We personally experience overpopulation in the form of crowded streets and shops, noise and smell pollution, traffic jams, mass recreation, long waits, overcrowded trains, undersized houses and urbanization of the country side.
These are just the tips of the iceberg. The actual problems without the reach of our immediate perception are very much worse.
For our prosperity and existence in a densely populated country we depend completely on imports and exports. We must keep on producing and exporting, in order to be able to import and consume. After many fat years this revenue model is heavily at risk.
The import of several materials lies under pressure. Phosphates for agricultural use are becoming scarce. We can re-use phosphates and even export them, because of our huge manure surplus, but this surplus in its turn is caused by large-scale imports of soy. High value fossil energy from coal, oil and gas is running out. In the long term it should be replaced by solar and wind energy. However, in order to be able to collect, store, transport, distribute and finally use this energy, a huge amount of raw materials for machinery, turbines, pipes and cables is required. These materials, concrete and metals such as iron, copper, nickel, aluminium, molybdenum an silver have to be won first, and this winning is becoming more and more difficult and expensive in consequence of a growing need for energy.
For an optimal exploitation of solar and wind energy rare earth metals are needed, such as neodymium and dysprosium. 95% of them is coming from China that controls the market. The question is how to accomplish the large-scale investments in materials and energy. Scarcity of materials will hamper the solution of the energy problem. Recycling of material from existing products is very energy-consuming and will by no means cover the needs. Our existence depends on the world market, and that is the main problem. The demand for food, energy and raw materials in upcoming countries where huge populations are striving for material wealth – China, India, Brazil - is increasing to an extremely worrying extent. The growing demand in these countries, the scarcity of the goods wanted and the monopoly of vital sources will create shortages on the world market for other economies, which will become unable to produce and export in a cost-effective way.
The question is how to feed the numerous mouths in a densely populated country and how to acquire means of living in another manner than by a declining export economy. Answer: by reducing our consumption needs. That can be done in a twofold manner: first, by tightening our belts, which would imply an extreme austerity as well as impoverishment – not an attractive future to many -, or secondly by reducing the number of consumers. With less people there are more areal and natural resources per person available; we will be less dependent on other countries. We could build up autonomous small scale regional economies in which we cater for our own daily necessities.
For that, population size has to shrink dramatically. To date, more than 17 million people are living on a surface that is at most able to feed and sustain 5 million people. Therefore, birth rates have to sink substantially.
At least financial incentives encouraging people to have and rise children should be abandoned, such as child allowance and subsidized child care. Infertility treatments should not be reimbursed.
Secondly, the number of inhabitants should not increase by immigration. European regulations concerning the free movement of persons and the right of asylum should be postponed.
With economic degrowth it won’t be possible to give job guarantees. They will be replaced by income or livelihood security, for which manifold services can be asked in return. In principle, everybody will be broadly employable.
Reducing birth rates will inevitably lead to an ageing population. However, many people in pensionable age stay vital for a long time and are able to live independently. But as soon as the old day becomes a burden, elderly people must have the opportunity of voluntarily drawing a line. People should not turn into the powerless person they never wanted to be. Life extension should not end up in a long period of terminal existence.
After the first demographic transition, in which a shift is made from high birth and death rates to lower birth and death rates within a number of generations, but in which high population numbers remain unchanged, we advocate a second demographic transition: reduce the number of inhabitants to a quantity that is able to provide for themselves, self-sufficient and independent from global shortages and geopolitical instability. Our first ambition was a number of ten million Dutch, therefore the name of the ‘Ten Million Club’. At present, we realise that we should at least halve this number.