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The world is too small for us

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Crowded, isn’t it?

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Improving environment starts with tackling overpopulation

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Do not replenish the earth

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Limits to Growth

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The more men, the more jam

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Couples wanting children are doubly responsible for the future

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Overpopulation = overconsumption

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Stop the exhaustion and pollution of the earth

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Too little prosperity for too many people

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We love people, but not their number

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We cannot let humanity happen

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Tuesday, 27 March 2018 13:22

Thirteen misconceptions of overpopulation

Overpopulation? Why?

In discussions of overpopulation several misconceptions will inevitably arise, sometimes because of reluctance to recognise the problem, sometimes because of lack of information. Thirteen most important misconceptions are confuted below.

Misconception 1

There is more than enough food for all people on earth, right now as well as in the future. The problem is unequal distribution. In rich countries there is abundance, in poor countries a shortage.

Reaction

Abundance in rich countries is based on the import of food products from abroad. They live on the resources of other countries. Inhabitants of poor countries are unable to do that. They have to be either self-supporting or are obliged to trade their raw materials for food.
By definition, overpopulation is a situation in which an area cannot meet the needs of its inhabitants. According to the definition, both rich and poor countries can be overpopulated: rich countries because of the import of food products from abroad, poor countries because of a lack of livelihood opportunities for their inhabitants.
There will be a balance if the natural carrying capacity of an area is in tune with the number of its inhabitants and if no large scale transport of food products is required. Transport causes much carbon dioxide emissions and therefore contributes to climate change, with increasing agricultural problems as a consequence.
A more equal distribution of food over the world would imply more transport and more energy consumption for processing and conservation as well as for the construction of roads. Carbon dioxide emissions would rise further.

Misconception 2

People in poor countries consume less and cause much less pollution than people in rich countries. Depletion of the earth and climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions are the consequence of overconsumption in rich countries; poor countries are in no way responsible for that. The real problem should not be called overpopulation, but overconsumption.

Reaction

Agreed. If rich countries would consume and pollute much less, then a number of problems would be solved. A reduction of consumption and pollution can be achieved most effectively by reducing the number of consumers, i.e. the number of people.
Emerging countries such as China and India are working towards the consumption pattern of rich countries. This exacerbates the global situation. In emerging countries population reduction is the best remedy against over-depletion and pollution.
In a nutshell: the less people living here as we do, the better. And also: the less people living there as we do, the better.

Misconception 3

We need more young people to prevent our population from ageing. Who else will keep the economy going and pay our pensions? And who else will take care of the elderly?

Reaction

There are several arguments against driving up birth rates or attracting young migrants. Firstly, these measures will just shift the problem: these young people will also age, and who will then take care of them?
Secondly, even if the present population ages, there will be still a lot of hidden work capacity left. Many people work part-time or are seeking work.
Thirdly, less work force is needed as a consequence of automation and robotization, as we can already see with banks and shops.
Finally, what we have to spend more for elderly care will be saved on the costs of the youngsters, such as schools and education.

Misconception 4

Overpopulation is not the cause of food shortage in a number of countries in Africa and the Middle-East, but war and poverty are. It does not make a difference if many or fewer people live there. If you have the bad luck of living there, you will be hungry.

Reaction

War and poverty are sooner the consequence of overpopulation than a cause of food shortage. In almost all conflict areas in the Middle-East (Syria, Yemen) and Africa (Somalia, Eritrea) food shortage is caused by severe droughts. There is not enough water, pasture and arable land for an excess of people. If others own more than you and are not willing to share, you will go and get it, and a war will arise. However, in all these cases overpopulation is the deeper cause: too many people for an area with insufficient carrying capacity.

Misconception 5

Having children is a fundamental right and an individual choice. The government is not allowed to interfere with that. After all, we do not live in China.

Reaction

Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights asserts that men and women have the right to marry and to found a family. However, if this right is exercised without restrictions, the consequence might be that other human rights are infringed by overpopulation, e.g. the right to a specific standard of living (article 25), if a numerous offspring will end up in a situation of scarcity.
Furthermore, the government has already been interfering with procreation for many years by making the community responsible for costs in the form of child benefit, tax advantage or child care allowance. This is unfair towards people that do not procreate; they pitch in for other people’s desire to have children. The former could be great pet lovers, but as a dog owner you have to pay taxes!

Misconception 6

Previous nightmare scenarios of food shortages as a consequence of overpopulation failed to come true. Malthus and the Club of Rome have been proved wrong. Agricultural technology has always found solutions: the Green Revolution in the last century and once again with genetically modified crops.

Reaction

10% of the world population is still undernourished. Climate change threatens food supply to a growing degree. According to the Food an Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations, the worldwide production of food, feed and dietary fibres has to double around 2050 to cater for the growing need of an ever expanding world population.
In this way we are entering into a vicious circle. A higher food production prevents starvation. Therefore more people stay alive, who will procreate and require an ever growing food production in order to feed an increasing number of hungry mouths. This vicious circle will be broken in a most violent way as soon as food production cannot keep up with population growth anymore.
This already the case in a number of regions. The situation in sub-Saharan Africa has only worsened in the last years. A permanent raising of food production will eventually lead us into a dead-end street.

Misconception 7

As soon as the point birth control comes up, it is always associated with developing countries. People there have to limit the number of their children according to the will of rich countries. This smacks of racism.

Reaction

Many women in developing countries are in need of family planning, but are unable to put this in practice. In many cultures girls are married off at an early age and the husband determines the number of offspring. It is rather a question of lack of women’s empowerment than of racism.

Misconception 8

On a global scale, the number of births per woman is further declining. It is going in the direction of two children, the replacement level. Therefore, the world population will stabilise at ten billion people by the end of the century, and even diminish thereafter.

Reaction

This is an assumption. With this prediction one takes over the mean projection of the United Nations, but there is no guarantee whatsoever that it will come true. If total fertility rates of the years 2005 – 2010 persist, we will end up with 27 billion people. But even if the mean projection turns out to be correct, there will be to many people for the available global resources, certainly when all those people are striving for a higher standard of living. It has been calculated that the present world population of about 7,5 billion people could live sustainably at the level of prosperity we had around 1950. This would either mean a great leap backwards for rich countries, or a considerable reduction of the number of their inhabitants.

Misconception 9

Insisting on birth control means women’s oppression. Pregnancies are only considered unwanted because they make women less available for the labour market. This is an obstruction of female self-fulfilment.

Reaction

In principle, women are free to fulfil their desire to have children. They must be enabled by law to give birth in peace and quiet. This is what maternity leave is meant for.
However, in the present situation of overpopulation governmental incentives for procreation are undesirable. The government should not discriminate people without children against people with offspring by granting the latter tax reduction and surcharges.

Misconception 10

Migration and overpopulation are completely different problems. Migrants are already there. They move, but their numbers remain the same. They should have the personal freedom to choose their place of residence in the world.

Reaction

In the present situation of overconsumption in rich countries with disastrous consequences for the environment, the number of people taking up this way of living should be substantially reduced by birth control as well as by immigration stop.
It is unfair that countries that have contributed to climate change with their longstanding carbon dioxide emissions refuse to accommodate the migrant flows for which they are partly responsible. However, if combating overpopulation and overconsumption has the highest priority, then rich countries can only admit immigrants after having drastically reduced their own population size and consumption level.

Misconception 11

Overpopulation cannot be a serious problem, because the government never mentions it.

Reaction

One cannot make political gains by raising the topic. Christian parties consider (big) families a cornerstone of society, lefties believe that procreation is a fundamental human right, and neoliberals regard people foremost as consumers and labour force. On the right wing there is opposition against immigration, but on other grounds than population growth.

Misconception 12

History teaches us again and again that technology solves all kinds of problems. Why wouldn’t that be the case with overpopulation too?

Reaction

With technology one thinks in the first place of food production, genetic engineering and water management. However, as a matter of fact technology has solved the problem of overpopulation as early as in the last century. The invention of modern contraceptives gives mankind the possibility to have sex without offspring and to adjust his number to the living circumstances. The required technology is already there, we just have to spread and use it.

Misconception 13

Give all women access to modern contraceptives, then the problem of overpopulation will disappear entirely.

Reaction

The availability of modern contraceptives is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for family planning. Research reveals a lot of ignorance. Women think for instance that one cannot become pregnant if one has a modest sex life or as long as one is breast feeding. Women also fear that the pill will make them fat or damage their health. However, the main obstacle is a cultural one. Unmarried women taking birth control pills are seen as promiscuous; the social environment or religious leaders find that one should be allowed to have children without restriction, or men make their status dependent on a large number of offspring.

World population

earth Thirteen misconceptions of overpopulation - Stichting de Club van Tien Miljoen