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China’s oppressive one-child policy has at long last been repealed. Sadly, it was replaced with an only slightly less oppressive two-child policy. Hopes that China’s leaders have finally realized the blatantly evil nature of such decrees are, of course, wishful thinking. The demographic disaster that such bureaucratic meddling has caused was the motivating factor for the policy change.
Likewise, hopes that the American intelligentsia might pass such a basic test in recognizing good and evil are nothing but a pipe dream. Sarah Conly, Professor of Philosophy at Bowdoin College, has provided us with a prime example in the Boston Globe, replete with references to every liberal’s favorite buzzword “unsustainable.”
The change is being applauded around the world, but it raises the question: Is this really a good thing?
If her answer was yes, I’m guessing she wouldn’t have asked.
The most recent estimate from the United Nations says we’ll reach a population of 9.7 billion by 2050. And we just reached the population milestone of 7 billion in 2011, meaning it will take just less than 40 years to increase our population by almost 3 billion people. All of this from a world population of about 1 billion in 1800. China now constitutes 19 percent of the world population, and so a change in the country’s fertility rate will likely bring about that 9.7 billion even sooner.
The sad truth is that trying to support this many people will bring about environmental disaster.
Conly fails to mention that the UN predicts that once the Earth reaches that peak population of 9.7 billion, it will begin to decline rapidly as the world’s collective family tree is upside down. She makes a call for all of us to cut back to only having two children, as if oblivious to the fact that the most of the world (Africa being the notable exception) has already done so, or is on track to be there soon.
Unaware that her preferred fertility rates have already been achieved (despite having written a book on the subject), she recounts a parade of horribles (Storms! Lack of fresh water! Overcrowded cities! Changing global temperatures!), none of which are actually unique to the modern world, and all of which can be overcome by human ingenuity.
We are using resources unsustainably, and despite the frequent cries for a cutback in the use of resources and release in greenhouse gases, nothing much has happened. Today we release more greenhouse gases than we did before the Kyoto accords. More people will mean more unsustainable resource use, worse climate change, and, eventually, wars over scarce goods or massive population displacement and migrations to places with remaining resources.
A valid point. Remember how we reached peak oil production back in 2007, and the world fell into a crisis of skyrocketing fuel costs? No? Do you instead recall human ingenuity making vast quantities of previously unobtainable oil available to us? Well, Sarah Conly sure doesn’t.
Given the damage we are causing, and the suffering we foresee for all those who live after us, it is clear that having more than one child is just something that none of us — Chinese or American — has a moral right to do.
The increased suffering that Conly sees must exist only in her own mind. In reality, a far higher percentage of people suffered when the population sat at her preferred one billion back in the year 1800.
Our resource consumption has grown exponentially. The key fact which is consistently missed by the left is that our resource production has grown even more exponentially. The idea that we are anywhere near some kind of hard ceiling to such innovations is delusional. When we do run out of oil, or more likely, when it becomes scarce enough that prices begin to climb significantly, alternatives will be created. If history is any guide, the replacement will prove cheaper, cleaner, more efficient, more plentiful, and it will come into existence and widespread use for no reason other than the profit motive.
Such doomsday predictions of unsustainability are nothing new. In 1894, the Times of London predicted that by 1950, every street in the city would be buried nine feet deep in horse manure. In reality, cars had almost entirely replaced horses as the dominant mode of transportation by 1920, solving the looming sanitation crisis without an ounce of government intervention, or a rationing of resources. The internal combustion engine, combined with a previously useless raw material in crude oil allowed this transition to take place.
This is the fundamental truth that escapes Conly and those like her. Before the 1850s, the Earth theoretically had the maximum amount of oil that it will ever contain, and yet, it was utterly useless to the human race. In every meaningful sense, we have a greater volume of oil now than at any other time in history. Technological advancements mean that new resources, which are not factored into liberal sustainability calculations today, will continue to emerge to pick up any gap created by a growing population.