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The Population Bomb is Real

October 1, 2011

Paul Ehrlich said it in his The Population Bomb ( 1968 ) and I remember his Monday Conference broadcast on his Australian visit in August 1971. Like a prophet he told us the population of our little planet was set to double in 30 years ( it did ) and in some wretched countries the pace was faster. He instanced Kenya where the population, he predicted, was going to double in 17 years.

Well, the population-enthusiasts disputed this. Whether driven by religion or right-wing economics they asserted that population was going to stabilize and we could happily live with billions more anyway. The more the merrier seemed to be their absurd refrain.

Well,look at Kenya. It has 41 million today and that will grow to 85 million by 2050, straining its hopes of becoming a middle income power by 2030.

This growth guarantees the country and its people stay poor.

According to The Financial Times on Friday there are a million additional Kenyans every year. A million. And their arrival chokes off any chance of generating economic growth. One expert said the growth ties up resources for consumption, looking after the needs of a million extra babies, leaving nothing for investment. As recently as 1979 a Kenyan woman would have 8.1 children ; now it is down to a still appalling 4.6.

In Africa this soaring population combined with scarce resources such as land and water pushes nations and tribes into cycles of warfare and conflict.

Rapid population growth keeps these nations poor. As the headline put it on Friday, “Population surge curbs Kenya’s ambitions.”

The Vatican preaching against birth control – something apparently ignored by a lot of priests and nuns on the ground – is a sick joke in settings like this.

One Comment
  1. October 3, 2011 12:03 pm

    Rapid economic growth will lead to a rapid fall in fertility rates. Rapid economic growth is always supported by cheap power. What Africa needs is to develop its enormous reserves of coal in order to power an African industrial revolution – like China and India are doing now. Worrying about “climate change” is holding back economic development, and that is not helping population growth.

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