Talking Points on the Environment #5
Common Myths About Population Growth
- Myth: Without strict government controls on population growth,
poverty and starvation are inevitable because the world population will
naturally increase faster than the means of subsistence. Reality: Since the
end of World War II, worldwide grain production has tripled while world
population has only doubled. Third World food production is currently growing
at twice the rate of the Third World population.
- Myth: World population is spiraling out of control. Reality: Birth
rates have dropped dramatically over the past 25 years. In East Asia, births
per woman have declined from 6.1 during the 1960-1965 period to 2.7 during
1985-1990. In Latin America, births dropped from 5.9 per woman to 3.6 over the
same period. For all Third World nations, births have dropped from 6.1 to 3.9
per woman. World population is at an all time high largely due to advances in
nutrition and medicine, which have increased life expectancy from 40-45 at the
turn of the entury to 76-78 today.
- Myth: Over-population is the principal cause of famine. Reality:
Since food production is growing at a faster rate than the world population,
famine is clearly not the result of over-population. Political instability,
war, government corruption or mismanagement, and/or inadequate preparation for
intermittent drought, blight and pestilence are common causes of food
shortages. The recent famine in Somalia is illustrative: Despite significant
international assistance, Somalis continued to starve as food shipments
intended for the needy were intercepted by Somali warlords. Development
economist Amaryta Sen asserts that where there is democracy and a free press,
famine has never occurred.
- Myth: Strict government birth control regulations must be imposed
to keep the population growth rates down. Reality: According to Population
Reference Bureau demographer Carl Haub, most countries have managed to reduce
population growth without the kind of extreme, one-child-per-couple,
regulations imposed by China. Japan and Germany, with annual population growth
rates of .5% and 0%, respectively, have low population growth rates without
strict government curbs on births.
- Myth: Over-population creates poverty. Reality: Wealthy industrial
nations such as the Netherlands and Japan have 1,123 and 937 inhabitants per
square mile respectively, while poor countries like Nicaragua and Brazil have
only 70 and 45 people per square mile respectively.
Information from The Progressive, p. 42, March 16, 1991; Forbes, pg. 25,
June 8, 1992; National Review, December 30, 1990; Environmental Overkill by
Dixy Lee Ray (Regnery Gateway, 1993); The New York Times, Sec. 4, pg. 1,
January 17, 1993; and USA Today, p. 2A, December 16, 1992.
Issue Date: July 7, 1993
Talking Points on the Economy: Environment #5, published by The National
Center for Public Policy Research, 501 Capitol Ct NE, Washington, D.C.
20002 Tel. (202) 543-4110, Fax (202)543-5975, [email protected],
http://www.nationalcenter/inter.net. For more information about Talking Points
on the Economy: Environment #5 contact Bob Adams at 202/543-4110 or
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