By Vexen Crabtree 2013
“Between 1970 and 2011, world population increased from 3.6 billion to 7 billion.”
“For the past 20 years I've never had any doubt that the source of the Earth's ills is overpopulation.”
“All our environmental problems become ... harder - and ultimately impossible - to solve with ever more people.”
David Attenborough (2009)3
Since 1930 the world's population has risen from 2 billion to over 7 billion now. Food production and infrastructure is not keeping up, and the world's population explosion is still accelerating. We are not going to be saved by luck or by miracle - "demographic changes are much more certain than many other long-term predictions" writes one sociologist4. Rather than leaving the future to blind runaway population growth, things can be done - the United Nations reports that, in particular, improved education (especially, women's education) brings down uncontrolled growth5. This accelerating overpopulation of planet Earth is not progressing uniformly. Some developed countries even have contracting populations (and others are on the verge of doing so). What happens when an increasingly overpopulated poor world becomes increasingly contrasted against a rich, ageing, shrinking world? Migration and population control are required to keep the peace.
Our species' population rose to 1 billion around 1830, and one hundred years later, it had doubled. Since then, since 1930, the rate of increase has been phenomenal and we are now at over 7.1 billion. "Before the 20th century, no human had lived through a doubling of the human population, but there are people alive today who have seen it triple"6. Note the massive difference between industrialized countries and developing countries. The scales are very, very imbalanced.
Population Matters (formerly called the Optimum Population Trust) statistics on the UK population, and United Nations reports on the massive increase of world population, inform us that:
“By 2031 [...] our population will have risen by 10 per cent to almost 66 million - nearly six million more - while calculations by the Optimum Population Trust suggest that at current rates there will be 10 million more Britons, equivalent to nearly one and a half Londons, by 2050. The UN, meanwhile, says global population will increase from 6.5 billion to 9.1 billion by mid-century.”
The Independent (2005)7
From 1960 the total population of the Earth more than doubled, from 3024 million in 1960 to 6465 million in 20058. Every decade, the rate of increase has increased. The growth of the Human population on the Earth is still accelerating. Faster and faster growth, a population explosion, continues. In Global Trends, Michael J. Mazarr writes that "only after 2020 might annual additions to world population begin to decline"9. The population will continue to increase for hundreds of years, but, there are signs that in the future the rate of increase will start slowing down.
Robert Kunzig, the environment editor of The National Geographic, summarizes some of the problems that continued overpopulation makes worse:
“Water tables are falling, soil is eroding, glaciers are melting, and fish stocks are vanishing. Close to a billion people go hungry each day. Decades from now, there will likely be two billion more mouths to feed, mostly in poor countries[, ] wanting and deserving to boost themselves out of poverty: If they follow the path blazed by wealthy countries - clearing forests, burning coal and oil, freely scattering fertilizers and pesticides - they too will be stepping hard on the planet's natural resources.”
National Geographic (2011)6
The poor distribution of resources across the planet, and the growing risk of permanent shortages of materials and fuels is a spectre that grows more menacing with every additional million people. China's experiences serve us with a few lessons in population control:
“No doubt the chief cause of China's energy/resources/environmental problem is the fact that population keeps growing. The streets are teeming with pedestrians. Many years ago China instituted a stringent one child per family policy to restrain population growth. Criticized by the Western world for its restraint on the freedom of choice, the Chinese nevertheless felt it was an urgent necessity. This has had unexpected consequences, however, for there may not be enough workers to support their aging parents, the custom in ancient China. The growth of the population is due primarily to the decline of the death rate because of better nutrition and sanitary conditions. The average lifespan has risen from thirty-five years to seventy-two years in the past four decades. [...] Demographic projections indicate that China will add 300,000,000 people by the year 2030 - equivalent to the entire U.S. population!”
Most countries are experiencing improved living conditions, which have boosted life expectancy, and therefore will provide a boost to the average age of their populations, as China is experiencing. If young workers are required because the population is aging, and the overall population of the Earth is already too high, then, the only solution is immigration to the places of need.
The population explosion across the Earth is not uniform. Some countries are in the process of exploding, others are merely expanding. The main differences are between the developed world such as the industrialized West, and the developing third-world, such as the countries of Africa. Some countries will suffer more extreme problems as a result of overpopulation, whilst others will actually suffer economically as a result of the decrease in population growth. Europe will be the first continental bloc to experience a general decline in numbers. See the forecast until the year 20508:
“On or around October 17th , according to the Census Bureau's population clock, the number of people in the country will hit 300m, up from 200m in 1967. By as early as 2043, the bureau says, there will be 400m Americans. Such robust growth is unique among rich countries. As America adds 100m people over the next four decades, Japan and the EU are expected to lose almost 15m. [...]
American women today can expect to have an average of 2.1 children. That is the number needed to keep a population stable [...]. The fertility rate in the EU is 1.47 - well below replacement. By 2010, deaths there are expected to start outnumbering births, so from that point immigration will account for more than all its growth. [...] The fertility rate in Italy and Spain is 1.28, which, without immigration, would cause the number of Spaniards and Italians to halve in 42 years.
Falling birth rates are linked to prosperity. [...] The fertility rate in Niger and Mali, for example, is over seven children per woman. As countries grow richer and women get educated, they have fewer children and invest more in each one.”
There are too many human beings; the problems of overpopulation cannot be quickly rectified. The only solution is for us to make fewer new humans, and to redistribute existing ones more evenly according to demographic need. It is not just an issue of available resources; but of side-effects such as increasing levels of pollution due to there being more people. The scientist Chris Rapley says that 'if we invest in ways to reduce the birthrate - by improving contraception, education and healthcare - we will stop the world's population reaching its current estimated limit of between eight and 10 billion. That in turn will mean less carbon dioxide is being pumped into the atmosphere because there will be fewer people to drive cars and use electricity. The crucial point is that to achieve this goal you would only have to spend a fraction of the money that will be needed to bring about technological fixes, new nuclear power plants or renewable energy plants'14.
Given the current overpopulation of the Earth, anyone who has three children should be sterilized. The world is massively overpopulated, the UK is one of the worst places in Europe for that. Sterilisation aids population control, and it helps useless welfare families keep themselves a little less of a drain on the economy. When it comes to fertility, the "replacement rate" of children per woman is two point something, depending on generation and area of living, therefore, the limit to the number of children should be three. The only way to have more children, if parents wish, should be to adopt one from an even-more overpopulated country, therefore slightly balancing the demographic scales without adding yet more people to the mix.
There are those that complain about human-rights and free-will issues and state that how many children we have is a free choice that should be, in a democracy, guaranteed.
But there are limits on all freedoms. In any democracy, people are not free to endanger and undermine the future of other people. Or at least, that's the idea, and such moral obligations are present in many circumstances and are sometimes translated into legal obligations. Continued human population growth will continue to harm all people, the whole planet, in a gradually increasingly severe manner. The more people there are, the greater the problems due to overpopulation, including degradation of everyone's quality of life. It is a human-rights and free-will issue: we are not free to harm others, and, that means, we should not be free to have as many children as we like. This is the moral issue. But as most people have continued to have too many children, it must eventually become a legal issue. Sterilisation is one of the very few ways to effectively protect future generations from the poor choices of the current generation.
Given the number of warnings about population, spanning history now for 4,000 years, is it time that we forgot our fears, and learned to concentrate on symptoms one at a time? Are concerns about overpopulation misguided?
“But one can also draw a different conclusion - that fixating on population numbers is not the best way to confront the future. People packed into slums need help, but the problem that needs solving is poverty and lack of infrastructure, not overpopulation. Giving every woman access to family planning services is a good idea - 'the one strategy that can make the biggest difference to women's lives' [says Shailaja Chandra].”
National Geographic (2011)17.
Despite the fact that family planning services is population control, there are arguments that we will simply, somehow, manage to cope with our ever-increasing population. These are:
We produce enough food, but the problem is with distribution. We will find ways of distributing food more evenly and fairly.
We will find ways to increase food productivity.
Poverty is the real issue, and economic boosts will overcome most problems to do with overpopulation.
There is plenty of room left on the planet.
God will provide a solution, as It told us to go forth and multiply in the first place.
Waste disposal, burial grounds, water supplies, raw resources and other material supplies can all be stretched further and further due to continued gains in efficiency and as results from scientific breakthroughs.
But all of these ideas have shortcomings. In the same order:
Campaigners for sustainable food production often point out that the globalisation of food is one of the biggest causes of increased resource usage (i.e., transport and fuel costs) and, health campaigners point out that adding salt and preservatives to food (to make it last during transport) is one of the biggest causes of pandemic health problems. Local food production means healthier food and less strain on the planet and becomes more and more important the more our populations grow.
Overexploitation of soil and the mass conversion of forested land for agriculture has caused the degradation of ecosystems, resulting in massive drops in soil quality. As a result, soil erosion and increased flooding (both caused from lack of trees) has devastated crop production in many countries, especially in those places where overpopulation led to soil overexploitation. Our efforts to increase food production are often at the expense of long-term production viability. The most advanced countries and the biggest staple agricultural producers have not managed to increase overall crop production for decades, leading some to conclude that efficiency ceilings are already being reached. Not only that, but stocks of food in forests and the oceans have dwindled and many fish species are no so endangered that they cannot be fished. Food production has peaked in some areas, and is falling in others due to overexploitation, so it is hard to imagine that production gains can continually be made.
Unfortunately, increasing poverty increases resource usage, and puts additional burdens on the planet. The best way to reduce poverty is to keep families small, and to prevent overpopulation. The poorest countries are already the most overpopulated ones. Maintaining a sensible population is the easiest way to equalize the distribution of wealth and prevent goods (and food) from becoming too expensive for the poor. The more people there are, the more expensive food is, and the more the poor suffer. Poverty reduction needs to go hand in hand with population control.
All fertile land is being used for produce already, and, all sensible places to live have been taken. Expansion of housing on to flood plains and areas of natural disaster have led to increasingly serious damages to lives and livelihoods as a results of floods, volcanoes and earthquakes. All housing expansions are now at a cost to nature, and it is upon nature that we rely for food production and environmental health.
Given the record of divine natural disasters and divinely endorsed cataclysms, this seems to be an unlikely appeal.
In nearly all causes, these methods result in higher costs and worse quality of life. Cemeteries and burial grounds are filling up and all waste requires space and expense to process. Some gains will be made, but, increasingly expensive research is now needing to be spent on this. It is better to control population and allow research to go into matters that increase quality of life rather than going into dealing with the side-effects of overpopulation. Prevention is better than cure, especially when the improvements to efficiency are increasingly small and increasingly expensive.
Few people doubt the severity of the problem that overpopulation presents for this planet. Its consequences are poverty, famine, disease and death, sometimes on very large scales. Minor problems include overcrowding, strained infrastructure and social instability. By facilitating contraception and women's medical services we enable family planning. "Allowing women to plan their pregnancies also leads to healthier outcomes for children. A recent study showed that if all births were spaced at least two years apart, the number of deaths among children younger than five would decline by 13%. The number would decline by 25% if there were a three-year gap between births"18. Making birth control accessible to all is a moral requirement for anyone who has the power to help. It is inconsistent, for example, to say that contraception and abortion is "murder" whilst ignoring the fact that poverty and overpopulation are far bigger killers.
Aside from population control, "the health benefits of contraceptive use are substantial. Contraceptives prevent unintended pregnancies, reduce the number of abortions, and lower the incidence of death and disability related to complications of pregnancy and childbirth"18. The numbers of abortions that are prevented by contraception is staggering. A Guttmacher Institute report on the developing world predicts that "in 2012, use of modern contraceptives in the developing world will prevent 218 million unintended pregnancies, which, in turn, will avert 55 million unplanned births, 138 million abortions (40 million of them unsafe), 25 million miscarriages and 118,000 maternal deaths. It will also prevent an estimated 1.1 million neonatal deaths (those within 28 days of birth) and 700,000 postneonatal infant deaths (those from 28 days to one year of age)"18. Condoms help prevent the spread of disease - their effect is strong enough that long-term use by a community can gradually eradicate strains of sexually transmitted diseases from the community. Venereal disease causes unimaginable suffering and can affect the purely innocent. Babies are frequently infected with the diseases of the parents; in this way, the prevention of disease with contraception is vital because once women in a local area are infected with a disease, children will also be directly infected. In the case of incurable diseases, such an event can lead to unsurmountable suffering. Such a terrible state of affairs is prevented by the correct use of contraceptives such as condoms. The number of women with unmet needs for contraception in the developing world is still increasing - between 2008 and 2012 the figure rose from 153 million to 162 million18. Those 69 countries are the ones that are least able to support growing populations.
“Some of the religious traditions have presented recurring obstacles to open discussion of certain kinds of birth control at UN population conferences. These religious groups are associated largely with Islam, Roman Catholicism, and evangelical Christianity.”
"Religion and Ecology"
Mary Evelyn Tucker (2011)19
Religious opposition to abortion, birth control and contraception: Despite the practical necessity of birth control, the benefits of disease prevention, the moral responsibility we have towards the future of our children and the responsibility we have with regards to the stewardship of our planet, many religions have opposed birth control for various superstitious reasons. On the other side of the fence, it is worth knowing that all of the pioneers of contraception were freethinkers20,21 (that is, people who are opposed to the influence of organized religion on people´s opinions and beliefs). Why have religions determined to prevent family planning? The answer is in a kind of survival of the fittest amongst religions themselves. As most religious people simply abide by the religion of their parents22, religions that encourage parents to have more children will attain a stronger and longer-lasting base of adherents. Barber (2011) notes that religions promote fertility by encouraging marriage at a much earlier age than amongst the non-religious23.
Bearing this out is Catholicism, which has an infamously strict suite of dogmas that forbid all kinds of birth control. The Roman Catholic Church is the most notable, powerful and active organisation that lobbies against birth-control wherever it can, internationally. Thankfully Most Catholics routinely ignore the Church on this issue, especially in educated and developed countries, but there are still plenty of fast-growing countries where the Catholic Church is still prospering the old-fashioned way. It took the government of the Philippines 13 years to force through legislation to allow government-funded contraception and for sex education in schools because of the strength of the opposition of the Catholic Church there - in a country where 11 women die of pregnancy-related problems every day. The Catholic Church "ferociously" opposed it, warning of moral and social collapse, the destruction of family life, and divine wrath, if it was passed. The bill is considered "a major step toward reducing maternal deaths and promoting family planning in the impoverished country, which has one of Asia's fastest-growing populations. [...] The United Nations said early this year that the bill would help reduce an alarming number of pregnancy-related deaths, prevent life-threatening abortions and slow the spread of AIDS"24.
The page contents of "Abortion, Birth Control and Contraception: How Religion is Making Overpopulation Worse" by Vexen Crabtree (2013) is:
|Highest Fertility Rates|
|175||Timor-Leste (E. Timor)||6.0|
|Most Populous (m=millions)|
The fertility rate is, in simple terms, the average amount of children that each woman has. The higher the figure, the quicker the population is growing, although, to calculate the rate you also need to take into account morbidity, i.e., the rate at which people die. If people live healthy and long lives and morbidity is low, then, 2.0 approximates to the replacement rate, which would keep the population stable. If all countries had such a fertility rate, population growth would end. The actual replacement rate in most developed countries is around 2.1.
|Dependency Ratios and Life Expectancy|
(Only Countries With L.E. Over 80)
Our massive population growth is unsustainable, but, thankfully the rate of increase is slowing and in some countries, populations are on the verge of shrinking if not already shrinking as in Japan. Due to the way freemarket economies work, this causes its own problems. The sooner we face these problems, the better, and, the more we let our populations rise beforehand, the worse the impacts will be. The trick is to manage national population growth in order to be able to manage the effects of the demographics crises better in the long-run.
The main problem has to do with the dependency ratio. Populations are ageing26. This means that over coming decades, the numbers of old people will continue to rise whilst the numbers of the young continue to decline. It is the first time in Human history that the age distribution of nations has threatened to become permanently top-heavy. What this means is a change in the entire way that society is structured. The young will have an excess of elders, rather than the old having an excess of youth. The dependency ratio is the comparison of the number of dependents to the number of working-age people. In some poor countries with poor health conditions, a high ratio is due to large numbers of infants compared to adults. But in others, for the first time, a high ratio is increasingly due to the number of pensioners. As this second type becomes dominant, our ideas of work, retirement, socialisation and education will have to change. The table on the right captures these countries by only showing those where the life expectancy (L.E.) is over 80.
To explain what this ratio means simply, take Israel, with a dependency ratio of 61.6. This means that for every 100 working-age people in Israel, there are 62 (rounding up) people depending on them, depending on their taxes being paid, on their input into the economy, in order to keep pensions, welfare and infrastructure running.
“The EU is facing unprecedented demographic changes that will have a major impact on many areas of society such as social systems, consumption patterns, education, and job markets in the coming decades. People are living much longer and [...] fertility rates have dropped. [...] This demographic ageing means that the proportion of older people is rising in contrast to the share of those of working age (15 to 64). These demographic trends have serious economic and social consequences in a number of areas, including healthcare and benefit systems.”
Measured in percents, a rate of 25% means that there is one old-age dependent per 4 working-age people.
“Continued increases in longevity will ensure that the old-age dependency ratio, which measures the number of elderly people as a share of those of working age, will rise sharply in most countries over the next 40 years [...]. The biggest absolute increase will be in Japan, where the ratio [... is] already the world's highest, will more than double to 73.8%, by 2050. At that point, the number of pensioners in China will be equivalent to 38.8% of its labour force, up from 11.6% in 2010. The European Union, which had 84.6m elderly people last year, will have 148.4m in 2050. And the ratio for the world as a whole will reach 25.4%, up from 11.7% in 2010.”
“From an economic perspective, this mass ageing is already producing significant pressure and, going forward, many see it as a time bomb for healthcare, pensions, taxation and wider social dynamics. The key measure for this is the dependency ratio - the portion of population which is inactive in relation to the total labour force [and] is expressed as a percentage. [...] By 2050 [...] the likes of Spain, Italy, Japan and Korea, where the dependency ratios will have passed the 90% mark, there will be nearly one pensioner for every worker. [...] There will need to be significant [increases to tax rates] to cope with higher dependency.”
Economically, many companies and governments are feeling the increasing pressure of having larger numbers of pensioners. More and more people are drawing pensions, and fewer and fewer will be paying into pension schemes. Economists have long predicted that in modern countries, all pension schemes will collapse. It is not possible for one worker to pay for the pensions of three, or hardly even two, retired elders. Add the number of children to the mix and you arrive at the "dependency ratio", which is the measure of many dependents you have per working-age person.
Governments such as those in Britain29 and Germany30 have implemented a gradual increase of the age of retirement to try and curb the collapse of pension schemes and to try to dam the exodus of workers from employment to retirement.
“Firms big and small are threatened by a fundamental demographic shift that most have yet to adjust to. Britain's pensioners are proving a hardier bunch than expected. On August 1st the actuaries' trade body adopted a new set of mortality tables drawing on data collected between 1999 and 2002. It forecasts yet another increase in life expectancy. In 1999 actuaries assumed that a British man retiring at 60 would on average live to the ripe old age of 84. They then raised their estimate in 2002 to 87. Now they figure he will live about six months longer. What is good news for ageing folk is bad news for those who support them. Each increase in life expectancy of one year adds about £12 billion to the aggregate pension liabilities of FTSE 100 companies, says Peter Thompkins of Pricewaterhouse-Coopers, an accounting firm. [...]
Firms as a group are underestimating life expectancy. [...] Updating that estimate could well add more than £25 billion to the FTSE 100 deficit [...]. So it is not surprising that many companies are trying to reduce the risks of providing pensions by closing their final-salary schemes to new members (which three-quarters of FTSE 100 firms have already done) and, increasingly, to existing members.”
In response to the demographics crises (the increase in the dependency ratio as the population gets older), the UK government in 2006 produced a pensions bill designed to put off the pensions collapse:
“The state pension age will be increased to 68 and the link between earnings and pensions restored under a bill unveiled today. The pensions bill sets out plans for the state pension age to increase gradually to reach 68 by 2046. Ministers said the move is necessary to stave off a pensions crisis and secure the long-term financial stability of the pensions system, while ensuring fairness between generations.”
Unfortunately measures such as increasing the age of pension are only temporary, because as the population continues to age, the changes will always be lagging behind what is required. The Economist newspaper in 2007 recommends that mandatory retirement ages need to be completely scrapped: "the best way to ease the transition towards a smaller population would be to encourage people to work for longer, and remove the barriers that prevent them from doing so. [...] Mandatory retirement ages need to go. They're bad not just for society, which has to pay the pensions of perfectly capable people who have been put out to grass, but also for companies, which would do better to use performance, rather than age, as a criterion for employing people"32.
Increased immigration is another method to reduce the crises. Scandinavia is suffering from the same problems, and Sweden has taken the region's most extreme pro-immigration steps in order to avoid a crippling labour shortage. Several UK industries rely on immigrant workers, who pay into pensions systems, and the British will need increasingly more immigrants in order to fuel the economy, as our population ages. My page on UK Immigration notes:
The UK depends, now, on immigrants to supply a workforce in multiple industries. "Over the past five years, nearly half the new doctors and nurses employed by Britain's National Health Service qualified abroad"33. This trend will continue and without increasing amounts of immigrants entire industries in the UK would collapse permanently. For now, new entrants into the European Union such as Poland offer healthy workforces to 'old' Europe. Europe's open borders allow the post-explosion countries to easily import workers. But, as the whole of Europe gradually enters the post-population-explosion era, more and more workers will have to come from Asia, South America and Africa. As yet, the increases are quite small and most immigrants come from within Europe, but in the future, Europe as a whole will be a hungry gobbler of young adults seeking work, from all over the developing world.”
“On the face of it, immigration seems like a good idea that benefits everyone. Many developing countries have lots of young people in need of jobs; many rich countries need workers to boost tax revenues and maintain economic growth. But, over the next few decades, labour forces in developed countries are set to shrink so much that inflows of immigrants would have to increase enormously to compensate - to at least twice their current size in Western Europe's most youthful countries, and three times in the older ones.”
“That genes play an important role in longevity has been demonstrated on many fronts. Family studies, for example, show that the male siblings of centenarians are seventeen times more likely than other men born around the same time to live to one hundred. Female siblings are eight times as likely to do so. One theory holds that the reason is that people who reach extreme old age have genetic variations throughout their genome that slow the basic mechanisms of aging and result in a decreased susceptibility to age-associated diseases. This theory is supported by the finding that throughout life the children of centenarians are significantly healthier than the children of people who die at an average age.”
“[Dr Sweeney] points out that attempts to understand aging in terms of evolution may fail because natural selection doesn't operate during the postreproductive years. The diseases and morbidity of aging may be accidental results of other biological processes - what Sweeney calls nature's "neglect" or "lack of forethought" for a time of life no longer under selective pressure.”
Not all of the effects of ageing are a simple case of biological senescence. Some is cultural; it seems that we learn how to decline during old age. Take the cultures of the far East where age is given a higher amount of authority; the effects of old age in those countries is different.
“Older adults in China, where positive images of aging prevail and the memory decline commonly observed in Western countries [...]”
“Although both preventive medicine and direct intervention can be effective in thwarting disease, prevention is generally less aversive and less expensive. It can also be more effective. Many people are surprised to learn that relatively little of the improvement in health and longevity during the last two hundred years is due to drug and surgical treatment of sick individuals. Most of the gain is attributable to various preventive measures such as improved sewage disposal, water purification, the pasteurization of milk, and improved diets. In fact, our greater longevity is mainly due to our increased chances of surviving childhood, chances increased by these very preventive measures and by the introduction of vaccines for the infectious diseases of youth. The life expectancy of those who make it to adulthood has not changed much during the last hundred years. The life expectancy of a 45-year-old man in the nineteenth century was roughly 70 years, a figure not much different from that of today.”
"How We Know What Isn't So: The Fallibility of Human Reason in Everyday Life" by Thomas Gilovich (1991)36
Obesity in the USA has cased life expectancy drop - the first time the upwards trend has been reversed in an advanced country.
Poverty reduces life expectancy, meaning, unpredictable cataclysms in world markets events can have negative effects on countries.
War reduces life expectancy. Not just amongst those directly in the area of the fighting, but also due to the long-term economic woes and upheaval associated with war, which spread to entire regions.
Fatal diseases spread quicker the more dense the population, and according to traditional models, more quickly amongst the young and the old. Longevity can potentially make diseases more effective.
A nationally high rate of religiosity is associated with low national life expectancy.
Christians are not the only ones who once claimed that longevity amongst believers was a sign that their religion was true - although we have seen that Muslim proponents have not made that claim. The author of "Zen - The Religion of the Samurai" (1913), Kaiten Nukariya, states quite confidently that "history proves that most Zen masters enjoyed a long life in spite of their extremely simple mode of living"39, and also explains the long-lasting influence of Zen in China and Japan and elsewhere. Although it is hard to examine claims that are made for history so long ago, we can look at the world now and see if people's religions affects their long-term health. Unfortunately, the results do not come out favourably for the religious.
Source: Gallup (2009) and UNHDR (2011)40
Only countries that are still very religious have low life expectancy of below 65, and, all countries that have lost religion, or are losing it, have great life expectancy (over 65). There are only two countries that have a religiosity rate over 60% who have life expectancy of over 80yrs. The USA typically skews statistics like this, as it is the only highly developed country with high numbers of people who consider religion to be important in their lives (65%), and, also suffers from relatively seriously health problems compared to other rich countries. But it isn't enough of an outlayer to buck the trend. On average those who are born in countries that are not very religious enjoy 10 years longer life. Of all the countries that have life expectancy of over 80 years at birth, their average religiosity rate is merely 41.7%. Some statistics in some countries (USA show that religious people in those countries have better health than their neighbours, however, it seems if the religious increase in numbers too much, national life expectancy will tend to be found to be much lower. In other words, mass-religiosity is bad news for longevity. As general medical science and advanced technology is tied in with good health as well as lack of poverty, there are a multitude of reasons as to why religion might be negatively correlated with long life. The only sure thing is that when the author of Proverbs 9:10-11 and 10:27 said that God-fearing folk live longer, he hadn't anticipated the rise of mass secularisation!
As the developed world becomes post-explosion, the developing world is still experiencing the most violent and destabilizing forces of an explosive growth in population. "The fastest expansion in world population during the last 45 years was reported in the developing world, in particular, Africa, Latin America and parts of Asia"8. Developing countries constituted about a third of the world's population in 1960, but will account for more than half of all people by 2050. The result is an increasing polarity between rich and poor: The rich get older, whilst the poor get much poorer, crowded into population centres that cannot cope. Poverty is a leading cause of civil unrest; as is inequality. We are already at the stage where we can see the ways the populations of post-explosion countries will diverge from the under-developed world:
“Ninety-five percent of population growth between 1990 and 1995 occurred in developing countries, and that percentage will inch higher in coming decades. [...] This disparity in population growth in the developing world alongside minimal, or even negative, growth in the developed world will [cause] intense new pressures for immigration and migration.”
"Global Trends 2005" by Michael J. Mazarr41
“In East Asia and the Pacific, the [fertility rate] was 5.4 in 1970. Now it is 2.1. In South Asia, the fertility rate halved (from 6.0 to 3.1). In the world as a whole, fertility has fallen from 4.8 to 2.6 in a generation (25 years). [...] The most important exception to the rule of declining fertility is sub-Saharan Africa. All the countries with fertility rates over 5.0 are in Africa (with the one exception of Yemen).”
It is a simple case of overpopulated countries fighting with neighbours over resources, but also of internal divisions within countries, especially in the larger cities.
“In 1950 there were 86 cities in the world with a population of more than one million... by 2015 there will be at least 550. [...] Residents of slums, while only 6% of the city population of the developed countries, constitute a staggering 78.2% of urbanites in the least-developed countries.”
“Widening differences in wealth between and within urban and rural communities [will extend] the gap between rich and poor. [...] By 2020, we will add another 750M people to the planet, most in places least able to accommodate them. [...] Looking forward, the rich-poor challenge appears destined to be even greater. As UN findings have highlighted: 'The more unequal that cities become, the higher the risk that economic disparities will result in social and political tension. The likelihood of urban unrest in unequal cities is high.'”
And finally, a leaf from a UK government's (unrestricted) publication on the military implications of urbanisation:
“By 2040, around 65%, or 6 billion, of the world's population will live in urban areas, attracted by access to jobs, resources and security. The greatest increases in urbanisation will occur in Africa and Asia. Up to 2 billion people may live in slums. Many large urban areas, especially in regions of the world suffering from poor governance, are likely to become centres of criminality and disaffection and may also be focal points for extremist ideologies. Rabid urbanisation is likely to lead to an increased probability of urban, rather than rural, insurgency. The worst affected cities may fail, with significant humanitarian and security implications.”
"Global Strategic Trends - Out to 2040" by Ministry of Defence (2010)45
In terms of Human history we are entering uncharted territory. Never before have Human demographics looked like this. Simplistically, it could be said that the interaction of developed countries versus developing ones is falling in to one of three possible states:
War: The developed world has to remain on a constant war footing in order to defend itself (unfortunately) against its suffering, but violent, neighbours.
Globalisation: Optimistic globalists like to think that technological development and free markets will facilitate the development of the entire world into a post-population-explosion era of peace and progress.
Conflicts: Increasing civil uprising, mass instability and frequent economic collapses serve to control the populations of under-developed countries, but over time, occasional strokes of fortune will allow individual countries to emerge into the post-explosion world.
Some see that the wars between nominally-Christian countries and explicitly Muslim ones are principally wars of population-attrition. As their populations continue to increase at great rates, they will continue to threaten to rise in power. This threat (and actuality) results in the tensions that sometimes become wars. Perhaps though, once Islamic nations experience their overdue enlightenment eras, this will cease and the West and the Middle-East will begin to converge.
Aside from problems in cities, and increasing wars over resources, some worry about the complete collapse of civilisation.
“Lester Brown, founder of Worldwatch Institute and now head of the Earth Policy Institute in Washington, believes food shortages could cause a collapse of global civilization. Human beings are living off natural capital, Brown argues, eroding soil and depleting groundwater faster than they can be replenished. All of that will soon be cramping food production. Brown's Plan B to save civilization would put the whole world on a wartime footing, like the U.S. After Pearl Harbour, to stabilize climate and repair the ecological damage.”
National Geographic (2011)46
The fantastic population explosion that the Earth is experiencing is uneven. The developed world is gradually experiencing a reduction in growth, leading to an actual decline in population. The result is that even as the West grows old, much of the world becomes more and more overpopulated. As a result the increase in the amount of retired people, and the decrease in workers paying into pensions schemes, all pensions schemes are already starting to collapse. Also, most industries rely on young adult immigrants as the local workforces are becoming increasingly scarce. Our economy and future depends on pulling increasingly greater numbers of workers from countries that are not yet entering the post-explosion era.
Developed countries must maintain strong armies to protect themselves from the rumblings of unrest in the overpopulated countries, and to protect such unstable countries from each other, and we must also keep a continual watch over the developing nations in order to aid them past the population-explosion stages in their history. To think that there is no problem or to ignore it is to invite the demise of civilised Western society under a tide of economic collapses brought on by overpopulation and civil chaos. At the end of the day, if there is no solution to wars and overpopulation, may the most advanced countries survive!
Thankfully, there are signs that things can be encouraged to turn out ok. Although poorer countries are rising in populations at an increasing rate whilst developed ones are beginning to verge on shrinking, people are escaping from poverty at a hopeful rate.
“In the world as a whole, a stunning 135m people escaped dire poverty between 1999 and 2004. This is more than the population of Japan or Russia - and more people, more quickly than at any other time in history. [...] In 2007 UNICEF, the United Nations child-welfare body, said that for the first time in modern history fewer than 10m children were dying each year before the age of five [-] a fall of a quarter since 1990. [...] Perhaps the biggest change affecting people's lives has little to do, at least directly, with development policy or public spending. People in poor countries are now able to exert more control over their own fertility, and hence over the size of their families.”
“Despite the practical necessity of birth control and disease prevention, the moral responsibility we have towards (a) the future of our children and (b) our stewardship of the planet, many religions have opposed birth control for various superstitious reasons.”
Contraceptives and sex education are two key tools in the eradication of grassroots poverty. Another is the way in which developing countries sometimes leapfrog decades of technological development. For example in Africa, the adoption of mobile phones means that Africa has not needed to build a telecoms infrastructure, and wireless technologies may mean it doesn't have to build one in the future, either. But gadgets derived from science will not result in an easy cure for massive overpopulation; it must always go hand in hand with sex education and contraceptives to control fertility rates. Unfortunately for Africa, growing Christian fundamentalism and Islamisation of the continent has meant that religious forces are now threatening the basics of sex education47; both competing groups argue against many of the findings of modern science. It seems that the developing world is plagued by two of Humanities' worst enemies: ignorance of sex education, and superstition. If these forces overwhelm the educators, then the cultural war I warned about above between the haves and have-nots of the world, is again on the agenda despite the fact that at the moment fertility controls are reducing poverty.
All #tags used on this page - click for more:
The Bible (NIV). The NIV is the best translation for accuracy whilst maintaining readability. Multiple authors, a compendium of multiple previously published books. I prefer to take quotes from the NIV but where I quote the Bible en masse I must quote from the KJV because it is not copyrighted, whilst the NIV is. Book Review.
The Guardian. UK newspaper. See Which are the Best and Worst Newspapers in the UK?. Respectable and generally well researched UK broadsheet newspaper..
National Geographic. Magazine. Published by National Geographic Society, Washington, DC, USA.
Skeptical Inquirer. Magazine. Published by Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, NY, USA. Pro-science magazine published bimonthly.
The Economist. Published by The Economist Group, Ltd. A weekly newspaper in magazine format, famed for its accuracy, wide scope and intelligent content. See vexen.co.uk/references.html#Economist for some commentary on this source..
Clarke, Peter B.. Peter B. Clarke: Professor Emeritus of the History and Sociology of Religion, King's College, University of London, and currently Professor in the Faculty of Theology, University of Oxford, UK.
(2011) The Oxford Handbook of The Sociology of Religion. Paperback book. Originally published 2009. Current version published by Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.
(2013) "Abortion, Birth Control and Contraception: How Religion is Making Overpopulation Worse" (2013). Accessed 2017 Apr 13.
(1991) How We Know What Isn't So: The Fallibility of Human Reason in Everyday Life. Paperback book. 1993 edition. Published by The Free Press, NY, USA.
(2010) Future Agenda: The World In 2020. Published by Infinite Ideas.
Mazarr, Michael J
Global Trends 2005. Paperback book. Published by Palgrave Books.
Ministry of Defence (UK)
(2010) Global Strategic Trends - Out to 2040. 4th (January 2010) edition. Published by the Development, Concepts and Doctrine Center (DCDC), UK. Part of the Strategic Trends Programme. A comprehensive analysis of all trends that may have military ramifications, out to 2040.
(1999) Social Psychology. Paperback book. 6th ('international') edition. Originally published 1983. Current version published by McGraw Hill.
Nukariya, Kaiten. Professor of Kei-O-Gi-Jiku University and of So-To-Shu Buddhist College, Tokyo.
(1913) Zen - The Religion of the Samurai. E-book. Subtitled: "A study of Zen philosophy and discipline in China and Japan". Amazon Kindle digital edition produced by John B. Hare and proofread by Carrie R. Lorenz.
Russell, Bertrand. (1872-1970)
(1957) Why I am not a Christian. Fourth Impression of 1967 edition, 1971. Published by Unwin Books.
Tucker, Mary Evelyn. Senior Lecturer and Research Scholar at Yale University, New Haven, USA, and, Director of the Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology.
(2011) Religion and Ecology. This essay is chapter 45 of "The Oxford Handbook of The Sociology of Religion" by Peter B. Clarke (2011) (pages p819-835).
(2011) Human Development Report. This edition had the theme of Sustainability and Equity: A Better Future for All. Published on the United Nation's website at hdr.undp.org/.../HDR_2011_EN_Complete.pdf (accessed throughout 2013, Jan-Mar). UN Development Program: About the Human Development Index.
(2013) Human Development Report. This edition had the theme of The Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World. Published on the United Nation's HDR website at hdr.undp.org/.../hdr2013/ (accessed throughout 2013). UN Development Program: About the Human Development Index.
©2017. All rights reserved.