The Myth of Overpopulation and the Coming Demographic Winter

The Night Lights of Planet Earth

The End is Nigh!

The situation must be getting dire; Slate and the Wall Street Journal are running pieces on the problem facing the world that seems to have come from out of left field: Underpopulation.

Says Slate:

A somewhat more arcane milestone, meanwhile, generated no media coverage at all: It took humankind 13 years to add its 7 billionth. That’s longer than the 12 years it took to add the 6 billionth—the first time in human history that interval had grown. (The 2 billionth, 3 billionth, 4 billionth, and 5 billionth took 123, 33, 14, and 13 years, respectively.) In other words, the rate of global population growth has slowed. And it’s expected to keep slowing. Indeed, according to experts’ best estimates, the total population of Earth will stop growing within the lifespan of people alive today.

This came after they rehashed the obligatory tripe about “not enough resources,” which is bunk:

California is having a particularly rough time, says the WSJ:

“After decades of burgeoning population and economic growth . . . the state now faces a very different prospect,” said a report released Tuesday by the University of Southern California and the Lucile Packard Foundation. The report, “California’s Diminishing Resource: Children,” analyzed data from the 2010 census and the American Community Survey to conclude that the trend marks a “historic transition” for the state.  . . .

“Unless the birthrate picks up, we are going to need more immigrants. If neither happens, we are going to have less growth,” said Mr. Levy. The report wasn’t optimistic, saying that “with migration greatly reduced…outsiders are much less likely to come to the rescue.”

Proving That Overpopulation is a Myth!

I’ve always been obsessed with the fact that the entire world’s population could move to Texas, giving everyone 1000 sq feet per person (so a family of 4 would have a 4000 sq ft home, etc), single floored, and leave the rest of the world (i.e.: The rest of the US, Canada, Central America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, and — for what it’s worth — Antarctica entirely void of human population.  The above video makes this point, and here’s the math on that just in case that sounds a bit unbelievable.

  • The Area of Texas:   268,800 sq miles (696,200 km²)
  • One Mile:  5280 feet
  • One Square Mile: 5280 x 5280 = 27,878,400 sq feet
  • Total Square Miles in Texas: 268,800 sq miles x 27,878,400 sq feet =7,493,713,920,000 sq feet in Texas (r0ughly)
  • World Population: 7-ish billion (we’ll round up to 7.4 billion).
  • So…The Area of Texas per Person: 7.4 trillion sq feet / 7.4 billion people  = 1000 sq ft / person.

The Punchline?  If we made one giant one-story compound over Texas, land, water, and all, we would each get a 1,000 square foot unit.  If you permit multiple story buildings, you could double or even triple that amount per person easily.

The Happiness of Adults vs. the Well-Being of Children

The problem is, many adults are opting to delay marriage, and child rearing, or are moving to having very non-traditional families which, demographically speaking, tend to thrive less well.  The solution seems a paradox…

As one blogger put it:

If only there was some social institution that we could use to foster the idea that having children is a good and desirable thing.  Something that would pair men and women up in a permanent relationship oriented toward having and raising children in a way that is most likely to ensure their social, intellectual and physical health.  Nah, crazy idea.

It Takes Children to Make Adults…

The problem is, it takes biological adults to make children, but it takes children to make actual, moral adults, and adulthood is less than fun.  Especially when you can thwart the desire to procreate by pretending to do it repeatedly, through a barrier, with others.  It may be a physical barrier (a condom), a chemical barrier (the pill), or a distance barrier (e.g., the propagation of the culture of pornography).

All of these remove the procreative aspect from sex, and so all of them are essentially masturbation.  We are masturbating our way towards this population cliff, comfortably ensconced in front of our Xboxs and Plasma Screen TVs.

Orwell had it right: We’ll pleasure ourselves into a sottish oblivion.

Even the Malthusians get it.

I particularly enjoyed this documentary: Demographic Winter.  The closing statements are from a man who shares the “Malthusian” and Darwin-esque perspective, and he admits that it’s perplexing that the most “fit,” and “intelligent” folks are failing to reproduce amazingly!

Meme Natural Selection

We are accustomed to thinking of “memes” as those annoying or funny pictures with texts that are oh so ubiquitous on social media formats, such that I don’t even need to post an example of one here for you to get the gist…

Batman and Robin ubiquitous slap meme

But I will…

The concept of the meme is, however, a bit older.  In fact, the concept dates back to 1976, to Richard Dawkin’s book, The Selfish Gene, from whence it came (Dawkins in that book does more biology and less theology, making it a better-than-some-of-his-books read.)  It was Dawkin’s explanation of the Darwinian world of natural selection of ideas (i.e., why some ideas spread and others die out).  Essentially, a meme is like a mental gene, an “idea, behavior or style that spreads from person to person within a culture.”

Here’s the thing.

This behavior of having fewer and fewer kids is utterly destructive to the race (or at least to those who have such a meme).

If your system of beliefs is one that values having fewer children, then it is not fit, from a purely naturalistic perspective.

Even if the meme “reproduces” (or “spreads” rather, like a contagion), it could only survive like a virus: a mental parasite that greatly reduces the chances of propagating the genes of the host.




Map of Lights at Night used with Creative Commons  License via woodleywonderworks

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