The UK’s most famous naturalist, David Attenborough, thinks so. He describes human beings as “a plague on Earth.” It is possible that as a lifelong lover of the animal world, he sees encroachments made upon its habitat by human populations as a major threat. The most famous contributor to the ‘population-will-ruin-us-all’ genre was “The Population Bomb” by Paul Erlich. A 1968 best-seller, it warned of the mass starvation of humans in the 1970s and 1980s because of overpopulation. Its predictions were inaccurate, as were Erlich’s other forecasts about Earth’s resources running out. Sir David has even attacked IVF because it allows more people to be born.
Now IVF pioneer Professor (Lord) Winston has entered the debate to say that Sir David has got it wrong. He points out that as we progress to stable government, education of women and decent infractructure, as in Western Europe, you have falling population. He says that IVF makes a negligible contribution to total numbers.
The evidence backs Prof Winston. In poorer countries people have many children because they need their economic contribution to the family budget and rely on their support for the elderly. As societies achieve economic growth families no longer need to be so large, and state services are able to support the elderly. The world’s population is about 7bn, and will probably peak at no more than 10bn before it levels off and maybe starts to decline. Alarmist projections of 25bn or even 50bn are making the mistake that straight-line projections do, of failing to factor in developing changes. As we grow richer and smarter, our populations cease to increase explosively. This is not without its own problems. An ageing, declining population alters the balance between those in work and paying taxes, and those who depend on those taxes for support.
The world will not drown in people. More people means more brain power and inventiveness, more interactivity, more wealth creation, more problem-solving. Human beings are, said Julian Simon, “The Ultimate Resource.”
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