Malthus. Malthus is famous today for his 1798 theory of population, later known as Malthusianism, that population will always outstrip food production. This is to say that the population will always grow faster than the available food. For this reason, he argued that there needed to be stern limiters on population in order to prevent continuous crisis over a limited food supply that would bring all of humanity down with her. For this Malthus was not wrong, at least as far as population growth outstripping food production. That is, he was right during his time.
The reason he is wrong today is that he could have never predicted the sheer amount of food production that we have today. Today’s crop yields are oodles (technical term) higher than they were in the past. This argument is obvious when you think about what your grandparents, great-grandparents, or great-great-grandparents did for a living. For most, for at least one of these generations the answer is going to be farming or something closely connected to that. But today only about 2% of the U.S population are farmers. It is only the poorest of nations that are still primarily agriculturally based. This is a long way of saying, we have so much food that only a small minority of people actually have to be farmers.
Despite this, alarmism over the population has been the narrative for decades. It is only pesky things such as freedom that have prevented many governments from wholesale conducting mass-family planning operations. In fact, the country with the world’s largest population, China, did this all the way back in 1979, with the so-called One-Child-Policy, which they only ended in 2015, with one video from the Guardian being provocatively title 400 Million Births Prevented: what China’s one-child policy did to its population. Needless to say, the People’s Republic of China is staring down the barrel of a demographic catastrophe, as despite the best efforts of its authoritarians, the birthrate still remains below replacement levels.
Besides China, the poster-child for this crisis is their neighbor Japan. Their population is expected to shrink from over 120 million to 55 million by 2100. They have an average of 1 child per family these days. The crisis has gotten to the point that they have set up an AI system to match people up for potential marriage based on personality compatibility. They now have a Minister of Loneliness. These two Asian giants have the same problem though for very different reasons.
The West has not been spared from this. Most all Western, Eastern, and Southern European countries are expected to start experiencing population declines because of below-replacement-level birthrates. The BBC explains this well here. Why do you think the Germans threw open their borders for all of those migrants. Probably not out of the goodness of their hearts, but for the good of their welfare state. The U.S continues to putz along, riding off of our massive levels of immigration, but we too have well below replacement rates. The COVID pandemic has not helped things either. Don’t see this as a problem? Well, wait until you retire and wonder why those Social Security checks look so small.
It would seem that more and more in the mainstream are coming around to this realization. Except for the climate alarmists, but they’re what we can refer to as special. Examples from mainstream news sources can be found here and here. While it is always fun to spin around in a chair chanting “screw you I was right!!!” (just me?) it is still the case that this is a huge problem. The reasons for which belong in its own article. The narrative is dying, but the fun has just begun.