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Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of ten of America's presidencies and who has edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review, which has been on the web since 1995, is now published from Freeport, Maine. We get over 5 million article visits a year. See for full contents of our site

January 6, 2010


Joint Statement by 58 of the World's Scientific Academies, 1994 - The world is in the midst of an unprecedented expansion of human numbers. It took hundreds of thousands of years for our species to reach a population level of 10 million, only 10,000 years ago. This number grew to 100 million people about 2,000 years ago and to 2.5 billion by 1950. Within less than the span of a single lifetime, it has more than doubled to 5.5 billion in 1993. . .

Over the last 30 years, many regions of the world have also dramatically reduced birth rates. Some have already achieved family sizes small enough, if maintained, to result eventually in a halt to population growth. These successes have led to a slowing of the world's rate of population increase.

Consider three hypothetical scenarios for the levels of human population in the century ahead:

- Fertility declines within sixty years from the current rate of 3.3 to a global replacement average of 2.1 children per woman. The current population momentum would lead to at least 11 billion people before leveling off at the end of the 21st century.

- Fertility reduces to an average of 1.7 children per woman early in the next century. Human population growth would peak at 7.8 billion persons in the middle of the 21st century and decline slowly thereafter.

- Fertility declines to no lower than 2.5 children per woman. Global population would grow to 19 billion by the year 2100, and to 28 billion by 2150.

High fertility rates have historically been strongly correlated with poverty, high childhood mortality rates, low status and educational levels of women, deficiencies in reproductive health services, and inadequate availability and acceptance of contraceptives. Falling fertility rates and the demographic transition are generally associated with improved standards of living, such as increased per capita incomes, increased life expectancy, lowered infant mortality, increased adult literacy, and higher rates of female education and employment.

Even with improved economic conditions, nations, regions, and societies will experience different demographic patterns due to varying cultural influences. The value placed upon large families (especially among underprivileged rural populations in less developed countries who benefit least from the process of development), the assurance of security for the elderly, the ability of women to control reproduction, and the status and rights of women within families and within societies are significant cultural factors affecting family size and the demand for family planning services. . .

Throughout history and especially during the twentieth century, environmental degradation has primarily been a product of our efforts to secure improved standards of food, clothing, shelter, comfort, and recreation for growing numbers of people. The magnitude of the threat to the ecosystem is linked to human population size and resource use per person. Resource use, waste production and environmental degradation are accelerated by population growth. They are further exacerbated by consumption habits, certain technological developments, and particular patterns of social organization and resource management.

As human numbers further increase, the potential for irreversible changes of far reaching magnitude also increases. Indicators of severe environmental stress include the growing loss of biodiversity, increasing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing deforestation worldwide, stratospheric ozone depletion, acid rain, loss of topsoil, and shortages of water, food, and fuel-wood in many parts of the world. . .

The timing and spacing of pregnancies are important for the health of the mother, her children, and her family. Most maternal deaths are due to unsafe practices in terminating pregnancies, a lack of readily available services for high-risk pregnancies, and women having too many children or having them too early and too late in life.

Millions of people still do not have adequate access to family planning services and suitable contraceptives. Only about one-half of married women of reproductive age are currently practicing contraception. Yet as the director-general of UNICEF put it, ''Family planning could bring more benefits to more people at less cost than any other single technology now available to the human race." Existing contraceptive methods could go far toward alleviating the unmet need if they were available and used in sufficient numbers, through a variety of channels and distribution, sensitively adapted to local needs. . .

Reducing fertility rates, however, cannot be achieved merely by providing more contraceptives. The demand for these services has to be addressed. Even when family planning and other reproductive health services are widely available, the social and economic status of women affects individual decisions to use them. The ability of women to make decisions about family size is greatly affected by gender roles within society and in sexual relationships. Ensuring equal opportunity for women in all aspects of society is crucial.

Thus all reproductive health services must be implemented as a part of broader strategies to raise the quality of human life. They must include the following:

- Efforts to reduce and eliminate gender-based inequalities. Women and men should have equal opportunities and responsibilities in sexual, social, and economic life.

- Provision of convenient family planning and other reproductive health services with a wide variety of safe contraceptive options. irrespective of an individual's ability to pay.

- Encouragement of voluntary approaches to family planning and elimination of unsafe and coercive practices.

- Development policies that address basic needs such as clean water, sanitation, broad primary health care measures and education; and that foster empowerment of the poor and women.



Blogger Samson said...

Its really a question of one's outlook on the world. If your focus is on your family, your clan, your tribe, your nation .... basically your subgroup of however you think of it ..... then its beneficial to have as many children as possible.

On the other hand, if you focus on what's good for all people on this earth, then its beneficial to limit the number of children to the 1.7 or even maybe a 1.5 number.

The statistic about poverty and birth rates doesn't mean that poverty causes births. I think most of us adults here know what really causes births. But, what it means is that for a family struggling to live in poverty, having more children is beneficial. Yes, its more mouths to feed. But its also more hands to work and help the family survive. And, when such a family loses a child, as families in poverty often do, then its not such a huge impact on the family. Emotionally yes, economically, not as much.

If you think the world is going to be a nasty place, you want as many people as possible in your clan and thus on your side when times get rough. You aren't worried about the overall good, you are just worried about your clan. And more is better for your clan, even if at exactly the same time more is worse for all of us.

Jesus taught that we all need to love strangers as if they were our brothers if we wanted to reach paradise. If we failed to do that, we were doomed to hell. We seem to face in the next century so a choice as to whether we want to do that. If we love all as if they are our family, then we'll work together to control our numbers, and thus avoid a hell of too many people fighting constantly for too little food, too little energy, and too little food.

January 6, 2010 5:03 PM  
Anonymous wellbasically said...

What are you talking about? Having kids is really fun. Doing it is really fun, and the kids themselves are really fun. There's a reason they make it a joy to have children.

Population control is sexual regulation by people who are bothered by other people's joy. Others are unable to produce children through their particular sexual practice and resent the social favoritism for those who can.

Sexual regulation is also a method for blocking the major upward mobility for women, who may not have money but can be great at sex whether they are rich or not.

January 6, 2010 11:58 PM  
Blogger Pete Murphy said...

Rampant population growth threatens our economy and quality of life. I'm not talking about the obvious environmental and resource issues. I'm talking about the effect upon rising unemployment and poverty in America.

I should introduce myself. I am the author of a book titled "Five Short Blasts: A New Economic Theory Exposes The Fatal Flaw in Globalization and Its Consequences for America." To make a long story short, my theory is that, as population density rises beyond some optimum level, per capita consumption of products begins to decline out of the need to conserve space. People who live in crowded conditions simply don’t have enough space to use and store many products. This declining per capita consumption, in the face of rising productivity (per capita output, which always rises), inevitably yields rising unemployment and poverty.

This theory has huge implications for U.S. policy toward population management. Our policies that encourage high rates of population growth are rooted in the belief of economists that population growth is a good thing, fueling economic growth. Through most of human history, the interests of the common good and business (corporations) were both well-served by continuing population growth. For the common good, we needed more workers to man our factories, producing the goods needed for a high standard of living. This population growth translated into sales volume growth for corporations. Both were happy.

But, once an optimum population density is breached, their interests diverge. It is in the best interest of the common good to stabilize the population, avoiding an erosion of our quality of life through high unemployment and poverty. However, it is still in the interest of corporations to fuel population growth because, even though per capita consumption goes into decline, total consumption still increases. We now find ourselves in the position of having corporations and economists influencing public policy in a direction that is not in the best interest of the common good.

The U.N. ranks the U.S. with eight third world countries - India, Pakistan, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Bangladesh, Uganda, Ethiopia and China - as accounting for fully half of the world’s population growth by 2050.

If you’re interested in learning more about this important new economic theory, I invite you to visit my web site at

Pete Murphy
Author, "Five Short Blasts"

January 7, 2010 11:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just a word for wellbasicallysaid...
what grade level did you complete?
Some of us do care about the planet's future as well as that of our own children's future. If you really think that most of us are bothered by your "joy", think again and go crawl back to your "caveman" days so the rest of us educated people can ignore your ilk.

January 24, 2010 12:26 PM  

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