A friend sharing personal information at a party recently told me that he has seven children—ages 50 to 65. What reaction was he expecting? Certainly not the one I was experiencing. My husband and I would have liked more, but even then—back in the sixties—we were aware of overpopulation and decided to stop at two.
My friend says, “With our income, we could take care of them.” And, in fact, he did. All his children received cars on their 16th birthdays. All had fine wardrobes. All went to expensive colleges. What right have I to lift my eyebrows about the number of children they chose to have?
There are solutions to this problem, but only at the price of massive attitude shifts in our country’s people and their government.
China, India, and Third World Countries
In some Asian countries, family size is effectively limited by tax disincentives, employment restrictions, and other forms of discouragement. In 1979, China—recognizing its huge overpopulation problem—implemented a one-family-one-child program. China is considered a pioneer in contraceptive methods, having developed the “no-scalpel” vasectomy technique and vacuum aspiration abortion. The country is recognized globally as a leader in the introduction of contraceptive vaccines and reversible sterilization. India has established effective contraceptive and sterilization clinics across the country to deal with its overpopulation problem.
Public policies in countries likes Bangladesh, Singapore, and Thailand have given incentives to small families by making birth control available and empowering women. The quality of education, housing, and health have improved as a result.
Overpopulation is not just about food shortages and human suffering. Severe declines in biodiversity are also linked to the problem. China, Mexico and Brazil have experienced extreme cases of species loss. Other consequences of overpopulation include global warming, ozone depletion, world hunger, and increasing water shortages.
In the mid-20th century, Israel was still home to an amazing collection of mammals, birds and reptiles. At the time approximately 1 million people lived in Israel, compared with 8 million today. Currently about one third of Israel’s 115 indigenous mammal species are critically endangered, and the amphibian population has been almost entirely wiped out. Now, Israel is able to produce only 45% of the food required to sustain its population.
In January 2018, the U.S. population was over 326 million. It has been growing by over 2 million people per year. According to data collected by the Global Footprint Network, the U.S. can sustain a population of only 150 million at a reduced consumption level similar to Europeans. The U.S. population is using renewable resources such as water twice as fast as they can be replaced.
Each additional American requires about one acre of built land and highways, meaning less land for growing food.
If everyone on Earth lived like an average American, we would need over four Planet Earths to absorb the wastes produced by the population and to produce the necessary renewable resources. When will the U.S. recognize its own contribution to world overpopulation? When will individual families acknowledge their part in this national problem? Probably not until the government steps in with disincentive programs. And with the country’s current conservative political position and exaggerated view of individual rights, corrective measures are unlikely anytime soon.