I have long been of the belief that we have more humans living on earth than is ideal. But is population growth unavoidable without draconian or at least undesirable social strategies?
Answer: Population decrease is actually a natural bi-product what is seen as an ideal modern society. Whilst scaling back population can benefit individuals, it does not benefit governments and big business and the challenge is to avoid unnecessary intervention when a decrease is desirable.
The need for planning is real.
If, as outlined below, population reduction is feasible and influenced by government policy and social factors. From my perspective, the main step is to have an awareness out there so that governments seeking to use policy to increase national populations use policy of immigration, not policies to artificially increase birth rates, until the overall global population stabilises.
I will post the logic on my statement that we have moved beyond the ideal population at a future time, but to put that aside for the moment, what is needed to have populations decrease when desired?
There is no acceptable ‘Quick Fix’ rapid reduction strategy for overpopulation.
I recently saw a paper entitled ‘Human population reduction is not a quick fix for environmental problems’. My immediate reaction is ‘oh my! did they seriously even contemplate it could be a quick fix?’ Long term steps are possible but racism is the biggest barrier. I already regard planning the level of human population as the greatest moral challenge of our time. Any suggestion to decrease population quickly sounds like a highly immoral proposal!
In fact whilst quick fixes to REDUCE population are ridiculous, there are steps governments can take to minimise further growth or even assist global population reduction. China introduced an enforced one child policy with is both very dramatic an totalitarian and any enforced policy is against all the principles of humanity.
Acceptable population reduction.
The first example is Singapore. One of the most densely populated countries in the world, Singapore decided to take steps to limit population growth. The major step was based around simply advertising to citizens to ‘stop at two children’. The idea was to shape social attitudes. Of course if everyone stops at two, once you factor in those that never marry, are in fertile or die before child bearing there will be a population reduction. The Singapore government did not actually expect all couples to stop at two, they merely expected to increase the percentage who did stop at two. In fact the population did start to decrease. There is debate as to whether the decrease would have occurred even without the government initiatives, but the reduction was sufficient that within around 10 years the government then switched to instead promoting larger families.
Factors had changed the Singapore birth rate per woman fell from 4.33 to 1.2 between 1973 and 2010. In Singapore, despite the government switch to a strategy to promote larger families, the national birth rate continued to fall. This calls some to question of government policy had any impact on the reduction either, but there are legitimate reasons why the policy on reduction could have assisted reduction and been more effective than the policies adopted in Singapore to increase birth rates. There is also strong evidence from other locations that government policy to increase birth rates can correlate with actual increases. Clearly however, the reductions in birth rates seen in Singapore are due to more than government policy alone.
A very significant percentage ( > 75%) of high developed nations now have ‘births per woman’ that would lead to population reduction if not for immigration. Of course these same nations are desirable destinations for immigrants and with very rare exceptions, the actual population is still increasing.
Japan is an exception to increasing population and as such a reference case. It is difficult to be certain of all factors affecting birth rates, but Japan shows that low birth rates still persist in an environment without increasing population as a factor.
All this shows that there clearly are factors that will result in stable or decreasing population with resorting to undesirable measures. The factors are currently produced simply by creating a modern, prosperous society and the government simply not interfering. A study of the factors keeping rates low could allow governments to successfully add to keeping rates low, as long a government can make this a target.
Looking at the factors and the reasons to allow population to decrease I leave to other posts.