NYT: “Remember the Population Bomb? It’s Still Ticking”


From the New York Times:

Remember the Population Bomb? It’s Still Ticking

By EUGENE LINDEN JUNE 15, 2017

In tiny Lesotho, a landlocked kingdom in southern Africa, about one-third of its estimated two million people spent much of the past two years in danger of starving because of the lingering effects of a drought. That is just the latest woe afflicting this cursed nation, and just one example of how fragile the future seems for Africa, large parts of which face the prospect of new famine and, in consequence, further catastrophic displacement within and among their growing populations.

More than 40 years ago, I made Lesotho the centerpiece of a book, “The Alms Race,” that explored why so many development projects kept failing. I chose it because in 1974 it received more development aid per capita than any other nation.

It could also have been voted most likely to vindicate Thomas Malthus’s warning in 1798 that human numbers would inevitably outrun the resources on which our lives depend. Today, Lesotho’s experience since the 1970s is an even stronger case study of what happens when development plans ignore the reality that such efforts can be a recipe for exploding human numbers.

The tiny kingdom’s sad history also offers an urgent, cautionary tale of how rapid population growth can nullify development efforts that might otherwise let an emerging nation endure periods of abnormal weather.

Now, as Lesotho’s story is being retold in many of the 17 other African nations suffering drought, the Trump administration in particular should pay heed to what Lesotho can teach us. Instead, it has announced that the United States will cut its annual contribution to the United Nations Population Fund, which promotes family planning.

Last year, worrying about African population growth was racist. This year, fortunately, worrying about African population growth is anti-Trumpist. So maybe the world will make some progress in getting up the nerve to suggest to Africans that it’s time for them to do what most of the rest of the world has already done: take responsibility for getting their population growth under control.

Also from the NYT:

Overpopulated and Underfed: Countries Near a Breaking Point

By BILL MARSH, JUNE 15, 2017

Mass migration, starvation, civil unrest: Overpopulation unites all of these. Many nations’ threadbare economies, unable to cope with soaring births, could produce even greater waves of refugees beyond the millions already on the move to neighboring countries or the more prosperous havens of Europe. The population crisis is especially acute in Africa, as Eugene Linden writes in the accompanying article, but it spans the globe, from Central America to Asia.

A slowly unfolding catastrophe, told in five charts.

1. Dire Predictions Were Mostly Right

Humanity has grown as expected since the warnings about global overpopulation of the 1960s. Decades of United Nations projections for the year 2000 came within 3 percent of the actual total, making the U.N.’s 9.7 billion prediction for 2050 both credible and alarming.

 

Also, it’s possible that the forecasts were actually more correct than the official 2000 count, because the U.N. didn’t discover until about 2012 that their estimates of the current population of Africa were undercounted due to incompetence by African countries’ census officials. That’s why the UN had to radically bump upwards its old forecast for African population in 2012 and then again in 2015:

This led to my jaw-dropping World’s Most Important Graph:

 

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