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Zero Population Growth: The Failed Theory

January 26, 2010

Zero Population Growth: The Failed Theory


By the early 70’s the main buzz phrase was Zero Population Growth (ZPG). The message being sent out to every nation on Earth was that we were having too many children. Not only were we having too many but we should stop doing it as soon as possible. The ‘two will do’ campaign was being sold to a generation that had already discovered the ‘Pill’ and ‘Free Love’ like coke is sold to this generation. ‘A couple only needed to have two offspring to replace themselves for the next generation’ a well made serious education film told the school children. Parents who had more were just plain irresponsible and threatening our very existence. Soon we would slip into the world shown in the film ‘Soylent Green’ where the population could no longer provide for itself and we would be facing famine. In India forced sterilization took place as a remedy to all its future problems. High school students were asked to write essays about the population explosion that condemned their very fertile parents. The mathematics was simple if everyone had less children then there would be more wealth to share for the next generation. The world was in a crisis that would destroy our comforts and cause global wars as a desperate overpopulated world fights like savages over the last scraps of food. Human beings were no longer a gift from heaven, they were a bomb, a plague of locusts swarming and consuming everything in site. Babies were horrid dangerous things that produced nothing and consumed more of the pie that we must all share in limited rations. In fact we would be seeing all this before the turn of the centaury. ZPG was the new God and questioning this god was an intellectual and moral crime.


Malthus

This picture of how the ideology of ZPG affected the world is no exaggeration. We were being given the hard sell that procreation was the worst crime on Earth and the starving little African’s only had themselves to blame. The Third world as it was called then deserved to be sterilized until they could learn to feed themselves. Some nations like Sri Lanka offered to pay their population to be sterilized. A quick snip and the concerns about who was going to feed any new mouth had gone. No Baby meant freedom. In short were being sold the Malthusian ideology of demand out stripping supply.

How is it then, that this generation is facing a new population crisis? One that is the very opposite of the world that the doomsayers and Malthus had predicted. It is no secret that the one of the greatest crisis over next few decades will be the aging of the population. Within a generation we may be seeing more retired people than people paying taxes to support them. Japan is already starting to feel this crunch as they search hard to fill a chronic labor shortage. This pattern is being repeated all over the globe where population and birth control was most strident. Even Singapore with its coercive plan to curb its population is now encouraging it population to be fruitful and multiply. Malthus must turning in his grave at the thought of all these nations rejecting his theories. Yet as evidence builds one thing is becoming clear, the world was sold a ZPG pup. Instead of curing the world’s ills, it was creating them.


China’s One Child Policy Poster 1980’s

ZPG is still being hung onto by some despots like Communist China in its ruthless one child policy. It still has its supporters and web pages that speak of doom and conspiracies by mysterious religious cults. However as a theory it is as finished as Nazism, Communism, The Domino Theory and any other crazy theory of its vintage. The ZPG ideology focused so much on proving itself that it ignored all but supporting evidence. It did not take into account that 2 off-spring per couple is never enough to maintain any population. It did not think that some of the population would never be able to breed. It also ignored the improvements in agriculture and manufacturing that dramatically dropped the prices of basic commodities. It ignored the fact that food was becoming so plentiful that rich nations were dumping whole crops into the sea to maintain the price. It ignored the fact that food is so plentiful that the Earth’s population cannot possibly eat it all. It ignored the fact that the worlds population could comfortably live in Tasmania on spacious properties, with room for millions more. It also ignored the cruelty and injustice of rich nations dictating to poor nations as to who was fit to procreate. The rich could have families of two children but the poor should have none. The mentality had gone so far in some places that it was easier to get contraceptives than it was to get immunizations.

As we look to a new future with a declining population the only advice has been to have three children: one for mum, one for dad and one for the nation. It is a farcical reply where an apology should have been given. The ZPG ideology was a questionable theory based upon Malthusian supposition. This is a very poor start for anything claiming to be science. Yet it was hammered and hammered as hard as any ideology could be. The real question is why ZPG was being pushed so hard when even a simple investigation could blow it apart. The answer may depend upon who was pushing the ZPG agenda. Is it worth looking harder at the heroes of the ZPG ideology or should they be forgotten like the theory? Whatever the reasons for forcing this theory down the throats of students and parents alike, it is now proving to be a farce. The aging of the population will now be the cruel lesson for a post ZPG world. Perhaps as the next generation grows tired of paying to support so many old people they may begin to dream up new cruelties of their own. The trumpets of Euthanasia are starting to sound in the distance. Perhaps they will come closer and more forceful as time moves on. Perhaps we may one day look forward to sitting down to a meal of ‘Soylent Granny’ and wonder how we came to this.

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