Earth overpopulation is a myth we should all ignore

Timothy Carney
Conservative Opinion

Timothy Carney

Timothy Carney, Senior Fellow, American Enterprise Institute
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Fears of human overpopulation have been around for decades. Hollywood has even crafted dystopian thrillers like Soylent Green, Blade Runner and even Avengers: Infinity War around the dangers of overpopulation. But if this true, how does one explain China’s population decline in 2022? The concern is that with Earth’s population now at eight billion people, we won’t have enough resources for everyone. Straight Arrow News contributor Tim Carney says Earth overpopulation is a myth we should all ignore because the human population is actually declining.

A biologist named Paul Ehrlich published a book in 1968 titled “The Population Bomb,” which promised mass starvation thanks to an overpopulated planet. The next 55 years proved him fantastically wrong as the population increased, while human abundance – that is energy, food and jobs – also increased. 

Yet in 2023, 60 Minutes had Ehrlich and other doomsayers on the air to warn once again that humanity is not sustainable–this time, due to climate change. 60 Minutes and Paul Ehrlich are correct that there’s a real population bomb. But it’s not an explosion. It’s an implosion.

China’s government just reported that 9.6 million people were born in China last year, while 10.4 million died. China is depopulating and much of the rest of the world is, too. From 2012 to 2022, many countries in Eastern Europe lost population, as did Japan and Italy. Other countries will follow soon because every wealthy country in the world besides Israel has a birth rate below the replacement rate of 2.1 children per woman.

Countries with below-replacement birth rates will all start shrinking sooner or later. The U.S., for instance, has had a birth rate around 1.7 babies per woman for the last few years, and we’ve had fewer and fewer babies nearly every year since 2008. Elementary schools around the country have been shuttering for years due to lower enrollment. Middle schools followed, now…high schools and colleges are bracing for a shrinking pool of potential applicants.

Already the working-age population in the U.S. seems to have peaked as more Baby Boomers enter retirement age than Gen-Zers age into the workforce. You can imagine where this is headed: More retirees and fewer workers, which is not a great situation. It means labor shortages and inflation, which means the government will push retirement dates later and will try to coax more young adults into the full-time workforce…which means fewer mothers and fathers dedicating time to their children, which means fewer children.

Overpopulation. For our entire lives, we’ve been told that the earth is too crowded. But no matter how many times their dire warnings prove wrong, the antenatalists seem to hold sway over American and European media. A biologist named Paul Ehrlich published a book in 1968 titled “The Population Bomb,” which promised mass starvation thanks to an overpopulated planet. The next 55 years proved him fantastically wrong as the population increased, while human abundance – that is energy, food and jobs – also increased. 

Yet in 2023, 60 Minutes had Ehrlich and other doomsayers on the air to warn once again that humanity is not sustainable. This time due to climate change. 60 Minutes and Paul Ehrlich are correct that there’s a real population bomb. But it’s not an explosion. It’s an implosion. 

China’s government just reported that 9.6 million people were born in China last year, while 10.4 million died. China is depopulating and much of the rest of the world is, too. From 2012 to 2022, many countries in Eastern Europe lost population, as did Japan and Italy. Other countries will follow soon because every wealthy country in the world besides Israel, has a birth rate below the replacement rate of 2.1 children per woman. 

Countries with below-replacement birth rates will all start shrinking sooner or later. The U.S. for instance, has had a birth rate around 1.7 babies per woman for the last few years, and we’ve had fewer and fewer babies nearly every year since 2008. The baby bus is already showing up in schools. Elementary schools around the country have been shuttering for years due to lower enrollment. Middle schools followed, now the baby buses entering high schools and colleges are bracing for a shrinking pool of potential applicants. 

Already the working-age population in the U.S. seems to have peaked as more Baby Boomers enter retirement age than Gen-Zers age into the workforce. You can imagine where this is headed: More retirees and fewer workers, which is not a great situation. It means labor shortages and inflation, which means the government will push retirement dates later and will try to coax more young adults into the full-time workforce. Which means fewer mothers and fathers dedicating time to their children, which means fewer children. 

It’s a vicious cycle. Many countries, mostly in Africa, have birth rates about 2.1. But those birth rates are also falling. By the end of this century, the earth’s population will begin shrinking. And if that vicious cycle isn’t halted somehow, we will have generations of stagnation and sadness. 

Planet Earth is not overpopulated The USA is not overpopulated. Our problem could be the exact opposite soon, unless we get busy trying to make America more child friendly and trying to remind people that on this earth, the most important thing is family.


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