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Nature and numbers

From Allahpundit:

In a death match between consciousness-raising and inconvenient facts, you can always count on cognitive dissonance to protect the former.
What impelled that observation was a recent comment by Paul Ehrlich--author of The Population Bomb which, thanks to Ehrlich's being spectacularly off-beam, turned out to be an unintentionally hilarious title--that we're heading for mass cannibalism at an alarming rate thanks to all us pronatalist humans selfishly producing little clones of ourselves. 
The only problem is that it's not true. And in fact if we don't start reproducing ourselves, at least in developed countries, at a greater rate, society will be in deep doo-doo.
What keeps these Malthusian gloom-and-doom predictions alive decade after decade in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary? It ain't numbers, it's nature, human nature.
In an op-ed piece three years ago in the LA Times, the Ehrlichs even took hallowed NPR to task for their "sparse record of population pieces, just one or two [of which] actually address unsustainable population growth." 
But the fact of the matter is that while the current world populations stands at about 7.2 billion people, birth rates are falling around the world to the point that some economies will have increasing trouble caring for aging populations. In the US, for example, there is no Social Security "lockbox"--there never has been. Those currently working support those currently not working.  It's simple income redistribution. If you add to insane administration anti-growth policies the reality of fewer and fewer younger workers coming up to pay taxes that support their elders, it doesn't end well.    
But…but…but what about the grinding poverty in parts of the world?  Surely that's a result of too many people vis-a-vis too few resources. Don't we have a moral obligation to produce fewer humans?
Obviously there are places in the world where the absolute poverty is mind-numbing, particularly when compared with whatever relative poverty exists in the US. But as one example
Infectious disease, corrupt governance, and lack of access to global markets are Africa's biggest problems.
Not overpopulation. In fact,
The conditions that sustain humanity are not natural and never have been. Since prehistory, human populations have used technologies and engineered ecosystems to sustain populations well beyond the capabilities of unaltered “natural” ecosystems.
In other words, it's not a zero-sum game.  Thanks to God-given human ingenuity, the pie can--and indeed does--grow. All the time.
So why is it that otherwise intelligent, well-educated people insist that humans are really no different than bacteria in a petri dish with a limited carrying capacity? Here's one explanation:
Trained as a biologist, I learned the classic mathematics of population growth — that populations must have their limits and must ultimately reach a balance with their environments. Not to think so would be to misunderstand physics: there is only one earth, of course!
It was only after years of research into the ecology of agriculture in China that I reached the point where my observations forced me to see beyond my biologists’s blinders. Unable to explain how populations grew for millenniums while increasing the productivity of the same land, I discovered the agricultural economist Ester Boserup, the antidote to the demographer and economist Thomas Malthus and his theory that population growth tends to outrun the food supply. Her theories of population growth as a driver of land productivity explained the data I was gathering in ways that Malthus could never do. While remaining an ecologist, I became a fellow traveler with those who directly study long-term human-environment relationships — archaeologists, geographers, environmental historians and agricultural economists.
Read the whole thing. And see these brief videos on why Malthus was wrong:

In other words, numbers alone--billions of people, hectares of land--can't explain poverty. Like life in general, it's just more complex than that. Poverty involves negative aspects of human nature--corruption, sloth, greed--that aren't going away even given a shrinking population. Politics, war, and economics have much more to do with whether or not people have enough food to eat than does the number of people on the planet.  But those kinds of problems are really hard to solve--it's much quicker and easier to prescribe abortion, say.
Another explanation of the continued but misplaced popularity of the petri-dish theory of human population is some less-than-flattering--but human--facets of a society that suffers from affluenza…such as self-centeredness and joylessness. 
When it comes to unmitigated joylessness, no one can top Corning, NY native Margaret Higgins Sanger, who was one of 11 kids and spent much of her time taking care of younger siblings. Ultimately, that life experience translated into statements such as, ""The most merciful thing that a large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it." Of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, joy was not one that darkened Margaret's personal doorstep. Miss Congeniality went on to found Planned Parenthood and influence generations of US feminists--but not in a good way.
For post-modern self-centeredness, see the Time magazine article
If people don't want to have children, that's a choice with not just personal but societal ramifications.
Don't justify that choice with some high-sounding reference to poor Gaia staggering under the weight of too many people. That's intellectually dishonest. 
And because it's intellectually dishonest, it should not be used as a basis for making policy that will affect not only the "childfree" but the rest of society as well. That's immoral. So--and this is just one problem associated with not replacing ourselves--be prepared to figure out how older people will be supported, morally, by an ever-shrinking pool of younger people who are not kin to those elders.
You see, it's really not about numbers.  It's about human nature.
To be continued...
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