God blessed (the man and women); and God said to them, be fruitful and multiply and fill (Genesis 1:28). And that is why God gave humans the ability to reproduce and He filled the earth with replenishing resources, so humanity could grow, and that is exactly what has happened. According to many, such as Paul Ehrlich the author of the Population Bomb: where he states his belief that population growth is the leading problem of the earth today, and the authors of many books, magazines, newspaper articles, and websites: population growth is endangering humanity.
Population growth is taking responsibility for some of the major social and environmental issues that are plaguing the world today. People are using population growth as an escape or as an easy target for reasoning these problems, instead of considering more complicated sources such as our political leaders who are worried more about money and power rather than the social well-being of the citizens of the earth. With that being said, the issue at hand is that people are placing accountability for causing these problems on population growth when instead people’s attention should be brought to the actuality of why these problems exist or in fact that these problems do not exist because of population growth.
In this paper issues such as the depletion of natural resources, famine, and pollution will be examined and it will be revealed that population growth is not the cause of these problems. Julian Simon, the author of The Ultimate Resource is a strong believer in population growth being a positive thing, or as he calls it The Ultimate Resource, and using his market theory this will be shown.
Firstly, the term finite is inappropriate and misleading when used to predict the number of natural resources available in the world. This is so because no human being can say that every sector of the earth has been searched, and the total amount of each resource available has been discovered.
The theory that there are not enough resources to support the increased population is ridiculous because of the number of natural resources that might be available to us- and even more important the quantity of service that can eventually be rendered to us by that natural resource-can never be known even in principle. (Simon, 1981, pg 47.)
Natural resources such as oil are most commonly acknowledged as finite because of the world’s increasing population, and that is why society speculates an energy crisis to occur. In parallel to Simons’s theory, one can not measure how many tar sands will be found, and with our newfound technology, how much oil will be needed by society can not be known. As Sheldon Lambert once said: God is the only one that knows- and even he may not be sure.
One may argue that they are not trying to play the role of God but at present market prices the amount of resources available for use is known and at current consumption levels, there will be a shortage before more is discovered causing scarcity. Simons’s market theory will uncover that population growth can prevent scarcity :
More people and increased income, cause problems of increased scarcity in this situation, scarcity of natural resources), and causes prices to rise. The higher prices present opportunities, and prompt inventors and entrepreneurs to search for solutions. Many fail, at a cost to themselves. But in a free society, solutions are eventually found, and in the long run, the new development leaves us better off than if the problems had not arisen. (The Ultimate Resource II, 1998)
This is a well-thought-out theory, however, one that should be backed up with proof because it assumes that solutions are eventually found. This theory was proven to be legit by a bet between Simon and Paul Ehrlich the author of the Population Bomb who believes that population growth is a burden on our resources.
In October 1980, Ehrlich and Simon drew up a futures contract obligating Simon to sell Ehrlich the same quantities which could be purchased for $1000 of five metals (copper, chrome, nickel, tin, and tungsten) ten years later as 1990 prices. If the combined prices rose above $1000, Simon would pay the difference. If they fell below $1000, Ehrlich would pay Simon. Ehrlich mailed Simon a check for $576.07 in October 1990. (Capitalism Magazine, April 98)
Although Simons’s market theory proves that population growth does not increase the scarcity of our natural resources rather it helps it, a comparison between Ethiopia and Germany will also help prove this. Germany has a population growth rate of 0.27% and a GDP of 1, 936 trillion dollars per year. (Central Intelligence Agency, 2001) Ethiopia has a population growth rate of 2.79% and a GDP of 39.2 billion dollars per year. (Central Intelligence Agency, 2001) This comparison rightfully assumes that the higher GDP that a nation has, the more resources it will use. It is indisputable that population growth is not the cause of our natural resource scarcity because nations with the highest growth rates use the least amount of natural resources. Perhaps the evidence will alter the mind frame of those that believe that population growth is causing the depletion of our resources and with significant evidence, it will be proven that population growth is not the cause of famine.
On The Population Institutes website which is dedicated to proving that population growth is the cause of major problems that concern society today, such as famine, a statement that was made helps to show that people are accusing population growth of causing such problems as famine wrongfully.
Some may claim that hunger is not a problem, but rather a problem of food distribution. It may be true that some regions of the world today have an abundance of cultivatable land – enough to feed their populations as well as the rest of the world. But we sometimes lose sight of the fact that those producing and shipping the food to where it cannot be grown must be compensated for their services. (The Population Institute, n.d.)
The statement shows that the issue is not the fact that there are too many people to be fed by the world’s supply of food, but that there is not enough money in some places of the world to afford food or to properly grow it. It should be clarified that population growth should not be the area of focus when dealing with famine but rather the focus should be on the world leaders of today. The political leaders of developed countries such as the United States who generate a tremendous surplus in food each year should be content with providing the needed amount of bilateral aid to those nations suffering from famine. Some believe that bilateral aid will make the situation worse for these nations by bringing down their market. Aid can still be provided to them by educating them on how to manage agriculture and providing them with the machinery necessary for it. Maybe developed nations should discontinue providing suffering nations such as Sudan which is buffeted by civil war (Central Intelligence Agency, 2001) with weapons, to stop the civil war and allow for them to concentrate on providing food for their starving nation. Attention should also be brought to the leaders of the suffering nations for providing inadequate funding towards agriculture, or maybe making inadequate decisions to invest in insignificant cash crops which cause these nations to endure a debt.
It is useful to compare Africa and Asia in this respect. In proportion to its population, Asia has about half as much arable land as Africa but in the past 20 years, malnutrition (as a percentage of the population) has declined sharply in Asia but not at all in Africa. A critical difference is that most Asian countries have been far more successful in efforts to alleviate poverty, create effective agricultural markets, and have been far more successful in efforts to transfer high-yield seeds, fertilizer, and irrigation to farmers. (Union of Concerned Scientists, n.d.)
It is known that Asian countries such as China have experienced rapid population growth in the past 20 years and uphold some of the world’s largest populations. With that said, they were able to decrease malnutrition with only half the amount of land in Africa.
There are still those who believe that there will not be enough food in even the countries that have an abundance of food to support future population growth. More generally, with present technology and without moving towards the much higher yields found under experimental conditions, the world can more than feed any foreseeable population increase. (The Ultimate Resource II, 1998) There are many new technological advances such as better storage facilities that will reduce 15-25% of food that is lost from rotting. (The Ultimate Resource II, 1998) Another technological advance that will make it nearly impossible for there to be a lack of food on this earth is factory-grown food, with the use of hydroponics.
In Dekalb, Illinois, Noel Davis Phyto-farm (hydroponics factory farm) produces food mainly lettuce, and other garden vegetables – in a factory measuring 200 feet by 250 feet – 50 000 square feet, one acre, 0,4 hectares, 1/ 640 of a square mile – at a rate of a ton of food per day, enough to completely feed 500 or 1000 people. (The Ultimate Resource II, 1998)
Also, this argument does not take into account genetically engineered plants which can boost the production of food by 15-30%. (The Ultimate Resource II, 1998) (This topic is not chosen for argument in this paper because the full effects of these foods on human health have not been fully discovered.) It is shown that people should not be blaming population growth for problems evident in less developed countries such as famine. Their efforts should be put towards pushing world leaders to aid these countries because it is obvious that there is an abundance of food available in the world. If the effort that was put into all the websites on the world wide web about the problems of population growth was put towards encouraging world leaders to aid those nations in need, maybe famine would not be such a problem. But still, the fingers would be pointing at population growth as being the cause of pollution.
It is argued that population growth demands more industry, and causes there to be more automobiles on the road. With that said, once again a comparison of countries, in this case, the United States and Sudan, shows that population growth is not the cause of pollution. In the United States, the population growth rate is 0.9%, it has 6 370 031 km of highways and a GDP of 9.963 trillion dollars per year. (Central Intelligence Agency, 2001) In Sudan, the population growth rate is 2.78%, it has 11 900 km of highways and a GDP of 35.7 billion. (Central Intelligence Agency, 2001) This same pattern applies when comparing countries such as Canada, Australia, and Germany, to places such as Afghanistan and Ethiopia, lawfully assuming that the more highways available, the more abundant the use of automobiles is. It is ludicrous to hold population growth accountable for causing pollution because places with the highest population growth produce minimal amounts of pollution. On the contrary, it can be argued that places such as the United States continue to endure population growth although not as much, and their pollution is increasing. But, along with higher income and its consequent greater supply of pollutants comes a greater demand for clean-up plus an increased capacity to pay for it. And Growth in GNP has a greater positive influence on pollution than population growth has a negative influence, in the short run. (Simon, 1981, pg 241.) In the long run, we can not determine if population growth causes an increase in pollution because we can not determine how much government intervention there will be in these developed countries. Also, it can not be determined if there would be less pollution say if the population of the world had remained four billion because we do not know how society in developed countries would be reacting. Would there be as efficient public transportation? Would people be more greedy than they are today and consume more from industry? Would technology be as advanced as to be able to reduce emissions? These questions can not be answered and that is why population growth cannot be blamed for the pollution that exists today in developed countries.
People are just eager to find a cause for why problems in the world are happening and population growth is an easy target. This should be considered an important issue because if these people’s attention, was put on why these problems were happening, maybe some of these problems could be stopped. Perhaps if their attention could be brought to some of the positive effects that do accompany population growth instead of looking at problems that do not even exist in some cases because of it, people would realize that population growth is not so bad after all. Instead, it is almost certain that we will continue to hear that our resources are becoming finite because of population growth even though the countries with the highest population growth rate use the least amount of resources. We will continue to be boggled with paragraphs stating that famine is not related to unequal distribution of food even though some places have enough food to feed the world. It will continue to be acknowledged that countries suffering from famine are doing so because there are too many people to be fed by the amount of food they can grow, instead of looking at the fact that their world leaders are making inadequate funding decisions for agriculture that have put them in debt, or that they are plagued by civil war. People will continue to say that there is not going to be enough land to grow food to feed our growing population even though technology has proven to provide us with more than enough food in some areas. And yes, of course, people will continue to blame population growth for increased pollution when the facts show that the countries that produce most of the world’s pollution have the lowest population growth rates. And that is why the real issue at hand is that people point the finger at population growth for causing the world’s problems when they should be looking at the real causes and finding solutions for them.