Tuesday, May 3, 2011

“Every billion more people makes life more difficult for everybody — it’s as simple as that."

Says John Bongaarts, a demographer at the Population Council, a research group in New York.

What's the evidence for this assertion?  Seems to me that the average standard of living for human beings has been on a fairly consistent upward climb for a long time, even as the population has been exploding.

So I have a prediction:  The population will continue exploding until life actually does start getting worse for people.  And then it will start contracting.  It will be almost as if forces of nature are at work!

Mr Bongaarts also says: "We obviously would be better off with a smaller population."  But who, exactly, is the "we"?  Sure, if you divide the total wealth of the world by a smaller number of people, the remaining people -- the "we" -- are going to be "better off."  But I wonder about those missing folks.  Are they better off?  Is modern life so terrible that we don't feel the need to make any accounting for a billion people never born?

It's true that more people means more suffering, more conflict, and more competition for resources. But it means more of everything good too -- more happiness, more joy, more birthdays, more epiphanies, more love, etc. It takes a dark worldview to elide all that.

I think about this sometimes when people talk about limiting families to two children as a form of population control.  That sounds nice in theory, but as a third-born son I feel kind of compelled to object.  And, maybe for the same reason, I feel a certain kinship with those billion people -- "them," I guess Mr. Bongaarts might call them -- that Mr. Bongaarts prefers would never come to exist.

1 comment:

  1. As someone who is also a third child, I second your objection.


Comments on posts older than 30 days are moderated because almost all of those comments are spam.